Surrealistic Pillow in the Summer of Love

Photo Courtesy: KSHE 95 Photo Courtesy: KSHE 95

The Summer billed as ‘the Summer of Love’ that drew some peer-driven 75,000 young people to the San Francisco streets in 1967 in search of glamour, ecstasy and utopia, also delivered a new kind of music- Acid Rock or Psychedelic Rock.

Surrealistic Pillow, Jefferson Airplane's Platinum-certified second album was a monumental work of the early Psychedelic Rock movement.

Jorma Kaukonen's virtuoso like guitar playing, Jack Cassidy's unmistakable basslines, Spencer Dryden's right in the feels grooves, and Marty Balin, Grace Slick, and Paul Kantner's (who's also the rhythm guitarist) triple-decker vocal harmony sandwich- Surrealistic Pillow had it all.

This album rightfully made the American Rock band one of the top acts in the Monterey Pop Festival (June 16-18, 1967) in a legendary Summer of Love concert, including The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Grateful Dead, The Byrds, and so on. So, what makes Surrealistic Pillow such a celebrated album?

The album opens with the instantly recognisable Spencer Dryden drum riff-driven ‘She Has Funny Cars.’ The second song, arguably the most popular one from the album, reaching No. 5 on the  Billboard Hot 100, ‘Somebody to Love,’ was written by Darby Slick.

At a time of people advocating 'Free Love' more than ever, this song came out rendering a message that love doesn't happen to you; rather, you have to choose it.

This subtle difference in philosophy makes the song different from the stereotypical love songs where falling in love is described as if love happens to a person outside of their conscious intention. ‘My Best  Friend’ was written by the band's previous drummer Skip Spence.

‘Today’ was the epitome of Jefferson Airplane and one of the epic love ballads of the Summer of  Love. The song is rooted in folk with a simple repeated guitar riff with a soft vocal accompaniment.

‘Comin' Back to Me’ was another folk-rock song written by Marty Balin. He wrote the song in a single sitting. Indulged in marijuana, he instantaneously went to the studio to compose the music with any available session musicians. One can feel the drug influence throughout the song.

‘D.C.B.A. –25’ are just the chords in the song and the number 25 refers to LSD-25. The music was just an LSD-inspired romp through consciousness.

‘How Do You Feel’ is another song where Jerry Garcia's influence is evident throughout. ‘Embryonic Journey' was an instrumental written by the lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, a piece trying to encapsulate the mood of the '60s.

‘White Rabbit’ illustrated the surreal effects of taking hallucinogenic drugs, written by Grace Slick and was one of the most iconic songs of the '60s psychedelic rock movement.

Surrealistic Pillow was the production of a band simply at their peak and it was the monumental record of the 1967’s ‘Summer of Love.’

The record still sounds fresh to this day. Grace Slick became immortal with her mesmerising hypnotic voice throughout the album, spreading the message of love.

Before the Monterey Pop Festival, a reporter asked the band if parents have any reason to fear the recent trends amongst America's youth as thousands of young people joined forces to arrive at San Francisco Bay Arena to witness the Summer of Love.

Kanter famously replied, "I think so. Their children are doing things that they don't understand."

That was Surrealistic Pillow, epitomising the Summer of Love-- a summer like none before, summer for the youth, for love, drugs, utopia and ecstasy, and indeed the Magnum Opus of Jefferson Airplane.

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