Never mind what the calendar says. 1967's legendary "Summer of Love" was over before it even started. That's what David Freiberg told Gary Duncan as the Quicksilver Messenger Service bandmates surveyed the scene at a festive flower child gathering in the winter of '67.
"Goddamn it. It's over, man."
Such was the story revealed by rock journalist and respected author, Ben Fong Torres, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the now-legendary San Francisco Summer of Love. In the Cal Alumni Association publication, California, Torres noted how an eclectic mix of more than 20,000 relatively apolitical Haight Ashbury hippies and Berkeley Free Speech Movement veterans from across the bay collided in a "two-headed" scene that culminated in the Summer of Love.
A one day "happening" touted as "A Gathering of The Tribes" and "The First Human Be-In" was organized by Psychedelic Shop proprietors, Jay and Ron Thelin along with Oracle editor, Allen Cohen. The event inspired tens of thousands of young and not-so-young people to put flowers in their hair and join the party. Cohen enchanted Haight Street denizens with colorful pages that read:
"A union of love and activism previously separated by categorical dogma and label mongering will finally occur ecstatically, when Berkeley political activists and hip community and San Francisco's spiritual generation and contingents from the emerging revolutionary generation all over California meet for a Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In at the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park on Saturday, January 14, 1967, from 1 to 5 p.m."
Guitarist Gary Duncan was integral to the now legendary Human Be-In where Freiberg declared the demise of Haight Ashbury's underground music scene. In 1967, Duncan was an erstwhile North Beach beatnik who generally preferred folk music. He loved playing with the more rock 'n' roll inclined Cippolina, but freely admits he was never interested in adopting the hippie lifestyle full time. And he wasn't exactly enchanted with the Be-In nor the Summer of Love. Did Gary shock anyone when he revealed his blase attitude in Rock and Reprise magazine in 2007? Probably not.
"Hey, I was a musician, not a street person. I played shows and made money. It was my job. I stayed away from the hippie culture as much as possible. When I was younger, I hung out a lot with the Beatniks, with whom I got along with fairly well, but not the hippies."
One such outdoor show, dubbed the "Human Be-In," was different from the others. Although not everyone knew it at the time, the First Human Be-In heralded the fade of the short-lived Shangri-La that shimmered so brightly and briefly in long ago San Francisco.
"When they had the Human Be-In, David Freiberg and I were living somewhere in the city with our families and he said, we have to go play this gig in the Park today. We drove down there and the closer we got, the more people we saw until we had to just park the car and walk. When we got there, there were all these people --- thousands and thousands of them --- and all of these news people. David looked around at the whole thing and said to me, "it's over." When these guys [news people] get involved, it's the end. And it was. There was no more underground scene in San Francisco. From that point on, it was all out in the open."