Fourth Avenue near the University of Arizona is filled with shops that cater to the student population. There are import stores, funky coffee shops, a bookstore and a Food Co-op to name a few. I like going up there, sitting in one of the coffee shops, having a latte and writing or reading. A store that got my attention recently is called the Hippie Gypsy. The outside of the building is hand painted with rock ‘n’ roll musicians from the ‘60s. I assumed it was a record/CD store, but it’s not.
The other day after finishing my Latte and needing to get off my sore butt and move around, I walked over and checked the store out. I thought maybe I could find some old music, but the store sells everything but music--posters, tapestries, clothing, jewelry, buttons, eastern religious icons, lots of doodads with the peace sign and love written on them and those strings of beads you hang in the doorway. Every item was meant to look like it came out of the ‘60s, but none of it did. It was all new stuff.
I surrendered my backpack to the young man behind the counter and immediately a sales girl came up and asked if she could be of help. I told her I was just looking. She continued to stand there, so I asked her who was into all this ‘60s stuff. She said a lot of young people and she was one of them. “That’s why I work at this store.” I asked her what she liked about the ‘60s and she said she loved the music and the look and everything. “Even my little sister is getting into it. She loves The Who.” She said her sister’s birthday was coming up and she wanted to get her something related to The Who. I suggested the CD and DVD of Tommy. She hadn’t heard of it, so I launched into a lengthy description about it; the first Rock Opera in the 70’s later made into a movie, how all the band members of The Who had parts in the film with Roger Daltry as Tommy, the deaf, dumb and blind Pinball Wizard. Elton John played his rival the pinball champ, Jack Nicholson was the Doctor. I told her I thought Ann Margaret won some kind of award, but she didn’t know who Ann Margaret was and anyway I think I lost her somewhere near the beginning. She was standing there being polite, but her eyes told me she was actually somewhere else. When I stopped talking she said, “Cool”. I began to browse around the store.
She showed up again as I was staring at a giant picture puzzle. The picture was a view of John Sebastian from the back of the stage as he looked out over the sea of people at Woodstock. He was wearing tie-dyed clothes with an acoustic guitar hanging from a shoulder strap. She said, “Isn’t that a cool puzzle?” I agreed and asked her if she knew who the guy in the picture was. No, she didn’t? Well I couldn’t help myself. I launched into another informational lecture. Did she know that John Sebastian was not even scheduled to play at Woodstock? After Country Joe & The Fish finished their electric set, it had started to rain and the organizers feared the musicians might get electrocuted. They needed somebody to play an acoustic set, someone who could hold the crowds’ attention until it stopped drizzling. John was hanging out in the back with the other musicians. He hadn’t even brought a guitar with him, so he borrowed one from Tim Hardin, went onstage and played an unrehearsed set for half a million people. I realized I’d lost the sales girl again, but I felt this was such important information that maybe some of it would get through. Besides, I was on a roll. There was a little spark of interest in her eyes when I mentioned that John tie-dyed all his own clothes. I could have told her about the time I met him in Seattle, but I didn’t. It just so happened it was time for her break. She said goodbye, yelled to the guy behind the counter that she was going on break, and quickly left the building.
In a separate part of the store were shelves of hookahs, pipes and tobacco, a modern version of what we used to call a “Head Shop”. I recognized the small marijuana pipes, but none of the various shiny aluminum appliances with protruding hoses. The young man behind the counter explained that these machines added moisture to the smoke and made it real smooth, above us hung numerous posters of Bob Marley.
It was interesting to see which musicians were represented in this store. The main ones were Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, both sans their bands. The Beatles were all over the place, Mick Jagger, mostly without the other Stones, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia and lots of Grateful Dead skeleton stuff, Frank Zappa, Stevie Nicks, who didn’t become popular until the late ‘70s and Janis Joplin. Bob Marley was heavily represented, but no other reggae musicians. Most of the merchandise represented the psychedelic era, but I saw no evidence of Grace Slick or the Jefferson Airplane and no Iron Butterfly, Vanilla Fudge or Pink Floyd. I saw no evidence of the folk scene except for Dylan, no R&B artists and no British invasion groups except the Beatles.
My conclusion is that the store is promoting a lifestyle and a look all about peace and love and smoking marijuana from an apparatus that makes it moist and smooth while listening to ‘60s music and reggae and maybe some late Fleetwood Mac, while putting a puzzle together of a cool looking guy in tie-dyed clothes at a really big concert and all while looking really cool wearing some colorful clothes with lots of anti-war/peace/love buttons on them.
It could be worse. Remember when they were all wearing spiked dog collars with shaved heads and body piercings and singing about violence, destruction and hos?