Sunday, 9 January 2011

95: Scott McKenzie, “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)” (no.1, 1967)

The one-hit wonder as historical document. No song was more closely and more inextricably linked to the Summer of Love, and everything it entailed; part of the song’s project seems to be to capture the mood of the late 60s American moment (“All across the nation/Such a strange vibration/People in motion”). Yet what I’ve always loved about McKenzie’s sole UK hit - easily dismissible as a hippy-dippy, flowers-in-your-hair, feathers-in-your-head bore otherwise - was its innate, barely disguised sadness: its sense this moment was already ebbing away, that all those people in motion weren’t really going anywhere, save perhaps off to Vietnam or well-paying jobs in the banking sector. It’s a lament, rather than a stirring anthem; a song hymning the past, rather than reporting the present. (Surely it couldn’t have sounded modern to 1967 ears, weaned on Dylan, The Beatles and Stones?)

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