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Tag: Hippie

Wish You Were There


The Sixties Generation is not done yet.  Last week we had a ‘local band done good’ playing live once again in Venice, and back in June Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters played Staples Center, DTLA. The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s music landed well with its classic sound and old hits.  Waters, though, revived the classics on a whole other level, expanded them with new material, and injected spectacular visuals; they commented on today’s political takeover by the .01%.

Pig drones, curtain dropping screens, video perfectly synched to the lyrics, and a note perfect band all added up to more than a concert—an event. A mature artists’ statement of his past ideals which he still lives, meshing perfectly with current material and current events. He played his break-through work with Pink Floyd in the Seventies, enhanced and updated with new material that continues his themes of alienation, the ‘machine’, intoxication of materialism, and unity of life.

I first saw Waters/ Pink Floyd at Pepperland in Marin County in 1970. Pink Floyd was totally unknown to us and performed in an environment made to look like the Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine.’  On this tour Waters exceeded that decades old exploration of the edge of reality and society. Unique among old rockers, Waters insists on pushing his own boundaries while at the same time honoring his more than forty year-old material. It works because he explored timeless questions back then, and can now invigorate the old skin with film of the current political climate. Images of Black Lives Matter, Trump, starving kids, factories and much more highlight the old lyrics into the context of today.

The timelessness of such art was illustrated for me on the train to the arena. Being a native Angeleno, I’m wedded to my cars. I drive everywhere, but these days driving to DTLA is just untenable…can’t do it and maintain equanimity.  On the Expo, I bonded with a fellow-traveler, a Millennial age young man, who was also wearing a Pink Floyd T-shirt.  We traded notes on the appeal of the music, the application to today’s world, and appreciation of the depth that Waters brings to his art. Waiting on line to get into the packed room, I noted that the majority of attendees were NOT Boomers.  Many young twenty & thirty somethings filed in and stood-up for virtually the entire show. Waters is not an oldies act.

Near the end of the two-hour show, thousands of strips of paper printed with the single word—Resist—floated from the rafters. Where Waters stands is clear. But then second from the end, he closed with Us and Them from Darkside of the Moon. An inquiry to the positionality of people into tribalism, the song concludes we’re all just ordinary men–even as we resist regressive policies from Washington and fight for justice. Concluding the event with a rainbow laser light show that referenced the Darkside of the Moon album cover AND the current use of the rainbow as an LGBT symbol, Waters underlined the role of a true artist, to remember and to point the way forward.

Strawberry Alarm Clock Is Right On Time in 2017


1967

50 years on

One minute I’m a 17 year old kid in the high school gymnasium listening to the coolest sound of the year, the next I’m on Venice beach with mike in hand interviewing them—50 years later.   Out of the mists of history and the utopian haze that enveloped our generation reappeared this summer.  Wearing the flowing kaftans with brightly swirling flower and paisley designs, the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s sound hasn’t changed.  Rare among old rock bands that do the legends thing, the majority of its members were there at the beginning.  But more importantly, they sound the same.  Even the new songs are in the pocket of Incense and Peppermints their number one hit.

This year all over the San Francisco Bay Area 1967’s Summer of Love is  being celebrated with numerous art exhibits, concerts, and tours.  Heavily supported by the local political establishment, weekly reports of happenings are published in the San Francisco Chronicle.  Notables from that era have been so heavily interviewed that Peter Coyote (one of the original Diggers) has said, no mas.  But down here hardly a whimper is heard.

But being a local Venetian and life-long counterculturalist, I can verify we had a  scene and we are celebrating the LA hippie era.   The epicenter of LA hippie was Venice/ Ocean Park with local faves; the Doors, Canned Heat, Spirit, Chamber Brothers, Love, and many more.

Venice hasn’t forgotten.  For the past twelve years the Venice Music Festival has hosted hippie era performers the Chambers Brothers (‘Time Has Come Today’), Country Joe and the Fish’s Barry Melton and this year the Strawberry Alarm Clock headlined.  As the sunset and a marine chill settled in, I smelled patchouli and herb in the air.  It felt like we’d taken the magic carpet ride back in time fifty years.

2017 Strawberry Alarm Clock with the LA Free Press Reporter, RW Klarin, holding a copy of the LA FP ad announcing them as Headliners at the Venice Beach hotspot, The Cheetah, in 1967

Before the show, representing the legendary LA Free Press, I interviewed the band.  Friendly and natural, they could have been your local BMW sales agent or fish store owner (which are the day jobs of a couple of the guys).  In response to my inquiry on changes to their music, Greg Bunnell (the bassist) said it is the same.  I can vouch for that— flute and organ highlights and ethereal harmonies replicate the sound of fifty years ago.   New songs contained a gentle social commentary just as the old songs were played with passion and fidelity.

The Alarm Clock insists that psychedelia lives and they do a great job of maintaining that vision of flowers, peace, and love.  At least for a couple hours in Venice time-travel was possible.

In search of hippie, I’ll be on the look-out for revivals of the hippie vision and report on these pages.  If you know of an event you think might fit, please send me a line.  Upcoming is a video report of the 50th anniversary of the Griffith Park love-ins.

 

 

Art Kunkin: Free Press Founder Lives with Purpose


RW Klarin shares his book of poetry with LA Free Press Founder, Art Kunkin

Returning to my favorite quick getaway recharge town in the Mojave Desert, Yucca Valley, I discovered a long-shuttered coffee lounge reopened. Minor structural and decor changes have occurred but its essential classic 40s architecture remains.  Pleasantly surprised after missing it for over a year, I bought my coffee and quiche and went outside to enjoy the warm desert air.

The day began with running into the annual Memorial Day parade on the main street, starring soldiers from the nearby 29 Palms Marine base. Slightly peeved at the delay, I did my ritual walk of the labyrinth at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, then I saluted the seven directions at the medicine wheel and I drove to the intersection of 29 Palms Highway and Pioneertown Road. I intended to drive home the long way through Landers and eventually to Deep Creek Hot Springs for a long hike. But my tentative plan ran into a greater purpose.

Seeing a small man in his 80’s in deep concentration on a book by L. Ron Hubbard, I shouted his name and introduced myself. For the next two hours we had a wide ranging, up to date conversation. This man is an iconic figure of the Sixties and legendary to my generation that came of age in Los Angeles in that Era.

Art Kunkin published and edited one of the first and the most successful ‘alternative’ newspapers in the 60’s and 70’s, the Los Angeles Free Press. His influence as a promoter of the emerging hippie/radical culture can’t be overstated. If you aspired to hipness at all (and what high school kid didn’t back then) his weekly was required reading. In it, I learned about the anti-war movement, protests in Berkeley, love-ins, Hair (the musical), concerts, and marijuana. I read poetry by Charles Bukowski, media criticism by Harlan Ellison, and excerpts from the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg. In those pre-Internet days, access to current affairs was limited to the nine TV stations, the L.A. Times, and the throw- away papers. The excitement and tumult of the times was spread by newspapers such as the Freep, as it was affectionately known by its fans. The Free Press announced the ‘revolution.’ By the late Sixties, its weekly circulation reached over 100,000. The only other source of radical information was Mort Sahl expounding leftist politics and interviews on local KHJ TV.

Craving more of this exciting and new culture, occasionally my buddies and I would make the 45-minute drive to Fairfax Ave in Hollywood and visit the Free Press bookstore. It stocked many hard to find items in 1967, candles, incense, radical books, black-light posters, beads, and bongs. When the crack in 1960’s suburban-conformity widened and became an outright fissure in America, the Free Press and others like it were the harbingers as Dylan had foretold in Times They Are a Changin.’ Too young to participate in the cultural and political tempests on the college campuses, we looked to Art Kunkin let us ‘know what time  it was.’

Meeting this iconic and influential figure of the Sixties reinforced my view that the mature stage of life offers the chance to renew and revive the spirit of our youth. The Sixties generation had great hopes for real, significant change in our society. We know how that all turned out. My long ago optimism for social change got a boost talking with Kunkin. He is still in the vanguard. He spoke at length about his latest project, a technology for living up to 200 years of age. At the time he was 83 (now 89), and well versed on the latest advances in media and uses the Internet for disseminating his investigations of ancient alchemical teachings for life extension. The techniques can be read in detail on his website and in his weekly column (back then) in the The Desert Star. Not one to rest on his laurels, he is an exemplar of life-long growth, courage, and service.

As I left, Kunkin gave me a useful tip: meditate on the attributes of those that inspire you. Art Kunkin influenced me from afar in my youth and now inspires me in person in my elder phase. He represents forward thinking that is not bound by age.

At 60, 70, 80 and more, life can be a journey of exploration, growth, and service. Looking at habits and comforts in my life and remembering the excitement of youth, my big take-away was never stop learning and when you learn something, share it. The second lesson of the day was to trust my intuition because it knows where I need to go. Although I missed my hike to Deep Creek Hot Springs, the synchronistic stop at the coffee lounge was, as we used to say, right on time.

Now, more than fifty years since the Free Press began, the clarion call of societal tension has amped up, and there’s a show-down of opposing values and interests.  Back in the day, the main fissures were civil rights (for blacks and other minorities, women, gays) and the futile war in Vietnam.  What have we learned?  What wisdom can we offer as the circle comes around again?

The above piece is from my chronicle of my reinvention, Living the Dream Deferred, published 2015.  Art Kunkin still lives and  pursues life-extension in Joshua Tree, CA.  A new interview will be forthcoming in September, 2017.

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