In my last article, I asked the most basic question imaginable. What were people thinking? It is a simple journey, in truth, as it asks us to get inside the mind of perhaps the mindless.
Throughout our history, whether that history is considered recent or dating back to Adam and Eve, the world has been about one thing… Money. People only see dollar signs and that will always shroud their perspective and common sense.
The San Francisco Bay Area music scene has been the location of many such debacles. Being that that is where I’m based and should well be the topic area for my articles, I will bring myself to look critically and yet quite honestly at some of the moments in our history which are less than glowing.
Let’s begin where the music scene really can say it began. The summer of 1967. The summer of “love”. But what was the love? Love of drugs? Love of sex? Love or money? All of the above? I say “D” because it was about all of the above. It was about drugs. It was about sex. It was about money. But for some strange reason, people equate the summer of love with music. How can this possibly be? Sure they have films of people dancing in the streets of Haight/Ashbury. But in those films, are the people dancing to music? That’s what historians want you to believe. Yet in truth, the only music was found in the heads of those who were flying high on acid trips. They heard and saw for that matter, all sorts of things! And, if you want to be completely honest, it was not as if the dancing in the streets went on 24/7 as is the current way to say it. It was only a small capsule of what the Haight/Ashbury was all about. Most who were removed from it lived in fear of the violence and crime that those who came here to find “love” brought with them. Very few who resided in the Haight had what anyone would consider a job. So most were left either robbing, stealing or panhandling to get money to buy drugs which would get them sex! Quite a pretty picture? History, since it’s written by those who want you to believe that it was a beautiful “scene man”. It wasn’t. I remember attending some social events around the corner from the Haight when I was young. I recall being afraid to park the car or even walk on the streets because the young people and the inherent violence was quite rampant.
And so, to bring this story full circle, in the fall of 1970, the truth was finally revealed at a small, hillside raceway about 50 miles from the City. Altamont. The name to this day says it all. It was the beginning of the end for the “hippy” movement. It revealed to the world the truth of what the hippies in San Francisco were all about. The magic disappeared as did the illusion of peace and love. It was all a sham created by those who didn’t want to admit they were nothing more than hoods, thugs and bums looking for a handout. Sure there were perhaps immersed in the midsts of this some very good hearted and benevolent people. But once a camera was pointed directly into the eye of the violence, there was no way to explain away the truth. They would say it was the Hell’s Angels. They would say it was people from other places since the concert wasn’t in San Francisco. (San Francisco refused to stage the event which is why the Rolling Stones and the promoters had to try and find someplace and wound up in the middle of nowhere…) But then the news began to show the truth as well. They began to show the riots on college campuses disguised as protests. Protests were not about violence and yet those who were involved in the protests were not normally students at the university but “rent-a-mobs” consisting of bums who were given five dollars and lunch to march around in different places acting as if the voice of the people was completely juxtaposed to what the government wanted you to believe. In reality, as the elections in 1968 and 1972 showed, even someone who was portrayed in the press as being evil, Richard Nixon, was quite popular… Popular enough to get elected president not once but twice. In 1972, the voice of the supposed protestors produced very few votes for their savior, George McGovern. He was, in the most simplest of terms, slaughtered by the supposedly despised Mr. Nixon. So which voice of the people was true?
So what legacy within the history of San Francisco music is the truth? Well, records don’t lie. Well at least to some degree they don’t. Since most of the music was actually played by studio musicians not the actual artists listed on the albums, some can question the authenticity of the music. But the songs were written by young people who were expressing their thoughts and artistry. It is the only true legacy available of the era. What were the Rolling Stones thinking when they asked the Hell’s Angels to provide security at a concert? That is what they contributed to the legacy of San Francisco in rock music. A question for the ages.