Incense, posters, beads, and girls. This is what I remember.
Let's face it; the late 60's were hard to read. I recall simple things like my first taste of a "taco" from the new Taco Bell that came to our area; Television getting bolder, old shows getting older; Music was different, and attitudes were changing. In fact, everything was changing so fast I felt that I could hardly keep pace with it. Girls weren't girls anymore, they were "pre-women". The "Summer of Love" exploded like nuclear fission; I felt caught up in a strange wave that was taking me in its direction. The whole world seemed to have fallen off into the deep end of the pool. And lastly, I was a kid, but not no longer a kid.
The late 60's seemed to zoom like a rocket. Everything was "now" and it was big and flashy and beautiful. The world was held in a psychedelic embrace, and the colorful years of 1966-1967 were but a prelude to this magnificent new happening.
Highway '69 Revisited
1969 was such a tremendous year of change. Perhaps it was because the adult world was intruding on me, forcing me to leave childhood behind. Decisions were harder to make, and the things that I loved so much were presented to me in an entirely different light. For example, Matchbox Cars. I still loved them, but was getting too old to play with them. (in public anyway.)
I found myself clinging desperately to a vanishing era, yet inexplicably drawn to the new decade. Some things were just too hard to say goodbye to, and some just too hard to say hello to.
The edgy 70's were moving in, and as I grew older, I gravitated further and further toward girls and music. The two seemed to go hand in hand and I was on the threshold of rediscovery of both. Music was getting better; more intricate, sophisticated, soulful and sexy. Girls were doing the same. They'd traded braids for bras. Guitars were moving from glitter to grind. Toy cars no longer held as much interest as the real thing.
Perhaps my most profound memory of 1969 will revert back to The Beatles whom I'd developed an inseparable attachment to. I almost felt like I was one of them instead of a mere listener. The White Album was a key player, but Abbey Road was the Cool Whip of Rock N' Roll.
1969 brought about an entire "deco" sense within me. I felt psychedelic on the inside and was drawn to black lights and posters and anything else that converted a bedroom into head shop. Colors were vibrant, as were personalities. Younger people had a voice that they hadn't had before, and parents were forced to deal with it. 1969 was an incredible year. 1969 was bright and beautiful, a magic carpet ride into the spirit of the 70's.
1968,was the year that I discovered the angelic purple-blue glow of ultraviolet light. Black lights and posters were the coolest thing yet. I remember going to the first head shops, scavenging through the poster bins. hoping to find that one corresponding number to that one special poster on the wall. Though black lights were very cool, my real induction to the world of black light posters came in the early 70's.
I'd tried painting my own black light posters with sometimes, a high degree of success. It was fun, and became a passion of mine, and every medium I worked since, had to involve day-glo paint.
"The Summer of Love" was by no means extraordinary for me. It came and went before I even knew what was going on. I was living it, but didn't fully realize its importance. The only significant change that I can recall in myself was the fact that I was beginning to blend in with the "peace and love" groove. In the world of hippiedom, I could have been considered a "freshman", or better yet, an "apprentice". I was learning a new way of life from people very diametrically opposed to myself.
Fashion changed, and I found myself changing with it. In 1969, I bought my first medallion. I thought it was so cool hanging around my neck. Serious clothing changes wouldn't happen to me until 1970, but the root of fashion was beginning to take hold. I watched the "Mod Squad" faithfully, every Tuesday night at 8:00 on channel 2. It was from that show that I learned that guys really could wear poofy scarves on their necks complimented by a set of mirror shades. The world was wild, and full of color. Love beads were a clackin', and those big leather watch bands were in style.
The years 1968 - 1969 brought about serious changes, not only in me, but in the world around me. There was a universal theme that was quite appealing: Love, Peace, and Rock and Roll. Like myself, the music was also changing. It took some delightfully surreal turns around strawberry fields, through diamond skies, and over psychedelic bridges over not-so-troubled waters. The sweet, carefree melodies of the earlier sixties were now enhanced by "fuzz" guitar and the birth of what was known as "hard rock."
Still being an absolute Beatles fan, nothing was more sacred to me than the "White Album." This was to me, a cryptic, unusual side to the band; a place where they decided to show a more intimate, undercover view of themselves. And yes, you could play the records backwards and the secret messages would be there. "Turn me on dead man" was quite obvious on Revolution No.9.
Look Magazine's famous lithos by Photographer Richard Avedon are an integral part of my 60's memories. I had these hanging on my walls among my other Beatle memorabilia. A world of color, Psychedelia, and incense canopied under the mystic blue of black lights was my new realm. Everything was fresh, seen through even fresher lenses of a youth gone wild. Again, "The white Album" plays like a silent anthem in the background. I can still hear "Back in the U.S.S.R." blasting George riffs through tinny basement speakers.
Psychedelia was everywhere. It was in the fashions, the talk, the walk, the movies, the music. "Yellow Submarine" was the movie to see in 1969. I saw it on a double-bill with "The Thomas Crown Affair." George Harrison had just released "Wonderwall Music", an ultimately strange LP with some good works on it. Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" became the most played album in my collection. This now brings me to the world of Black Lights and Posters. I became obsessed with collecting posters. Not only collecting, but making my own with glo-paints. Hip artist Peter Max was also responsible for wallpapering the late 60's. His designs became a dire fascination for me, and like many artists, I imitated his unique style in my own posters.
Mostly, I noticed the music changing. It was no longer only about the Beatles. New bands were breaking surface, and my musical library was becoming greatly diversified. A guy named Jimi Hendrix threw acid and oil on a different sound, bringing newer and more abstract dimensions to the world of psychedelic music. He was way out; his clothes were on fire, his music maniacal, and he was beautiful. Jimi was the guy to admire. He lived in his own world. Better yet, he had a group called "The Experience." I mean, how much better does it get than that? The upside down Fender Stratocaster (that was as Hendrix as apple pie), became an icon of a new era of rock and roll.
These were some of the bands I was listening to in 1969: Led Zeppelin, Blue Cheer, Deep Purple, Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly, Moby Grape, Country Joe and the Fish, The Steve Miller Band, The Doors, The Moody Blues, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Grateful Dead, Cold Blood, Donovan, The Beatles' White Album, The Rolling Stones, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Just when I thought it couldn't get any more surreal...
1969 was a time of some pretty strange and devastating events. The famous "Helter Skelter" murders happened in August of 1969. Again, The Beatle's White Album suffered some pretty harsh slander and was practically named an accomplice to murder. The infamous Tate-LaBianca murders turned the tides of a new generation. "Drug-crazed hippies" were the fear of every parent in the nation. I remember that specific terminology in our own household. My mother banned me from listening to Steppenwolf's first album (after 400,000 plays on our living room stereo), because of the song "The Pusher".
In this song, she finally heard the lines over and over again: "God damn the pusher." and replied with her own: "What did he say?!" switch album covers. I began putting Hendrix records into Blue Cheer and Iron Butterfly covers. Poor mom never knew the difference. She wouldn't have known Jimi Hendrix from Paul Anka with trapped gas.
Vietnam was on television every night on the five o'clock news. Parents of young men that were serving tuned in every night hoping, (and at the same time, not hoping) to catch a glimpse of their son. Paul McCartney was rumored to be dead. The world so bought into the idiotic theories that LIFE magazine did a cover story on it.
Although the world seemed to be turning on its dark side, positive events were also happening. The first moon walk happened in July of 1969. Woodstock happened in August, 1969. For me, high school had begun, and my life would soon start to spiral into the definite psychedelia of the 70's.