There are certain summers when the energy of a whole generation seems to come to a head. It happened in 1967, when 75,000 young people descended on San Francisco for the first Summer of Love in search of psychedelic rock, mind-expanding substances and a different world to the corrupt and venal one they’d inherited. It happened again in 1988, as British ravers rode the wave of ecstasy and acid house that became known as the Second Summer of Love. As live music and festivals return after the last summer of isolation – and given that many of us haven’t cut our hair in a year – is it too much to hope that 2021 could herald a return to that sense of hippie idealism and utopian hedonism?
If anyone knows what it takes to spark a Summer of Love, it’s Carolyn Garcia. As an 18-year-old in 1964, she was recruited into One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, the technicolour troupe who paved the way for the Summer of Love by touring America in a psychedelic school bus handing out LSD like sacrament. Known as “Mountain Girl”, because she lived in the woods and rode a motorcycle, Garcia had a child named Sunshine with Kesey and was immortalised in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test before shacking up with (and eventually marrying) another icon of the era: Jerry Garcia, the shaggy-haired ringleader of The Grateful Dead.
Garcia, now 75, has remained true to the free-spirited ideals of her youth. Down the line from her home in Oregon, she remarks on how pleased she is that the state has recently legalised the use of psychedelics. “I just had my tiny microdose of psilocybin this morning,” she says breezily. “It makes me a little bit loquacious.”