Today, Sunday January first 2017 marks “Day One” of the fiftieth anniversary of the most prolific, diverse, creative and experimental year of music in the decade of the greatest music in history! Like no year before or any to come since, 1967 opened new doors of musical diversity as well as challanging and embracing artists to take chances and experiment!
When 1967 arrived, The West Coast sound had washed from “sea to shining sea.” The world had surrendered to “The British Invasion” and Motown dominated The Top 40. 1967 ushered in “Psychedelia”and firmly planted San Francisco on our Musical Map. Who among us didn’t chase the “White Rabbit ” down the rabbit hole with Grace Slick from The Jefferson Airplane, suspiciously pondering the “Mind Bending”Lyric…”When one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small, and the ones that mother gives you…Don’t do anything at all”
“Call Alice”! ( remember?)
We all scoured the works of Lewis Carroll looking for more “Psychedelic” references….. In 1967, San Francisco became “Mecca” when nearly 100,000 young music lovers,would be revolutionaries and various culture junkies merged on the bay city chasing the magic and messages of “The Beat Poets” who populated the Haight/Ashbury district of San Francisco the decade before. But, “Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll” was the new battle cry, and what everyone was searching for. It was being called “The Summer of Love.” And in June of ’67 ground zero for The Summer of Love was”The Monterey Pop Festival”Officially titled “The Monterey International Pop Music festival” but often wrongly referred to as “The Monterey ROCK festival. The promoters wanted it to be about diversity, ALL KINDS OF “POPULAR MUSIC, experimentation and coming together. The line up was staggering…Imagine, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, Simon and Garfunkel, Hugh Masekella, Janis Joplin, The Mama’s and Papas, The Who, The Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. It was at Monterey ( The Who’s first show in The U.S.) where The Who became famous for smashing their instruments at the end of their show! And it was at Monterey where Jimi Hendrix, in a deliberate stunt to upstage The Who, famously lit his guitar on fire for the first time!
Experimentation! Throw out the rule book on music! That’s what 1967 was all about! The Monterey Pop festival became the template for all music festivals to come including the phenomenal “Woodstock” only two years later in 1969
However in 1967 The Beatles raised the bar on experimentation to a new level. Consider this, in 1967 The Beatles released “Sgt. Pepper” and ” Magical Mystery Tour” ( The album and the film) plus their contribution to the first international live T.V. Broadcast. The “One World” live telecast connected 26 countries and their contribution to the Arts! The U.K.’s contribution was The Beatles playing “All You Need Is Love” ….All in one year, 1967
Meanwhile 1967 introduced The Beatles to something they had not experienced before, “Failure.” In 1967 The Beatles established Apple Corps LTD. Inspired by manager Brian Epstein’s constant battle to avoid the “Taxman”. At their peak, they were in an exclusive group of “Super Tax Payers” paying Taxes at an unthinkable rate of just over 98% “Unthinkable” Apple was the bands idea for a company that was solely interested in art, and the artists. Forget about commerce and with the passing of Brian Epstein early in the year. It became a situation where “The Inmates were running the asylum” Apple was conceived as a safe haven for all artists with emphasis on Fashion, clothing lines( a retail outlet,,The Apple Boutique.) Inventors (Magic Alex) Film makers and of course musical artists…
Even for the incredible Beatles and without the guiding hand of Brian Epstein on the tiller, things began to go wrong very quickly. The first dissappointment was their film “Magical Mystery Tour”
Written, Produced, Directed and Starring John, Paul, George and Ringo, this 52 minute, plotless, heavy handed, self indulgent overly ambitious “Movie” was killed and summarily dismissed by critics and audiences. ( did you ever see it?) Intiially the band didn’t have enough new material to release an accompanying L.P. ( As they had done so successfully with their two previous films “Help” and “A Hard Days Night”)So they released a short 5 song E.P. More disappointed fans! In fact, concerned for their reputations, and with no interest from any major U.S. Movie studios, the film wasn’t officially released in the U.S. Until 1974!….Hard to believe, ain’t it?
To date there are no records of what the budget for the film was or how much it earned at the box office, but they shot for two weeks, netting 10 hours of film, edited down to 52 minutes! You do the math!
Meanwhile in Dec. of ’67 The band opens what they believed would be The Crown Jewel in their new enterprise. “The Apple Boutique” The boutique was essentially a clothing store where according to The Beatles….” A beautiful place where beautiful people, could buy beautiful things”….It didn’t quite work that way. The shop was run by various Beatle employees and their friends and relatives. Jenny Boyd, Patti Boyd’s sister was the shop keeper. But it was in no ones nature to either manage or police the business, they got killed by shady dealings, and theft, by customers and employees. In less than six months The Beatles had lost over £ 200,000 and “The Beautiful place” was closed by June ’68. On the day the shop closed. The Beatles announced that they were giving away all the shops inventory, causing a riot and mayhem in the street!
Probably the most bizzare chapter of the Apple Corps Ltd. story is Magic Alex. A Greek “inventor” Alex Mardas, befriended the band and promised he could conjure up all kinds of exotic electronics that would change the world and the Beatles would own! Here are just a few of his far flung promises… An impenetrable force field that would surround and protect each of their houses….A hand held X-Ray camera…A car that would change color with the flick of a switch…?…..Wall paper that contained full dimensional loud speakers…..and our favorite. Magic paint that when applied to anything would render the object INVISABLE…..?
As you may guess, non of these devices never even reached a “prototype” except one. It was called “A Nothing Box” and that’s what it was, a small plastic box with a few small blinking lights. Lennon saw the box while dropping LSD and just sat and stared at it for hours. Then proclaiming “Magic Alex is our new Apple electronics Guru” Tens of thousands of pounds were given to Alex before The Beatles woke up and parted ways with this Con Artist! The final blow for Magic Alex came down when he told John and Paul that he needed the engines out of their Rolls Royces, so he could build a “Flying Saucer” to fly them in! (The truth is Alex was a T.V. Repairman in Greece)
However large the disaster of Apple Corps Ltd. may appear, the venture eventually took a major turn for the good, when in 1968 The Beatles formed the now legendary Apple Records. The label like everything else was run loosely and free wheeling, again calling on old friends and acquaintances to run it…BUT! Apple records was only about making music and records, something the Beatles were the best at in the entire world. All four Beatles began signing their favorite new finds! Recognize these names? James Taylor (Yep, same guy you still love today) Badfinger, Jackie Lomax, Billy Preston and Mary Hopkin ( remember “Those were the days”?) The fact remains that they signed several acts that failed as well… Ringo signed some odd Indian Zeydeko band out of New Orleans….But, in Apple Records first year they had several hits. In fact they released their first two Apple records on the same day. Mary Hopkins “Those were the days” and their own “Hey Jude” both records shot to number one! And The Beatles put “Failure back in the rear view mirror said “Goodbye” to 1967 and continued making the most innovative and exciting music both together and apart when they finally broke up in April 1970, when Paul officially announced he was leaving the band……”All you need is space” Take a moment to look and listen to some great moments “down in Monterey” in 1967…