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Summer of Love: The Inside Story of LSD, Rock & Roll, Free Love and High Times in the Wild Hardcover – August 1, 1994

3.7 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Selvin ( Monterey Pop ) brings an astonishing amount of anecdotal detail to his history of the late 1960s and early '70s drug and musical scene of hippiedom's hippest city. "The so-called Summer of Love left San Francisco a mess," he notes, but promoter Bill Graham choreographed now-legendary concerts and events there that created a number of stars. For musical acts like the Grateful Dead, success arrived despite the pervasive drug abuse that Selvin describes; the Charlatans and Moby Grape, on the other hand, self-destructed. Selvin's exhaustive supply of anecdotes, however, proves to be his greatest liability, as well as his greatest resource, for he recites every vignette in the same laconic tone, giving his account a plodding pace that contradicts the frenzy of the era. Ultimately, the book, although suffused with a wealth of information, fails to resuscitate its mythic past. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Journalist Selvin (Monterey Pop, Chronicle, 1992) offers a popularized history of acid rock. Basing his account on interviews with such musicians as Jerry Garcia and Grace Slick, he chronologically outlines psychedelia from its inception in 1965 to its decline in 1971. Selvin weaves a gossipy tale of the personal lives of major acid rockers as well as cultural notables such as Ken Kesey, but the author seldom places this flurry of events in either musical or historical context. This sensationalist history adds little to Charles Perry's classic The Haight-Ashbury (LJ 7/84) and fails to provide much insight into the times, psychedelic music, or the musicians who have been interviewed.
David Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton (August 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525936750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525936756
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is an engaging, densely detailed history of San Francisco rock-'n'-roll from 1965 to 1971. It opens with the Charlatans giving birth to San Francisco rock and ends with the death of poor ol' Pigpen.
Selvin writes in great detail about how bands formed, learned (or didn't learn) how to deal with the music business, and broke up. It's a tell-all about who slept with who, the types of drugs each musician used and where and when they OD'ed, and the details of their recording contracts. To hear Selvin tell it, Janis Joplin bedded just about every male rocker in the business-- except for Jerry Lee Lewis: she got into a fistfight with him! Bill Graham's monstrous ego gets full play, until you get sick of reading about his temper tantrums and underhanded dealing.
But the book's title is misleading, for a couple reasons. For one thing, the summer of 1967 is completely absent from the book! The chronology jumps from spring to fall and ignores the summer altogether. Perhaps this was Selvin trying to emphasize his stark assertion in the book's first sentence: "The Summer of Love never really happened." But why he would deliberately omit the central scene of the whole saga is incomprehensible.
The other thing lacking in this book is a sense of the whole Zeitgeist of the Haight-Ashbury hippie scene. The book has a focus on nothing but rock-'n'-roll music. Any mention of any other cultural aspects of hippie life, like folk music, the Human Be-In, the flower children, the communal Diggers, the arts and crafts, the antiwar movement, the Eastern mysticism, the wider scope of everything that went into the Haight scene, gets no mention except insofar as it directly relates to the story of the rock-'n'-roll bands.
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Format: Paperback
Joel Selvin's chronicle of the span of years that saw the rise and fall of San Francisco's Ballroom heyday leaves one with a mixed bag of responses. While it is jam-packed with bits of "insider" history, it lacks synthesis, often making for a tedious read. Its title is misleading--"The Summer of Love: The Inside Story of LSD, Rock n'Roll, Free Love, and High Times in the Wild West" suggests a comprehensive exploration from the inside out. It would have been more accurately heralded under something like "San Francisco's Ballroom Era: Snapshots of the Players."
There is no in-depth analysis of the culture here--none of the great and privileged perspective that is often the gift of time and distance. Their is no insightful working over of how and why the elements came together the way they did. The text plods along, most of the time, with the certain monotony of required recitation --"this happened, then that happened,then this, then that..." It is distinguished only by chaotic leaps from scenes at one camp of personalities to those of another. It is the textual equivalent of a hastily compiled scrapbook covering some particularly seminal years in the rock n' roll counterculture. Some of the pages are given decidedly more consideration than others. We seem to be in Grace Slick's sidecar much of the time, but if this were the only exposure one had to the early days of the San Francisco scene, there is the danger of walking away thinking the Grateful Dead were a minor consideration, and Bill Graham was a pitbull who never had a good day.
The text is rife with other minor sins.
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"Summer of Love" may have been a bit over the top with it's tabloid style coverage of the rise and fall of the San Francisco music scene, but it was a fun read. Author Joel Selvin does have his facts straight and seldom misspeaks on this insider's account of bands like the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Selvin devotes a fair amount of coverage of the Bill Graham organization and the Family Dog, the primary promoters of live music in the old ballrooms of San Francisco. That coverage is justified because it is doubtful that this music would have found a national audience without the vibrant live music scene in the Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms. And it is all there: Quicksilver's obsession with firearms; the Lovin' Spoonful's narking out on the manager of the improv group, the Committee; Janice Joplin's turbulent love life; Marty Balin's courageous attempts to diffuse the violence at Altamont, the internal bickering of the Grateful Dead which lead them to serve "walking papers" to Pig Pen and Bob Weir for not having enough musical talent, and Bill Graham's fisticuffs with just about anyone who disagreed with him. If you loved the music of Haight-Ashbury, you will enjoy "Summer of Love." Oh by the way, the expression "summer of love" was just a media label for the San Francisco music phenomena and I think some of the other critics have taken the book title too literally.
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Format: Paperback
I thought it was really weird the way the author trashed Janis Joplin throughout. His characterization of her was stereotypical and demeaning at best. And his complete and total dismissal of her subsequent work with the Kozmic Blues band and Full Tilt band, (found in his innane synopsis of artists at the end of the book) is also a mystery. Kozmic Blues "lame", and Pearl a "Hollywood handjob"? Give me a break. It makes me wonder how accurate the rest of the book is, although it is an engaging read. Joel, get a grip. Janis was the belle of the ball during the Summer of Love, not some raging egomaniac like you portray her. She was the embodiment of the scene there, and you make her out to be some kind of piece of trash. But then again, you didn't start writing for the SF Chronicle until 1972. So WHERE the hell were YOU during the summer of love?
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