JUNE 1 - TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK
THE YOUTHQUAKE AND THE SHOOK-UP PARK (excerpts)
[The article starts with a fight between police & hippies in Tompkins Square Park on Tuesday May 30, Memorial Day.]
...In the late afternoon on Memorial Day, the Flower People were out in force, complete with kirtan and bongoes... The park foreman had had enough. It had been a peaceful, if boring, park before the hippies came... The hippies were playing musical instruments, and sitting on the grass at that, both in violation of park regulations.
[A noise complaint was made to the police.]
A couple of cops went over to the park and told the hippies to shut up and get off the grass. The kids laughed, and kept singing. The cops ordered them to leave. “They laughed at us,” patrolman John Rodd explained. “That’s when the trouble began.”
[The cops attacked & arrested a bunch of the hippies, but this backfired.]
...As city departments competed with self-absolutions and veiled accusations, the hippies emerged from the crisis as a community. They had won the park. The next day, the grassy battleground was designated a “troubador area” by Parks Commissioner August Heckscher, the gates were opened, and the “keep off the grass” signs removed. [ . . . ]
The Group Image played to a packed park Wednesday night, but there were no cops around to love. Their absence was regretted later in the evening when a group of Puerto Rican youths, upset by the hippies’ newly-won dominance of the park, rained rocks and beer cans on the musicians. The Group Image made a hasty exit. [ . . . ]
[The police captain met with the East Village Defense Committee, hearing protests against police actions.]
June began on Thursday, and the Grateful Dead were in town and, despite some rumble rumors from the Puerto Ricans, the prospects for peace looked promising. A happy, scruffy parade of 80 marched down St. Mark’s Place, complete with police escort, to present the Dead with a white carnation key to the East Village, graciously accepted by Pigpen. And the Tompkins Square bandshell rocked with San Francisco glory until a noise complaint was lodged in the late afternoon. Rather than tune down, the Dead turned off. [ . . . ]
[There was another committee meeting that night.]
Meanwhile, the Tactical Police Force was back in Tompkins Square Park.
All day there were rumors that the Puerto Ricans were uptight. The rumors were true. They knew about Memorial Day, and they had heard the “LSD music” and they thought that the hippies were taking over the park. The park was tense Thursday night as the Pageant Players performed three anti-war plays. “There was some hostile response,” Michael Brown of the Pageant Players recalled, “but there always is when we perform in the street. The last thing we tried was an improvisation about the events in the park Tuesday. At the end of it, there was a small fight in the audience.”
The Pageant Players were followed by a folk-rock group, and a group of Puerto Ricans came to the bandshell and demanded Latin music. Some words were exchanged, and a scuffle started, and the iron curtain was pulled down to close the stage. [ . . . ]
[A mob formed, attacking people & wrecking cars; police arrived & dispersed the crowd. The Puerto Rican community met & decided to have another concert Friday night, June 2.]
The park was jammed Friday night. Mongo Santamaria played, and Len Chandler sang, and China Garcia from the Real Great Society mc’d in Spanish. [ . . . ] Hippies and Puerto Ricans together grooved on the Latin music. And when the music stopped, shortly before midnight, everyone held his breath. But there was no riot. [ . . . ]
Saturday afternoon the Fugs played in the bandshell, and tourists swarmed into the park. [ . . . ] The community rallied to discourage the tourists, and Sunday the bandshell was closed. [After a stabbing, the Parks Commissioner revoked a permit for further concerts in the bandshell.] It was felt that the concerts attracted tourists, but were not representative enough to satisfy the community.
(by Don McNeill, from the Village Voice, June 8 1967)
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=KEtq3P1Vf8oC&dat=19670608&printsec=frontpage&hl=en (6/8/67 Village Voice - Dead mentioned on p. 21)
See also: http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2009/12/june-1-1967-tompkins-square-park-new.html (particularly the comments)
RETURN OF THE HIPPIES
Tompkins Square Park began to emerge as a sort of Mecca of psychedelia yesterday as about 3,000 assorted hippies gathered to commemorate the two-day-old Memorial Day Bash-In.
They sprawled out in every direction from a bandstand in the three-block-square park in the East Village, listening to an amplified explosion of rock 'n' roll by a San Francisco band that calls itself The Grateful Dead. They drew wide-eyed stares from oldsters sunning themselves in the park, and won support from at least one old woman who commented, "If I was young again, I'd probably be doing just the same thing."
Since nothing can be called just a crowd anymore, this gathering was called a "real-in." Its alleged purpose was to show police that the hippie element had not been intimidated by the battle Tuesday in which 42 hippies were arrested after they defied orders to leave the park. Several policemen stood at the rear of the crowd yesterday but did not interfere with the hippies' day in the sun.
The Grateful Dead, playing loud enough to raise the ungrateful dead, began playing at 2 PM and the music could be heard for blocks in every direction. The hippies began emerging from their nearby tenements and lofts and converging on the park in their usual varied get-up, including assorted combinations of long hair, beards, sandals, boots, saris, jeans and miniskirts. "We just gather here to be in the sun," said one hippie as he did his yoga exercises.
Some of the hippies were still in the park last night, but a large crowd gathered that was a mixture of non-hippie or anti-hippie, most of them youths. Several incidents were reported, and scores of police were rushed to the scene. In one incident a motoryclist was pulled from his cycle, which was then wrecked. In another, some clothes were ripped off a 29-year-old woman. Police rescued her, and she refused to press charges against anyone. Both incidents were attributed to the anti-hippie element, since the hippie code centers on peace and nonviolence. In contrast to Tuesday's battle, the cops asked the crowd to disperse last night, and then most of the policemen left without trying to break up the crowd with force.
(from Newsday, June 2 1967)
JUNE 8 - CENTRAL PARK
THE MUSIC IS HIP IN CENTRAL PARK
450 at the Band Shell Hear Electric-Guitar Combos
Hippies armed with electric guitars occupied the band shell at the Mall in Central Park yesterday and opened up their musical artillery. An audience of about 450 withstood the two-and-a-half-hour barrage.
About half the audience was composed of hippies, from 15 to 32 years old. The rest appeared to be passers-by.
Earlier this week the Parks Department barred such musical entertainment at the amphitheater in Tompkins Square Park, on the Lower East Side. But it gave permission for the use of the Central Park bandshell from 2 to 5 p.m. yesterday.
A combo called the Group Image - five electric guitars plus drums - achieved a sound at times that suggested a derailed freight train plunging over a cliff. Then a group called the Grateful Dead came on with electronically amplified variations on rock 'n' roll music.
The young people, some with bare feet and others wearing sandals or socks, did some moderately contortionate dancing at first. But then the pace quickened, and soon they were jumping around like rag dolls being jerked by wires.
"Part of our thing is to try to turn people on with our music, because if you're up tight, you can't relax," said Laird C. Grant of the Grateful Dead.
"I'm a pothead," a young man said amiably, walking by with a kitchen pot on his head.
(from the New York Times, June 9 1967)
Previously included here:
JUNE 12 - THE CHEETAH
SCENES (from the Village Voice 6/15/67)
The Flower People went uptown Monday night for the first of a series of “Inter-Tribal Community Benefits” at Cheetah... Many who came in suits took out their handkerchiefs and used them for headbands. Many who came in shirts took them off.
The Grateful Dead played to their people for the third free time in their ten-day tour. They have functioned not only as missionaries of the San Francisco sound but as emissaries from the Haight. “It’s happening here,” Rock Scully said. “New York is still two years behind the Haight, but two months ago it was three years behind.”
The Group Image also played and they made people dance. It is possible that the tribal-fling sound might catch on further out than the East Village because of its influence on dancing.
Years ago the twist revolutionized dancing because it was so easy to do, but during the last few Beatle years, rock music has become complex and with it discotheque dancing has become something more demanding than just moving your hips.
The kind of full throttle runaway tuning up raga blast that the Group Image plays is very formless. A newcomer trying to dance to this sound at first finds it hard to figure out what to do. After a while the sound gets to you and you discover that you can dance to it but only if you forget old cliches.
Anyone, repeat, anyone can frenzy dance to the Group Image. You can jump up and down and wave your hands in the air and hurtle in circles and fall on the floor. Anything goes.
More freaking out at the Cheetah next Monday and profits go to buy paper for the Communications Company and more bail money for the Jade Companions.
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=KEtq3P1Vf8oC&dat=19670615&printsec=frontpage&hl=en (6/15/67 Village Voice, see p. 19)
[Note: the show wasn't actually free. The same column also prints a letter from the San Francisco Oracle, saying they’re expecting thousands of people journeying to San Francisco, and they need to bring more than flowers and bananas: money for rent & food, sleeping bags, camping equipment, extra food, warm clothing, and ID. This issue of the Village Voice also has some fascinating articles & letters about the Tompkins Square situation, and the divisions in the community, particularly between the pacifist hippies who want to drop out & the political activists who want to reform society, and the inability of anyone to agree on what to do.]
From "What Goes On," Crawdaddy, Issue 10, July/Aug 1967:
There's still no real rock scene in New York, but things are happening very fast. (Rock Scully: "When I was here a month ago, New York was three years behind the Haight. Now it's two years behind.") The Grateful Dead came to town, and played so many free concerts that the SF tradition of music in the parks seems firmly established here.
The Group Image has been a particularly important influence on the scene. (The Image are an amorphous bunch who produce music, posters, confusion, and other useful items. As yet, their music is nothing very good, but their performance is very enjoyable - the audience makes as much noise as the Image, and it's all very tribal and very real.)
Monday nights at the Cheetah are now devoted to the community, following a marvelous Grateful Dead-Group Image concert there early in June. For the first time, the Cheetah had good people onstage and good people in the audience, and it made all the difference in the world.
From “Miles’ Trip: New York,” by Barry Miles, from the UK magazine International Times, 6/30/67 – an update on the NYC scene for English readers.
Tompkins Square Park is the focal point for hippie-power in the Lower East Side of New York. In the surrounding blocks are the Tompkins Square Bookshop, 10th Street Books, The Peace Eye Bookshop, the old E.V.O. Office, The Leather Shop, The Psychedehcatessen, Psychedelic Community Centre and many cafes, bars and boutiques all serving the hippie community. Two weeks ago the first major encounter between police and hippies occured in the park where the hippies got their heads smashed and the city apologised – Mayor Lindsey's second in command saying that the hippies should remember that the police are essentially a fascist organisation... Three police stand on each corner of the park now and more are available from an emergency van parked just off the square. The Ukranians and Puerto Ricans of the area have not made any arrangements with the hip community and the "melting pot" just doesn't melt. [. . . ]
The Mothers of Invention expect to be here [London] in late September. Their stage act in New York is, like their new album Absolutely Free, structured like an opera. Zappa stands amid dozens of people who appear in a state of total anarchy. At the raise of his arm they move from one number to another or stop or start. Groupies leap about the stage with tambourines or sweep up the mashed fruit that another Mother eats and spits out again into the audience – all a bit messy. The act requires a fairly complete knowledge of American classic pop music for a good appreciation of its musical content – they will blow people's minds here.
The Fugs are still playing in the Village – the words making up for a certain lack of music continuity. Ken Weaver's brilliant humour and Sanders' direct approach hold the audience in a way that no other group could... The pornographic interlude in the middle of the show would probably be unintelligible here but is very funny. Tuli Kupferberg visualises many of the songs in a way of his own, particularly in 'Kill For Peace'.
The Grateful Dead and the Group Image were at the Cheetah with an expensive light show. The Dead play like a more electronic version of Tomorrow, the Group Image are a mixture of the Soft Machine and A.M.M. – heavily experimental, heavily amplified. The light show is overdone and becomes tame. It seems to be preselected or programmed in some way though there seemed to be operators on the projectors.
[The rest of the article is about Tim Leary's activities.]
The Bob Fass radio show from 6/7/67 has an interview with several Group Image members, and Rock Scully & Danny Rifkin representing the Dead.
This isn't a normal question & answer radio show, though, mostly just stoned banter & laughter. (There's even a group humming session.)
They announce the Central Park show the next day, from 2-5 pm. The Group Image are looking forward to playing out in the park. “Free in the park, tomorrow – free freak!”
Foss asks the Group Image to describe their sound. "Come tomorrow and find out, listen to us!"
Foss: “You’re also doing something at the Cheetah for money.”
“It’s a benefit for the Lower East Side community, it’s gonna be every Monday night during the summer at the Cheetah.” They talk about ticket arrangements, how the money will be divided between the tribes, Group Image's control of the events, the situation at Cheetah, and how the light show is run.
Foss says, "The peace in Tompkins Square Park seems to have been restored by the people wearing armbands.”
“And playing in rock bands – of course the rock bands started it!”
Foss: “You think that’s true?”
“No. [But] that kind of music stirs people up - it gets people to freak.”
"You know something, it doesn't stir people up violently in sunshine, rock music and sunshine go together real well."
Introducing the Dead, Foss says to Scully, “I hear a lot of beautiful things about you, you have a lot to live up to... People have been telling me about you for well over a year, and that's a long time..."
He says, “Rock’s from San Francisco where the name ‘Grateful Dead’ makes a lot of sense.”
And he asks Rifkin, “How do you guys compare with Moby Grape?”
Scully & Rifkin complain about the scary police in San Francisco, who are out to get the hippies. (They seem to think that in NYC, police just keep the peace & stop crime...) Foss compares the San Francisco & New York Be-Ins (there had been a couple Be-Ins in Central Park), feeling that in SF the people were all watching the bands, while in NYC everyone did their own thing. Scully & Rifkin disagree, talking about the different circles of people all over Golden Gate Park, and describing the experience in glowing terms. Foss is curious about San Francisco & asks them what the "tribes" are like out there - they think it's much the same as in NYC, but it's easier for people to get together out west.
Jim Fosso, a Group Image member, remembers playing with the Dead at the Tompkins Square Park show.
"The park had become a hippie hangout of sorts, with weed being smoked more or less openly until the cops staged a big raid, beat up several people and threw them in jail. This caused a huge uproar, police were shamed for their brutality, and proclaimed that they wouldn't be patrolling the park anymore.
I had co-founded a band called "Group Image" (name inspired by Marshall McCluhan's "The Medium Is The Message"). We planned to play a benefit concert, I think to help with legal expenses for the police victims, and we contacted the Dead to invite them to join in. They accepted because they were in town anyway, and visited us at the loft for a brief jam a day or two before.
They played a few of their songs for us, and then asked us to play some of ours. One of us replied, "We don't have any songs. We just play free." We were known as the loudest band in New York, having learned how to stack columns of Marshall amps together at a time when the Beatles were using little Standells. We would often set up at St Mark's Church or some other venue such as the Balloon Farm, set up a light show, and just start jamming, improvising, the word would spread, crowds showed up. We were wild, primitive, unstructured, like a tribe, and the music sprang from that roughly organized chaos.
I was a fan of Charles Lloyd, a jazz musician in the Coltrane, Albert Ayler mold (although much more whimsical in his "Free Music" style) and had translated that genre into rock in my own crude way, with a lead guitar style similar to the Byrds "Eight Miles High". I was also a hanging-out friend of Larry Coryell, one of the early jazz fusion guitarists, whose apartment was across the street from Tompkins Square. Anyway, I brought my crude oddball guitar style with those influences to the Tompkins Square concert. I think the Dead and Group Image played some songs, then jammed for about 5-6 hours. The crowd went insane, as they usually did at our shows.
Toward the end, things got increasingly crazy and scary...women being assaulted, weapons brandished by ethnic groups that were somewhat resentful of the hippie invasion of the Lower East Side, with no cops in sight. We were on our own to get out of there. We quickly tore down our gear, packed up and ran for our lives. I think I remember Weir slamming the last of their gear into the back of a Chevy panel truck."
(Judging by the newspaper reports, which describe neither long jams nor assaults at either of the Dead's park shows, he may be mixing up memories of the Group Image's May 31 Tompkins Square Park show and the Dead/Group Image June 8 Central Park show.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to0lUkvtHUY - the Group Image on TV, 1969
The Dead also played at the Cafe au Go Go from June 1-11, but I haven't seen any news reports about that.