Jan 22, 2013

January 22, 1971: Lane Community College, Eugene


The Grateful Dead, one of the early San Francisco bands, is scheduled to appear in LCC's main gym Friday, Jan. 22. The dance-concert will start around 8:00 p.m. and end when the Dead (and the people attending) get tired.
The Grateful Dead was one of the first bands to "make it" when the rush for the "San Francisco Sound" began back in 1966-67. Along with the Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, the Sons of Champlain [sic], and a lot of others, they were "discovered," signed by recording companies, and labeled by some as America's answer to the British invasion.
Of the dozens of bands from this area, the Dead is one of the few to survive all the hype putdown by the record companies and music commentators.
The Dead's music has consistently been in the forefront of all the trends of the public. They were psychedelic when no one knew what the word meant, and two albums ago they made a switch to a folk-flavored country-rock sound.
The albums WORKINGMANS DEAD and AMERICAN BEAUTY, on Warners Reprise, best show where the Dead are at right now.
Michael Lydon, in ROLLING STONE, talks of one of the albums: "WORKINGMANS DEAD is just about as good as a record can be. Easy on the ears from the first listening, it gets mellower as it grows on you; a lot of different rhythms but one sure pulse."
Appearing with the Grateful Dead at Lane will be Notary Sojac, a group from Portland.
Approximately 20% of the profits (after expenses) from this dance-concert will go to LCC's student financial aids program, while a larger percentage will go to the Eugene White Bird Clinic.
The Dead's concert at Lane will probably consist of three sets. One of the sets will be acoustic, and will hopefully be, as ROLLING STONE put it for a recent appearance at the Fillmore West, "music soothing to weary hearts and hard-driven minds because it understands that state of mind only too well."
A second set will be more country and western. This set features songs like "Six Days on the Road," and will be performed by the New Riders of the Purple Sage. This group is comprised of members of the Grateful Dead and some friends.
The third set will be the old, semi-psychedelic Dead.
Along with the Dead's three sets and Notary Sojac, there will be a multiple-image slide presentation on Woodstock. It is not known at this time whether this will be shown in conjunction with the Dead's show or in a different room on campus, but it WILL be there.
Tickets for the Dead's concert are $3 - cheap for two good bands and a slide presentation. They will be available at the door and at the Information Desk in the Administration Building at LCC.

(by John Tennis, from the LCC Torch, January 19 1971)

* * *


I had heard that there would be a lot of people at the Grateful Dead concert Friday night, and that there were only a small number of tickets available, so I got there early to buy one at the door.
Sure enough, there were a lot of people there, and a lot of them were waiting to buy tickets at the door.
Fortunately, though, I was one of the thousands who got in, and I took a seat in the bleachers because I saw that the floor was getting pretty crowded.
After waiting outside for an hour, I wasn't relishing the idea of sitting for another hour.
After amusing myself watching the activities of the crowd for awhile, the concert started with Notary Sojac, who played for about 40 minutes.
They played some nice stuff, which was all their own material. It's rather complex though, and therefore hard to get into. One of the reasons for that might have been their lack of equipment, which made it hard to hear the instruments.
When Sojac's set was over, the lights came on and we got to see each other.
Reports have it that there were over 7,000 people there, and that over a thousand of those crashed their way in, which brings me to my main complaint about the concert. There were just too many people there. I suppose the blame goes to the crashers. A thousand less bodies sure would have been nice.
The New Riders of the Purple Sage were next, and they were great. I didn't have too much time to worry about all the people during this set because the music was so good.
Their set lasted about 40 or 50 minutes, and then we saw the slides and films on Woodstock. They were interesting for awhile, but it became a drag when they were shown over and over.
Another thing that was a drag was the non-stop talking by the crowd. It wasn't cheering anyone on; it was just talking.
Next came the Grateful Dead, and from about 11:30 till 2:00 a.m. the Dead demonstrated why everyone was there.
Their first number was "Casey Jones" and it set the speed for the rest of the night. By the end of that number, everyone was screaming and cheering them on.
It was a fantastic concert, in spite of the things I mentioned above, and should help White Bird Clinic and LCC's financial aids program, which share in the profits.

(by John Tennis, from the LCC Torch, January 26 1971)


http://archive.org/details/gd71-01-22.sbd.cotsman.12592.sbeok.shnf (partial SBD tape)

Jan 19, 2013

1974: Mars Hotel review


In 1966, in conjunction with the Merry Pranksters and the electric kool-aid acid tests, a band was formed which could express musically what people were experiencing en masse. The band was the Grateful Dead, and its acid-rock sound reflected the development of a west-coast counter culture – marathon concerts fueled by seemingly unquenchable human emotion; relentless, inspired, unpolished jams by imaginative musicians who knew each other so well that the overall sensation imparted by the music was, in fact, largely a product of the group’s oneness; and a relatively small, extremely fanatical following of “Dead Heads”, as much moved by the music as was the band itself.
As years went by, the band became more technically proficient. Lead guitarist Jerry Garcia improved his whiny, unstructured guitar work to the point where he became one of the best American rock ‘n’ roll guitarists; Bob Weir, second guitarist, improved his vocal prowess to the point where he became an extremely capable singer; and Phil Lesh became one of the steadiest bassists around. The Dead’s sound changed, becoming less regional and more widely appreciated. With this appreciation came far more revenue than they had ever before accumulated, which revealed itself in the form of an amazing assemblage of audio equipment, enabling the Dead to have more control over their live sound; it must be realized that one of the Dead’s greatest assets is the ability to exert complete control over their music and, eventually in the course of a 5 or 6 hour concert, their audience.
Perhaps, though, the Dead reached their musical peak during the American tour following release of the Europe ’72 album, for there was a price to be paid for popularity. With recognition came less exclusive attendance at concerts; a new breed of listener emerged who merely liked vibrations. Bowing to the external pressure thus created, a conspicuous metamorphosis occurred in the Dead’s music – it became aimed at pleasing most everyone, not just a few. This evolution manifests itself splendidly in the comparison between the first Dead album, The Grateful Dead, and Wake of the Flood. One listen to each and it is apparent that the energy and improvisation is in the first album, whereas more generally listenable music has been recorded on Wake of the Flood. When Ron McKernan (Pig Pen), the organist-harmonicist who was the Dead’s most blatant link with the drug culture, died of a liver disease in 1973, the final tie was severed. Today, a pianist (Keith Godchaux) and a female vocalist (Donna Godchaux) along with Billy Kreutzmann, the drummer since the Dead’s inception, compose the remainder of the group along with Garcia, Weir, and Lesh.
From the Mars Hotel is the Grateful Dead’s latest album, released this summer. It is an ambitious effort in that it is the third album recorded since the addition of the Godchauxs (the first two were, chronologically, Europe ’72 and Wake of the Flood), and the second album recorded since Pig Pen’s death and the formation of Grateful Dead Records (what money can buy); obviously the attempt is made to achieve the ideal blend of the new Grateful Dead sound with that which is their heritage.
On the album covers, “Ugly Rumors” is disguised magnificently, reminiscent of the ambiguous “American Beauty”-“American Reality” cover of the American Beauty album, and of the more recent cover of Wake of the Flood, in which the portrayed cloud, turned sideways, reveals itself to be a distorted skull, the Dead’s trademark. Musically, the album is generally enjoyable: “Loose Lucy,” ending side one, is an outstanding tune, utilizing Garcia’s exceptional guitar lead and vocals in a manner not unlike vintage Dead. Here also the piano and background female vocals are well employed. “Pride of Cucamonga” and “Unbroken Chain” are the first songs written and sung by Phil Lesh since “Box of Rain” on American Beauty. The latter song is unlike anything ever recorded by the Dead and is particularly interesting in that it marks the first time that the Dead have experimented with the use of a synthesizer; this appears to be the direction Lesh wants the band to go, since of late he has been playing the synthesizer between sets at Grateful Dead concerts. The song leading off side two, “Scarlet Begonias”, is a good, fast paced, Garcia styled number marred only by its conclusion, which features Donna moaning incessantly; occasionally it may be heard on pop AM stations, signifying the more popular, commercial appeal of the Dead these days (previously only “Truckin’” received any AM air time at all).
Inasmuch as it has become standard procedure for the Dead to include one (1) Bob Weir composition per album, it is not surprising that is true for From the Mars Hotel also – “Money” is that contribution. Strained by anachronistic lyrics and an aura also atypical of Dead sound, “Money” is nevertheless a good cut, with Weir singing the type of song he performs best, supported well by the rest of the band, most noticeably Donna. The following song on the album, “Ship of Fools,” is all Jerry Garcia, and, as such, is a moving number much like “Row Jimmy” from Wake of the Flood, Unfortunately, in recent years, the Dead have taken to playing slower and/or more spacey numbers at the expense of abandoning their old energetic sound (contrast the latest concert rendition of “Bertha” with the rendition recorded on the second Live Dead album). Yet “U.S. Blues” (the big single from From the Mars Hotel), an attempt to recapture the past energetics while retaining popular appeal, fails in this endeavor, sounding like “token” Grateful Dead material augmented by Robert Hunter’s inane lyrics.
In all, then, this new Dead album is listenable, sporadically excellent, occasionally disappointing. Yet Dead heads of yore, while probably enjoying this album, will undoubtedly remain partially unsated, since this is certainly not entirely the acid oriented, emotionally charged rock which had been the trademark of the band (oh, to hear “St. Stephen” live just one more time...); indeed while the differences may be subtle, and many may believe them to be improvements, the latest Grateful Dead sound is somehow lacking those qualities which enabled the band to have a major influence on a select few. Rather it appears that horizons (markets?) have expanded and a lessened influence on the many is now desired, at the expense of the almost legendary, tight cultism which once presided over Grateful Dead concerts and albums.

(by Mitchell Lazar, from the MIT Tech, October 15, 1974)

http://tech.mit.edu/V94/PDF/N39.pdf (p.9)

April 2, 1973: Boston Garden


The Grateful Dead are enough to restore your faith in rock ‘n’ roll. In a time when, more than ever, the popular performers depend on gimmick more than talent, the Dead continue to be succesful by producing good music that is fun to listen to.
The Dead, along with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, were at Boston Garden on Monday, April 2. To paraphrase Janis Joplin, they sure turned a bunch of freaks into a party. The crowd of 16,000-plus was totally captured. There was none of the implied satanism of the Stones or the sexual ambivalence of David Bowie, just a couple of bands and a lot of people having a good time.
The New Riders opened things up, doing nearly two hours of their country-rock standards and a few new songs. One thing they’ve picked up is the old Motown hit “Take A Letter Maria.” Not many groups could pull that off and make it sound respectable. Marmaduke and company did. Other more familiar songs were “I Don’t Know You,” “Louisiana Lady,” and “Last Lonely Eagle” off the first album; “Truck Drivin’ Man,” “Rainbow,” “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” and “Willie and the Hand Jive” from the second; and “Sutter’s Mill” and “Groupie” from their latest effort.
Particularly worthy of note was Buddy Cage, who did a fine job on pedal steel guitar. His addition made the New Riders independent of the Dead, as Jerry Garcia was no longer needed on pedal steel. Cage has proven himself to be, along with Poco’s Rusty Young, among the best on the instrument.
The last few weeks had not been good ones for the Grateful Dead; singer Ron “Pigpen” McKernan died from a combination of liver and kidney problems – too much booze – and guitarist Garcia was busted in New Jersey for possession of marijuana, cocaine, etc., on his way to a Springfield concert date. If the Dead were down, though, they didn’t show it. The only indication of Garcia’s latest run-in with the law was the absence of “Truckin’” from the program.
When the Dead lift songs, they do it with class. Their opening number was Chuck Berry’s “The Promised Land.” Other borrowed songs were Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and John Phillips’ “Me and My Uncle.”
One change within the band has been the emergence of Bob Weir as a songwriter and singer. He did two songs from his solo album, Ace, and more of the new songs than Garcia. Weir also did a flawless job on rhythm guitar. The Dead performed a surprising amount of new material – most of the second set was unfamiliar.
The older songs were a mix from just about all the periods the Dead have gone through: “Beat It On Down the Line” from their first album, “China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider,” also oldies redone in a medley, and quite a few songs from Grateful Dead and Europe ’72. Phil Lesh also got a chance to sing his “Box of Rain” from American Beauty, which, unfortunately did not come across as well electric.
Lesh was shortchanged by the poor acoustics of the Boston Garden, as was pianist Keith Godchaux. Neither could be heard clearly, at least from where I was sitting. Keith’s wife Donna helped out with the singing, and did one lead vocal on a new song. Unfortunately, the lyrics of it and many other new pieces were unintelligible, thanks to the low quality of the sound.
Probably the best thing the Dead played was an extended “Playing in the Band.” Garcia’s solo was the best he played all night, and possibly the most powerful lead I have ever heard him do. As far as audience reaction, the big winners were the closing sequence of “Sugar Magnolia,” one of their best songs, and “Casey Jones,” which crashed forward hypnotically for ten minutes before reaching its climax.
Although no encore was apparently planned, the band had little choice as the crowd, hardly thinned at 1:45 am, stood on their seats and lit matches, screaming for more. And they got more – “Johnny B. Goode,” and the beautiful a capella “We Bid You Goodnight,” the perfect ending to a fine show.

(by Ken Davis, from the MIT Tech, April 27, 1973)

http://tech.mit.edu/V93/PDF/N20.pdf (p.8)


Jan 18, 2013

May 6-7, 1970: MIT, Cambridge

Tuesday, May 5, 1970 - from the MIT Tech:


Well over 1500 members of the MIT community, most of them students, voted overwhelmingly yesterday to strike “in solidarity with the national university strike.” Even before the afternoon rally got underway, 1300 students had jammed Kresge... What practical effect the strike call will have remains uncertain...


The vote in Kresge yesterday afternoon was overwhelmingly in favor of a "university strike" for an indefinite length of time.
The Tech supports the concept of a university strike, and we call on MIT as a community to suspend its normal activities for a period of time to allow people the opportunity to signify their rejection of President Nixon's Asian policies and to actively work towards ending the war in Southeast Asia. We favor a massive canvassing effort intended to motivate people in the community to write their congressmen indicating their opposition to the war; to actively support peace candidates in November's elections; and to continually work in peace activities...
We call on the MIT faculty to meet Wednesday afternoon and suspend classes for the rest of the week...

* * *

Wednesday, May 6, 1970:


Schedule of Events
Following is a schedule of events planned for today in connection with the strike and protest of the Indochina war:

6 am onward – leaflets and canvassing information will be available in the Student Center West Lounge for use in canvassing factories.
12 noon – Humanities Department Meeting.
12 noon – Meeting of interested MIT employees in Walker Memorial.
1 pm – mass meeting in Kresge.
2 pm – There will NOT be a free concert by the Grateful Dead today.


* * *

Tuesday, May 12, 1970:

(excerpt from "The Strike!: Fantasies?," by Michael Feirtag)

The Grateful Dead played better (in this opinion, at least) Wednesday at the free concert. Thursday night’s paying attendance was largely highly energized strikers; the Dead played hard rock for dancing purposes. Wednesday, the audience’s kinetic energy was damped by the cold, the music was for listening, and hence better.
Wednesday. The sky an airbrushed blue-grey cloud cover, like a cheesy mural in a Howard Johnson’s. The Dead behind a gaggle of microphones, behind them two eight-foot coffin woofers, clusters of speaker horns.
Twenty or thirty people form a chain, whipping through the closely grouped crowd, looking like...like what? A ribosome, a chain of procreation dancing across a living cell, or Death leading his dancing subjects?
Grateful Dead?
Inane metaphors.


* * *

Monday, May 11, 1970:


Agreeing...that "academic activities cannot continue in normal fashion," the faculty yesterday voted far-reaching changes in policy for the remainder of the term... Students doing "satisfactory" work before May 4 are eligible for a "pass" grade, with full academic credit, whether or not they continue work in the course.
As at the last meeting Tuesday, sentiment on the motion was all but unanimous... The vote was overwhelming - of the 700 faculty that jammed Kresge, only 14 or 15 voted no.

The national university/student strike begins its second week today with over 300 schools on strike against the war in Indochina...



1969: Live/Dead vs. Beethoven


In the early 1960’s, the Merry Pranksters discovered LSD. The Pranksters, a band of heads led by novelist Ken Kesey, proceeded to use the mind-gronking micrograms in the worst way – they invited the youth of Los Angeles, feckless, footloose, or just L.A. freaky, to an Acid (hee hee) Test, spiked the Kool Aid with the ol’ mind expander, and ad-libbed from there.
After all, once you’ve smashed in the door of perception, you can’t just stand there in the infinite. You’ve got to learn how to live under these new conditions, with your synapses agog, and your Mind slobbering on the cosmos. If you can bring together the energy of hundreds of individuals in one monster collective Trip, and live to tell, you’ve graduated.
And so it was that, on February 12, 1966, in a Youth Opportunity Center warehouse in, of all places, Watts, while scores of minds merged into one Mind, a girl sat on the floor and freaked out. They gave her a microphone. It was all part of the Trip...
...including the band that played the accompaniment to all this. Equipped with more variable-lag tape-recorders, feedback-equipment, and amplifiers than had ever been seen before, all paid for by Owsley, the Charles Pfizer of lysergic acid diethylamide, the band was the Grateful Dead. The music they played was to become known as acid rock.
Along with the music came a new criterion for judging music. Since the Dead’s music was supposed to whip the mind into the consistency of butterscotch pudding, the sounds were deemed to be good if they raped the listener’s head, and catalyzed spaced-outedness.

Was all this so new? How far back does drug-inspired music, or, more generally, freaky music go?
Berlioz billed his Symphonie Fantastique as an opium vision. Scriabin meant his music to be accompanied by light shows, although his Poem of Ecstasy is tepid (to be kind) in fulfilling the orgasmic promise of its title. Liszt turned out a Death-Dance, Rachmaninoff an Isle of the Dead, Geminiani an Enchanted Forest way back.
But these are obvious cases. If you go through the Schwann catalog, you can come up with quite a few freaky titles to pieces of music that are often little better than lousy. A freaky title does not a freaky piece of music make.
However, we are ignoring music that, in emotion or in spirit, rather than merely in name or “program,” turns out to be freaky. In fact, a great deal of classical music evokes moods that are unusual, grotesque, weird, or downright bizarre. Some is mystical. And even the most moving, profound of music sometimes, in strange ways, verges on freakiness.

If music is the highest form of artistic expression, and art the noblest human endeavor, then Beethoven is the greatest human being this earth has seen thus far. He is the greatest freak as well.
From the Scherzo of the Seventh (the walk through the catacombs), to the entrance of the tenor in (O Heresy!) the Ninth (sounding like a syncopated interior decorator, backed by tam-tam and garbage-can covers, as he sings of universal brotherhood), to his last composition, the Sixteenth String Quartet, whose final movement was inspired by the tone and inflection of his landlady’s voice, demanding the rent. Beethoven wrote grotesqueries, put-ons, and produced some of the freakiest, in the sense of macabre and/or sardonic, moods ever heard.
The Eighth Symphony is possibly the freaky Beethoven at his most obvious: the bassoon is unable to do more than croak out octaves, the Scherzo’s tick-tick-tick rhythm is a hack on the newly invented metronome, the symphony refuses to conclude, going through five or six false endings, a misplaced coda, and finally stopping at a beat which is not entirely satisfying.
But this is the way Beethoven composed in general, carrying theme inversions, key changes, and false finishes to an extent so far above ordinary playing-with-thematic-material that his pieces are practical jokes on the performers and the audience.
And yet, these hacks are, paradoxically and simultaneously, the most profound, transcendental statements ever made by man. The later in Beethoven’s work one looks, the more obvious it becomes that this greatest of artists wrote cosmic jokes, tried in his music to evoke the greatest, deepest, most moving emotions in his listeners, and then punt them.
For those who doubt, consider this reminiscence by Carl Czerny in Cock’s London Musical Miscellany of August 2, 1852, describing the piano technique of Beethoven at a mere 26 years old: “His improvisation was most brilliant and striking. In whatever company he might chance to be, he knew how to produce such an effect upon every hearer that frequently not an eye remained dry, while many would break out into loud sobs; for there was something wonderful in his expression in addition to the beauty and originality of his ideas and his spirited way of rendering them. After ending an improvisation of this kind he would burst into loud laughter and banter his hearers on the emotion he had caused in them. ‘You are fools!’ he would say.”

It may be freaky in some sense to arouse deep metaphysical and emotional states and then hack them, but, to say the least, Beethoven and Grace Slick are not freaky in the same way.
Any analogies drawn in trying to compare freaky rock and freaky classical are necessarily loose, especially since so much rock is more mind-flattening than mind-bending. Rock musicians do it mainly by battering the chemically altered head into submission via sheer volume, screams, and reverberation (i.e. by sensory overload); very little research goes into discovering what varieties of sound other than “loud” and “electronic” are freaky. Rock may have discovered a few freaky noises, but has yet to come up with a freaky melody line, for instance, with the possible exception of Frank (Those Kids Wouldn’t Know Music If It Bit Them In The Ass) Zappa.
And it is on these grounds of freaky musicianship versus freaky noise that, even if Beethoven’s perverse sense of humor is far from the current vogue in freakiness, something like Solti’s reading of Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta should have it, in subtle freakiness although certainly not in decibels, over Pink Floyd, Airplane, et al, for anyone with half an ear. And for grosser effects, Berg’s Wozzeck, a paranoid opera, ravishes the listener...
...which brings us back to the Grateful Dead, and, in particular, Live/Dead (Reprise), their new album (finally, a record review). There is no mind flattening by way of sound level. Even “Feedback” on side four is subdued.
Yet the album is really excellent. The two records contain seven cuts, all almost entirely instrumental, which is fine seeing that none of them can sing well. At first, they sound like pleasant enough improvisations – rambling, ever so slightly disjointed, rarely what a rock listener would call loud. Certainly not freaky in the sense of Pink Floyd.
With a bit of time they metamorphose into subtle experiments in freakiness, with feedback and reverb gently intruding into the listener’s consciousness.
Surviving the Acid Test has improved the Dead’s music (although their chromosomes have yet to be heard from). The numbing tendency of the acid rock of the past might be lessening as freakiness moves, albeit with the swiftness of a glacier, towards the sophistication of Beethoven, and the compositions of what he himself termed his “Unbuttoned Period.”

(by Michael Feirtag and Rex Begonia, from the MIT Tech, February 10 1970)


Here is the tape of the girl freaking out at the Acid Test:

Jan 17, 2013

1968: Anthem of the Sun review #2


For those of you who haven’t heard, “Anthem of the Sun” is an unusual record. It brings to mind such past hits as “Sergeant Pepper” and the Electric Prunes “Mass in F Minor.” Basically, the structure of the record comes across as a mini-opera, with individual numbers having distinctions only in the ears of the listener. There is literally no separation, either on the grooves or in the sound. However, the changes can be heard, even if only gradually. The record can be termed a cross between a jam and composed playing – it often seems as if the group will start with a score, and gradually ignore it more and more, occasionally losing the listener in the process.
Side one is made up of three numbers. The first, “That’s It for the Other One” is divided into three sections: Cryptical Envelopment, Quadlibet for Tenderfeet, and The Faster We Go, the Rounder We Get. These three sections are rather self-descriptive. The first might be described as an addictive process, in which the record rather gets you hooked. After that, you proceed through the beginner’s stage, to the basic message, which is that the group gets rounder (less square) the faster they get. However, there can be too much of a good thing, as is demonstrated when the end of the number (which is not particularly defined as such) dissolves into a gray fog of sound, utterly without form or meaning.

The second and third number (New Potato Caboose and Born Cross-Eyed) are much in the same vein. The former is a blending of jazz and hard rock, not at all unpleasant. Born Cross-Eyed has a freer form than rock allows for. It is interesting to note that the beat remains the same throughout side one (except in the cases when it disappears completely), but the tune and form changes. The end of side one is one of the few points on the record where the group resorts to singing, however, even the words (“Seems like I’ve been here before”) take the listener back to the beginning of the side, to listen to it all again in about a one-minute space.

Side two is primarily devoted to Alligator, a cut which is an excellent combination of instrumental and vocal phrases. The outstanding part of this is the intermittent kazoo solos which keep cropping up at various places. Basically, the words are a southern blues song made up of anecdotes about alligators, then set to a rock beat. Once again, the group does not feel constrained by either the music or the beat, however. This time, as the tune evaporates, it leaves a series of jungle calls, indicative of the theme of the cut. Alligator, despite its length and depth, tends to be somewhat boring at times. This is especially noticeable in the section of the record immediately following the jungle calls. If there is variation in this segment, it is too small for the equipment the record was being played on to pick up.

One good reason for putting up with this is the guitar work between Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir which immediately follows this, which is some of the best to be found anywhere. Then is a section which is essentially the word “alligator” alternating between the two sides of the stage. This comes through as might be expected on a stereo system.
The second cut on this side is Caution (Do Not Stop on the Tracks). The drum becomes a train, and the story line (the only time this occurs on the album) is about a fellow who consults a gypsy about his girl. However, this rapidly disappears, and moves into another formless mass.
Basically, this album represents a step forward in the total record world. It is definitely one which should be on the shelves of fans of the West Coast sound.

(by Tony Lima, from the MIT Tech, October 11 1968)

http://tech.mit.edu/V88/PDF/N35.pdf (p.6)

Jan 16, 2013

Late 1967: San Francisco Bands & Jefferson Airplane


The most important recent happening in rock is the national emergence of San Francisco's Jefferson Airplane and to a lesser extent the Grateful Dead. The following two-part report on the Bay area scene is based to a large extent on comments by Friscan Larry White, editor of Innisfree and personal friend of several of the Airplane.
Jefferson Airplane has had two albums and five singles on RCA. They have been big in SF for somewhat over a year but only their most recent single 'Somebody to Love' and album 'Surrealistic Pillow' have given them the national prominence they deserve. Both are 44 and rising rapidly on their respective Billboard charts, but this doesn't begin to measure their Boston popularity, with 'Pillow' one of the Coops' best selling albums and their fabulous two-week Unicorn sellout.

'Surrealistic Pillow' has the same basic sound as their first album, 'Jefferson Airplane Takes Off,' a folk-based sound with a message of love and beautifully interwoven patterns of guitar runs. However, 'Pillow' is a better album for two reasons. First, the production is much better. On the first album at many points, the instruments don't blend together as they do in person and the vocals at many points seem watered-down. Compare 'White Rabbit' on 'Pillow' with any of the cuts on 'Takes Off' and the difference is apparent. The producers are different on the albums, Matthew Katz and Tommy Oliver on the first, Rick Jarrard on the second. Apparently RCA realized that the Airplane required more than run-of-the-mill producers. Dave Hassinger is the engineer on both; he has also engineered such Stones' material as 'Satisfaction.'

The second reason for improvement is personnel changes. The group is composed of a male and female singer switching lead, two guitars, bass, and drums. Between albums female singer and drummer were switched, both for the better. Signe Anderson, original vocalist, dropped out of the group after she discovered she was giving her husband their second child. Grace Slick became the new female vocalist after being with the Great Society, a now-disbanded, but then excellent, Frisco group. Even before she joined the Airplane, 'Crawdaddy' had described her as "the single most talented woman in San Francisco's performing rock scene." Her soprano solos on 'White Rabbit' and 'Somebody to Love' are fantastic; when seeing her perform them you realize how she gets the sound she does - she really feels the music. She wrote 'White Rabbit' and brought 'Somebody to Love' over from the Great Society where her brother Darby had written it. The Great Society, the rest of whom are now studying music in India, recorded 'Somebody to Love' first.
The original drummer was Skip Spence. He was really a guitar player, not a drummer, but Marty Balin, the lead singer and writer of most of the material, liked his looks and overall musical ability. The Airplane is practically a personal project of Marty's; he also handpicked Paul Kantner, rhythm guitar and backup vocalist. Anyhow Skip became tired of playing drums so he quit the group and formed Moby Grape, now one of Frisco's top five bands. Spence Dryden became the new drummer and is a real drummer.

The two members not mentioned yet are Jack Casady, bass, and Jorma Kaukonen, lead guitar. They have been friends since childhood and were in with Marty in the forming of the group. Casady's bass is the most imaginative in rock'n'roll. Listen to 'Let Me In' on the first album for runs which seem like they're never going to stop. When you listen to any Airplane material turn the whole thing up loud, but turn the bass up a little louder than you normally would. You'll see just what Casady does that was lacking in earlier rock. Jorma's lead guitar is equally brilliant; it intermingles beautifully with the vocals, sometimes highlighting them, sometimes mimicking them, sometimes performing very appropriate runs. "Jefferson Airplane" was Jorma's nickname before it became the group's name.

Jefferson Airplane was formed nearly two years ago by former folk singer Marty Balin, who had long been interested in rock. He more or less handpicked the members and then began long hours of practice. Marty wrote love music - he injected real love into his words and music. It may lack the sheer poetry of Paul Simon's lyrics, but his words are far above those of standard rock 'n' roll, in maturity and in feeling.
They moved first to the local discotheques and dance halls. They became firmly enmeshed with the psychedelic scene and then moved on to Fillmore Auditorium, SF's top dance place, managed by Bill Graham, founder of the kind of printing you read at two words per minute. Their first single was 'It's No Secret' and it didn't even make it in Frisco. It wasn't the record's fault - it was one of their best efforts - they just weren't well enough known and the people weren't ready for it. Their second, third, and fourth singles all made it into SF's top five but didn't do much elsewhere. These were 'Come Up the Years,' 'Bringin' Me Down,' and 'My Best Friend.' By this spring word was beginning to spread, enlightened disc jockeys were playing their records, and they were touring the East at places like Cafe au Go Go and the Unicorn. Then both 'Somebody to Love' and 'Surrealistic Pillow' caught on...
Good possibilities for their next single include 'White Rabbit,' a solo by Grace which builds all the way with clever words interpreting "Alice in Wonderland" as a drug story, and 'Today,' a beautiful song sung by Marty in a soft style somewhat reminiscent of Gene Pitney with thundering echoing percussion and a compelling rhythm.

San Francisco has spawned many great groups because of its position as center for migration of potentially-great-musician hippies and because the audiences require more musical sophistication than in other markets. The Grateful Dead is another band which has been around SF for 5 years (originally as the Warlocks). Their album is beginning to sell well at the Coop but has not yet cracked Billboard's charts. They are more closely connected with the hippie scene than is the Airplane and have received much magazine publicity in this respect. Despite their hair (the longest I've seen - especially pop heroes PigPen, organist, and lead guitarist Jerry "Captain Trips" Garcia) they are no joke; they have a fantastic blues-oriented sound.
Their album does not do them justice; most of their 10-15 minute (when live) songs are cut down to 2 1/2 minutes and they don't have time to develop. Some of these shortened tunes are reminiscent of Love, Butterfield Blues Band, or the Blues Project. However, once one listens to 'Morning Dew' or 'Viola Lee Blues,' he forgets the mediocrity of the rest. The former is a beautiful 5-minute electric rendition of the folk-blues classic, while the latter, 10 minutes long, is the Dead at their best, twice building from a slow blues vocal to a wild instrumental climax.

Eleven top Frisco groups are good friends and often work together. Jerry Garcia of the Dead played with the Plane on some of 'Surrealistic Pillow.' The Airplane, Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, an excellent Frisco band that hasn't yet recorded, performed together at a gala New Year's Eve party at Fillmore Auditorium. Moby Grape was formed by the Airplane's original drummer and is now probably number 3 in SF - in six months, too.
The Sopwith Camel, of 'Hello Hello' fame, is San Francisco's good time band and they are good in this bag. Because they aren't so closely connected with psychedelic sound as the others, I do not connect them with the Bay Area so much, but they are a bona fide SF group. The Chocolate Watchband is a good but still local group who will soon have a part in a movie about what's going on in San Fran. Country Joe and the Fish is a good blues band who have a very worthwhile extended play record available at the Coop. The 13th Floor Elevator had a great hard rock single 'You're Gonna Miss Me' that made it in many areas of the East last summer.
All considered, there are many bands which would be great anywhere else though they are only 'just another drop' in Frisco. The Airplane's phenomenal growth spells promise for the rest even though they are not quite up to the Airplane's level of greatness.

(by Don Davis, from the MIT Tech, May 2 & May 5 1967)

http://tech.mit.edu/V87/PDF/N22.pdf (p.6)
http://tech.mit.edu/V87/PDF/N23.pdf (p.6-7)

* * * * *


The following letter was received from Jim Stone '69, in San Jose, California on a co-op course!

Dear Steve,
You asked for some news of the Bay Area scene, so here it is.

Top local groups
Big Brother and the Holding Company are the biggest group around SF now, but supposedly they're not long for this world. I talked to Peter Pan, the sound man at the Avalon Ballroom. He says that Janis Joplin, the group's powerhouse singer, is on an ego trip and the group is pretty unsettled.
Another big group is the Steve Miller Blues Band - acid-rock blues. They were a feature at the Avalon quite often this summer. The Avalon, run by the Family Dog, is a better place than the Fillmore.
Bill Graham, who runs the Fillmore, is far from being a hippie, so the old-timers go to the Avalon, leaving the Fillmore more for teeny-boppers and tourists. The Fillmore, however, generally has bigger name acts.
One group from SF, the Blue Cheer, has three members and divides 11 (that's eleven) amplifiers between two of them. They aren't as musical as some of the other groups, but they have quite a powerful effect.

National groups
The Airplane has gone national and commercial, but they still put in an appearance when they're around.
The Grateful Dead got busted about two weeks ago - a pound of grass and some hash in their place on Haight Street - so they're out for a while.
Incidentally, the last time the Doors played the Fillmore this summer, their lead singer was so stoned he just lay down on the stage and refused to sing. The fans voiced their disapproval so he threw his microphone into the crowd. They probably won't play the Fillmore much now.
Butterfield's new band is missing something without Bloomfield, but they're still one of the best blues groups around. When I saw them, they had a trumpet and a sax player, along with the usual sidemen.
Mark Naftalin stays in the background most of the time, leaving the spotlight to Butterfield himself, but when he comes on with a keyboard solo, he really works out. Rumor has it that Bloomfield's Electric Flag was busted while they were in LA for a gig.

Groups outside SF
A group to watch with a lot of talent is Canned Heat. Also from LA is Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. Their 'Safe as Milk' album should be good.
Captain Beefheart puts out some groovy acid music - he really has a strange voice. I saw them and the Buddy Guy Blues Band at the Avalon last Saturday. Buddy Guy is groovy blues, Chicago style - all spades.
A New York group that's been popular here is the Vanilla Fudge. Their style is unique, and if they ever do an album of original songs, it should be great.
Also watch another British group called the Pink Floyd. Charlie Musselwhite's Sound System is a good blues group to watch. Musselwhite used to get sideman billing with Barry Goldberg's old band. I guess you know that Goldberg is with the Electric Flag these days.

Happenings outside SF
Moving south to Santa Clara county, the big club is the Continental Ballroom, and the big groups are the Chocolate Watchband and Mother Flower's Medicine Wagon. Moby Grape is number one in Marin county, but that's a long way from here. Country Joe is big in Berkeley.
I'm involved in starting a club in Fresno, and will let you know about it.
Tonight I'm going to the Avalon to see Van Morrison (lead singer with the late, great Them) and the Daily Flash (whose drummer quit to join the Byrds and whose lead guitarist Doug Hastings is now with the Buffalo Springfield in Neil Young's place). Last weekend the Noth American Ibis Alchemical Company Light Show put on its last performance at the Avalon - and it was fantastic.
See ya,

P.S.: I spent some time with the Yardbirds when they were here - they remembered me.

(from Steve Grant's column in the MIT Tech, October 27 1967)

http://tech.mit.edu/V87/PDF/N40.pdf (p.8)

* * * * *


“Fly Jefferson Airplane – get you there on time” – so sang the Jefferson Airplane about themselves, the first group of the current acid-rock genre. Last Saturday night the Airplane really flew – to unprecedented heights – in two sets at Back Bay Theatre.

Adhering to their well-known songs in the first set, the group rocked on their hit singles “Somebody to Love,” “White Rabbit,” and their recent “Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil,” a definitive statement by lead guitarist Jorma Ludwik Kaukonen on what can be done with feedback. This ten-minute rendition was rather different from their single recording of the song, and much more experimental and improvised.
Although vocalist Grace Slick has gained considerable acclaim for her writing and singing, her performance was disappointing. On both performances of her “White Rabbit” she seemed bored with the song, as though she felt obliged to sing it only because it was a hit single. Marty Balin, the group’s leader, also seemed forced on “Today” in both sets.
The outstanding performer was easily guitarist Kaukonen. In past performances he has had a smooth, powerful style of soloing which he enlarged upon Saturday night with his new feedback techniques. The highlights of the evening were easily “Rock Me, Baby,” a slow blues piece which Kaukonen also sang, and the two renditions of “Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil,” which is probably the first rock song with a solo on electric bass. Jack Casady handled this superbly. These two performers form the basis for the most exciting instrumental sound in rock today.

Except for the few mind freaks, the audience seemed a bit baffled by the lack of familiar songs, especially during the second set. This reaction was unfortunate. The Airplane, as a growing group of musicians, have deserted their popular straight style for something they consider better. Hopefully they will continue to progress musically, and the results should remain some of the most worthwhile in pop music.

(by Steve Grant, from the MIT Tech, December 5 1967)


December 8, 1967: Psychedelic Supermarket, Boston

“Making the Scene” ad from the MIT Tech paper, 12/5/67:

The Grateful Dead will bring more of the acid-rock sound to Boston. Featuring the noted blues guitarist Jerry Garcia and organist-folk hero Pigpen, they will play from 9 pm til Midnight this Friday and Saturday at the Psychedelic Supermarket, 590 Commonwealth Ave. They have had a single in “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” and a successful album.

* * *


The Grateful Dead, one of the current popular San Francisco Bay area groups to make it big nationally, made their Boston debut Friday night at the Psychedelic Supermarket. The most impressive thing about their sets was the personal involvement and rapport they had with the audience. If there is one characteristic besides the geographical that the San Francisco groups have in common, it is this genuine warmth, openness, and just plain friendliness: the idea that “we love you.” In a conversation between sets, guitarist and group leader Jerry “Captain Trips” Garcia reflected this musical philosophy.

Musical friendships
Garcia is generally recognized as one of the four or five best rock guitarists. He and the amorphous object known only as Pigpen form the nucleus of the group. (Pigpen’s real name, according to Dead guitarist Bob Weir, is “Hogg Corrall – two g’s, two l’s.”) The group has also had two drummers for two months now. The whole group are good friends with all the Bay Area groups, going back to the time when they were all starving on the streets together. For example, Garcia is very close to Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady of the Jefferson Airplane, as well as Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Janis Joplin, who along with Pigpen is SF’s number one poster idol, and whom Garcia calls “the best chick blues singer there is.”

Contact with audience
Disappointed that the audience sat and listened rather than danced during the first set, they opened the second show with a freely improvised half-hour version of “In the Midnight Hour,” which included bits of “Get On Up” and other songs. Mr. Ross Laver, who runs things at the Supermarket, said, “I’ve been trying to get people to dance for two months, and this is the first time it’s happened. It’s great.”

Recording history
The Dead’s performance live is completely distinct from that on their Warner Brothers album. Their songs, which average ten to fifteen minutes in person, were cut, except for “Viola Lee Blues,” to lengths compatible with the usual LP format. For this reason they will probably never have a hit single, although they put out “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion”/”Cream Puff War” last spring. They are scheduled to release another single in February, and a new album, which will contain live tracks, in March.

(by Steve Grant, from the MIT Tech, December 12 1967)

http://tech.mit.edu/V87/PDF/N52.pdf (p.6)

These Psychedelic Supermarket shows are not in Deadlists, but here is one article about their discovery:

Jan 10, 2013

December 29, 1968: Miami Pop Festival

(This is an excerpt from a longer review of the Festival.)

....American rock today is in some danger of being subverted by pernicious influences. This is a message I bring back from the Miami festival: The music of groups like the Grateful Dead, Iron Butterfly, Spirit, the whole West Coast style that is spreading rapidly to the East, replete with long solos (often tasteless and meager in content) within a virtually unstructured form, is music of sorts, and under certain conditions it sounds magnificent, but it isn't rock 'n' roll, and so it is forever denied a mass audience.

Rock 'n' roll is the only high-quality mass art form we have today and it would be a ghastly mistake to allow it to degenerate into the middle-class art form that classical music is, or into the cliquish limited-audience music that modern jazz became. It is disturbing to see many of the best musicians in America trying to remold rock in an alien jazz and classical music-inspired cast. [ . . . ]

The Grateful Dead took the field midway through the second day. After much exacting tuning and preparation they began--and played without stopping for 45 long, and sometimes short, minutes. The music was essentially freeform or no-form jamming. If you put any bunch of talented musicians on stage and have them improvise for an hour it is inevitable that they will get it together a few times. For all that, it is clear that progressive rock is not instantly exalting the way supreme unvarnished rock 'n' roll (Beatles, Stones, Hendrix, Who, etc.) is. Rather the Grateful Dead came into their own as superb environment musicians--when the environment is right, for example, on the grounds of Columbia for free during the insurrection. In front of a grandstand, however, despite the easy accommodation induced by the open sun and silent clear sky, the mediocrity of conception of the Grateful Dead's music was too apparent for comfort.

I would love to love the Grateful Dead and the other West Coast groups. They are part of the Revolution, they have a social consciousness, they give free concerts and feel with us the injustices and restrictions against free living. By contrast Terry Reid is nothing more than an engaging young hedonist out to carve a niche for himself in swinging London by selling himself to as many Americans as possible. Nevertheless I cannot help but acknowledge that it is Reid who produces the gifted rock and roll and the Grateful Dead the insipid rock.

This paradox can perhaps be resolved if we recognize that rock and roll is basically a working-class, lower-class art form (all the greatest American music has come from blacks while the English groups are, nearly without exception, staffed by urban lower-class kids) and much of the working class is not interested in revolution. In America today the main impetus for social change comes from alienated middle class kids. Some of them, the musically inclined, turn to rock music, but they retain the musical values they were brought up with, those of classical music. No wonder that their rock comes out genteel, and cerebral, framed within long-drawn out set pieces.

The Iron Butterfly discover a pleasant riff and instinctively they begin to give it the full treatment--toying with it pretentiously for about thirteen minutes, padding it with irrelevant organ solos and guitar solos and the mandatory drum solo (with extensive use of the bass drum yet!). This music is very different from, and inferior to, the concentrated, strictly organized, but striking sound of early black rock and roll of the Chuck Berry-Fats Domino-Little Richard variety--a sound which had its greatest impact among the swaggering, brash young British proletariat. When the white working classes in America finally shake off their acquiescence and become rebels against society I will expect to hear them produce rock to equal British rock. Till then we must see to it that music masquerading as rock and roll does not come to dominate the American scene.

Not that we should exaggerate the chances of vigorous rock and roll being submerged under the pseudo-heavy "sound" music of the more pretentious West Coast groups -- the Miami Pop Festival had enough talent on display to keep one's fears tiny. Country Joe and the Fish, say, who came on unprepossessing but grow in stature as they assert their calm and confident rapport with the audience all building up to that staggering moment when they launch into "Fixing to Die"--in such a way does rock and roll gell musical and spiritual elements to produce instants of screaming intensity.
[ . . . . ]

(by Salahuddin Imam, from the Harvard Crimson, January 22 1969)



* * * * *

For those interested in rock criticism of the '60s, here is "The Year of Rock In Review" article from the same issue, covering the albums of 1968:


The author (Ken Emerson) calls Anthem of the Sun "revolutionary" and an "album of genius":

The words are underemphasized to an extreme--rarely can they be deciphered. The music is what distinguishes the album.

Rock in 1968 was dominated by virtuoso solos: Ginger Baker battering away on her drums for twenty minutes while Clapton and Bruce twiddled their thumbs, Canned Heat's bassist doodling by himself for twelve, Jeff Beck soaring for five while his sidemen marked time, the Nice's brilliant organist, Keith Emerson, letting out all the stops for twenty-five. All of us can name the greats: Clapton, Hendrix, Bloomfield, Moon, Baker, Beck.... What has been lost in this is jamming, group playing as opposed to individual performances. The song has become a pretext for a solo, a nonentity in itself. Musicians are playing for themselves, not for one another. Canned Heat released a record consisting of fifteen-minute solos by each of the band's members. And of course we have Cream's Wheels of Fire. It's all becoming a drag. One can only listen to so many drum solos; there are too many great guitarists.

Anthem of the Sun is unique in its group approach to playing. The album is a fluent series of performances, some recorded in the studio, some live, spliced into one another to create a continuous, ever-changing yet always consistent group improvisation. No one musician overshadows the others, though lead guitarist Jerry Garcia is frequently prominent. What amazes the listener upon every hearing is that so many disparate moods, tempos, and rhythms can be contained in one organic structure, and that six musicians can play so many instruments so well together. The Quicksilver Messenger Service, on The Fool, is the only group to have come close to such music....

Jan 3, 2013

September 20, 1968: Berkeley Community Theater

In 1968 Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead was studying at the Ali Akbar College of Music with Tabla Master Shankar Ghosh. Mickey would work on compositions with Shankar which included Rhythmic Cycles of 4, 6, 16, 5 and 7, and take these teaching to Bill Kreutzmann. Mickey and Bill were instructing Shankar on traps in exchange for Tabla lessons, and would combine their knowledge in compositions of East and West.
In September of 1968 the Grateful Dead played a concert at the Berkeley Community Theater. Before the concert the drummers had planned a surprise for the audience. During part of "Alligator", the G.D. amps rolled apart and two risers rolled on stage between Mickey and Bill. On them were Shankar Ghosh and Vince Delgado, a fine dumbec player and a student of Shankar's. The four men sat and fixed compositions together, taking a rhythmic journey through many "Tals" or time cycles. Ali Akbar Khan composed the closing compositions for them and when they were finished, the applause was deafening.

(excerpt from the United Artists Diga Rhythm Band bio, May 1976)