The Legacy of The Summer of Love

The Times Literary Supplement

One of the sharpest comments on the phenomenon known as the “Summer of Love” can be found on the Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention album We’re Only in It for the Money, released in the spring of 1968. Something of Zappa’s intentions may be glimpsed in its lavish front-cover pastiche of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which on its release in June 1967 had topped the UK album chart for several months. Rather more can be inferred from the lyric sheet. If the tone of Sgt Pepper had been idealistic and forgiving, then Zappa’s riposte is sarcastic and vindictive. Among a series of parodies of such West Coast Summer of Love house-bands as Arthur Lee’s appropriately named Love and Jefferson Airplane, one might single out the track “Flower Punk” in which the San Francisco scene-sweller of the title is subjected to an antistrophic grilling:

“Hey punk, where you going with that flower in your hand?”
“I’m going up to ’Frisco to join a psychedelic band.”
“Hey punk, where you going with that button on your shirt?”
“I’m going to the love-in to sit and play my bongos in the dirt.”

And so, incriminatingly, on, to a tripped-out valedictory monologue in which Zappa’s hippie, wondering what to do with the record royalties that will surely accrue from his descent on ’Frisco (“No, I’ll buy a Corvette . . . No, I’ll buy a Harley-Davidson”), eventually decides to put the money into real estate.

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