August 20, 2012

"If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair..."



Scott McKenzie, whose air-headed song charmed us in 1967, has died at the age of 73.

72 comments:

Ipso Fatso said...

But Althouse did you think it was "air headed" back in '67?

Tom Spaulding said...

A song written by a man, John Phillips, who pimped his daughter to Mick Jagger, no less.

And carried on an incestuous relationship with her...if you believe her.

Californica Dreaming.

The Drill SGT said...

why the gratuitous "air-headed" label.

The words are meaningful and coherent. More than almost all of the acid rock from the era.

And yes, I was in San Francisco in 67 (a HS Senior, then Freshman at UCD

people actually wore flowers in their hair on Haight St

YoungHegelian said...

Here in staid Montgomery County, MD Summertimes are never a love-in there or here.

Sigh.

harrogate said...

The singing on this track, the sheer voice work, still makes me stop and take note.

The Crack Emcee said...

And there's our magic three-celeb-deaths-in-a-row.

Some media narratives never die.

Unless somebody else does.

[Tapping my foot, checking the watch,...]







creeley23 said...

In Central Europe, young people adopted "San Francisco" as an anthem for freedom, and it was widely played during Czechoslovakia's 1968 Prague Spring uprising.

-- wiki

Mr. D said...

This particular musical milestone came out when I was a little boy, but when I got older I always imagined Scott McKenzie getting chased around San Francisco by Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood.

Titus said...

Some of those girls during that time had a very pretty look. More natural than they are now. I love the straight hair.

rhhardin said...

I would have guessed Simon and Garfunkel. It's around the right year, and the right harmonies, that came up in The Graduate, which I saw in Saskatoon on a one night layover between Prince Albert and Vancouver, on the way, curiously, to San Francisco.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I thought it was 'air headed' in some ways. (Drill SGT, you and I must be exactly the same age )

"You're going to meet some gentle people there". Well, having been there at that time some is the operative word. More likely political radicals, protestors against anything, dopey starry eyed wishful thinkers, off beat religious weirdos, lots of drug addicts and many people more than willing to rip you off, steal your stuff and just out and out use you. Other than that....good times :-)

Flowers in your hair, didn't make you a nice person. Believe me.

The Drill SGT said...

Dust Bunny Queen said...
I thought it was 'air headed' in some ways. (Drill SGT, you and I must be exactly the same age )


LOL, fooled you... I just turned 17 when I graduated from Luther Burbank HS in Sacramento, 1967 :)

Course a sabbatical for the war got in the way of my degree and I didn't finish College at Davis till late, very late 74.

Amartel said...

This song was composed to be an advertisement for the Monterey Pop Festival. And also a message to people heading here to be mellow. Which they were until they were not. (Not the natural human condition.)

The Drill SGT said...

PS: in those days, schools had a bit more flex, while I finished at 17, my mother enrolled at Chico State at 15 and graduated at 18 (1944) and had her teaching credential at 19.

PPS: from the younger folks. In those days, professional women were nurses, teachers and social workers. Gramma was a social worker.

Ann Althouse said...

"But Althouse did you think it was "air headed" back in '67?"

Yes. I was embarrassed for him. I was only 16. I was a Who and Kinks type girl.

creeley23 said...

I had an aunt and uncle living in the Haight during the Summer of Love (1967). From what I understand you did meet a lot of gentle people there.

It was later when the place was overrun with runaways and speed freaks that things changed for the worse. Many of the gentle people, including my aunt and uncle, moved away to small towns or to the country.

john said...

I liked the "B" side of his hit, "Like an Old Tim Movie" a lot more -

You`re like an old time movie
Baby, yes I need your love
But I`m not gonna get this low
Don`t you think that I can tell
When you`ve got no place else to go
Could it be you understood
When you tried to read my mind
Cause this time you will find
I`m gonna let you go
Every time I see you
.

Muns said...

creeley23 said...

There are worse flower songs. Here's Marcia Strassman singing The Flower Children.

They just wanna be wanted.
They just wanna be free.
Why can't we just love them
and let them be?


Strassman went on as an actress in MASH, Welcome Back Kotter, and the wife in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

AprilApple said...

I was just in San Francisco. Smells of urine and feces.

Tim said...

AprilApple said...

"I was just in San Francisco. Smells of urine and feces."

Right.

Those of us who grew up in San Francisco prior to the arrival of the hippies don't particularly care for this song, seeing how it invited all the hippies and those who consistently vote for left-wing bullshit that has since destroyed what was, once, a great and productive city.

Now it's just a laboratory for ongoing, failed liberalism with great vistas.

That, and home to a kick-ass football team that will break your football team.

Starting September 9th, in Lambeau field.

edutcher said...

At the time, I thought the lyrics were phony, but he was actually a collaborator of a great many people.

More talented than he's given credit.

WestVirginiaRebel said...

It's a period song...one that IMO has stood the test of time better than some of the other stuff that came out back then.

On the topic of they always go in threes, I guess that means Phyllis Diller is next (dead at 95).

Chip S. said...

There's now a Ben & Jerry's at the corner of Haight and Ashbury.

JAL said...

I was in San Francisco in '66 -- as the movement was starting to form up. Wasn't Jefferson Airplane patying in Haight-Asbury at the time?

Actually was at Monterey in '66 for Joan Baez. She sang with the Pacific Ocean at her back, dolphins in the distance. Cool.

Now one of my kids lives in San Francisco and goes to Burning Man every year.

What goes around comes around. Or something.

And yeah -- there was a difference in the women / girls.

Nowadays they seem so hard, so old, so jaded.

Sad.

ampersand said...

I was just in San Francisco. Smells of urine and feces.

Is it in peoples hair? Helps the flowers grow.


Amartel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amartel said...

"I was just in San Francisco. Smells of urine and feces."

Smells like Supe! [ervisor]

Were you near the Civic Center? That's where the poopers gather.
Also, on BART. Recent issue with the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit-subway-system) b/c the escalators to get to the trains are broken due to being clogged with poop. They had to bring in Hazmat to clean the escalator due to the poopers. There are inside options for sleeping and pooping, free of charge, but nnoooooo. Sadly, your point is well taken and current despite the fact that other cities aren't exactly lemony fresh either.

victoria said...

Best Scott MacKensie song, "Like an Old Time Movie"


Vicki from Pasadena

The Crack Emcee said...

Chip S.,

There's now a Ben & Jerry's at the corner of Haight and Ashbury.

And for 20 years I lived two blocks from there, across the street from The Haight/Central Market, the liquor store with the famous Bob Marley murals,....

The Drill SGT said...

JAL said...
I was in San Francisco in '66 -- as the movement was starting to form up. Wasn't Jefferson Airplane patying in Haight-Asbury at the time?


Avalon Ballroom and Filmore West

madAsHell said...

I was embarrassed for him

Yeah....me too! He's wearing a kaftan in the video.

Mark O said...

It's only "air-headed" to that very serious girl in the picture in the law library basement.

It was a fairly accurate reflection of sentiment and behavior in SFO in that time.

Peter said...

Of course all those hippie chicks in 1967 San Francisco were magnificently full-flavored.

Ann Althouse said...

"It's only "air-headed" to that very serious girl in the picture in the law library basement."

Are you talking about that "famous" picture of me taken when I was a 30-year-old mother doing a take-home exam in my own apartment in Washington Square Village. I think we were on about the 9th floor. It was dark because it was — ever heard of it? — night.

Ann Althouse said...

The song came out in 1967 when I was 16.

The photo was taken in 1981.

Ann Althouse said...

"It was a fairly accurate reflection of sentiment and behavior in SFO in that time."

How do you get that? You need to read "Slouching Toward Bethlehem.

Ann Althouse said...

Here's the link for the Joan Didion book, which is about what a disaster Haight-Ashbury was in the so-called Summer of Love.

Penny said...

"Some of those girls during that time had a very pretty look. More natural than they are now. I love the straight hair."

Girls with naturally curly or wavy hair needed "help" to get their hair straight.

60's TIP: Take two empty cans of Campbell's Soup. Tops are gone, of course, now remove the bottom. Gather hair in a ponytail on top of head. Divide hair in two parts. Roll around soup cans, with the long part of the can facing ears. Pin in place. By morning, hair is "straight".

Penny said...

Much cheaper and easier than what those straight haired girls had to do to get 80's disco curls.

Amartel said...

Yes! Now I'm going to have to get the Joan Didion collections down. Slouching Toward Bethlehem and The White Album are must reads for Californians especially. Excellent writer in her time. Has gotten a little bit precious-old-lady.

Penny said...

I have more interest in reading that book now than I did in 1968.

After all, the author was over 30 in 1968, and not to be trusted.

Penny said...

Young and dumb!

No end to amusing, romantic, counterculture ideologies set to some seriously good music you were never meant to "dance" to...exactly.

William said...

I'm surprised to read that there are people on this earth who felt touched by this song. In my neck of the woods, this song was immediately and universally mocked. "If you're going to Newark, wear a helmet on your head." The only song in my memory that was more relentlessly mocked was the Pina Colada one.

Penny said...

Thank you, William, for calling me a "person, who was touched" by the song, instead of ... well.. ya know...just plain "touched".

And if you weren't in exactly the right place and time in the 60's, the latter was the more common accusation.

DADvocate said...

The photo at NPR is weird. McKenzie's head is way too big. Plus, there's a strange shadow on the side of his face. It looks like bad photo shopping.

Penny said...

You'll be happy to know I grew up.

Which brings me to your Newark!

You got one helluva Mayor there, William.

Cory Booker's doing his best to decorate your helmets and your hovels with flowers and gestures of caring.

Can one person make a difference?

I think he can.

I think he has already.

Or is it that frangipani he wears behind his ear that I find so intoxicating?

bagoh20 said...

I never really noticed how little the lyrics have to say. I always thought there was more there, which is true of a lot of songs from memory. Your mind attaches extra meaning and you assume it's in the words too, but no, it's all you. That should not be disappointing, but it is. Maybe you were actually all alone back then, and didn't know it.

Penny said...

"I never really noticed how little the lyrics have to say."

Boo! :O

IN A GADDA DA VIDA, Bebe. ;)

bbkingfish said...

Ann Althouse said...
"It was a fairly accurate reflection of sentiment and behavior in SFO in that time."

How do you get that? You need to read "Slouching Toward Bethlehem."

I have read, or tried to read, "S.T.B." More than any book I can think of at this moment, Didion either completely misunderstood, or willfully misapplied, the line from the poem that she employed in her title. If she wanted to see Slouching Toward Bethlehem, Joan needed to be in Saigon in 1967. Way more American drug addicts there than in San Francisco. And the stench! Feggedaboudit!

I always have cut her some slack though, since Joan was well into her 30s by 1967, I believe. She was relatively young, but already completely irrelevant (you only would have to view the documentary from which the McKenzie song was excerpted to understand that). I figured her being hacked off by that was, in the end, understandable.

poppa india said...

I was in the Army's Viet-namese language school for a year in '67-68. We used to sing this & laugh, 'cause when we we going to San Francisco (actually Oakland) to ship out, we weren't going to be wearing flowers in our un-hip short hair. Later overseas, one quiet evening in our base camp in a rubber plantation, the song came on the radio and echoed nicely thru the air, just as a mild mortar attack began. Every 3 or 4 lines "flowers in your hair" boom! "gentle people there" boom! Nobody was hurt, so we laughed about it.
An illustration of the 6 degrees of separation theory- a friend of mine from college in Michigan ended up as a lawyer in NYC and was briefly married to one of John Phillips many ex-wives. So I know someone who was married to someone who probably knew this songwriter!

phx said...

I love Scott McKenzie and John Phillips. But I think San Francisco Nights by Eric B and the Animals is a little better. After all, it includes Indians, too.

Penny said...

Just teasing you there, bago. lol

Not one who has ever paid too much attention to the lyrics, long as there's a rhythmic back beat.

BOOM BOOM BOOM

And every other variation of a heart beat that has your hips swinging in some rhythmic fashion that makes you forget to listen to the spoken word.

Shuddup, honey.

There's a time for thinkin', and there's a time for feelin'.

phx said...

By the time of the summer of love 67 it was already over.

Penny said...

And now that you're "feeling"?

Let's dump Joan Didion to read the original, William Butler Yeats' The Second Coming.

"That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

Takes my breath away.

Quaestor said...

Titus wrote:
Some of those girls during that time had a very pretty look. More natural than they are now. I love the straight hair.

More natural than they are now:
1) No ink, naturality quotient = 1
2) Instead of ink they wore paint, naturality quotient = 0
3) Straight hair achieved often with an iron, Q(n) = 0
4) Pubic hair, Q(n) = 1
5) Body odor, (Q)n = 1
6) Primitivist zeitgeist, Q(n) = 1

Cumulative Q(n) = 1.5, higher than today if that's anything worth noting.

Jay Vogt said...

. . . Chip S. said...
"There's now a Ben & Jerry's at the corner of Haight and Ashbury".


A wholly owned subsidiary of the Unilever Corporation.

phx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
creeley23 said...

God, how I love Joan Didion! Especially Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album. For my money she is one of the top two or three American writers from the sixties on.

However, in those two books she offered an apocalyptic vision that led one to believe that not only was the Summer of Love in San Francisco an utter disaster, but Western Civilization itself was hanging in the balance. She was equally breathless and alarming in her evocation of LA, as though there were dozens of guerilla Manson families prowling the wealthy neighborhoods in search of pregnant movie stars to eviscerate, and Didion, with her migraine-sensitized antennae, was exactly the right artiste to forecast the horrors to come.

Didion was the literary equivalent of Paul Ehrlich and the environmentalists preaching eco-apocalypse. She wasn't entirely wrong, but she was presenting a view substantially biased to the negative.

It's like the disgusting "urine and feces" subthread here. Sure, there are homeless sanitiation problems related to the subway. But I live in San Francisco and really, unless one seeks out excreta, that's not how one perceives the city.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

But I live in San Francisco and really, unless one seeks out excreta,

Or uses public transportation facilities like BART...evidently.

creeley23 said...

Or uses public transportation facilities like BART...evidently.

Wbich I mentioned explicitly in my comment.

Mark O said...

"How do you get that? You need to read "Slouching Toward Bethlehem."

I was a percipient witness. Others may have different views, and you can choose. Why do you believe that second hand source?





wildswan said...

I play this song to the younger generation when/if they ask what "The Sixties" means and then I play "Hotel California". In "The Sixties" we went from one situation to the other - at least that was how I experienced it. Hulu is showing "No Direction Home" Part 1 and 2 which is about Bob Dylan. In a way in these films you can see the same thing - Dylan going from acoustic folk protest to electric rock poetry. I've never read anything yet that matched my experience of the Sixties just because everything moved and changed whereas writers seem to pick one static point of time within the era and judge everything from that one point. To them, it was the Summer of Love or it was Altamont. You were for the Vietnam war or against it. No one writes about a person who was for the war, against the war and then ten years later for it. Etc. There's not one great event of that time that I haven't changed my mind about at least once - except I've always felt sure the moon landing really happened

Mark O said...

"It was dark because it was — ever heard of it? — night."

That's the best I can get from a Con Law Prof? Is it in your contract that you must take yourself seriously at all times and respond to any kidding with 9th grade condescension?

"Hey, Tommy. Ever heard of night? It's dark then. Ha. Ha. Ha."
"That'll show him. I'm so quick."

If I were grading you on issue spotting, you'd be a public defender in Tucson.

Come on. It was a joke about the famous picture. A joke. Ever hear of jokes?

Jason said...

It was captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing.

You know... the same people who apparently tuned those guitars.

Darleen said...

got a kick out of the video ... and dear Scott was stoned out of his gourd. The times his eyes are captured on the vid, they are fully dilated in the bright stage lights.

But he certainly held the pitch!

Roy Lofquist said...

Satan sings the sweetest songs.

creeley23 said...

I was a percipient witness. Others may have different views, and you can choose.

I'll back Mark O and emphasize that he was speaking for all of San Francisco, not just the enclaves of runaways and druggies in the Haight and its immediate environs that Joan Didion fastened upon.

The sixties into the early seventies were complex, fucked-up and transcendent -- not to be pigeonholed easily one way or another. Actually, quite a lot of people then had deep, enriching experiences. I know I did.

I'm much more conservative now, as are many of the hippies I knew. I'll admit that I'm conflicted about that part of my heritage, but I will stand up for the sixties as a flawed but sincere attempt that humans made in the 20th century to find a way.

I'll also say that America has not settled its accounts with that era.

Nichevo said...

ZOMG Mark you did not just call Ann Althouse uptight! That is, like, the ultimate sin! Dood she will not have it. She will, like, pull a train of D- students just to show you how un-uptight she is, ok, man?

TW: or Vietnamese students I guess: ngsbang

Chip Ahoy said...

Thank you Mark O., I did not have 'percipient.'

(please do not make a joke out of that)

Will Cate said...

The song was just a product of the L.A. / John Phillips' hit-making machine. As someone mentioned above, the S.F. locals really didn't like the song, and the real Haight-Asbury scene had already ended by the time the so-called Summer Of Love rolled around. By the end of '67 even the Grateful Dead had moved north to Marin County.

EMD said...

"It was a fairly accurate reflection of sentiment and behavior in SFO in that time."


Someone should have told George Harrison that.