Aug 27, 2014

June 21, 1971: Herouville, France


"The Festival is Dead. Music is Eternal. The Dead are alive," read a makeshift poster above Jerry Garcia, laughing, drinking wine, his face almost totally hidden, surrounded by a mass of black, curly hair and beard. "This whole thing about us being here is systematic," said Grateful Dead Scribe, Hank Harrison. "Country Joe moving to Europe. It's part of a whole thing. We're part of it. It's a whole movement, going back the other way this time. Some of us plan to stay here a while, or if we can't, to come back."
In two shifts, together with three and a half tons of equipment, three equipment crew and eight members of the Family, the Grateful Dead arrived in Europe. They were to be the star attraction at Jean Bouquin's Free Pop Festival, held at Pontoise outside Paris. A festival that they never had a chance to play at. Dress designer for Bardot, Bouquin had sold virtually everything he had to get the festival off the ground, but idealism without togetherness won't make a festival. He had tried to run the entire organisation from one single telephone line in his fashionable St Germain boutique. But one telephone line was just not enough to break through the hassles, hustles and hang-ups of what everybody expected to be the most spectacular pop concert in Europe. Most of the available British bands were tied up at Glastonbury, and after a week of rumours and expectations it was finally established that the Stones would not be appearing. Then, to cap it all, the night before the concert was due to start, local French peasants tried to burn down the site after Bouquin had refused them protection payment.
The festival had started well on the Friday, but halfway through Mormos' session (Mormos is a musical offshoot of La Mamma's New York theatre troupe), the rain started falling. It was a catastrophe. Idealism had triumphed over togetherness. The stage had been up for a month, yet there was no roof, no covering. Someone had blundered. The scaffolding for the cover was still lying neatly underneath the stage planks. As the rain began to pour down, Mormos' sensitive cello and soft vocals came out as weak, yet beautiful. Slightly reminiscent of the Incredible String Band, they were strangely precious.
As the rain became heavier, the harder sound of the German group, Eruption, took over. It was their first gig together. They were almost trying to fight the rain, but without any covering, their amps were being silenced one by one. It was a losing battle. At eleven o'clock, Jean Bouquin, a disappointed man, announced that the festival was over. The message was monitored onto French radio, in an attempt to head off the thousands still coming in. It was to no avail. Thousands were without shelter, food, or amenities. Finally the French police had to declare the site and its surroundings a disaster area. It was as if The Bomb had fallen, or there had been a great tidal flood. What had once been a series of cornfields had become a sea of mud. What Bouquin had expected to be a European Woodstock now resembled a still from a World War One battleground.

Saturday: while the young French audience, looking like a defeated army, trudged back towards Paris, disillusioned and disappointed, champagne was flowing freely only a few kilometres away at the Chateau d'Herouville, where French Pop Music Voyeur, Michel Magne was entertaining the Grateful Dead.
"I mean this is really old," said Bob Wier, sounding no different than any other genuine American Express tourist. He looked super-straight until you caught a glimpse of the ponytail behind. "I've seen old things before, like in Mexico, but this is different..."
"Where would you most like to do a gig?" I asked him.
"The Gates of Peking. That one Mao, he's really incredible...six hundred million, close to two billion now. The Gates of the Dawn. That's the main entrance of Peking. I would like to play there."
"It'll be the biggest benefit in the world," someone adds.
"Do you think that you will ever be able to do it in your lifetime?" I ask.
"Yeah, I think that I will," Bob says chuckling.
After the champagne, there was red wine that went with the dinner. Michel Magne was hustling to get the Dead to record in his studio above. Three weeks ago the Stones were due to appear for a session, but had never turned up. While the main body are still eating and drinking, Garcia slips off, sets up his small Fender amp in a corner and blows. When British stage manager Lenny Smith joins him on Spanish guitar, Garcia just looks up and smiles. Together they take off moving somewhere, together.
The meal is over, there is a general movement upstairs to the studio for a session. Kreutzmann on drums, Pigpen with some bongo drums, Wier and Lech on guitars. Lenny is invited to join on electric piano.
"What shall we play?"
"You're the pianist," says Lech, "you decide."
But he hardly has a chance. While Lenny is still checking out the keyboard, the Dead, minus Garcia, move in, Zappaesque. Later, when Garcia joins them, it becomes even more abstract. A spacey sound.
And then, the biggest surprise of the evening, "Teddy Bears Picnic." Coming via the Dead's unique sound, it was surrealistic. "That's going to be on our Christmas LP," Bob Wier told me. "This Christmas we want to produce a record with children's songs on it."
"Sugar, Sugar, Sugar Lee," beats out Garcia.
"Hey, hold it, hold it. Don't get into that double bit," says a frustrated Garcia. "Let's start again." It's clearer this time. Garcia turns to some of his Family for approval. He gets it. "That was just tuning up," says Scribe Hank afterwards. Lech, in Western shirt, cowboy boots and short hair, smiles. "It's that kinda music that's going to be on the new album," said Hank. "It's nearly finished. Hey, Phil, it's nearly finished, right?"
"Yeah, in about a week after we get back. It's a double album for Warners. We've got this contract with them. Two double albums a year. That will just about tie it up. They're going to be shorter tracks, like what we were doing earlier. It'll be in the shops in a few months. Don't know if you'll be able to get it in England, though."
That night, in surroundings that came straight out of the seventeenth century, bodies were huddled around blankets, on chairs, carpets and floors. "What's happening?" asks an English roadie, looking very lost. "It's the Grateful Dead crashing on Louis XIV," someone replies.
"Where's MacIntyre?" a voice asks the next morning.
"You know, the one who manages us." Everybody laughs.
"He's still asleep, the slob."
"Ah, leave him alone," says Phil.
Jerry, who is standing next to him, wants to take the two cars for a sightseeing tour of Paris. "John was mumbling in his sleep about needing one of the cars for hustling somewhere for us to play here. And he was heavy enough so I thought best not to take the keys from his pocket."
Jerry, with three others takes one of the cars to Paris. For the rest, a football match is organised. The Grateful Dead v the Rest of the World. There's general agreement that no one should pay too much attention to the rules. Someone even suggests awarding extra goals for originality. Phil, together with two members of Light Sound Dimension (a West Coast band) and a French session man, opt out of the game and make their way up to the studio.

Midsummer's Eve, while thousands are assembled across the Channel at Glastonbury, several score assemble in the Chateau's garden, while the Grateful Dead are setting up their equipment. The equipment that had become part of their myth. An entire plane, the three lorries had been needed to bring it over. And what equipment! From out of the basic amps, the music was miked into an awe-inspiring PA system. From there it was wired into two vast towers on either side of the stage, each made up of four enormous cabinets with Altec Lancing speakers in each. Above each tower were a series of aluminum horns with a battery of tweeters resting on top. Fitted onto every speaker was a tie-dyed cloth, a mass of exploding colours that vibrated with each note. At full volume, the equipment was capable of the loudest sound in the world, yet turned low it was clear and precise, picking up each and every note.
"Another gift from Owsley," said an unknown voice, high on acid.
They played two sets of an hour each. Garcia picking his guitar, given to him by Graham Nash in return for session work on Songs for Beginners. Few of the numbers had appeared on record, yet the ones that had (e.g. 'Sugar Magnolia') seemed so totally different than what one was familiar with.
As the gig continued, Bob Wier's country-style vocals came much more up front than two days previously. He sang a lengthened version of 'Long Black Limousine," but by far the most beautiful sound of the evening was his version of 'Me and Bobby McGee.' Pigpen also sang, and played harmonica and electric piano.
This was their gig. They had come from the West Coast to play it, free of charge. (It wouldn't alter their bank balances by even a dollar.) They were the most political of all the super groups, playing at more benefits than any of the others. I hoped that Bob Wier was right: that in his lifetime they would play before the Gates of Peking, play at the "biggest benefit in the world." Because if ever they do, you can be certain that it would be for free.

(by Robert Trench, from Cream, unknown date)

See also:

Thanks to Uli Teute.

Aug 20, 2014

October 23, 1970: McDonough Gym, Georgetown U, Washington DC


 The Grateful Dead and their family of supporting musicians, sound men and friends showed up at Georgetown last Friday night, and from start to finish their appearance was filled with excitement. It all started when, instead of being left at McDonough Gymnasium, they were dropped off at the main gate. Their resultant walk around the campus undoubtedly shook up a few of the alumni who had returned for Saturday's Homecoming game. It is doubtful that they were ready for a confrontation with the Dead.
The audience, however, was ready and waiting to encounter the amazing Grateful Dead, who have a reputation for putting on long and powerful performances. They had to wait quite a while though, before the Dead actually went on. Conditions were hectic and chaotic in the gym, and the concert was delayed until a semblance of order appeared. At this point it was deemed safe to begin the concert, and The New Riders of the Purple Sage took the stage.
The Grateful Dead show consists not only of the Dead themselves, but also of their subgroup the New Riders. The New Riders contain some members of the Dead (Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart), but also include three other musicians. Unlike the Dead whose speciality is good old rock and roll, the New Riders of the Purple Sage are a country and western group. Unfortunately, the Riders were not at their best on Friday night, and their set at times was dull and lifeless. They started off well, with "Six Days on the Road," but after that there was a long period during which they went downhill. During this time, the much vaunted Grateful Dead sound system did not seem to be working, and the rapport with the crowd that is a Grateful Dead trademark was notably lacking, perhaps because the house lights were shining brightly and drawing the attention of the audience away from the band.
Nevertheless, things began to cook again when the Riders started "Lodi," a number originally recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Their next selection was equally good. Entitled "Take a Long Sad Look at the Last Lonely Eagle," it featured beautiful country harmony and some fine pedal steel guitar played by Jerry Garcia. Their versatility, however, was illustrated by their last section, which was a rock classic done in the country style. "Honky-tonk Women" really moved, and again it was Jerry Garcia who provided the spark that got the group going. His pedal steel guitar was consistently excellent all evening, and it provided one of the few highlights of what was a generally disappointing set.
But the Dead came back to make up for it. Garcia was again the one who set things in motion. Already warmed up from having played with the Riders, he got things off to a flying start by playing "Casey Jones." This song is featured on Workingman's Dead, one of the finest albums of the year. It would be hard to duplicate the excellence of the recorded version, but the Dead managed to do it. The Rhythm section was perfect, and as the song progressed, they sounded more and more like a train roaring down the tracks to certain destruction. They quickly shifted gears, moving right into an old Merle Haggard country standard called "Mama Tried." The band's harmony was stunning and remained so throughout the evening.
The next few numbers were new material, and they showed the Grateful Dead's steady drift towards the country sound. One song featured some fine country yodelling by Pig Pen, the group's organist and sometime vocalist. Other songs during this part of the show were equally mellow in their sound. "Goin' Down by the River" and "Goodbye My Child Again" featured fine guitar by Bob Weir and Garcia. The sound system by this time was working excellently, and the band's fine playing was boosted by the best sound system ever seen at Georgetown.
When the first note of "Good Lovin'" echoed through the gym, the whole tone of the concert changed. The subdued country sound gave way to the madness of Grateful Dead rock and roll. The transmogrification of "Good Lovin'" was something which would amaze the Young Rascals. A drum duet between Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman began the song, and when the rest of the band came in, the audience reacted quite excitedly. Playing primal rock and roll, the Dead managed to drive the audience almost to the point of ecstasy. After doing a number from their second album, Anthem to the Sun, they launched right into an old Buddy Holly and Rolling Stones number, "Not Fade Away." That did it: mass insanity ensued as the Dead sang on.
This song went on for close to 20 minutes, during which time the Dead wandered through all sorts of startling improvisational themes, only to suddenly be right back where they started. It was a stunning example of musical virtuosity, and the audience knew it. They responded warmly, and persuaded the Dead to come back for an encore. They chose "Uncle John's Band," a perfect way to calm down the crowd but still let them go home feeling satisfied. The Dead poured it on, and they were gone. They left, however, the memories of one of the most unusual musical evenings that Georgetown has ever witnessed. McDonough will never be the same again, and for this we're all grateful to the Dead.

(by Larry Rohter, unknown publication, October 27, 1970)

Thanks to Uli Teute.

* * *

The Georgetown university paper The Hoya mentioned the upcoming show in the October 22 issue:

"Homecoming '70 arrives on the Hilltop tomorrow... The activities get underway tomorrow evening, when McDonough arena will be the scene of a four to five hour concert by the Grateful Dead, the famous San Francisco rock group. Led by guitarist Jerry Garcia, the Dead will feature the fine country rock sound that made their latest LP, Workingman's Dead, such a tremendous success. Kevin Moynihan, chairman of the weekend, announced that tickets will be sold today and tomorrow from 10 to 4 at the Tree, and reminds concert-goers to bring a blanket."
[The Homecoming dance on Saturday featured local group Claude Jones and the "Baltimore soul" group Tommy Vann and the Professionals.]
("Manhattan, Dead at Homecoming '70," 10/22/70 Hoya) 

Another article in the October 22 issue:


At one time, it would have been impossible to conceive of the Grateful Dead playing at Georgetown as they will tomorrow night; Homecoming two years ago, after all, gave us Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. Seemingly, Georgetown has come a long way...or has it? Even if the selection of the Dead were accidental, and even if the "Hilltop" hasn't significantly altered, things will be different after the Dead perform.
The Grateful Dead are really coming, say the Homecoming people...(pinch me)...for their first concert in D.C. As early as 1966 (illustrated in the Vintage Dead live LP released recently), the group was into good things. In spite of the predominance of Tommy James and the "Hanky Panky" on the radio, the Dead were turning on people in San Francisco to the amazing togetherness and totality of their live music, incorporating such innovations as light shows and playing at informal, but large, ballroom dance concerts. Their first studio album for Warner Brothers (as their latest, Workingman's Dead) is unpretentious, good, amazingly well-produced and together rock...(if this claim sounds like a hype, contrast The Grateful Dead, Warner Bros. #1689, to any other LP issued during the earlier half of 1967). In between these first and latest efforts, the band added a second drummer (their music always contained opposition: vocal to organ, acoustic to electric guitar, drum to drum) and experimented with sophisticated recording, editing and adding of psychedelic things (Anthem of the Sun, Aoxomoxoa and Live Dead, to a degree).
It is, however, through the medium of live performance that the Grateful Dead establish their most intense communication with an audience. Word of their concerts, and not radio airplay, accounted for their initial success. When the Dead play in concert, their music is distinct from their recording; they allow the potential for live performance to be attained: full, long sets, intricate arrangement and harmony, a truly wide selection of music (including steel and country, with the Riders of the Purple Sage, an intra-Dead band which usually precedes the full set).
The Grateful Dead at Georgetown promises to be a set of contrasts: a San Francisco rock phenomenon, a family of sorts, playing for a Hoya homecoming; the D.C. freaks it is certain to attract and the Hoyas... Yet the experience of the Dead should turn on everyone present. The hype and bad sound system which marred the Poco concert, even the horrendous acoustics of McDonough "arena," may be overcome. The PA for the Dead will be provided by Hanley Sound, recognized as the finest for Woodstock and the last Stones' tour.
With the Grateful Dead, American rock music approaches an art form; their albums, and often their concerts, are beautiful. Nothing remains to be said except you had better not miss it.
(by Peter Barry Chowky, 10/22/70 Hoya)

The November 5 issue of the Hoya reported the dire results of the Dead's show on the front page:

"Violations of fire regulations and drug laws have prompted University officials to suspend future concerts in McDonough Gymnasium - pending a report by a newly established commission entrusted to study the problems.
However, the Traffic concert, scheduled for Nov. 15, will be held as planned.
The decision to suspend future concerts was made by the Vice President for Student Development, Dr. Patricia Rueckel.
In explaining the decision, Dr. Rueckel noted that after the Grateful Dead concert Oct. 24, "a number of questions and complaints were raised both within and outside the University community."
Dr. Rueckel also pointed up the fact that during the Dead concert, local fire department officials requested that the concert be stopped. This request was made, according to Dr. Rueckel, because of "overselling of tickets and general havoc within the gymnasium."
Over 6,000 people attended the concert - 2,000 more than fire regulations will admit.
In addition, Dr. Rueckel stated that both she and the University's attorneys had "questions concerning the flagrant violation of drug laws during the concert."
Accordingly, Dr. Rueckel has appointed a commission composed of students, faculty members and administrators to study [...]  events in the gymnasium which attract crowds that are not preponderantly Georgetown students. [...] 
The Traffic concert was not cancelled because the University and the concert promoters had entered into a contractual agreement with the English rock group, Dr. Rueckel stated."
("University Suspends Concerts Indefinitely." 11/5/70 Hoya)

The November 12 issue of the Hoya followed up:

"[A] newly created commission to study the feasibility of future campus concerts [was created] in the wake of the controversial Grateful Dead concert Oct. 24." Although "concerts in the gym would not be financially possible without the attendance of non-Georgetown students," university policy held that "the preponderance of the audience must be from the Georgetown University community." Clearly the Dead's show drew many non-students from around the area.
The Director for Student Activities noted that "McDonough provides practically the only facility that can handle concerts in the D.C. area, with the exception of Washington Coliseum. Constitution Hall has had a policy forbidding rock bookings for almost a year." One commission member said that "the Administration is not interested in eliminating concerts, but just alleviating the problems."
"Such problems include the great amount of traffic in the Georgetown area, fire hazards in McDonough gym, violation of drug laws by concert-goers, and even complaints from trans-Potomac residents of Virginia concerning the outdoor speakers through which those who could not be admitted for the Grateful Dead concert listened outdoors."
The next scheduled show in the gym was Traffic, November 15, and the campus commission claimed that "it would be an improvement over the Dead affair...extra security precautions, as well as improved ticket distribution methods." It was warned that the conduct at the Traffic show would determine whether concerts could continue at the gym. 
("Concert Seen As Test For Future Gym Events," by Rich Hluchan, 11/12/70 Hoya)

The bad news followed on the November 19 front page:


All University sponsored rock concerts have been cancelled following the incidents during last Sunday's appearance of Traffic at McDonough Gymnasium.
The official announcement was made Sunday evening by the Vice President for Student Development, Dr. Patricia Rueckel. Her decision came in the wake of the concert, following an evening marked by excessive vandalism to the entrance passage to the gymnasium.
In making the announcement, Dr. Rueckel noted that approximately ten percent of the audience was composed of members of the University community. "If ten percent of the audience were from Georgetown University, I'd be surprised," she stated.
She also added, "I don't think we have a primary responsibility to offer entertainment to all of the teeny-boppers in Washington."
In addition, Dr. Rueckel recalled the fact that the conduct of the Traffic concert was considered a "test" for future concerts. To that point, she observed, "obviously the test has failed." ...
[It's also noted again that rock concerts on campus could violate university policy that "a preponderance of individuals at social events must be from the University community."]
Dr. Rueckel extended her apologies to members of the student populace for the decision. "Rock concerts of this nature are considered a meaningful experience by a certain segment of the student populace, and I am sorry for them," she stated.
In addition, damage to the windows [in the gymnasium] has been estimated at $3,000.
In addition, major damage was reported inside the gymnasium itself. One fibre-glassed backboard fell to the floor because it was being used by several individuals as a vantage point to observe the concert. However, no injuries were reported concerning the incident.
(11/19/70 Hoya)

The same issue also carried a complaint from the Library Cataloger in the Letters to the Editor:

"I ask whether it was worthwhile having the Grateful Dead rock concert at McDonough Gymnasium Friday night, Oct. 23, considering the damage and the litter.
About 9 a.m. Saturday morning "Sarge" Wilson, equipment manager at the Gymnasium, told me that 6,000 persons had been at the concert - obviously an overcrowding. There was litter everywhere, even though at that hour the maintenance personnel had made a good beginning to clear it up. There was a fetid, barroom smell in the air. The newly painted lobby had many black smears which were not there before.
As a result of too little parking available for such a large crowd on Friday night, the two wooden barriers to the lot behind the Library were broken overnight... Again I ask, was it worthwhile?" 

See also: 

Aug 14, 2014

July 16, 1967: Jerry Garcia Interview & Electric Be-In


I: “Grateful Dead,” that has a nice sound to it. How’d you happen to come by it?
G: Well, we were looking—we were trying to think of a name. We’d gone through a whole big thing, lots of cute phrases, anything. And we were about three weeks, I guess, without a name. I was over at Phil’s house, the bass player’s house. And there was this huge dictionary, the Oxford New World Dictionary or something. I just like opened it up, and the page that I turned to, the first thing my eyes fell on when I looked at the page was “the grateful dead” in big black lettering. And it was so, it was such a flash…
I: Yeah, sure. Was it a quote then from something?
G: No, in that particular context it was an ethno-musicological term. It’s a genre of ballad, the ballad type, y’know, like there are “murdered girl” ballads. Well, there are “grateful dead” ballads. So it tied in nicely, in a way. Plus the fact that lots of people have mentioned the Tibetan Book of the Dead in connection with it, although I don’t know whether that particular phrase ever appears in it. I don’t think it does.
I: It also seems to fit in with sort of ironic, anti-war stuff. I know there’s a cummings poem, for example, that talks about “these happy and heroic dead” or something sarcastic.
G: Right, right. It’s that, plus it’s also like a very brief phrase you could describe as being the psychedelic condition. If you wanted to talk about it like that. It’s any number of things. It’s just a loaded phrase. It looks good in print, it sounds good, it’s got a sort of euphonic thing going for it.
I: Are you, well I don’t know, is your record selling well on Warner’s? Then I imagine they’re looking already to cut a second one, or have you…
G: Right, right. I think we’re going in recording probably in about 4 or 5 months. I don’t anticipate we’ll have an album out in less than seven months.
I: That’s too bad.
G: Well, we’re starting to think differently about music now, I mean we’re taking it in different terms. And we want to like get settled comfortably in the new thing that we’re trying to get at before we start to record again. And our next recording will be more purely a recording for the sake of producing a finished work. It won’t be our material the way we perform it, it’ll be something else; it’ll be our material but with more sophistication.
I: Oh, you mean something like the Beatles’ latest album where there’s a lot more studio stuff in it?
G: Yeah, there’ll be a lot more stuff in it, right. We’ll spend more time in the studio, more time on production.
I: It’s clear to everybody that the psychedelic drugs are connected with the music now or at least with the scene around San Francisco, and I assume it’s being taken up everywhere else where this kind of music is happening.
G: Well, it’s not as though the music produces the scene, and it’s not as though the drugs produce the music. The way it is instead is that musicians as a body, young musicians who are interested in expanding their horizons musically and every other way…I would say it’s because the young people nowadays I think are interested in finding out what there is to find out about themselves. It’s a matter of like concern about spiritual development. But that’s just a phrase, y’know, that’s just a word, those are just words. There’s really more to it than that, but I think that whatever it is, for a musician anyway, it’s a valuable experience: anything that makes you more aware is a valuable experience, for an artist of any sort. Y’know I think that the drugs are like, kind of like a gift to man, in a way. They’re a way of finding out things, y’know, finding out things about yourself.

(Grateful Dead Interview Continued)

Having now left San Francisco and moved to New Mexico where they can “make new music” outside of the haight hassel [sic], the GRATEFUL DEAD will likely be in tribal retreat for a time. The below portions of an interview with Jerry Garcia, lead guitar, are continued from the last issue.

I: How long have you been involved with music?
G: I started playing the guitar when I was 15… I stayed in school for maybe another 2 years. And when I was 17 I dropped out completely. And devoted my energy to music. I also was turned on first when I was 15, when I was a kid in school in San Francisco.
I: To what?
G: Grass. And, y’know what was going on in those days. The 15-year-olds in the school were all drinking. Drinking is an awful thing, it’s a bad physical experience. So I was interested in anything new. When somebody offered it to me – grass – I smoked it and got just greatly high…it made everything much funnier.
I: So drugs are just part of your…
G: They’re just part of our life style, right.
I: You don’t need them for the music?
G: No, no, no. Only incidentally. They’re both a part of my life. But so is everything else, eating, breathing… The thing that happens when you get high and play is like new ideas present themselves, new possibilities. You’re more open to the changes in the music, but more important, you’re more open to the changes in the people. There’s a very real kind of communication going on between the dancers and the musicians, you’re working with each other. If you’re a little stoned, you’re less into yourself, less into demonstrating your ability, you’re less into your own thing and more into the total thing… Playing itself is a high, playing is in fact the best high that I know… There’s no comparable experience in drugs. Nothing like it.
I: Do all of you live in the Haight?
G: …We’re moving to the Southwest… You know, we’re concerned about our productivity. And what we’re going to do is like get away from the, well, from just this kind of thing.
I: Talking, you mean?
G: Right, right. Get away from a lot of people and a lot of action and a lot of energy and just go out and do our own thing for a while.
I: Have you made any connections with the Hopi Indians?
G: Some of the people in the Haight went down there and made a very bad impression… They acted more like American tourists than people who were trying to represent any brotherhood.
I: Your music, is it rooted in the blues? I mean a lot of them on the album are at least.
G: Yeah, the album, at that time we were mostly doing blues-oriented things. Now we’re starting to get into a different thing. Although the blues is like, you know, blues is something we all grew up with. But we all come from very different musical trips. Pigpen’s background is very heavy country blues…Phil’s is heavy classical. He played violin and trumpet and then he composed for a while…… (Phil plays the bass.)
I: You have the same five then that you’ve had all along?
G: Right… There’s so much new music and so much good music. And it’s getting better all the time. Things are getting better all the time.
I: Quoting a Beatles song? I came up through rock when I was 16 and all that. When I got to be 20, I stopped listening to the radio because the music just sounded like it was played out. Now suddenly the last two years…
G: New Energy…
I: Look around the crowd here today. Certainly these people aren’t all hippies. (The Golden Gardens Be-In)
G: No, but they’re all people. Like the more straight people that come to these kind of scenes, the easier it’ll be for them to see that hippies aren’t going to hurt them. The whole scene is like good-natured……

(from the Helix, issues v1n8, date unknown, & v1n9, 16 August 1967)  

* * * 

The Grateful Dead played the Electric Be-In at Golden Gardens Park on the afternoon of July 16, 1967, before playing the Eagles Auditorium that evening. Here are two short newspaper notices.


About 2,000 hippies mingled with “straight” sun-bathers yesterday afternoon to hear six hours of rock music at the Electric Be-In at Golden Gardens.
The free show, arranged by United Front Productions and Overall Cooperative Structure (O.C.S.), was highlighted by a visit from The Grateful Dead, a San Francisco band.
Other groups playing in the outdoor concert were The International Brick, The Karma, The Daily Flash, The Time Machine and Papa Bear’s Medicine Show.
Concessioneers always seem to show up when a crowd gathers. The Be-In was no exception.
Bearded salesmen had a profitable day peddling hippie magazines and plastic flowers to the crowd.

(from the Seattle Times, July 17, 1967)


The cool sounds of the International Brick failed to lower the temperature of the heat-haze hanging over a Golden Gardens Be-In yesterday.
A crowd of 2,000 squares and hippies gathered on the brown grass of the "straight" beach to hear the "new sounds" of six acid-rock groups. 
It was easy to distinguish the hippies.  They wore clothes.
San Francisco's Grateful Dead, in Seattle to play for a dance in the Eagles Auditorium last night, performed last. 
Their manager, Rock Scully, says the Dead are Number Two in the Bay Area.
Lead guitarist Jerry Garcia describes the Grateful Dead sound as "loud and somewhat unpredictable," influenced by almost everything. 
The 5-piece band performed on the bed of a truck with electricity furnished by a small, portable generator.
The crowd sat or stood in the blazing sun four hours to listen to the Brick, Karma, The Daily Flash, The Time Machine, Pappa Bear's Medicine Show and The Grateful Dead, in that order.  The Chrome Syrcus was there, too, but it took the day off and just listened.  The rock groups, with the exception of the 'Dead', are Seattle natives.
Tim Harvey of Overall Cooperative Structure and Jerry Mathews of United Front Productions arranged the beach Be-In. 
The show was free –a 'Gentle Sunday' gesture by hippie performers who "know the people love music so they play for them."
Harvey noted that the Seattle police and the Park Board had been especially cooperative. 
But the local Be-Inmates aren't as hip as their Bay Area brothers.  Scully explained that in San Francisco everybody brings a child's toy to a Be-In – helium filled balloons on strings, for instance.
One Class of 1980 hippie was with it, however. 
Jackie Delay, two-going-on-16, toured the scene in the altogether on the shoulders of a tall, hippie friend.  When an International Brick spotted a police helicopter and yelled "Everybody wave," Jackie did.  His pants.

(by Hilda Bryant, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 17, 1967)

Thanks to

Aug 5, 2014

October 1966: The San Francisco Sound


The Fillmore Auditorium, the gravitational center of the astonishing new San Francisco rock scene, at midnight on a Saturday night:
An enormous red globe of light gurgles liquidly on one thirty-five-foot-high wall, glowing like a hydrogen fireball. On another wall, infinitely complex green light globules flow into each other and pulsate explosively. On a third wall, moire patterns, giant eyeballs, de Kooning-like abstracts flash past in swift alternation next to an endlessly repeating film of one small boy after another eating jelly bread.
On the floor, two thousand people are watching, listening, and moving. None of them appear to be older than thirty. Many are “straight,” like the crew-cut blond boy in chinos and poplin jacket, whose brunette date wears a plaid skirt and knee socks. But most are “hippies,” part of the growing society within a society that centers around Berkeley and the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco, and, though their tastes obviously tend toward the informal, the bizarre, and the flamboyant, none of them look alike. There are wide mod ties, wispy string ties, and one fellow with a solid aluminum tie. There are boys in silk frock coats, top hats, suede boots, red sweatshirts emblazoned with the zouave who decorates packages of Zig-Zag cigarette paper. There are girls in miniskirts and net stockings, capes and candy-striped pants, paisley socks and bare feet. A few people have adorned their faces with curlicues of phosphorescent paint. The beards range from the trimmed and Schweppesian to the full and piratical to the shaggy and rabbinical. The hair ranges from the merely long to the shoulder-length and beyond. Some people are sitting or standing, but most are dancing. They are not doing the frug, the monkey, or any other particular dance. They are just dancing – any way they like. And from the platform at the far end of the auditorium, electronically escalated through a two-hundred-watt amplification system, filling every corner and brain in the room, comes the San Francisco sound, played on this particular Saturday night by one of its principal purveyors, the Grateful Dead.
The Fillmore is the most important part of the San Francisco rock scene, but it is merely the tip of the iceberg. According to one estimate, there are some two hundred and fifty rock and roll bands in the San Francisco Bay area, and of these, in the judgment of at least one record company executive, perhaps forty are of professional quality. Rock and roll is growing all over the country, but here, where the growth is greater than anywhere else, there are differences.
For one thing, as the jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason puts it, “San Francisco bands are oriented toward playing for people. In Los Angeles, the pattern is for a group to practice and practice in a garage until it’s good enough to record.” There are plenty of places for bands to play for people. Rivaling (though never surpassing) the Fillmore in decibels, imaginative light shows, and general atmosphere is the somewhat smaller Avalon Ballroom, where a group of hippies who call themselves the Family Dog produce weekend dance concerts. Besides the Avalon and the Fillmore, big rock dances are held at California Hall and Longshoremen’s Hall in San Francisco, in college gyms, and in big rooms around the Bay Area – places like the San Leandro Rollerena and the San Bruno Armory. Then there are the pure rock clubs – the Matrix in San Francisco, the Jabberwock in Berkeley, the Arc in Sausalito – where people listen to rock and roll as if it were jazz, except that the music is too loud for casual chitchat. Finally, there are the endless go-go and dance clubs, at least one in every little suburban town and all of them hiring live rock music.
The scope of the rock scene in San Francisco sets it apart from other cities. But there are more important differences.
Rock and roll is a field which is subject to an enormous amount of manipulation. A few men – record company executives, radio station programmers, tour promoters, key disc jockeys – exert terrific power. And even when there is no hanky-panky, it is a chancy business. A radio program director who must choose one or two singles out of the two hundred or so sent him every week is bound to make arbitrary or whimsical choices sometimes. The record-buying public, like the television-watching public, by design or not, is frequently gulled into liking the worst kind of trash.
But in San Francisco, no one is pulling the strings. There are no shadowy fingers lurking in the background in sharkskin suits and smoked glasses. The discriminating, attentive audiences who attend the big rock-dance concerts have not been told to like the San Francisco sound, but they like it anyway. As a result, groups like the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, neither of which has ever had a hit record, are able to earn upward of two thousand dollars for a weekend’s work.
Bill Graham, creator and manager of the Fillmore Auditorium, learned the hard way that San Francisco audiences can’t be fooled. In a moment of weakness last August, Graham booked a hokey group called Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, whose record, “Little Red Riding Hood,” was a big national hit at the time. “Only three hundred and eighty-seven people came, and I lost eighteen hundred dollars,” recalled Graham. “The people – my people – stayed away. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

The music appeals to a broad range of people, but it is a definite part of the “hippie scene,” San Francisco’s new bohemianism. Unlike the sullen Beats of the fifties, who sat around in coffee houses complaining about how rotten and meaningless everything was, the hippies, much more numerous than the Beats ever were, accentuate the positive. They dress wildly, individualistically, colorfully – “ecstatically,” they would say. Like the Beats, they are dropouts from the conventional “status games,” but, unlike them, they have created their own happy lifestyles to drop into. “In a way,” says Jerry Garcia, twenty-four, lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead and one of the culture heroes of Haight-Ashbury, “we’re searching for respectability – not Ford or GM respectability, but the respectability of a community supporting itself financially and spiritually.”
Not many hippies have ever heard of Marshall McLuhan, and fewer have read him, but McLuhan’s analysis is useful in understanding them. The old “Gutenberg-era” values of privacy, prestige through money and job, and linear, cause-and-effect logical thinking are out the window. The hippies have embraced the new, “electric” tribal values of total involvement. They are for freedom and “honesty,” against categorization, even, in a sense, against language itself. “Maybe the tyranny of the written word is something that is going out,” muses Jerry Garcia. “Language is almost designed to be misunderstood.”
Psychedelic drugs such as marijuana and LSD are very important to the hippies. Through these drugs the hippie achieves the total involvement, sensory and emotional, that he seeks. On marijuana, he sees, hears, and feels colors and sounds more vividly. On LSD, his ego dissolves and is replaced by an abiding love and appreciation for all people and things. He becomes more existential than the existentialists, because his total immersion in the present is untainted by any sense of the absurdity of the future.
In the light of the hippies’ approach to life and sensibility, it is easy to understand why the most creative of them have turned to art forms that offer immediate sensory involvement: experimental films, colorful poster art, abstract light shows, and rock and roll. Unsurprisingly, the hippies have produced little in the way of good writing.
There is no such thing as a hippie who favors the war in Vietnam, but few hippies are political activists. They tend to think in moral and personal, not political, terms. When their lapel buttons are remotely political, they tend to relate political issues to personal ones, as in the slogans “Make Love Not War,” and “Keep California Green – Legalize Grass.” More often, though, their buttons say things like “Nirvana Now,” or simply, “Love.”
This is not to say, though, that hippies are uninterested in social change. They take the long view. Their approach is to create their own society of love and light and then wait for everybody else to join up.
Anger is uncommon among hippies. Last month, when California’s new law outlawing the possession of LSD went into effect, a group of Haight-Ashbury heads decided to stage a protest. But then they decided that a protest would be “too negative,” so they staged a celebration instead. It turned out to be a pleasant afternoon in the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park, with rock bands playing, children finger-painting on the ground, and people wandering among the trees with cans of beer. “Our attitude is strictly laissez-faire,” says Jerry Garcia. “Nobody throws rocks at the cops anymore, because we’re all human beings in this together.”
The hippies don’t even hate the undercover narcotics agents, whom they call “narcos” or “brain police.” A few weeks ago, one such agent, whose picture had appeared in the paper when he received a departmental honor, walked into the Fillmore in his customary hippie disguise. He was applauded.
The benevolent tolerance of the hippie world is obvious to anyone who has ever visited the Fillmore Auditorium on a Friday or Saturday night. Those who go in suits and ties, as many parents, journalists, curious citizens, and record company representatives have done, find absolutely no hostility whatsoever. No one jostles them and hisses, “Get out of our place, you square,” or some such. No one is made to feel that he is intruding. “We don’t want you to freak out,” Bill Graham says. “We want you to melt. A lot of people come in here like blocks of ice against the nasty beatniks. We want you to break down so your pores are open, so you’ll look, you’ll listen, you’ll enjoy.”
The breaking down begins as soon as you pay your admission price ($2.50 to $3.50, depending on the talent), walk up the wide, rather dingy staircase, and enter the lobby. The first things you see are a couple of big boxes with a hand-lettered sign on them: HAVE ONE…OR TWO. The boxes are filled with apples and lollipops. Graham gives away 2,376 apples and 2,160 lollipops every weekend. “If a guy walks in here worried about what kind of nutty scene he’s getting himself into and the first thing that happens to him is somebody gives him an apple,” says Graham, “he’s bound to loosen up a little.” The lobby’s walls are covered with signs (ONCE INSIDE, NO OUTSY-INSY), posters, and clippings about Lenny Bruce, Jasper Johns, and Pat Boone.
What the Fillmore does is to have so much going on that the visitor can vary the intensity and quality of his pleasure. It is next to impossible to be bored there. If the visitor gets fidgety listening to the music, he can dance. If he gets tired, he can watch the ever-changing, mesmerizing light show. Or he can look at the fantastic variety of people doing their fantastic free-form dances. Or he can retire to the relative quiet of the lobby for an apple and some browsing among the things posted on the wall. Or he can go upstairs for a hamburger and survey the scene from the balcony. If he feels like a nap, he can find a quiet patch of floor off in a corner somewhere and go to sleep. No one will mind.

[omitted paragraphs on Bill Graham's biography]

…In February of 1964, Graham [went] to work as business manager and producer of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, a New Left theatre group which was (and is) raising the ire of the city fathers by performing bawdy commedia dell’arte in the public parks and producing an anti-everybody updated minstrel show called “Civil Rights in a Cracker Barrel.” The rock dance scene was three weeks old when Graham got into it. The first dance, sponsored by the Family Dog and entitled “A Tribute to Dr. Strange,” had been held on October 16, 1965, at Longshoreman’s Hall near Fisherman’s Wharf. On November 6, Graham threw a rock benefit at the Mime Troupe’s Howard Street headquarters. Some three thousand people showed up to pack the room, whose official capacity was six hundred, and Graham had to soften up a police sergeant by blandly calling him “lieutenant” to keep him from closing the whole thing down.
Clearly a larger place was needed. Graham nosed around and found the Fillmore Auditorium, a run-down old ballroom at Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard in the city’s biggest Negro ghetto. He rented it for sixty dollars, and on December 10 threw another wildly successful rock and roll benefit. Shortly thereafter, Graham and the Mime Troupe parted company, and Graham decided to go it alone. He went back to the Fillmore and found that eleven other promoters had already put in bids for it. Graham got forty-one prominent citizens to write letters to the auditorium’s owner, a haberdasher named Harry Shifs, and Shifs gave him a three-year lease at five hundred dollars a month. Graham isn’t a zillionare yet, but he’s making a comfortable living (he’ll probably take home well over fifty thousand dollars this year), and he is beginning to be regarded as a San Francisco institution, like the cable cars, Chinatown, and the topless. “The hippie community,” says Jerry Garcia, “has turned out to be something the man from Montgomery Street can point to with pride, in a left-handed way, and say ‘these are our boys.’”
It was not always so. Back in April, official San Francisco seemed determined to put Graham and the Fillmore out of business. First the police department turned down Graham’s application for a dance permit. The rock impresario took his case to the City Board of Permit Appeals. The police responded by producing a petition of complaint from twenty-eight local merchants.
Graham went through the ceiling. He charged that the police had collected the signatures by accusing Graham of being a “pusher” whose extravagance attracted “the bad element.” He went around to the merchants himself and got retractions from twenty-three of the twenty-eight, plus a statement of support from Rabbi Elliot Bernstein of the neighboring Congregation Beth Israel, who had earlier been heard to complain that hippies were urinating on his synagogue.
The appeals board turned Graham down anyway. At this point, when all seemed lost, the San Francisco Chronicle came to the rescue on April 21 with an editorial, “The Fillmore Auditorium Case,” and a cartoon of a blubbering police officer captioned, “They’re dancing with tears in my eyes.” “The official hostility is not yet satisfactorily explained,” opined the Chron. “The police say the dance halls attract disorderly crowds and generate fights – but have reported none at the Fillmore Auditorium since Graham took over.”
The police were groggy but still on their feet. An officer showed up in Graham’s office, waved the paper at him, and told him the editorial was a “personal affront.” The next evening, the police invaded the Fillmore and arrested Graham and fourteen under-eighteen patrons. The charge was violation of a city ordinance prohibiting minors from going unchaperoned to dance halls. The ordinance, passed in 1909 and unenforced for half a century, had been designed for an earlier, wilder San Francisco, when young girls ventured into the Barbary Coast at their peril.
The Chronicle struck back with another editorial, “Certain Questions About a Police Raid,” which asked, among other things, “Was the Friday night raid vindictive or punitive or the result of police prejudice against the neighborhood? We hope not.” Three weeks later, the City Board of Permit Appeals gave Graham his permit.
Since then, police interest in harassing the Fillmore has dropped to zero. Order is kept by seven private policemen, six male and one female, whom Graham calls “swinging cops who know what’s happening.” One of the joys of the Fillmore is to watch one of these policemen standing quietly in a corner, rocking back and forth to the music, or joking with a long-haired, bead-wearing hippie. But they do their job. “If one of my regulars comes around obviously smashed on pot or booze,” says Graham, “the cop’ll say, ‘Not tonight, man. Come back when you’re straighter.’ The kid’ll say, ‘Aw, come on,’ but he’ll go.” Very few police are needed, because the hippies will tell them if anyone is smoking pot, picking a fight, or otherwise misbehaving. “It’s not ‘cause they’re stoolies,” explains Graham. “It’s their scene, too. They know that if we get busted, they lose their scene.”
That the Chronicle defended the Fillmore so resoundingly was largely the doing of Ralph Gleason. Gleason and entertainment reporter John Wasserman had for months been treating the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom as places of serious artistic endeavor. “Some of the Chronicle’s editors who had teenage kid had been to the Fillmore to see for themselves,” recalls Gleason. “At the editorial meeting, the science editor and a sports columnist came along to urge a strong stand. They knew it wasn’t just that nut Gleason, and this made an impression.”
Bill Graham himself is a wiry man with light brown eyes, a perpetual five o’clock shadow, and black hair combed in to a modified version of old-style Presley rocker. He has a craggy face and a wide mouth that make him look a little like the late Lenny Bruce. He spends most of the day at the Fillmore in his tiny, cluttered office, which looks like the inside of a chimney. He is a gesticulating, nonstop, New York-accented talker. Sometimes his monologues take on the character of a rant. Sometimes he is unnecessarily curt. (“In my conversation,” he says, “the ‘fuck you’ replaces the ‘please.’”)
Graham can – and frequently does – talk for hours about the Fillmore and his role in it. His philosophy boils down to the following: “Art in America can only survive within the framework of a sound business structure.” He likes making money, but he prefers the challenge of creating a good scene. “If I were to say to you that I don’t give a damn about the dollar, I’d be lying,” he says. “But the dollar is second to the result. I have my orgasm at one in the morning when I go up to the balcony and see everyone having a good time.”
A lot of people dislike Graham for his toughness, but in his management of the Fillmore he has shown taste, imagination, and courage. He combined a dance-concert played by the Jefferson Airplane with a reading by Andrei Voznesensky, the Soviet poet. When he booked the Byrds, the well-known Los Angeles folk-rock group, he combined them with a production of LeRoi Jones’s play The Dutchman. Lenny Bruce made one of his last public appearances at the Fillmore on June 24 and 25.
Graham has run benefits at the Fillmore for such causes as SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee), the Delano grape strikers, the North Beach children’s nursery, the San Francisco Artist’s Liberation Front, and the Both/And, an experimental jazz nightclub. There was even, once, a wedding at the Fillmore. Between sets one Saturday night, a young man named Lee “Thunder Machine” Quanstrum married his blonde fiancee “Space Daisy” (many hippies affect comic-book-type nicknames), in a Unitarian (what else?) ceremony conducted on the bandstand. Graham later got a thank-you note from the couple. Here is its text: “Dear Bill, Thank you for making it possible for us to be married in the style to which we are accustomed.”
On the weekend following last month’s racial disturbances in San Francisco, when virtually every establishment in the Fillmore District was padlocked after dark, Graham brought off his dance-concerts on schedule. In doing so he went against the advice of his attorneys and many friends (and lost a pile of money), but he succeeded in proving that the Fillmore Auditorium could remain a place of peace and light despite the tribulations of the world outside.

In addition to their social and artistic role in presenting the new bohemianism and the new music of San Francisco, the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom have pioneered an essentially new art form, the big light show. Light displays in conjunction with rock music have been used before, and are being used now in other cities (as at the Cheetah in New York). But these efforts have been comparably primitive. The light shows that go with – and in a sense are part of – the San Francisco sound are unique in scope, brilliance, and technique.
The Fillmore’s light man, a twenty-nine-year-old painter named Tony Martin, has led in working out the new methods, both at the Fillmore and at the Tape Music Center of Mills College, Oakland, where his experiments are financed under a two-hundred-thousand-dollar grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Martin uses a wide variety of equipment to produce his extravaganzas: slide projectors and slides, both conventional (photographs of things like trees and statues of Marc Antony) and handmade (patterns painted directly onto the transparency); movies of every description, including the endlessly repeating type, which are accomplished by running a circular strip of film through a projector bicycle-chain style; colored, flashing footlights, which project elongated, el Greco-like silhouettes of the musicians onto the screen behind them; ordinary theatrical gels and spotlights; and all these in combination.
The most impressive part of the light shows are the bubbling, pulsating, exploding liquid projections, and the technology of these is strikingly simple. The basic piece of equipment is an overhead projector, the kind that college lecturers use to show maps and diagrams to their students. Using a shallow glass dish (actually the crystal of a large clock), the artist mixes vegetable color and water, oil, alcohol, and glycerin. The possibilities are nearly infinite. By tilting the glass, the artist can make the patterns ebb and flow. By raising and lowering the glass, he can squeeze explosions of light in and out of existence. By putting his hand between the light source and the mirrors which project to the screens, he can vary the intensity of the light or block it off entirely. Even the artist’s cigarette smoke adds a subtle touch.
The other main offshoot of the San Francisco sound has been the poster art used to advertise the dance-concerts. The poster style, originated by Wes Wilson, twenty-nine, who does the Fillmore’s posters, eschews conventional type faces, no matter how unusual. Lettering, photographs, drawings, and abstract design are woven into a continuous whole, with the words undulating around each other or around photographs or drawings. In their ingenuity and use of distorted lettering, the posters recall their French and German forebears of the 1880s and 1890s. Wilson’s posters are coveted by collectors, professional and amateur. The Oakland Art Commission has a complete collection, which it plans to display in its new museum. Graham gives away three thousand posters a week to his patrons at the Fillmore, but even that fails to satisfy the demand. One day last summer Graham put up a hundred and fifty posters along Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue and then stopped at the Forum for a cup of coffee. By the time he got up to go back to his car, only three of them were left.

None of these things, however – the lights, the friendliness, the posters, the Avalon and Fillmore “scenes” – could exist without the music.
The San Francisco sound is played by a profusion of groups whose impressionistic, tongue-in-cheek names reflect their determination to make a new kind of music. Generally acknowledged as the best of the San Francisco groups are the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. The other prominent bands include the Quicksilver Messenger Service, the 13th Floor Elevator, the Sopwith Camel, Country Joe and the Fish, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Moby Grape, the Loading Zone, the Mystery Trend, the Wildflower, William Penn, the Harbinger Complex, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, the Chocolate Watch Band, and the Sir Douglas Quintet. There is even a group called the Five Year Plan, which played its most recent (and perhaps only) gig at the annual picnic of the People’s World, the West Coast Communist weekly.
The San Francisco sound is a very hard-driving folk-rock with strong blues and electronic influences. A San Francisco band usually consists of three electric guitars (lead, rhythm, bass), drums, and voices. Frequently another instrument (harmonic, electric organ, fiddle) is added. An equally important part of the instrumentation is the electronic amplifying equipment and its accoutrements – microphones, speakers, amplifiers, pickups, tape loops, echo-makers, and reverberators. This equipment can create an energy level that is astonishing. The Fillmore Auditorium’s sound system develops enough power to run a small radio station and ten times as much as the biggest home stereo equipment. The sound comes out at roughly a hundred decibels and sometimes ventures as high as a hundred and ten, only ten decibels under the pain level. In this situation the electronic equipment becomes part of the machinery of music, not simply a way of making it audible to people in the back of the room.
Elements of the music have been floating around for years. It’s rock dance-music, so the beat is always firmly there: a very basic thump thump thump underpinning the whole thing, a walloping electric bass and drum booming away. The drummers play out of a straight rock and roll bag, except that some of the best of them explode into intricate showers of rhythm that suggest they have been listening to the music of India. The guitarists chug-chug rock style, drone folk-style, twang country-style, and wail rhythm-and-blues style, but they too are increasingly falling into sitar-like improvisations of great color and intensity. Most of them own several Ravi Shankar records. The best guitarists are capable of extended jazzish statements. Instead of wrapping it all up in a three-minute, hit-recordable package, a San Francisco rock group is likely to devote fifteen or twenty minutes to a single number.
The influences which touch the San Francisco sound cover a big slice of the musical spectrum. The Beatles are a stronger influence than ever now that they have ventured into raga-rock and electronic sound processing, and even those San Francisco musicians not directly indebted to the Beatles musically are grateful to them for using their charisma to create a public taste for experimental rock and roll. Another immediate strand of influence is pure folk-rock – the lyrical, harmonic kind popularized by the Byrds, the Lovin’ Spoonful, and the We Five (itself a San Francisco group), and the growling, shouting kind popularized by Bob Dylan. Certain kinds of modern classical music have also been influential. Some of the San Francisco build their sound to a level of pure white noise, an aspect of the music that John Cage would appreciate. But the most important influence on the San Francisco sound is the blues. At the Fillmore and the Avalon, blues bands more often than not appear on the same bill with San Francisco rock bands. Chicago’s Paul Butterfield Blues Band and New York’s Blues Project have appeared frequently in San Francisco, and their blend of folk-rock and blues has become part of the San Francisco sound. An older generation of blues singers has exerted considerable influence as well. In the past month alone, three very great blues singers – Muddy Waters, Big Mama Willie Mae Thornton, and Lightnin’ Hopkins – have played dance-concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium.
All these strains have been synthesized into a unique sound that is San Francisco’s own. Ralph Gleason argues that “it is the first generation of white American musicians who aren’t trying to be Negroes. They admire Negro musicians like Otis Redding but aren’t interested in imitating them. They are producing something that cannot be dismissed as merely an imitation of any other kind of music.”

The most popular of the San Francisco groups is the Jefferson Airplane.
The Jefferson Airplane is further in a purer folk-rock direction than the other San Francisco groups. Its group vocalizings use folk-style harmony and have a lyricism generally lacking in the San Francisco sound.
The Airplane was organized two years ago by its lead singer, Marty Balin, twenty-three, and the group’s main asset is still Balin’s strong, clear alto voice. Balin slurs his sibilants, a fortunate speech defect which only adds to the liquid quality of his voice. Broad-shouldered, heavy-browed, and handsome, Balin writes most of the Airplane’s material. Like most other San Francisco groups, the Airplane performs largely original material. When it performs other songs (such as “Midnight Hour” and “Tobacco Road,” which have become standards among San Francisco rock groups), it uses original arrangements.
The Airplane’s five other members include one girl, a slim, lovely brunette named Grace Slick, whose huge, deep blue eyes flash under her bangs. Her throaty contralto and strong vibrato add depth to the group’s sound.
When the Jefferson Airplane plays at the Fillmore Auditorium, their set begins with a recording of a jet plane taking off. The sound builds from a low rumble; at the moment it reaches the screaming pinnacle of acceleration, the Airplane launches into its first number. Somehow they manage to maintain the excitement, creating a rolling, building head of steam with each song. They have a joyous sound even though nearly everything they play is in a minor mode. On a song like “My Best Friend,” Marty Balin and Grace Slick stare deep into each other’s eyes as they sing, and the electricity crackles.
“The Airplane has style,” says Ralph Gleason, “and all the people who really make it have got that.” And, indeed, it seems more than likely that the Airplane will “really make it.” RCA Victor signed them up with a fat twenty-five-thousand-dollar advance. Last week they were in Los Angeles recording their second album. And on January 1 they will appear on television’s Bell Telephone Hour in a segment taped at the Fillmore.
In preparation for the success its members fully expect, the Jefferson Airplane is polishing itself up and working hard on new material. But they retain a San Franciscan disdain for crass commercialism. “Sure, we’re tightening up,” says Skip Spence, twenty-four, the Airplane’s drummer. “But we’re still not showtime U.S.A. Like we don’t all dress the same. One guy’ll wear a suit and another guy’ll look like he just slept under a train.”
They have played in Chicago, Los Angeles, and points in between, but they prefer San Francisco. “It’s quiet here,” says Jack Casady, twenty-two, the bass guitar player, a dandyish dresser whose nose and pouty mouth are the only parts of his face visible under a Beatles-esque mop of fine hair. “There’s no big hassle. The audiences are more demanding here, and you get everybody, from high society to beatniks.”
“The thing about San Francisco,” adds Marty Balin, “is that everything that happens in the scene is run by the people on the scene. No outside sharpies, no big businessmen.”
“The competition here is all friendly,” puts in rhythm guitarist and singer Paul Kantner, twenty-four, who looks like a shaggy blond S.J. Perelman without the mustache. “None of that sneaky cutthroat stuff you get in commercial scenes.”
“----,” concludes Jorma Ludwik Kaukonen, twenty-five, who is tall and angular and has shoulder-length, wavy brown hair. He is quiet but is an exceptionally skillful lead guitarist.
The Jefferson Airplane has invaded territory previously untouched by rock and roll. They played the usually purist Monterey Jazz Festival this summer. More recently (October 19) they performed at the San Francisco Opera Guild’s “Fol de Rol,” an annual fund-raiser which is also one of the city’s most important society events of the season. The Airplane appeared on the same program with members of the San Francisco Opera, who sang pompous versions of 'Bess, You Is My Woman Now,' 'Wouldn't It Be Loverly,' and other favorites. Not all the gowned ladies and tuxedoed gentlemen who filled the Civic Auditorium appreciated the intrusion of hard-driving folk-rock - some even hissed - but the Junior Leaguers and their husbands were enthusiastic.

Every member of the Jefferson Airplane wears his or her hair long, but compared to the Grateful Dead, the Airplane looks like the freckle-faced kid next door.
The Dead, nearly as popular as the Plane, play a purer version of the San Francisco sound. Their music is harder, reedier, eerier, and hoarser. They are five very strange-looking young men. Jerry Garcia – nicknamed “Captain Trips” – is husky and leather-jacketed. He has frizzy hair, like Nancy of Nancy and Sluggo, a homely face, and a gentle smile. Bob Weir, nineteen, the rhythm guitarist, is ethereal and graceful, with light brown locks that wave gently down to his shoulders. Drummer Bill Sommers, twenty-one, and bass guitarist Phil Lesh, twenty-six, have Prince Valiant haircuts, black and blond respectively. Ron McKernan, twenty-one, the organist and lead singer, is commonly known as “Pig-Pen.” He has a build like W.C. Fields, a Jerry Collona mustache, and very long, curly hair, which he holds in place Apache-style with a headband. He always wears a black leather vest over a horizontally striped Polo shirt.
Because of the prominent role that LSD plays in their lives and art, the Grateful Dead’s music has been called “acid-rock.” It’s an appropriate tag; during the first months of their existence, the Dead were bankrolled by Owsley Stanley, who is said to have made more than a million dollars manufacturing and selling tiny, eggshell-blue capsules of LSD. Indeed, the name “Grateful Dead” is sometimes interpreted as a reference to the death of the ego under LSD. The Dead do not object to this interpretation, but Jerry Garcia says that in fact he found the name one day when he was leafing through the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary. It refers to a family of medieval ballads. Since adopting the name the Dead claim to have found a reference to it in the Egyptian Book of the Dead: “In the land of darkness, the voices of evil are dispelled by the ship of the sun, which is drawn across the heavens by the grateful dead.”
The Grateful Dead may not make it big commercially; they might be too freaky. But Warner Brothers is about to sign them for a record contract.
“I don’t think the live sound, the live excitement, can be recorded,” says Jerry Garcia. “Rather than trying to turn the living room or the car radio into the Fillmore Auditorium, we’ll use the resources of the recording studio – overtracking things, using other instruments.”
Garcia acknowledges the importance of LSD to the Dead’s development, but he denies that the group is especially drug-oriented. “Consciousness-expanding drugs are a part of the way of life of the community in which we choose to live,” he says. “We don’t construct our music to be drug music. The way we prefer to play is straight – relaxed and in a good mood. It’s always better when something’s natural rather than artificial or chemical or whatever.”
The Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, the literally thousands of other groups that are following in their footsteps or branching out on their own, the lights, the art, the dances: all of it adds up to a sound and a scene that is unique.
It is a sound and a scene that supports not one, but two, newspapers: the weekly Mojo Navigator-R&R News and the bi-weekly Deadly Excess, whose title comes from John Lennon’s pun on the London Daily Express.
It is a sound and a scene that might sweep the country. Or it might not. San Francisco is a very special kind of city, and things happen here that could never happen anywhere else. If it doesn’t, perhaps it will be because, in the words of one Los Angeles record company executive, “these San Francisco groups refuse to co-operate” – meaning they won’t make the basic changes in their music that this Angeleno believes are the key to commercial success. But if the San Francisco sound does become the American sound, and the San Francisco scene the American scene, it will be more than just another musical fad. It will mean that the new way of life that is developing in this city is becoming, in some sense, the way of life of the young men and women of the land. 

(by Hendrik Hertzberg, unpublished file for Newsweek, October 28, 1966)

The complete article was printed in Hertzberg's book of essays, Politics: Observations & Arguments 1966-2004.

* * * 

The article was rewritten and condensed to one page for printing in Newsweek. Here is the printed article: 


Until recently it was an underground sound, the personal and private expression of the hippies, the new Bohemians who have flocked to permissive San Francisco. Today, aboveboard, the San Francisco Sound is the newest adventure in rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a raw, unpolished, freewheeling, vital and compelling sound. And it’s loud. In Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium a tidal wave of overdriven, electronic sound penetrates the farthest corner, thunders off the walls and sets the vast floor vibrating.
With the emergence of the sound, San Francisco has become the Liverpool of the West, spawning some 1,500 bands. True hippies, long-haired, unkempt, psychedelic, the groups have adopted whimsical irreverent names – the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, the Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Sopwith “Camel,” the 13th Floor Elevator, Country Joe & the Fish, and the Loading Zone.
Every weekend in such immense halls as the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom, and college auditoriums like the Pauley Ballroom at Berkeley, the music assaults the ears; strobe lights, pulsating to the beat, blind the eyes and sear the nerves. Psychedelic projections slither across the walls in protoplasmic blobs, restlessly changing shape, color and size. Two or three thousand young people jam the floor, many in “ecstatic” dress – men with shoulder-length locks and one earring, cowboy outfits, frock coats, high hats; women in deliberately tatty evening gowns, rescued from some attic, embellished by a tiara and sneakers. Arab kaftans are worn by both sexes, who also affect bead necklaces, the high sign of LSD initiation.
Some of the crowd crouch close to the bandstand where the sound is most ear-splitting, listening as raptly as if Horowitz were playing Mozart. The majority (including a sprinkling of young mothers with infants asleep on their shoulders) dance, dropping their inhibitions like Salome her veils, inventing odd but apparently satisfying gyrations, the whole scene a dance-happening. “People are getting more into the nitty-gritty of emotional and personal life,” says 22-year-old guitarist Peter Albin. “They’re expressing themselves through physical movement and this creates a real bond between the musicians and the audience.”
The San Francisco Sound reflects this. It is a cheerful synthesis of Beatles and blues, folk and country, liberally sprinkled with Indian Raga. Most popular of the groups is Jefferson Airplane, led by 23-year-old Marty Balin. Balin’s clear, soft voice leads the group toward melodic folk-style harmonies in such songs as “My Best Friend,” included in their second RCA album to be released in January. The Grateful Dead, second in popularity, are blues-oriented, and so far unrecorded. Their hard, hoarse, screeching sound is pure San Francisco. “I don’t believe the live sound, the live excitement, can be recorded,” says 24-year-old lead guitarist Jerry Garcia.
One significant characteristic of the San Francisco songs is the length, often fifteen minutes or longer, ample time to build thunderous climax upon climax; to change the throbbing tempos, and within a single number to pass through the land of the blues, the folk, the country and anywhere else freewheeling invention beckons. Mostly untrained, the top groups boast skilled and intuitive musicians in whom a depth of genuine feeling and expressive originality is unmistakable.
The homespun texture, the spontaneity, the freedom of the San Francisco sound appeal forcefully to the hippie culture. Who are the hippies? NEWSWEEK’s Hendrik Hertzberg asked a number of them what they did. Typical answers included, “I just try to love everybody, man,” or “I take a lot of acid” [LSD], or “I don’t know, I try to keep open to all the beautiful things.” Tall, thin Chet Helms, the bearded 24-year-old patriarch who runs the Avalon Ballroom, says that San Francisco has become the focus of “a ‘now consciousness,’ instrumented by the growing of psychedelic chemicals as a tool for expression.”
Meanwhile more and more record companies are tempting the San Francisco groups, more and more clubs across the country are opening wide their doors. But so far the San Francisco Sound prefers the warmth of its hippies. “When we play out of town,” says 23-year-old John Cipollina, lead guitarist of the Quicksilver Messenger Service, “the out-of-towners have to be turned on to our message of freedom. The people out here are really open and the musicians are open. There’s a big love thing going around, you know.”

(by Hendrik Hertzberg, from Newsweek, December 19, 1966)

The Newsweek article has a couple pictures: a picture of the Airplane playing at the Fillmore, captioned: “A big love thing going around.” And a picture of the Dead glowering on the street, captioned: “A mixed bag.”

Aug 1, 2014

January 1968: Praise for the Dead


One of the most influential groups to emerge from the musically prolific city of San Francisco is the Grateful Dead. Universally recognized as the leading exponent of that city's sound, the Dead are taking over where the Airplane left off. Proving that is the fact that After Bathing At Baxter's, the Airplane's latest recording, is dying on the record stands, whereas the Grateful Dead's second album is being impatiently awaited.
The Dead's sound can be best described as the new blues. With raunchy chords and funky sounds, they grip their live audiences with a burst of sound that patrons of San Francisco's famed Fillmore Auditorium maintain cannot be duplicated on records.
Led by Jerry Garcia, who commands an almost religious respect among his copious followers, the Dead come on with hard, hoarse, screeching sounds that are almost unbelievable. Garcia himself admits, "I don't believe the live sound, the live excitement can be recorded."
Besides Garcia, who was born in Mazatlan, Mexico, there is Phil Leash on bass. Leash recounts his life: "born in a jail cell, the last of a line of at least three generations of horse thieves. Thereafter, history took over leaving me bewigged, lathered and ready for the axe."
Ron McKernan, better known to everyone as Pigpen, was born in San Bruno, California. Before joining the Dead, Pigpen was the leader of an all-organ blues band. He earned his nickname while still in high school. "I began singing at 16. I wasn't in school, I was just goofin'. I've always been singing along with records, my dad was a disc jockey, and it's been what I wanted to do." One noted San Francisco jazz/pop critic has called Pigpen "one of the major bluesmen in America."
Bill Sommers, who is their drummer, played in about ten bands until the Dead finally asked him to join them. Bill has a background in football at Stanford.
Their rhythm guitarist is one of the youngest guitarists ever to play with the Dead. Bob Weir was only 18 when he began playing with the group. Weir is also a fine artist whose rather interesting interpretation of Pigpen is being worn on thousands of tee-shirts across the city.
The group is extremely together. Working and living together has brought the group so close that it is almost impossible to tell where one mind stops and the others start. This closeness, this ability to become one being, is perhaps the greatest asset any group in pop music today can have. Through the closeness of sound and mind, they can make their individual achievements heighten considerably as a group.
They are at their best in front of an audience. They have fun while on stage, and it is evident that this is where they want to be. Garcia explains, "Audiences are where it's at. We get into a thing by ourselves, but if there's a few people listening it makes a big difference."
Phil Leash perhaps sums up the Dead's sound best when he states, "you just do what you do and we all kind of fell together. We orbit around a common center. It is impossible to define but it has something to do with making good music of any kind. That's the Grateful Dead."

(by Tony Leigh, from KRLA Beat, 27 January 1968) (p.19)

The KRLA Beat archive of issues from 1964-1968 is here: