WHEN THE MUSIC FINALLY STOPPED
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)
* * *
FILLMORE WEST -- FINAL MOMENTS
"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)
* * *
BUT THE MEMORIES LINGER ON
"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