Listen Up/ Summer of Love Revisited
In a word: Janis.
Janis Joplin — Texan renegade, psychedelic rockin’ denizen of the Haight, leader of Big Brother and the Holding Company, and founding member of Club 27 – had a voice that could rip your heart out. Here’s her cover of “Ball and Chain” (written and originally recorded by blues artist Big Mama Thorton) performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, where the world woke up to the beauty and power of the rare raw Pearl of the Summer of Love.
I tried to figure out a way to head to Haight-Ashbury in the summer of 1967. Twelve didn’t seem too young to me. I sewed my own paisley granny dress with a Simplicity pattern and some old fabric I found in the basement and created a tightly woven wonky woolen feed bag purse with green and yellow fringe to carry all my stuff – besides, there was a freight train right outside my door. I could just hop on and hide out like a hobo until I made it to California. Hippies were sort of like hobos, weren’t they? I didn’t have any money, but then they said on the news that hippies didn’t worry about bread – they were free from the strictures of capitalism.
Nobody in my family was a hippie. Six older brothers and sisters and not one leftist leaning, war-protesting, buffalo-sandal-wearing, pot-smoking freak I could look up to and learn from in the bunch. Surely it was time to head to San Francisco to learn from the best. I plotted and planned, got Naked Lunch out of the library and hid it under my bed so my mother wouldn’t find it. (Didn’t understand a word of it – all the more reason to head to San Francisco and find this strange man Burroughs.) I talked to my friend Rose – she said hippies were dirty and stupid, but then she said that about everybody. My friend Mary dared me to go, but no way was she coming with me – the mere suggestion started her rolling on the floor with laughter until tears rolled down her cheeks. Then she got up and reset the needle on her 45 of “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells. Friends and family were hopeless. They just didn’t dig it. They were “uncool, the unenlightened establishment” I imagined my soon-to-be new friends the hippies would say.
Bummed out by my hesitance to bug out, spread my wings, flee and fly, I started cutting out photographs, headlines, and pieces of articles from newspapers and magazines. I collected buttons with slogans, strips of fabric, yarn, plastic daisies, beads and broken pieces of jewelry and decided to bring Haight-Ashbury and the Summer of Love to the ceiling and walls around my bed. I took a crayon and made a fat rounded outline of the word PEACE six feet long and four feet high on the bedroom wall that had been papered with sweet bouquets of roses in the 1940’s. For the rest of the summer I worked on my hippie homage – filling in PEACE, pasting together a three dimensional mural while I thought about what the Summer of Love meant. Childlike love, peace, and understanding, revolution, protest, resistance and counter resistance mixed up with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. I liked the idea of free love and dancing nude in the moonlight in a magical place called Golden Gate Park, but I wasn’t ready to live in that moment. When we sold the house after my mother’s death in 1997, my PEACE mural from the Summer of Love thirty years earlier still filled the room where I’d grown up.
For more Summer of Love Revisited, check out the Summer of Love Experience at the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park through August 20th, 2017.