Review of

Gene Sculatti and Davin Seay: San Francisco Nights (1985)
and Joel Selvin: Summer of Love (1995)

by © Marco Schuffelen
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Both books start out with the story of The Charlatans, but right away differ on Who Provided The LSD for their audition at the Red Dog Saloon, Virginia City: did the band bring it themselves like Sculatti & Seay say, or was it the saloon manager who tried to lift their spirits as according to Selvin?
Sculatti & Seay are far more critical, and that's of course a winner with me (`Santana was not latin, not rock and not good ...', `Clapton committed sins in the name of the blues which may never be erased ... [his] persistent career as an MOR featherweight.')
Sculatti & Seay present a series of personalities and events that get together into a narrative, a story that's going somewhere (well, actually, nowhere); Selvin shows Bill Graham's negative growth from actor to short-tempered businessman, and that was very interesting and a new angle to me, like the great extent of bad drug use; but especially in the second half Selvin's book fragments into a jumble of anecdotes, just chronologically ordered; adding to my knowledge, certainly, a little here and there, but I'd wish that Mr Selvin would have had more of a vision to organize his material around. I would have liked a little more delicacy too, some details are a little unnecessary, like do we really want to know who slept when with poor Janis Joplin? The interviews were conducted together with a student working on his PhD thesis; one wonders what that thesis looks like.
Sculatti & Seay's discography was for a long time a major part of my CD wish list, fulfilled over the years mostly by the people of Metro Music and Critic's Choice Music Catalog; I did not like all of it but most of it was interesting, and some I thought great, like the Barry Goldberg Reunion.
Selvin also did not lead me to any music I hadn't heard before, but then I read Sculatti & Seay much earlier.

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Sculatti & Seay have the better book, but it is short and out of print, so Mr Selvin's is a must for the information provided on the psychedelic era.

Gene Sculatti & Davin Seay: San Francisco Nights
The Psychedelic Music Trip
St. Martin's Press, New York, 1985
ISBN 0-312-69903-4
out of print

Joel Selvin
Summer of Love
The Inside Story of LSD, Rock & Roll, Free Love and High Times in The Wild West
Plume Penguin, 1995
ISBN 0-452-27407-9

Marco Schuffelen - email