The unbearable sadness of the summer of love

I’m in my fifties, and like many others, 1967 was such a memorable year. I was lucky to be in London, and I lived through and experienced many of the seminal moments.

Although music, fashion and, indeed, life was obviously changing with the advent of the Beatles in '63, I first noticed that things were getting a little ‘strange’ in autumn 1966. (Tomorrow Never Knows).

From then through winter '66 and spring '67, there was a magic in the air. We were experiencing things we’d never felt before, we were wrapped up with each other in real kinship. One example of ‘us versus them’ was when I was walking in London in all my flower child finery (flowers in my hair, kaftan, long hair), and I passed a matronly, tweedy old woman who looked me up and down, and spat out “your type of filth should be wiped off the streets.” You knew which side you were on in those days!

We really did believe that love and peace would win, and that we would burst through the clouds into a world of eternal sunshine (where flowers would grow incredibly high).

Summer '67 was a culmination. But the trouble with culminations is where do you go after you’ve peaked? And so it was in autumn '67 (the death of the hippy, the shutting down of pirate radio*), the flowers dying, the leaves turning brown. We *knew *that it was ending, and the feeling of sadness and the terrible feeling of loss was almost unbearable. Think of the line through Revolver, Sgt Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour, and the comedown of the White Album. (I’m not talking quality here, just the innovation and extravagance of the psychedelic albums). The same with the Byrds: the sparkle of Younger Than Yesterday, the gleaming depth of Notorious Byrd Brothers, and then the back to roots Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Does anyone else feel the same: the feeling of nostalgia in late '67 for a time just passed?

*Pirate radio stations were ships in the North Sea that broadcast American style formats and were beyond government control. John Peel’s Perfumed Garden was an unsurpassed example. Imagine (American readers) that your favourite stations were closed down overnight. That’s what happened to us.

What a wistful OP! That was the autumn I was born, so I can’t comment. But I’d always read that it really ended in 1969: the magic peaked with Woodstock but ended with Altamont. Do you think the British lost their optimism before the Americans?

BTW, I’m sure you’ve seen Withnail & I; the character Danny seems to speak for you:

You’re right: Altamont is seen as the closing of the sixties. But the real death of the spirit of the sixties was exemplified by a ceremony in San Francisco in autumn '67 where they paraded a coffin down Haight Ashbury, under the name of ‘Death of the Hippy’.

Yes, Altamont is seen as the closing of the sixties. But the real death of the spirit of the sixties was exemplified by a ceremony in San Francisco in autumn '67 where they paraded a coffin down Haight Ashbury, under the name of ‘Death of the Hippy’.

I, obviously, didn’t feel what Americans felt, but I don’t think we were very different in the optimism stakes.

But you’re so right. Wistful is what I feel. We *nearly *won.

Wistful will make you feel that way, but no, you never even came close to winning. I can almost say “we,” but I was only 12 in 67. The Movement never stood a chance, no matter what we thought. Peace, Love, Dope and Tie-dye just doen’t cut it as a plan. There was never any unity, no matter what we all said. The Boomers strutted their hair for a summer or two, then realized that little Sunshine needed a roof over her head, now that Freedom and Zen had been born. The hair got cut, jobs were had, mortgages were taken out, and the Dream got packed away with the memories. But oh, those memories…

We are all outlaws in the eyes of Amerika
In order to survive we steal cheat lie forge fuck hide and deal
We are obscene lawless hideous dangerous dirty violent and young
We should be together

I’m starting to feel guilty. jjimm gets born, the spirit of the sixties dies. Am I the antihippy? Quick, someone check my scalp for a “Tune out, turn off, drop in” birthmark.

Quite a lot of what was remembered as the '60’s seems to me to have been around 1970 and '71.

Someone said to me just today, the '70s were when the '60s really happened.

No, no, no. The seventies were *so *different. You had to be there.

Sadly, you are right. But we didn’t know it then.

I was lucky enough to be at the prelude to the Summer of Love: the big Be-In in New York in the spring of '67. I was visiting my Aunt Syl during spring break, and bought a pair of love beads from an actual hippie on St. Mark’s Place. I was too young to really appreciate what I was experiencing; I figured New York was always like that.

I’m incredibly, awesomely, wistfully nostalgic for the era.
And I was born in 1974. :frowning:

I was.

Everyone has a different cutoff date – the Tate/LaBinaca murders, Altamont, the Beatles breakup, the first whiff of disco. My age of Aquarius limped along through the Watergate hearings, beathed a couple of rattling breaths when Richard Nixon resigned and keeled over for good in 1975 when Saigon fell. YMMV.

Oh, and John Peel spent his whole life surpassing himself. :slight_smile:

Sigh. I cried when I heard.

BTW, I too am wistful for the decade I didn’t really experience. I spent the late 80s and early 90s trying to recreate it for myself. I managed to catch a Crosby, Stills and Nash reunion gig at Red Rocks in '92. That was fantastic. Then rave happened…

I was 13 during the summer of love.
I missed the “real” hippie thing. (Cue: Victoria Williams “Summer of Drugs.”)
I sp’ose I was what they called a freak. Remember when Arlo Guthrie said “Lotta freaks!” at Woodstock in '69? :cool:
The best of the Sixties was over after Woodstock in August '69; Altamont in December '69 sealed it.
That feeling of love changed, I suppose, into a feeling of authenticity (?).
Plenty of good stuff happened during the early 70’s, not the least of which was the first Earth Day and the popularization of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the Women’s Movement, gay rights, Watergate (well, at least it came to light!)pulling out of Vietnam, and The Grateful Dead’s Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty albums and tons of other excellent music (Led Zeppelin! Frank Zappa! Hendrix! The Beatles! The Stones! Neil Young’s After the Goldrush; the Who before their music sold products) as well as superb cinema: Harold and Maude, Mean Streets (and later, Taxi Driver), Cries and Whispers, A Clockwork Orange, MAS*H, Nashville,The Godfather(s)–and movies just got better as time went on.
Yeah, it was a good time to be alive.

I’m sorry - I was abit abrupt. In some ways, I agree with you. For me, the *sixties *ran from '63 to '76. But that wasn’t what my OP was about. It is purely about the summer of love - and that lasted a tragically short time. At the very, very most from late '66 to early '68, but as I said, I feel that it lasted from late '66 to late '67.

Ah yes…I was with my high school choir taking a trip out west in 1967 and we stopped in San Francisco for the day. I went to Haight/Ashbury and touched the sign post, went into the head shops, bought a Frank Zappa double album LP (that melted and warped in the bus on the way home) and gave serious consideration to ditching the choir and running away while I was in SF. But for me, the era ended a few years later when Janis, Jim and Jimi all died (each at the age of 27) within a short time span, and the spark was over.

And then one day, after seeing a photo of Sammy Davis Jr. wearing a Nehru jacket and a peace medallion, well - I knew it was time to move on.

What a great reply! (I meant to say earlier). But in my teens, I had no prior knowledge, so I had no experience to tell me that it wouldn’t work. And so many others all felt the same way: it really was a cultural experience - golddust had been sprinkled on us.

Paul and Grace have always been my heroes.

I’m in my 60s and I can still close my eyes and remember the times, hear the music, re-live the dream, etc., etc. Altamont was the beginning of the end, if not the end itself. My darling Marcie and I still wax nostalgic over those good old days.