Purple Sunshine has a few clichés in it. But in the period when this story takes place – July, 1967 to February, 1968 – most of them weren’t clichés. There really were hippie chicks with names like Sunshine, or Rainbow, or Peace. And as in the book, LSD was often marketed with a name, just like medical marijuana is today.
Read the story and you learn that Jimmy Hayes’ nickname – Purple Hayes – only became an embarrassing cliché after Hendrix song came along. He was already Purple Hayes and wearing purple before the song came out. Later, the name becomes something he doesn’t like.
At least I didn’t have him setting his guitar on fire.
This was certainly a rich period for rock and roll. Adults were listening to big bands, or maybe jazz. But with the rapidly evolving technology, three or four individuals could make just as much music as those big orchestras. And they did. Bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones cranked out three albums some years and still had time to tour. As much as anything, music forged the generation gap. Note that the Beatles made two movies, each with an entire album of songs, many of which have become classics, but they were never even nominated for an Oscar for best song.
During the ‘60s, the war in Vietnam was heating up and by the time this story takes place, the war was on the television news almost every night. That was something new and it had a profound effect. Every young man growing up faced the draft, and the prospect of going to Vietnam.
The sexual revolution was underway. The pill was very new and most young women weren’t on it. Condoms were still kept in the back of the drugstore and you had to ask for them. The Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade wasn’t until 1973, so abortion was illegal. But that didn’t mean that there weren’t abortions.
Racism was more pervasive and the N word was often heard in casual conversation. “Negro,” which the Census Bureau recently announced they are going to stop using, was not supplanted by “black” in most the media, and by most people, until the 1970s. Young people were more likely to use it because they heard singing “I’m Black and I’m Proud.”
I tried to capture the flavor of the ‘60s in Purple Sunshine. It’s been 45 years but I remember it well. Don’t believe that clichéd statement that if you can remember the ‘60s, you must not have lived them. Maybe I remember because I didn’t do all that stuff I wrote about. Well, not that I’m going to admit to here.