…San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of… We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave… with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark.
– Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
“A new concept of celebrations beneath the human underground must emerge,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle, “become conscious, and be shared, so a revolution can be formed with a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind.” This was how San Francisco introduced the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park, January 1967. This was where Timothy Leary told a generation to “tune in, turn on, and drop out.” And all around – the sound of the generation, and the look of the generation: the last and greatest efflorescence of American countercultural creativity…
There is no more important time to revive its spirit. We have 17 psychedelic rock posters from 1966-1969, virtually all in pristine condition. Far out.
Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band are here to take you to psychedelic church, in the last days of the Witching Month, 1966. Curious fact: alongside the Chocolate Watch Band, The Great Pumpkin puts in an appearance here, coinciding with the first-ever broadcast of “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”
A magical Wilson work of radiant pink and violet, with Eastern eyes and fractal tendrils blooming, it yet delivers a profound shock: The Doors only get third billing. That’s because The Doors’ debut album (with “Break on Through,” “Light My Fire” and “The End”) had been released that week. This Jan. 6-7 stand at the Fillmore is The Doors’ very first gig in support of their album. A reviewer wrote, “The Doors are a weird group. They start off without much and gradually get into something which is not exactly the Frisco sound but some kind of Eastern- oriented improvisation that allows the drummer to build huge rhythmic climaxes.” No mention of the Lizard King.
Psychedelia has Art Nouveau in its ancestral blood. Here, Bonnie MacLean appropriates the Cognac Jacquet peacock as a symbol for The Yardbirds. They played three days of this summer bill; The Doors played the weekend; and James Cotton and Richie Havens had all six.
Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, the two families on either side of the psychedelic trip, come together under one (electric, Victorian) roof in one of the finishing flourishes of “The Summer of Love.” The show at the Hollywood Bowl, deemed a “happening” more than a concert, was marred by weak vocal sound levels for the Dead; Grace Slick appeared on stage for “Somebody to Love” surrounded by metaphysical props: “an hourglass, a world glove, a wooden Indian, a weathervane capped by a gold eagle, a wooden rocking horse, a wooden seal, a wooden cat with a monkey’s face and a purple altar” (Pete Johnson, LA Times, 18 September 1967). Photo credit: Herb Greene, which may be a pseudonym.
Blashfield’s Blakean forms are perhaps the most perfect transfiguration of The Doors into concert-poster space. Jim Morrison stole the name for The Doors from Aldous Huxley’s “Doors of Perception,” but Huxley stole the phrase from the Romantic poet William Blake. The psychedelic cave tunnels inward in the lower right-hand corner. At this late-November stand in 1967, the Lizard King’s set list included “People Are Strange,” “When The Music’s Over,” and “The Unknown Soldier.” Procol Harum is depicted as the cool ghostly figure in rose-colored shades, drifting above the curled crimson Los-like figure, to sing their hit “A Whiter Shade of Pale”: “We tripped a light fandango…”
Oh yeah, time to get Kozmic. This poster marks Janis Joplin’s triumphant return to San Francisco, no longer held by Big Brother and the Holding Company, now alongside the incredible keyboardist Stephen Ryder and groovy saxophonist Cornelius “Snooky” Flowers. This brilliant poster has a photo montage of Janis – check it out, her shoulder is another image of her singing – inside a neon Music Master jukebox, with face-melting acid headline text overhead. The whole thing sits within a drawn Art Deco frame. Bill Graham hated this poster because he “couldn’t $@%! read it”! Well, you can try just a little bit harder, and “Raise Your Hand” when this item comes on the block.