Saturday, January 6, 2018

Groovy by Mark Voger

'Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture'
by Mark Voger
TwoMorrows Publishing, December 2017

TwoMorrows Publishing is a Raleigh, North Carolina company that publishes books on comic books, and comic book artists; it's now expanding into the broader field of pop culture with the release of Groovy (192 pp).

The Groovy Era spans the interval from the mid 60s to the mid 70s. Author Mark Voger (who previously published Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze In America 1957-1972 with TwoMorrows in 2015) clearly knows what he is writing about. In his autobiographical Introduction, he recalls how it was to be 12 years old in 1970, and how revelatory it was to visit the head shop at a New Jersey shopping mall……ultimately decorating his bedroom with selected purchases: a skull ashtray, and a black-and-white poster of Raquel Welch in her animal-skin bikini from One Million Years BC

He also relates a July, 1969 encounter at the Moorestown Mall in New Jersey with Tiny Tim, who was on a tour to promote his book ‘Beautiful Thoughts’. Voger was a firsthand witness to Tim’s adroit handling of some dismissive ‘mall hoodlums’.

Any Baby Boomer reading Voger’s memories of adolescence during the Groovy Era will undoubtedly smile with their own recollections.

Groovy primarily focuses on music, but other aspects of the pop culture of the era are covered as well. Within its pages you will find informative articles about, and interviews with, The Turtles; The Rascals; Mickey Dolenz; Tiny Tim; The Doors; Wild in the Streets; Easy Rider; Steve Ditko; Peter Max; The Who; Wonder Woman; Jesus Christ Superstar; Maureen McCormick; the late David Cassidy; Teen Magazines; The Banana Splits; and H. R. Pufnstuf.

The book’s copious illustrations, color scheme, and formatting are designed to recall the bright colors and Pop Art presentations of the covered era.

Flipping through the pages of Groovy will reward the reader with all sorts of little revelations and discoveries………….for example, I had no idea that Barry White (?!) sang lead on a Banana Splits song. Or that The Jefferson Airplane tried to pay artist John Van Hamersveld half a kilo of pot for making the cover art for the ‘Crown of Creation’ album (Van Hamersveld had to go to the Airplane’s record company to recover his $9,000 fee). Or that Frank Zappa (?!) appeared on a 1968 episode of ‘The Monkees’, courtesy of an invitation from Michael Nesmith.

Don’t be surprised if reading Groovy sends you to Google and YouTube to look up long-forgotten cultural artifacts. For my own part, watching the Banana Splits do a dance number to the song 'Doin' the Banana Split' (sung by none other than Barry White ?!), accompanied by the Sour Grapes Bunch (a group of girls wearing pink miniskirts and black go-go boots) and 'trippy' special effects, is both sublime and surreal.......

As with any book of this nature, there is an element of subjectivity in deciding what material is worthy of content. An argument certainly could be made that a second volume of Groovy is necessary to adequately cover the spectrum of content associated with the covered era.

Summing up, Groovy primarily is aimed at a readership of Baby Boomers, who will find it indispensable. But younger readers may want to peruse a copy as well, if only to see how the pop culture of the Groovy era paved the way for many aspects of contemporary culture.

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