I’m not sure I would have known about it at the time, but apparently from what I’ve learned since then, head shops weren’t always a peaceful oasis from the outside world, not for the store owners, as uniformed officers from the Anaheim police department dropped into Swinger’s on a semi-regular basis for no reason other than to hassle the employees and try to bust them for whatever charges they thought they could make stick.I only saw this happen once: I was blissfully reading and hanging out when the music suddenly went down to a normal volume instead of the front glass window-shaking volume it was usually being played at, and I looked over and saw two of Anaheim’s (ahem) “finest” chatting with a long-haired dude who was stationed at the front counter, and I could tell that he was not diggin’ their conversation, no siree.(You can read much more about this in Joshua Clark Davis’s paper, or buy his book when it comes out).Some of the stores started de-emphasizing the radical counter-cultural aspects of their inventory, and eventually bowed under the pressure of local uptight citizen brigades (sometimes they weren’t much more than a lot of little old blue-haired church-going ladies with pinched faces) to clean up their act.During the early sixties, he’d gone to college, briefly, a few times, including at least a semester or two at the University of Tampa, Florida, and it was during that time that the native New Yorker first visited a bohemian enclave of Miami, called Coconut Grove, that he got the idea to open up his own head shop.And that’s just what he did, moving there with his girlfriend in the fall of 1966.Some of the owners did pretty well with their stores, financially-speaking, and they began migrating into other areas (like selling concert tickets), which would then become their main source of income.
But mostly, things were changing inside head shops, all over the country, were there were all kinds of new laws and ordinances that were specifically passed by angry communities and then strictly enforced by the cops in order to make sure that the smoking accessories weren’t being purchased by kids under the age of 18.
I never bought any blacklight posters, though — didn’t have a blacklight or strobe light — but what I remember most were some of the other posters they sold, like the one of Frank Zappa sitting naked on a toilet, and I remember another one with those two outlaw bikers from , and I remember seeing a lot R. Excitedly looking at the posters was one of the first things I did when I’d enter the store, to see if they had any new ones since the last time I’d been there.
By the end of the sixties, and I’m guessing here, the vibe I’ve been describing was already beginning to change (guessing because I didn’t start going to the store until I was eleven or twelve, in ’71/’72), and I may have been blissfully unaware of the intense scrutiny the owners of these head shops were facing behind the scenes, or behind closed doors.
That music — and remember, this was the early 70s — was usually was either very loud (I remember hearing Hendrix and Cream and Deep Purple and, especially, Black Sabbath) or it was very quiet; I remember hearing the delicately-plucked acoustic guitars and dulcet vocal tones of a lot of indistinguishable late 60s/early 70s folk artists, male and female voices, and today couldn’t tell you who they were because that wasn’t the music I connected with at the time (although I certainly connect to it now).
I also remember hearing Indian music for the very first time inside that store.