May 15, 2019

With a big nod to Amazon Music and the freedom of virtually unlimited storage for playlists available on Tracey’s iPad, I finished creating for her a new “Flower Power” playlist that eliminates all the CDs I burned for her several years ago.

The problem with all this new technology is that there is literally no limit anymore to the number of songs you can build around a playlist – it’s literally thousands. As are the number of digital selections available for download on Amazon, so I wanted to be smart when building Tracey’s initial playlist, figuring we can always add more songs as she finds artists she wants to hear more from. So the rules I set up were as follows: (1) no songs earlier than 1965 and none later than 1972, and (2) they had to be songs that Tracey would actually want to listen to – for example, “In A Gadda Da Vida” by Iron Butterfly certainly qualifies as a song from the FP era, but there was no way Tracey would ever submit her ears to what is (to be perfectly frank), a crappy song that exemplifies only the worst self-indulgence of the era.

…if I didn’t like it, well, that’s a whole ‘nutha thing – it wasn’t my playlist, after all.

We ended up with more than 325 songs with a 16-hour listening period – perfect for her and Tammy to blast at eardrum-shattering levels while they’re road tripping to San Diego for their collective birthday celebration (there’s no point in telling you how old the twins are turning; let it just be said that everyone’s getting friggin’ old).

…which, BTW, is kind of interesting about the music on the FP playlist – the twins were way too young to even appreciate the social forces that molded and shaped the music of the era; heck, by the time they would have started listening to Top 40 radio, the “Flower Power” era had turned to dust, and disco, soul, early punk, and milquetoast one-hit wonders of the ’70s were standard fare.

But there’s no doubt that the music of the “Flower Power” era had more than just its moments – it was memorable music and a genre that truly reflected the era from which it came: an era of rejection of the status quo, Vietnam, Watergate, anti-war demonstrations, college unrest, and free love and free speech.

(Ed. note: ironic, then, isn’t it, that the same liberals who were all about free speech in the ’60s and ’70s are now, by and large, the leaders of our colleges and universities and doing whatever they can to stamp out speech and expression they disagree with. But that’s a topic for another day.)

More interestingly – at least to me – is all the psychedelic stuff that was, by and large, all crafted prior to the wide use of the Moog synthesizer, which forced studio engineers and producers to create sounds with all sorts of analog tape effects and studio tricks that you can now do with the flip of a switch on a keyboard. You listen to a couple of songs that didn’t make my Top Ten (for example, Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and the Lemon Pipers’ “Green Tambourine”) and realize that these very cool “period pieces” were all done with conventional instruments.

One final word: while there isn’t a whole lot of Beatles presence in this Top Ten, their influence on the spirit, culture, and sounds of the times cannot be overexaggerated. Think about it: four of, arguably, the greatest albums in pop music history – and I’m talking TRUE top ten / top fifteen) were produced in this era: Rubber Soul, Revolver (in my mind the greatest rock album ever produced), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (not a great album in my view, but it had an incalculable impact on the era and beyond), and Abbey Road. Without The Beatles, there would simply be no “flower power” era as we know it today.

OK, enough of the prelims, let’s get on to the music. You may agree or disagree with my choices, but you won’t be able to deny that these are all pretty friggin’ great tunes.

10. Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire. Sure, it came out in 1965, but there’s no way any music collection called “Flower Power” could be considered complete without this protest song whose sentiments still ring true today. There’s no Dylan in this top ten list, but the pissed off attitude towards racism, hypocrisy, and social injustice contained in “Eve” would not be misplaced on any of Dylan’s mid-60s output. Even Dylan would probably admit that lyrics (by P.F. Sloan) seldom got better (or more timely) than this:

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
Ah, you may leave here for four days in space
But when you return it’s the same old place
The poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead but don’t leave a trace
Hate your next door neighbor but don’t forget to say grace
And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

The interesting story about this particular song is that McGuire’s vocal (backed by members of LA’s legendary “Wrecking Crew”) was just a throw-away while attempting to get familiar with the tune, but the tape from the session was given to a local DJ who immediately put it on his playlist and the song took off.

9. White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane. San Francisco. The “Summer of Love” Surrealistic Pillow. You think “The Sixties”, this song has gotta be on that playlist. It’s a short but very clean recording, breathtakingly powerful in the way it gradually builds to its inevitable climax. No one makes music like that today.

8. Hey Jude / Revolution. Sure, I could have gone with “Strawberry Fields Forever” / “Penny Lane”, because The Beatles sure knew how to create “Double A side” singles. I’m choosing “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” because it illustrates just how versatile, and just how damned good a band they were. I’ve always considered “Jude” to be the Sistine Chapel of rock and roll – musically, everything seemed black and white until the day I first heard it on the radio, and I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard it that very first time. “Revolution” is not just gritty and cynical, it also dares to ask the question to those who would want to tear down the establishment what exactly they would replace it with. So pure Lennon. The opening, with Lennon’s fuzz guitar and McCartney’s scream, is worth the price of admission alone.

7. Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In – The Fifth Dimension. I mean, how “Sixties” can you get, right? I don’t think it’s a particularly great song, but the instrumental backing (again provided by the “Wrecking Crew”) is pretty friggin’ awesome – most especially on “Let The Sunshine In”. Like Donovan’s “Atlantis”, The Youngbloods’ “Get Together”, and The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High” the song sure captures the spirit of the times, doesn’t it? Hence its inclusion.

6. Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones. You can’t recall the music of the FP era without forgetting what happened at Altamont just a few months after Woodstock. “Gimme Shelter” (the title song for the movie about the Stones’ tour that year), is a spooky, paranoid example of the dark side of the FP era and its growing excesses in a variety of forms. It’s aural equivalent is The Doors’ “End of the Night”.

5. Woodstock – Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Another overly-idealistic anthem to the era, but it’s a great song, nonetheless. Musically it’s a very tight recording with the bass and drums doing some very intricate rhythm throughout. And the album it came from, “Deja Vu” is a must-have for Sixties music enthusiasts. It’s a classic.

4. Time Has Come Today – The Chambers Brothers. Quite simply (at least in my view), the most exquisite example of psychedelic rock and a Great White Shank “top 10” life song if there ever was one. Legend is that the song in its longest version was recorded in a single tape with no overdubs. Not sure I believe that, but it’s an awesome aural experience with headphones – give it a try but make sure you have the volume up so you can appreciate the sounds shifting back and forth between your ears. The song has everything but the kitchen sink – backward effects, the fuzziest fuzz guitar, a honkin’ harmonica buried deep in the mix, all dripped in echo like you wouldn’t believe. I still remember my mom telling me how much she hated the song – she said it reminded her of giving birth. Funny, that made me love the song that much more.

3. For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield. Like “Gimme Shelter”, this song also has a spooky, paranoid vibe that permeates the grooves. Lots of folks immediately associate the song with Vietnam War protests, but it was actually inspired by the Sunset Strip curfew riots that took place way back in 1966.

2. San Francisco – Scott MacKenzie. The happy “peace and love” absolute idealism of the FP era distilled into its purest form. Of course it was all bullshit – none other than George Harrison would report back to his band mates about the horribly lost and drug-induced teens he found by the hundreds during his visit to San Francisco during the “Summer of Love”. But it’s still a rather nice, nostalgic tune – one that would have been my choice for #1 had things not taken a darker turn.

1. Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Consider this the flip side to Scott MacKenzie’s “flower power” opus. By 1970, the innocent peace and love of the San Francisco movement had turned dark and ominous. The Manson murders by a bunch of lost, disillusioned, and spaced-out hippies had shaken the country, and on college campuses it was “Student Demonstration Time” with Vietnam War protests seemingly everywhere. Needless to say, the Kent State shootings were the beginning of the end of the “flower power” movement. Within a couple of years, Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, Alan Wilson (Canned Heat), Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin would all be dead. But few songs have ever communicated anger and rage against “the establishment” as effectively as “Ohio”. Nearly 40 years later, it remains the standard for protest songs, with anger and resentment oozing from the very first grungy guitar lick and Neil Young’s vocal. The fade-out alone with the call-and-answer make it the ultimate protest song from beginning to end.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:57 | Comments (3)
3 Comments »
  1. Hi friends, nice piece of writing and good urging commented
    at this place, I am actually enjoying by these.

    Comment by www.vigzig.info — May 16, 2019 @ 3:37 am


  2. Love your choices for #1 & #3. For me, Ohio had a deeply visceral impact. It captured the insanity of that whole event and what was happening in the country at that time. I still get chills when I hear it today. And for Buffalo Springfield, when my son began a vinyl record collection, Retrospective was one of the albums that I gave him. He did not appreciate it at the time but has come to have a better understanding of its part in the 60’s music culture.
    I myself was more partial to soul music, particularly Marvin Gaye (What’s Going On, Mercy Mercy Me)

    Comment by Goose — May 17, 2019 @ 9:54 am


  3. Thanks for commenting, Goose. Practically the whole “What’s Going On” album is on Tracey’s Flower Power collection. Great stuff there. There was some cool soul music during the times, and there are songs by both The Temptations and Diana Ross & The Supremes on the collection as well!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — May 17, 2019 @ 8:14 pm


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