The Summer of Love The 1960s was a decade of political and social upheaval. The counterculture, which was what the decade was called, became disappointed with all the restrictions and conventions of the straight society. The Summer of Love did not occur until 1967, but the decade was inspired by the Bohemian spirit which was already present in the 1950s; known as the Beat generation. The counterculture gained significant influence in liberal cities such as Berkley and San Francisco. In 1967, Scott McKenzie released his song San Francisco and with this song came rumors of a huge love-in in the summer.
This is what fueled the Summer of Love. Leaders of the counterculture in the Haight-Ashbury district were anxious to start planning an event that would fit in with the Summer of Love hype. Their hope was that musicians and other artists would just naturally travel over to the Haight-Ashbury. The Summer of Love would not have been the same without the usage of LSD and marijuana, free love, and the all famous rock and roll music. Drugs seemed to be the way of life for the hippies; they were using all kinds of drugs throughout the decade but the two drugs that were most associated with the Summer of Love were LSD and Marijuana.
To the hippies they used the term “dope” instead of “drugs” because dope was good; but drugs included both good and bad substances. Miller stated, “Substances that were perceived as expanding consciousness were good; things which made the user dumb were bad” (Miller 2). Another drug that was used in the Summer of Love was marijuana. It was not as huge as LSD, but it was still used throughout the decade. Marijuana was first introduced in America during the Jazz Age and became one of the central fixtures of the 1960s counterculture.
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Baugess wrote, “It was intrinsic to the jazz music scene; many musicians used marijuana for its perceived ability to boost creativity and as a way to find relief from racial oppression” (Baugess 400). It grew popular among the blacks and was used to basically boost your creativity. It later became very popular to the beatniks, in which they would later change the meaning of the drug, a way to deepen intellectual understanding and used to rebel against the society. The hippies would use it for the pleasurable side effects, but also to heal the body and soul. Smoking marijuana was an act of rebellion against puritanical Americans.
It was known to expand the mind, just like LSD did. Not only did hippies use the drug, but it was also consumed by the political radicals and Vietnam soldiers. Marijuana was grown in plenty in Vietnam and supplied soldiers with a mass of relief from the experience of war. Marijuana left a huge impact on the counterculture; it had a connection to music, musicians like Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, and others would write songs that reflected the centrality of it. The main drug that would be known throughout the Summer of Love and most recognizable to the decade would be LSD.
This would later be known on the street as “acid” which was a hallucinogenic drug able to induce altered mental states in its users. LSD was created in a Swiss pharmaceutical laboratory in the 1930s and discovered in 1938 by Swiss chemist, Albert Hoffman. In the decades before, it was used as a treatment drug and alcohol addiction. Miller wrote, “Also in the Cold War struggles with the Soviet Union (the Central Intelligence Agency monitored early LSD research closely, seeing the chemical as a potential tool for espionage or perhaps for disabling a large enemy population)” (Miller 4).
On April 19, 1943, Albert Hoffman synthesized another batch of LSD-25 and created a version that would be able to dissolve in water and had pleasant hallucinations. Later, he had perfect recall of the hallucinations saying that his mind was conscious throughout the experiment. It was created for three main purposes; it was fun, revolutionary, and good for the body and soul. Miller stated, The belief of the hippie was “If it feels good, then do it so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else” (Miller 5).
Not only was it fun but it also led to the hippies arguing, that it was time for a social revolution, which made it revolutionary because not only did they argue but it would also affect the larger society. The hippies had to learn to tolerate their deviant behaviors. As a West Coast hip author concluded in 1969, “The government is right in its stand on drugs. They are a definite threat to society…Drugs…must be ruthlessly suppressed lest the people feel too good” (Miller 5). With all this being said LSD was also a tool that was good for the body and soul which would provide healing and insight.
In 1960, Timothy Leary, a Harvard psychology professor, tried LSD and soon would become so enthused by its potential that he lost his job. Timothy Leary described his first trip as the “most shattering experience of my life,” for it “flipped my consciousness into a dance of energy, where nothing existed except the whirring vibrations and each illusory form was simply a different frequency” (Anderson 259). By 1966, he became a huge star who would advise young adults to take LSD to expand their minds.
They accepted his advice and the hippies clung into Leary’s phrase, “turn on, tune in, and drop out. ” The phrase is broken down into three simple segments; “Turn on” meant to go within yourself. “Tune in” meant to interact accordingly with the world around you. “Drop out” meant self-determination and a discovery of one's abnormality. Ken Kesey studied at the University of Oregon and then would enroll into a graduate creative writing program at Stanford University in 1959, which would spark his interest in the San Francisco counterculture.
As Ken Kesey would work night shifts at the hospital he had access to the drugs and would perform controlled experiments on himself. LSD was only available through pharmaceutical company, Sandoz in New York. Sinclair wrote, “Using his homemade laboratory in Berkley; a student named Augustus Owsley Stanley III manufactured what he claimed to be enough LSD for a million and half doses” (Sinclair 200). They became widely known and soon fell to Leary. Owsley would soon become the Pranksters’ chemist, supplying the active ingredient fro Kesey’s organized events called acid tests.
These acid tests soon became advertised events in public halls. In January 1966, two thousand people attended one at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium and the Warlocks (now the Grateful Dead), provided the music and Kesey wired the place with speakers, cameras, and TV screens for them to replay. Leary would become one of the most famous countercultural figures in this era along with Ken Kesey. LSD was a huge part of the spiritual and music scene of the Summer of Love.
There was one church which was Tim Leary’s League for Spiritual Discovery; he wanted to keep his religion pure and aloof from social structures. He described it as evading the law, “We’re not a religion in the sense of the Methodist Church seeking adherents. We’re a religion in the basic primeval sense of a tribe living together and centered around shared spiritual goals” (Miller 8). Many believed that it spoke of as a sacrament, as Miller stated, “A sacrament is a covenant between man and God and also any ritual that corporately grows out of that covenant to express it more fully.
It can be bread and wine, peyote or mushrooms, cup of tea, LSD, the tobacco used in the sacred pipe whatever is put into the body to connect the world outside with the world within” (Miller 11). This was common a sentiment. Not only was LSD for individual experiences but it was also for religious communities. For example, William C. Shepherd observed LSD as being a “sense of social ‘belongingness’” (Miller 13). Which it provided a new basis for group intimacy, and helped maintain and further the intimacy.
Some believed there were bad effects of LSD on the people. The bad effects that LSD had on Summer of Love is that people would drink without knowing knowledge of the chemical, but Kesey said he never dosed anyone without their notice. Another was it was used as a means of social control. The ones that loved dope loved its psychic staff of life and the few that did not were not influential at all. Sex was used for the physical pleasure saying free people should be able to express their sexuality as they please. As stated by Miller, “Sex was fun. Sex was healthy.
And this hip approach to sex helped revolutionize attitudes and practices in the nation as a whole” (Miller 25). There were some who saw liberated sexuality as having a larger significance meaning as sacramental sex. Some felt that sex was best within a context of love and concern for the partner. So for a new sexual ethic, some poised absolute freedom meaning that sex out of love could be better then casual sex. Dope and sex went hand in hand because as stated before dope was good because it enhanced your sexual experience. Dope would help people expand their sexual horizons.
As Miller stated, “Timothy Leary summed up the dope/sex connection: the key energy in our revolution is erotic…The sexual revolution is not just part of the atmosphere of freedom that is generating with the kids…and central issue of the psychedelic experienced is erotic exhilaration” (Miller 37). Throughout the 1960s, music served as an integral part of the counterculture movement. It was seen to embrace an alternative lifestyle from previous generations and also to protest against war and oppression. Hippies would organize outdoor music festivals across America.
The music was based around the reminders of the 60s and the outrage toward the Vietnam War. Some of this popular music represented a direct protest of the war and also reflect the desire for peace and love. Rock and roll was just as important as dope and sex were. Rock music was what the hippies lived and breathed and was the most important musical form. Even though it was based around rock, Miller stated, “Folk music was the music of the cultural rebellion until around 1966, when the Beatles began to take on mythic significance as interpreters of the culture, new specifically hip rock bands” (Miller 42).
Some of the earliest acid rock bands are the Grateful Dead, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Country Joe and the Fish, Big Brother, and Janis Joplin. There were many festivals that took place in the 1960s like Woodstock which was in 1969, but it was not as organized and peaceful as the Monterey Pop Festival. The Monterey Pop Festival was one of the biggest events of its time and it helped launch the careers of several major rock artists, including Janis Joplin, Country Joe and the Fish, Otis Redding, and others.
Sinclair said, “Monterey has come to be viewed by many as the seminal rock festival of the early hippie era” (Sinclair 210). It was a festival that took place over a three-day period that started on June 16 through June 18, 1967, in Monterey, California, at the Monterey Fairgrounds. There were more than 30 acts lined up, 90,000 attendees, and perfect weather. They had a projection room, shops and booths, and Owsley supplied a new batch of LSD which was called Monterey Purple. The organizers wanted to create an atmosphere that produced the “peace and love” ideas that was popular in the music and to be taken seriously.
This was the first major festival of the rock era, and it went down in history as the most peaceful and well-organized event of its time. It was also significant in that it offered a number of acts that would soon become famous in America. For three days they all lived together and out of all this they did not have any major problems that came up; the Monterey Pop Festival was the high point of the 1967 Summer of Love. Baugess stated, “Filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker recorded the event and produced a very popular documentary that brought the music and personalities of the festival into theaters across America” (Bauges 439).
There were a lot of the acts who refused to get filmed but Janis Joplin’s manager talked her and her group into being filmed and soon a star would be born. One in particular was Janis Joplin. Janis Joplin was the most important female singer of the counterculture. Whether she meant to or not her rebellious example expanded artistic and professional possibilities for women. Baugess wrote, “The hippie scene of 1967 provided the perfect context for Joplin’s rebelliousness, talent, and unique charisma to flourish, and Big Brother became one of the favorite Haight-Ashbury bands” (Baugess 328).
Their appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival opened doors for them, but especially for Joplin, she became the star, to where she was signed by Columbia Records as a result of her appearance at the festival making it her first major performance. Her emergence as a famous symbol of the “youth culture” put pressure on her band so she left Big Brother and went on to pursue her own music. She goes down in history as a huge iconic figure of rock-and-roll music, along with Jim Morrison of The Doors and others.
Another huge singer of the counterculture and a big part of the Monterey Pop Festival was Joseph McDonald soon to be known as “Country Joe and the Fish. ” He was born on New Year’s Day in 1942 and was named after the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin. He would spend most of his time playing music in different bands. Baugess wrote, “His songwriting became the center of a group that manifested, variously, as a songwriter’s workshop, a magazine, a protest group, a jug band, and finally a rock band called Country Joe and the Fish” (Baugess 411).
At first the band only consisted of McDonald and the guitarist, Barry Melton, which was “the Fish,” and then they would add other musicians if needed. The formation of the band was because of Joe’s enterprising spirit and his spirit of protest. Their first record, “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag,” was a satirical song about the Vietnam War which Joe self-produced and would go down in history as one of the most recognizable songs of the antiwar movement. His music was captured by the college campuses and 1965; they performed at the Berkley campus.
Later in 1966, they acquired a manager, Ed Denson, and from that point they focused on becoming a folk-rock band. Their manager, Denson, created the band’s name which was referred to communist politics. For example, “Country Joe” was the popular word at the time of World War II for Joseph Stalin and “the Fish” refers to Mao Zedong’s saying “that likens communist revolutionaries to fish who swim in a sea of peasants” (Baugess 411). The band changed over the years but McDonald stayed lead vocals and Melton stayed as lead guitar.
They grew popular among Berkley and San Francisco and also still remained regulars on college campuses. In December 1966, they signed a recording contract with Vanguard Records and their first two records were on Billboard’s album charts for two years. When they performed on stage, their performance included a light show that was on a screen so they could create a psychedelic experience. In the summer of 1967, they toured the East Coast and in 1968, toured Europe and also released a third album. Their fourth album was released a year later, 1969.
The song “Fixin’-to-Die-Rag” really became popular after they starred in two musical events, Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969. Soon after the song became the anthem of the anti-Vietnam War movement. “Fixin’-to-Die-Rag” had black humor and sarcasm and the chorus mocked the war’s justification and voiced coldness about it. So, before they played their trademark song, they would spell out an F-I-S-H cheer, but instead in summer of 1968, their cheer had “U-C-K” because they were provoking the antiwar movement’s rebelliousness of convention.
Their edgy style disaffected the mainstream. By 1970, Joe and Barry took on solo careers. Joe kept on playing at large antiwar presentations. Country Joe mixed together satire, irreverence, and political commitment. Another popular musician of the counterculture was the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He joined the Army at 17 and after being discharged in the early 1960s; he joined the Isly Brothers and Little Richard and performed on “chitin’ circuit. ” He left them in 1966 for the emergent countercultural rock and roll of the East Village.
Here he performed as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames; he then agreed to go to England where the Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed. On bass was Noel Redding, drums was played by Mitch Mitchell and Hendrix mashed together some influences from the blues like B. B. King and others. Curtis Mayfield was the guitarist and “Hendrix incorporated the style of English guitar emanating from the likes of Cream, the Who, and Jeff Beck” (Baugess 292). His group became hugely popular and was recommended by Paul McCartney of the Beatles, helped the Jimi Hendrix Experience a spot in the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967.
From the exposure of the festival it gave the band four years of stardom and they released three records; “Are You experienced? (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967), and the double LP Electric Ladyland (1968)” ( Baugess 292). Hendrix was set aside from the other rock groups because of the use of transcended race the “white” world of rock and “black” world of blues and rhythm. Baugess stated, “While Hendrix’s management coded the combination of African American musical traditions and psychedelia as “white” in the press, his work entered the R Billboard charts” (Baugess 292). He died on September 18, 1970 of drug complications.
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