THE BUILDING OF A NEW MUSIC (excerpt)
There are many interesting similarities between the current rock 'n' roll scene and the great Swing Era dance-band activity of the late Thirties.
During the Swing Era there were dozens of bands, all the kind you could dance to with pleasure for hours but only a few with really exciting and interesting soloists. The others were remarkable for a good dance beat and for their ensemble sound. But the average band's performance level was good enough to make you want to dance.
The same thing is happening in the rock bands. Even though Bob Dylan says his music is not for dancing, his songs have been adapted by many groups including the Byrds and the Grateful Dead and played for dancing.
During most of the recent weekends, anywhere up to a dozen rock 'n' roll bands played public dances here and, with rare exception, the bands were good enough to dance to. Once in a while a band would start to play and the dancers would slowly leave the floor after a few tentative steps.
Then above that level of professionalism are the really exciting and interesting bands like the Jefferson Airplane, Paul Butterfield, the Grateful Dead, and the Blues Project. What these bands do is to play good dance music (some play better than others for this, incidentally) and have interesting and unusual arrangements, original material, and good soloists.
The main solo instrument in these bands is the single body electric guitar, though many of them have organists, flute players, etc. [ . . . ] They are only now beginning to define the possibilities of these instruments through the work of soloists such as Mike Bloomfield in the Butterfield band. [ . . . ]
These soloists make the rock bands exciting in addition to the excitement of the ensemble. Players like Bloomfield, Jorma Kaukonen of the Jefferson Airplane, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, these are the Lester Young and Charlie Christians of this genre.
There's a fundamental difference in how the music is played, too. Drummers, for instance, are not just timekeepers added from the outside; they play best from the inside of the tune in terms of the structure of the tune, rather than the time. [ . . . ]
(by Ralph Gleason, from the San Francisco Examiner, 22 May 1966)
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7/15/66 - Fillmore Auditorium
MAKING THE FILLMORE SCENE (excerpt)
The Opera Guild is hoping that the taping of the Jefferson Airplane last Friday at the Fillmore Auditorium by the Bell Telephone Hour will convince more conservative members of the organization that "pop" music is a valid part of the local music scene.
Ever since the committee for the guild's annual Fol de Rol announced a "pop" theme for the annual bash Oct. 19, they have received critical letters from the old guard.
A crew from Bell Telephone has been filming chamber music ensembles and the Symphony as part of a program on music in San Francisco which will be a New Year's Day spectacular.
Guild members celebrated the taping by gathering for cocktails . . . The group then drove to the Fillmore Auditorium, where they were whisked to the projection room to watch the goings-on by promoter Bill Graham. Most of them . . . elected to stay there, although a few other intrepid souls attempted the jammed dance floor.
Opera director and Mrs. Kurt Herbert Adler . . . obliged the television crew by frugging away for several numbers to the Jefferson Airplane, which Dr. Adler termed "very interesting musically." However, he confided he preferred the music of the second pop group, "The Grateful Dead," for dancing. . . .
As colorful as the Guild group looked, they couldn't compare with the costumes on the floor, which included a girl in a bikini, another in an Edwardian costume of flowing velvet robes and a plumed hat, and a third in brief gold-spangled tights.
There were favorable comments on the well behaved, if far out, crowd. "Why, there's more noise on Friday nights in the Burlingame Club," said one.
No one expected to see any one they knew, but the Adlers bumped into ballerina Linda Meyer, and Bob Phillips greeted the long-haired, barefoot teenage daughter of one of his friends.
(by Joan White, from the San Francisco Examiner, 15 August 1966)
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9/4/66 - Fillmore Auditorium
On Sunday night [at the Fillmore], Country Joe and the Fish, a Berkeley
Bluesrock gang, were in fine shape on “Flyin’ High,” and The Grateful Dead
again convinced me that they are on the way to big things; especially good for
dancing. The Quicksilver Messenger Service’s “Got My Mojo Workin’” although almost drowned in electronic
rhythm (a trait) was bright and effective.
(from Philip Elwood, "A Lively Weekend for Rock and Jazz," the San Francisco Examiner, 6 September 1966)
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12/20/66 - Fillmore Auditorium
OTIS REDDING - RHYTHM AND BLUES TIDAL WAVE (excerpt)
Shouting singer Otis Redding and his band, an overwhelming rhythm and blues tidal wave, roared through Fillmore Auditorium last evening to begin a three-night engagement. No one interested in what's happening to popular music can afford to miss Redding: he's too much.
Redding has a giant voice to match his big powerful body. He uses both to create a sensational and sensuous performance. Riding on top of the surging four-beat waves of sound from his blasting 8 piece band, Redding shouts, struts, and lurches. He sends the audience reeling with the first vocal blow, and from then on it just wilts and collapses in roaring approval during each tune.
In the 50 years of blues notation the underlying theme has been hardship in life, and love. For singers like Redding there is no distinction between the two and everything he does on stage drives that message on down.
"I don' wanna stop, I been loving you too long...I'm getting stronger," rambles one of his chants, and on "Try a Little Tenderness" there is no sign that Redding would ever take that advice himself. Even his "Sad, Sad Song" is boisterous, rough, raw...and real. . . .
[The band's] ensemble style is sustained unison wailing, accentuated by electric organ, guitar and bass. It suits Redding, and the song and dance show which preceded him, quite perfectly.
The Grateful Dead, sharing the bill with Redding last
night, proved their superiority over other local rock groups. Jerry Garcia (guitar) and
Pigpen McKernan (harmonica-piano) are superb vocalists and soloists. The Dead has
imaginative variety in format and a steady assured ensemble sound, and beat,
which make it singularly listenable and danceable.
(by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, 21 December 1966)
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2/12/67 - Fillmore Auditorium
WILD FUN FOR ALL AT A 'HAPPENING'
'Twas in the Name of Civic Unity
It was family night, you might say, at Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium the other evening, when the Council for Civic Unity sponsored a wild and wonderful "Happening"... Board members not only came and saw, but danced and listened, joining the ranks of regular enthusiasts...many of them brought their teen-aged children with them. And it was a toss-up who had the most fun. Although youth, to be sure, has the greatest lasting power. Sighed Sally Hellyer, during one lull, "I'm afraid I'll have to stay 'til the very end." She had son Stephen and a group of friends in tow, and THEY weren't about to leave until the last ear-splitting number was over. Four rock 'n' roll bands kept people jumping (and the musical din at a crescendo) - the Grateful Dead (whose lead guitarist is Bob Weir, 19-year-old son of the Frederick Weirs of Atherton), Moby Grape, Notes from the Underground, and the New Salvation Army Band. And those who had never experienced the Fillmore Auditorium before, who were there because it was a Council for Civic Unity benefit, vowed they would have to come again.
(from the San Francisco Examiner, 19 February 1967)