40 years ago (as of the date of this review), a curious gathering of people who called themselves brothers and sisters at the beginning before tragically falling into the darker elements some months later in San Francisco’s Haight District, formed a period of history known as The Summer of Love. The year was 1967. An ideology was born and had withered largely before the ‘70s commenced. Regardless, the underlying bedrock of politics, and a purity of concept found itself within the core of that generation until it was squeezed out, drop by drop, by the realities of the world. But it left a legacy that is forever. That legacy of that time is its music.
The music was formed and created by the true belief of its time. And where the creators changed, the created was immutable, i.e. the music of that time, The Summer of Love – 1967. In its 40th Anniversary, many labels are trotting out their own legacies to this unique period. Time/Life has a different ability, that of the ability to revisit the music of the time as it unfolded without having to stick with a certain label’s output.
Their contribution to this period is a 2CD/1DVD book-styled box set that provides 40 songs while the DVD not only looks at the more popular bands of the time but also at the period of time, with interviews.
The 2CDs are split by the kind of music it generated, AM hits and FM staples. Disc One provides a rounded if inadequate selection but then it would take literal volumes otherwise. It begins with the one song that sums up the entirety of that period in “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”, written by John Phillips (Mamas and Papas) and perfectly sung by Scott McKenzie. That song encapsulated the arrival of many tens of thousands of “hippies” looking for a nirvana heightened by drugs and music and their frame of mind at the beginning of this short phenomenon.
The first CD is rounded out by memorable and well-known hits like “Windy” (Association), “Gimme Some Lovin’” (Spencer Davis Group), “”Carrie-Anne” (Hollies), “Happy Together” (Turtles), “Kind of a Drag” (Buckinghams), “Incense and Peppermints” (Strawberry Alarm Clock), the hippie mantra of “Let’s Live For Today” (Grass Roots), as well as other notables that included Mamas and Papas, Music Explosion, and more. With 20 cuts in all, the output is hardly representative of all that came out in this period but they are some of the best known songs.
The second CD contains 20 FM album cuts like “Pushin’ Too Hard” (The Seeds), “San Franciscan Nights” (Eric Burdon & The Animals), “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (Vanilla Fudge), “Down on Me” (Big Brother & The Holding Co w/ Janis Joplin), “Stroll On” (The Yardbirds), and “Brown Eyed Girl” (Van Morrison), and more goodies. 20 songs for FM favourites really thins the actual output but again, there was a lot of songs and someone has to make a choice. All of the songs have been remastered and sound pretty good
The included DVD is the real gem here as it unwraps the perceived freedoms and earthiness of the kids as they flocked to San Francisco to take part in this historic time, all in video form. You can either relive the times or take a guided tour into this period. The video does an excellent job with discussions and lead-ins with Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane), Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead), Wavy Gravy, Santana, Chet Helm, and others who performed or otherwise helped to shape this era into what it ultimately became. Presented in full-screen with menu-selectable songs, this feature is a great companion piece to this set.
The set itself is placed into a book-sized set that contains a 40-page bound booklet that has an essay by Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna. It also provides a song-by-song notation tying it into the period, as well as pictures, and credits. This set slots well within your book library if you have such a thing.
The Summer of Love was a great time as well as a bad time, a short fuse on a period of change. Although it ended badly, it is still looked upon warmly by many as a time that held promise.