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50 Years Ago: The Summer of Love Brings Pot, Protests and Psychedelic Rock to the East Village

Tompkins Square Park
(Photo: James Jowers)

“As the hour grew late and working people around Tompkins Square Park began turning out the lights on Memorial Day 1967, police asked several hundred music lovers to turn down the volume of a guitar-and-bongo concert in the park,” reported the New York Daily News. “The crowd’s reply … was a barrage of bottles, bricks and fists that left seven officers injured.

“And thus began the Summer of Love.”

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The Story of the Gaslight Café, Where Dylan Premiered ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’

This week, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

MacDougal Street where once was the Gaslight Café (© Kasper van Laarhoven)

MacDougal Street where once was the Gaslight Café (© Kasper van Laarhoven)

Bartenders with beards and tattoos serve $15 cocktails to a sharply dressed, late-20s public at what is now the Up & Up. The menu instructs: “Gentlemen will please refrain from approaching ladies. Ladies are welcome to start a conversation or ask a bartender to introduce you.” What would Kerouac have thought of that? “Refrain” is not much of a Beat chorus.

It isn’t hard to imagine the place as it was. Strip away the 2016 fanciness, insert a small stage and there you are: the legendary subterranean Gaslight Café of half a century ago.

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Watch Some Legends of Jazz, Rock, and Poetry Take a Crack at Kerouac

Okay, so you’re probably too cool, these days, to admit you were ever into Jack Kerouac (now you know him mostly as the grumpy old guy who slurred to William F. Buckley that he always voted Republican), but remember for a moment the first time you cracked On the Road and spent the next weeks telling all your peeps that the only ones for you are the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.

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