I just read a beautiful NYTimes piece (here) about the 1966 genesis of the Lovin’ Spoonful song “Summer in the City” and it brought back an awful lot of youthful joy and vigor. I was 20 when the song was released and worked as a young sports writer at the Asheville Citizen, a morning newspaper of about 60,000 circulation.
I made about $65 a week and lived in a small log cabin (rent, $80 a month) in the Kenilworth section of Asheville with a roommate and an occasional girlfriend. One neighbor lady called the cops on us every so often because she thought we were dealing dope. We weren’t. But we didn’t mind the attention.
Civil rights and Vietnam activism was beginning to heat up (the rallies were a great place to meet girls, I found) and the war was a special issue for people my age who were having to fight it. Rock ‘n’ roll’s home base moved back to the U.S. from London and Manchester and groups like the Spoonful were transitioning from folk/rock to rock. With “Summer in the City,” John Sebastian and his three buddies arrived as a legitimate rock presence that could lead the Baby Boomers on a quest to be heard.
The next six years constituted what we all now think of as “the ’60s.” It began the summer of ’66 and ended in 1972. (Some date the end to 1974 when, following an attack in his home, Al Green left rock and went to gospel music.)
There was still plenty of music and protesting left to do in 1972, but it all turned deadly serious about 1968 and stayed there. I think many of us finally got worn out, married, got better jobs, became more conservative (I didn’t), and simply moved our attention elsewhere.
Of course, like most Boomers, I think kindly of the 1960s and I remember the Spoonful’s gentle harmonies and cutting edge lyrics (“Summer in the City” was written by Sebastian’s 14-year-old brother, Mark) as a reminder that we hadn’t figured it out yet. I’m uncertain that’s not still the case, but I’m truly grateful for the time and circumstances. We didn’t do everything right–didn’t do much at all right–but we lived our youth fully.