This Ain't The Summer Of Love

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(27)
46 years ago in San Francisco
Huffington Post

Recently, I came across this great series from 1995 on YouTube, "Dancing In The Streets--the History of Rock and Roll". Ten episodes from the R/B meets Country birth of the music all the way to hip hop. Really well done, excepting some glaring errors (whomever wrote the Ramones segment knew nothing of the band) and omissions (not an Elton John fan, but the guy was a recording artist of enormous success, ditto Rod Stewart and no MC5 or New York Dolls). As it is television and not music, the colorful parts of rock's history got a lot of play.

One entire segment was devoted to psychedelia. Was great, too--bookended by the Byrds' "Eight Miles High" and "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere". Naturally, there was a lot of attention devoted to San Fran and its bands and the importance of the City in rock and roll. Which can't be denied. San Francisco--from the mid 50's to the mid 60's--was America's creative crucible. The Beats of North Beach and the hippies of the Haight are now cultural signifiers and as the program pointed out, they didn't happen in San Francisco by accident. 

As the Airplane's Paul Kantner points out, San Fran is a seaport and seaports tend to be where the collision of disparate ideas from around the world makes new ones. What's not in the piece is the real reason the Beats flourished in SF. In New York, cabaret licenses were hard to obtain in the 50's, in SF, they weren't. Therefore, a city with a population 1/10th the size of New York's could compete with New York. As is also said in the show, all of SF's old ballrooms were ideal for Kesey's acid tests and the laissez faire attitude of the City wasn't entirely due to its open-mindedness, but simply that San Fran had no idea what was coming in 1966 and 1967.

At the end of the show (which featured Jerry Garcia's last interview and he was good naturedly hilarious in it), I wondered if in this day and age, San Francisco could ever be the giant of the zeitgeist again. Took me less than a half a minute to realize that the answer is a resounding "no".

Every factor that figures in to a locale becoming a spawning ground for the arts no longer exists in SF. Artists need two things above all else--lots of space and cheap rent. An "artist" that works a 50 hour a week day job to pay the bare bones of rent, food and heat hasn't got much left by way of time and energy. If the same artist is in a Mission one bedroom (and shared), there's no elbow room. Nowhere to rehearse one's craft and nowhere to paint or draw without getting up in someone else's space.

That's to say nothing of a "night life scene" where the price of two drinks and a cover could buy lunch five days a week in another city. 

Don't hand me the idea that the young software and PNS developers are somehow the same as Jack Kerouac, Jerry, Janis and Grace. Yeah--they're all young (not now, of course). But conflating commerce with art that no one thought would make any money in the first place because "that's what kids do now" is jive. They're opposites. Artists and their fans are messy and free and by their nature hard to control, businessmen and politicians are soulmates. Catering to the very wealthy is a slam dunk to the Ed Lee's and Nancy Pelosi's of the world because the wealthy contribute to them.

Don't get me wrong--the 60's weren't utopia and the hordes of homeless people that have flocked to SF since have become an almost intractable problem. 

San Francisco is the country's mosy physically beautiful city. It has a long history of upheaval (culturally and seismically). But in our time, Detroit, Erie or Buffalo are becoming just as likely if not more so to be where the arts boom next. They're cheap and with the Internet, an artist's work can go anywhere when he or she don't have to. Fact is, plain old venality is doing SF in. Pandering to the few at the expense of the many means that the fertile underside of the (actual) creative class gets priced right off the peninsula. All that's left is the safe and staid that San Fran has thumbed its nose at forever. Sad.

 

Comments

would preclude another, Berlin, NYC, San Francisco, or even Seattle.

Have you heard Daft Punk? "Bands" that sound like novelty keyboard acts circa 1982 are what passes now. You can make novelty music in your basement on a laptop.

Posted by matlock on May. 26, 2013 @ 10:59 am

And love Daft Punk.

And sure, technology not only changes how recording is done, it also changes what is recorded. If I don't use live drums, I really don't need a big room and if I use no "natural instruments", I need nothing more than an IPhone or laptop.

But if I gotta break my ass 9+ hours a day just to not starve, I'm not gonna have a lot left to write with. After all, even electronic music is composed.

And I disagree with Tim here--the City can't turn back time and make it affordable. Even if your housing was Section 8 level, everything else is gonna cost a ton. Why not hie off to the Midwest then?

 

 

Posted by JohnnyW on May. 26, 2013 @ 11:11 am

No need to go to the Midwest...California has cheap, depressed cities too. Stockton, Vallejo, Tracy, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield, San Bernardino, Riverside...

Posted by basta on May. 26, 2013 @ 11:56 am

Another potential disagreement with Tim is how cultural growth is often stifled by excessive regulations (as with your cabaret license example).

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2013 @ 11:56 am

In today's media-cultural landscape, music is no longer that important. The musical passions that fueled the 20th century are history, and expired before the business end of the industry expired. The technological revolution devalued music by making it way too easy to access.

Posted by basta on May. 26, 2013 @ 11:11 am

But not all. More options.

Music isn't really a soundtrack to anything in particular now and because of the Net, its context is jumbled. When the Sex Pistols are next to Avril Levigne on a playlist (say), they're both just songs. They're unmoored from their roots.

 

Posted by JohnnyW on May. 26, 2013 @ 11:17 am

you live in a bit of a music bubble.

When out in the rest of the country music has a different value culture wise.

For the reasons you mentioned, there isn't going to be another sound that sweeps the nation though.

For every equivalent of Hootie and the Blowfish today, there are ten REO Speedwagons.

Posted by matlock on May. 26, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

" But in our time, Detroit, Erie or Buffalo are becoming just as likely if not more so to be where the arts boom next. They're cheap and with the Internet, an artist's work can go anywhere when he or she don't have to. "

Perhaps Stockton, Modesto,, Fresno, Bakersfield, or Riverside, too? Spokane?

Posted by basta on May. 26, 2013 @ 11:45 am

There's a weird tic that people have about being near large bodies of water and the Great Lakes suffice.

Posted by JohnnyW on May. 26, 2013 @ 11:48 am

Stockton suffices...

Posted by basta on May. 26, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

What you miss is that these artists want sub cost rent, but they also want to wear designer clothes, and to drink Starbuck Coffee each morning.
++
If rents are going to be subsidized then who is to say that it should go to singers, dancers, or those that work in the physical arts,
Why not give it to accountants, dishwashers, janitorial staff ,, etc ,

Posted by Joseph A on May. 26, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

Despite whatever circumstances exist, a true artist (true warrior) will create. Yurt may not make a lot of money but they, indeed, may. My current city of Salem, Oregon (Population 200,000) has a wonderful little music scene aided by cheap rent and a population willing to go out for a few 2 dollar u call it nights to see real talent. Maybe most importantly, musicians get paid to play and not the horrific pay to play scenarios that exist in several L.A. clubs. But to reiterate, artists make art.

Posted by Guest Marcus Parrish on May. 26, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

Paris, London, SF and NY all used to be cheap. Cheap'ish anyway.

Now you need to go somewhere else. What's wrong with Oakland - 10 minutes away and half the price?

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

Back when there actually was something backing money.

The Fed always ruins everything, even the arts.

Posted by basta on May. 26, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

and running a sound money regime as advocated by Hayek and the Austrian School.

Governments lack the spine for it though.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

With the comments or are they moderated?

Posted by Guest Marcus Parrish on May. 26, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

But they do get uploaded in batches, it seems, hence the wait time

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

determined through unique information sent by your computer along with your comments and an ADL fast response team already en route to your locale. Do not attempt to evade them, the knock on your door will come at any moment.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 26, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

SFGate was able to ban you only because you don't know how to bounce your IP address.

If you used a proxy server, they couldn't ban you. They could block a handle or email address, but then you'd just bounce up again with another one.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

If my commentary was the sort of facile right wing platitude and drollery which you are adept at generating, I'm sure that would suit me fine.

But my commentary on SFGate was as detailed, honest, and value-laden as is my commentary here; and when it was scrubbed by their little Nazi IT fuck's program -- incidentally in most insulting manner possible -- they slammed the door on any further contributions I might have made there.

In hindsight, I see what a right wing rag the Chronicle has become since it got bought by Hearst, and I have little doubt that the censoring system which favors those with little sense of honesty or fairness -- i.e. most Repuglicans -- works exactly as intended.

There's just one more point I'd like to make: bestemor.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 26, 2013 @ 4:00 pm
Posted by lillipublicans on May. 26, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

its no longer a seaport,it might get some cruises,theres only 2 types of people now
that can afford to live,here with high rents and high house prices the rich and the homeless

music is dead its only cover bands now

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

Yet San Francisco still has the best music scene in the state. That might be a reflection on how dead the rest of the state is more than how great the City's doing.

Posted by basta on May. 26, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

New venues opening all the time, tremendous variety.

Haven't played in SF since 2011, at Make Out Room. Fantastic venue.

 

Posted by JohnnyW on May. 26, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

I thought only tourists from red states called our city that. I wince at the sound of it.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2013 @ 7:35 am

Hint. Hint.

Johnny Angel knows IRONY. He has rejuvenated the SFBG blogo-sphere.

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