We all know the punk slogan “Never trust a hippie”, but have you ever wondered exactly what is was about these seemingly gentle, long haired, peace lovers that was so untrustworthy? The slogan, sometimes credited to Malcolm McLaren, sometimes to John Lydon and sometimes to Sex Pistols art director Jamie Reid – was simple, snappy and quietly provocative. Hippies hardly posed much of a threat in their heyday, they seemed nice enough, so why shouldn’t we trust them?
The mid to late 1960s had spawned a wide movement of peace-loving flower children. Groovy in tie-dyed cheesecloth shirts, with flowing (possibly henna-ed) locks, and opened toed Jesus boots. Their summers were spent at self-organised free festivals, where they could experience both mud and a lack of toilet facilities through a kaleidoscope of strong psychedelic drugs and burnt lentils. If that didn’t take their hippy fancy, then they could always go further afield…India maybe?
In 1968, popular Liverpudlian beat combo The Beatles took a well publicized trip to India, in order to explore transendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In doing so, they did more to fast track the popularisation of TM in the West, than anyone had previously managed in the past 5000 years. As the most influential of influencers, it wasn’t going to be long before the long hair, colourful clothes and interest in eastern philosophies rubbed off on even their most mainstream admirers.
It wasn’t just them of course, members of the Rolling Stones, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, singer Donovan and actress Mia Farrow also followed the hippy trail to the Maharishi, in what would prove to be just the tip of the spear.
As global travel became more available from the 1960s onwards, it was possible for more and more young people to explore destinations such as India and Afghanistan. Billed as a journey to “find themselves” rather than just admitting that they’d been on a nice holiday and smoked loads of weed, man. These young travellers would often complete their groovy trip to the far flung, by taking up a far flung pastime such as yoga, meditation, or by maybe playing the sitar on their latest release – all habits that could also be billed as “self improvement” or “culturally enriching”.
But hold on just a minute…foreign trips you say? Self Improvement you say? Middle class klaxon alert more like…
Was it possible that these, well travelled hippies might just be from aspiring middle class homes, first generation university educated and without any pressing financial concerns, with middle class liberal parents, who were happy for their offspring to indulge in “youth culture” and as long as the “dropping out”, and their new fascination with beads, didn’t affect their final university grades.
Of course, not everyone thought they were as marvellous as their parents did. The “free love” element usually just worked in favour of the boys, because it was only really “free” for them. Once university was over, many of these bright young, newly qualified graduates turned their attention to the business world. For some, the dabble into peace and love turned out to be just their hors d’ouevre for a life in the city.
Interviewed by Jeff Gordinier in 2007 for Details Magazine, John Lydon clarifies:
JL: “Don’t trust ’em because all this “peace and love” and “free love”—that was really just to turn women into whores. “Oh, you’re not free ’cause you won’t let me shag ya.” Ha ha! That’s clever, that is. And as soon as they came out of the sixties they were all running corporations, and suddenly, you know, the long-hair trip became lining their own coffers. They could be very, very greedy people, the hippies. I come from piss-poor, working-class, lowest-that-you-can-get, total no-hope, no-future—and none of them damn hippies came round our way being generous. The council flats were not places where you would hand out flowers.”
Looking on this statement, it’s obviously quite personal, but it occurred to us that maybe he wasn’t talking about ALL hippies.
After all, many hippies especially those from working class backgrounds, formed the basis of 1970s squat culture, starting alternative communities, independent publications and promoting new ways of a more egalitarian ways of living and thinking. Where would bands like Crass be without their hippy ideals? And all the others who came out of squat-land?
Instead of ALL hippes, we think that maybe John was just talking about one former hippy in particular…
2 thoughts on “Hippies -What was Punk against? #7”
Zing! Leave it to Mr. Lydon. I grew up surrounded by hippies in Southern California in the late 60s. So naturally, I was more than ready to leave hippies on the cultural bonfire a dozen years later! Especially when they all got into computers in the 70s and helped build The Man’s power structure. And furthermore, I’ll mention hating the hippy aesthetic. Filthy. Punks may have lived in squats, but they cut a much sharper figure.
We have the saddest hippy co-op in my city. I visit co-ops in other cities and marvel at the facilities and products. The same small, filthy, ill-kept building that it’s been in for 50 years as run by the hippies who started it back then. We hate to buy bulk items there because the bins never look like they’ve been cleaned… ever. Sure, they pay their employees a living wage and have a union. I shop there because they do so much right…I’m even a member, but would it hurt to clean the place once in a while?