Summer of Love
To the Editor:
Celebrations have been underway this summer to commemorate the 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco, which marked the rise of the hippy movement. It began with the Human-Bein in Golden Gate Park in January of that year.
I attended the notorious free Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway, which drew a crowd of 300,000 in December 1969. It symbolized the end of the “sixties” peace, love, and innocent rock scene. It turned the bucolic myth of the Woodstock concert earlier in the year on its face.
The rise of the hippy movement was a time of peaceful anti-war protests, long hair, gaudy dress, hippy communes, sexual liberation, pot smoking and “eating acid,” or LSD. Harvard psychology professor Timothy Leary was influential in experiments with psychedelics, coining phrases such as “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
Still, black clouds were forming. “In the Haight-Ashbury, the flower children were gone and what was left were the street people.” (Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels. And the story of Rock’s Darkest Day,” by Joel Selvin, 2016). LSD and pot had been replaced by hard drugs. Anti-war protests had turned violent.
Altamont marked the end of “The Age Of Aquarius.” Sam Cutler, tour director for the Rolling Stones, had invited the Hells Angels to provide security for the event.
The day started badly with people flipping out on bad acid laced with speed. The Angels were mixing drugs with alcohol. A obese man had tore off his clothes and bolted by me, saying “Look out baby, I’m coming through.” The Angels beat him senseless with pool cues. An Angel knocked out Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin with a single punch.
An Angel stabbed to death a black man, Meridith Hunter, shortly after the Stones opened with “Sympathy For The Devil.”