|The Summer of Love: The Golden Age of San Francisco Rock
In the mid-to-late 1960s, the San Francisco Bay Area exploded with psychedelic rock that captured the imagination of the world. The roots and heyday of the San Francisco Sound will be explored in depth via both common and rare audio recordings by greats like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Santana. We'll also investigate how the Bay Area's unique counterculture, promoters such as Bill Graham, and venues like the Fillmore created a scene in which experimental and idiosyncratic rock music could flower.
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Week by Week Outline (2 – 6 sentences per week)
Week 1: The Roots of the San Francisco Sound
The roots of the San Francisco sound spring from the city’s blues, soul, rock’n’roll, jazz, and folk scenes. Young adults and students start to populate the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, bringing with them a new counterculture and a hunger to create art without commercial restrictions.By the mid-‘60s, this coalesces into the birth of underground San Francisco rock, with groups like Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe & the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Great Society, Big Brother & the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin), the Charlatans, and the Grateful Dead. In 1966, the San Francisco rock scene grows as musicians become more adventurous, combining not just folk with electric rock, but also drawing upon jazz improvisation, Indian music, blues, poetic lyrics directly reflective of personal experience, and electronic distortion. Local promoters Chet Helms and Bill Graham give the music a home in their venues the Avalon and the Fillmore, and the the influence of psychedelic drugs and San Francisco's bohemian counterculture is reflected in the musicians' lifestyles and songwriting.
Week 2: The Summer of Love: The San Francisco Psychedelic Rock Explosion
Jefferson Airplane's second album, Surrealistic Pillow, becomes a huge hit, with two singles from the LP, "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit," becoming Top Ten smashes. They draw national attention from the media, and give rise to the term "The San Francisco Sound." Major record labels, and large independent labels, battle to sign San Francisco bands as they sense a trend on which to capitalize. The Monterey Pop Festival, held in June 1967, showcases several many top Bay Area rock artists. Debut albums by Country Joe & the Fish, Moby Grape, and the Grateful Dead appear, and tens of thousands of youngsters invade Haight-Ashbury in the summer. New forms of media form as offshoots of the San Francisco rock scene: the first underground FM rock stations (KMPX/KSAN), spearheaded by Tom Donahue; psychedelic poster artists for shows at local rock venues; and Rolling Stone magazine, co-founded by Jann Wenner and Ralph Gleason.
Week 3: The Late '60s: From Acid Rock to Hard Rock
As the Summer of Love ends, Jefferson Airplane moves into a harder, grimmer, less folk-rock-oriented sound on their After Bathing with Baxter's album. Country Joe & the Fish gain national attention with their anti-war anthem "Feel Like Fixin' to Die"; the Grateful Dead build a reputation as live improvisers willing to play for free and for benefits; and the San Francisco ballroom/club circuit is the most renowned region for live progressive rock in the world. Quicksilver Messenger Service and Steve Miller sign with Capitol and record their first albums; Big Brother & the Holding Company, with Janis Joplin ever more at the forefront, sign with Columbia Records and become superstars; and the Grateful Dead record their most psychedelic album, Anthem of the Sun. Along with the Bay Area acts to get national attention, many other fine and innovative ones make significant musical contributions, though these are often not fully appreciated until they are discovered by collectors in subsequent decades. The Bay Area develops such a reputation as an enjoyable and supportive place for rock artists to live and work that some established artists move here, like Mike Bloomfield and the Youngbloods.
Week 4: Multicultural San Francisco Rock of the late 1960s/early 1970s
Sly & the Family Stone bring soul into the psychedelic age with sensational results, combining black and white, and male and female, musicians and singers into the same ensemble. Other artists from the Bay Area combine rock and soul, sometimes with a political inclination influenced by the Black Panthers. Mexican American Carlos Santana forms a band, starting as the Santana Blues Band and evolving into Santana, that combines rock, blues, jazz, and Latin music into a new style of psychedelic rock. Malo, led by Carlos Santana's brother Jorge, become a popular act in their own right with a sound that draws more from Latin-pop music.
Week 5: San Francisco Rock at the end of the 1960s and in the Early 1970s
Major Bay Area bands go through serious changes as Jefferson Airplane gets into harder and more political sounds with Volunteers; Janis Joplin splits from Big Brother & the Holding Company to start an uneven solo career; and Country Joe & the Fish, Moby Grape, and Quicksilver Messenger Service all suffer major personnel changes. Fewer major new bands emerge, though some do, such as It's a Beautiful Day. Creedence Clearwater Revival, from El Cerrito, become superstars as the leading roots rock band of that or possibly any other time, combining straight-out rock and roll with country, soul, and John Fogerty's passionate social commentary. The Grateful Dead, who go into softer country-influenced rock on what many regard as their strongest albums, 1970's Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. All of the major bands of the 1960s break up or drastically alter their personnel in the early 1970s, except for the Grateful Dead, who continue to build an unprecedented international cult following, especially as a concert act.
tried to move to San Francisco, but couldn't stay
Week 6: San Francisco Rock in the Post-Psychedelic Years
In the early-to-mid-1970s, some local acts take a turn toward a more commercial and funky direction. Key artists: The Tower of Power, the Doobie Brothers. Some of the top veterans of the 1960s San Francisco music explosion continue to be stars in the 1970s with a more commercial sound, like Steve Miller and Jefferson Starship. In the mid-to-late 1970s, San Francisco unexpectedly becomes a major center for early US punk and new wave with artists like the Nuns, the Dils, the Avengers, and Crime. Soul and funk artists also continue to emerge, like the Pointer Sisters and Sylvesters. The legacy of the golden age of San Francisco rock continues to be felt the regtion’s many free and not-free festivals that have descended from the original free concerts/festivals of the 1960s and 1970s.