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.
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.