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Summer of Love: The Inside Story of LSD, Rock & Roll, Free Love and High Times in the Wild

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A pop music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle weaves a fascinating, sometimes lurid, narrative history of the highest times of the rock era. Selvin separates surprising fact from entrenched mythology and brings a new light to the icons of the most famous and compelling period in American music. Photos.


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A pop music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle weaves a fascinating, sometimes lurid, narrative history of the highest times of the rock era. Selvin separates surprising fact from entrenched mythology and brings a new light to the icons of the most famous and compelling period in American music. Photos.

30 review for Summer of Love: The Inside Story of LSD, Rock & Roll, Free Love and High Times in the Wild

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    Some wag (probably not Grace Slick) observed that if you remember the 60s, you weren't really there. Enough people remembered the 60s that Selvin manages to recreate the sprawling story of the San Francisco music scene 1965-1971. You know the big players, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Big Brother, Santana, and a host of lesser lights. Moving season by season, Selvin describes the forge of creation, as tightly knit musical families under the influence of large amount of Some wag (probably not Grace Slick) observed that if you remember the 60s, you weren't really there. Enough people remembered the 60s that Selvin manages to recreate the sprawling story of the San Francisco music scene 1965-1971. You know the big players, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Big Brother, Santana, and a host of lesser lights. Moving season by season, Selvin describes the forge of creation, as tightly knit musical families under the influence of large amount of then-legal LSD carved out a new sound at the intersection of rock, blues, folk, and pop, an artistic flourishing intrinsically linked to the counter-cultural nexus of Haight-Ashbury and the radical politics of the antiwar movement. But the scene rapidly turned sour. The tight-knit communes and proto-hippie neighborhood around Haight-Ashbury exploded under hundreds of thousands of hippie tourists, wannabes, and drifters. LSD was supplement with speed, cocaine, and dope, adding an edge of paranoid violence to a vibe already flying somewhere else. Bands broke apart under the pressures of touring and differences of artistic vision. Jefferson Airplane broke in factions that refused to play with each other, Joplin fired Big Brother, an unscrupulous manager stole all of the Grateful Dead's money. Drugs, alcohol, and the lifestyle began to take their toll, as members of the community overdosed, crashed cars, or withdrew from the petty jealousies of 'free love'. This book is very much insider gossip about the bands and a few of their supporting characters, particularly concert promoter Bill Graham, who ran the famous Fillmore. Selvin gestures at the end towards his ideal vision of the rock band as a close group pushing the limits of artistic expression, but has little to say about why these people, in this place, at this moment. For all that LSD is centered in the title, the book also has little to say on psychedelia beyond the bare facts of the moment. If there is a vision there of the Acid Society, it can't be captured in words. And there's nothing about the fans, the hundreds of thousands who went to shows, pilgrimaged to Haight-Ashbury, or simply sat in their bedrooms, put on Surrealistic Pillow, and felt like part of the moment.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    What I learned from this book? I learned that I was there and that Joel is quite accurate in confirming my memories of what it was like. I was impressed. He really got it right, with remarkable detail and a minimum of judgment. Refreshing, as far as I'm concerned. It simply is the way it evolved. Some of it was truly spectacular hedonistic and some of it was spectacularly hideous. Since it was real life, most of it was wallowing around somewhere between the two, especially since most of us were What I learned from this book? I learned that I was there and that Joel is quite accurate in confirming my memories of what it was like. I was impressed. He really got it right, with remarkable detail and a minimum of judgment. Refreshing, as far as I'm concerned. It simply is the way it evolved. Some of it was truly spectacular hedonistic and some of it was spectacularly hideous. Since it was real life, most of it was wallowing around somewhere between the two, especially since most of us were at that rather immature age between childhood and adulthood some call adolescence. Of course the pleasure end is much more enjoyable to recall and keep in one's heart. But regardless of the opinions of others regarding "boomers" and the "sixties" and "psychedelia" and so on, it simply was a time when a great deal was evolving socially in this country. There were other places where there was a lot going on too, and they were different. The New York scene has always tended toward a harder more drop dead cool hipper than thou stance and the west coast scene is well described in this book. I attended the last acid test at the house in Santa Clara and was at countless concerts at the Filmore and Avalon and Longshoremans Hall as well as the Monterey Pop Festival. I can vouch that Joel is telling this story with remarkable veracity. They say that if you remember the sixties you weren't really there, except, I was there and I do remember and I did do a lot of the things described. He even used a teen aged girlfriend of mine as one of his sources. That was a happy surprise! It seems to me that one significant part of the social revolution in the sixties not touched upon was the huge advances made in psychology and psychotherapy and a lot of that took place here too. If you want a really detailed inside look at the scene in the San Francisco-Berkeley-Marin scene in the mid sixties, this book covers it really well. Joel and I even went to the same elementary school. Isn't that amusing?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Selvin's excellent new book on Altamont led me to this earlier book of his. Here are all the San Francisco bands, successes and failures, from their humble beginnings to their various ends. They're all here--The Charlatans, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Santana, Steve Miller Band, Janis Joplin and her bands, Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Creedence Clearwater Revival--whom did I miss? Selvin is a good researcher and a fine story-teller in one. Having come of ag Selvin's excellent new book on Altamont led me to this earlier book of his. Here are all the San Francisco bands, successes and failures, from their humble beginnings to their various ends. They're all here--The Charlatans, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Santana, Steve Miller Band, Janis Joplin and her bands, Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Creedence Clearwater Revival--whom did I miss? Selvin is a good researcher and a fine story-teller in one. Having come of age at this exact time and being a fan of virtually all of these bands helped my appreciation immensely. Not only does Selvin tell the story well, he is also a good music critic, and even when I disagreed with his take on a particular band or an LP, I appreciated the quality of his assessment.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    The title is a bit misleading; it's not really about the summer of 1967 when lots of runwaways came into San Francisco, but rather it's a pretty detailed history of the "San Francisco sound" and the bands who came to life in San Francisco in the last half of the 60s, and those who helped define them, such as Bill Graham and Chet Helms. It's pretty intimate, since Selvin was present for much of it and as a Chronicle writer, he was present for much of it. It's a very engaging book, but if you don' The title is a bit misleading; it's not really about the summer of 1967 when lots of runwaways came into San Francisco, but rather it's a pretty detailed history of the "San Francisco sound" and the bands who came to life in San Francisco in the last half of the 60s, and those who helped define them, such as Bill Graham and Chet Helms. It's pretty intimate, since Selvin was present for much of it and as a Chronicle writer, he was present for much of it. It's a very engaging book, but if you don't know Moby Grape from It's a Beautiful Day, then it may not mean a lot to you. Selvin provides short discussions of the outputs of various groups at the end, if you want to follow along. The book could have used another close reading by a copy editor. There are lots of sentences throughout that I had to read twice to make sure I was getting the author's meaning, which always takes away from the reading of a book. There are times when people are referred to by their last names, but never introduced by first and last name so you know who who they are. Also, some anecdotes (such as Joplin inadvertently taking a lot of LSD at an early concert) that don't seem finished. All this aside, it's a worthy read, and you probably won't find any of it elsewhere.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mickey McIntosh

    The title is misleading. This is not about the summer of love, but about the San Francisco music and cultural scene from 1965 to 1971. This is a great look at that era including the rise, success, and excess of such bands as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Santana among other. A great music read, and a great 1960's cultural read as well. The title is misleading. This is not about the summer of love, but about the San Francisco music and cultural scene from 1965 to 1971. This is a great look at that era including the rise, success, and excess of such bands as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Santana among other. A great music read, and a great 1960's cultural read as well.

  6. 4 out of 5

    M

    Chronologically organised, this book covers the San Francisco folk and acid rock bands, the musicians and the pulse of the times.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    Terrific book of you're obsessed with the Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Big Brother....and don't particularly mind a lot of gossip. Selvin was writing for the San Francisco Press at the height of the psychedelic era and he'll give you a ton of detail you may or may not want to know about who consumed how many pounds of inebrients, who was found sleeping with whose more or less spouse, and who (mostly Bill Graham) ripped off who for how much. I had a good time with the book, but came out wit Terrific book of you're obsessed with the Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Big Brother....and don't particularly mind a lot of gossip. Selvin was writing for the San Francisco Press at the height of the psychedelic era and he'll give you a ton of detail you may or may not want to know about who consumed how many pounds of inebrients, who was found sleeping with whose more or less spouse, and who (mostly Bill Graham) ripped off who for how much. I had a good time with the book, but came out with not a whole lot more than I suspected going in. Miracle they got as much good music out of the mess as they did. It's definitely centered on the previously mentioned Big Three with a smattering os Santana, Creedendce, It's a Beautiful Day, Country Joe....typically of this genre, Selvin totally downplays the importance of Sly Stone. Great for sixties freaks, no need to check it out otherwise.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Russ Bertetta

    i've read this book 3 times now and I always like the early chapters that deal with how the bands got together, the forming of the SF music scene, etc-the part where the bloom has yet to fall of the flower. but the last several chapters where everything is disintegrating never fails to reveal just what a bunch of jerks (could think of a lot more descriptive words but wanted to keep it G rated) a lot of these people were. great musicians in most cases but bigger jerks. would love to see an update i've read this book 3 times now and I always like the early chapters that deal with how the bands got together, the forming of the SF music scene, etc-the part where the bloom has yet to fall of the flower. but the last several chapters where everything is disintegrating never fails to reveal just what a bunch of jerks (could think of a lot more descriptive words but wanted to keep it G rated) a lot of these people were. great musicians in most cases but bigger jerks. would love to see an update on the last section about the musicians on what happened to them post 1972. that would be quite revealing. but a good read if you like the sf music scene of that era.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    O.K., first a disclaimer. This book is 98 percent about the rock bands of San Francisco in the 1960s and 2 percent about LSD and free love. I'm a fan of most of these bands -- Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother, Santana, etc. -- so the book was good fun for me. If I didn't know or like these bands, the rating might have been only one or two stars. O.K., first a disclaimer. This book is 98 percent about the rock bands of San Francisco in the 1960s and 2 percent about LSD and free love. I'm a fan of most of these bands -- Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother, Santana, etc. -- so the book was good fun for me. If I didn't know or like these bands, the rating might have been only one or two stars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Head

  12. 5 out of 5

    J. Allen Nelson

  13. 4 out of 5

    Curt Still

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris Huff

  15. 4 out of 5

    indio

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Sierra

  17. 5 out of 5

    Seth

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael Murphy

  19. 5 out of 5

    Georgia Gross

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Flu

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nate

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

  23. 4 out of 5

    Robster

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rosemarie Meola

  25. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  26. 5 out of 5

    Megan Bruns

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pat Dugan

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stevefk

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sara

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