I'm currently listening to an excellent musical compilation by those nice people at Time Life called Flower Power and before you think it's the greatest hits of Alan Titchmarsh, lemme tell you it's 175 groovy songs from the era of peace, love and hey man, where the hell am I ?
I was a teen in the hippy, dippy 60's but as I was Catholic, in Northern Ireland and at an all boys boarding school, all that free love, long hair and smoking pot went on in a different universe.
Sometimes in the priest's house but mostly in a different universe !
But while most aspects of the swinging 60's in the rest of the UK and the flower power years in the US passed me by, the same couldn't be said for the music of the times. I embraced it then and still embrace it now. I remember the groups, the songs and yes, even the weird and often bizarre lyrics that came more from a drug induced haze than the alert minds of deep thinkers and poets.
And this Time Life compilation brings it all back to me. There are well known UK names like The Kinks, The Hollies, The Troggs, Manfred Mann, Procol Harum, Donovan, The Animals, Cat Stevens and The Moody Blues....many still playing the oldies circuits today despite only having one or even less of the original group members ! I've never quite understood how a group can not have a single original member and still call themselves by that group name ? Aren't they then a tribute group and be billed as such ?
The vast majority of the groups on this compilation are American but that doesn't make them less well known to us Brits. The Monkees, The Mamas & The Papas, Chicago, The Beach Boys, Peter, Paul & Mary...... hey they were a group. There were 3 of them. Come on people, the clue is in the name !
But a whole lot of the names sum up the age from whence they came and a few put stress on even my synaptic pathways to conjure up the most fleeting of memories.
Take for instance.....The Electric Prunes, Cannibal & The Headhunters, Jonathan Edwards (who later became British and his career went on in leaps and bounds), Five Man Electrical Band, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Guess Who, Blue Magoos, Iron Butterfly, Bubble Puppy, Quicksilver Messenger Service and probably best of all, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.
Only the 60's could produce group names like those and that's before we look at the song titles that made them famous. I'll spare you those.
So Carnaby Street was in full retail swing and everyone was going to San Francisco with flowers in their hair; the air was thick with pot at Woodstock and people in the UK were painting their living rooms a whiter shade of pale. Yes it was all going on, except in my part of the world where things remained the same as they had been for the previous 100 years. The clergy were in control, we all spoke in Latin and some of us brave souls listened to Radio Luxembourg under the bedclothes.
As I've posted about before, the very first single I ever bought was Mirror, Mirror by a group who should've made it into the Time Life collection by name alone......Pinkerton's Assorted Colours. Ahhh happy memories. In a moment of extreme spookiness, a week or so ago I met up on Facebook with the "dayboy" who bought me that record all those years ago. I'd not spoken with him since I left school in 1970.
That sounded a bit like "This Is Your Life." I hope he's not going to walk through the door !
"Yes you've not seen him for 40 years and you still owe him 2/6d for that bloody single...........here he is.........."
Obviously I have to end with a pick from this compilation and I think the one song that has always summed up that era for me is Scott MacKenzie's "San Francisco." It was so different, so far removed from my life then and so "damn I wish I was there" that it's been one of my all time favourites since its release. I finally made it to SF in the early 90's and despite the flower power, hippy dippy generation being middle aged suits, I still felt that the air of freedom was almost tangible. As I hoped I would, I loved the place and have done so on every subsequent visit. Isn't it great when a youthful dream gets realised and it's even better than you could have ever imagined ?
So toss off your shoes, let down your hair and let it all hang out. Groovy, baby.