Don’t Go Back To San Francisco 

Don’t Go Back To San Francisco 
Posted by CN Staff on June 09, 2007 at 17:45:29 PT
By Michael Walker, Op-Ed Contributor
Source: New York Times
Los Angeles, CA -- Shake the stems and seeds out of the Persian rug and put some flowers in your hair: the Summer of Love is 40 years old. The patchouli-scented commemoration has fixated on San Francisco, the Summer of Love’s blissful nexus. What wretched Midwestern longhair-in-waiting in the summer of ’67 could resist the siren of Scott McKenzie’s Top 5 hit, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”? Untold VW microbuses from Ann Arbor to Amherst chugged west on little more than the song’s purple-hazy promise: the tribes were gathering, and they were gathering in San Francisco.
But as a lasting cultural artifact, San Francisco’s Summer of Love can’t hold a stick of incense to the rafter-shaking sounds coming out that same year from a Los Angeles neighborhood 370 miles south, above the Sunset Strip. If we measure ’60s pop-cultural landmarks by the epoch-producing music they generate — and, from Liverpool to Woodstock, we do — then Laurel Canyon was the more evolved and influential destination that summer.Laurel Canyon had been filling up with the baby boom’s brightest musical lights since 1965, when members of the Byrds, Los Angeles’s seminal folk-rockers, moved in, just as their version of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” was a triumphant, worldwide smash. Soon, it seemed, every musician of note in Los Angeles had moved next door: members of the Mamas and the Papas, the Doors, the Seeds, the Turtles and Love were later joined by Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Frank Zappa, Carole King and untold transient rock royalty from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones. By the summer of ’67, the Laurel Canyon mafia had defined the budding West Coast counterculture with an avalanche of generation-unifying songs that blended the last vestiges of the folk-music revival with the impudent exuberance of the British Invasion. Laurel Canyon and Los Angeles were home to the murderers’ row of rock: alongside the Byrds — “America’s Beatles” according to the not entirely undeserved hype — lived Buffalo Springfield, from whose ranks would come Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay. The Mamas and the Papas, Laurel Canyon’s house band, had already recorded a string of landmark hits starting with “California Dreamin’.” The revolutionary flower-punk of Love produced the blistering “Seven and Seven Is,” a slap to the face masquerading as a hit single. The Turtles bounced the Beatles’ “Penny Lane” from No. 1 with “Happy Together,” and a couple of months later, The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” with brooding couplets that juxtaposed sexual longing and funeral pyres, rode the charts for weeks during the putatively flower-strewn summer. San Francisco’s music scene developed under conditions vastly different from those in Los Angeles. Unstructured gigs at the city’s acid-drenched ballrooms encouraged epic jams of the sort perfected by the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the Jefferson Airplane, along with a naďve anticommercialism — hit singles were for the hacks in Laurel Canyon. The irony is that San Francisco’s bands are remembered today chiefly for the few times they made commercially successful music, as with Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 “Surrealistic Pillow” album and its Top 10 singles “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.” Where San Francisco’s music scene was administered by a handful of show-business novices, Los Angeles was home to Capitol Records, the Beatles’ label, as well as the world’s finest recording studios, producers and engineers. Laurel Canyon’s proximity to this infrastructure — the unsparing proving ground of the Sunset Strip’s clubs was a five-minute hitchhike away — instilled in the musicians a professionalism that stiffened the spine of the material they wrote and performed.In the end, 1967’s most prescient generational temperature-taking can be found in yet another Los Angeles song that hit the Top 10 just before the Summer of Love took off. Buffalo Springfield’s chilling “For What It’s Worth,” inspired by Stephen Stills’s eyewitness account of police officers brutalizing longhairs on the Sunset Strip, questioned the motives of both the establishment and the self-congratulating counterculture. Given the turmoil that lay just around the corner in 1968, the paranoia of “For What It’s Worth” strikes deep and true: “there’s a man with a gun over there,” it turned out, would have as much to do with the baby boom generation as would wearing flowers in your hair.The Summer of Love will forever be entwined with San Francisco. But the rock critic Robert Christgau predicted in 1967 that “the real music would come from Los Angeles.” And he was right. The songs that came out of the Haight that summer now seem fixed in amber, as temporal as a Fillmore poster, while the music from Los Angeles and Laurel Canyon soldiers on, impervious to age and ridicule. Even the Summer of Love’s anthem, Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco,” was written and recorded in Los Angeles. The song was conceived by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas expressly as a come-on for the Monterey International Pop Music Festival, which Mr. Phillips and Lou Adler, the Los Angeles record producer, were organizing. The lyrics vividly imagine a hippie-sanctified San Francisco, but the flowers in the title are literally from Los Angeles: Mr. McKenzie recorded the song while wearing garlands of wildflowers plucked in Laurel Canyon.Michael Walker is the author of “Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock ’n’ Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood.” Newshawk: DankhankSource: New York Times (NY)Author: Michael Walker, Op-Ed ContributorPublished: June 9, 2007Copyright: 2007 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite: Articles:Groovy: Summer of Love, Message of Love Rose-Colored Granny Glasses Hippies Were Right All Along -- We Knew That 
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Comment #3 posted by Max Flowers on June 10, 2007 at 18:54:05 PT
I'll point this out
As someone who used to live in the L.A. area and now lives in the San Francisco area (generally speaking), I can tell you there is still magic in SF. The music has changed of course, but people are still into peace and love. People in L.A. are simply into *money*
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Comment #2 posted by The GCW on June 09, 2007 at 21:02:20 PT
But the best part is,
The great thing is that We had both.
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Comment #1 posted by Truth on June 09, 2007 at 19:16:48 PT
the hits came out of the studios in LA but the magic came from San Francisco.
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