Summer of Love vs. Summer of Floods, Fires, Hate and Fear …. 50 Years Ago and Today
A Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted September 1st, 2017 on Niagara At Large
“Sometimes I wonder what I’m gonna do. … There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.’ – from the Eddie Cochran song ‘Summertime Blues’, performed by The Who on the cusp of ‘The Summer of Love’ – 50 years ago this 2017 – at the Monterey Pop Festival.
The official start of ‘Summer 2017’ – the Canada Day or the Fourth of July holiday, depending on which side of the border you live on – started off on a fairly high note it you were living on the Canadian side.
There was the huge Canada Day bash on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in celebration of the country’s 150 years of Confederation, with U2’s Bono – rock music’s global ambassador for peace and giving – winging in to congratulate Canadians for holding to values that now seem so lost south of the border, in Trumpland.
“When others build walls, you open doors. When others divide, your arms are open wide. Where you lead, others follow, and that’s the real reason we’re here today,” said Bono before he and his band mate, The Edge, broke into a song in the shadow of Canada’s Parliament Building. “Thank you for the country you are continuing to build.”
But those good words, reinforced by the appearance of Canada’s Prime Minister on the cover of the iconic American magazine Rolling Stone this summer, complete with a headline; ‘Justin Trudeau – Why Can’t He Be Our President?’ – were hardly enough to keep the 150th anniversary celebrations of Canada’s Confederation glowing in to July and August as much as the centennial celebrations did 50 years ago when it seemed like the whole world was coming to party with Canadians at Expo 67 in Montreal.
No party is complete without some hot music to go with it, of course, and before the Expo 67 gala even got started there was the first ever rock music festival with Monterey Pop that June where Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who and Otis Redding were among those who delivered epic performances.
The Beatles released ‘St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ that June and as the spring and summer of 67 rolled on, the airwaves pulsated with songs like ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Procol Harum, ‘Respect’ by Aretha Franklin and ‘I Was Made to Love Her’ by Stevie Wonder, just to name a few. A song called ‘Groovin’ by a group called ‘The Rascals’ (or ‘Young Rascals’ at the time, shot right up to number one on the Billboard charts that summer and, believe it or not, that group stopped to do a show in Niagara, Ontario between concerts in Toronto and New York City.
There was a very young me there for that Rascals show at the Welland Arena in Niagara as the group’s drummer, Dino Danelli, one of the best in the beat business at the time, lifted his sticks and twirled them head high while lead singer and keyboardist Felix Cavaliere counted in the first tune, ‘Good Lovin’. It was for me and many others in this region, one of the musical highlights during that “summer of love.”
Not to wear the rose colour glasses completely, though, because even while flower children were soaking in the sounds of The Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love’ and The Monkees’ ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday, there was a bloody war escalating in Vietnam, riots in cities like Detroit and yes, even in Canada, growing tension between Anglophones and Francophones across Quebec and the rest of the country.
But compared to this summer of 2017, with all the white supremacists and neo-Nazis marching with their hate-filled chants and torches, the nutty leaders sabre rattling with their nuclear warheads, the wildfires and droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, and relentless news of Trump, Trump, Trump wanting to tear up the Paris climate agreement and to bar virtually anyone who is not white, heterosexual, affluent and Christian from a piece of whatever is left of the American dream, the summer of 1967 was almost utopian.
As for the music, at the risk of sounding parents and grandparents back then, most of the music on what charts there are now sucks on steroids. It’s like the continues corporate cloning of a bunch of Britney Spears-like, Mickey Mouse Club graduates masking their lack of vocal and instrumental talent with auto tuners and a battery of other computer software.
Then again maybe I am being a little too harsh on the music and on the times we are living in. Maybe it’s that post-Record Theatre depressions I am still going through with the recent loss of that great Buffalo music store and the gathering of good people who worked there.
Whatever the reason for the way I feel about this summer as it nears an end now, if I live another 50 years, I very much doubt I will look back on it as fondly as I do the summer of 67.
What do you think?
For a related reason why the writer of this commentary found this summer to be more than a little depressing, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/08/29/the-day-the-record-store-died-or-did-it/ .
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