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August 22, 2007 / chrisisgross

sf vs. la: the bands in the 60’s

i have had a different version of this conversation with a number of people discussing the famous bands of sf vs. la. the consensus seems to come down to the notion that san francisco is and has been a much more idyllic dreamier setting which produced the free love movement and is more tied to literature as its main influence. whereas los angeles is the darker seedier city that is tied more to fame and the movie industry. the effect i think is fairly obvious, but i am going to attempt to follow it from the 60’s through now.

as i am thinking about this i think the most logical way to approach this is to break it down by decade. i will start with the 60’s not to discard the work of earlier musicians, but the real divisions in the genre began at this time as it appears to me.

the major bands(and these are all open to argument i am working more on opinion than with reference) of the era in sf came from the traditions of haight/ashbury: i.e. the dead, janis joplin, big brother and the holding company, jefferson airplane fueled by owsley’s acid and the free love movement that began ramping up as the vietnam war tore apart the country. the psychedelic music was based in country and blues idioms, but it was wholly a product of the bay area.

the mind set in sf was much freer and idyllic; the horrors of war were not to be confronted, but to be escaped from. the sense of the sixties as many people conceive is this period of sf rock history. however at the same time in la there were a number of influential bands that were based in the sunset strip. the doors and the byrds were the biggest in the area and they seemed to be bent more on destruction than on exploration, the doors especially. jim morrisson’s appollonian/dionysian philosophy of excess was a means to dissolve the world around him and the undertones of the doors is much more sinister than what you hear coming from sf at this time. the byrds were not quite as destructive as the doors, but the history of both gram parsons and david crosby attest to the darker side that is embraced by la.

the tone that this sets is one that will continue from than on. the seedier side of rock and roll has been explored relentlessly by la while the mind expanding inclusivity of the psychedelic era stills holds sway in sf. popular culture has been driven by the music of the west coast for decades(i am not discounting the efforts of the east or my beloved midwest) and the varying styles of sf and la have given rise to a lot of influential bands still referenced today.

jefferson airplane-white rabbit

the doors

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