Jun 6, 2013

March 8, 1968: Melodyland, Anaheim


The Jefferson Airplane may be flying high with 'White Rabbit' and 'Somebody to Love' in constant play on the radio dial, but it seemed about to crash last Friday night when the band and "Friends" came into Melodyland, the former live theater-in-the-round opposite Disneyland in Anaheim.
A scowling Marty Balin left the stage three times during the group's hour-long performance, for all appearances angry, and failed to reappear for the finale. As the Jefferson Airplane's founder, male vocalist and chief songwriter, his absences threw the show off kilter, with members of the Orange County audience puzzled by the bizarre behavior.
Grace Slick, the band's much photographed "face," carried on, but at one point shrugged as Balin again left mid-song. She also commented that it had been a long time since she had seen so many "young guys in suits" among the date-night Melodyland audience.
With no backstage area at the venue, it was not possible to speak to anyone from the band for an explanation of Balin's behavior. They were in their cars and off the premises before anyone could ask for a comment.
The opening act in the "Jefferson Airplane and Friends" publicized show turned out to be the Grateful Dead, though they were not identified by name. The San Francisco band, now signed with Warner Bros., stepped onto the revolving stage without an introduction and played just two very long, mostly instrumental songs in its allotted 30 minutes, not bothering to identify either number by name.
As an audience member in an adjacent seat said at the close of the show, "Maybe we're just too conservative in Orange County for hip San Franciscans." Perhaps. Ed Ames, the Association with Wes Montgomery, and Pat Boone with the Mills Brothers will be appearing at Melodyland in May.

(by Bill Wasserzieher, from the Long Beach Press-Telegram, March 14 1968)


  1. Another fun night at Melodyland! Jefferson Airplane proves again that it's the most harmonious band in showbiz...

    The Dead, oddly, weren't billed by name; Lost Live Dead speculates that "the show was booked with the idea that another San Francisco band would join the Airplane, but it hadn't been determined who it would be."
    Since the Dead only had a half-hour opening time slot, small wonder they had to narrow their setlist down to "two very long, mostly instrumental songs."
    Perhaps the bands were put off-kilter by the revolving stage.

    This review is of the 8:30 Friday show; there were also 6:30 & 8:30 shows on Saturday, and there are several more positive memories of those shows online.
    From a Lost Live Dead commenter:
    "I was 13 and my friend drove me down from West L.A. to see the Airplane. We loved them at the time. They did stuff off "After Bathing at Baxters" and "Crown of Creation." We were there on a Saturday night when the Grateful Dead opened. I hadn't really heard of them. I only remember China Cat Sunflower because it was a catchy song. Bob Weir had long hair and looked young. The stage was in the round and slowly turned like a Lazy Susan on valium."
    The reviewer on dead.net was a high school freshman at the time, and recalls Pigpen burning incense on his organ - "Melodyland was a theater in the round and had a revolving stage. The bands had to walk down an aisle to get onstage and they walked right past me... I'd never heard such long jams before... They played most of the second album, Morning Dew, possibly Saint Stephen, maybe even Love Light (or maybe not). And the Airplane absolutely soared at this show!! Grace was so young and beautiful. I was in love. The Jefferson Airplane did their hits and sounded sooooo good!"
    There's also a long review on deadlists from Bryan Crawford, a young teen who was brought to the Saturday early show - "I saw the Dead at the Melodyland theater across the street from Disneyland. It was a circular auditorium with a rotating circular stage, theatre-in-the-round that eventually flopped... They were billed as "and Friends" and opened for the Jefferson Airplane [and] people got their name wrong...
    "When the show eventually started, I left my seat and stepped onto the edge of the revolving stage and enjoyed the concert from a few feet in front of them - mesmerized. I remember Jerry smiling at me smiling at him eye-to-eye... I felt like sometimes he was playing to me." He was also impressed by Pigpen's "menacing presence. He was the front man... It was all Pig Pen & Jerry Garcia to me. They were the kind of jamming band I wanted to be in. They had an album in the record stores and I rode my bicycle over to the shopping center to get it."

  2. I was at one of these shows. I went to see Grace Slick and remember that the opening band was so different, and so good, for an opening, and a no-name, band.

  3. I was there at the Saturday night 8:30 show. Sat in the front row so I could be as close to Grace slick as possible . I don't believe my date realized that. The "Dead" came on and did some songs that sounded like one long jam. The only vocals of theirs that I remember is them singing "Good night, good night, sweet Jesus says goodnight" as they just walked off. The Airplane were fabulous. Gracie and Marty sounded as good as their records. When Grace sang "Somebody To Love" she dedicated the song to Lyndon Johnson("When the truth is found to be lies...."). Marty did "Today" and "Coming Back To Me" two of my favorites to this day. I still have the souvenir booklet I bought that night.

    1. At the time few people would have recognized distinct songs within the Dead's long suites of jams. This was one of the earliest shows they ended by singing "We Bid You Goodnight!"