‘San Francisco Sounds: A Place in Time’: MGM+ Docuseries Explores the 1965-75 Bay Area Music Scene
At certain points in history, particular locations in particular times have become centers for artists to create influential and lasting works. Italy in the Renaissance, Harlem in the 1920s and Paris in the 1930s have been among such places.
A couple of areas in California were also hotbeds of artistic creativity during the 1960s and early ’70s.
One of those was Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon neighborhood, which was a hub for the counterculture of that time and attracted an amazing array of creative musical talents like Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, the Doors and others, who inspired each other and made songs of lasting importance and enjoyment.
The Laurel Canyon music scene of the late ’60s/early ’70s was chronicled terrifically in the Emmy-nominated docuseries Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time, which was directed by Alison Ellwood, and included Frank Marshall and Alex Gibney as executive producers.
That filmmaking team is now back to take a similar look at another prolifically creative music scene that was going on at the same time about 400 miles up the California coast, in the two-part docuseries San Francisco Sounds: A Place in Time, which airs Sunday, Aug. 20 and Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, on MGM+
Co-directed by Ellwood with Anoosh Tertzakian, San Francisco Sounds, over its two episodes (each of which runs about one hour and 15 minutes), tracks the history of the Bay Area’s largely (but not entirely) psychedelic music scene between 1965 and 1975.
During this time period, there was a creative explosion in San Francisco that catalyzed and solidified a national movement for a whole generation: Incredible music; brilliant poster art; the birth of the FM radio DJ; the new journalism of Rolling Stone magazine; and the emergence of live music impresario, Bill Graham.
Meanwhile, seminal festivals like Monterey Pop, Altamont and Woodstock propelled Bay Area musicians onto a national scene and into the ears of millions, and some of the greatest artists of the ‘60s came out of the San Francisco scene.
Big Brother and the Holding Company, with lead singer Janis Joplin, circa 1967
The series looks at individuals and groups that remain iconic, such as Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin, Steve Miller Band, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Journey and The Doobie Brothers.
It also explores ones that had an impact on the scene at the time, but may not be as known or remembered, like Moby Grape, Country Joe and the Fish, The Great Society, Tower of Power, The Charlatans and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
As they did with Laurel Canyon, the filmmakers here bring a lot of fascinating archival material as well as personal stories of those who lived and breathed the San Francisco scene back in the day.
And whether you were one of those who did experience the time or not, San Francisco Sounds will likely show or tell you something new and give you a terrific listen to some incredible music, while also certainly making you feel as though you have gone back to a wildly creative place in time.