Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Singles of the Summer of Love

Before Labor Day arrives and we bid a fond farewell to the Official 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Summer of Love(TM), let's revisit the top singles of that groovy summer, shall we? Here they are:

Van Morrison - "Brown Eyed Girl"
The Hollies - "Carrie-Anne"
James Brown - "Cold Sweat"
Soul Survivors - "Expressway to Your Heart"
Wilson Pickett - "Funky Broadway"
The Beach Boys - "Heroes and Villains"
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood - "Jackson"
The Box Tops - "The Letter"
The Music Explosion - "Little Bit o' Soul"
Tommy James & The Shondells - "Mirage"
Bobbie Gentry - "Ode to Billie Joe"
The Monkees - "Pleasant Valley Sunday"
The Supremes - "Reflections"
The Animals - "San Franciscan Nights"
Scott McKenzie - "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)"
The Turtles - "She'd Rather Be With Me"
The Tremeloes - "Silence Is Golden"
Janis Ian - "Society's Child"
Spanky & Our Gang - "Sunday Will Never Be the Same"
Lulu - "To Sir With Love"
The Mamas & The Papas - "Twelve Thirty"
The Fifth Dimension - "Up, Up and Away"
Procol Harum - "A Whiter Shade of Pale"
The Association - "Windy"
Jackie Wilson - "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher"

Note the relative lack of hippie wankery. Sure, Scott McKenzie is there, and blissfully instructs us to wear flowers in our hair. But "Scott McKenzie" is to "Hippie" as "Velveeta" is to "Cheese." The Monkees, the Prefab Four, offer the radical suggestion that we should all fire up our suburban grills for a nice barbecue. Lulu greets us with a sappy ballad to her favorite teacher, and The Fifth Dimension, already one step away from a Vegas lounge act at the onset of their careers, exhort us to get high by riding in a hot air balloon. To be sure, there are some great songs and performances there. Van is Van, and nobody's ever sung "sha-la-la-la-la" any better. Bobbie Gentry scored her one hit, and then disappeared, but what a hit it was. Procol Harum proved that it was possible to marry Bach to trippy imagery, and Brian Wilson was heading quickly toward both sonic brilliance and a mental breakdown. And James Brown, Wilson Pickett, and Jackie Wilson all delivered classic soul performances. But I'm struck by just how ordinary and pedestrian so much of this music was, and is. The revolution was happening, and somebody forgot to notify AM radio.

By the fall of '67 they'd figured it out, and we'd soon be hearing groundbreaking music from the likes of The Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Santana. But outside of San Francisco, the Summer of Love was remarkably quiet, and remarkably ordinary.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the essential element of the era is DA Pennebaker's "Monterey Pop" documentary. and yes, van the man is a legend...

i guess it is a reminder that what tops the pop charts isn't always the most important music.