“When they coined the term ?Summer of Love,? it was over,? says Sam Andrew. ?The whole movement was over.?
Certainly Andrew should know. He had a front-row seat during that landmark summer as a member of Big Brother & the Holding Company.
Jorma Kaukonen, whose group, Jefferson Airplane, was similarly flying high that year, concurs.
?I doubt that anybody who lived in San Francisco at the time would?ve used that expression,? he says. ?I just don?t think we thought about it like that; when you?re in the midst of something, you resist those kind of labels. And it?s a grand merchandising ploy this year. Somebody showed me some Summer of Love cola or something, and I thought, ?You know, it doesn?t get any better than that!??
The term ?Summer of Love? is meant to encompass everything that happened during that summer, but it?s become synonymous with the events in one city in particular, and that is San Francisco, home not only to Big Brother and the Airplane, but also the Grateful Dead, Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service, to name a few (with all the action seemingly centered around the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets).
But as Rhino?s new box set, Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970, reveals, there was more to the San Francisco scene than just the above-named bands. Many see the roots of the Summer of Love going back to The Charlatans.
The group sported vintage Western apparel and was the first San Francisco band to be taken up by the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nev., where they were the house band during the summer of 1965, opening the door for other Bay Area acts to perform there. Posters promoting The Charlatans? residency are now regarded as the first psychedelic posters of the era, another key element of the San Francisco scene.
The San Francisco band enjoying the greatest success in 1965 was the Beau Brummels, who had three Top 40 hits that year. But the seeds already were being sown for a new musical sound that would really put the city on the map.
Big Brother, Jefferson Airplane, The Warlocks (who?d change their name to Grateful Dead), The Great! Society (whose lead singer, Grace Slick, would soon join the Airplane), and Quicksilver Messenger Service all came together during 1965, the same year Country Joe & The Fish released a ragtime-infused anti-war song called ?I Feel Like I?m Fixin? to Die Rag.?
In 1966, Moby Grape and Santana joined the scene, soon followed by the Steve Miller Band and Sly & the Family Stone. And there were numerous acts who flared momentarily, like The Vejtables, The Mojo Men, The Sopwith Camel and Count Five, who enjoyed a remarkable one-off success when their garage-rock classic ?Psychotic Reaction? reached #5.
As new bands continued to form, the club scene began to thrive; the Airplane themselves had a partial financial interest in one of the new venues, The Matrix.
Chet Helms (who would introduce a singer named Janis Joplin to Big Brother) and ?hippie business group? the Family Dog opened the Avalon Ballroom, and impresario Bill Graham began promoting shows at The Fillmore. Shows also were beginning to encompass more than music.
The Family Dog-hosted ?Trips Festival,? held January 21-23, 1966, at the city?s Longshoreman?s Hall featured bands, dancers and a light show, all enlivened with a little help from a then-legal drug called LSD. Another three-day ?Acid Test? was held at the end of September at San Francisco State College Commons, shortly before LSD was criminalized on Oct. 6 ? the same day a ?Love Pageant Rally? was held in the city?s Golden Gate Park protesting the new law.
San Francisco had long had a bohemian reputation, a