Tuesday, August 30, 2011

San Francisco

Flower Power: Part 1
Alright, ready or not, we're taking the next month to explore the many sounds of Flower Power! The slogan "flower power" was used by the American counterculture movement during the late 1960s as a symbol of passive peace and non-violence philosophy. Embracing the symbolism, hippies wore colorful clothing with flowers in their hair and passed out flowers to the public. In later years, Flower Power has become a modern reference to the hippie culture including psychedelic music and art. In the late '60s, the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco, California, was the iconic center of the Flower Power movement, and was the focal point for psychedelic rock music (Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Janis Joplin all lived nearby this famous intersection). So today's post will feature Flower Power songs about the historic city of San Francisco.

During the 1967 Summer of Love, the song that brought literally thousands of young people to San Francisco was "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" by American singer Scott McKenzie. As McKenzie was childhood friends with John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, Phillips wrote and co-produced "San Francisco" for McKenzie, and it was released in May of 1967 to promote the Monterey Pop Festival. This psychedelic pop song became an instant hit, reaching #4 on the U.S. charts and #1 throughout most of Europe, selling over 7 million copies worldwide. Here's that infamous San Franciscan song that became an anthem of freedom during this time.

So up next, we have the British pop group, the Flower Pot Men, who were created as a result of the successful single "Let's Go to San Francisco" in 1967. Written and recorded by songwriters John Carter and Ken Lewis, they had no actual group to promote the song after it became a big hit, and since they had no interest in going on the road themselves, the duo created the group by hand-picking session musicians and vocalists. Sometimes mistaken for The Beach Boys, the group's sound was characterized by their rich, three-part vocal harmony. Their name was partly derived from the BBC children's show also titled Flower Pot Men, and had obvious psychedelic-era puns on Flower Power and, well, "pot." The only Top-10 single for this group, here's the light-hearted, psychedelic pop song "Let's Go to San Francisco."

Originating in Houston, Texas, Fever Tree was a psychedelic rock band that formed in 1966, and are mainly remembered for their 1968 hit, "San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native)." Written and produced by couple Scott and Vivian Holtzman, this psychedelic rock song was only a minor hit (reaching #91 on the U.S. charts), but it captured the essence of the group's trademark sounds including the searing, fuzz guitar by Michael Knust. Unfortunately, there's no live footage available, but here's a slideshow presentation of Fever Tree's "San Francisco Girls." (Thanks, Uncle Bill, for reminding me about these guys.)

For the final San Francisco song of the day, we'll conclude with these guys: remember the British Invasion rock band The Animals (with their signature hit here)? Well, after undergoing several personnel changes as well as suffering poor business management, the group disbanded in 1966 and lead singer Eric Burdon formed a new incarnation called Eric Burdon & the Animals (sometimes "the New Animals"). Relocating to San Francisco as a psychedelic band characterized by a heavier, more experimental sound, this new group had its biggest hit with "San Franciscan Nights" released in 1967. Written by Burdon and his bandmates, this tribute to San Francisco reached #1 in Canada, #7 in the UK, and #9 in the U.S., and was a stand against the Vietnam War. Beginning with a brief parody of the Dragnet theme, this psychedelic/progressive rock song seems to pull in as many 1960s themes as possible.

1 comment:

  1. the geenius behinf flowerpot Men was wil Malone, please be sure & hear his perfecto eponymous solo album! Cut 1=