Saturday, May 19, 2007
Endless summer (of love)
Did you know the Summer of Love happened 40 years ago? If you didn’t, you will soon. Apparently, we’re all supposed to have internal alarm clocks that go “Ring! Ring!” at decade & multi-decade intervals. As good cultural consumers, the thinking goes,we ought to be grateful to the brandmeisters and marketeers who wake us for these vital milestones. Otherwise, we might have to be responsible for our own memories.
According to “Welcome Back Starshine,” an article by John Leonard in the Arts section of today’s Times, the nostalgia-fest for boomers is already well underway. For instance, the Whitney will mount a psychedelic art show, the Public Theater will produce a “Hair” concert and a new festival will reprise its 1967 Monterrey Pop triumph by inviting back the sexagenarian versions of bands like Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service. (OK, flower children, here’s a quiz: Was it Sly & the family Stone that sang “Commemorate! Commemorate! Dance to the music…” or was that someone else?)
In 1967 only cowboys used "brand" as a verb, but the article reveals that “Summer of Love” was the name a San Francisco marketing council came up with & that the great slurpy anthem that begins, “If you’re going to San Francisco/Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair,” was written by organizers of the Monterrey Pop Festival. Wouldn’t you know it?
Full disclosure. It so happens that I’m in the branding business too; have been – at least some of the time -- for many years, so this doesn’t really offend me. It’s just the way things are. But I remain somewhat amazed that more people don’t seem to notice that 10-20-30 year anniversaries etc. are not in themselves anything at all, just excuses to sell things.
Anyway, I was thinking about this because in April I followed a trail from the AIPAD show to Elaine Mayes’s Haight Ashbury hippy portraits and featured them on this blog. I swear I wasn’t consciously aware of any anniversary. But was there some secret clock ticking in my poor old journalism-addled brain that told me the time was right? Have I spent one too many seasons as a wage-earning editor?
Please shoot me now.