Apr 1, 2013

March 20, 1967: Album Release Party


In Antonioni's "Blow Up" there's a wonderful moment in a rock club scene when guitarist Jeff Beck of the Yardbirds first belts the amplifier and then wrecks his guitar in frustration at the problems of electronics.
Monday night's party for the Grateful Dead was aborted when the power failed and the Dead's set was chopped short. So everything you see in the movies isn't fantasy.
The party was a curious climax to a weekend of wild expansion of rock. Chuck Berry's marvelous performances at Winterland and the Fillmore (he actually came back for encores and was almost as shaken up by his reception here as he was the first time he played London and the fans mobbed him) were one of the highlights of the season.
The Dead's performances on the Chuck Berry show were fascinating, too. Jerry Garcia's guitar solos were extraordinary even in the problem-ridden sound chamber of Winterland.

At Mills College there was a rock conference with criminologists, anthropologists, sociologists, zoologists, marine biologists...oooooops! Well, I mean there was just about every kind of approach to the subject. Phil Spector was on two panels Sunday and gave fascinating insights into the Beatles and the Stones - as well as his own operations - and the evening ended with the Jefferson Airplane performing without stewardess Grace Slick who is recuperating from her operation. Three dancers performed with them in a farcical demonstration of rock dancing, better examples of which are on the floor every weekend at the Fillmore and the Avalon. It was "The Reader's Digest goes acid" in the words of Frank Werber of Trident Records.
The Dead's party was a little like that, too. "It's a great party Verve is throwing," a hippie remarked nastily to a Warner Brothers executive who promptly said that WB was sponsoring it. "Oh well, one of those movie companies," the hippie said dreamily.

The Avalon Ballroom is offering an ambitious program this week in celebration of Easter. The dances will run for five nights, something that has not happened around here to the best of my memory since Stan Kenton played two weeks at Sweet's Ballroom in Oakland a thousand years ago. The dances begin tonight and run through Sunday night.
The first dance program is called "The Plains of Quicksilver" and is set for tonight and tomorrow night and offers the Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Miller Blues Band and blues singer John Lee Hooker.
Friday and Saturday nights the dance program is called "The Ship of the Sea" and presents the Grateful Dead, Johnny Hammond and his Screamin' Nighthawks (their first appearance here) and satirist Robert Baker.
On Sunday there is a special Easter Celebration dance with the Quick and the Dead - the Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Grateful Dead.

(by Ralph Gleason, from the "On The Town" column, San Francisco Chronicle, March 22 1967)

See http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/01/march-20-1967-club-fugazi-678-green.html


  1. The Dead were billed with Chuck Berry at Winterland and the Fillmore on March 17-19. (We're lucky to have one, and possibly two, of those shows on tape.)

    Of course there's no tape of the aborted March 20 party set at Fugazi Hall - there is a description of the event, though, in McNally's book p.188.
    It's the famed occasion when Joe Smith announced to the crowd that "it's an honor for Warner Brothers to introduce the Grateful Dead to the world," and Garcia rose & replied, "it's an honor for the Grateful Dead to introduce Warner Brothers to the world"...

    Garcia (and the hippie who remarked, "it's a great party Verve is throwing") had a point. Warner Brothers was not a rock music label at all - their big acts were Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Petula Clark, and Peter Paul & Mary - mainstream stuff, not underground acid-rock bands!
    One reason Joe Smith & WB had been so eager to sign the Dead was to gain credibility in the growing "youth market," and WB continued to be very indulgent with the Dead in the hopes of attracting other (top-selling) rock artists.
    (Much is said of WB's effect on the Dead, not much about the other way around.)

    Grace Slick was offstage for a few weeks after the first of her throat surgeries; interestingly, the Airplane played the Mills College event on March 19 without her.
    Surrealistic Pillow would be released the following week - ironically, it probably introduced more people to Jerry Garcia than the Dead's own first album did.

    The Dead's Avalon run mentioned at the end was on March 24-26.

  2. In a 1972 KSAN interview, Garcia was asked about the first album on Warner Bros.
    KSAN: Is that when they had that party down at the Italian American Hall?
    JERRY: Right you are, down at the Fugazi Hall.
    KSAN: That was an incredible party. It was probably the strangest odd mixture of people -
    JERRY: Definitely.
    KSAN: I mean it was almost like the stag line you know - the freaks on one side, and so on.
    JERRY: Right, that was in the days when there were a lot of straight people in the music business.
    KSAN: Yeah, and they were all coming up from Los Angeles and there was a definite line drawn there.
    JERRY: Oh yeah.

    There are photos of the event; I forget if they're online, but you can see the division between the freaks and the straights. As McNally described it, "The straights sat on one side drinking, the hippies on the other side smoking."