Apr 30, 2015

March 21-28, 1972: Academy of Music, New York City



Perhaps when the day March 29 dawned on Necropolis, blessing with preemptive spring warmth and sunshine, there was no connection between that sudden burst of life and the fact that as thermometers rose in Central Park dark during the night, the final note of “Saturday Night” and seven days of Grateful Dead music was booming like a rainbow surfer’s dream through a synchronated mass of human energy contained by the pulsating walls of the Academy of Music. Matters of cause and effect are liable to take strange turns in the minds of the faithful when consciousness-expansion passes through town on that good old tried and true Grateful Dead tribal bandwagon.
At that precise moment in time, the point where Bob Weir struck his last blow into glowing pink air positively reeking with the barnyard scent of the universal tool, guitar falling like some thunderous flashing celestial hammer, stopping frozen at the bottom of its arc, then wheeling back up and away over his head, anything seemed possible; the rush was on the riding wild; the earth was turning and you could feel it, like you had just jumped off a bike at 100 mph and you were standing there, still traveling but suspended, body and brains reeling madly between perfect free-floating connection and scrambled sensory overload…the usual, in fact, the normal Dead-induced high point.
Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist, explains: “In relating to somebody who is seeking more space, the basic thing is being able to open a window, to let them see that there is more space before you can even think about it. I think we’re just a first step in that whole progression, and on a good night we can illustrate that there is more space.” (Rolling Stone, February 3, 1972) 
How do they do it? Art and science and magic all adding up to advanced expertise in cosmic trickery, fancy-fingered tripping along the road to the grail; random historical accidents bringing them together at the start of the psychedelic revolution, spearheaded by them and Kesey’s Pranksters, Owsley and his acid, Golden Gate Park, Summer of Love, the Acid Tests, the fabled brotherhood of Dead and Angels on the streets of San Francisco, Altamont, multi-colored, multi-media mind-blowing emporiums of crazy, terrifying, ecstatic new world visitations upon conscience-stricken America. Where are your children, parents? They’re out on an evening with the Grateful Dead, blitzed on acid and changing overnight while you worry about them being raped or something. Everyone who heard them in the halcyon days of hip has his or her tale about the start of something big, about the first night Jerry and his troupe of Cosmic cowboy philosophers hit town…
Now, after seven “official” albums and six years of music ranging from the incredible atmospheric excursions of “Anthem of the Sun” and “Live Dead” to the sweetly bubbling torrents of new-style country-rock that grace “American Beauty” (a delicate rose of an album, as its title implies), they are stars with money and fame; they sell whole stacks of albums; they’re beginning to make “solo” albums – Garcia’s is out already, and Bob Weir has one coming under the title of “Ace,” by all accounts a work liable to impact with the force of 10,000 atom bombs, strings and horns and choruses and all. As yet they have not made it to the cover of Time, or played the Garden or Shea Stadium, but that’s not their style. Who knows, though; one day somebody up there on Madison Avenue may just catch onto what’s been happening in this country for the past six years or so; maybe someone will realize that the Dead are the most beloved freak band on earth.
Their style is self-effacing to the point of invisibility; what really matters is the music and what they can do with that potent tool. Whereas the Stones have an acute understanding of the power of theatrics, and employ their knowledge to the full, the Dead treat that side of the rock ‘n’ roll life with circumspect caution, draping themselves in the denim of the masses while they blast out music which is both amazingly complex and delightfully, dancingly simple. It’s all in the coordination of instruments, the exquisite rightness of a harmonious blend of two guitars, bass, organ, piano, and drums (groundwork driving by Phil Lesh on bass and Bill Kreutzmann on drums, middle-ground shifting fill by Weir on guitar, Pigpen on organ, and Keith Godcheaux on piano, flights of fancy courtesy of Captain Trips (and now, occasional vocals by Keith’s wife Donna).

A scene from long ago before the bullets and the onset of grisly reality. A Manhattan party is buzzing to the tune of acid punch; a monstrously fat female scumbag resident, still beautiful unto herself, coils her rolls around a bearskin rug, all but smothering the frail male she clasps to her heaving acid-ripped bosom. “Alligator” by the Grateful Dead is flowing from everywhere; Jerry has just finished a flight. The Blob reveals a Truth to her captive companion: “He’s Gandalf, man.” A long pause while the Pig grunts and groans and the alligator slithers in and out of his slime, then a contradiction: “No, no, no, no, man – he’s Bilbo!!!” “Ooooh, OOOOOOOOH, he’s both, man, he’s Captain fuckin’ Trips!!”
Backstage at the Academy of Music, Jerry Bildalf Trips, the homey dwarf with the lightning at his fingertips, picks organic orange out from between his teeth lost somewhere in a riotous sprouting of wiry locks, and mutters something cryptic about rock ‘n’ roll stars-cum-spiritual leaders; it’s a position he has to acknowledge, but finds difficult at times, especially when he gets to thinking about just who his audience is these days.
The truth of the matter is that when a six-day New York concert sells out in less than that number of hours, the audience is likely to contain an overwhelming majority of Seconal pubelets (this after the commercial success of the Dead’s last three albums and, of course, the explosion of Hip). The teentsy hedonists react to the Dead like so many Pavlov doggies, bouncing their plump butts from first note to last, openly imbibing the most noxious brews available at the cheap end of the druggie market, while the music mood shifts from easy-rolling rock-country-blues, then into the heaviest rock ‘n’ roll currently available to mankind, and then on and out into the space music stuff – an optional extra on almost any Dead number, usually reserved for the last hour or two when audience heads are open and the band themselves are fully in synch. Jerry is careful with his charges, knowing he can accomplish something beautiful, maybe ease some tensions, transcend some contradictions, cut a few knots and let the Flow take over.
Above all, the Dead are a road band; try as they may, they have not yet been able to reproduce their amazingly pure live sound on record. “Live Dead” was badly recorded, too muddy on all but the very best stereo equipment. “Anthem of the Sun” was similarly flawed but nonetheless brilliant, and “Grateful Dead,” their latest double live album, lacked something almost undefinable, some fullness that must have been there from the start. With the ultimate live-recorded work in mind, they are taking a 60-track ABC recording unit (containerized for air travel) with them on their first tour of Europe – that and a permanent sound system which truly boggles the mind. It’s an earthbound spaceship, nothing less, attended with loving devotion by a whole itinerant tribe of technician heads. And while that mighty recording mother gobbles up the notes for their next double live album, the European natives will feast their eyes on the Great Garcia t-shirt (still the garb of C.T. despite a visit to Nudie’s meant as a concession to English foppery). The lights will be slewing all over the walls, and those who gave birth to the Stones will come face to face with a phenomenon they still don’t really understand. They will.
Besides the sound equations, though, there is the color of the concert experience, the scarlet midnight hour when the theatre of the absurd mingles and warps with joyous inspiration, grisly reality, and a whole mess of the most freaky little flashes; Mickey Mouse by R. Crumb all dolled up in polished tinsel and an old workshirts, while onstage the band plays out fire and rain and sunshine into a hallful of feelers waving crazily in the dark. Octopus feeding time.

The Dead played seven nights with one night off; Saturday was their benefit for the Hell’s Angels. Then they played as backup band for Bo Diddley, ranged in a grinning line behind Big Bo’s black silk bulk, the best band he’s ever likely to play with. It was party night, and their own set was loose, nothing too strenuous. The first night and the last were the musical high points, but Sandy Alexander, president of the New York chapter of the Hell’s Angels, was ecstatic, and why not, indeed? He’d come with his brothers from 3rd Street and all over the USA, riding shotgun to the Angels stagecoach on their gas buffalos. They pulled up to the curb on 14th Street in a ragged but impressive line (what else can you expect in Saturday night traffic – “The Wild One?”), and after they’d all been filmed by Geraldo’s Hipnews Concession, the Grateful Dead their old buddies went and threw a monster of a party for them. What a fuckin’ night!!!
As the boogie progressed, tasty party mayo splashed all over the green leafy stuff – hard cash for bail money, spark plugs, chrome polish, and all the other expenses of high style Angel living. The Breed never showed up (luckily for them), and the party was cool. No Rolling Stones to slide that little extra manic hysteria in there; no Altamont, no stabbings, just party time, everyone awash in a frothing sea of vile foamy liquids, psychedelic beercans, innocent but potent macrobiotic cookies, weed by the ton, coke by the ounce, speed by the pint, Boone’s Farm strawberry wine…
“Let’s get it on for the Hell’s Angels of the USA!” yelled Bob Weir into the mike, and while some more impressionable brothers almost swooned away from sheer excitement, the band launched into their first number – “How sweet it is, to be loved by you…”
WATCH OUT FOR THE FUNNY-LOOKING JUG, they had told me by way of warning, but the intrepid drugger in me took over, and in the twinkle of an eye, while the Dead launched into their best-ever “Dark Star” (this being Tuesday night, the last show), a jabbering circle of groupies, writers, chemists, and Angels dissolved into misty dayglo abstracts to the festive tinkle of discarded nitrous oxide cylinders plinking onto the floorboards like so many spent shell-cases. If only it had been like this at Verdun; it probably was like this at Da Nang. Is that really an unhorsed knight I see lumbering ducklike in fetid armor? A plastic toy cowboy horseman minus steed? A Viking lost in a time warp? A Roman slave-master? Why, no, nothing of the kind; it’s just an out-of-town Angel reeling away from his turn at the hose, playing walking custard pie.
Why is Jerry always off on the sidelines, grinning that hairy grin?
Tuesday night again; two Bronx groupies bump and grind their way past the demure ladies of the Dead tribe, like cheap hookers in a free-school communal dining room. One of the velvet cutie-pies washes Bob Weir in a flood of garlic from a yellow maw, and confides that she used to be a topless dancer (and worked her way up?). Weir says “far out.” Just another little vignette of the road, another mote in the old sunbeam. Why is that hairy man grinning?
Tuesday night the Dead played the best set I have ever heard, every note in place, every opportunity for improvisation taken. “Trucking” slid into one of Weir’s new high-power country rockers, loaded with melody and texture and sweet sliding riffs; that boy has finally learned to sing, with a vengeance. The Pig rendered sweeping blues, blowing everything from his tiny emaciated frame down into his wailing harp. Jerry took the lead on “You Win Again” from way back, and then it was time for some sensuous pyrotechnics with “Mister Charlie.” “Brokendown Palace” followed, back in the sweet groove, then “Cumberland Mine” with a rip-roaring extension, another new Weir number, “Big Railroad Blues” slamming down the track almost like Casey’s train, “El Paso” like Marty Robbins 10 years on and out, a magnificent collage of pieces from “Anthem of the Sun,” “I Know You Rider,” and then, to top it all off with a true blast of sheer power, “Casey Jones,” roaring the first set to a close. Thunder and lightning could do no more.
By the time they were done with “Wharf Rat,” “Dark Star,” “Sugaree,” “Playing in the Band,” “Not Fade Away,” “Going Down the Road,” and “Saturday Night,” several thousand delirious people had entered orbit – and we’re back where we started. As usual, the second set was much, much heavier than the first, and Tuesday night the boys in the band were on the ball as never before in my five years of Dead experience.
Sitting hunched over on an empty speaker case while the Academy crew sweated to comply to the strenuous demands of the Dead crew seeking perfection (that’s the name of the game, all the way from self-management to guitar-strings), Jerry Garcia pulled on an only-the-tops-special, relaxing before the serious stuff started that first night. “It’s really far out, just too fuckin’ neat, man,” he said with that same huge grin. “I mean, we’ve only just started getting’ into what we can do. There’s no limit…and we’re all feelin’ good.” Now, ain’t that good news?

(by Patrick Carr, from the Village Voice, 6 April 1972)

I posted a comment on a shorter edit of this article here

* * * 


The Grateful Dead gave a benefit performance for the Hell’s Angels at the Academy of Music on 14th Street on Saturday night. A venerable tradition: benefits by performing artists to aid the victims of injustice. How did the bikers enter this category?
Last weekend the police burst into a six-story tenement on East 3rd Street that the motorcycle gang has almost entirely taken over. They found revolvers, 1000 rounds of ammunition, knives, a machete, and a bomb. They arrested two Hell’s Angels, Vincent Giralomo and Anthony Morabito, who have long arrest records, and held them on $75,000 bail each.
The police raid had its origins in an incident of the preceding week. According to residents of the block, a slender young Puerto Rican boy was walking from the bodega at the corner of 3rd Street and First Avenue, carrying a bag of groceries, when one of the Angels pounced on him and took a can of beer, a pork chop, and some other food. The Angel, who has been identified by police as Giralomo, is a fat and powerful-looking six-footer who wears a ring in his nose and tattoos over most of his body, including “Fuck You” spelled out on his knuckles. According to the boy, the Angel punched him and sent him crashing against an iron tenement staircase. When the police arrived they found the boy sobbing, his face bloodied and swollen.
The boy was visiting New York from Puerto Rico and was badly shocked by the attack, but residents of the block were not so surprised. They spoke of frequent harassment and occasional beatings of passing blacks in the three years since the Angels settled on the block. They complained about the Angels’ practice of randomly insulting women who pass their headquarters and the 2 and 4 a.m. revving of motorcycle engines.
One woman who recently moved away after living on the block for 10 years said she left because of the “hideous – even painful – noise of the motorcycles, the garbage piled on the sidewalk in front of the Angels’ building, and their conversion of half the block into an outdoor garage for their bike. The Angels have imposed law and order on the block,” she said, “their law and their order.”
The admission fees of thousands of suburban teenagers at the Dead’s concert will enable the arrested Angels to meet their bail and continue to roam East 3rd Street until the trial.

(by Ann Aboto, from the Village Voice, 30 March 1972)

Apr 5, 2015

July 11, 1969: New York State Pavilion, Flushing Meadow Park


. . . Going to the New York State Pavilion of the World's Fail is not an appealing idea any time, and it was the last place I wanted to be Friday night - even if the Grateful Dead were there... I was down. Only because I had heedlessly committed myself, I went to a midtown office building and climbed onto a school bus hired by the press agent, alone and unable to bring myself to talk even to people I knew. Flushing Meadow Park, I hear, is a nice place for bike riding and sundry Sunday occupations, but to me it's an unmarked maze designed to trap people into death by overexposure to Queens. Directions for drivers just aren't there. Even the bus driver got lost. But when he finally got us to the Pavilion, it was revelation city...
The ad had called the Pavilion a ballroom, but that sounds like Roseland. It is open space, open all around to the sky and roofed finally three or four storeys high, if there were storeys which there aren't, vast and open all around you for skipping and dancing, which was actually happening. You can walk up to the bandstand close enough to touch a leg of whoever it is you want to touch on the leg on stage. No goddam revolving stage, no goddam lightshow, and no seats anywhere. When you get wiped out from skipping and dancing you can give in to the charcoal hamburger smell, luscious, which nags at you all evening because they've been shrewd enough to put the grills upwind, up on the balcony in the prevailing southwest wind. You walk away from the stage without the desperate feeling that the music is going to - whoopsh - stop and disappear without your constant attention. It'll be there when you get back, in fact it follows you to the balcony and to a picnic table where you can sit down with your food or without it overlooking the flow. When you go back down you can plant your ass on the mosaic New York State on the floor, if you must, but it's just about impossible when the Grateful Dead are playing.
The Dead, as usual, took half of a marathon set to warm up, but once they did they were unapproachable, irreproachable, as usual better than ever before. Pigpen, happily, was out front toward the end, swinging and singing up a "Love Light" that galvanized band and audience alike. Pigpen is music, head to toe, and it's a gas to see him in the group again. He transforms them when he swings in. Jerry Garcia's pedal steel guitar is a joy. The sound he gets on it is unlike any other steel guitar, just as his electric is unlike any other. His acoustic encore was as loving as the old days of San Francisco were said to be. The Dead are still like that.
It was a night of flow, relaxed and together, music and people both. Booking for the rest of the summer is somewhat less inspired, but there are highlights to look forward to - this coming weekend, Chuck Berry himself and James Cotton; later on, Charlie Musselwhite, Buddy Miles, among others; and as a grand grand finale, Paul Butterfield and Muddy Waters on the same bill. The Pavilion is a bargain at $3. I'm told the subway is easier traveling than driving - express a few stops on the IRT Flushing line to Willet's Point (Shea Stadium), and a 15-minute walk or possibly a taxi ride. If I have any taxi adventures I'll tell you.

(by Annie Fisher, from the "Riffs" column in the Village Voice, 17 July 1969)



See also Lucian Truscott's review of the 6/22/69 Central Park show, from the 6/26/69 Village Voice:
And Annie Fisher's review of the Dead's May '68 NYC shows, from the 5/16/68 Village Voice:
And Robert Christgau's account of their June/July '69 NYC shows, from the 7/27/69 New York Times:

* * *

The same Village Voice issue also contains a positive review of the Rolling Stones' 7/5/69 concert in Hyde Park ("the biggest, most vital, most moving rock concert ever"), a negative review of Blind Faith's 7/12/69 show at Madison Square Garden ("there just wasn't any feeling...lots of noise from the stage, and not much music"), and a review of the Velvet Underground's 7/11/69 show at the Boston Tea Party, which I can't pass up:

The Boston Tea Party, that town's answer to the old Balloon Farm, closed its doors last weekend. (It will reopen soon in a new and, alas, spiffier location; what the world really needs is fewer plastic pop palaces and more drafty old halls where kids, of all ages, can go cheap, sit on the floor and groove, or dance in wild abandon.) Anyway, to enhance the nostalgia, and add a touch of class to the proceedings, the Velvet Underground were asked to attend. The Velvet's cult is particularly strong in Boston. In fact, their cult is strong in almost every burg except their home town (New York), where they still seem to be regarded as local freaks.
I hadn't seen the Velvets in live performance since they held forth in the Gymnasium, which must be two years ago. (However, I can [ -- ] among that singular crew which has the pleasure of enjoying the Velvet's company on social occasions from time to time, and that, along with their albums, seemed to suffice.) But I am glad I decided, on the spur of the moment, to barrel up to Boston to catch them Friday night.
I hate to sound like Andrew Loog Oldham gushing liner notes on an early Stones album, but I realized after the sounds and images of the Tea Party concert that I had been right all along about the Velvets. They are one of the most brilliant groups around today, playing rock and roll, playing just music, knocking out strong stuff that one can dance to or freak out over. I had become accustomed to defending the Velvets against their detractors, but more on the basis of friendship than deep conviction. However, after listening to them go from "I'm Waiting for My Man" to "Jesus" (a remarkably original gospel-hymn) and then on to "Sister Ray," I am convinced, once again, of their merits. So was the audience, who gave them a standing ovation.
It was a joy to hear Lou Reed bursting out with "I'm Set Free." The song is a testimonial to the fact that the Velvets are indeed free of the Warhol stigma that stayed with them long after they left Andy. I was also relieved to discover that, although it sounds a bit different, "I'm Waiting for My Man" loses none of its power now that John Cale is no longer with the group. (He is doing very well on his own, incidentally.)
Cale's replacement, Doug Yule, plays bass (very well) and organ. Yule, it seems to me, fits right in with what the Velvets are into since Lou Reed (in his own words) "saw the light." He is an affable young man who fortunately did not lose his identity upon joining Lou Reed's band.
And that is something else I realized: the Velvets are Lou Reed's band. But that does not mean that Lou can do without Sterling Morrison's stoic presence or Maureen Tucker's distinct and incredible style of drumming. I think all the Velvets understand that. I think it is important for Lou to know that Sterling is there, looking for all the world like Gary Cooper. And Maureen, bless her little heart, has held them all together through many a long set with her relentless beat.
Someone (I think it was me) once said the Velvets were the Judy Garlands of Rock. And they are. But, unlike Judy, they have managed to evolve slowly, giving themselves time to mature and to appreciate themselves and their music, without being eaten alive by a voracious cult which just happened to have the intelligence and the sensitivity of appetite to dig them in the first place.
Yes, I am happy to announce that the Velvet Underground are alive, and well, and making live music. And the next time they are in Boston, or Philly, you really should catch them.

(by Richard Nusser, from the Village Voice, 17 July 1969)

https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=vOwjAAAAIBAJ&sjid=K4wDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1595,473568&hl=en (pg.36)

Mar 31, 2015

February 1968: Jefferson Airplane

Group Follows Beatles Lead: Run Own Show

The Jefferson Airplane have "divorced" themselves from the personal management of Fillmore Auditorium manager Bill Graham on February 6, following the lead of the Beatles, Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Each of these groups has taken its business affairs into its own hands on a strictly cooperative basis.
Bill Thompson, long the Airplane's road manager and now their spokesman (like Rock Scully and Danny Rifkin of the Dead, he is an integral part of the group and not an autonomous individual with his own, possibly conflicting, interests) was reticent about discussing the break with Graham but definite about the band's independence. "We might get other management," he said, "then again, the Earth might split open."
Like the other two San Francisco outfits, the first venture to interest Jefferson Airplane has been, naturally, a rock and roll show. The Great Northwest Tour undertaken by the Dead, Quicksilver, and Jerry Abram's Headlights - it was actually organized and promoted by Rifkin, Scully, Ron Rakow, and attorney Brian Rohan - was a huge success, not so much financially, although it did end up in the black, as in showing that an independent group-based operation could do everything the show business professionals could do, do it (musically) better, and have a good time doing it.
Even Rock Scully, who blithely remarked, "We knew along along we could do it...only before we were too busy scuffling and recording," was amazed at the way the tour, with the aid of a few well-placed posters and a phone call to the editor of a local and/or college newspaper, could create as much excitement in a Washington or Oregon college town as they would have caused by riding through its streets in the back of a circus wagon, plugged into a mobile generator and playing at full amplification.
"We walk into an empty hall," he said, "at 3:30 - the show's at 8 - by the time it starts we've transformed that place into a scene that would rival the Fillmore or the Avalon at their very best. They (the audience) were running into the place."
What struck everyone connected with the tour was the fact that the shows came off better - music, lights, communication between performers and audience - than similar productions with the identical musicians produced by outsiders. "There were 30 of us making a creative effort. After all, it was our thing," Rock said.
This is the atmosphere that Jefferson Airplane also hopes to capture in its future efforts. "The Airplane wants to change the concept of the rock and roll show," Thompson stated. "The San Francisco groups got into the business to have a good time and give a good show. But because of the conditions we ran into on our tour, we weren't able to give a lot of audiences the shows they should have been receiving."
The conditions he referred to are familiar to all traveling salesmen, professional athletes, high fashion models, and musicians, especially musicians: get off the plane, spend an hour or three in an uncomfortable motel room, go somewhere you've never seen before and do whatever it is you do for people who've never seen you before and get on the plane again to do it over again.
Jefferson Airplane is a big-time act (in fact it gets more money - up to $7500 a performance - than any other American band) and its members do not have to put up with the changes that many less successful performers do, but a grind is a grind, dull is dull, and tired is tired.
It was not specified whether the continuous live performances were a factor in the parting-of-the-ways with Graham, who not only arranged them, but expected the group to come up with fresh material on the road. However, the Airplane has resolved never again to undertake such a punishing schedule of appearances.
Among the new ideas the Airplane is considering is the possibility of traveling with the Doors, hardly unknowns themselves, with the bands exchanging material. This would give the audiences a chance to hear Jim Morrison soar into "Somebody to Love," followed by Marty Balin and Grace Slick singing "Light My Fire." The Airplane is also seriously considering a tour of Europe, accompanied by Headlights. If they make the trip they plan to set up some joint performances with the Grateful Dead, already booked for Continental appearances in April and May thanks to the efforts of the Dead's managers.
Setting its sights still further Eastward, Jefferson Airplane also hopes to become the first American band to play behind the Iron Curtain and is especially interested in performing in Russia. Thompson admits that he is still waiting to hear from Kosygin.
The Airplane's business ambitions do not stop at tours and concerts. They have set up a publishing company called Ice Bag Corp. Already in the works are two songbooks - for Surrealistic Pillow and After Bathing at Baxter's, the group's two latest albums - which are being compiled and produced by Gary Blackman, an Airplane associate and erstwhile publicity man.
Then there are what Bill Thompson calls "visuals." Conrad Rooks, the young movie producer-director, held a private, Airplane-only screening of his Chappaqua, then met with the group and found them quite interested in his plans for a feature-length film featuring them. (He didn't mention that when he first announced plans for a rock-and-roll-oriented movie it was supposed to have starred the Beatles and been shot in Nepal.) John Urea, a Los Angeles film maker who has already produced several shorts on musical subjects, has also broached plans for a film, and no decision has been reached on which (or both or neither) project the Airplane will engage in. But some sort of film definitely is in the works.
In another, more familiar medium, recorded music, the band finds itself anxious to record some new songs but is at loggerheads with its label, RCA Victor. The issue is again freedom and the hassle is centered in two areas: promotion and the actual conditions of cutting tapes.
After Bathing at Baxter's was terribly mishandled and underpromoted by RCA, according to Thompson, who suggests that the apparent incompetence may have been purposive on the part of the company, which wanted another Surrealistic Pillow and was further put out by the Ron Cobb cover design which the Airplane insisted on using., "Every record cover, every advertisement is going to be associated with the Jefferson Airplane and we have a right to the final say" is the group's position on the matter. They also want the record company to guarantee that a definite amount of money will be spent for promoting each album and single - said money to be turned over to the Airplane and its public relations firm to be used as they think most effective. RCA, it hardly need be said, is not rushing forward with wheelbarrows full of greenback dollar bills to meet this demand, but insists that the records are its products to be sold as it sees fit.
As for the actual recording, the Airplane musicians, especially Jorma Kaukonen, are notoriously unhappy with the RCA Los Angeles studios. They want to be able to name their own engineers and production people, choose their own studios to record in - in San Francisco, if they like, which, according to Thompson, RCA now forbids - and even start their own studios.
In essence, the Airplane wants to present the label with the finished tapes for a record and say, "Here." Thompson says that several members of the group refuse to set foot in a studio until these conditions are met. The group's contract is in fact being renegotiated following the departure of Graham, but if RCA gives away promotion money or allows the total control the Airplane wants, it will be a first in the history of the relationships between recording companies and artists.
A rock group going into business for itself may not be as simple as it seems. However, on the local scene, Ron Polte and the Quicksilver Messenger Service have just finished presenting a series of shows at the New Committee Theater in North Beach that featured performers as diverse as Charles Lloyd and the Ace of Cups, an all-lady rock band. The Grateful Dead/Country Joe and the Fish St. Valentine's Dance at the Carousel Ballroom on Market Street (which will be broadcast live by KMPX-FM just like Symphony Sid used to broadcast live from Birdland twenty years ago - "that was in another city") was immensely successful, as was the dance they held a month earlier at the same location.
While the Dead have no use for the "rock Establishment" here - such Establishment as it may be - and say, "The promoters have just been putting out pap. That's why we haven't played the (Avalon and Fillmore) ballrooms in the last 8 months," the Airplane thinks it will appear at the Fillmore again, perhaps soon, and Bill Graham, playing to the hilt the amicable ex-husband of his own metaphor, agrees. "Unless," he adds, "they become too big - like the Beatles." 
And the Beatles, it will be remembered, formed their own cooperative business agency, Apple Ltd., soon after the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, and so started, like so many other things, all this.

(from Rolling Stone, 9 March 1968)

See also:
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/02/march-1968-europe-tour-planned.html (from the same issue)
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/02/january-1968-tour-announcements.html and
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/07/january-30-1968-emu-ballroom-university.html (some Rohan/Scully publicity for the Great Northwest Tour)
http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2011/08/some-airplane-comments.html (Airplane interview excerpts)

Mar 30, 2015

July 1971: Joe Smith Interview


RS: You signed the Grateful Dead. What's the history of that?
SMITH: At the time I was in any number of jobs. I think I was a singles A&R man, national promotion man. I came up and saw the Grateful Dead one night at an unforgettable evening at the Avalon. I'd never seen anything like that, never seen a light show, people sitting around on the floor and immediately...
RS: Who took you by to see the Dead?
SMITH: Tom Donahue arranged it. I was having dinner with somebody at Ernie's in San Francisco, and I was wearing my blue Bank of America suit. My wife looks pretty nice in her basic black with pearls. Tom told me, "No one will notice over at the Avalon." When I got there I realized it was so - I looked like I was in costume, I guess, like everybody else. Heard the Dead, was really excited, because they were a rock and roll band like those I remembered in my years as a disc jockey, the period that everybody turns to now, Chuck Berry and Fats and Richard, those are the years, I was there when they brought around Elvis Presley and tried to explain that name to me. The Grateful Dead to me was that kind of band, one of the real rock and roll bands, and I loved it.
RS: When was this?
SMITH: It was 1966 - early '66. That night, that was my first meeting with Danny Rifkin and Rock Scully, who were the first of many management teams that have been with the Dead, and I met Jerry and Bob and Phil... After that, I didn't see very much of the band because it was Danny and Rock that I would see, and they were telling me what they could do in San Francisco alone with their records. The band was not known outside San Francisco; they had not played anywhere else.
RS: What did you think of Rock and Danny when you first met - this was your first sort of contact with the new culture?
SMITH: Yeah, it was really my first. I can't tell you what I owe the Grateful Dead personally - professionally and personally - I never tell them what I owe them - and I've said it before: I grew up a lot with them, I grew up learning there was another way to live, there was another way to make records, there was another way to sell records, there was another kind of music, and my real first exposure, after my proper, middle class background in Boston. It was rather a jolt, but never unpleasant - difficult sometimes because Rock and Danny and the guys really were different than anything I'd ever known, and I spent time at the house on Ashbury Street and we discussed producers and so on...they came down and they made their first album, and I never really had that much to do for the band themselves. They were, I think, highly suspicious of me.
RS: You told me once that Rock and Danny always - on negotiating sessions - would say, "You got to come take some LSD with us."
SMITH: They always felt that I should turn on to acid and they always told Tom Donahue that they were gonna get me, in the best way possible. I don't think there was any animosity about them getting me, but they felt I should really turn on with them, and I didn't see the necessity for it myself. I dug their music. Maybe I would've dug it more with acid. I never did do it, anyhow. I don't know if that colored the relationship or not, I think that's incidental.
It was extremely difficult because they made their judgments based on emotion without any sense of pragmatism. There was very little reality and much fantasy involved with the Dead during that period. I kinda get a little disturbed and so does Jerry Garcia at the point an interviewer starts, "How are you getting along with your record company?" They got along pretty fine with their record company; really, there was no trouble until after we did that first album, which was not a good album. Then there was a beef and we recorded all over the United States and mixed and mastered all over the United States, and put out an album that was...and then junked it all and started again.
RS: At a cost of what?
SMITH: At that point around $50-60,000. And then we finally got an album which was again not a good album...it was always my own feeling - I'm not an A&R man and I don't involve myself creatively, certainly with guys like the Dead who are so musical and know what they're doing - but I always felt that they squeezed all the vitality out of those performances by involving themselves with mixing and trying to fill up 16 tracks or 24 tracks or whatever, rather than playing their music and letting people hear it.
So then we got into the next album, and that was really a flash point, because by this time you must understand there had come Ron Racow into the picture, Danny Rifkin had moved out, and then Lenny Hart was involved, and before Lenny Hart, Bill Graham and Brian Rohan were in and out of the picture in management; so that seeing all these managers come about, and the boys themselves getting so screwed up with their own finances and always this SOS call to the record company, "The instruments are gonna be repossessed, we need tax money, we gotta have money," and so forth. We came through with the money every time because I really believed in this group. And then they proceeded to make an album everywhere in the United States of America. And then came the historic day that Brian Rohan and Bill Graham came to my office - they were managing the group at the time, that was before Lenny Hart - and we had spent over $93,000 and did not have an album yet.
I had just received a bill for $22,000 or more from a recording studio here. I really blew at that point and offered to sell them back their tapes and let them go anywhere they wanted to. Let's get out. And Bill Graham - it was the first dealing I had with Bill Graham in business - said, "What will satisfy you to pay this $22,000 bill at the studio?" I said I got to have - 'cause that's now about $120,000 and we're not through yet - I've got to have three albums out of all these tapes. My God, they had 20 miles of tape! They had recorded live, studio, everywhere!
I said if I can get the tapes for three finished LPs, it'll cost me $50,000 apiece but at least I have a chance, and I don't have a chance with one album to earn back $120,000. He went and talked to the boys, he talked to the band, and they did it, by god they did it, they gave me Live Dead, and they gave me one just before that too. Anthem of the Sun, Aoxomoxoa.
From the point of Live Dead we really took off because that was somewhat indicative of the kind of music they played and it was by far the most successful album. Then Lenny Hart got on the scene, Mickey's dad, and he represented the group. Now in the interim you've got to understand all the things that went down: we had kept our plan that the boys - Danny, Rock, Ron, the band - were doing to do a promotion tour with an album, it was gonna cost us $35,000, they were gonna do free concerts across the United States, they were gonna map out the cities, we were gonna provide the funds, the promotional help and so forth, loud speaker systems in parks, all set up, I had allocated that money, I had bought my company on it, I had taken $35,000 on it, and then they never did it. It all fell apart.
Then subsequently with the next album, the plan was the band, the family, everybody involved with the family was going out to promote this themselves. I think there were 12 people supposed to leave. The first day eight did not show. We were waiting at the plane, promotion people were waiting, and that kinda petered out and fizzled. Well, then there was the difficulty with Lenny Hart in which there is some claim that some money disappeared. And in the interim we had to face the decision whether to re-sign the Dead or not re-sign the Dead.
RS: What did the balance sheet on the Dead look like?
SMITH: The Dead - we had made money on the Dead, we had in fact come out, not very much, not very much, the Dead themselves were in a terrible hole, because of recording costs, and those indulgences over a period of time, they were in a negative position. We had not lost money because the Live Dead bailed it all out, the Live Dead was the last album in that first contract.
I had lived through these three years through these changes, I had watched what had happened with this band, I had seen a new certain maturity about their careers, about their lives and things they wanted out of life and about their music - which was always mature, it seemed to me - I'd seen that happen and I knew the Dead may never ever be super sellers, but they represent something in this rock music world and they have from me respect, really that...they have stayed together under circumstances that some of these other groups would have pulled the plug and run for the hills immediately. Always up tight for money, and even now we're in a hassle about renegotiating. They're with us for two more years, but last year we had to re-sign or not re-sign and come up with a good deal of money, and I forced that contract through.
I was not at that point one of the two principals of the company, I still worked for somebody, and I got a great deal of static about re-signing them, 'cause the deal was stiff, I gave them a fair deal, but I knew that our record company, if we do represent something in today's music, could not afford to let the Grateful Dead go, they are too much a part of the...and too much a fact of it, regardless of whether they meant a lot of profit for our company or a minor profit, they're too important for us to let them go somewhere else.
RS: You say you broke even on the Dead. What is the financial structure of making a record?
SMITH: I figure, a record company signs a new group, that they're on the hook $50,000 for openers. The group usually needs some money, you give them $20,000 advance or $25,000, whatever they need for equipment, to live, to get it together, to pay old bills, to be able to allow themselves the luxury of rehearsing without pressures on them and playing gigs...anywhere, new bands you can pay anywhere up to $50,000 if their reputation is sound. And then you've got to make records with them, and nobody makes records for less than $25-30,000. An album by the time you're into it, you've got a cover, you've mastered and mixed it, it's very difficult to count on doing it for less. Occasionally you can but...
RS: A modern five, six piece band...
SMITH: The studio time is so expensive, 16-track, over $100 an hour for the time in the studio, and then you must promote them, you must do some kind of job in presenting them, properly merchandising them and offering them to the public. If you're going to sign a new act, you're in $50,000, and consider that low.
RS: Let's say the retail price of a record is...
SMITH: The listed retail price is $4.98 for a record. We sell it to our distributors - that's the only part we're involved in - the landed price comes down when it's all over to about $2.10 an album. That's what we get, what we sell it to distributors for.
He then sells it to his retail stores, his racks for $2.47, $2.74, the different price structures, whatever the market takes.
[ . . . ]
RS: How much do the royalties account for?
SMITH: Well, the way it breaks down - it's kind of a complicated system. We base the royalties on a retail price, the $4.98 minus what is called a "packaging deduction" in the record business, for the raw record, the pressing of it and the cover, so we pay a royalty percentage on the basis of $4.44.
RS: $4.98 less what is actually costs to manufacture?
SMITH: 50 cents is more than it costs. It doesn't cost 50 cents to manufacture, it costs maybe 30 to 38 cents, but then again $4.98 is not a realistic price...but there had to be some kind of ground rules. I had hoped that we would all get together and make some more realistic appraisal of what royalties we pay...each percentage from our company is 4.4 cents, so if you have a 5 percent royalty deal, you'd be getting about 22 cents per record as an artist. For publishing royalties, you usually pay anywhere from 18 to 24 cents a record, an album, usually 2 cents a selection. That's got to change now too, because you're getting 8 minute selections instead of 12, 6 on a side, so that you're really cheating somebody to pay them 2 cents for an 8 minute selection and 2 cents for a 3. So we are paying royalties, and then we have to pay the manufacturer of the record, and we have to pay American Federation of Musicians 1 1/2 percent. They get 6.6 cents for every record produced in the country . . . On top of that we have to amortize all of our costs. That's not bullshit, we really have to do that, and our profit margin, the profit margin on a record, depending on royalties, is anywhere from 75 cents to $1.00. Well, you don't make profit until such point that you cover that money you put up in the first place.
RS: If you gave an act $25,000 in advance and $25,000 to record the album, how many albums do you have to sell before you start making money?
SMITH: We start making money after we've sold 75-80,000 albums. That gets us off the hook because we're recovering - at 75-80,000 albums we've made, at 75 or 80 cents an album, we've made our $50 or $60,000. Now we're off the hook, but promotional costs are not recoverable, they are out of pocket expenses, the tour, ads in Rolling Stone and Billboard are non-recoverable, non-chargeable, they are the cost of doing business. You would have to sell on an act about 75,000 albums to be even. That's pretty staggering.
RS: And that pays the group back all their advance money?
SMITH: No, the group does not have their advance money back because they are recovering it at a much lesser rate than we are. You see, they are only recovering at 5 or 7 or 8 percent, but they are also recovering in terms of publishing, so a normal act is making no less than 5 percent. Figure they are making 7 percent, which is about 30 cents, 50 cents an album - at 100,000 albums they've paid back all their advance and their recording costs, and from then on they're earning, they're ahead of the game. They're making it at that point.
It used to be, in the old days, making record albums in four days, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, that you didn't charge the artist studio time because the studio time was four days, and now studio time is so prohibitive and you're subject to such indulgences of artists, in addition to those who sincerely need all that time, that the record company would have to be able to recover that or we couldn't exist. When I say at 75,000 you get even, you know how few albums sell 75,000 - 10-15 percent of the albums. 
[ . . . ]
RS: The standard royalty these days with a rock group starts somewhere around 7 percent.
SMITH: 5-7 percent and they go up to 10 percent. You see, you have to pay a producer who shares a couple of percent too, depending on who the producer is. Those are standard deals. And artists now are asking less for advances than for good royalties. I think the tolerable limit for any new act is around 10 percent. If you're dealing with the renewal of a contract like for Simon & Garfunkel at this point you may be talking 12 or 13 percent, but what does that matter? You're taking a little bit less profit but there's no risk any more. 
[ . . . ]
We're going to have to protect those artists we have in terms of their own investments and future because they are going to drop out by the wayside, they are not going to be as popular. I told Jerry Garcia that he and Delaney Bramlett had worked on every album last year except The Humpbacked Whale.
RS: Do you see a process whereby the talents of an artist are just mined beyond where they can go?
SMITH: It's possible that Delaney and Bonnie spread themselves out over so many projects - God, producing records for people, playing on dates, making their own albums, getting together a road show, playing at benefits, popping up on other people's concerts to play - they became the yentas of the rock world, they were everywhere. Maybe they just didn't take care of enough business to make something for themselves.
[ . . . ]
RS: One can see how the record business has changed with the Grateful Dead coming along, with this sophisticated rock and roll audience. That accounts for sales of the Grateful Dead or the Rolling Stones, say, between 300-600,000, and that's been dominant for the last three years, but now it seems to be slipping. Sales seem to have peaked, unless you can get an AM hit. . . .
SMITH: Yes and no. [ . . . ] That sophisticated audience - we have another artist who's in that bag of the Dead, that I wish would explode more, he's even had AM hits; I'm talking about Van Morrison, a particular favorite of this paper.
RS: What are his sales?
SMITH: Van's in the 250,000 class, 275-300,000 at best. This album is around 280,000, something like that, it continues to sell but there have been two major hit records from it, two AM single records. We're still searching around, that's a big problem.
RS: Would you say it comes down to the fact that he is without sex appeal?
SMITH: It could be. Van doesn't throw off star quality, he's a silent, very private little guy who is an absolute musical masterpiece. I think the sheer weight of his brilliance as a writer - I don't use that word loosely - I'm talking to so many major artists who are looking for Van's songs, and looking to his next album to find things. I think he has an influence, that will do it, he'll go in the back door. He himself will not a star. What he'll represent will be a star, the fact that he is a silent, brooding genius, sitting there throwing off great hits and making great music. He'll explode, he'll explode before the Dead will explode, unless the Dead catch a single record.
But this super-sophisticate audience is growing in numbers, I think it is growing in numbers, I think they will continue to be a very important influence. . . .

(by Jann Wenner, from Rolling Stone, 8 July 1971)

Mar 27, 2015

April 1967: Album Review


Warner Bros. 
This album is different from what you might expect from looking at the psychedelic record jacket.
There are no electronic or weird noises (except for the conventional electric guitars) and no psychedelic lyrics. Rather, the group is similar in many ways to the blues-oriented Animals and Rolling Stones.
The Grateful Dead consists of Jerry Garcia, lead guitar; Bob Weir, rhythm guitar; Phil Lesh, bass; Bill Sommers, drums; and Ron ("Pig Pen") McKernan, organ and harmonica.
The lyrics of the songs have been accurately described by Lesh and Garcia, who do most of the writing, as "nonsensical and banal."
However, it is difficult to ascertain this from the record, as the instruments drown out the voices most of the time. The songs are for the most part rock-blues. There is only one slow song, "Morning Dew."
One mostly instrumental tune, "Viola Lee Blues," lasts ten minutes, in which the tempo gradually speeds up, the music slowly gets louder, and the pitch gets higher and higher, until a climax is reached and the beginning tempo is returned to.
"Cream Puff War" will probably become a hit. It is catchy, and the rhythm changes from 4/4 to 3/4 and to 1 several times, similar to the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" time changes.
Besides the instrumental work being better than average, especially the organ, there is really nothing special about this album. The Grateful Dead are supposed to be one of the best groups in the San Francisco area. According to several reviewers and hippies, they are supposed to be fantastic in person.
To let the San Francisco sound go unspoiled, Warner Bros. gave the Grateful Dead a unique deal, allowing them complete control over material and production. It isn't that great.

(by Jackie Harper, from the "Record Reviews" column, Daily Aztec, 11 April 1967)

http://digital.sdsu.edu/view-item?i=171958 (page 5)

Mar 25, 2015

July 2, 1971: Fillmore West, San Francisco


Fillmore West finally closed last night, but the San Francisco Sound - that mystical product which includes geography, chronology, and life-style as well as music - had its Fillmore closing on Friday and Saturday nights when the Grateful Dead, Hot Tuna, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Yogi Phlegm (the original Sons of Champlin) played their final sets for Bill Graham at the venerable Market and Van Ness ballroom.
Only Jefferson Airplane was missing (Marty Balin has left the group he founded and Grace Slick has been bedeviled by minor ailments of late) but the musical guts of the band - lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and the surpassing bassist Jack Casady - were present as the leaders of Hot Tuna.
The Dead played Friday and, needless to say, dominated the evening. The house had been sold out for a week and people started lining up seven hours before the doors were opened...not for tickets but to assure a close proximity to their beloveds.
The Rowan Brothers opened the program, augmented by the ubiquitous Jerry Garcia (Garcia was to play guitar and pedal steel guitar from 8:30 p.m. to nearly 3 a.m. with only three breaks along the way). The New Riders - with Garcia on pedal steel, Bill Kreutzman on drums, and Marmaduke offering up some gentle vocals for your dancing and listening pleasure - followed with silky smooth country rock and their large contingent of admiring howlers in full disarray, shouting and hooting, an embarrassment of wretches, love and affection and dope measured by decibels and stripped throats.

Then at 11:15 p.m., Bill Graham took the microphone, as he is wont to do. "After all the (bleep) that's gone down over the years," he intoned, "I'm very grateful to them and consider them friends...The Grateful Dead."
The crowd erupted, the Dead's psychedelic amplifiers began spitting, one of the Heavy Water light shows girls started moving in a Westernized version of Tai Chi Chuen, a mini-flame thrower behind the musicians split the darkness. Garcia, now on conventional electric guitar, embraced the room with a molten solo and the band - the group that many think is the world's greatest rock and roll band - began a three-hour set interrupted only by one intermission.
They did "Me and Bobby McGee" and a smashing "Good Lovin'," did not do "Midnight Hour" or "Dancing in the Streets," and generally played with a mutual rapport, inventiveness, and musicianship attained by few groups in the short history of rock
And one more thing...they played with pleasure and joy and made the audience feel good. There aren't very many major groups that have that effect anymore; there aren't that many groups left that want to play music quite so much.

Saturday opened with a good set by Yogi Phlehm ("Who picked your name?" "We got it from a horoscope.") and closed with Dino Valenti's agonized vocals and guitar leading a Quicksilver which, without John Cippolina, isn't really the original Quicksilver.
But the evening, for me, belonged to Hot Tuna, which had graciously consented to take second billing to Quicksilver.
Kaukonen, Casady, Papa John Creach (the nonpareil fiddler), and drummer Sammy Piazza played a two-hour set which ranged from the pure, tingling blues of "Rock Me Baby" to the old folkie "Know You Rider" to the hoe-down of "Never Happen No More" to the wildly exciting "Three Weeks on the Road," a tune on the upcoming new Airplane album which evolved from the written song to a 15-minute jam session among Kaukonen, Casady, and Papa John.
The Tuna vibes were similar to the Dead's...bodies in the crowd bobbing as if each were undergoing individual and personalized earthquakes, a phenomenal blonde dancer named Renea on stage - a fifth member of the group - the smiles and joy, the carillon bells sound of Jorma, the soaring violin of Papa John, and the earth-rending bass of the unflappable Casady, a separate amplifier-speaker system for each string: notes as powerful and assertive as their author is quiet and slim.
It was our music at its very best...

(by John Wasserman, from the "On the Town" column, San Francisco Chronicle, 5 July 1971) 


* * *


"This is going to be the greatest motherbleeper evening of our lives," Bill Graham delicately announced Sunday night at Fillmore West, and in many ways it was.
The crowd - which had stretched four and five deep down Market to South Van Ness, and then nearly to Mission Street by 7 p.m. - was suffused in an extraordinary eight-hour orgy of rock, nostalgia, sentiment, balloons, beer, champagne, and a gathering of musicians rarely equalled at one time in one place. They were joined by tens of thousands of homes which picked up the live broadcast on KSAN and KSFX.
Creedence Clearwater Revival (making its first public appearance since 1970), Santana, Tower of Power, and jam session participants Michael Bloomfield, John Cipollina, Sam Andrew, Van Morrison, Jack Casady, George Hunter, Luis Gasca, Lydia Pense, Linda Tillery, and Sammy Piazza - among others - provided the music, Graham provided the potables, and the ghost of nearly six years of the best rock and roll music in the world took care of everything else.

It is neither inaccurate nor maudlin to say that there will never be another night quite like it. It was a magnificent wake - in the old Irish sense of joy-sadness - for Bill Graham, for San Francisco, and for rock. All will continue, of course, but the whole will no longer be greater than the sum of its parts.
The ballrooms - which combined the informal intimacy of small clubs with the financial advantages of the big auditoriums - are dead. In one month of the summer of 1967, the old Fillmore Auditorium (which was smaller than Fillmore West) booked 18 bands, including Cream, the Doors, the Yardbirds, Chuck Berry, the Rascals, Muddy Waters, the Electric Flag, and Count Basie. That will never happen again.

The evening opened with a cooking hour and a half set by Tower of Power, the East Bay blasters, and the other bands spent the rest of the evening trying to equal - much less surpass - the 10-piece band's drive and energy. By and large, they succeeded.
Shortly after 11, Graham's jealously guarded surprise - the world premiere of Creedence as a trio, minus Tom Fogerty - was revealed to the 2000 ecstatic listeners. Totally professional as always, lead singer and guitarist John Fogerty (attired, incidentally, in an electruc turquoise '50s rock 'n' roll star cowboy suit and boots), bassist Stu Cook, and drummer Doug Clifford rocked happily through 14 numbers in an hour or so - opening with "Born on a Bayou," closing with "Keep On Choogling," and playing the new single, "Door to Door," "Sweet Hitchhiker," and a half-dozen million-selling singles in between.
The most touching part of the evening followed Creedence's set - first when Allen Ginsberg showed up, shades of the first Fillmore concert in November, 1965, now short of hair and bereft of beard, and produced an "ohm" chant for a minute or so; then when Graham paid tribute to his staff...taking care to repeat several times that "these are the people who made Fillmore what it is" and, wryly, that "sometimes I am not a particularly easy person to work for." He brought them all on stage - cops, cloakroom girls, short-order cooks, stage managers, house manager Gary Jackson, girl Friday Vicky Cunningham, accepted their earnest compliments with glowing discomfort, and introduced his wife Bonnie and their son David, a blue-eyed blond who is, Graham said with the timeless optimism of a proud daddy, "almost 3."

At five minutes to one, Santana arrived. Now featuring teenage-prodigy guitarist Neil Schon and Latin percussionist Coke Escovedo in addition to the regular sextet, Santana ploughed into the likes of "Black Magic Woman," "Oye Como Va," and "Soul Sacrifice," and spent their 90 minutes seething like an ant hill receiving electric shock treatments.
At 2:45 a.m., Schon was replaced by Bloomfield, a few minutes later Carlos Santana was replaced by Cipollina, a few minutes after that the Tower of Power horn section appeared, and the jam was on. My last indelible memory is Miss Tillery rendering "Angel Baby" at 4:12 a.m. and the music stopped completely at 4:25. It was over and the crowd - almost intact from 8 p.m. - moved reluctantly for the exit. The last champagne bottles were emptied, Graham quit banging on his beloved cowbell, Fillmore West ceased to exist.

(by John Wasserman, from the San Francisco Chronicle, 7 July 1971)

* * *


"We've had some good times here," Bill Graham said matter-of-factly on Sunday night at the Fillmore West wake. So we have. A few memories, both old and new:
Back at the old Fillmore Auditorium when the Black Panthers took over for a couple of benefits and one gun-toting bodyguard informed Graham that he could not go upstairs because "nobody goes upstairs." Bill looked at the man. "You do not seem to understand the situation," he said evenly. "This is MY place." He went upstairs.
The surprises...Ray Charles joining Aretha Franklin for a smashing "Spirit in the Dark" only weeks ago...Creedence Clearwater Revival appearing from nowhere on Sunday, taking second billing to Santana and not even worrying about it...and, going back to 1967, Joan Baez and Mimi Farina joining Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead for 30 minutes of "Midnight Hour" singing and dancing, then, by themselves, doing "Little Boy Blue" and turning the scruffy ballroom into a cathedral.
The early experiments in creative booking - Soviet poet Andrew Voznesensky, "The Beard," Manitas de Plata (the second-rate but showy flamenco guitarist), Charles Lloyd and avant-garde jazz, Count Basie replying with the tried-and-true, Monga Santamaria promoting Afro-Cuban (musically, if not politically), Jimmy Reed, B.B. King, and Otis Redding before anyone knew he was immortal, the earliest (and greatest) light shows (Tony Martin, Bill Hamm, and the Glen McKay-Jerry Abrams Head Lights), and the all night New Year's Eve parties, with the Airplane, the Dead, and Quicksilver for the soul, breakfast for the body, and Jim Haynie and Willie B. Hart in diapers for the spirit.

Those were the days when Graham managed to get, on occasion, something like 3000 people into the Fillmore Auditorium (cap. 989). "I'd say we had, at the most, about 1200," he says now with a perfectly straight face. "They INSISTED on coming in." Especially on New Year's Eve, you could stand in the light booth and see nothing but the tops of heads. Not bodies; not even necks...
The roses and special preparations for Martha and the Vandellas ("Come here, white boy," she crooned to Graham, extending her arms), the Mynah bird door-prize at the Batman festival (April, 1966) which went deaf from the music and was later cooked by the happy winner. The Who and Cream redefining the word excitement.
And other relics...the basketball games, starring the Fillmore Fingers, where Bill played only dirty enough to win, and the apples and Wes Wilson's historic posters, and Graham's dramatic little introductions - "Four gentlemen and one GREAT broad...Big Brother and the Holding Company," or "If you're going to fly, fly first class...Jefferson Airplane."

And the final weekend - the forged tickets (unsuccessful) and the shakedowns (all liquids confiscated...an attempt to comply with Chief Nelder's unworkable "crackdown"). The humor and simple pleasure in the playing of Creedence, Hot Tuna, and the New Riders of the Purple Sage - commodities in short supply among rock groups - the plentiful obscenities which went out over the air during the live broadcast on KSFX and KSAN, and the discreet but definitive filming by Medion films...
Spencer Dryden drumming away with the New Riders, weary of being listed as Bill Kreutzman, who he isn't; the phenomenal dancer Renee, who can touch her left hand to her right foot over her head, like pincers (try it sometime if you wish to use up accumulated sick leave); the unseeing, beatific, slack-jawed, ecstatic, smiling, awed, earnest, and tired faces staring up at the musicians from the front row. And the heat.
The girl who went topless Sunday night revealing a gold cross around her neck and a superstructure that Graham muttered was not really up to Fillmore standards; the dozens who stood outside all night, Friday through Sunday, unable to hear anything, but at least they were THERE...
The gold-spangled fabric drooping wearily from the ceiling, the bespectacled girl from the Heavy Water show, mixing oils like a mad chemist; Graham receiving a standing ovation Sunday night and playing with his son David ("About three and a half years ago," he said wryly, "I had a night off") - looking not at all like a capitalist-pig-mother-bleeper-rip-off-artist.
And John Fogerty's flowery eloquence in greeting the audience - "Long time no see." And, finally, the girl who freaked, wanting to dance on the stage with Creedence. Virtually hysterical, she was forceably removed by stagehands. Moments later she reappeared and was grabbed, as gently as possible under the circumstances, and shoved to the side. Suddenly Graham appeared, shouted the men off, and took the flailing girl in his arms. "I know her," he said, "she'll be ok." And he led her, now quiet, gently away.

(by John Wasserman, from the San Francisco Chronicle, 9 July 1971)

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com

See also http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2014/09/july-2-1971-fillmore-west-san-francisco.html

Mar 24, 2015

November 17, 1971: Albuquerque Civic Auditorium, NM


Country music came to New Mexico, and the natives loved it.
That statement, while an accurate comment on Wednesday night's Grateful Dead/New Riders of the Purple Sage concert, is a contradiction on several levels. Of course, New Mexico has been country music territory for decades; once you set foot outside Albuquerque, it's Cowboy Country. But country and western music has never been much more popular with the "urbane" youth of Albuquerque than with those of Jersey City, Cleveland, or Seattle. Especially not since the Beatles opened up everyone's consciousness to rock.
But the best of the rock artists, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, have always recognized the validity of country tunes and lyrics (remember "Act Naturally" and "What Goes On," "Honky Tonk Women" and "Love In Vain"?), though they usually disguised them behind rock fixtures. Now, however, groups like the Grateful Dead, and especially the New Riders, throw in steel guitars, riffs straight from the Grand Ol' Opry stage, and songs by Merle Haggard - C&W has become respectable in the rock world.
But is what they played Wednesday really country music? I would say yes, while admitting the point is debatable. But why debate it? Just admit it's about as countryfied as rock is going to get, and that the capacity crowd at the Civic Auditorium went wild over it.
The New Riders were great and well-received, but it was the Grateful Dead who made the evening what it was. While the New Riders stuck to their country habits, the Dead threw in more of their "harder" stuff, even a bit of the old "psychedelic jam." They got it on at times - really got it on - but only in brief spurts. That was okay with me. Their first number was around 6:30 p.m., the last one around 12:15 a.m.; five and a half hours of the Dead's getting-it-on would have been exhausting, but as it was I left feeling very refreshed and content, renewed rather than drained.
The Dead are such masters of the rock idiom. They had perfect control the entire time. They would often take what seemed like an interminable time to build up even a small well of tension, mostly just gliding along smoothly until suddenly the bottom dropped out of the world and they started to really wail, evoking a spontanteous, delirious, united manic reaction from the crowd. I've never seen anything quite like it here.
The mood of the concert, however, was one of mellowness, largely generated by the music, but helped along by the smoothness of the event as a whole. There was no trouble at all, inside or out. Good. Let's keep it mellow. We need many more concerts like this great one.

(by Charles Andrews, from Lobo, 19 November 1971)


* * *

(The same writer wrote a followup review in the "Spare Change" Arts & Media column a few days later.)

Two great concerts in one week - I enjoyed Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic only slightly less than I did the Grateful Dead and the New Riders.
Sometimes when you "wrestle with the Muse," you lose. I think that happened with my review of the Grateful Dead concert. I meant to rave about it, but it came out sounding "noncommittal," as one person put it. I have to agree, and apologize for not doing it justice.
The concert so wiped me out, I had trouble coming down the next day - not that I wanted to. I'm convinced now that everything I've heard or read about Grateful Dead concerts is no exaggeration. I doubt if we got a full dose of the best they can do, but it was enough to make me a "True Believer." Jerry Garcia once said, "I've been into music so long I'm dripping with it"; I think that's true of the group as a whole. They've been together about eight years now, and it shows. They became well-known with the emergence of the San Francisco sound of the mid-'60s, then faded somewhat (except for their small band of long-loyal fanatics), now are justly taking their place as one of the best bands in the country. May they stay together and play forever.
I can understand now why people think of long concerts when they think of Grateful Dead concerts; their music is the kind you could literally listen to all night. When Crystal Leif promoters were negotiating with the band, they initially insisted on playing for at least five and a half hours, later gave in when convinced the city was serious about its midnight curfew for Civic Auditorium events. But they wound up doing a show about that long anyway - the Dead did a few numbers, starting off with Merle Haggard's and the New Riders' "Mama Tried," beginning about 6:30 "to test the equipment," and didn't finish till a quarter past midnight. The concert's starting time was moved up from the usual 8 p.m.to 7:30, then to 7, and still the Dead had to get out there and start playing earlier than that. It's a welcome switch from the groups who have to be coaxed to do more than 40 minutes. (Anyone remember Creedence Clearwater?...listen quick.)
The broadcast of the concert over KRST may have had something to do with the peace that was kept, for a change. At least no rock-throwing punk could use the excuse that "they're keeping The People from their music." (Another advantage was that there are now some good tapes of the concert around; and you might even see a bootleg album appear.) Too bad, though, that the Nov. 17 concert couldn't have sold out sooner - the Dead had an open date the next day, and would've done another show if there had been the demand. Instead they took a trip to Taos.
Crystal Leif arranged to have a voter registration table set up at the Civic that night (as has been the practice lately at many Dead concerts), and they did a pretty good business, I understand.
One last comment: that fantastic piano player the Dead had sitting in for the ailing Pigpen was Keith Godcheaux, formerly with Dave Mason. (But nobody in town, including Crystal Leif, knew his name; I finally had to consult a recent issue of Rolling Stone.) . . .

[The rest of the article complains about latecomers and "rude applause" at the LA Philharmonic concert.]

(by Charles Andrews, from Lobo, 23 November 1971) 

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com

Mar 23, 2015

October 27, 1971: Onondoga War Memorial, Syracuse, NY


The Grateful Dead and the New Riders of the Purple Sage provided a most memorable evening of rock 'n roll and Country and Western music for 6,500 concertgoers last night at the War Memorial.
The New Riders, with Jerry Garcia of the Dead on pedal steel guitar, have long prefaced the Dead's live performances. Last night, with a combination of excellent Country and Western instrumentation and brilliant vocal harmonies, the New Riders were simply suberb.
In addition to their uptempo brand of Country and Western music, the New Riders exhibited a flare [sic] for rock 'n roll midway in their performance with an outstanding rendition of "Hello, Mary Lou," first popularized more than 10 years ago by Ricky Nelson.
Following a 20-minute intermission after the New Riders' one-and-a-half-hour set, the Grateful Dead took the stage, setting the scene for a fire marshal's nightmare.
There was no way the War Memorial's security staff and the two dozen or so Syracuse University volunteers (each wearing a T-shirt proclaiming he or she a "Space Ranger"), could prevent the concert hall's aisles from being carpeted with bodies.
Nearly everyone was on his (or somebody else's) feet, as the Dead played an intensely rhythmic set of some of the finest rock 'n roll heard today.
Garcia's lead guitar playing was highly tasteful and every bit as masterful as his pedal steel work. It was wonderful to see and hear him reach back into the '50s for, once in a while, a resounding "What'd I Say?" lick or the like.
Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir's vocals were very pleasant, and the backing he received from Phil Lesh on bass, Bill Kruetzmann on drums, and Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan on piano [sic] was outstanding.
The Dead proved an important thing. The sound and excitement they generate will never be captured satisfactorily on records.
Listening to the Dead and seeing them in concert are two completely different experiences. You'll never fully appreciate the band until you've seen it on stage.

(by John Wisniewski, from the Syracuse Post-Standard, 28 October 1971)


* * *


City police undercover agents and uniformed policemen last night at the War Memorial made 16 arrests, several on drug-related charges, during the Grateful Dead concert, police said.
One teen-ager was arrested while injecting heroin in a men's room, police said.
Another teen was arrested when he grabbed a quantity of what police said were narcotics, and threw the drugs into the crowd while a suspect escaped from custody. Police said they did not catch the suspect or find the narcotics.  . . .
[Omitted a partial list of those arrested, including ages, addresses, and drug-possession charges.]
Those arrested on drug-related charges were held overnight without bail at the Public Safety Building jail for arraignment today in Police Court.
The other nine arrests, police said, were on various charges, including three on criminal possession of stolen property counts.
Trained dogs were used outside the War Memorial in an attempt to prevent persons from "crashing the gate" by climbing through windows. The dogs have been used during other recent concerts.

(by Peter Volmes, from the Syracuse Post-Standard, 28 October 1971)

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com