"SUMMER OF LOVE: The Inside Story of LSD, Rock & Roll, Free Love and High Times in the Wild West" by Joel Selvin

"SUMMER OF LOVE: The Inside Story of LSD, Rock & Roll, Free Love and High Times in the Wild West"

Email this review


Selvin has provided an authoritative account full of rich details (sometimes too many) of the San Francisco music scene from 1965 to 1971. Armed with material from archives, nearly a hundred taped interviews, and his own recollections, Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle pop music critic (then and now), weaves together the stories of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Santana, and other bands that were part of the scene that redefined American pop music. Standing behind much of the story is promoter Bill Graham (and the many pretenders to his throne), whose ambition and effort kept the scene from falling apart completely, at least for a while. Starting with the emergence of LSD as a legal, underground drug, Selvin shows how the various well-known and not so well known bands played psychedelic musical chairs with managers, venues, and record companies. Along with insider accounts of band feuds (such as the chilling tale of Joplin walking out on her first band on her way to an untimely and lonely death), Selvin presents a broad canvas and manages to both undermine and enhance prevailing myths about the psychedelic scene. Graham's benefits and concerts, with their chaotic scenesters running amok, and the discomforting violence of the Hell's Angels at Altamont and other places are straightforward reminders of just how extreme the Bay Area was. The book's biggest problems are its portrayals of female hangers-on (""toothsome"") and groups involving people of color (Santana is ""a pack of wolves""), and an overabundance of characters in the early chapters that will leave many readers desperate for a familiar face like Jerry Garcia. An often dramatic and compelling story that will serve as necessary reading for those who are too young (or too straight) to have been there and which will strike a chord of nostalgia among those who were.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1994
Page count: 374pp
Publisher: Dutton