Way back in 1987 I wrote a song called Save the Hippy It was one of the very first songs I wrote and it’s one of very few I still sing from those days.
Sometimes a song you wrote takes you on its own journey. You never really know which song it will be. I have written another blog and an article on the adventures resulting from my song The Man and The Woman and the Edison Phonograph.
Save the Hippy is nearly as old as I was when I wrote it! It was inspired by the chai tent that was located beside the main stage at the Maldon Folk Festival for several years in the late 1980s.
Over the last 27 years the song has given me some great stage experiences and many fun times. But it has never led me into any particularly unexpected experiences.
That all changed in the Tablelands Folk Festival in October 2014. This is a beautiful little festival in the paradise which is the Atherton Tablelands, inland from Cairns. I had the best time at this festival with wonderful friendly gigs, and I made heaps of new friends. But it was the hippy thing, man, that really freaked me out.
The festival started up on the Thursday night in Herberton, a gorgeous jacaranda-filled ex-mining town that time has forgotten. It really is in the middle of nowhere. Some of us early arrivals did a show in the concrete ‘beer garden’ at the Royal Hotel – a great old Queensland pub.
I did Save the Hippy as part of my set, and as usual I got the crowd doing the arm waving thing. And as usual I told them that despite their enthusiasm, it just was not good enough, so they needed a Guru to show them the way. You never know what you are going to get when you ask for a volunteer to be the arm-waving Guru. It can make or break the performance.
So this night, up comes a woman called Sheilah. Guru Sheilah. She does a great job. Moves with the confidence and grace of a true dancer. But why did she give me that startled, knowing look when I got to the line about the Grateful Dead?
Later in the festival I was sitting with one of my new friends, Gary Dozier. Gary is one hot guitarist and runs a music shop in nearby Atherton. When he told me he grew up in Georgia I said, “Is that why you look like Jimmy Carter!” His response was, “Well, I am related to him.” But I digress.
Gary tells me that Sheilah was married to the late Owsley ‘Bear’ Stanley, the Grateful Dead’s soundman and the first private individual to produce mass quantities of LSD. He was an important innovator in live sound and is mentioned in songs by the Dead, the Mothers of Invention, Hendrix and others. He supplied LSD to the Beatles during the filming of Magical Mystery Tour.
Bear and Sheilah moved to the Tablelands in the 1980s when he became convinced that the Northern Hemisphere would be destroyed in a coming ice age. He was killed in a car accident in 2011.
Could I have picked a better Guru?
Things didn’t go to plan quite so well at Sunday’s festival gig, when I picked out a Guru who appeared to have all the trappings – long grey hair and flowing beard, the clothes. Yes, he was a true hippy all right, but when I ask him to show the crowd how to wave their arms, he only waves one arm. I ask him to wave them both. He says he can’t.
Turns out he’d had a stroke. Whoops. But he did a great job, full of enthusiasm.
But if that all wasn’t enough, another Beautiful Hippy Thing happened at the festival. I met psychedelic folk duo Joe Flower and Harmony Breeze, two genuine hippies who keep the counter-culture revolution alive, singing groovy 1960s songs, from Dylan and Scott McKenzie and the Mammas and the Pappas. And my goodness, what fabulous wardrobes they have.
In an act of blatant synchronicity, they had just uploaded a video of their excellent cover of Save the Hippy. So I asked to join me on stage for my Sunday festival gig, and we had a lot of fun.
It seemed that the hippy vibe was taking over the festival. There was even a rainbow coloured Abbey Road type crossing up the top end of town. Joe, Harmony and I had to take the walk.
On returning home I found that some English dude has also made a video of the song in the English hippy haven of St Ives. This one isn’t a cover version, but he is lip sinc-ing to my recording.
That’s a far out trip, man!
It seems that my song has come of age.
Age of Aquarius, that is.
Peace and love.
Postscript: You can hear the original recording of my song here.