Sweet Music from The Summer of Love

summer_of_love.jpg67 from 1967

I ingested the Whitney Art Museum's Summer of Love exhibit a month ago and it left me rather dazed. I wasn't blown away by this nostalgic Baby Boomer's Utopian moment hanging on the walls with psychedelic posters and even framed acid sheets, but rather inspired by the richness of the music and how it permeated the world's culture. So with that in mind I approached our site's editor Steve Holtje and asked him to compile the most essential music from this pivotal year in pop culture.

Take it away, Steve!

A huge essay could be written on the music of 1967, but really just one thing needs to be noted: its diversity. There's an amazingly wide range of styles here, and a truly dazzling amount of creativity and imagination.


Commercial success alone is not enough to get on this list. The song that spent the most time atop the U.S. singles chart (five weeks at #1) was Lulu's "To Sir, with Love" (advice: watch the movie instead). And from some acts I have chosen not the big hit, but a track I find musically superior. Music recorded in 1967 but not released until later years is not considered (which means John Coltrane's album of sax/drum duos with Rashied Ali, Interstellar Space, isn't included). My intention is that this was the soundtrack of the year that people could actually have heard at the time, which is why there's a '66 single -- it made its impact in '67.

This list is structured as one big mix. Granted, from one category to another, segues are sometimes big leaps, but in general this is meant to flow, less of a history lesson and more of a listening experience. I fiddled with the choices and sequence for over a month: Anything I got tired of hearing was cut loose, so this is music that really has stood the test of time on several levels.


"Let's Spend the Night Together" - The Rolling Stones
Young lust, part 1: The song whose title made Ed Sullivan nervous for its insinuation of sexual activity. By the end of the year, the Stones would be chasing trends with their own psychedelic album/response to the Beatles, Their Satanic Majesties' Request, and they didn't really sound like themselves, although "2000 Light Years from Home" is a semi-classic.

"A Day in the Life" - The Beatles (Hey, Apple! When are you going to make a deal with Apple!?! - DW)
On Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the album that brought psychedelia to the masses, the best cut (banned by the BBC for supposed drug references) was also the last significant songwriting collaboration between Lennon and McCartney. BTW, Sgt. Pepper could've been more of a powerhouse if George Martin hadn't been pressured by the record label to give up some songs for singles: "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane"! (Back then, English albums didn't include previously issued singles.)

"I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" - Bob Dylan
In '66 Dylan, already unhappy with the pressures of stardom, suffered a motorcycle accident and went off the radar. When he reappeared in '67 with John Wesley Harding, his music was quieter and his imaginative lyrics were more concise. The music's relative simplicity was a conscious counterbalance to Sgt. Pepper. Yes, I know that "All Along the Watchtower" is the most famous song on the album, but Dylan's version was quickly eclipsed by Hendrix's.


"I Think We're Alone Now" - Tommy James & the Shondells
Young lust, part 2. "Bubblegum music" at its most compelling.

"Let's Live For Today" - The Grass Roots
Young lust, part 3, a bit darker -- even self-righteous -- in tone.


"I Say a Little Prayer" - Dionne Warwick
One of a string of bittersweet Bacharach & David-penned classics delivered by the cool yet subtly soulful Warwick. This one hit #4 on the pop singles chart.

"Happy Together" - The Turtles
The epitome of mid-'60s American pop knocked the Beatles' "Penny Lane" out of the #1 spot on the U.S. singles chart.

"You Keep Me Hangin' On" - Vanilla Fudge
It was an idea perfect for its time: psychedelic, heavy, slowed down, overwrought rock covers of soul hits. So wrong, yet so right. This one was such a good idea that it made the singles chart in both 1967 and '68, peaking at #6.


"I Can See for Miles" - The Who
Young jealousy. With The Who's only '67 album featuring more jingles than full-fledged songs, this was their sole hit. Not a big enough one for Pete Townshend's tastes, though -- he was convinced it deserved to reach #1 (in England), but it only got as high as #10, so he gave up on pop and went epic.

"When Will the Rain Come" - The Troggs
The Troggs were not a one-hit wonder: Even in the U.S., they had three Top 40 hits. In their native England, where they had eight Top 40 entries, this double-threat 45 came out in October 1967; the A-side, "Love Is All Around," is all sweetness and light and was the hit, but the B-side is more ominous and more musically compelling.


"Waterloo Sunset" - The Kinks
Young lust viewed from a distance. The first Kinks record produced by leader Ray Davies alone, this is arguably the most wistfully beautiful pop song to come out of the British Invasion.

"Carrie-Anne" - The Hollies
Young lust, part 4, AKA what do women want? "What's your game now, can anybody play?" That summer, Hollie Allan Clarke declared the band was "about as psychedelic as a pint of beer," but somebody had to be smokin' something to stick those steel drums in there.

"New York Mining Disaster 1941" - The Bee Gees
Long before disco, this was the single that made the Bee Gees stars, getting them a record-setting signing deal from Atlantic.

"The Look of Love" - Dusty Springfield
Young lust, part 5, featured on the Casino Royale soundtrack. A great Bacharach-David song with a fairly minimal arrangement is matched to the only voice besides Dionne's that could do it justice.


"I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" - Nina Simone
From Silk & Soul, this is a civil rights classic. Simone's vocal delivery makes you feel all the hurts, all the slights, all the injustice, while at the same time her piano puts you in the black church.


"Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" - Pete Seeger
An anti-Vietnam parable. Seeger performed it on the Smothers Brothers TV show in September 1967 and it was cut from the broadcast by CBS. By his reprise in January 1968 the political climate had changed and it was broadcast.

"The "Fish" Cheer / I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag" - Country Joe & the Fish
Nothing subtle about this one, but it marked the point at which the Vietnam War became an object of outright ridicule.

"For What It's Worth" - Buffalo Springfield
At a time of idealism and optimism, Stephen Stills chose to be cynical. Turned out he was just ahead of the curve.


"So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star" - The Byrds
Tips from a band that had been there and done that. "And if your hair's combed right / And your pants fit tight / It's gonna be all right."


"Omaha" - Moby Grape
The record labels didn't know how to manage the newly emerging scene. Columbia's hype (releasing five singles on one day - that's 10 tracks from a 13-track album) backfired on Moby Grape, considered one of the most promising of the Bay Area bands, but this song remains a classic.

"Somebody to Love" Jefferson Airplane
Can this be young lust, part 6, when it sounds so sinister? This song and the album featuring it, Surrealistic Pillow, were most people's introduction to the counterculture.

"Down on Me" - Big Brother & the Holding Company
The prototypical Bay Area band's first album was recorded in Chicago at the studios of a jazz label. The instrumentalists are reined in both sonically and in terms of stretching out, but nothing could hold back Janis Joplin. The way she belts out this adaptation of a gospel song, it could just as easily go in the soul section.

"Viola Lee Blues" - The Grateful Dead
The Dead's debut album didn't accurately convey their style, since Warner Brothers insisted on short track times. Phil Lesh called this, the sole one over six minutes, "the only track that sounds at all like we did at the time." Like five of the disc's nine songs, it's an old blues song. If I pointed out every example of psych growing out of blues, there'd be at least ten mentions in this article.


"Alone Again Or" - Love
An overrated group IMO, but it certainly had its moments and this was the best of them. Arthur Lee gets all the hype, but Bryan MacLean wrote this song.

"The Crystal Ship" - The Doors
Speaking of overrated -- but I've long had a soft spot for this song, which jettisons Jim Morrison's usual bombast and machismo.

"Expecting to Fly" - Buffalo Springfield
Really a Neil Young solo effort produced by Jack Nitzsche, and absolutely gorgeous.



"A Whiter Shade of Pale" - Procol Harum
Early prog-rock at its most classically inspired, specifically borrowing small bits of two famous Bach pieces but really more of a stylistic homage than a rip. I was strongly tempted to include Procol Harum's other '67 hit, "Homburg," on this list as well.

"Nights in White Satin" - Moody Blues
Recorded on studio time the band was supposed to be using to record a rock version of Dvorak's "New World" Symphony, Days of Future Passed was one of the early concept albums, and this, its final track, is the most famous example of orchestral rock. In abbreviated forms on several single releases, it reached the charts several times, first peaking at #19 in the U.K. in '67, reaching #9 there in '72, when it shot all the way to #2 in the U.S., and returning a final time in 1979 in the U.K.


"I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" - The Electric Prunes
The vibrato-heavy production, the fuzz tone -- this is where garage punk most obviously evolved into psychedelia. Though this song was released at the end of 1966, it hit the charts in '67, going all the way to #11 at the beginning of the year.


"Foxy Lady" - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
The start of a guitar revolution. Also, young lust, part 7. Hendrix had to go to Swinging London to become a star, but the roots of his music are in blues and soul.

"Electricity" - Captain Beefheart
This is the most obviously psychedelic track on Beefheart's debut album, Safe as Milk, which was John Lennon's favorite release at the time.

"Incense and Peppermints" - Strawberry Alarm Clock
The only psychedelic song to hit #1 on the U.S. singles chart in 1967. The swirling organ, the freaky guitar, the self-consciously out-there lyrics - it's all too much, which is exactly enough in this context.


"Interstellar Overdrive" - Pink Floyd
Quintessential space rock, a massive influence on German '70s bands in particular. In later years, with drug-damaged genius Syd Barrett exiled, Floyd got much more polished and streamlined; here they are in all their shambolic glory.

"Sunshine of Your Love" - Cream
Young lust, part 8: "give you my dawn surprise," indeed. Also one of the most iconic riffs in rock history.

"Pictures of Matchstick Men" - The Status Quo
Nobody ever calls this bubblegum, since all the psychedelic ingredients are in place - phasing, distortion, groovy lyrics, etc. - but consider how catchy it is and how hard the riffs are pounded into your skull.


"Wear Your Love Like Heaven" - Donovan
Donovan progressed from folkie Dylan worshipper to hippie-dippie cosmic purveyor of good vibes. The sentiments and lyrics may not have aged well, but the music's impeccably constructed pop thanks to producer Mickie Most.

"I Can Hear the Grass Grow" - The Move
A great example of pop music in psychedelic garb. The production and arrangements are influenced by several West Coast bands listed above, but the playfulness and bombast are quite English, and the fullness and intricacy of the textures are outstanding. A huge hit in England (#5), but barely heard in the U.S.

"How Does It Feel to Feel" - The Creation
With the title line inspired by Dylan, this was one of the most unhinged guitar assaults of the year - and that's saying something. "How does it feel to slide down a sunbeam?"


"Listen to the Sky" - The Sands
This is a complete freak-out; it starts as catchy pop (bass line borrowed from Bach) about dying in war and ends as a fuzztone-guitar rendition of the 5/4 metered "Mars, the Bringer of War" from Holst's The Planets (beating King Crimson to the idea by several years), those sections bridged by the sounds of an air raid.


"Heroin" - The Velvet Underground
Marijuana? Beer without having to pee. LSD? Mystical and unpredictable. Heroin, that's hardcore. Mimicking use, the slow, flat-affect sections of the Velvets' most iconic song gradually accelerate into messy euphoric rushes.

"T.B. Sheets" - Van Morrison
"Brown Eyed Girl" was Van Morrison's first post-Them hit, but the most compelling track by far on his debut LP Blowin' Your Mind! is this droning, harrowing, nine-minute lament, which couldn-t be more different from the hit.

"Brown Shoes Don't Make It" - The Mothers of Invention
Improbably, the Mothers' second album, Absolutely Free, hit #41 on the album chart. I wrote earlier that Steven Stills was ahead of the curve in cynical reaction to the peace-and-love crowd, but he had nothing on Frank Zappa, who pissed all over mainstream culture. What really made the Mothers special, though, was his incorporation of avant-garde disjunct structures, including polystylistic juxtapositions - no other rock of the period was so disconcerting.


"I Was Made to Love Her" = Stevie Wonder
When Wonder's ninth Top 40 hit spent two weeks at #2 on the chart that summer, he was just 17 years old. Think about that.


"If I Could Build My Whole World Around You" - Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Terrell became a star in 1967 after being paired with Gaye for the United LP -- this was the third Top 20 hit drawn from it that year. Tragedy followed quickly; she collapsed in Gaye's arms onstage in October and was then diagnosed with a brain tumor. Three years later she was dead.

"Love Is Here and Now You're Gone" - The Supremes
From Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland, and this song displays that songwriting triumvirate's charmingly formal language. But listen to the gals' snorts of disapproval between the verses.

"Standing in the Shadows of Love" - The Four Tops
There's nothing charmingly formal here: baritone Levi Stubbs (in a time when male vocal groups usually featured tenors) was arguably the most forcefully emotive singer on the Motown roster, the closest in tone -- though he was a Detroit native -- to the Southern soul sound that was an increasingly important and popular genre in R&B.


"Soul Man" - Sam & Dave
Down South, the arrangements were earthier, the declarations of identity more straightforward, and the singing closer to gospel.


"Tramp" - Otis Redding & Carla Thomas
Possibly the spiciest soul duet ever. When Redding died in a plane crash in December '67, soul lost one of its greatest singers and songwriters.

"Tell It Like It Is" - Aaron Neville
More tough talk, but cushioned by the sweetest voice in New Orleans and underpinned by that steady-rolling New Orleans rhythm.

"Temptation Is Hard to Fight" - George McGregor & the Bronzettes
Not all the great soul came out on familiar labels promoting familiar stars. Soul was a phenomenon that thrived on little indie labels that might never reach beyond local markets, such as Chicago's Twinight label. This obscure gem (love that guitar sound!) comes from the recent two-disc compilation of Twinight material put together on the Numero label's invaluable Eccentric Soul series.

"Respect" - Aretha Franklin
Aretha took Otis's "Respect" and made it her own (taking it to #1 on the pop singles chart for two weeks), just like she made the Muscle Shoals band her band by leading from the piano.

"Shake a Tailfeather" - James & Bobby Purify
Another great Southern soul duo, in an ode saluting booty-shaking.

"Cold Sweat" - James Brown
The man who made more booty shake than any of his peers. This is a funk milestone, truly a trailblazing record. And it made "give the drummer some" and "funky as you wanna be" hip catchphrases. All hail Clyde Stubblefield!


"My Love Will Never Die" - Magic Sam
Blues as soul, or as the album title put it, West Side Soul (west side of Chicago, that is). With killer guitar.

"Born Under a Bad Sign" - Albert King
More blues as soul. More killer guitar. Booker T & the MG's are the backing band. Beat that! "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all."

"007 (Shanty Town)" - Desmond Dekker
Jamaican soul. The island's first international star began to reach the world with this song of the downtrodden but ambitious -- the "rude boys" -- fighting for their share. It became an instant classic of the new rocksteady style and climbed the British charts to #14, previously unheard of for Jamaican artists.



"Groovin'" - The Young Rascals
Blue-eyed soul at its most sinuous and laid back, from the first all-white group Atlantic Records signed. Not only did this hit #1 on the singles chart in May, it reached #3 on what Billboard at the time called the Black Songs chart.

"Expressway to Your Heart" - The Soul Survivors
The car horns. The piano bass line. The raw white-soul vocal. This might be the most distinctive Gamble & Huff production ever; there's not a moment that's not immediately identifiable.

"The Letter" - The Box Tops
Listening to singer Alex Chilton's low-down vocal on this #1 hit, you'd never guess he was just 16 years old -- it sounds like he'd been soaking his vocal cords in whiskey and smoke for decades.

"Gimme Some Lovin'" - Spencer Davis Group
The English have soul too, especially singer Stevie Winwood (another teenager). Young lust, part 9, with Winwood's eagerness stated awfully bluntly.


"Jackson" - Johnny Cash & June Carter
Possibly the spiciest country duet ever. Young lust, part 10, but not for each other in this song.

"Ode To Billie Joe" - Bobbie Gentry
The tragic results of young lust. The contrast between the mundane setting around the kitchen table and the horror of the suicide committed by the singer's secret boyfriend remains chilling.

"Sing Me Back Home" - Merle Haggard & the Strangers
This sentimental song about a prisoner walking to his execution, and about the power of music, wrapped up a great year for Haggard, whose other items high on the country chart that year were "I Threw Away the Rose" and "Branded Man" (his first #1 with one of his own songs).


"Blood Count" - Duke Ellington
Billy Strayhorn was Duke's crucial collaborator for decades. When he died of cancer, Duke paid tribute with And His Mother Called Him Bill, full of Strayhorn-penned classics played with love. "Blood Count" was written just two months before Strayhorn's death. That's the inimitable Johnny Hodges playing that sensuous alto sax melody.


"The Sorcerer" - Miles Davis
The third studio album by Davis's second classic quintet, with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams, found Shorter writing the majority of the material, but the title tune is Hancock's -- "the sorcerer" was his nickname for Miles. Enigmatic in tone and subtle in execution, it's a shifting and restless piece, especially in the lengthy section where Shorter and Davis trade short phrases; by contrast, Hancock's solo seems like bebop, albeit highly abstract and daring.


Silver Apples of the Moon - Morton Subotnick
The first electronic composition commissioned specifically for the phonograph medium. At a time when electronic music was highly abstract, Subotnick broke with the avant-garde crowd by including sections with regular rhythms; in fact, there's one section in Part B that sounds like a groove on one of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi albums from the early '70s. Synthesizer music doesn't get better than this, but you've got to look for it on the German label Wergo now.


"Raga Bhimpalasi" - Ravi Shankar
An enduring example of the greater musical open-mindedness of 1967 is the mainstream popularity afforded this Indian sitar virtuoso, whose profile had been raised by George Harrison's advocacy. This reached a pinnacle with Shankar's appearance at the first major rock festival, the Monterey International Pop Festival (June 16-18), an event quickly documented with the album on which this lengthy improvisation appears.

An EPILOGUE of Sorts

So, after all that, is there anything I regret having left off the list? Of course, but really only one item: McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance," one of the greatest performances on one of the greatest jazz labels of the decade, Blue Note, from his album The Real McCoy. Yes, I just cheated and in effect added it, throwing off the count. Go listen to it, with Joe Henderson's probing tenor sax solo and the swinging/driving rhythm of Elvin Jones pushing relentlessly, and tell me with a straight face that it wasn't worth cheating to include it. Consider it a bonus track, and an illustration of one of the things that made 1967 such a fertile year artistically: ditching rigid rules was cool if you could back it up with results. - Steve Holtje


Steve Holtje used to spin as DJ Magic Fingers, a name bestowed on him by former bandmate Michael Ackerman, but recently learned that there's a Londoner operating under that name. Any suggestions?

(Painting above left, Robert Indiana, Love, 1967)

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Songs of '67

Excu-u-use me? "Day in the Life" as one of the "big three" instead of "All You Need Is Love?" You've GOT to be kidding! And no "White Rabbit" or "Society's Child?"

As for others that left an impression, how could you forget "Come On Down to My Boat, Baby" by Every Mother's Son, which was #1 on the U.S. chart the day Sgt. Pepper was released? Also, "Kind of a Drag" (Buckinghams), "Windy" (the Association), "Little Bit O Soul" (Music Explosion), "Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie" (Jay & The Techniques), "Alfie" (Warwick), "Up, Up and Away" (Fifth Dimension), "There's a Kind of Hush" (Herman's Hermits), "Western Union" (Five Americans), "98.6" (Keith). Even "Green, Green Grass of Home (Jones) and "Something Stupid" (Frank/Nancy Sinatra) are worth mentions.

And NOTHING by The Monkees? They had at least five hits in the Top 100 that year, including "Daydream Believer," which was #1 at one point.

Well, beauty is obviously in the ears of the beholder...


Summer Redux

I turned ten in the Summer of '67. My older cousin Gary lived up the street from me and had the best record collection. I remember hanging out in his cool, dry basement one sweltering day in August and he played me a stack of his new 45s. When I heard The Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" and then "Light My Fire" by The Doors, I knew it was time to set aside my Monkees records. The time had come to expand my musical vocabulary.

I'm curious as to what records made lasting impressions on our readers from that magical musical summer.

dusty1967.jpgPlease leave your comments below.



One more!

It was inevitable that I would forget something that belonged on the list. It was probably also inevitable that it would be my friend Michael Ackerman who would point it out, since he knows as much about pop music of the '60s as anyone I know. It was in 1967 that Glen Campbell started his great run of hits with a rendition of Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," which could fit in the Country or American Pop sections of my list. But my brain hurts from even considering trying to figure out what to cut to make room for it.

Best Rock and Soul Music from 1967 | Dusty Wright's Culture

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