Aug 16, 2018

1968: More Anthem of the Sun Reviews

Rock vocal group with rhythm and electronic accompaniment...
Warner Bros/Seven Arts W 1749 or WS 1749, $4.79

The first album of the Grateful Dead, issued in mid-1967, was a disappointment to many rock fans who had seen the rock group "live." The magnetism that characterized their concert engagements could scarcely be discerned from the ill-fated recording. It wasn't a bad record, just not up to snuff. One could hear some pretty good blues guitar work, but the whole thing was sort of a bringdown.
Since that time the Dead has gotten further away from blues and into a full-fledged (and by now somewhat anachronistic) acid-rock bag. Things have been aggravated by the serious, sometimes fatal electronic bug, which has severely bitten them.
Each side of this album is a mish-mash of self-indulgent formlessness. Blues sounds, acid sounds, bell sounds, electronic sounds: they pile over each other with such boring consistency as to drive away all but the most devoted or masochistic of admirers.
There's really no excuse for this kind of junk but there is an explanation. Drugs. The album is essential background music for pot parties (or methedrine or LSD). Now lots of rock is conceived with marijuana in mind; there are many groovy sounds that are a head's delight. Hell, all of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (the Beatles' magnum opus) can be viewed in this limited way. But that album sounds awfully good straight; you don't have to be stoned to dig the Beatles. Pot can enhance the listener's experience; it can make something good sound great, but it can also make something trite sound meaningful. It is within the latter category that this album belongs and I'm sorry that the Dead have fallen victim to the delusion of the complete psychedelic experience.

(by S.L., from High Fidelity, November 1968)

* * *

At KSAN and KMET we've been playing the new GD LP "Anthem of the Sun," which demonstrates not only their superiority as trip masters, but also the fact that they have learned more about recording technique than most producers know. The Dead should be listened to at lease-breaking volume and it won't ruin you to dance.
Jefferson Airplane tops all previous outings with "Crown of Creation." They've avoided the overarranging that dragged "Baxter's" and have successfully recreated a live sound while never leaving the studio. Producer Al Schmidt deserves credit for great technical interpretations of the Airplane sound.
(from Tom Donahue's "Donahue" column, the Los Angeles Free Press, 16 August 1968)

The Grateful Dead's "Anthem of the Sun" (Warner Bros.-7 Arts WS 1749) is another original composition subdivided into intricate parts that yield a whole. The sextet's problem here is a blend of studio and live sessions which result in a sound that is inconsistent. Still, a fine one for the serious popster.
(from Wayne Harada's "On the Record" column, the Honolulu Advertiser, 22 August 1968)

* * * 

Whatever happened to the Grateful Dead, you may ask? The new Anthem of the Sun lp sounds more like their live concerts but less like anything you can listen to repeatedly. The more the Dead got into the technicalities of their music, the more they left their fans behind. While the album contains some very nice rhythmic and even a-rhythmic highlights, the total effect of the music and production style is fatiguing.

(from Jef Jassen's "Record Rap" column, the Berkeley Barb, 20 September 1968)


To the editor:
Last week's Record Rap contained a short critique of the new Grateful Dead record, "Anthem of the Sun," but the album definitely deserves more than a vague, one paragraph putdown. It is an incredible album, and it deserves all the energy you can give it. Side one (I'm so hung up on it I haven't gotten into side two) may be the greatest rock composition ever.
The word 'composition' is important. Their Anthem is not a collection of catchy tunes (well, yes, it's that too), but a serious, important musical composition. I mean, my god, its genius is overwhelming.
We mainly hear how the Dead play free a lot. And how they're heads. Rarely a word about the music they make. The only way you'll learn that Garcia is one of our best guitarists is to listen to him - like during the first few minutes of "Anthem," which contains some of the most moving, expressive guitar work on record. He doesn't copy Clapton's copies, so our rock critics ignore him as much as possible.
There's no one like Garcia, and that makes it a little difficult to deal with him. Critics have to compare, else they'd have too little to say. I can't think of anything to say except that his music is unique and beautiful and why don't you listen closely?
Phil Lesh is the best bass player I've ever heard.
Yet there's a weird thing about the Dead - they have no superstar. No Janis Joplin, no Butterfield - no one on the album is actually spotlighted. They are a BAND of astonishingly creative musicians, and the best way to get into their album is to dig their responsiveness to one another. It's as if one mind were at work, controlling the musical flow. And it's even groovier knowing that there are actually six.
"Anthem" is about death and love and recurrence. It ranges in mood from real Mozartian melancholy ("the boy has to die") to moments of unbelievable ecstasy. Try to find another contemporary composition that produces anything like ecstasy. I'd have to go back to Beethoven to find anything that affects me similarly.
"Anthem" is about their name, the Grateful Dead. It's about your experience here and now and then and forever - "think I'll come back here again, every now and then!" But I can't take you through the changes - let the Dead guide you.
Get their "Anthem" into your blood, and, like any great piece of art, it will change your life, change the way you see things. It's a religious event. Don't be without it.

(by Sandy Lynch, from the Berkeley Barb, 27 September 1968)

* * *

ANTHEM OF THE DEAD  (abridged)

The phenomenon we call the New Music is actually one facet in the gradual resolution of a general crisis in 20th Century art: it hasn't been relevant to daily experience. Such irrelevancy is a key to understanding the tremendous acceleration of social and scientific change. . . .
In that light we begin to see the New Music as both reaction and illusion: reaction because it was an overdue and abrupt rupture with outmoded traditions; illusion because the New Music actually is a state of flux, constantly changing, forever being refined and expanded toward that distant point at which the coordinates intersect: totally comprehensive music.
Past artistic periods may have been evolutionary stages in sync with their social climates (Baroque, Gothic, Expressionist, etc.). But we must remember that the rate of change (or progress, if you will) has reached a point where it is always ahead of the collective consciousness. . . . Thus periods of artistic expression are only briefly effective and no longer follow one another harmoniously: instead, they are dramatic reactions caused by the sudden realization of obsolescence.
If we agree that the New Music began with the Beatles, its reactionary nature becomes clear. (I don't mean reactionary in the political, conservative sense.) Early Beatle music was a reaction to, and rejection of, the outmoded Ray Conniff-George Shearing-Cannonball Adderly era which preceded it. And it was hungrily embraced by a public restless and bored with the lifeless 1950s ennui.
Succeeding trends have been reactions to the reactions of the Beatles. Power music (Cream, Blue Cheer, Hendrix, The Who) is the logical reaction of rock musicians who sensed a certain Baroque tendency in the Beatles ("Michelle," "Norwegian Wood," "Yesterday," etc.). Power music at once revitalizes basic rhythm-and-blues which spawned the New Rock, while relating to an electronic world which couldn't be further removed from the R&B idiom. It's the technological beginning of comprehensive music. (Meanwhile the Beatles perpetuate the action-reaction continuum with their new power music composition "Revolution," a kind of summation of live-performance hard rock.)

The new album by the Grateful Dead, "Anthem of the Sun" (Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, WS-1749), is directly in the evolutionary path of the New Music. I shall attempt to discuss it from two viewpoints: 1) as it relates strictly to the music world, and 2) as it relates to other contemporary experience.
Within the rather narrow perspective of the pop music business (which is the extent of most music criticism), the new Dead collection is a statistic: it's the first album which truly captures the group's sound, just as "Cheap Thrills" epitomizes Big Brother and "Wheels of Fire" is the zenith of Cream. This means record producers (in this case Dave Hassinger) are getting better at their job, closing the gap between record and reality; and it means those who dismissed the Dead on the basis of their first record must now re-assess them according to their new (or newly packaged) image.
Academically, "Anthem of the Sun" is a commercial and creative sequel to "Their Satanic Majesties Request" and to Jimi Hendrix. I'm not suggesting plagiarism; I'm merely pointing out similarities inevitable in artistic genesis. Influence is a prime factor in any creative endeavor. T.S. Eliot: "art is plagiarism." The Stones and Hendrix have pioneered valid modes of expression which the Dead synthesize and, to some extent, refine: another positive step toward comprehensive music.
However, "Anthem of the Sun" begins to take on wider relevance when seen in context of experience outside the music world. One must respect this music even if one cannot "like" it. I'm not suggesting that it isn't enjoyable; in fact, considering its ingredients, the album's palatability is one of its more remarkable assets. I mean only to say there are times when the importance of an art work transcends its immediate emotional appeal. We may not like "Wozzeck," for example, but few would contest its contribution to musical language.
"Standing between musician and music," said Busoni, "is notation." One reason East Indian music is received with such zeal in the West is that it approximates direct musical action (improvisation) while retaining certain modal characteristics more sympathetic to our ears than electronic chance music. There is similar appeal in the New Rock: it relates to contemporary experience . . . 
More than that, it is in harmony with the plastic arts, concerned more with essences of their own structure than with "saying" something, though a great deal gets said in the process. (John Cage: "Music as discourse doesn't work. If you're going to have a discussion, have it and use words.") . . .  The arts have progressed to the point where they are concerned with the essence of perception: construction and composition. The New Music is no exception.
Thus in "Anthem of the Sun" as in "Satanic Majesties" there is emphasis on the multiplicity of ingredients and their blending. The New Music, like ecology, is a total field of non-focused multiplicity; in terms of choice, a situation of both/and instead of either/or. It can degenerate to pretentious dilettantism (Chad and Jeremy's "Of Cabbages and Kings"). At best it relates to daily experience more completely than any art form but synaesthetic cinema.

The comprehensive nature of the Dead's music begins with instrumentation: everything from vibraslap to kazoo to celesta claves, finger cymbals, electronic tape, and prepared piano. Through these elements they weave a totally integrated tapestry encompassing a wide spectrum of musical expression which does not exclude white noise. The use of a prepared piano in the manner of Cage and Tudor is especially unique in rock music. While the Beatles, Stones, Hendrix and others may incorporate tape collages, the "live" manipulation of a prepared piano (pipe-stem cleaners between the strings, mallets fitted with various covers, etc.) is seldom heard in rock.
This invests the Dead's music with a sense of organic unity, a personal, physical quality which may relate aurally to a super-science world but which can be "composed" and played in live performance. The Mothers are the only other pop group currently employing techniques of prepared instruments.
The fluidity with which the Dead move into and out of their segments of musique-concrete is most impressive. In "2000 Light Years From Home," the Stones attempted to merge theremin-like space sounds with string chorus, but the divisions were harsh, non-integral. The Dead, however, manage to retain their legendary San Francisco sound - casual, harmonious, rhythmic, with a touch of Owsley Stanley III - while making us feel that the electronic tape collages and white noise are part of earth music: and in fact they are.
Without slipping into cliche, I think the new Dead collection might safely be regarded as head music. That is, a synaesthetic assemblage of disparate ingredients and tonal colors whose progression from start to finish is non-focused but dynamic. The Dead are organizers of sound events, composers of pure sound/music. Sometimes the sounds are identifiable, sometimes not. Listening closely we can single out dozens of styles and quotations, all miraculously interwoven.
One final observation: the brevity of any single element in this music - electronic tape collage, African log drums, calypso steel band rhythms - relates to the ephemerality of phenomena in daily life. As John McHale points out in his essay, "The Plastic Parthenon," expendability and impermanence are the hallmarks of the new age. . . .  Thus no single element in the Dead's music is carried to its conclusion. Rather we are given an impression sufficient for psychical use in "understanding" what is being said. This is especially apparent in "Alligator," a masterful sound panorama which amounts to half of the album.
Musicians like the Grateful Dead are introducing disorder to the American musical culture historically based on order. If only for that reason, they relate more to contemporary experience than, say, Simon and Garfunkel, who may not seem so profound within the contest of the coming world society.

(by Gene Youngblood, from the Los Angeles Free Press, 13 September 1968)

* * *

PAINT IT BLACK  (abridged)

Is it just me, or is this really a new year, and the old one is dead and gone, finally?
Lotsa friends (well, maybe only three or four) have suggested to me their incapacity to repeat another year like 1968. One friend spent Dec. 31, 11:59 P.M., alone in Merced listening to radio coverage of the Times Square New Year celebration. Alone in Merced. He thought the scene an apt one, considering the entire tone of the year past.
1968 - the year of the speed freak, the empty fuck, the year our political energies wasted away into a thousand petty frustrations, the year that Spring skipped.
Maybe you don't agree. You had a groovy year of it. No paranoia. But really, do you remember Spring? Do you remember a flowering? Has last winter ended yet?
Our artists' changes reflect our own. And vice versa. A year ago the Beatles were picking pansies and meditating hour after hour after hour.
The Rolling Stones were 2000 Light Years from Home.
Dylan apparently was laid up for months with a broken neck. If so, death must have been very real to him. Anyhow, the space between BLONDE ON BLONDE and [JOHN WESLEY HARDING] is an immense one.
And the best of the SF bands, The Grateful Dead, kept never getting together a second album. There were months of rumors about its release, but the birth of ANTHEM TO THE SUN was a long time coming.
Art is about getting along. No one was making it very well.
OK everyone, this is 1969 - find your road and do it in it.
The Beatles are back in style. They feel good. . . .
The Rolling Stones . . . they are so together it is dazzling. BEGGAR'S BANQUET is tight, solid and constant, and perhaps the finest rock band ever. Thoroughly "professional" in the highest sense of the word.
And the Grateful Dead - god, what an incredible creation they've given us. ANTHEM TO THE SUN contains the mythical context for revival. It's a common theme, death and rebirth, but rarely is the theme wrought so carefully and profoundly that one can take it within oneself and make it serve in the real, everyday world.
I was reassured of the importance of ANTHEM after hearing Beethoven's quartet opus 132 last night. Hearing one after the other brought things together a little more for me. The compositions are identical in terms of purpose and tone.
Listen particularly to the "Song of Thanksgiving upon Recovery from Illness." Compare its expressiveness to the first section of ANTHEM. It is quiet and tearful, yet somehow ecstatic. Sad but straining to burst open.
And both pieces do burst open. They blossom and sing and affirm.
It is impossible to be precise when talking about music. All I want is that you should listen to the music with this subject in mind. Because I think maybe Spring isn't too far away, and if we know about it we can all applaud its arrival together.
We mustn't fear the death of the past, mustn't be frightened into turning away. Instead, watch it die. The Grateful Dead - their new album explains their name. Always the finest art has indicated styles of responding to the powers of darkness, and the Dead seem to be tuned into that fact.
I mean, the blues are here to stay, but even on dark rainy days you can feel so good and rich and full of life. We've just got to keep things going. . . . 

(by KL, from the Berkeley Barb, 21 February 1969)

See also:

June 9, 1968: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Police argued for three hours Sunday in Golden Gate Park with the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.
In the end, the Cub Scouts won out.
As more than 3,000 people waited for sounds that never came, police stood firm on their demand that the rock musical groups have a concert permit.
"This is not a concert," said Bill Thompson, the Airplane's manager. "It is a wake for the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, and the Cub Scouts would like the music."
Finally the people left and turned Speedway Meadow over to the Cub Scouts, who had a permit.

(from the Hayward Daily Review, 10 June 1968)


Three hundred Cub Scouts who didn't exist stopped a memorial wake for Robert Kennedy last Sunday in Golden Gate Park.
The Ghost Scouts had some help from the fuzz.
At about noon Sunday free people began to gather in Speedway Meadows to help celebrate a wake for the late Senator. The Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane were in attendance and the event had been announced on KMPX and KSAN.
As the band trucks arrived a cop Sergeant, badge #269 announced that the wake could not be held, since a group of Cub Scouts had prior permission to use the area. A tail-chasing argument with the Dead's manager ensued, and the cop eventually refused to tell the manager who to see about getting permission.
Three to four thousand people waited as this went on, and about 40 SF Tactical Squad superfuzz also waited in several cop cars. They had helmets and three-foot clubs ready.
The cops gave the Dead's manager 45 minutes to make a phone call. He did and came back without reaching anyone. The bands departed and about half of the crowd left as well.
Some of the remaining persons stayed to investigate. Motorcyclists fanned out over the area and could find no trace of a group of scouts. No scouts ever showed up at the meadow.
Later in the week the manager of the Airplane checked and found that no permit had ever been issued to any scouts for the meadow's use that day.
Of course minor matters like that could not obstruct the mind of Mayor Alioto. As reported in the mass press he loyally upheld the version of his cops. Fortunately, no Ghost Scouts had applied to use the meadow for the upcoming Sunday (June 16) and the wake may be held on that date. At BARB press time no firm plans had been made.

(from the Berkeley Barb, 14 June 1968)

1968: Apocalypse Now


The world came to an end last Saturday night, and BARB was there.
That was the night the planetoid Icarus, a pock-marked lump of rock approximately the size of Mount Everest, zapped the Earth. The effect was catastrophic. We were all wiped out by a four mile high tidal wave that raced around our globe. Or, by another account, Icarus plowed into us, quaking the Earth and turning us all to cinders. In the end, however, the details seem unimportant.
BARB saw all this destruction from the top of Mount Tamalpais, a widely accepted end-of-the-world spot.
With us at the death of the earth were up to two hundred other patient victims. Most, however, were waiting for the Grateful Dead, and refused to treat the occasion seriously. They played guitars and transistor radios and laughed a lot, even under the circumstances. Probably hysterical.
It was a poignant time. High on the mountain. We sat about and talked about our last hours on old Mother Earth. Someone passed a yellow cig around and pretty soon there were those who said their whole lives were flashing in front of their eyes. I sniffed the wind and found myself growing maudlin over the simple things - like the smell of grass.
Below us on the Marin Peninsula the lights of Sausalito and Mill Valley formed in strings giving the night a fitting Disneyland effect. The bay sat silvery beneath the nearly full moon and as quiet as the eye of a storm.
By three or four in the morning - time seemed to stand still so it was hard to tell - the Dead hadn't arrived, in spite of all rumors. The desperate few on the mountain had dwindled to no more than fifty.
Saving our strength for the end, most of us rolled up in a blanket and went to sleep. We never awoke.
The end came while we were asleep.
The next time we looked around, the sun was rising over the crest of Mt. Tam. I was covered with flea bites that itched as though I were alive, and the new world looked just like the old one.
Except for one thing; now I know who the Zombies are.
This is definitely the end.

(by DC, from the Berkeley Barb, 21 June 1968)

Aug 15, 2018

1968: The Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco

The Grateful Dead and a group of other rock bands, including the Jefferson Airplane, have taken a lease on the old Carousel Ballroom on Market Street (formerly the El Patio) and beginning Friday night will run dances there regularly.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights the Airplane and the Dead will play there for dancing.
Next weekend, Chuck Berry and the Buffalo Springfield will appear.
The Carousel is owned by Bill Fuller, the Irish ballroom operator who has similar properties in Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Manchester, and throughout Ireland.
As part of the current arrangement, it is hoped to organize a European tour later this year with some of the San Francisco groups based on Fuller's ballrooms. 
(excerpt from Ralph Gleason column, San Francisco Chronicle, 13 March 1968)

Ron Rakow, who helped put on the Great Northwest Tour of the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, has leased the Carousel Ballroom near downtown San Francisco for a series of weekend dances that have so far featured the Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Chuck Berry, and Country Joe & The Fish. The Carousel holds substantially more people than the Fillmore or Avalon...and a lot more of them dance. The owners of the Carousel also run a chain of dance halls in England and on the Continent, and have reached an agreement with Rakow about using them for a tour of American rock bands.
(excerpt from "S.F. Ballroom Circuit Grows," Rolling Stone, 27 April 1968)

The Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane, both unhappy with the sound and environments of the Avalon and Fillmore Auditoriums, have purchased twenty percent of San Francisco's largest room, the Carousel. The groups will not only play there, but advise on bookings.
(from John Carpenter's "Roach Clips" column, Los Angeles Free Press, 5 April 1968)

* * *

A review of the Carousel re-opening shows:
"The cream of San Francisco rock - the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead - got together here for the first time in many months. Following a three-month Pacific Northwest tour, the Dead and the Airplane had returned as partners to open their own ballroom, the Carousel, in competition with Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium and Chet Helms' Avalon Ballroom.
The Dead had not played for either Graham or Helms in nearly a year, because they opposed the way most dance-concerts are conducted.
Both bands did two sets, each lasting more than an hour. Though the Airplane has by far the biggest national reputation, the Dead proved to be the stronger musicians..."
(from Geoffrey Link, "Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead," Down Beat, 27 June 1968)

Ralph Gleason's observations:
Promoters traditionally have labored to avoid putting on a last-minute, hurry-up event wherein they had only a few days in which to inform the public. History says you have to have a really hot attraction to get away with this.
Another cardinal rule is not to confuse your audience with contradictory or ambiguous statements.
Both these rules were violated last month by the new series of dances at the Carousel Ballroom. The announcement of the first weekend dance was not made until the Wednesday before, and there was considerable confusion about prices and attractions for the Sunday night show.
Nevertheless, the hall was packed on the first Friday and Saturday and it is a tribute to the strength of the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead that this is so.
The new series also had another asset. The Carousel is by far the best hall in San Francisco for rock groups in almost every imaginable way...
(excerpt from "Like a Rolling Stone" column, Jazz & Pop, May 1968)

Pete Welding's review of a May '68 Carousel show:
In operation only about a year [sic], the Carousel is one of the newer of the large psychedelic total-environment dancehalls the San Francisco scene has spawned. It also is one of the handsomer, boasting a number of comforts that the large, better-known rock halls do not possess: a decent, well-appointed restaurant adjoins the hall and offers moderately priced meals, a large snack bar dispenses the more usual fare, and there is a seating area where one may take a respite from the hectic dance floor activities. Too, there is the usual top-notch light show that one has almost come to take for granted, this one by the North American Ibis Alchemical Co. And the hall books top groups, as this recent billing of three popular bands demonstrated... (p.28)

* * *

On the Free City Convention: 

FREE   (excerpt)
outrageous acts are being perpetrated in the city from the steps of city hall to tiny verona place a scruffy anarchic band of urban outlaws is engaged in subverting the lawful government of san francisco they call themselves the people of the free city already they and their fellow travellers have gained effective control of the san francisco post office from the steps of city hall which they partially control free food is distributed to the urban populace so as to get the masses used to taking something for nothing the danger of redistributive looting grows more imminent as fervour for public sharing spreads thru the city the steps are also put to effective use by the outlaws as they exhibit joy and ecstasy in public poetry music and dancing to the ever present drumming which provides rhythm for their activities exhortations are made to the assembled populace to leave work and go home and embrace their women in an affectionate manner and eat and enjoy over the past several weeks their numbers have swelled and now include some of the leading citizens of the community [ . . . ] mr free went on to state that ... public giving will break out spontaneously throughout the city and that by the summer solstice the entire city will be liberated free goods food people everything he then announced that further details for the liberation will be announced at the free city conference at the carousel ball room on may 1 admission is free ...
(by Robert Novick, from the San Francisco Express Times, 25 April 1968) 

The Berkeley Barb more soberly reported:
 "The Free City group has been on the steps of City Hall every weekday for two weeks freeing the steps. Now they're promoting the May Day convention to free the city... Singing the 'Free City Blues,' a handsome young man sat on the City Hall steps giving a politic invitation to the Free City Convention at 7 p.m. May Day, at the Carousel Ballroom..."
(excerpt from "Those Free City Blues," the Berkeley Barb, 26 April 1968)  


Even the hellfire preachers loosened up a little, accepting colored chalk from hippies and decorating the sidewalk with their Christer slogans.
One of their wives slyly took an orange.
A gaunt young male preacher climbed onto the Carousel Ballroom stage, switched on the sound, and exhorted the May Day crowd at the Free City Convention.
But there the evangelicals stopped swinging, for he could not bear to share his pulpit with a fellow clergyman: a naked Boo Hoo of the Neo-American Church, chanting "Hare Shiva, Hare Rama."
Everyone else grooved: hippies, blacks, Hell's Angels, servicemen. The anonymous organizers had apparently learned from the mistakes of past Be-Ins, whereat vast crowds were centralized around distant platforms of notables, participating passively via loudspeaker. This time it was decentralized for the first three hours, lots of little scenes and happenings.
Like underground television, home-taped programs on closed-circuit TV. A freeman elaborately demonstrates how to roll a joint, which uniformed soldiers smoke. Somebody lays in bed and raps about the "ship" he lives in. People jive, mumble, whatever.
Like the grand council circle of comfortable chairs grouped around a village fire of candles and such, headquarters for conga drums, teenyhip girl on a big acid trip, small white dog attacking the entire legbone from a pig, sparklers, wine, candles burning on a boar's foot complete with fur: the whole pagan bit.
Like the topless chick with painted torso, and at least two nude males. Like the cat who blew me for the TV cameras, and an admiring crowd, but the camera crew couldn't get organized fast enough to catch the scene.
Like smoking pot in a hookah with a gasmask attachment, your mouth and nose immersed in cannabis just like the hospital ether trip. Like integrating the women's john, with a girlfriend for protection: "Hold my hand, I'm a stranger in paradise." Like the wrestling ring.
Later the Sons of Champlin played and everybody danced for hours. During the dance, BARB  was too drunk to notice or do much, except for necking with a fine chick from a rural commune.

(from the Berkeley Barb, 3 May 1968)

* * *


Rock fans loyal to the KMPX strike are choosing up sides this week as the Carousel Ballroom continues to advertise on the struck station.
The Carousel broke the strike early last week because, according to Ron Rackow, Carousel general manager, the ballroom is going broke.
"I've lost fifty thousand dollars in the last nine weeks because of my sympathy for the strikers," Rackow told BARB Friday night. "Last week (two weeks ago) I spent $1200 on five AM stations; I've got more people out there tonight than I had in three nights last week."
Indeed the hall was considerably full; however, visits to the competing Avalon and Fillmore ballrooms turned up thoroughly packed houses, more so than at the Carousel. Neither of the other two have broken the strike.
Striker Bob McClay, just returned from a week in New York, was understandably perturbed. "If it wasn't for KMPX there wouldn't BE a Carousel!" McClay was referring to the live-remote broadcast the station did of the Dead and the Fish several months ago which provided the initial push for the ballroom's success.
Rackow told BARB that both the Dead and the Airplane, who are partners in the ballroom, were informed of the move to advertise beforehand, and that while they disagreed in principle they consented on the grounds that Rackow was in charge.
"That's not true," McClay countered. "I was in New York at the Chelsea Hotel with the Dead, Tuesday night when Rackow went on the air and Jerry Garcia told me he had heard nothing about it. It wasn't until AFTER the contracts were signed and it was too late to do anything about it that the Dead was told."
Rackow still contends that his "sympathies lie with the strikers; I'm sorry to [go] back on the air but it's the only thing that works. I'm running this ballroom as a business."
"So are the Straight Theater and the Avalon," McClay bit back, "and they're not in any better financial shape than the Carousel. They've just got more principle."
An aftermath of the Carousel ads, according to McClay, was the intimidation of Avalon manager Whitey Davis by the station management. "Whitey was told that he'd better go back on the air now because in a couple weeks the station 'would be hard to deal with.' Whitey's reaction was 'Do you want to tell that to my lawyer or should I?'" 

(by Jef Jassen, from the Berkeley Barb, 10 May 1968) 

* * *


The Carousel Ballroom is a beautiful place to hang out. There's good local bands like the Dead and the Airplane, plus they've presented people like Thelonius Monk, Johnny Cash, and Dr. John the Night Tripper. But it's more than a dance concert. The place is big enough so you aren't forced to listen. You can wander off into the side rooms and talk or eat and drink. And since you have all those choices, it's easier to listen, easier to be relaxed. It's like a big party in a big house.
Food? I had a plate of chicken cooked in tomatoey sauce, saffron rice, asparagus cooked in wine, and home-made bread for 95 cents. My old lady had a piece of Ambrosia Cake with real orange slices in the layers. Ahhhhhh, instant Falstaff bliss! Take your whole harem for a meal today.
The dance floor has a ceiling made of velvet silver glittery drapes arranged like huge upside down mushrooms. There's carpets and chairs on the side, and a big bar area with more carpets and a restaurant with damask walls.
It was groovy like a Victorian opera house bordello even before people started turning it into a rock palace with their decorations. Now paintings are growing on the walls. Mouse painted a stoned Donald Duck on a pillar. Spider did a wall. Ovid is painting a three-wall mural. You can't go wrong with names like that. And Bob Thomas is painting a Magical Black Light Forest.
The Carousel, new as it is, radiates an important force in the community. There's a great sense of participation there. We're all part of it. There's jam sessions on Tuesday night for a dollar. A band forms up and plays for about an hour, then another band forms. Last week, Jerry Garcia and Elvin Bishop jammed together. And last Sunday, the Carousel moved their whole show, which included the Dead, Charley Musselwhite, and Petris out to Golden Gate Park for the afternoon as a holiday celebration.
Last Friday Ron Rakow, the manager, got together with Bill Graham for a three-hour talk over breakfast about ways in which the ballrooms could cooperate so that each could do their scene and it would all work and make a more total thing.
A lot of people like to put down Bill Graham. It's a favorite indoor sport. Because he's successful, or ornery, or commercial, or too straight...lots of reasons, lots of put-downs. The great thing about put-downs is that while you are describing what THAT person did wrong, you don't have to DO anything right yourself, you can just play Instant Expert.
We can't afford that luxury now. We have to do something affirmative, whatever we can: rap, sew, eat, dance, sing, or set up another dance hall. Argument can be very good when it's face to face. When we do our thing somehow in relation to each other, a tremendous energy force flashes between us, our various scenes and methods reflect on and strengthen each other. Insofar as we do that, we are a community.
So when the Carousel people and Graham try to work out ways to cooperate, just the fact of their trying helps us. This kind of sharing and of breaking down barriers is characteristic of the things the Carousel has been involved with, such as the beautiful Free City Convention, the Hells Angels Dance, the jam sessions...even the strike-breaking that Ron Rakow got into when he advertised on KMPX. I didn't like that, but in fact it DID help blow open a situation that had by then turned into pretty much a game.
The whole feeling of the Carousel is that it's a gathering, a place for all of us to happen, rather than a concert. Go there and hang out, meet your friends, it's our palace.

(by Sandy Darlington, from the San Francisco Express-Times, 6 June 1968)

* * *

Ralph Gleason on the ballrooms:
[At Winterland and the Fillmore] people come to see the bands, the singers, and the audience. They stand in front of the bandstand and they sit on the floor. They do not dance. When the crowd is large, all the dance floor is covered with human bodies, prone, seated, etc... [At the Avalon and Carousel] the attendance, most times, is proportionately smaller. Hence there is more actual room to dance. The vibes in both the Avalon and the Carousel are different, too. There is more of a sense of audience participation than at either the Fillmore or Winterland, both of which seem to make the audience into spectators rather than participants.
(excerpt from "Changing Role of Ballrooms," San Francisco Chronicle, 30 June 1968) 

Ralph Gleason on June 4, 1968:
At midnight Tuesday night it was a beautiful scene at the Carousel Ballroom. People came in off the street with late election news and inside there was a long jam session going on with all kinds of guitar players and saxophones and rhythm men and on the floor there was more dancing than I've seen anywhere in months.
Throughout the ballroom an outstanding feature was the peacefulness and the joy as a wondrous assortment of people relaxed. There were Hells Angels and hippies, many black people and many long-haired youth. It seemed for a moment like the hope of the future.
And then I went outside, got into the car and punched the radio button only to hear a voice saying "...when Senator Kennedy was shot tonight." And the terrible real world came crashing in on me again.
(excerpt from "Strung Between Dreams and Reality," San Francisco Chronicle, 7 June 1968)

* * * 


San Francisco (UPI) - The Carousel Ballroom, one of the city's three regular rock music halls, opened as usual this weekend after its lessees filed a $5,000 bond with superior court.
Judge Charles S. Peery withdrew a temporary restraining order forbidding planned weekend concerts by the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.
The judge granted the restraining order at the request of City Center Ballroom of California, owners of the Carousel. The firm charged [that] Headstone Productions, Inc., which leases the hall for rock dances, failed to pay $11,600 in back rent and that visitors were damaging the ballroom.

(from the Independent Press-Telegram, 9 June 1968)

* * *


The Carousel Ballroom family is fighting for its life amid a morass of legal hassles and big business finagling.
Tuesday, deputy police chief Al Nelder suspended all dances at the Carousel until June 25, except for a benefit for the Black Man's Free Store to be held on the 19th.
A restraining order banning any more performances at the dance-hall was dropped. Headstone Productions Inc., [part of sentence missing] came to late Wednesday by the managers of the dance-hall, City Center Ballrooms of California. 
Performances will be held this weekend - "concerts" - but no dancing will be allowed.
The agreement was reached after Ron Rakow consented to step down as the president of Headstone Productions Inc. Both Headstone and City Center will stage this weekend's entertainment.
City Center Ballrooms, a group of businessmen, originally tried to evict the Carousel crew claiming back rent was due. The matter is pending in civil court but could take weeks to resolve.
To speed up the process, the businessmen asked for a hearing before deputy chief Nelder to rescind the dancing permit of the Headstone crew.
But conflicting testimony at the hearing from two lawyers involved still left everyone in doubt as to just who was sponsoring the dances. Brian Rohan, a lawyer who was issued a permit for the dancehall, claimed that he never produced a dance at the Carousel. Headstone Productions were never issued a permit.
Nelder's action came on the advice of Captain Phillip Kiley of the Mission District who claimed that immoral and illegal activities were taking place at the Carousel.
He alleged minors were allowed into the dancehall, marijuana was smoked, fire regulations were violated by overcrowding, and that there had been reports of nudity.
"After the so-called Digger Convention, I also saw a sign on the marquee which read CUNTVENTION," Kiley added from his seat next to the businessmen.
To substantiate his charges he said that two people had been arrested last Friday for possession of grass.
"The situation is obviously getting out of hand," Nelder said in response. "We're only interested in seeing that no one is injured."
"I'm telling you here and now that you're not to sponsor any dances for 15 days," he told the two lawyers.
Everyone seemed to have forgotten Headstone Productions, who weren't even allowed a rebuttal to the charges.
"This is a typical land grab," Rakow told BARB afterwards, "now that we're doing things, everyone wants a cut."
The trouble began last Thursday, June 6, when the Carousel crew arrived at the ballroom to find the doors chained shut by the managers.
They finally managed to sneak in by the roof, BARB was told. Rakow then threw a table through one of the doors, and had the chains removed as city police stood by watching.
By last Friday, Riester, Rakow, and Jon McIntyre, managers of Headstone, declared the dancehall "Free Turf" and were preparing to bring the entire Carousel family to defend the building from the businessmen and city police. But no attack came.
The family includes 60 Carousel employees, Diggers, the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, members of the Black Panthers, and members of the Hell's Angels, McIntyre told BARB.
By larger count, they number more than 500 in all.
"This is liberated territory, a place where people can get together," Headstone manager Johnathon Riester told BARB last week. "We'll fly as straight as we can but we won't leave."

(by TAR, from the Berkeley Barb, 14 June 1968)

* * *

The Carousel Ballroom family is apparently in the process of "moving out."
After almost a month of fighting the law, big business, and "nasty politicians," the crew is finally getting the shaft.
One spokesman for the family told BARB, "negotiations continue on four or five different levels." Another source, however, said many of the family have already left.
Speculation on who will take over the Carousel centers around The Grateful Dead, called the "spiritual leaders" of the present Carousel, and Bill Graham, the person appearing to be the more likely prospect.
Graham has been engaged in negotiations with the owner of the ballroom, a member of Graham's staff told BARB. "The possibility definitely exists," he said, that Graham will take over the dancehall.
Graham, who was out of town at BARB press time and not available for comment, presently runs the Fillmore Ballroom, and is involved in plans with Mayor Alioto to bring a pops festival to San Francisco this Fall.
The Carousel crew has been putting out hard rock sounds at Market and Van Ness for the past 4 months. It ran into trouble about a month ago when businessmen claimed that back rent was due on the dancehall.
After a number of court battles, the businessmen brought in the fuzz to close the place down. It will remain dark this weekend but should be open the following week, BARB was told.
"We're not interested in running the place anymore," one of the family's spokesmen stated. "Our trip wasn't economic and this has just gotten too heavy."
"But none of us are dead," another spokesman added, "no one has heard the end of us. The whole idea was to turn people on, and our trip was turning people on to the real sounds - people who don't have enough bread to pay for an acid trip or to get into a dancehall."
"We're not finished yet," he continued, "the music scene will still go on even though someone wants to turn it into a money scene."

Bill Graham now holds the lease to the Carousel Ballroom. In the coming week, he will split the bands between the Fillmore and the Carousel, BARB learned at presstime.

(from the Berkeley Barb, 28 June 1968)

* * *


The Fillmore Auditorium, the birthplace of all that is San Francisco sound, will close its doors this weekend in favor of the larger Carousel Ballroom.
The Carousel, to be renamed Fillmore West, officially became the property of promoter Bill Graham late last week when Headstone, the cooperative in charge of the hall since early spring, failed to make good on financial obligations to the hall's owner.
"We've been needing a bigger place for quite a while," Paul Baratta, Graham's chief assistant, told BARB Tuesday. "So when the opportunity to get the Carousel came along, we took it."
As for the Fillmore, which fostered the San Francisco scene more than two and a half years ago with the Mime Troupe, Jefferson Airplane, Great Society, and many more, Graham intends to turn the use of the hall over to neighborhood organizations of the black community.
"Our plans are to use it for shows that would benefit the community which the hall is in," Baratta said. Graham will retain ownership of the building.
There is some speculation, however, that Graham may be getting out at the right time. In recent weeks attendance at the hall has fallen off because of uptight blacks harassing white patrons. Graham himself has been physically assaulted by young blacks who evidently felt that he had drained money from the neighborhood without putting anything back in.
According to Baratta, plans for the new Fillmore West will take on more of a community feeling. "Besides the regular shows we hope to have workshops and seminars for musicians, poster people, light shows, and everyone else involved in the community."
Fillmore West will be dedicated in grand style this weekend with the appearance of the Butterfield Blues Band, Ten Years After, and Fleetwood Mac.

(by Jef Jassen, from the Berkeley Barb, 5 July 1968)

* * *


The Fillmore Auditorium, of supergroup, lightshow and dance poster fame, ended its two-and-a-half year career as a fulltime rock hall on July 5. Bill Graham, the Fillmore's manager, is moving his scene to the old Carousel Ballroom, which recently became a well-known rock dancehall in its own right under the goodhearted but insufficiently professional ownership of Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and some cronies. The Carousel will henceforth be known as the Fillmore West, to complement Graham's recently opened New York operation, the Fillmore East.
There were several reasons for Graham's move. The old 1500-capacity Fillmore was always overcrowded, for one. Graham usually booked big acts on prime nights not at the Fillmore, but at nearby Winterland, which has a capacity of 4200, though its dance floor is small. For another, the Fillmore is located in the Fillmore District, a Black ghetto, and the sporadic instances of harassment of patrons had become more frequent since the assassination of Martin Luther King, according to Graham. And finally, the Carousel is a more desirable hall, larger and more attractive and more accessible by public transportation.
The Carousel had been operated for several months by Headstone Productions, a corporation initially financed by a series of dances given by the Dead and the Airplane starting on St. Valentine's Day this year. The operation of the Carousel was marked by careless mismanagement in many details, although it was generally agreed that the feeling of the dances was good. On several occasions Headstone booked unwisely, paying high fees for low draws, and it was saddled with what Ralph Gleason has called "the stupidest lease in show business." The Free City Convention, a freakout with nude dancing, public grass-smoking and a "dirty" word ("cunt") on the marquee, started bringing an undesirable amount of police attention to the hall, and when Headstone fell several thousand dollars behind in its rent, landlord Bill Fuller opened his ears to Bill Graham.
Graham had started organizing dances as manager of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. The first Mime Troupe Benefit held at the Fillmore, on December 10, 1965, headlined Jefferson Airplane, the Great Society and John Handy. Graham's Fillmore dances began on a regular basis in March 1966, at first alternating weekends with the Family Dog. In the early days Graham had to overcome the reputation rock concerts had for violence, and the Fillmore happened to be one of the halls in town that would rent to him. Today, after innumerable hassles with civic authorities, he can point to two and a half years of dances without a major disruption.
Graham's lease on the Fillmore runs to March, 1973. He plans to put the hall at the disposal of the Fillmore community, at no profit to him, for Black-run political events and musical and theatrical productions. He has already contacted Eldridge Cleaver of the Black Panthers, the Peace and Freedom Party and the Black Student Union. Graham emphasizes that the incidents of harassment of the dance patrons have never involved militant Blacks.
As for the new Fillmore West, Graham plans to remodel the stage and perhaps replace the satin ceiling. The Tuesday night musicians' jam session instituted under Headstone will be revived and one night a week will probably be set aside for "jamming" and rapping among local lightshow technicians. Graham also has hopes of establishing a "young political platform" and building the solidarity of the underground community. "Haight Street is a tragedy," he has said, "and it should be saved."

(from Rolling Stone, 10 August 1968)

* * *  


If you're an intelligence freak, the "Fillmore West at the Carousel Ballroom" should appeal to you, because it was obvious on opening night that the place is being intelligently managed.
It's neater. The bandstand has been moved from the south wall to the east, so more people can see at once, and that eliminates the dark cavern where people could get busted for naughties. However there are still remote corners and couches to make your own trip without joining the applause manufacturers.
I'm almost afraid to mention the beautiful windows and little balconies that keep you from feeling like you're in a giant non-selfservice elevator - intelligence is sure to board them up for some sanitary reason. As of Friday, they were still there.
The saddest change was in the food. Maybe the scoff was good, I don't know, I was too disheartened to try when there were no beautiful sloppy cobblers, cakes and pies in view. They were replaced by boxes of something plastic. Let us hope they will find somebody stupid and/or turned on to run the kitchen.
God, here I am in San Francisco two months and already I'm nostalgic. I'll never forget the perfect night, a Friday, when Tim Buckley was at the Carousel, a night that proved you could get there without drugs.  [6/14/68]
I knew from the time Fleetwood Mac billed with Jefferson Airplane, or was it Big Brother [6/20-23/68], that Mac would provide a more genuine turn-on for the crowd than the big name, and that's what happened. I don't want to go any farther into music criticism because I seem to shock people with my heresies.
Maybe it's my head, but big names keep giving me this we-don't-need-you-anymore vibration. To the raised eyebrows, I say that at the end of the Butterfield set, the audience was kind of tired; at the end of the Fleetwood set following, they screamed for and got an encore. 
Three dollars isn't much compared to what is being charged for movies, but it multiplies rapidly if you're a sound freak. Couldn't somebody convince Bill Graham that it would be intelligent to sell season tickets?
Even the bridges have commuter tickets for tolls. As it is, I'm afraid many of us will mostly be on the outside listening in.

(by Tadeusz, from the Berkeley Barb, 12 July 1968)

* * *


Ron Polte manages the Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Congress of Wonders, and the Ace of Cups. This is the end of an interview with him which began in last week's issue.


A bunch of hippies, a bunch of good people, got together and refused to run a business. And I'm sorry, but you gotta live in that world if you're going to run a business. Like Bill Graham has. He's a business man. He's not fooling himself. He knows that the only way a dance hall is going to be successful is to have a margin of profit.
Even if you take that margin of profit, and even if that margin of profit is 50%, and you throw it off the roof of your dance hall, you've got to make it first. If you leave that line for profit at 10%, or 5%, or like no % sometimes, it's not enough room to breathe.
It's like what Ron Rakow did to those people, he chained them to a machine that couldn't make money. It wasn't free. And the energy of all those good people in that building wasn't going anywhere, it was being trapped. Because he chained them to a financial problem, which was $9,000 a month rent, plus 20%. They couldn't have made it in 25 million years, man.
And then when he was going down, and he was $66,000 in the hole and they were in danger of losing it, they ran to the community and said, "Let's get the community together, together we can save it." It was a bummer to lay on the community.
In front, had Ron Rakow been honest with himself about business, he would have said, "$9,000 a month is too fucking high. And if we can't get this dance hall for $5,000, let's not take it." But instead, he took it. So it just went down the tubes.
And Graham went over and negotiated a much smaller lease, and he's running it. In fact, the straight person who owns the dance hall says to himself, "Look at those crazy long hairs who'll give me 9,000 a month for this dance hall. They can't make it, but who gives a fuck? They're long hairs, they're stupid anyway. They ain't gonna be around for long, because it's only a fad, so I'll take their 9,000 a month now, and when they go, I'll rent it to somebody who's a businessman." Which is what he did.
And we had good credentials: Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver...they make pretty good money, they can afford 9,000 a month. It's crazy, man, it was unreal.
And the only reason that Bill Graham got that dance hall was because they gave it to him. He would not have taken that dance hall. Ask Ralph Gleason, Ron Rakow, Bill Thompson, Rock Scully... They said, "If we can't score it by Wednesday, if we can't make any deal with the owner to come up with the eight grand or a new ballroom manager, and a new organization, then you're free to go do whatever you want on Thursday." And that's what he did.
[ . . . ]

(by Sandy Darlington, from the San Francisco Express Times, 31 July 1968) 

* * * 

AIN'T IT A CRYIN' SHAME?  (excerpt on the 11/27/68 Fillmore West Thanksgiving party

On Thanksgiving Eve at the Carousel (now the Fillmore) Ballroom, the survivors of a social movement gathered to enjoy the largesse of a man who, through them, had made it. Yet what was to be a child of joy was for me a misshapen dwarf, a grotesque homunculus aping true sentiments, the product of a marriage of belated and too late generosity and a lack of real compassion and memory.
In short, it was a success party, a testament to the fortitude of Bill Graham and some of those who three long years ago got swept up in the commercial implications of Ken Kesey's acid vision. On the surface, nothing went wrong, but something bad, very bad, the worse for being ignored, kept trying to intrude.
[ . . . ]
The night began in earnest with the bands, Santana and It's A Beautiful Day. For the most part nothing was built. The audience and performers never came together to create a force larger than their individualities and their separatedness. Except for the conga drum solos of Santana, which, like most drum solos, sounded good to most people and warranted a response simply for happening, the performances were listless. The crowd stood like unfeeling mutes, still, swaying slowly, passive, dead. Nothing happened. Or, stoned, the crowd was content to receive, standing like antennae, conceiving no vision of an ecstasy in which they might have had to participate to create. All the electricity in the hall was from PG&E.
Everyone there expected a good time, they might even now say that it was a good time, but it was not. By no stretch of the imagination. The success party was not without some feeling, but it was without joy. It was as if the words love, dope, peace, and hassle combined to eradicate the experience of joy. And as for catharsis, or even getting your rocks off, that was not to be had. You could only get high and tired. Not a hell, of course, but no better than purgatory.
If joy was hard to find, it was perhaps that the Carousel harbored images of all those who did not attend, all those who did not make it through the scene to become musicians, djs, store owners, film makers, or promoters, those who did not have a chance to reconcile their way of life with the great god Success.
Despite the presence of those who had prospered, those who had arrived, the Carousel had felt the lives of those with blown minds, hepatitis, syphilis, those cold on the sidewalk, those who went home, cut their hair, went back to school or in the service, those who were busted, and those who had died. And perhaps the hall itself, its soul enveloped in the folds of the mushroom curtains hanging from the ceiling, had visions of the Hell's Angels' Birthday Party last spring, and levied a curse over all success achieved in the presence of so much death.  [5/15/68]
That night, despite the power and beauty of Janis Joplin, the event was marked by the pointless violence and sheer brutality of those who were also in the fold. That night, you may recall, the Angels rode in police cars telling the huge crowd that there was no more room. That night the Angels, hundreds of them, Angels of all sizes, ages, and appearance, left their line of choppers gleaming in the street, defiant to the gaze of the night IBM employees across the street, entered the hall to assert failure as a way of life, and had, in the piss on the floor and the stompings in the dining area, made their credo, their apologia, and their mea culpa.
Like the hosts of all parties, the Angels eventually parted, roaring away into the night. The sound of the engines finally died, but the Carousel, I think, retained the evening in its floors, walls, and windows. For the Angels spoke not simply for themselves but for all the death and fragmentation of a movement which had borne at least its share of darkness. Those with memories could remember, if success was the theme of Thanksgiving Eve's celebration, the course of at least one life which fared badly.
All this, needless to say, was not the fault of Bill Graham. But it was in the air, on the streets, and in the music. Even the band sounded like the old Airplane. It had the San Francisco sound. But that style spoke for other days, days when everyone was younger, fresher, a little more original. It has been three years.

(by beelzebub, from the San Francisco Express Times, 18 December 1968)

See also:

Aug 4, 2018

March 3, 1968: Haight Street, San Francisco

SAHARA, MR. JONES?  (excerpt)

Mr. Jones, Haight Street was a celebration of people on Sunday. The street filled spontaneously at five minutes before three, and The Grateful Dead sang from two long trucks in front of the Straight Theater.
At least 1000 people packed into the block facing the musicians. People had to squeeze to move anywhere, but the congestion was loving and non-pushiness prevailed.
Strong vibes from the Dead. "I need your love in the middle of the night..." ...a play from a balcony...a speech for the Black Panthers and Huey...a cheer for Alioto.
The police aren't wearing their riot gear and are friendly. Two Reserve officers (volunteers) look like Boy Scouts in their green uniforms. There are no traffic problems. Cars wait for pedestrians on those north-south cross streets, which are open to cars at the request of some businessmen.
The street festivals are bringing all of the merchants more business, says Laura, of I & Thou. She rapped with merchants who stayed open on Sunday.
The only negative vibes come from an increasingly isolated kill-joy, a Mr. Jones. He is a straight businessman in the Haight Ashbury Merchants Association, and he says, "These kids are from the bottom of the barrel. They stand outside my store day after day. Today I had to sweep away their orange peels. Tell them if they want to play drums they can go to the Sahara Desert."
Most of the community is too excited about new plans for Haight Ashbury to worry about Mr. Jones... [Various community representatives] are busy with plans for new festivals...
SDS plans to present a 5000-signature petition to the Board of Supervisors this Monday. They are asking the Board to keep Haight Street open every Sunday.
Other community leaders are looking into free art materials, games, and music for future Sunday happenings...
"O how happy we would be," sang a stoned Haight Street quartet last Sunday.

(by Jan Garden, from the San Francisco Express Times, 7 March 1968)

(From a second article, "Cars to Roll on Haight Again":
"Mayor Alioto's office announced as we went to press that Haight Street would be completely open to traffic this Sunday, and every Sunday thereafter until the police, fire, and public works departments certify that closing the street will pose no special problems. The chances of this happening are zero.") 

* * *


Haight Street became a mall for the second Sunday in a row by order of Mayor Alioto -- but this time the scene was a little less cool.
By the end of the evening the sweet smell of pot had been overcome by the stale odor of beer and spilled wine. It doesn't help matters that the straights from Daly City and San Jose might have been the cause. The day ended without any major incidents, but a bit off the groove.
This coming Sunday the action will be shifted to the panhandle and the park to allow for an assessment of the scene and for legislation to be initiated to make the mall a regular thing.
Meanwhile the community will marshal its forces to present its views to the Board of Supervisors; and to lay new and better plans for artists, guitarists, rappers and meditators to brighten and enlighten the street in the future, if all goes well.

Last Sunday the barricades went up promptly at three o'clock. Traffic dwindled, and the happy people filled their street.
Guitar players did their thing in doorways and on the street. At least one rock group made pleasant sounds in the park, and the Grateful Dead trundled out a truck in front of the Straight Theater and "let there be music."
Earlier in the day, in the spirit of "mall day," painted dashed circles appeared on the street labeled "trees," "flowers," "redwood trees." Mostly the vibes were as pleasant and serene as the Sunday before. Oddly enough, some of the pleasantest people on the street were cops -- badge 139 of Park Station beamed a smile and talked with the kids, another cop let the kids climb all over his motorcycle, and a foot-cop later in the evening dug deep for coins to give to two Black kids who had spent their carfare money earlier in the day.

But there was also a difference between this Sunday and last -- perhaps the same difference that distinguishes love from passion.
Political posters coupling the "liberation of our street" with other causes put some people uptight. Others yearned for the spontaneity of the previous Sunday. "Already an institution" some said, and complained that radio stations plugging the closing had pulled too many tourists into the area.
To complicate matters, a soccer game at Kezar tended to load the street with beer drinking soccer fans once the stadium let out. Traffic cut the street at two intersections, Ashbury and Clayton, directed by pleasant-minded cops. But the street was that much less free. At ten o'clock, the last knot of celebrators in front of Tracy's dissolved and the street reopened to traffic as scheduled. Aside from a few quickly-cooled scuffles, the time of the mall passed quickly and, as they say, "without incident."
Asked to assess the day, Al Rinker of [Haight-Ashbury] Switchboard told KCBS, "It's a neighborhood street and we wanted to put Sunday back in Sunday for the neighborhood.
"Frankly, having a rock group on the street was probably a little too strong -- we love the Dead and are glad they played but we ended up with more of an audience effect than a participation effect."
Other observers also were unhappy because the crowd jammed around the Straight completely cut off any kind of pedestrian traffic down the street, defeating the purpose of the mall. 
[ . . . ]
For this coming Sunday the action will be shifted from the street to the park and the panhandle pending the big push to make the street into a Sunday mall. The Mayor's liason man to the Haight, Mike McCone, said:
"Twice now the Mayor has declared Haight Street closed to traffic as an emergency measure. To become a regular thing, the street closing will have to be voted on by the Board of Supervisors in open hearing to allow for a fair sampling of community opinion. This is legally required by the city's charter.
"As far as the Mayor's office is concerned, we're anxious that the Haight should have a community climate in which the functions and activities of the street will benefit all."
In politically-savvy quarters it's felt that closing the street again by executive order would antagonize the Board of Supervisors and be prejudicial to a fair hearing of the whole community.
In the meantime, there's a growing spirit of cooperation between hip and straight in the Haight. [ . . . ]

(by Thomas Benji, from the Berkeley Barb, 8 March 1968)

(From a second article, "Hash Hopes Brought Down":
"Hopes for further festive street closings on Haight were squashed Wednesday when SF Mayor Joseph Alioto shifted responsibility back to the Board of Supervisors. Alioto was nudged by Haight property owners who objected to recent Sunday street happenings.
The mayor indicated that closings of the Haight would be possible only if proposed by the entire surrounding community. Normal channels for such a proposal now again go through the Police, Fire, and Public Works Departments, and a committee of the Board of Supervisors, and the entire Board.
Alioto for the past two weeks had used his special police powers to close the street to 'avert traffic congestion and other problems.'") 

Short film clips here and here.

November 10-11, 1967: Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles


Something groovy happened in L.A. last weekend, and most people were not ready for it. Remember the Freak-outs the Mothers staged in the Shrine early last year? They're back - almost.
A group of promoters called Pinnacle rented the Shrine Friday and Saturday, signed the Buffalo Springfield, the Grateful Dead, and a new S.F. rock trio, Blue Cheer.
Everything was just right: no age minimum, dancing legal, the best sound system I've heard in L.A., plenty of room, and top rock groups.
However, the spirit of the people was missing,. They weren't turned on. At the Freak-outs, there were beautiful people in groovy costumes (at least half), almost everyone danced, or rather Freaked Freely. Here, though, inhibition abounded. Very few danced, almost no one really got into it. People played concert and sat down and listened. So many came in straight clothes, it looked like a vast sea of narks. $3.50 a head and how many really enjoyed it?
The music was truly exceptional - Blue Cheer blew my mind and almost blew my ears. Three guys, a bass, lead, and drums use eight amp-speaker systems producing more volume than any other group, anytime, anywhere. However, I fear they overdid it and were too loud for the auditorium. But next time they play I hope they reduce volume at least to the pain level. As I write this the next day my ears still ring. This group has an album in the works and it should be groovy.
The Grateful Dead were next to play, and here was the mistake Pinnacle made in programming: The Dead are a heavy blues-rock group, not a freak-out group, and they were out of their element. Despite this, they put on a commendable performance.
Next was the Buffalo Springfield, one of L.A.'s best rock groups. Every song a mind-blower, doing all their single hits including their first record "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing." This song was not much of a hit, but is very heavy in lyrical content and generally a very groovy piece of music. How about a re-release for this song, guys? It deserves another chance.
The Springfield's finale was "Bluebird" - thirty minutes worth! It just went on and on and on; every second a more fantastic trip than the previous! The people that dug what this group was into were enraptured. Wow. The Buffalo Springfield is one group whose albums don't do them justice. But then, how could one possibly put thirty minutes of incredibility on one side of an album?
Pinnacle plans more of these in December and I think it's just what L.A. needs to really turn it on. When the show comes again next month, let's really make a freakout of it, in the fine olde tradition.

(by Mike Pearce, from the Los Angeles Free Press, 17 November 1967)

See also:

11/10/67 now released!  

Aug 2, 2018

August 28, 1967: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco


Chocolate George lies in state, looking like a wax figure of Attila the Hun. A fur cap hides his bare head, shaved when the doctors tried to repair the skull Chocolate broke when he flipped over the handlebars of his Harley.
His grease-smeared Hell's Angels jacket is pinned like a battleflag on the underside of the coffin lid.
A hundred Angels and their women walk into the funeral chapel from under the bright morning sky to hear Sonny Barger, head of the California Angels, say a quiet eulogy.
[ . . . ]
In front of the chapel, the president of the San Francisco Angels' chapter shows a friend a red-printed leaflet emblazoned with a helmeted skull. "S.F. Party for Chocolate George," the sheet says, "Golden Gate Park. Bring Food, Drink, Smoke, Wail.
"The Dead. Big Brother."
Fifteen hundred people follow the map and the word to Lindley Meadow in the park. Before the rock bands arrive, the scene looks like two medieval armies lined up on hills separated by a small valley, wondering whether they should do battle.
The cyclists line the roadside next to their bikes. A growing cluster of hippies sits on a hill across the shallow valley, under a phallic pagan sculpture. Both groups are waiting for it to happen.
The numbers balance, then tip to a predominance of hippies, the gentler outcasts. The groups infiltrate one another and become a strange, large sea which speeds the pulse of passing tourist buses and extra police patrols.
Two cops stop their car, get out, and lounge with deliberate ease at the back of their vehicle. A tambourine passes through the crowd, gathering coins for the beer run. Carved pipes pass from mouth the mouth, wafting a sweet, happy smoke.
A green pickup arrives with thousands of cans of beer floating in shaved ice. Shirtless, hairy Angels pelt each other with snowballs and hurl showers of ice through the August sky into the crowd.
The Grateful Dead ride in atop an Avis truck. They park under a tree, plug in, tune up, and the celebration turns on.
A visiting cyclist is annoyed by a dog. He lashes out with his boot. An Angel's dog. The dog-kicker disappears in a crush of angry bodies. When the writhing huddle parts, there is no one left lying on the ground.
The sun is getting lower in the sky when Big Brother and the Holding Company begin their sound. It goes on and builds until something in the crystal chorus tells the throbbing crowd that this is it, the high end of the celebration for Chocolate George.
Strangers, friends and onlookers evaporate from the meadow within minutes. A Hell's Angel is dead, honored, gone. ...

(from the Berkeley Barb, 1 September 1967)

Film clips here, here, and here.

Aug 1, 2018

June 21, 1967: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco


"Come to the Summer Solstice with costumes and love in your loins and sleeping bags," said (Diggers dig anonymity) Another Digger Wednesday evening.
The summer solstice will occur Wednesday, June 21, at about 9 pm. A great celebration sponsored by everybody is planned. The celebration will begin at sunrise on the 21st and last "probably all day and night and day," Miss A told BARB.
The permit for the celebration covers the whole park. Everybody can just go off in a corner and groove or they can gather at any of the planned events: a magician competition, motorcycle and chariot races, archery and games of all sorts - perhaps even barges on the lake.
"People really should come in costume," A said. "They mostly should come as themselves, but really as themselves. To consider what period and what civilization is most themselves, like what they embody - or their astrological sign. Whatever their essence is. Bring flags, bring torches, bring things to give away." [ . . . ]

(by Robert Hurwitt, from the Berkeley Barb, 16 June 1967) 



BARB was sure that we would be alone at four thirty Wednesday morning in the cold at the top of twin peaks but we were wrong.
BARB was there along with several hundred other hardy souls to open the Summer Solstice Celebration.
Many people were chanting the Hare Krishna, many people were grooving, and many people were in the process of making both documentary and news films.
There were TV newsfilm crews from as far away as Salt Lake City and film crews from at least one major studio in Hollywood and at least one major independent film producer.
All this work had little effect on the assembled troops. BARB saw many many very joyous people and was touched by the sight of a blind boy who had apparently walked the two miles by himself at that early hour to welcome the summer.
By midday 5000 were milling, dancing, listening, and doing their thing in the Golden Gate Park Polo Field and the surrounding meadows.
An 8 foot canvas globe appeared and was bounced above the heads of the crowd to calls of "turn on the world." A lady in a tent painted peoples' faces, and hundreds made paper flowers to deck the park shrubbery.
The Grateful Dead, the Mad River, Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Black Swan, Alcoholics Anonymous [sic],  and several other groups played at various places around the park. The Diggers provided a barbecue of roast [line missing]
[Every]body grooved.
Photographers and moviemakers were everywhere, and San Francisco's finest were scarce and cool. At day's end many walked down to the ocean for the sunset, and others bedded down to wait for dawn.
Everything seemed to come off very well, there were no hassles, and things looked good for a summer of love in the park.
The solstice did not produce anything more sensational than many people having a very good time, but that is what happened. The park was used to its best advantage and the legend of San Francisco and its beautiful people continues to grow.
(BARB went to press before Thursday's celebration - Ed.)
(by Sam Silver & Tom Ferguson, from the Berkeley Barb, 23 June 1967)


Due to a greater than usual sluggishness on the part of my inner and most secret organs, I didn't get Solstice-bound until after eleven, and didn't reach Golden Gate Park until after twelve.
(Which was all right, I guess, since I never REALLY intended to make the sunrise service on Twin Peaks. I mean, I figured it would probably make it up all right without me.)
At first blush, the scene near the Polo Grounds was a little disappointing, primarily because of the small turnout. It seemed as though I'd seen more people crammed into Provo Park than were at the Solstice, but this may have simply been an optical illusion: ten in a phone booth makes quite a crowd. But not in Golden Gate Park.
Then, too, the place didn't seem to have the spirit that the Be-In had. The Solstice planners, as I recall, intentionally and self-consciously decentralized the activities, and this may in turn have decentralized the spirit.
Crowd management, it seems, is an either/or proposition: either you cram people together in an orgy of nuzzling flesh and face the tyranny of the bandstand, or you provide a number of bandstands and put up with the natural tendency of people to split up into their own bag-groups.
Personally, I like a little pushing and shoving: that way, all the individual body charges collect into a common cloud and begin to crackle and flash. The Solstice, on the other hand, took place under uncommonly quiet skies.
Since my wife had to work and I have no other friends to speak of, I was pretty much on my own all day. So I watched people (and "people," I must confess, is generally synonymous with "women").
And so, I am prepared to offer a few fashion notes. Hippie girls pretty well ignore the middle road: the skirt is either thigh-high or ankle-low. And hippie girls are also far less meticulous about the way they sit. A thigh-high careless-sitter is one of those best things in life that are delightfully free.
Each time out I find fewer bras in operation, which is one of the more hopeful signs on the horizon: freedom, as they say, communicates.
I might single out for comment two free-fashion setters who caught my eye and held it: one was a pastel beauty wearing a sheer black blouse without benefit of bra or bandaid, and the other, a slightly more buxom lass in a thigh-high smock slit to the waist on either side who ran past me with the wind unfurling the back panel to reveal an exquisite pair of dimpled buttocks sans couture. (That sounds like a menu item, doesn't it?)
Among the men, I must note a Negro in whiteface, and several members of the post-Blowup set decked out in mime. There were a good many painted faces, and dozens of glued on psychedelic flimflams. And one man walking around like a lost drawing from the Ramayana.
So far as the music went, I couldn't visually identify any of the groups except the Grateful Dead; and my only comment here is that I never realized before how much Jerry Garcia reminds me of Monty Rock III. (You don't know Monty Rock III? Tsk-Tsk.)
Unfortunately, the sound equipment made most of the music sound like Lloyd Bridges on a tuba.
For those wrapped up in their own bags, I'm sure the day was a total groove; for the rest of us poor schmucks I'm afraid it was just another voyeuristic eye-splash.

(by Richard Ogar, from the Berkeley Barb, 23 June 1967) 

See also:
The Way It Was (CBC documentary)

Jul 27, 2018

July 1973: Mama Tried...


An estimated 600,000 young people showed up at Watkins Glen, N.Y., last weekend for a rock concert. That means there were 1.2 million parents biting their nails and drinking booze to keep from thinking the worst about what was happening to their children.
I speak from personal experience because I donated a daughter to the concert. Actually I didn't give her to the concert. She gave herself. She announced in no uncertain terms that this concert was the most important thing in her life and if she missed it there would be nothing worth living for.
The fact that she had heard the same group, the Grateful Dead, three weeks earlier in R.F.K. Stadium did not enter the picture. She hadn't, she pointed out, heard them at Watkins Glen - and if you didn't hear them at Watkins Glen, then you just couldn't say you had heard them.
After my daughter departed in a Volkswagen with five other people, I had a lot of time to think about Watkins Glen - all night to be exact. Why would 600,000 youths drive hundreds of miles, wallow in the mud, bake in the sun, and do without water and shelter to go to a rock concert that most of them couldn't even hear?

The answer is that all over this great country of ours, there are millions of teen-agers aimlessly wandering around with nothing to do and no place to go.
Everyone needs a goal in life. And when it was announced there was going to be a concert at Watkins Glen, it gave these rootless young people a place to head for.
In India it would have been the Ganges, in the Middle East it would have been Mecca. In the United States this year it was Watkins Glen.
For the first time all summer these 20th-century gypsies had a purpose in their traveling. They all turned and faced New York, some with cars, others with buses, and many with nothing but their thumbs.
With a goal ahead of them, their lethargy left them and their spirits brightened. Now when they called their parents collect, they could say with pride that they were going somewhere.
What started out as a rock concert put on by a couple of smart promoters turned into a religious rite for which no sacrifice was too great to be where it was happening. 
All over America bourgeois parents turned on their television sets to watch with trepidation as helicopters hired by the networks filmed the masses of humanity down below. There they were, 600,000 of our children, wall to wall, sitting on the hard ground, zonked out by bearded men screaming into electronic speakers that shattered the eardrums of anyone within 20 miles of the bandstand.

The big question every parent must have asked himself or herself was, "Where did we go wrong? You spent 18 years of your life seeing they got all their vitamins, making sure they did their homework, teaching them to brush their teeth, providing them with a security you never had. And the final result of it all was down below in some pasture land in New York State where they came to blow their minds."
But, as I have been told many times, it isn't for us to judge what our children do. Our only role in the summer of '73 is to accept their collect telephone calls so they can let us know they're still alive.
And so as the sun came up over the Washington Monument, I stood in my bathrobe on the balcony facing New York State and the only thought I had was, "It could have been worse. We could have been living in Watkins Glen."

(by Art Buchwald, from the Los Angeles Times, 5 August 1973 - syndicated column, originally run in the Washington Post)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

See also: Art Buchwald, "A Ticket to Writhe" (6/23/94)

Jul 12, 2018

July 4-5, 1970: McMahon Stadium, Calgary (Festival Express III)


The Festival Express rumbled into town early today and Calgary - which has been anxiously awaiting the arrival with emotions ranging from joy to apprehension - hardly noticed.
The welcoming party at the CN station was confined to a horde of taxis and half a dozen youngsters on bicycles asking for autographs.
But it was just as well that nobody knew where and when the special charted 14-car train was arriving, because none of the 140 people - including more than 50 performers - felt like facing a throng of fans.
The official schedule will tell you that the group - which includes some of the currently most popular rock music acts in North America - is performing at three concerts across the country.
But the people on the train disagree.
Between bites of ham and eggs and while piling into taxis, they told The Herald that the festival has been a week-long party - with all the things that make a good party.
"It's the best -- party I've ever been to," howled Janis Joplin over her breakfast. And it was obvious that for her - with hair flying in all directions and her raucous, grating voice - the party was still on.
The specially equipped train included two cars, fully equipped with amplifiers and musical instruments.
Among the performers is the French-Canadian hard-rock singer Charlebois, regarded by many as the radical, separatist voice of young Quebec.
And there were the elder statesmen of Canadian folk music, Ian and Sylvia. "That's an unfortunate description," Ian said as he boarded a taxi. "But we are glad to be here and it was really a wonderful trip - what I can remember of it."
"We're all like one big team," said James Good, of James and the Good Brothers. "At Winnipeg we were cheering each other on. It's like we were all going out to face the world together."

(by John Gibbs, from the Calgary Herald, 3 July 1970)

* * *


The cross-Canada rock music festival - featuring 22 acts - rolled into Calgary early today aboard a 12-car charted CN train amid charges that the festival represents a "cultural rip-off" of the young.
Two young men, claiming to represent an organization called the May Fourth Movement, demanded Thursday that ticket money be refunded and the festival opened to all free of charge.
They called a press conference at the University of Calgary student union building and charged the festival - jointly produced by Eaton-Walker Associates and Maclean-Hunter Ltd. - with "capitalizing on youth."
"They (the promoters) have taken our culture and are packaging it and selling it back to us. The young people in town will decide what to do about it just as they did in Toronto and Winnipeg," said 20-year-old spokesman Jim Rudy.
Promoters of the festival are still optimistic, however, that they'll have a quiet, peaceful and "successful" festival here despite slow ticket sales to date and the low attendance in both Toronto and Winnipeg, where only 4,300 paid to see the concert.

(from the Calgary Herald, 3 July 1970)

* * *


CALGARY (CP) - A group called the May Fourth Movement called a news conference at the University of Calgary, Thursday to knock a rock festival scheduled for McMahon Stadium today and Sunday.
"We demand that the entire weekend be free to everyone and that the ticket money be refunded," said Jim Rudy, a spokesman for the group.
"This rock festival is a cultural rip off. It is putting our culture in a package and selling it back to us at a profit."
Mr. Rudy said the news conference was called because the May Fourth Movement is upset that "basically, the people putting on the show - Eaton-Walker Associated Ltd. of Toronto and Maclean-Hunter Publications - have a long history of oppression."
"Maclean-Hunter forms part of the ruling class of Canada whose only concern is to make larger profits, not what happens to people.
"We also object to increased police harassment of young people.
"I've been in this city a long time and have never seen the police cracking down so hard like they have been recently. They are creating paranoia among the kids so that they can't have a good time this weekend."
Asked if his group would attempt to disrupt the festival, Mr. Rudy said:
"The people will decide what to do. We don't speak for everybody. We do have quite a sizable supporting group but it wouldn't be politically expedient to reveal any numbers."
He noted that only 4,000 tickets had been sold for the festival and said this "shows that the kids are becoming conscious of how the capitalistic system operates and are rejecting it all."
"The entire weekend, everything, should be free."
Earlier, local festival promoter Don Lloyd announced that a free rock festival would be held (Friday) on an island in the Bow River.
Mr. Lloyd said the free festival will feature local bands and is "something for the kids who have nothing happening this weekend."
"We must face the fact that many young people just don't have the money to attend the major rock festival this weekend.
"Rather than be forced into giving a free concert Saturday and facing the same problems as Toronto, we thought the pre-festival show would be a good idea."
Prices for advance ticket sales for the Calgary show are $10 and $12. In Toronto, a number of people were arrested during a demonstration protesting high prices.
Mr. Rudy said the free show is just a means to contain young people until the McMahon Stadium show starts at noon Saturday.
The Calgary show is the third in a province-hopping affair called Festival Express 70. Mr. Lloyd said attendance in Toronto and Winnipeg was far below expectations, with 4,600 paid admissions in Winnipeg.
"I think the promoter is going to lose money, but he's still prepared to go ahead," he said.
About 100 residents of the McMahon Stadium neighborhood and the nearby stadium shopping centre filed protests with the Calgary police commission opposed to the staging of the show, but the commission said Monday it does not have the power to cancel it. [ . . .  ]
But Mr. Lloyd said "we're looking forward to a cool, happy festival." He said organizers and police have taken great pains to defuse the possibility of trouble - including hiring 50 potential radicals as aides to work as ushers and attendants inside the stadium.

(from the Brandon Sun (Manitoba), 4 July 1970)

More on the free festival that Friday: 

* * * 


Gate-crashers could shut down this weekend's rock festival, warned Festival Express promoter Ken Walker as the performers straggled off their private train this morning.
"No one is getting in free or I'll close the show," Mr. Walker said.
"Performers have to earn a living too - and they don't want to do anything for free. If they want to they will - but that's charity."
Anyone seeking free entertainment will find themselves facing an empty stage, he added.
"We'll just pack up and leave the stage equipment there to hum.
"It'll still be a great show - we've got one of the greatest stage sets ever."
Rock music may create opportunities for violence, Mr. Walker said, "but there's no way the two belong together.
"Anyone who comes to break heads or cause trouble has ideas not in keeping with what the train and the performers stand for.
"Stopping the show is the most emphatic way to show this."
If the crowd has to be stopped, it remains a question just how big an audience will be disappointed.
The last ticket-sale figure given was 4,000 - well below the 20,000 to 30,000 predicted.
Local promoter Don Lloyd, however, said today that "Thursday was the best ticket sale day we've had to date." Mr. Lloyd said he did not have a precise figure, just general reports from ticket outlets.
Mayor Rod Sykes, meanwhile, has made public a detailed list of the services that will be available to the young people who are pouring into the city - for the festival or in spite of it.
[list of hostels to sleep at]
The mayor also announced free food will be served at the YMCA and at Prince's Island.

(by Catherine Campbell, from the Calgary Herald, 3 July 1970)

* * *

An Idea Whose Time Is Past.

Ian Tyson, perspiring over a drink, sums the whole thing up.
"The festival thing is dead." He has to raise his voice over the din of the press reception. "That's last year. This year they're losing their shirts."
(Across the sticky hotel room two members of the Festival Express crew take the cue and strip to the waist - in a bid to cool off.)
"I feel sorry for Kenny Walker (Eaton-Walker Associates) and people like that. They're losing their --'s." The last word is unprintable.
A radio interview shoves his mike in front of Ian Tyson (Canada's Ian and Sylvia, Great Speckled Bird).
Interview number, 9,847 or something like that, as Ian points out later.
After 10 minutes the interviewer confides he's from a "sort of underground" station in Edmonton and wonders "if there's anything you'd like to add?"
"Hell, if I'd known that I'd have used my special vocabulary."
Instead Ian rolls his eyes and tells the tape recorder, "I haven't played Edmonton in a long time, but I'm looking forward to playing it again. Maybe," he beams, "this summer."
The radio man shuts down and moves off.
Ian mutters another unprintable, turns back to his drink, and starts to gossip about the Toronto scene.
"Lightfoot doesn't do anything for nothing, don't worry. He's a real business man."
But there's too much attention to gossip for long. Ian Tyson is one of the few of the Festival Express celebrities to show up for the special press reception Friday, marking the arrival of the 22 acts in Calgary. Most of the people in the crowded room are members of the media dressed in sandals and, if they've managed to find them, battered jeans.
"Look at the dudes," French-Canadian singer Charlebois sneers at the press representatives.
He leans back, regal in the red and white striped trousers and white cowboy hat and black and red and white cowboy boots.
"Bought them today," he replies to a question from a curious reporter who happens to speak a little French.
What about the hat? Someone present that to you?
Charlebois is indignant. "I bought this." He taps the brim. "This is quality; it's going to last."
The reporter, changing the subject, asks how things are in Montreal.
"Ahhh," Charlebois beams. "Montreal." It comes out More-ee-all. "It's a real good scene. Lots of Negroes and draft-dodgers and big bands. Lots of fun."
The new outfit, he confides, is something he'll save for somewhere besides Calgary. "Maybe back in Montreal.
"Here I'll wear my Canadiens hockey sweater. It would be better for them here, no?"
A with it bandsman wanders by sipping a milkshake. Another illusion shattered.
James of James and the Good Brothers explains that his group spent the day on a trip to Banff.
"We went to the top of Mount Norquay this afternoon. Fantastic.
"But the cops stopped us on the way - searching for dope.
"So while they were looking we just got out our instruments and played them a few tunes." He grins.
"While they were going through our stuff, they were sort of tapping their feet."
Someone is trying to persuade Charlebois to go to a party.
Charlebois looks up in astonished innocence. "Here in Winnipeg?"
The man gives up after a few minutes.
Someone connected vaguely with the management of The Band (The Band didn't show up at the press reception) is commenting vaguely that Festival Express is "no Woodstock."
Woodstock, the festival in New York state that drew 400,000 last year, has become a by-word; a legend among festival legends.
"But don't worry," he adds cynically. "Just wait two weeks and this will be turned into another Woodstock."
A photographer, hired by the promoters to record the tour, flashes a picture.
"Anyway," the Band man adds with a shrug, "in Winnipeg when we only had a couple of thousand kids, it really happened." He laughs.
"You'd get high just being downwind of the stage."
A Calgary newsman strides in wearing white pants and white shoes and an electric-blue velvet shirt.
Even the other media people wince.

(by Jacques Hamilton & Catherine Campbell, from the Calgary Herald, 4 July 1970)

Two other article fragments from the July 4 Calgary Herald:

Friday. The Festival Express grooved along railroad tracks into Calgary, heading for a weekend performance promising to outdo recent shows in Toronto and Winnipeg.
Friday night. A press reception by the twenty-two musical groups turned into "something a little [?]." This [pre-taste] indicated the entertainment will include something "appropriate" to every audience, Saturday morning. Total attendance figures in Calgary not yet tallied, but no matter.
The performers were undaunted by small audiences in Toronto and Winnipeg. Even disappointing turn-outs can be turned on. "We're a team," said one musician. "We turn audiences into a sort of with-it standing ovation."

The bellboys were hustling trays loaded with tomato juice (hangover remedy) through the halls of the hotel Friday morning... As the temperature rose, so did the number of tomato juice trays.
Festival Express '70 had hit town earlier in the morning; now the hotel was crammed with distracted-looking musicians, promotions men, bodyguards, fans - all tired.
Some were less tired-looking than others, depending on their experience with the routine of touring. Mashmakhan - new, Canadian, on the verge of making it - looked like they were still revelling in the experience.
"It's fantastic, man, it really is. This train has been really incredible, really incredible."
Speaking is Jerry Mercer, drummer [of Mashmakhan]...

* * *


You don't just attend a rock festival, you either groove with a total sensory involvement or it doesn't work.
Festival Express, 1970, worked.
The music, all 23 hours of it, ranged from the mediocre to the fantastic, but hearing is only one of the senses. Mind you, it was the sense carrying the heaviest burden with tiers of amplifiers sending out solid layers of sound which could crash and crush your mind.
On stage, the strutting, leering musicians from Sha Na Na, the hair and feathers and abandoned motion of Janis Joplin combined to give your eyes a sense of perpetual movement. On stage or off, your sense of sight was wild with the confusion of not knowing where to look next.
As for the music, I don't think anyone was disappointed.
Janis Joplin was obviously the queen. She topped Saturday's bill, coming on in an explosion of sound and sight which set off a chain reaction in a turned-on crowd that wouldn't let her go. She sings bluesy rock in an almost unhuman voice, low, earthy tones alternating with high, piercing notes which sounded like someone had keyed a chorus of sirens to an organ console. She never lost control either of her voice or her audience.
Janis was one kind of experience, Sha Na Na another. Sha Na Na does a parody of 1950s rock and roll, basing this caricature of what rock was on a sound knowledge of how rock and roll should be played. That this sneering, greasy-haired bunch succeed is shown by the fact that while you laugh, you also tap your feet.
When Sha Na Na sing Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay, they may not be far wrong. Most of the groups threw in a rock and roll number, and the audience lapped it up and called for more.
As well as a trend toward reviving basic rock and roll, the recent rush for Nashville was also in evidence. At times it was hard to tell whether the festival was devoted to rock or to country and Western music.
The Grateful Dead did the Nashville bit along with some heavy, free-form rock which had the ground trembling. Some of their stuff was so wild and so loud it left people near the speakers a little light-headed.
One of the best groups was Mashmakhan, a Canadian assembly which has a lyrical, contemporary sound that blurs the line between pop and jazz. Sunday, they were at the top of their form.
The Band, also Canadian, was very much in evidence. The Band's set closed the show on Sunday and the crowd, I think, would have gladly kept them on until daybreak. They did very well, as did Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, a heavy group from the U.S.
The best local group was the Gainsborough Gallery, a hard-driving, talented bunch of musicians who hold their own in a top-flight international line-up.
Tom Rush and James and the Good Brothers turned in the best vocal performances. Both have acts which I would gladly watch any time and any place.
So much of the music was good and everybody joined in experiencing it. If some of it was bad, it didn't really matter. It was a two-day high in a different world, a remarkably good world.
That's what mattered.

(by Bill Musselwhite, from the Calgary Herald, 6 July 1970)

* * *


Festival Express has left its mark on Calgary: a peace symbol and a victory "V" for both crowd and police behavior.
Except for the weather, everything was cool in McMahon Stadium Saturday and Sunday as thousands of young people revelled in sunshine, music, and various refreshments.
The only storms occurred outside the stadium: two near-futile attempts at gate-crashing and one violent thunder, dust and rain storm which began just as the first band took the stage Saturday.
"It's a sign," muttered a disgruntled girl, glowering at the swollen purple clouds.
"Stand up and show the sky what you think of it," shouted a voice from the stage.
The plea launched the first demonstration of the group solidarity that grew throughout the weekend.
Apparently encouraged by thousands of threatening gestures aimed at the clouds from the football field, the sun beamed at its scorching best for the rest of the festival.
"It's just like a great big picnic," enthused Dr. Dunbar Rapier, a child psychiatrist.
"People are flying kites, throwing frisbees, and running around.
"I can't understand what all the fuss was about beforehand."
Tents, blankets, sleeping bags, and lounging bodies obscured the ground in front of the stage, but the far end of the stadium remained a playground for the energetic.
Frisbees caught the wind and hung among the gulls who were awaiting the scraps from thousands of lunches and suppers being consumed on the grass below.
Footballs, beachballs, and occasionally people - hurled upwards by groups wielding a parachute in trampoline fashion - spurted spasmodically from the throng.
Toddlers challenged their elders in rolling races down the steep slope at the end of the football field.
Turning up at the festival without a small child in tow - or at least an exotic-looking dog - seemed almost like wasting one of those rare times when everyone is welcome.
Tolerance was the byword.
Accidental victims of errant frisbees, sandwich-thieving dogs, and the inevitable jostling, accepted their fate with good humor.
Line-ups for food, phones, and gate passes were patient.
A lost wallet containing $150 was returned to its owner - intact.
Sharing cigarettes, wine, drugs, and food was spontaneous.
As the first group of performers mounted the huge stage each day a euphoric mood settled in: The audience surprised itself by being content to merely sit and listen for 12 hours, idly observing the more intriguing forms of dress and dance.
Camped in a back corner of the stadium, two almost unrecognizable school buses held court.
The Rabid Dog Bus Line - a pale brown parody of another more prominent bus company, and bearing the warning "Caution, Weird Load" - was parked behind Blue Bus Number Two.
About 25 travellers from the eastern U.S. inhabit the Blue Bus and its two "cabooses" - Volkswagen vans.
"But it fluctuates, man," explained a Blue Bus dweller. "People are quick to adopt the bus."
The bus-riders - including innumerable babies and puppies - are aiming to attend every festival they can, until the nine-year-old vehicle collapses.
They give away balloons, candy, and toys, and earn their keep by doing odd jobs.
One, a tall, solemn-looking man, clad in a white sheet and carrying a cardboard box and long spike, made a noble, if hopeless, attempt at leaving the stadium litter-free.
On the side of the blue bus is painted: "The question is not why - but why not?"
Though suffering in the hottest-possible uniforms, police inside the stadium were credited by most festival-goers with "keeping their cool."
Flinging footballs, chatting to just about anyone, and ignoring drug and alcohol consumption appeared to be a routine - and successful - aspect of their duty.
"This is a really good assignment," said one young policeman. "The kids inside the stadium are great - though outside it's a bit different. The price is the reason - they shouldn't have charged so much.
"About half the guys (on duty in the stadium) don't like the music much. But this is really my kind of sound.
"In fact," he confided, "when I'm through here I'm changing my clothes and heading for Prince's Island."

(by Catherine Campbell, from the Calgary Herald, 6 July 1970)

* * *


The party was on the second floor of the York Hotel in Calgary last weekend.
Janis Joplin, clutching a bottle of tequila under one arm, bounces into the room with beads a-swaying to and fro. She takes a lick of salt, a swig of tequila, and a bite of lemon.
In a colorful language, known to friends and fans, she enters a group conversation at one side of the room.
Tom Rush, a soft-spoken folksinger, sits in a corner sipping a Labatts 50 and chatting with a man with a beard.
In another corner, Ian Tyson, his wife Sylvia, members of the Grateful Dead and The Great Speckled Bird are engaged in a jam session.
Charlebois, wearing a recently-purchased black and red cowboy hat, searches for someone who speaks French. Eric Andersen is talking with an unidentified musician.
Others in the spirited gathering include members of Sha Na Na, Mountain, and James and the Good Brothers (Brian and Bruce).
It was Friday night and the Festival Express was preparing to run out of steam. The entertainers were warming up for their last three nights together.
Chatting with Miss Joplin, Rush, Ian and Sylvia, and other entertainers at the bash, I learn they all dig the Vancouver scene and were disappointed Vancouver as a site for the festival was cancelled.
"I'd love to play Vancouver," said Rush.
Miss Joplin, who was scheduled to appear solo in Vancouver Friday night, said it was unfortunate the show had to be cancelled.
Brian Good said if his group could get a booking in the Vancouver area, they would head west without hesitation.
Many of the entertainers and people who travelled on the 12-car CN Festival Express train, expressed regret that the journey had come to an end.
For the first time, top entertainers in the rock and folk music fields had become a closely-knit package; jamming together, eating and sleeping together, and partying together.
The Friday night party comes to an end well past dawn. Everyone gets a few hours sleep before heading out to McMahon Stadium for 12 continuous hours of music.
The party resumes Saturday night after Miss Joplin brings the on-stage day to an ecstatic close. The guests include the same entertainers who are just as generous with their informal jamming.
At 5:30 a.m. Sunday, the last of the merrymakers hit the sack. Out to McMahon again at noon for another 12 hours of music, sunshine, and whatnot.
Sunday night the party is subdued and thinned out. It comes to life with members of the Sha Na Na picking up their guitars and violins. The hectic weekend quietly comes to an end at 3:30 a.m.

The Festival Express is over but thousands of people in its path will long remember its run from Toronto to Winnipeg and on to Calgary.
Asked Ken Walker, co-promoter of the festival, whether he would do it again but he replied: "I don't know."
There were a mountain of headaches for Walker during the festival but when bags were being packed in Calgary for homeward journeys, entertainers and others agreed he had done "one hell of a job."
Many agreed the idea to gather big name singers and musicians and carry them across Canada on a train was "beautiful" and should be tried again.
If there is a Festival Express Revival, hopefully the Vancouver area will be able to accommodate it somewhere.

(by John Cosway, from the Richmond Review (Richmond, BC), 10 July 1970)

(Picture captions from this article: "McMahon Stadium in Calgary where more than 20,000 young people took in 24 hours of music, sun and fun last weekend. Nudity was briefly visible during a short shower early Saturday morning. Police looked the other way when drinking and pot smoking were done openly." "Mellow sounds come from soft-spoken Tom Rush, performing under sunny skies... Popular Canadians Ian and Sylvia were among the favorites during the festival. They appear with their backup group, The Great Speckled Bird. The dynamic duo, married for six years, have been performing together for 10 years." "Several encores were demanded of Delaney and Bonnie and Friends Sunday night. The super-group was followed by The Band which brought the Toronto-Winnipeg-Calgary festival to a close. Rain threatened in Calgary but never fell.")

(The 7/6/70 Nanaimo Daily News (BC) also reported:
"A few minor disturbances were reported, but an estimated 20,000 young people generally did what they came to do at McMahon Stadium Saturday and Sunday...
Residents and businessmen in the stadium area had expressed fears that the show would lead to trouble.
About 9,000 persons turned out Saturday and 11,000 Sunday. Another 1,000 listened outside the stadium, apparently unable to afford $10 to $16 for a ticket.
Wine and beer were consumed openly, with police looking the other way...
Personnel at medical drug centre set up at the stadium reported fewer casualties than expected, but noted that several youths appeared to be suffering from malnutrition."

* * *


NEW YORK - While the actual dollars and cents figures, loss or profit of the recent Festival Express hasn't yet been released, the success of the Festival was immense from the standpoint of the performers.
After being cheated out of the Montreal market, because of St. Jean Baptiste Day, a supposedly holy day, and suffering some losses in Toronto because of a near riot by penniless thousands spurred on by professional agitators, the Festival Express thundered out of Toronto, on time, and displaying the showbiz thing. It was partying all the way with jam sessions keeping the artists and musicians happy until they hit the windy city of Winnipeg. They didn't gather up all the bucks they had hoped for in the 'Peg and moved on to Calgary, where again it was nip and tuck insofar as profits were concerned.
After the last act appeared on the stage in Calgary, Janis Joplin called promoters Ken Walker, Thor and David Eaton, and Dave Williams, on stage. The performers had gotten together a little bread and mounted a mini-train on a plaque with a suitable inscription to the promoters for "putting together one of the best shows they've ever been honoured to participate in." Said Miss Joplin: "If you don't hire us the next time, please invite us." She then made her own personal gift presentation, a case of Tequila, which was broken open on stage and a scene similar to the finale of "Hair" took place.
Considering the money taken at the gates, the monies paid out to the performers, including the no-play Montreal date, the chartering of the train, food etc., it's hardly likely any money was made by the promoters.
Prior to the Toronto date, the Police Chiefs and their Deputies were invited at the promoter's expense, to fly into Toronto to pick up pointers on how to overcome any problems, should there be any, when the Festival appeared in their areas (Winnipeg and Calgary). They also arranged for the hiring (on loan) of John Saji from the newly organized Toronto Police Community Relations Force, to fly ahead and organize "freak-out centres" in the other cities. In view of the expected hundreds of acid trips for the shows, valium for antidotes were arranged which, according to the reports, kept the bad trips to a minimum.
When Terry David Mulligan, flown in special from CKVN Vancouver, to host the last show, brought the curtain down, profit in dollars and cents may not have been evident, but profit in experience and good relations with the odd exception, was exceptional. Noted one observer, "the clash between the rebels of the system chalked up big gains for the establishment who, unbeknownst to most, actually acted as arbitrators between the two warring factions."

(from Cash Box, 25 July 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

See also: (Rolling Stone overview) (more Calgary Herald reports)