Time-Life has put together a good collection of 40 songs that were playing on radios and record players back in 1967. That year the hippies and their ideas broke on through from the counterculture into the mainstream. It started in January with San Francisco’s Human Be-In and peaked in the summer, June specifically, when The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and two weeks later The Monterey International Pop Music Festival, the first major rock show of lasting notoriety, took place. Life as everyone knew it would never be the same.
In the July 7, 1967, TIME magazine cover story entitled, “The Hippies: The Philosophy of a Subculture,” they described the hippie creed for its readers: “Do your own thing, wherever you have to do it and whenever you want. Drop out. Leave society as you have known it. Leave it utterly. Blow the mind of every straight person you can reach. Turn them on, if not to drugs, then to beauty, love, honesty, fun.” They weren’t too far off as people, particularly the young, were tried of society’s seemingly arbitrary restraints and rules, so they started to explore peace, love, Eastern religions, sexual liberation, and consciousness expansion through psychedelic drugs.
All the arts were affected by this paradigm shift, and the most noticeable changes took place in music. Summer of Love allows you to hear them as the smooth sounds of the early to mid ‘60s, folk, Motown and the British Invasion, give way to blues, psychedelia and feedback. The straightforward pop of The Association’s “Windy,” Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made to Love Her,” and Harpers Bizarre’s pointless cover of Paul Simon’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” sound as if they had to be from earlier in the decade when placed alongside Cream’s “I Feel Free”, Big Brother & the Holding Company’s “Down on Me,” and The Yardbirds’ “Stroll On.”
Summer of Love includes famous musicians like Donavan with “Season of the Witch” and Van Morrison with “Brown Eyed Girl,” bands you may not know, but whose songs are familiar like The Youngbloods’ “Get Together” and Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” and then there are bands like The Peanut Butter Conspiracy and Blues Magoos who are known by people you should never play Musical Trivial Pursuit against for money.
While all the other bands get one song on the set, the members of Traffic make three appearances. Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, and Dave Mason are rumored to have played on the singles “I'm A Man” and “Gimme Some Lovin’” by the Spencer Davis Group, whose lead singer was Steve Winwood. As Traffic, they perform their weakest contribution to set, “Paper Sun.” The work of both The Monkees and The Supremes are spotlighted twice. The Monkees perform “Pleasant Valley Sunday” while The Butterfield Blues Band misses the mark with “Mary, Mary.” Diana Ross and the Supremes sing “Reflections,” and Vanilla Fudge creates a slow soulful version of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”
The DVD contains the “My Generation,” the sixth volume of the outstanding The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll series by Quincy Jones from 1995. It contains great archival footage of interviews and performances as well as what were present-day interviews from artists who were there in the late ‘60s, such as Jerry Garcia, Paul Kantner, and David Crosby, and those influenced by it, such as Bono, Bruce Springsteen, and Joey Ramone.
Summer of Love includes some popular and influential bands like The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and Jefferson Airplane, but there are some of the true musical heavyweights missing that were around that summer who helped make it what it was. Aside from the aforementioned, and arguably the album of that year, The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s, The Rolling Stones had released Between the Buttons and music fans were introduced to debut albums by The Doors, The Grateful Dead, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. It’s not definitive, and makes no claim to be, but it is an excellent starting point.