Archaeological Records
June 5, 2014 2:57 PM   Subscribe

“I’ve used the contemporary archaeology of Olompali to address the concept of stereotype, in this case, what we generally consider to be the ‘hippie,’" - California state archaeologist, E. Breck Parkman has published a paper analyzing the diversity of vinyl records excavated from the ruins of Rancho Olompali in Marin County, California. The site, formerly closely associated with the Grateful Dead, was the home of the Chosen Family commune from 1967 to 1969. The commune and the mansion both met their end in '69, razed by an electrical fire.

Abstract of the Parkman's article:

Fifty-five vinyl records were identified among a collection of artifacts found in the fire debris of a Sixties-era commune at Olompali, just north of San Francisco. The Chosen Family, an intentional community loosely associated with the Grateful Dead, lived at Olompali from 1967 to 1969. The structure in which they lived burned to the ground in 1969, thus creating an unintentional time capsule reflective of the contemporary past. The records that were found exhibit a musical range that testifies to the diverse nature of the individuals drawn to the commune and challenges the generally accepted stereotype of the ‘hippie’.
posted by ursus_comiter (9 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I did not know that about Courtney Love. Interesting post.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:32 PM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I question Mr. Parkman's facile statement that the records he found were never listened to. As a person who was 17, a musician, and a college student in 1967—who covered the Dead's first East Coast concert for Tufts and MIT radio in the fall of '67—the catholic musical tastes of the "communists" was typical of what music loving people listened to then. I suggest that Parkman is engaged in the historical sin of "presentism"—the array of recorded music available then was nothing like what is available today, and folks who prided themselves on being hip listened to *everything* from Ella to Judy to Aretha to Dave Van Ronk to Leadbelly to Woody Guthrie. It is ridiculous to suggest that Judy Garland recordings were not avidly listened to then by residents of the Bay Area.
Judy and Ella as "cultural baggage". . . heh.

I also suggest that the assimilation of a wide range of musical genres was a substantial contributor to the truly amazing musical synthesis that sprang forth in the "San Francisco Sound" and the "Bosstown Sound" in 1967. The epicenters of the new musical culture were found on the axis SF-Boulder-Madison-Ann Arbor-Boston, and the culture spread like wildfire, across the USA and abroad. I'm still glad I got to experience it first hand.
posted by rdone at 4:16 PM on June 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

Jeez, when you find your youth the subject of archaeological digs you know you have been around a wee bit too long...
posted by jim in austin at 4:49 PM on June 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

Not necessarily. Contemporary archaeologists don't always wait around before excavating.

(Disclaimer, I'm friends with Greg & Cassie)
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:05 PM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't get it. "55 eclectic records found at old hippie compound" /= "Wow. Hippies listened all kinds of music and maybe we missed something about the 60s counterculture in America"

What if one of the residents was a DJ at some jazz radio station? What if someone stole a bunch of records from the local library?

Fascinating history about the place, and yeah, I did *not* know that Courtney Love was the manager of the Grateful Dead's daughter. 2 degrees of separation from the Grateful Dead to Nirvana. God I love being born in the West Coast of the USA in the 20th Century. I saw both of those bands in 1991.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:55 PM on June 5, 2014

Courtney Love was the manager of the Grateful Dead's daughter

A task she was unfortunately not able to live up to.
posted by euphorb at 8:12 PM on June 5, 2014

I think Courtney Love's dad Hank Harrison takes more credit for his role in rock history than he deserves, for what it's worth.
posted by padraigin at 8:35 PM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

1. I'm sure there are more than a few people still alive that lived at Olompali and some of they might even have a functioning memory. Why not ask them?

2. I am the biggest pinko commie I know and generally I say hooray for taxes, but it kind of bothers me that this was funded by my tax dollars.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:17 PM on June 5, 2014

Jeez, when you find your youth the subject of archaeological digs you know you have been around a wee bit too long...

The events at Olompali happened about a decade before I was born, but I too have had this feeling.
posted by 256 at 4:56 AM on June 6, 2014

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