SAN FRANCISCO SOUND

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Generally speaking, the San Francisco Sound embraced the rock-related music being produced in the Bay Area during the latter half of the 1960s. Some music historians have insisted upon a more narrow description of the genre, focusing on the free-form, jam-oriented rock played byseminal bands such as the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. Others have chosen to emphasize extra-musical trappings such as the communal hippie lifestyle--accented by heavy usage of psychedelic drugs, free love, and the spiritual quest for one's self identity--espoused by many of the popular performers and their audience.

Both interpretations fall somewhat short of the mark in evoking the true character of the San Francisco Sound. From a strictly musical standpoint, the performers using the Bay Area as a home base defied stylistic categorization, ranging from the Beatlesque pop of Beau Brummels to the jug band nostalgia of Dan Hicks to the Latin rock of Santana. Furthermore, the cultural dimensions of this scene not only came to symbolize the changing mores of a nation at large, but forever modified the basic configuration of the popular music industry. Gene Sculatti and Davin Seay, in San Francisco Nights, note that the events associated with this sound

...freed pop musicians from 40 years of showbiz orthodoxies, providing the first

real alternative to Tin Pan Alley tradition. In the process it set the music industry

on its ear, grating unprecedented artistic control, and a shot at undreamt of fame

and fortune, for those who would follow. Grace Slick and Janis Joplin pioneered

two bold new models for women in pop, while Country Joe McDonald, Jerry

Garcia and others helped to elevate the mere musician to the status of political

firebrand and cosmic pundit.

 

These points, however, merely scratch the surface. Jack McDonough, author of San Francisco Rock, offers a more detailed list of the groundbreaking music culture developments which emanated from the Bay Area:

--What became accepted at the time as a breakthrough in recording contracts--giving the artist such amenities as a higher royalty rate and control over production and artwork of his album--was originated by Steve Miller while in San Francisco in the late 1960s.

--The Grateful Dead negotiated a contract under which a rock band, like jazz musicians, could collect royalties based on minutes-per-side rather than songs-per-side.

--Progressive FM radio was founded in San Francisco during this period, and K101 became the first FM stereo station west of the Mississippi.

--Rock concerts as events warranting full stage production values and theatrical props were pioneered there.

--The notion of booking a nightclub as if it were a small concert hall was first introduced in the area.

--Rock-and-roll poster art was perfected there, as were the visual techniques of the modern light show.

--Rock journalism was brought to full international respectability by Rolling Stone.

 

The Haight-Ashbury scene collapsed less than two years after the excitement engendered by Kesey's acid tests, Golden Gate Park be-ins, and related activities caused a mass exodus of young people to the Bay Area. The musical and cultural legacy of the scene, however, can be traced up to the present day.

 

Top Artists and Their Recordings

 

Big Brother and the Holding Company--"Down on Me" (1968); "Piece of My Heart" (1968); Cheap Thrills (1968)

The Charlatans--The Charlatans (1967)

Country Joe and the Fish--Electric Music for the Mind and Body (1967); I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die (1967); Together (1968); Here We Go Again (1969); C.J. Fish (1970)

The Grateful Dead--The Grateful Dead (1967); Anthem of the Sun (1968); Aoxomoxoa (1969); Live Dead (1970); Workingman's Dead (1970); American Beauty (1970); The Grateful Dead (1971); Europe '72 (1972)

Hot Tuna--Hot Tuna (1970); First Pull Up, Then Pull Down (1971); Burgers (1972); The Phosphorescent Rat (1973); America's Choice (1973); Yellow Fever (1975); Hoppkorv (1976); Double Dose (1977); Final Vinyl (1979)

It's a Beautiful Day--It's a Beautiful Day (1969); Marrying Maiden (1970); Choice Quality Stiff/Anytime... (1971)

The Jefferson Airplane--The Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (1966); Surrealistic Pillow (1967); "Somebody to Love" (1967); "White Rabbit" (1967); After Bathing at Baxter's (1967); Crown of Creation (1968); Bless Its Pointed Little Head (1969); Volunteers (1969)

The Steve Miller Band--Children of the Future (1968); Sailor (1968); Brave New World (1969); Your Saving Grace (1969); Number Five (1970); Rock Love (1971); Recall the Beginning...A Journey From Eden (1972)

Moby Grape--Moby Grape (1967); Wow!/Grape Jam (1968); '69 (1969); Truly Fine Citizen (1969); Twenty Granite Creek (1971)

Mother Earth--Living With the Animals (1969); Make a Joyful Noise (1969); Bring Me Home (1971)

Quicksilver Messenger Service--Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968); Happy Trails (1969); Shady Grove (1970); Just For Love (1970); What About Me (1971); Quicksilver (1971); Comin' Thru (1972)

Sons of Champlin--Loosen Up Naturally (1969); The Sons (1969)

The Sopwith Camel--The Sopwith Camel (1967)