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None of us were there.
DUCKBURG (Rixstep) — The Summer of Love - fifty years ago now - is something Natalia Kazmierska can't stand. Natalia writes for Sweden's Aftonbladet. (Most readers here are familiar with the 'rag'.)
Natalia wasn't around in 1967. (She was born after the Sex Pistols, roughly 25 years too late.)
As Robin Williams used to say, if you claim you were, then you weren't. So a bit of historical perspective can be in order.
First: 'Summer of Love' was something that happened in the US, not Sweden. So you have to judge things from their historical perspective.
And a lot happened in 1967, in case Natalia forgot (or never knew). Sgt Pepper was released on 1 June, the first official day of that summer. It still ranks as the best album ever. And likely will remain so. And it's just come out in a special 50-year release.
To underestimate the lasting historical and cultural impact of that album is to be totally ignorant of not only music culture, but culture in general. To wit:
- Before Sgt Pepper, rock was on the order of Chuck Berry's 'My Dingaling'. Starting with Sgt Pepper, rock became art. The full lyrics to all songs were printed on the back cover - a first for the genre.
- The album quite literally had sounds never heard before. 'Just you wait', said Paul McCartney in a documentary on the album. The Beatles no longer toured, a no-no back in those days (and more so today) and yet this only caused them to grow more popular. Right here there was something to blow people's minds.
- The album ushered in a new era and a new type of recording: the 'concept album'. Soon everybody and their grandma were coming out with concept albums. The Rolling Stones followed fast with 'Their Satanic Majesties Request', a lacklustre effort cobbled together only because the Fab Four's studio 'gofer', Mick Jagger himself, was always keen to pick up on everything the Liverpudlians created.
- The album signaled the end of the 45 RPM as the staple of the recording industry. Rock albums up to then were mostly a copy of a 45 RPM hit and a dozen or so 'fillers' - hastily recorded crapola to flush out the vinyl. Paul McCartney stated early on - well before the Summer of Love - that the Beatles 'don't do fillers', this despite the grueling schedule, established by Martin and Epstein, of 2 full length (14 track) albums, 2 EPs, and at least 4 singles per year - with no duplicates allowed.
And yet no fillers. But Sgt Pepper signaled the end of that - not only for the Beatles but for the entire industry. Or what tracks from Sgt Pepper were released on their own? Think hard. And take your time.
The recording industry was in upheaval. The pinstripes had NFC. And in the vacuum, actual culture crept in.
- Haight-Ashbury happened. Not many were there, not many were of an age where it would matter. But it did happen. And along came the Grateful Dead. And Jefferson Airplane. And Janis Joplin and Big Brother. And countless other acts, flooding the airwaves. And the Mamas and the Papas - with Michelle.
- And Monterey were to put together a music festival. And Michelle was involved. And they were looking for a BIG act to bring over from the UK. So Michelle rang up PAUL McCARTNEY who wrote a song with her name.
- And McCartney told her about this sensation they had at the Marquee Club in London. Some dude from the US, managed by Animals bassist Chas Chandler. And he was the best Macca had ever heard. And he had a trio with a bassist and a wild drummer. And Michelle had them over. And Jimi caused a sensation. Burning his Fender with lighter fluid, and humping it at the same time. Whilst Noel and Mitch carried on playing 'Wild Thing' by the Troggs. Talk about history. And on that one followed the other big ones. Like Woodstock. In 1969. But 1969 is probably another shit year according to Natalia.
Not everything is about Natalia. Or about women for that matter. As hard as it may be for Natalia to realise. The US was coming out of a frightening period. The 1950s were first seen as an era of utopia and peace - until people realised that oppression grew stronger than ever before. The British invasion, led by the Beatles, changed all that. Read the account of Tom Wolfe, who watched the others watching the fans watching the Beatles as they arrived in New York.
There was something happening there, to paraphrase Stephen Stills, who also came to the fore back then, along with Robert Zimmerman, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Jim Morrison, and who knows how many others.
(Oliver Stone surely remembers - ask him, Natalia. Ask him about Jim Morrison. He made a movie about it.)
Yes, the pill came along. But it gave women freedom, darling. It wasn't an instrument of oppression, as Natalia would so gladly believe. Somewhere in the murky structures of Natalia's thinking is lost the exotic notion that women might actually like intimacy and sex, and not be part of an oppressive culture, but instead part of a movement to break people out of that oppressive culture.
And that movement happened elsewhere too, including in Sweden. As could be read in that excellent book by Oscar Swartz. If only the Swedish feminist mafia hadn't intimidated him to withdraw it from publication. And all it had were newspaper clippings. The kind of things that one would know about if one studied history. But Natalia's not much for history evidently. For Natalia, the Summer of Love only gets context from her own life.
Which is equivalent to saying the Renaissance was shit because Natalia still didn't have 24-hour deodorant or a two-car garage.