Progressive Rock / Progressive Thought, Part 4

Mark S. Tucker demonstrates impressive wordsmith skills and a deep knowledge of music. Here are some excerpts from part 4 of his essays on Progressive Rock / Progressive Thought from OpEdNew.com.

Source: Progressive Rock / Progressive Thought – Part 4

1967: the Summer of Love Continues

In retrospect, it’s rather amazing that an urge to the expression of psychedelic consciousness was so prevalent all at once, but it indeed was. 1967 was the Summer of Love, in no small part due to drugs, and music has e’er been a constant companion in any aesthete’s hedonisms – hence, like a virus, the new mode spread like wildfire. Previous years evidenced a certain amount of preparatory work but little truly explained the explosion of evolutionary sensibilities now burgeoning. The Beatles, Stones, and Animals weren’t the only biggies setting trends. Dionysus Alive, Jim Morrison, had been primed and ready to go since birth. Lodged in the Doors, he needed no prompting to conduct an eroto-agitprop campaign against the Establishment and its constrictions.

The group debuted in an eponymous LP which remained vital and influential for decades – in fact, still continues so in many ways. Backed by a hugely talented trio (Ray Manzarek on keyboards, Robbie Krieger on guitar, John Densmore on drums), Morrison delivered some of the modern era’s best poetry in a gruff voice reeking of musk, marijuana, and whiskey. Lacking an iota of self-consciousness, he also presented a one-man theatrework of dramaturgy, imbuing those bleak glass-edged words with kinetic visual emphasis. Two songs that would dominate charts and year-end Top 500 countdowns for what seemed like forever, “The End” and “Light My Fire”, had extended improv sections taking a backseat to no one – not the Jefferson Airplane, not the upcoming Led Zeppelin, not even Hendrix. Both tunes grabbed musical norms and twisted brilliant variations from them. Anarchy was a large part, drugs were prominent, sex was a byword (“Light My Fire” didn’t translate to “Let’s look deeply into each other’s eyes”), music was the vehicle, and L.A. was the place.

But not exclusively nor all that influentially. San Francisco dominated the youth music scene, the mecca whence Jefferson Airplane and the Fillmore groups held hash-wafted court, encouraging a highly socialized, participatory, artistic communalism. Got a guitar? Like to get looped? Hate the Establishment? Come on in!! This, of course, was the truly dangerous part, this “damnable” socialistic trend amongst “degenerate artists” encouraging an entire generation to dethrone the status quo. How dare they? Well, they did and the war was on. The irony, of course, lay in the yet-to-be discovered fact that the CIA had created, refined, and infiltrated into the landscape the very substance that would blow up in its collective face. They’d wanted to test LSD’s uses as a social control device and it would turn out to be perhaps the largest mistake in their entire misbegotten history. Business and government thereafter worked frenziedly to exterminate the outfall, and still do.

This would provoke the question: where was jazz, what was its part? The style had always had its effect, especially in the fact that many jazzers participated in rock studio work, supplying chops the rockers lacked, but Chicago Transit Authority, one LP away from abbreviating its unwieldy sobriquet, boldly influxed a set of horns as permanent and prominent staples, issuing the stunning Chicago Transit Authority, a sprawling 2-LP work loaded with improv, mixed media, and the 7-minute guitar freakout, “Free Form Guitar”, wherein Terry Kath had a chance to flex his muscles, causing Jimi Hendrix, with whom they toured, to blurt out that Kath was his superior. Untrue, of course, but even the exaggeration gave a good insight into the gentleman’s prowess – allowed only here, only this once, later harshly subordinated to a hitmaking imperative.