FEATURE: The New Summer of Love





The New Summer of Love


FIFTY years ago this summer…

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over one-hundred-thousand people converged to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood to celebrate something wonderful. There was no social media or any sort of cynical build-up. Whether opposed to the Vietnam War or the consumerist values of the time – it was a movement that brought Hippies together to promulgate love and togetherness. Liverpool is hosting its 50 Summers of Love and getting into the spirit of things. I have seen articles published that state how different life was in England during 1967. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band stirred a movement of sorts but there was not the same commune, mass and excitement as there was in San Francisco. Here, we had Hippie movements and counter-culture rebellion – nothing quite as pronounced and notable as in the U.S. Here, people were busy working and there was a  sense of countries being divided. Bands like The Beatles went some way to representing the spirit and psychedelia unfolding in the U.S. but how different were the experiences? Whatever the splits and reality gaps between the nations; that Summer of Love has gone down in history as a time when everyone came together – forget war and hate and all join in arms, flowers and peace. Yes, there were a lot of drugs flying about – that was part of the culture – but it is not the defining take-away from summer of 1967. It was the way, against the tyranny and fear at the time, the masses assembled and linked arms. A lot of the music at the time promoted a sense of freedom and hope. The experimentation the likes of The Beatles showcased extended to the U.S. (and other bands around the world). It was never gimmicky or intended to placate the government. It was a passive and wonderful way of spreading something warm and wonderful.

The corner of Masonic and Haight streets in 1967. Photo: © Jim Marshall Photography LLC

PHOTO CREDIT:  Jim Marshall Photography LLC

Cynics can claim it is a 1960s hangover that was merely peace-signs, drop and colourful clothing – not a lot of substance and concrete ideology. It was never intended as a real political movement or alternate governance. What it was, in essence, was a way to forget the barbarism of war and the corruption that was happening in the U.S. Sure, the movement bled into Britain but it was never as full-on and vociferous as in San Francisco. That out-right rejection of scrupulous leadership and poor decisions, in this day and age, would be violent and vocal. In 1967, there was plenty of protest but the need to counterbalance bloodshed with familial understanding and communal unification. The reason I wanted to mark this time – and why its anniversary is so important – is because society has really not grown since 1967. We know more and have more technology at our fingertips. There are more people and we have seen some horrible events unfold (the last fifty years). Governments have come and gone and we have all survived some bleak days. One would think, given our shared history and lessons from the past, we would learn and avoid the same issues and ignorance of the 1960s. I guess society and government are always going to be infused with a degree of malevolence, selfishness and double-crossing. I would have thought they’d be less terrorism and fewer incidences that provoke such negative reactions and shared anger. Now, we live in a time where the government are hanging by a thread and terrorist incidents are happening more regularly than past decades. We are all wary and scared right now: something that counteracts that and channels it into warmth and love is much-needed. My suggestion would be setting up a series of events/concerts that bring all kind of musicians together.

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It need not be a replication of the Summer of Love – we are a little more stringent with regards drugs and fashions today – but a modern-day equivalent would be welcomed. Being more conservative and rule-conscious; it would be a tempered and muted comparison. We can retain the colours, fashions and general ethos – the togetherness and love – but replace the narcotics and free sexual expression with alternate methods of fun. In fact, it is starting to sound like one of those gluten/sugar/fat-free dishes with tremendous calorific promise – little taste and flavour to tantalise the senses. That isn’t the case here: we must be pragmatic and sensible in 2017. There are hordes of musicians and artists who, down to the compartmentalised nature of music, often perform at different festivals and events. That is only natural given the sheer scale and depth of music. What I am suggesting, aligning itself to commemorations like 50 Summers of Love, is a mix of a gathering and music day. Maybe in London or Manchester (or both) there would be a day where people could express love, unity and peace. We are seeing a lot of disgust after the Grenfell Tower fire. Rightful tensions have been created but we are seeing a campaign of community cooperation and support – the victims being helped; funds being raised to help get them back on their feet. In essence, the common man is doing more (with limited funds and times) than the government is. I know it is challenging for any government to predict something like Grenfell – or stop terrorist attacks – but there are definite holes that need plugging. There is instability and uncertainty about the Conservative government so, rather than shout them out with violent force, create a sweet-vibed chorus of people who offers a more peaceful and loving environment. Many might feel there is no point: it will not affect any changes and seems quite insubstantial. It is not designed to be a political tactic (kill them with kindness?!) but a chance to get everyone together and stand arm-in-arm.

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The musical component is the thing I am most interested in. I know there will be events up and down the country that nod to 1967 and try and recapture some of that spirit. There will be remembrance, nostalgia and celebration but we must not use this anniversary as a chance to reflect without taking action. Of course, Grenfell is fresh in the minds – there are lots of events and gigs to raise money and awareness – but so much going on that requires the spirit and mass of love we have been seeing lately. It would be the culmination of community we saw following the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, too. There could be a day of music that coincides with the Summer of Love anniversary – our own version, as it were! It would be wonderful to see a mini-festival/one-day event that puts women as headliners (or most) and mixes genres, ages and nations. A multinational, cross-genre music-jam that would foster support towards one another a general feel-good sensation. If that all sounds retro-Hippie then forgive me but it seems like there is a tide of opinion that requires such a movement – however brief it happens to burn. Whether it took the form of a gig or congregation; it would be good to involve the music community and have their talents lead the way. Music is the thing that bonds us and creates that universal positivity. If it were to be harnessed, if only for one day, it would much-needed and a wonderful way for the country to come together. The U.S. could join and it could be a duel-national rebellion. I am not sure what is being planned – and something similar is shaping right now – but it seems like an opportune moment to go for it. There would be little of the clothing, ideologies and drug motifs of the original Summer of Love but, moving with the times, we can create our own version. Maybe not a summer, as such, but a number of days. Bring great music, art and culture together; create films, pieces and fight heartache, anger and insincerity with something much more inspirational and creative. The sun is warming us and thoughts are turning to summer. Let’s hope this one…

Thanks for Diggers New Years Eve Wail 1967. Photo: © Jim Marshall Photography LLC

PHOTO CREDIT:  Jim Marshall Photography LLC

IS an extra-special one.



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