I just finished watching “The Hippies”, a made for TV documentary about the Hippie culture of the 60’s and 70’s that aired on the History Channel. Though flawed with its overarching, borderline ridiculous right-wing condemnations of hippie culture, it offers a fascinating glimpse at the drug-fueled, youth-driven counterculture of the era.
Too much time, unfortunately, is wasted on sensationalist, irrelevant side-stories and not enough is spent on the substantive contributions of the hippie aesthetic to the culture at large. There are also a few glaring historical accuracies; for example, one could easily conclude from the film that the Vietnam War ended after 1969 — which would certainly come as a surprise to the soldiers who served there from 1970-1973. But at least the film, at its end, correctly, if only briefly, touches upon some of the many lasting contributions of the hippie ethos to the culture at large; these include the consciousness movement, the environmental movement, and the computer/technological revolution which led to the democratization of information by the Internet.
[The Hippies – YouTube]
The mention of famed “satanist” Aleister Crowley caught my ear, especially when the narrator explained how his image was “featured” on the cover of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Truth be told, Crowley is merely one of the 85 people and objects featured on the cover.
The commentary also claims Sgt. Pepper’s was “the greatest masterpiece of the psychedelic era”. As any Beatles fan will tell you Sgt Pepper’s was Paul’s baby and while Lennon’s Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds* or George’s Within You Without You have that psychedelic sound, Paul didn’t embrace the drug scene in the same way that the others did and while it may truly be a masterpiece of musical genius, I’d venture to say that later albums like Magical Mystery Tour are more psychedelic.
*Fun fact: Lennon always denied Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was about LSD despite rumours to the contrary.