“Because as the wise ass said, ‘Why did Jim Morrison cross the road? To break on through to the other side.’ But seriously, as lead off tracks from debut albums go, The Doors’ Break On Through is about as perfect as they come. A dark eruption of summer of love psyche-rock that tells no lies, promises maybe everything and pretty much delivers. But the version I’ve ended up listening to most comes from barely three years later, the double album Absolutely Live, wherein the band (via some psychedelic time trick) have clearly been on the road for centuries, howling the gods’ eternal truth to the hungry children of man, all those dead cats, aristocrats, sucking on young men’s blood and soldiers’ skulls up and down the ages, so all the more reason to chase pleasures, dig treasures, break on through the veils and filters and doors that deceive us, because though now may always be the time, it was never so evident as it was way back when, the so-called 60s rising to their peak, storming for heaven, or perhaps oblivion … whatever’s waiting beyond the great within.” (Philip Random)
If you were concerned with the cutting edges of things, you knew that by summer 1968, the peace and love part of the ’60s was most definitely on the wane. Which was good news for the Rolling Stones who generally couldn’t see the point in all the flower power stuff. They were more comfortable with grittier, grimier, dirtier options, like Stray Cat Blues, the one about the fifteen year old groupie who liked to drag her fingernails down the backs of her fave rock stars, who no, as a matter of fact, hadn’t asked to see her ID. Shock for shock’s sake? Probably. But it’s a hell of a groove from a hell of an album from a hell of a time.
Marianne Faithfull’s take on Sister Morphine is probably the best Rolling Stones record ever that most people haven’t heard, even if it’s not Mick singing and it’s not technically the Stones. Because Mick is apparently playing some guitar (along with Ry Cooder) and that’s Charlie on drums. Who knows where Keith is? Probably on the nod. Which drives home the point. Marianne Faithfull gets the credit and she deserves it all the way, but Sister Morphine is very much a 1969 Stone-truth being imparted. It’s not the Summer of Love anymore. The drugs have gotten too heavy. Souls are being crushed. None of this is going to end well.
“Speaking of Jesus and surrealism and full-on agit-prop satire, Christianity Is Stupid has to rate as one of Negativland‘s high water marks. I remember it being particularly useful roundabout Christmastime, 1987, peak of the so-called Winter of Hate observances. Which, I suppose, are best understood as the mirror opposite of 1967’s Summer of Love observances, neither being exactly what they were advertising. In other words, there was more than little fear and loathing caught up in all that overhyped San Francisco hippie shit (even if some of it was no doubt wonderful); likewise, there were traces of peace and love to be found in the massively under-hyped Winter of Hate (even if much of was deliberately abysmal). And whatever was going down (or perhaps up), Christianity is Stupid has to stand as one of its key anthems, a record you generally played at people (as opposed to for them). It even caused a proper controversy, which still seems to be playing out. And oh yeah, the whole damned album‘s a masterpiece. Assuming noise is your thing, interruption, interference.” (Philip Random)
“Second of two in a row from Love‘s 1967 masterpiece Forever Changes, because it really is an album (as opposed to a collection of songs). Or as an ex-DJ friend once put it – ‘I find it hard to put tracks from Forever Changes in a mix, because they always work best next to each other, as part of the intended flow.’ And these songs aren’t exactly out to take prisoners, not obviously anyway. They’re just content to work a warm and consistent and slightly hazy (perhaps smoggy) LA vibe of heartbreak and beauty and colours forever changing and whatever else it is that Arthur Lee‘s singing about. With titles like Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale, he’s clearly singing about everything. But love most of all.” (Philip Random)
“I don’t believe I heard Love’s Forever Changes until at least the 1990s. Not consciously anyway, because it is the kind of album that might’ve just slipped by. Not for any inherent weakness so much as its subtlety and, I guess, its timelessness – its strings and horns and multicoloured melodies and mysteries. It may have come out of Summer of Love Los Angeles, but heard in the background at a café or from the next room at a party, it could be almost any decade (since the 1960s anyway). As for Alone Again Or, it’s all in the title, I guess. Not so much a love song as a lack of love song, yet there is still hope. It is 1967 after all.” (Philip Random)
“More proof that when it came to a certain sunlit psychedelic sweetness (which it seems was only ever achieved by anybody in and around 1966-67) the singer songwriter (some called him a poet) known as Donovan had no peer. Yes, Bob Dylan’s poetry went deeper and destroyed more fascists, and Donovan did on occasion get lost in hippy dippy wormholes, but its darned hard to argue with the mystical magical stuff of Sunshine Superman (the album) and a song like Legend of a Girl Child Linda in particular … whatever it’s about. Because I never really seem to be able to track it all the way through, the trance takes me, like I’m stuck in someone else’s dream, and sumptuous it is, all cascading crystals, hillsides of velvet, valleys of flowers.” (Philip Random)
“Yeah, Jim Morrison was an asshole, who died for his own sins, nobody else’s. But damn, the Doors were a strong band, and yet they were pretty much nothing without him. And that first album in particular – well, somebody had to do it. 1967. Summer of Love – offer at least a hint that there was a darker side to things even as it was rocketing to the top of the charts. Soul Kitchen makes the list because it’s remained mostly well hidden over the years, and thus, no allergies.” (Philip Random)
In which the Velvet Underground remind us that in NYC, the so-called Summer of Love was more about coolness and shadows and shiny boots of leather than the hippie sh** that was so popular elsewhere. Music so driven, angular, dark that it made you want to grab a whip and get to cracking it in time. Based on a rather pivotal 1870 novella of the same name that explores themes of sadomasochism and dominance, it hits like a wrong door, the kind you open without really thinking about it, but once you have, whatever’s going on in there – it has you, it won’t let you go. Which perhaps begins to explain how it ended up being used to sell tires.