My hippie friends want to know why I don’t write about their music. The reason I don’t write about hippie music is quite simple really and that reason is that I have so far been unable to explain what it is.

To give you some idea of what I’m up against in this investigation, consider the following. Does hippie music include folksingers like John Prine and Bob Dylan? Does it include pop-country hybrids like The Byrds and Bob Dylan? Does it include wild-haired rockers like Mountain and Bob Dylan? Does it include people who were just passing through hippiedom, like The Beatles and Bob Dylan? Does it include psychedelic mind-trippers like The Electric Prunes and – no, I can’t make that one work.

Where do you file Quicksilver Messenger Service, except under Crud?

In Search of the Lost Chord
What then is this entry in the continuing annals of Run-DMSteve about? It’s certainly not about to make me a lot of money. What I intend to do is take you step-by-step through the rigorous scientific process by which I discovered that the long-sought definition of hippie music has once again dodged up a side street.

The first thing to do in any successful project is to sweep everything you don’t want to deal with under the rug. So I began by declaring that hippie music is music produced by bands that existed in the 1960s. This yielded a sold historic footing and liberated me from having to think about Phish or Blues Traveler.

To further winnow the field, I decided that hippie bands had to have staying power. If they’d played together for at least a decade or two, they were in. If their principal members had died in the early innings, they were out.

(If we posit the existence of a rock ’n’ roll heaven, I’m sure they enjoy musical performances by an adverbial intensifier of a band. But until we can download an alternate-universe app, we’ll never know what Janis, Jimi, Jim, and their peers might have accomplished. Though I can easily picture Jimi playing Wilson Pickett in The Commitments.)

I eliminated The Allman Brothers because Greg married Cher. Black Sabbath I eliminated just for being.

Finally, I considered the fans. A hippie band should come equipped with its own cult. Did our candidates have fans who routinely spent the summer following them around? Did these fans leave their jobs, if they had jobs, to go to 12 concerts in six cities in two weeks in one chartreuse microbus? Were they following their heroes around in 1970, 1990, and maybe even 2010?

There were only two bands I could think of that met these requirements: The Grateful Dead and The Moody Blues.

This is not my idea of a good time, but at least they’re better than Procul Harum.

Blues for Allah
To keep things simple, let’s refer to both bands in the past tense, even though 60% of the Moodies are still on the road and threatening to visit your hometown.

I confess that during an early adolescent period, when I was pretending to read Herman Hesse, The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed was the most profound musical document I knew. And at a later adolescent period, when I wore my hair down to my belt, The Dead’s American Beauty spoke of my yearning to get back to the land. An odd yearning, given that I’d grown up in suburbia.

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of The Dead or The Moody Blues, except to switch stations when the local Classic Rock outlet wheels them out of the morgue. But once I had them under the electron microscope, I discovered some unexpected relationships:

Fig. 1: Sugar magnolia vs. white satin

  1. The Moody Blues experimented with classical music.
  2. The Grateful Dead experimented with disco.
  3. The Grateful Dead rode a train.
  4. The Moody Blues rode a see-saw.
  5. The Grateful Dead had trouble capturing their concert performance in the studio.
  6. The Moody Blues had trouble capturing their studio performance in concert.
  7. Band members left The Moody Blues by resigning.
  8. Band members left The Grateful Dead by dying.
  9. The Grateful Dead were fronted by a charismatic man.
  10. The Moody Blues were five guys with feathered hair.
  11. The Grateful Dead released Aoxomoxoa in 1969. The Moody Blues have nothing to match this, but Pink Floyd does: Ummagumma, released the same year. Which makes me wonder if The Dead and Floyd were actually the same gang of idiots.

Bummer. The only thing this list demonstrates is the astounding diversity of the hippie biomass. I’ll keep working on this problem, even though the budget compromise that has kept the government open has shut off my funding. Someday, I vow, the world will know what exactly hippie music is. Until then, tenere a autotrasporto (keep on truckin’)!

Comments
  1. I had some Electric kool-aid at a Grateful Dead show in ’89. Great 8 hours spent “watching the pretty colors around me”. Also, Phish is a band you could have also added to the list. Granted in the 60’s & 70’s Most of the band members were little kids or just born. Great background music though.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      I absolutely agree. Electric kool-aid would improve any Grateful Dead show. I didn’t include Phish because, even though they effectively channel the spirit of the ’60s, they weren’t performing in the ’60s, except maybe in the kitchen for their parents. And their parents should’ve found them another hobby!

  2. MisterSeaside says:

    Take some ACID and try it again. You must realize that ‘hippie music’ is like porn…..you can only recognize it when you see/hear it. Difference is that ‘hippie music’ is much more satisfying and has staying power. It doesn’t matter who was in the band or it’s longevity. Part of the definition problem might be the fact that “You can’t organize a bunch of hippies.”……………………nor their music? Feed your head.

  3. Laurel says:

    Donovan forever!

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