Five best songs from the Summer of Love
Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick.
Forty five years ago, the western world was forever changed by an overwhelming groundswell of youth rebellion known to history as the Summer of Love. There are countless factors that caused this tsunami of bohemia to sweep the globe -- everything from economics and the end of World War II to LSD and groundbreaking fashion designers -- but, more than anything, the counter-culture of the hippies was fueled by music -- far and away the thing that most baffled the straights and illuminated the believers. And in honor of the first day of the summer of 2012, we give you the five best songs from the Summer of Love, the singles and album cuts that could be heard squealing out windows from Hashbury lofts and bouncing out of radios in Carnaby Street clothing shops back in 1967.
5. The Beatles - "A Day in the Life"
All of the elements of the Summer of Love (festivals, LSD, mustaches) would probably still have happened if Sgt. Pepper had never existed -- but they would have been a lot less inspired. Released on the first day of June 1967, this tribute to sonic aesthetics inspired dozens of imitators and would firmly redirect the methods and styles of studio recording. "A Day in the Life" was the trippy, bi-polar mini-opera that closed the album, exhausting listeners with mind-bending lyrics and a backwards orchestra swirl that left your brain feeling as though it had been boiled in lemonade.
4. The Hollies - "Carrie Anne"
Supposedly written about Mick Jagger's girlfriend and future art-punk icon Marianne Faithfull, this song embodies the link between Mod-cool and radio-friendly commercialism. Despite a somewhat misogynistic final verse by Graham Nash, "Carrie Anne" sits in a great tradition of young men writing quixotic odes to the women they long to touch -- yet ultimately must resign their desires to the more famous, better looking popstars.
3. Pink Floyd - "Arnold Layne"
Aside from music and drugs, few things defined the Summer of Love quite like fashion. Lou Reed wrote about his shiny boots of leather, Bob Dylan sung about a leopard-skin pillbox hat, and Pink Floyd immortalized a transvestite who got his kicks snatching ladies undergarments off clotheslines. Enjoy!
2. The Kinks - "Waterloo Sunset"
Like any druggy period, you take the highs with the lows. Though with the right set of eyes (or ears, as the case may be), the lows come with a sweet bass note of melancholy -- a tone expertly delivered in Summer of Love tunes like Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" or Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" or in this sentimental Kinks ballad. A song basically about domestic isolation (a common theme with Kinks songsmith, Ray Davies), "Waterloo Sunset" speaks to the true reality of the flower generation: It's all so beautiful, and it's all coming to an end.
1. Jefferson Airplane - "White Rabbit"
Every experience needs a soundtrack, whether it's losing your virginity, getting into a fight, or having a transcendent moment on the dancefloor. More than dancing, screwing or fighting, though, the activity that the flower children most required a soundtrack to was the epic trek of the psychedelic mind-scramble. Lyrically influenced by Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and sonically influenced by Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, "White Rabbit" perfectly encapsulated the tick-tick-TICK roller coaster ascent of the LSD experience, blending an aural beauty and anxiety with a narration that gives the listener the sense that he/she is on the path somewhere, but not necessarily a place you're ready to visit.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.