Aug 29, 2018

September 26-27, 1969: Fillmore East


If you live on the East Coast, and somehow never crossed the wide Missouri and the Continental Divide...or if you've flown into L.A. on some amphetamine trip, your mind clouded by the classic New York myopias, "Smog, Hollywood, Cops, Reagan" and those sad things, it is unlikely that you have much of a feeling for the serene, WILD magnificence that is the West. Movies, television, pictures, stories don't really do it. What blows the mind is the reality of that space and that landscape, not the images of it. Sure the self-destructive poisons alive in the land are thriving in California, but then most things thrive in California. What other state could have Timothy Leary as a potential gubernatorial challenger to Ronald Redneck?
The lack of understanding is too bad. New Yorkers come on a bit paranoid and snooty. Californians are defensive and put down New York for the squalor and lack of air, sunlight, not to mention the inhuman current of life...but all that is beside the point.
IF oh IF ONLY, the true heads and spirits of California could get it together with the true heads and spirits of New York, America would have two golden coasts, and dealing with the middle of the country and that darkness would take care of itself. It's beginning to happen, just needs some weeding and watering.
That's why when, on the very same evening [Sept. 26], New York was being treated to The Greatful Dead, the Fish and Country Joe, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and (wonder of wonders) The Byrds, there was a certain feeling of celebration at getting such a rich hit of California all together.
It was a chinese puzzle deciding whether to go to the early show at the Fillmore (Dead Fish) or at Carnegie Hall, but the promise of a Byrds-Burritos jam at the late show, which happened, was the answer in the coins. Sha Na Na was also at the Fillmore, but the baby-sitter was late...the people next to us said "yes, they already played"..."Oh yes, they were quite good, very, very good!" And these were people from a foreign land, so Sha Na Na it looks like all that college education is paying off. Sorry. It won't happen again.

The Dead were the first group of the "put it together yourself one night California rock festival," and the Byrds were the last. To love the Dead is to know them live, and the East got their first taste of the wild, open, acid spontaneity of San Francisco when the Dead played outdoors at Thompkins Square and Central Park 2 years ago. Indoors, less success. Their music is complicated, delicate and subtle, on record it might have sounded monotonous, and their completely relaxed manner in concert went right past Easterners unused to the magnificent phenomenon of mutual, free-wheeling head tripping, and full of expectations of a structured stage performance. That kind of entertainment formality is alien to the Dead. Either everyone is busy grooving on the ecstasy of the music or it's all a drag. Without this good-friends intermingling of vibrations the Dead don't make sense, even to themselves.
But the Fillmore Friday night was a gas. Even Bill Graham is pretty proud of his new snack bar and has filmed an outasite short about it in which everyone seemed (and was, according to one of the chicks behind the counter) stoned out of his loving head. Didn't mention two weeks ago, because I hadn't discovered it, the orange juice in cans, thin cylinders of really good juice.
The Greatful Dead...grateful? dead? How do you mean? Stoned into eternity? Dead to the American amphetamine-money-success-hate-fear thing? The Dead are alive and dead too... If you get into this while you're listening to their music it will take you a long way.
Although guitarist, singer and composer Jerry Garcia is the axis of the group, I think their performances depend on the remarkable fact that the Dead have two drummers, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman. When the set started on Friday there wasn't very much happening, just sound, and even that trailed off (relaxed all right) while the drummers looked at each other and fooled around...and then, VOOM, the drums were suddenly locked together. Like a VCLO taking off they shot, at 45 degrees, right up into the clouds. Overwhelming. That double percussion, when it hits, transforms them. They got off into what may be the most beautiful side of any of their albums, side one of "Anthem of the Sun". Garcia was raised by a Hopi Indian woman.
"Anthem" has a connection to nature and ecstasy that Western culture is only just rediscovering. But the culture of the West is a release of spirit and natural stoned state impossible to conceive of in the East. Get out in the desert, the sage brush, wander the piney mountains of California, groove on the different shades of green, purple blueish green, tanish green, sea green of the brush on the ocean hillsides between San Francisco and Los can love New York after California.
I would also like to thank Mr. Garcia and companions for their performance of "He Was A Friend of Mine"...oh lyrical, wonderful music. Greatful, grateful, great, full!
Once upon a time a wild Mexican rolled out of the hills, marijuana billowing from his nostrils, bandoleros across his bare chest, hat over his eyes. His name, my friends, Country Joe! And his faithful companions The Fish! What wild music they made. That was once upon a time.
Mr. Joe McDonald, American citizen and musician, has just returned from Europe. He has enjoyed himself, sampled the cuisine, experienced the cultural deceleration, and for some strange reason developed a Jim Morrison fetish. Well, guitarist Barry Melton, who has survived the European ordeal true to his origins and is really carrying the group along, made lots of fun of him for doing all those silly things. Joe, wearing an all-white outfit, did a couple of songs which didn't light any fires and went off stage and changed his clothes. Mind blowing. Changed his clothes! Dear Joe, go back into the hills, smoke some more weed, and fight a coyote. Then come back and let us know how you are.

Natural California: rough, pure, wild, mind-blown. Sophisticated California: cool, fast, Mississippi river boat gambler slick in a way that insults the Dude. Talk about speed, cool, smooth, and you're talking Byrds.
Superbyrd Roger McGuinn rides the wind. Even Dylan learns from the Byrds. Dylan, the Airplane, and the Byrds are the great American originals.
Who are the Byrds? Well, that's the problem. They change around a bit. Gets so confusin' they hardly know themselves who's singin' and playin'. Why on the album cover of "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" they even put a picture of a horse... And just when you think "aw c'mon now," you realize they've been gone for a while, just putting you on.
Dylan and the Byrds, heads and spirits of the East and West together since the days of Mr. Tambourine Man. No other group has more fully or freely done Dylan's songs. In fact, like Bacon and Shakespeare, maybe Dylan is really a Byrd or vice versa. The title song of "Nashville Skyline", "Nashville Skyline Rag" credited to Bob Dylan, was released several months before the Dylan album on the Byrds' "Dr. Byrd and Mr. Hyde", as "Nashville West" (a slightly different version, sure, but the same song) credited to the ex-Byrd, now Burrito, Graham Parsons. See what I mean.
And so the Byrds flew into Carnegie Hall to lay a little gold on the folk and split for the canyon. Another disconcerting vibration of their - and California - cool is a remarkable lack of insistence on competitiveness. This can really throw a New Yorker died in the purple of the scramble. It's like, "We're the Byrds, and we're cool and this is what we do." It's not indifference, just part of the style of the wide open spaces. The very fact that you're together is proof of mutual interest. Why say more?
Carnegie Hall is a barn as far as the sound system goes. It's as if the speakers were jammed into the speakers backstage. The seats, however, are incredibly comfortable. (Hey, Mr. Graham, check it out.)
Before things unroll any further let me tell you that the wild, weird, really country, really funny, really funky "Holy Modal Rounders" got it going. A group of long standing recently expanded from two to five (piano, drums, and second guitar added to the original (incredible) fiddle and guitar band), national prominence is suddenly theirs with the release of "Easy Rider" to which they contributed "If you want to be a bird", while stoned Hopper, Fonda, and Nicholson do highway acrobatics on their glittering bikes. The Rounders are something to see. A mind-twisting fiddler and a spectacular version of cajun Doug Kershaw's "Alligator Man."
The sound system (we are promised that the amazing Pavillion crew will absolutely transform it before the Zeppelin arrives) was so lame that serious musical talk is pointless. Gram Parsons (along with another ex-Byrd Chris Hillman, Sneaky Pete, and Chris Ethridge - the brothers Burrito) kept holding his guitar up to the microphone. He did it with love, but you couldn't hear it anyway.
The Flying Burrito Brothers played Burrito, Byrd, and Dylan music. The Byrds played Burrito, Byrd, and Dylan music. And when they guessed it, and I can't quite remember who did exactly what exactly when. "Dark End of the Street" was done sensationally well with Gram doing the singing. "Sin City" and "Wheels of Fire" also made it through the system more or less together. A fair approximation of the concert and subsequent brief, brief jam (it wasn't worth more under the conditions) with magnificently improved acoustics can be had by playing, in almost any order, "The Notorious Byrd Brothers", "Sweetheart of the Rodeo", "Dr. Byrd and Mr. Hyde" (all Byrds) and "The Gilded Palace of Sin" (The Burritos - dig the marijuana leaves embroidered on Gram's white suit on the cover). If you like, throw in a little "Nashville Skyline" (the Mad Hatter) and "Music From Big Pink".
It was beautiful to have seen them, and so I'll close now with a passage from Parson and Hillman's "Sin City"...could that be us?

"A friend came around
Tried to clean up this town
His ideas made some people mad
He trusted his crowd
So he spoke right out loud 
And they lost the best they had. 

This old earthquake's gonna leave me in the poorhouse. 
It seems like this whole town's insane. 
On the thirty-first floor 
A gold-plated foor
Won't keep out [the] lord's burning rain."

(by James Lichtenberg, from the East Village Other, 1 October 1969)

Thanks to

* * *

SEEING DOUBLE  (excerpt)

[ . . . ]
I went to Carnegie Hall to see the first of Pavillion promoter Howard Stein's rock concerts in answer to Bill Graham. I just wish this midnight concert had been better attended. Although there were problems - namely vocal mikes that were distorting all the vocals - the concert built steadily to a smash finish. It began with a very free ok set by The Holy Modal Rounders, followed by a set by The Burrito Brothers who became progressively more appealing and went off to cheers.
The star attraction, The Byrds, did a nice set - virtually the same they did this past summer at the Fillmore East.
The evening's highlight was a jam by The Burrito Brothers and The Byrds. There were five guitars, three drummers, and one tambourine-vocalist (Graham Parsons of the Burritos) and the sound was tremendous. They did a too short twenty minutes climaxed by a stunning version of EIGHT MILES HIGH. At the concert's conclusion they offered two roosters to anybody who would give them a decent home. The fowls were a present to some of the Byrds.
Saturday [Sept. 27], I tripped down to the first show at the Fillmore East. I skipped SHA NA NA (like cyanide you can take them only once). I arrived towards the end of THE GRATEFUL DEAD's set. I must say that they were lively and the most together that I have ever heard them. They were followed by Country Joe and The Fish - with three new little fishes - Mark Kapner (Keyboards and burning uke), Doug Metzler (Bass), and Greg Dewey (Drums).
Enhanced by a FAR OUT version of The Joshua Light Show (why with all the power coming from the front lights can't I see the musicians' faces?) Joe did a very entertaining set of twelve numbers, that were being recorded live by Vanguard. The group was very free and foolish. At one point, lead guitarist Barry Melton was writhing all over the stage floor, and I thought for a moment that it was Iggy Stooge. Barry Melton was also responsible for the evening's "incident". As part of the "show", he pretended that his guitar would not play. Prodded by Joe to hurry up because the promoter would become upset, Barry yelled "FUCK BILL GRAHAM!" The audience cheered this statement. Country Joe told Barry that he should not have said that as Bill had been very good to them. The number - the last of the set - was eventually concluded.
Naturally, the audience, or part of it, screamed for MORE (the subject of a very interesting editorial in the Fillmore's program). I assumed that there was no encore, because it was 11:40 and 2,800 people were waiting outside for the 11:30 performance to begin.
Backstage, after the set, Joe and his manager Ed Denson were having an intelligent conversation with Bill Graham about the lack of an encore. Graham maintained, rightly so in my opinion, that the audience response did not indicate the need for an encore.
Joe and Ed Denson maintained their opinions that Bill was wrong.
Later Denson told me that he felt Bill was angry about the FUCK BILL GRAHAM remark, and that is why there was no encore. Denson said Bill was furious but cooled down. Denson felt, as I do, that Graham despite all the rap is a good guy who is one of the few promoters in the country who can be counted on for gigs. We also felt that Graham is most responsible for the success of the rock underground today. We agreed that Graham's promotional brilliance and tenacity made a dumpy old movie house one of the most important outlets for rock music today.
[ . . . ]

(by Robert Weiner, from the East Village Other, 1 October 1969)

See also:

* * *

A bonus review of the Byrds/Burritos show:


Carnegie Hall in the hands of "the other people" always conjured up for the cultural plutocrats the nightmare vision of young people running rampant through its august corridors, dropping acid in the water coolers and painting the walls in psychedelic tinges. Such I suspect were the thoughts of the Carnegie management before September 26 when it was decided to re-open the hall to popular culture after the invasion of the Beatles in 1963.
Things have changed indeed for everyone concerned. Howie Soloman, promoter of the Pavilion series this summer, negotiated with Carnegie Hall representatives and achieved the impossible. He opened the hall again to pop music, giving to this city's youth yet another place in which to enjoy good music.
Prior management policy aside, Carnegie is one of the better places to hear pop music. The acoustics still drive the purists wild - even balcony seats are fantastic because the sound rings true. Besides acoustics, Carnegie is accessible from all the boroughs by the subway. In this department as well, Carnegie can't be beat.
Beyond that, nothing extra has been done to the hall, no light shows to distract from the performance, no free grass in the lobby for ticketholders. However, it does offer a unique opportunity to practice one's own sort of fantasy out. Imagine hairy freaks invading the sacred environs of the first tier boxes, red velvet boxes with places to hang "Madame's" cape or "the Gentleman's" cloak.
It is a beautiful place to see so many in a place which was formerly reserved for concert subscription addicts...I digress.
September 26, kicked off by an evening of Country-Rock music, [formally] ushered in the new season in grand style. Performers in this gala were the Holy Modal Rounders, an infamous electric jugband troupe, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and The Byrds. Before the concert review, a short parenthesis. (Marring the overall effect of this opening night was the execrable PA system. The fault, however, was not with the promoter but with the hall's union which refused to help install a more effective system...union red tape forced the performers to use a system normally reserved for the hall's organ. The result was that alternatively, the PA was too loud or not loud enough. Hopefully that will be remedied in some way by the coming weeks.) Oh yes, the concert...of course!
The Holy Modal Rounders have been in existence in one form or another since 1963. They specialize in electric-eclectic jugband music. No, they don't have traditional instruments like washtub bass, washboard percussion, or jugs. They have modified everything so that there is electric bass, one drummer with a full complement of drums, and one rather far-out fiddle player who waltzes between and during numbers. They are not polished musicians, nor do they need to be for the type of music they do. Jug band music requires country soul and makes no bones about fluffs, clinkers, or broken strings. All is taken with good humor and the Rounders are both goodly and humorous. They write songs which are topical and satirically biting in their commentary and wit. Some of their better known numbers include "Half a Mind", "The STP Song", and "Take-Off Artist Song". They are worth seeing and hearing because they represent in many ways the true jugband spirit.
The Flying Burrito Brothers are made up of old Byrds members, Graham Parsons (2nd generation Byrds), Michael Clarke, Gene Clark, and Chris Hillman. Their speciality seems to be country music with a lot of LA syrup which the audience seemed to enjoy very much. No matter, I guess that 3/4 Byrds is better than none at all (wasn't that the way the saying ran?). All personal matters aside, plastic country music is what they play and play rather well. Their only redeeming feature (and alone worth the trouble of enduring the Flying Burrito Brothers) is Sneaky Pete, probably the best pedal steel guitar player in the business. He plays lead on most tunes instead of doing the rhythm and twang bit. After the demanded encores, the Burrito Brothers emerged after the Byrds set to jam and make the reunion scene to the delight of the audience.
Which leaves us with the Byrds, very unlike the original product, but as tight as they ever were due to the unity-influence of Jim McGuinn, personification of the Byrd heart and soul. There's not that much one can say about the Byrds as they are, they have a pleasant sound if you're into the country music renaissance. The Byrds, The Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young have done much to turn on many to the country music sensitivity. At the same time, it would be foolish to say that they play authentic country music. One could, however, have a real country music show in New York City featuring Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, Flatt and Scruggs, or the New Lost City Ramblers. Hell, why not give it a try.
Although the concert itself was disappointing in spots, Carnegie never had it so good. The audience was never more alive. George Szell never got that type of standing ovation accorded to the Byrds, but then again, I wonder what would have happened if some sneaky promoter put the Julliard String Quartet onstage in drag and had them jam with The Nice. No matter, it was rather a happy situation for all concerned.
Carnegie was chosen for its excellent acoustics and in lieu of a real bathroom setup, it will have to do along with the Fillmore Auditorium in providing the New York area with another place where musicians can expose their craft. Though playing in this august hall definitely sacrifices certain intimacies of the small club atmosphere, it more than makes up for it in the numbers of people who can be reached in an evening's 2 concert set.
Finally, I don't think that the Carnegie concert will conflict with the Fillmore Auditorium - God help the city if there was an entertainment war. There's enough of an audience for both places. The opening of Carnegie may even clue in other halls to take a step into the present decade and modify their attitude about this generation and its music.

(by David Wally, from the East Village Other, 1 October 1969) 

The same issue also ran this notice:

Prospect Park Be-In
Sunday Oct. 12
12 noon at The Meadow
Betw 1st & 3rd St
GRATEFUL DEAD (supposedly)

Aug 28, 2018

1968-1969 Short Pieces

(Sometimes I come across pieces that are too brief to post by themselves; a few are collected here.) 

12/1/68 Grande Ballroom, Detroit

Dear Editors,
I've read so many uncomplimentary articles about the Grande Ballroom that I just had to write in and tell you what a wonderful time I had Sunday, Dec. 1st. Uncle Russ had the Grateful Dead in to do their thing along with the Popcorn Blizzard. The Hog Farm was also on hand to supervise a group therapy thing.
There was something for everyone and it was so beautiful I couldn't believe it. A group of Rocks let me play jump-rope with them. I sat on the floor next to a guy who was diligently coloring and started coloring with him. He was kind and we joked about his work of art. The kids around us were tapping a balloon back and forth, the object...simply keeping it off the floor and I loved it. A jester gave me a lollipop and I thanked him. I played ball with a kid whose name I didn't even know and when that lost its appeal, I took up tinker toys.
The Dead played for 2 hours...straight through the candle burning, right through the paper plate tossing, and they were still going when I left.
I never had so much good clean uninhibited fun in my life. I thank you, Grande Ballroom, I thank you Uncle Russ.
Marlene Bordin

(from "Letters," the Fifth Estate (Detroit), 12 December 1968)

* * *

1/31-2/1/69 Kinetic Playground, Chicago


[ . . . ] Closely dig the tricks of the bass guitarist; the second most overlooked man in most rock groups . . . Watching the bass has become one of my favorite pastimes at live performances.
Several individuals stand out clearly, and as much as I don't cotton to the glory trip, they should at least be given some semblance of equal time with the lead players, drummers, and singers who seem to get most of the limelight.
A few weeks ago at the Electric Theater (whoops, Kinetic Playground), Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead gave a short course in the advantages of playing the bass keyed to the lead guitar. Jerry Garcia is a very fine guitarist, but the intricate and imaginative Lesh lends power and sustenance to every note he plays.
Another superb supporting bass player is Jack Cassidy of the Airplane. Listen to some of the cuts on "After Bathing at Baxter's," notice how Cassidy will sometimes hold back, entering the fray at the crucial moment with a dramatic, unexpected run. He, like Lesh, is a distinct and inseparable part of the "sound" that characterizes the group.
[ . . . ]

(from the Chicago Seed, 15 March 1969)

* * *

12/19/69 The New Old Fillmore, San Francisco


Do you remember how groovy it used to be to go to the Fillmore (on Fillmore St.) and get stoned? Are you bummed by the monstrosity that the Fillmore West has turned into? Well, old buddy, there's hope for you yet.
The New Old Fillmore (on Fillmore St.) has been running weekend music events for more than a month now, but I only made it over there last weekend. What a gas! A crowd of people, but there was room to move even up near the front. What there was, to get right to it, was good vibes. I dug the Grateful Dead (who seemed bored) and the Rhythm Dukes (who haven't quite got it together yet), danced with chicks I never met before, smoked a lot of other peoples' dope, and generally had a really great time.
The Dead's bassist was late, so Garcia and Lesh [sic] came out with acoustic guitars and sang folk songs for a while. It could never have happened at the Fillmore West, but at the New Old Fillmore it seemed right on. What we need around here are more places where we can be easy together, and share whatever we have. There used to be a lot of such places, but lately they have been in short supply. If you've got a weekend free (and you've got some bread - there's always that), bop on down to Fillmore Street and recapture those carefree days of old. Tell 'em Black Shadow sent you, and maybe they'll let you in for free.

(from the San Francisco Good Times, 1 January 1970)

* * *


"I am sitting here with the cat listening to the Grateful Dead and thinking of you and hoping all is well. The Grateful Dead are nice but it is the idea of them I enjoy more than the record, maybe; now I'm playing Howling Wolf and getting a more visceral shudder."
(from a letter by Angela, the San Francisco Express Times, 2/8/68)

"Every so often some groovy new place will open up such as the Kaleidoscope . . . But the Kaleidoscope and the Cheetah and the Shrine are really rock places where one goes to stimulate the senses and abandon oneself through the mass rock confessional. Anyway, some people still dig to talk with other people and more often than not, words seem out of place if not totally sacrilegious when uttered to a stranger during a set by the Grateful Dead."
(from "Looking Out," by Elliot Mintz, the Los Angeles Free Press, 8/2/68)

"In San Francisco the audience grew with its performers who grew with their audience . . . Lots of San Francisco bands started off with their audience and then developed hoping people would dig what they were doing...but it was all an inside trip...backs to audience they are reaching out to the audience...doing things that are entertaining, working to the audience...Jerry Garcia dances for the audience; before, no one looked at the audience. . . .  People like Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead should have themselves filmed. . . with a performance, you see it better on TV than you do being there and seeing it on the stage..."
(from Sal Valentino interview by Liza Williams, the Los Angeles Free Press, 1/24/69)

"[It's A Beautiful Day] seem compelled to insert the same minor keyed electronic freak in the middle of each song. Psychedelic Breakdown obligato. It's all right for the Good Ol' Grateful Dead to come unmoored in the middle of each song, but for most groups it gets to be a drag."
(from "Seattle Pop Festival" by J. Cunnick, Helix, 7/31/69)

"When she gets into a song, she pulls you in with her and holds you there till she's ready to let go. The experience is not unlike sitting on the floor in front of a stage containing the Grateful Dead when they're really ON: it's one that you don't forget."
(from "Jacques Brel," the Berkeley Barb, 9/26/69)

Aug 24, 2018

June 21, 1969: Fillmore East

(I've only seen a poor & barely readable scan of this article, so there are many missing lines and [uncertain words] here. But I'm posting this as a placeholder until a better copy can be found.)


Saturday night [late] show at the Fillmore East (it will always be East) [on] June 21, 1969. The Grateful Dead and their family arrived in New York and revived an era - that of live performances. Bringing with them lots of orange sunshine [from] San Francisco, they proceeded to [turn] New York into a Dionysian festival of love. Orgy might be a [better] word, for they [succeeded] in totally conquering everyone.
The group was created to [blow] sounds and stimulate good trips by the legendary Augustus Stanley Owsley III. In addition to [making] the [finest] acid, [old] Owsley was also a [mean] technician and therefore capable of fostering a technological sound, as well as a psychedelic sound. The Dead knew about acid rock (they invented it), but not the Sgt. Pepper's variety. They came to their sound via the Byrds and Roger (although at that time he was Jim) McGuinn.
Paul Williams described the first album as coming on like Rolling Stones Now. In terms of where they've gone, it's incredible that they began with hard rock. Until I saw them, I had forgotten that they had a bass player [ . . . ]
[The first album contains] old [esoteric] standards such as "Beat It On Down The Line" (blues), "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" (trad.), "Sitting On Top of the World" (C&W), "Morning Dew" (folk, out of Canada). They even go the Nanker Phelge route on "Golden Road," "Cold Rain and Snow," and "New, New Minglewood Blues," crediting authorshop to McGannahan Skjellyfetti. The guitar is fast, accurate, and perfectly correct. Tasteful, not excessive. The difference between technological and feedback, is that you hear the latter (Jeff Beck, Jefferson Airplane) but not the former (Byrds, Quicksilver Messenger Service). There is a Moog on the entirety of Notorious Byrd Brothers (Columbia) yet it is apparent only on "Dolphin's Smile" and "Space Odyssey."
Anthem of the Sun (Warner Bros.) is a movie. Only the Dead could have come out with that cover, as much a part of the whole trip as the music. Only with the San Francisco Sound (promoted by Bill Graham) would have come the San Francisco Nouveau Art thing, a la Fillmore posters (also promoted by B.G.). Wes Mouse, Rick Griffith and other freaks capably translated the audial to visual stimuli.
Anthem was almost a live album, minus the screaming and general pisspoor quality of most "Live at PJ's" recordings. By now, they had added a second drummer, Mickey Hart, and Pig-Pen had been replaced by Tom Constanten on piano. This last personnel change was accomplished brilliantly: instead of eliminating Pig-Pen, he just was shifted to a [position] he [more] [competently] [fulfilled], [therefore] [removing] the [possibility] of a nostalgic [posture].
With this change in [structure], there was a [corresponding] change in [nature]. Where the Byrds from rock and roll had [extracted] technological sound, the Dead took technology and [recreated] rock. They have adapted the [essence] of electronic music - melodic structure, something our avant-garde [geniuses] ([Zappa], Harrison, Lennon) fail to [appreciate].
Aoxomoxoa (Warner Bros.), a title to be [grokked] not comprehended, [effects] a [synthesis] of the earlier [albums]. [Not] as [?] as Anthem, [nor] as [hard] as the Dead, we have Garcia [competing] with Sneaky Pete as the Dead take a little country trip.
By side two, the pleasant [caresses] of an [acoustical] Gibson have given way to the [psychic disintegration] of schizophrenic [genius]. Distorted reality reigns hard on the head in a [most intense/mood intensive] passage, "What's Become of the Baby". We become acutely aware of the hauntingly beautiful cover design: the skull, the [sun]
[ . . . ] 
The [concert] began when [someone] [noticed] that some lemonade had been spiked with THC (tranquilizer) and acid (not tranquilizer). You knew the Dead were in town and their gay, rollicking party had begun. Heads began to be blown as they walked on stage, first Captain trips with a purple tee-shirt bearing the legend Anthem. Next we took the Bob Weir trip. At one time, he had the longest, most beautiful blonde hair in rock. That's all gone as he now sports a quasi-conventional coiffure. That was heavy, but not as heavy as his pink rhinestone-studded shirt from Nudie's. They did a couple of country and western numbers for starters. Garcia played pedal steel. Now Jerry is no Sneeky Pete and he mined the nostalgia vein as opposed to the technological (i.e., he made no [movies]), but that's okay because he did it well, which, of course, is a [movie] itself.
With these pre-flight instructions, our plane was suddenly hijacked to Cuba and the trip began. A two hour non-stop masterpiece. The longest I have ever heard anyone play nonstop was [once] the Dead did a forty-five minute jam off "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" and Sun Ra plays a set (hour duration) if he's cooking, but two hours - too much. Never boring either. In essence, it was a history of the Dead in non-chronological arrangement. Pig-Pen ended (he sang for half an hour) this journey with "Turn On Your Lovelight." And exploding cherry bombs.

(by Bobby Abrams, from Fusion, 26 July 1969)
(the SBD portion from tracks 13-24 was thought to be from the late show Saturday; however it may actually be from the late show on Friday the 20th) 

See also other brief notes on the June 20-21 Fillmore East shows here and here.

Aug 23, 2018

August 1969: The Dead and the Community

COMMON SENSE  (excerpt)

If you are a performer in any sense of the word you belong at the common meetings at the Family Dog. It happens at 1 p.m. Tuesdays. It began with what some have called "Berkeley Bullshit" - confrontation with a march - but has evolved into a strong community of artists who want to be able to do their thing together with the people.
From now on the game is not draw at the Dog. Their new trip is not a game. There will be no more flat guarantees to groups, families, performers. The name of the trip is share. And everybody brings their trip to share.
No longer do the common want the sardine-can environment. An integrated construct by all artists and the community is where it must be at for the total scene to further its form. There will be jams and parties where everybody contributes to the trip. No longer will one performer work in the corner while everybody else is forced to just sit or stand there because no one can move.
In the process of the so-called [light-show] strike, as Jerry Garcia stated: "We discovered the inequities." To share with all the performers the common had to define just exactly who is a performer. And that's everybody that works toward what is finally put on. [ . . . ]
[ Discussion of out-of-town groups, benefits, and the planned Wild West festival.
This week the question was: "Where is Wild West's head?" Can the common extend the form of WW to include not only the park but the ocean? Let's call it Wild West and work together. Could WW and the common work together to create a 72-hour-plus environment that would really be remembered as a good trip? The biggest thing that seems to loom in everyone's mind is that Kezar should be free too, besides the rest of the action in the park. But no matter how it comes out, we should really all just get out there in the park and put it on. [ . . . ]
"We have this fantasy painting of an experience in the park that is being labeled Wild West," according to Rock, "and the common has explored fantasy more than them. Now we have to see if we can make it work on a community basis." Chet then asked if it couldn't be done as a non-competitive alternative to WW. The common could in that way communicate what the scene at the Dog and other places could be like. Steve Gaskin, whose Monday night thing is over capacity, wants to join and do a thing in the park. The Grateful Dead, says Jerry Garcia, will join in and do it for free, too. Rock Scully wants to lay down a free trip at the Horsemen's Retreat.
But, can they communicate this to the people at Wild West? They don't want conflict. It should all happen together. So far it hasn't been too together.
The Haight Ashbury Commune, the Mime Troupe, and other groups are calling for a strike against Wild West. . . . A People's Festival is scheduled for Sunday, August 24, on Hippie Hill. We'll all get together and have a free blast.

(by Verne, from the San Francisco Good Times, 14 August 1969)

The same issue reports that "The Wild West has been shut down."  

The 8/21/69 Good Times included in its rock listings for August 24, "Hippy Hill: Trans-Cultural Rip-Offs, Inc. presents Steve Gaskin & the Grateful Dead in concert with Shiva Fellowship. Bring dope (the sacrament) and good vibes. noon. free."



It was Tuesday afternoon at the Family Dog.
"Nights? Nights?" Jerry Garcia was shouting, "what about during the day? We got musicians running around looking for a place to jam - why not here?"
It was a meeting of the Common, and all the tribes had come together to discuss the form of what should happen at the Family Dog. About a hundred brothers and sisters sat around in a circle, with their dogs and their children. They passed the peace pipe, and exchanged ideas.
"You want to lower the price of admission," somebody was saying, "from three dollars to two fifty. That doesn't make much difference. I'll tell you, the audience isn't going to supply much magic at $2.50. The audience is going to supply a hell of a lot of magic at a buck!"
After about twenty minutes cross rapping, it was decided that each show should have its own price, and there should be enough "cheap" nights for those who can't afford the steep weekend rates.
Chet Helms likes to talk about "new forms."
The Common is a new form. It is all the people who want to do a trip out on the Great Highway: musicians, light artists, impresarios, auctioneers, media people. And most important, the people in the streets who come to goof, and dance, and get high.
Steve Gaskin is part of the Common. Steve is a sort of priest of the new age. Every Monday night, 1,500 of his friends come out to the Family Dog to rap with him, and get stoned together on each others' vibrations. Steve wants to get people high, so they'll stay stoned on the street - and maintain at the same time.
Last Tuesday night, the Common put on a good ol' hoedown. The dance hall was transformed to a psychedelic barn with bales of hay, charcoal-roasted corn (ten cents a hit), and the New Lost City Ramblers.
For the people who didn't have the price of admission, there was a "hassle door," where you could barter your way in for baked goods, clothes, and other nifty shit like credit-card numbers. But it was, be forewarned, truly a hassle. There was an auction: box lunches and apricot pies. If you didn't like German chocolate cake, there were carob cookies at the Messiah's World Commune health food stand.
At the square dance Tuesday, a new San Francisco band made its debut, sort of. The New Riders of the Old Purple Sage, with Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, and starring the fair-haired John Dawson on vocal and acoustical guitar. The sound was as smooth as the Dead is, yet it had this sweet country pulse and tune that just made you swoon.
The week before, Fuzzy Dice Productions staged a sock hop. The Fuzzy Dice are in real life a bunch of old men who sit around and play rock and roll records. But, one day, they put all their records together and decided to do something. With the help of KSAN's Tony Pig and Mike Daly, they staged a camp trip that parodied the middle fifties.
Next Tuesday night Howard Wolfe will be playing tapes of some of the classic San Francisco music concerts of the past few years. Wolfe, who worked with the Family Dog for two and a half years, wants to get together a musical and pictorial history of what went down in San Francisco. Nobody is better qualified to do it, he feels, than the people who created it in the first place.
That same night Jerry Abrams will conduct a light show laboratory. Jerry promises "a whole history trip, in film, of the San Francisco scene." The tapes to be played Tuesday will hopefully be released as records, Wolfe hopes, to help pay for the expenses of the Common.
Something is happening in San Francisco again. People are trying to create their own scene once more, rather than be content merely to lay out bread to watch and listen to somebody else's pre-packaged product.
"What about a Latin night?"
"We can raffle off enchiladas?"
"A juke box out of a Mexican restaurant for intermission - "
"How about a cock fight?"
"We'll get busted for that."
"We ain't talkin about chickens, man!"
For the past several years, the most creative and alive artistic energy of our generation has come from San Francisco. But the San Francisco music scene is going through a change. Bill Graham is closing the doors of the Fillmore. The Family Dog is about bankrupt.
Only the concept of the Common - all of us tripping together, coming together, standing together - will enable our culture to survive and grow.
The Common. Get behind it. At the Family Dog on the Great Highway.

(by Art Johnson, from the Berkeley Tribe, 22 August 1969)



Right now, September 1969 is a major turning point in the evolution of Rock Music as well as the crucial test of whether or not there IS a hip community in the Bay Area.
The Family Dog is faltering, folks. We are the family, this is the pet we have (sort of) kept for the past 4 or 5 years. Now it looks as bucolic, dyspeptic & strung out as an establishment pet. Who has not witnessed the 55 year old matron with her freaked-out, watery eyed fluff ball of a dead dog under her arm as she waddles off to oblivion? Is it happening to us? Maybe so, if we let it. Kennel master Chet Helms has tired of looking at his weekly loss sheet, and is showing it to the public.
The Family Dog has $50,000 in debts and Chet Helms has only been eating because his wife has a straight gig. There are many reasons for the Dog losing, among them, the performers want such exorbitant fees, attendance is down, lack of advertising saturation, but even when the house was full he wasn't making money.
As a result Mr. Helms has thrown the situation open to a "Common," composed of Members of the Dog, Members of the Light Artists Guild, Musicians, and people of the community. "The Common," which meets on Tuesdays at 1:00 at the Family Dog, is trying to set up a co-operative system whereby everyone involved with the production receives a percentage of the profits.
At the same time, Bill Graham has announced that he is quitting the scene when his lease runs out in December.
"This town has never stopped rapping an honest businessman for four fucking years," says Mr. Graham. "I leave here very sad...I may be copping out, but your attitudes have driven me to my decision." Mr. Graham is tired of having fingers pointed in his face, the hateful crazies screaming: "Capitalist Motherfucker, Capitalist Motherfucker!"
Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, after many a war, says that Capitalism is the only game in town. Chet Helms also says that "aside from the fact that they don't leave ya much choice in this society," he has "always used a capitalist format out of a feeling that there are a lot of groovy ideas about how things could work, but you gotta get from here to there, and anything we do has to start with a capitalist system and evolve to some other point. In fact you do not create the ideal society and sort of go out into the woods and set it up...we must evolve that structure so that the cumulative effect of it over a period of years becomes something else."
One of the major problems, as stated before, is the fees charged by the performers. The fees for all groups are going up and up. Graham, with a capacity for 2500 people, can work within that framework, while Chet Helms would rather have a participant theater of smaller proportions with access to the outside, trees, fountains, etc., introduce new bands, and have a free-flowing total scene in which everyone can get his rocks off.
Here I think we have stumbled onto the crux of the issue. Getting one's rocks off. In the midst of mechanical monsters, frozen psyches and tension-ridden bodies, Rock music in the dance halls has allowed us the opportunity to relax, to release the dit-dot-ditty-da fragmentary consciousness of everyday intellect into a flowing unity. The loud pounding music, the flow of the lights and colors, all the stoned bodies dancing, weaving through the maze, can shake all the uptights into the stream.
It was thus the scene began, in '65 and '66. Then dances were not super concerts but stoned out Bacchanalian delights. But eventually the bands did sign huge contracts, their fees did go up, until now the bands would rather play the large Rock Festivals and charge huge fees.
The Rock Festivals have developed rapidly into something beyond anything the promoters imagined. The Woodstock Festival had more than 400,000 attending. Atlantic City drew 110,000, Seattle 70,000, Dallas had 40,000. Bob Dylan drew 140,000 at the Isle of Wight Festival, knocked 'em out with 14 songs and split, probably bothered by the photographers. Here in San Francisco Speedway Meadows draws upwards of 10,000 of a Sunday.
Why are people gathering in such huge numbers? The music? Well, it seems that the stage is more like an emotional center for the audience. Many people are lying down, many face away from the stage. The stars of the show are the spectators. Thousands never get to hear the music clearly, but if you ask them how they like the festival, they will say: "Fantastic, the most fun in years," etc. A better explanation is that everyone is starved for good vibrations. Festivals are a gathering of the tribes, people coming together around a common focus and absorbing the high-tension vibes in the air. They will suffer anything, mud, hunger, fuzz, no matter, in order to give love, feel love, be love.
This is tribalism coming on strong, NOW. It is happening. We are beginning to remember about dancing together, singing together, doing Yogic breathing together. As a group and as one-to-one partners we can get it together.
The Bay Area is obviously a nerve center for this thing which is beginning. All the good and bad vibes pass through here. We must be the ones to keep the fires lit. The Bay Area is 5, 10, 20, 40 years ahead of other parts of the US.
Whether our music is inside or outside, whether you want to be a dancer or a thinker, it is ours to CREATE the place in which we wish to live, and the style in which we want to live.

(by Muhammad Khan I, from the Berkeley Barb, 5 September 1969)


The 8/14/69 Good Times also ran an interview with David Rubinson, record producer and owner of the Fillmore Records label, on the record business. An excerpt:

How come there is only one band in SF right now that has a checking account with money in it? Out of all these fucking people who made records, there is one band that is reasonably solvent and they're not doing as well as they should be. They are the Jefferson Airplane. The Grape has no bread, the Dead no bread, Country Joe has no bread.  
[ . . . ]
GT: Let's get into the Grateful Dead. Most of the community can identify with the Dead more than other bands and you said the Grateful Dead don't have any money - could you talk about that? How much money do they need?

DR: What I mean is that if they have a gig in New Orleans tomorrow they don't have the money to get on a plane - their life style demands that when they get a gig that they can ship themselves and their equipment to the gig. They don't have the money necessary for a national tour and they're very very deep in debt. I don't know where the money went. Rock Scully has been on the street and knows where it's at - he's a very smart guy. Jerry Garcia has been on the street, he knows where it's at.
But the Dead and many other groups of this sort are not getting even the money they should get out of what they've sold. Also the Dead spent a huge amount of money in the studio they'll never make on sales. That was I think because no one was able to sit down and say look this is where it's at, you're looking for a given sound this is how you get it.
I know right now that the Dead is as famous in this country as the guy who wrote Moon River. But the Dead aren't making nearly as much money because the guy who wrote Moon River is the kind of artist and kind of writer toward whom the whole music industry is geared. Hoagy Carmichael is making a fortune - Jerry Garcia is starving.

(untitled interview from the San Francisco Good Times, 14 August 1969)

Garcia at a Common meeting, August 1969

See also:  

Aug 21, 2018

July 7, 1969: Piedmont Park, Atlanta

Excerpts from an untitled article on the Atlanta International Pop Festival: 

. . . you enter the cove of piedmont park 9:30 monday night down the stone grotto sheltered by the elms, the music ringing buddy holly-beatles, softly buoying you pam jesse, now floating you down onto an electric soft blanket of people covering the floor, no one stands still. currents move people smiling . . .
. . . people exchange, move on, dance, truck, hug, and you walk through this caught by something strange. delirious, you laugh, you smile amazed. the afternoon rain still hangs on the trees and in the air and the ground still springs spongey from its bath. you walk through wholly different communities of people spawned by the electricity of the music - Sitters, Viewers, Dancers, Listeners, Talkers - the light and music combining in areas to animate dances of wild beauty. lying on the ground an old black worker with his woman in his arms, both at a peace that no sound can breach. as you slide through these waves, the laughter wells, grows inside, blurts out and falls onto the heads of people around. a young girl - fairy, nymph - trips about, a redknobbed wand is her hand touching heads, the light tap spreading, suffusing its gentle innocent love - soon gone. . . .
. . . as the beatles stop, you come down almost into the womb of the speakers. catching the tuning notes of the grateful dead and you find miller, k.m., sally, bob, becky and you smile/laugh/hug. the dead play and people are not ready for them and stand at odds confused while the soft, sometimes jerky rhythms search for the chord, the cord, the resonance of the people. And soon it begins to form, as if mutually agreed upon, and people began to move again. The rhythm is caught. In the core of the left speakers' wake a dance begins. A tall slender red haired girl dances gracefully the dance of enticement, of friendship offered. A black man moves a careful, gameful dance of pride. The resonance grows, the music replies, the dance accelerates. People gather and clap and dance. The circle becomes magnetic and generates a ring of hand in hand dancers, encircling in affirmation the now contagious motion of the couple. The black man steps quickly into the circle, and selects a successor and the dance dissolves into individuals dancing. the dead play on, now gently loosing its audience. the music moves off into a corner jam session, and people find themselves again, but now elevated, and talking, moving and relaxing. . . .
. . . younger kids run through the audience sweating smiling hand in hand in a long chain of what seems to be a school day recess game of pop the whip - but there is no pop. a cheer rises. the crowd finds its modulations, the dead listen, and v-signs are thrown high. you find the core of vibration and see a young black policeman buoyed on the shoulders of an ecstatic procession. the cheers rise again and again and you smile wondering what this black jesus in uniform can mean in the day of the black panther. but the movement is delirious and you too are caught to the point of crying. he is hoisted high to the top of a car and as he stands beaming, his fist raised, surrounded by his disciples, a young girl bursts up onto the platform to hug Him and the cheers go up wild mingled with the strains of the dead. . . .
. . . the dead are through. clumps of audience still vibrate, playing in the lake, some wash their sweet sweat. out of the park in all directions people spread, radiate - like a slowly bursting nova.

(by Jim Gwin, from the Great Speckled Bird, 14 July 1969)

See also:  


The rest of the review, on July 4-5:

pontiac, ford, v-w, camaro - stacked one mile long in the concrete heat of july fourth afternoon. you approach the hampton raceway through groups of ambling long hairs and straights, some hawking, some hitching, here in the dusty glare to see Atlanta's "International Pop Festival" carnival of superrock and lesser sounds. tents spring up and parked cars stretch on the rolling hills like seas of metallic dead whales glinting dully through a layer of dirt. . . .
coming up out of the tunnel onto the raceway infield you ride across a red clay plain slowly realizing the immensity of the area encompassed by the 4-5 mile ribbon of asphalt and steel fence. all ready in the middle of this gargantuan shadeless pit rise pavilion tents, merchant booths, people tents, polyethylene domes, parachutes held up by helium balloons and anchored for shade, yellowredwhite coca cola houses and ten thousand people thronging - and waiting - 100degrees - for the palpable vibrations of the monstrous amplifiers to dispel the heavy clinging heat. dylan warms up via phonograph, his intimate earthy home lyrics flying off desperately unheard in this huge alien expanse. . . .
you begin to set up your own little merchant booth, bird booth, a makeshift affair of ropes, cardboard, and poles, on a slight hill some one quarter mile from the platform. from there we watch the afternoon fade into a sustained heat. The music starts, but can do nothing with the warm jelly audience. people escape to coca cola, beer, a water hosing, any precious shade. many are soon prostrate, sick. some sprawl in the direct sun in the area of the stage, trying separately, desperately to listen to the music. watermelons are given away, and soon the entire grounds are spread with half eaten fermenting rings. the evening brings coolness and a slight relaxation. you walk down to the audience, jammed increasingly toward the all absorbing one stage. there are occasional signs, deep eyes, soft eyes, and there are efforts made. but there is something frantic here, a slow eating mulling tone of desperation - or is it in you only?
al kooper starts the evening with his big band swing sound and a few apologias for the Festival and I begin to wander back through the watermelon rinds, beer cans, and bodies as his rapt audience continues applauding. the evening wears into johnny rivers, power failures and random fireworks, and very tired i drive home, disappointed that so many could meet for so little. there are those who stayed - down close - through the night to hear creedence clearwater, canned heat, and johnny winter, and there are those who say there were good things happening. i was not there. . . .
saturday at hampton starts slow. people stream into the infield constantly from 1:00 to 7:00. the heat is still paramount, but a tension begins to build, a waiting for the cool evening, a waiting for the evening, led zeppelin, blood sweat and tears, and janis joplin. many groups play. chicago transit authority floats out nice tones, but you are too far away to get caught in it, or to feel the audience. as evening comes a two year old vigorously, violently, plays kick the can, and his subtle little symphony of grunts and scuffles and the can's clat-a-tat-a-whaat is what you hear as music. dark comes down and once again you move down toward the brightly spotlighted stage where someone is performing. at first, chatting, sauntering, you soon pass into groups of people, standing, electric, transfixed to the stage, and you too are caught by a tremendous wave of sound, pulsing through the air, a sound at once of panic, of power, and of death. you are drawn closer to the light, to the stage, and now see the flesh torso of the lead singer/performer, his violent motions and his sweet painful cries moving the led zeppelin and the audience into mass orgasmic anticlimax - a vision of virility and sterility, everywhere and nowhere, schizophrenic. you are no longer: HE IS. the music dies way up there in one last bitter cry of failure, and you and people around you fall back onto the ground. you wait interminably for blood sweat and tears, and you get it, a harry james in the age of the airplane, a frank sinatra-frank lovejoy in the time of hendrix. many in the audience decide they can make it here, and stay. you wander away to the sounds of flight of the bumblebee. . . .
joplin draws you back down but somehow is not for you. her voice though strong has the unwavering nuances of a tired woman. when she stops to speak she is warm, even beautiful, but she is tired. the screams and standing bodies attest to her incredible will. though joe cocker is to come with some interesting theater, the festival is over. in darkness the exodus has begun, the pilgrimage over, the war ended, the worship completed. the trudge stretches for an endless quarter mile, the mood is tired.

Aug 16, 2018

1968: More Anthem of the Sun Reviews

Rock vocal group with rhythm and electronic accompaniment...
Warner Bros/Seven Arts W 1749 or WS 1749, $4.79

The first album of the Grateful Dead, issued in mid-1967, was a disappointment to many rock fans who had seen the rock group "live." The magnetism that characterized their concert engagements could scarcely be discerned from the ill-fated recording. It wasn't a bad record, just not up to snuff. One could hear some pretty good blues guitar work, but the whole thing was sort of a bringdown.
Since that time the Dead has gotten further away from blues and into a full-fledged (and by now somewhat anachronistic) acid-rock bag. Things have been aggravated by the serious, sometimes fatal electronic bug, which has severely bitten them.
Each side of this album is a mish-mash of self-indulgent formlessness. Blues sounds, acid sounds, bell sounds, electronic sounds: they pile over each other with such boring consistency as to drive away all but the most devoted or masochistic of admirers.
There's really no excuse for this kind of junk but there is an explanation. Drugs. The album is essential background music for pot parties (or methedrine or LSD). Now lots of rock is conceived with marijuana in mind; there are many groovy sounds that are a head's delight. Hell, all of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (the Beatles' magnum opus) can be viewed in this limited way. But that album sounds awfully good straight; you don't have to be stoned to dig the Beatles. Pot can enhance the listener's experience; it can make something good sound great, but it can also make something trite sound meaningful. It is within the latter category that this album belongs and I'm sorry that the Dead have fallen victim to the delusion of the complete psychedelic experience.

(by S.L., from High Fidelity, November 1968)

* * *

At KSAN and KMET we've been playing the new GD LP "Anthem of the Sun," which demonstrates not only their superiority as trip masters, but also the fact that they have learned more about recording technique than most producers know. The Dead should be listened to at lease-breaking volume and it won't ruin you to dance.
Jefferson Airplane tops all previous outings with "Crown of Creation." They've avoided the overarranging that dragged "Baxter's" and have successfully recreated a live sound while never leaving the studio. Producer Al Schmidt deserves credit for great technical interpretations of the Airplane sound.
(from Tom Donahue's "Donahue" column, the Los Angeles Free Press, 16 August 1968)

The Grateful Dead's "Anthem of the Sun" (Warner Bros.-7 Arts WS 1749) is another original composition subdivided into intricate parts that yield a whole. The sextet's problem here is a blend of studio and live sessions which result in a sound that is inconsistent. Still, a fine one for the serious popster.
(from Wayne Harada's "On the Record" column, the Honolulu Advertiser, 22 August 1968)

* * * 

The Grateful Dead's album is called "Anthem of the Sun" (Warner Brothers WS 1749) and, as in their best sets these days, the Dead conceive of it as a unit and it should be played, preferably on stereo earphones, all the way through each listening. It's an impressive album.
(from Ralph Gleason, "New Waves on the San Francisco Rock," the San Francisco Examiner, 25 August 1968)

"Anthem of the Sun" (Warner Brothers WS 1749) by the Grateful Dead, which has been mentioned here before, is a much more powerful if less neat work. Listening to the Dead's album, particularly with earphones and without interruption, is a musical trip of considerable impact.
As with John Coltrane and certain other jazz groups, the Dead's music requires patience. It cannot be picked up and set down idly. One must really dig into it and when this stipulation is met, it offers a kind of glorious feeling and other-worldly entrancement that is quite unusual.
The Grateful Dead are now working with a poet on a set of new songs in which more attention is paid to the lyrics. I hope that this will result, as I suppose it must by definition, in more concern on the part of the group itself for the clear delineation of the lyrics. The heavy instrumental talent of the group has always tended to overwhelm their singing so that the words are heard - if at all - dimly. Jerry Garcia has a very attractive quality in his voice and with the right kind of lyric material could achieve considerable stature as a vocalist.
(from Ralph Gleason, "Getz's Kind of Music Bridges Most of the Gaps," the San Francisco Examiner, 9 September 1968)

* * * 

Whatever happened to the Grateful Dead, you may ask? The new Anthem of the Sun lp sounds more like their live concerts but less like anything you can listen to repeatedly. The more the Dead got into the technicalities of their music, the more they left their fans behind. While the album contains some very nice rhythmic and even a-rhythmic highlights, the total effect of the music and production style is fatiguing.

(from Jef Jassen's "Record Rap" column, the Berkeley Barb, 20 September 1968)


To the editor:
Last week's Record Rap contained a short critique of the new Grateful Dead record, "Anthem of the Sun," but the album definitely deserves more than a vague, one paragraph putdown. It is an incredible album, and it deserves all the energy you can give it. Side one (I'm so hung up on it I haven't gotten into side two) may be the greatest rock composition ever.
The word 'composition' is important. Their Anthem is not a collection of catchy tunes (well, yes, it's that too), but a serious, important musical composition. I mean, my god, its genius is overwhelming.
We mainly hear how the Dead play free a lot. And how they're heads. Rarely a word about the music they make. The only way you'll learn that Garcia is one of our best guitarists is to listen to him - like during the first few minutes of "Anthem," which contains some of the most moving, expressive guitar work on record. He doesn't copy Clapton's copies, so our rock critics ignore him as much as possible.
There's no one like Garcia, and that makes it a little difficult to deal with him. Critics have to compare, else they'd have too little to say. I can't think of anything to say except that his music is unique and beautiful and why don't you listen closely?
Phil Lesh is the best bass player I've ever heard.
Yet there's a weird thing about the Dead - they have no superstar. No Janis Joplin, no Butterfield - no one on the album is actually spotlighted. They are a BAND of astonishingly creative musicians, and the best way to get into their album is to dig their responsiveness to one another. It's as if one mind were at work, controlling the musical flow. And it's even groovier knowing that there are actually six.
"Anthem" is about death and love and recurrence. It ranges in mood from real Mozartian melancholy ("the boy has to die") to moments of unbelievable ecstasy. Try to find another contemporary composition that produces anything like ecstasy. I'd have to go back to Beethoven to find anything that affects me similarly.
"Anthem" is about their name, the Grateful Dead. It's about your experience here and now and then and forever - "think I'll come back here again, every now and then!" But I can't take you through the changes - let the Dead guide you.
Get their "Anthem" into your blood, and, like any great piece of art, it will change your life, change the way you see things. It's a religious event. Don't be without it.

(by Sandy Lynch, from the Berkeley Barb, 27 September 1968)

* * *

ANTHEM OF THE DEAD  (abridged)

The phenomenon we call the New Music is actually one facet in the gradual resolution of a general crisis in 20th Century art: it hasn't been relevant to daily experience. Such irrelevancy is a key to understanding the tremendous acceleration of social and scientific change. . . .
In that light we begin to see the New Music as both reaction and illusion: reaction because it was an overdue and abrupt rupture with outmoded traditions; illusion because the New Music actually is a state of flux, constantly changing, forever being refined and expanded toward that distant point at which the coordinates intersect: totally comprehensive music.
Past artistic periods may have been evolutionary stages in sync with their social climates (Baroque, Gothic, Expressionist, etc.). But we must remember that the rate of change (or progress, if you will) has reached a point where it is always ahead of the collective consciousness. . . . Thus periods of artistic expression are only briefly effective and no longer follow one another harmoniously: instead, they are dramatic reactions caused by the sudden realization of obsolescence.
If we agree that the New Music began with the Beatles, its reactionary nature becomes clear. (I don't mean reactionary in the political, conservative sense.) Early Beatle music was a reaction to, and rejection of, the outmoded Ray Conniff-George Shearing-Cannonball Adderly era which preceded it. And it was hungrily embraced by a public restless and bored with the lifeless 1950s ennui.
Succeeding trends have been reactions to the reactions of the Beatles. Power music (Cream, Blue Cheer, Hendrix, The Who) is the logical reaction of rock musicians who sensed a certain Baroque tendency in the Beatles ("Michelle," "Norwegian Wood," "Yesterday," etc.). Power music at once revitalizes basic rhythm-and-blues which spawned the New Rock, while relating to an electronic world which couldn't be further removed from the R&B idiom. It's the technological beginning of comprehensive music. (Meanwhile the Beatles perpetuate the action-reaction continuum with their new power music composition "Revolution," a kind of summation of live-performance hard rock.)

The new album by the Grateful Dead, "Anthem of the Sun" (Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, WS-1749), is directly in the evolutionary path of the New Music. I shall attempt to discuss it from two viewpoints: 1) as it relates strictly to the music world, and 2) as it relates to other contemporary experience.
Within the rather narrow perspective of the pop music business (which is the extent of most music criticism), the new Dead collection is a statistic: it's the first album which truly captures the group's sound, just as "Cheap Thrills" epitomizes Big Brother and "Wheels of Fire" is the zenith of Cream. This means record producers (in this case Dave Hassinger) are getting better at their job, closing the gap between record and reality; and it means those who dismissed the Dead on the basis of their first record must now re-assess them according to their new (or newly packaged) image.
Academically, "Anthem of the Sun" is a commercial and creative sequel to "Their Satanic Majesties Request" and to Jimi Hendrix. I'm not suggesting plagiarism; I'm merely pointing out similarities inevitable in artistic genesis. Influence is a prime factor in any creative endeavor. T.S. Eliot: "art is plagiarism." The Stones and Hendrix have pioneered valid modes of expression which the Dead synthesize and, to some extent, refine: another positive step toward comprehensive music.
However, "Anthem of the Sun" begins to take on wider relevance when seen in context of experience outside the music world. One must respect this music even if one cannot "like" it. I'm not suggesting that it isn't enjoyable; in fact, considering its ingredients, the album's palatability is one of its more remarkable assets. I mean only to say there are times when the importance of an art work transcends its immediate emotional appeal. We may not like "Wozzeck," for example, but few would contest its contribution to musical language.
"Standing between musician and music," said Busoni, "is notation." One reason East Indian music is received with such zeal in the West is that it approximates direct musical action (improvisation) while retaining certain modal characteristics more sympathetic to our ears than electronic chance music. There is similar appeal in the New Rock: it relates to contemporary experience . . . 
More than that, it is in harmony with the plastic arts, concerned more with essences of their own structure than with "saying" something, though a great deal gets said in the process. (John Cage: "Music as discourse doesn't work. If you're going to have a discussion, have it and use words.") . . .  The arts have progressed to the point where they are concerned with the essence of perception: construction and composition. The New Music is no exception.
Thus in "Anthem of the Sun" as in "Satanic Majesties" there is emphasis on the multiplicity of ingredients and their blending. The New Music, like ecology, is a total field of non-focused multiplicity; in terms of choice, a situation of both/and instead of either/or. It can degenerate to pretentious dilettantism (Chad and Jeremy's "Of Cabbages and Kings"). At best it relates to daily experience more completely than any art form but synaesthetic cinema.

The comprehensive nature of the Dead's music begins with instrumentation: everything from vibraslap to kazoo to celesta claves, finger cymbals, electronic tape, and prepared piano. Through these elements they weave a totally integrated tapestry encompassing a wide spectrum of musical expression which does not exclude white noise. The use of a prepared piano in the manner of Cage and Tudor is especially unique in rock music. While the Beatles, Stones, Hendrix and others may incorporate tape collages, the "live" manipulation of a prepared piano (pipe-stem cleaners between the strings, mallets fitted with various covers, etc.) is seldom heard in rock.
This invests the Dead's music with a sense of organic unity, a personal, physical quality which may relate aurally to a super-science world but which can be "composed" and played in live performance. The Mothers are the only other pop group currently employing techniques of prepared instruments.
The fluidity with which the Dead move into and out of their segments of musique-concrete is most impressive. In "2000 Light Years From Home," the Stones attempted to merge theremin-like space sounds with string chorus, but the divisions were harsh, non-integral. The Dead, however, manage to retain their legendary San Francisco sound - casual, harmonious, rhythmic, with a touch of Owsley Stanley III - while making us feel that the electronic tape collages and white noise are part of earth music: and in fact they are.
Without slipping into cliche, I think the new Dead collection might safely be regarded as head music. That is, a synaesthetic assemblage of disparate ingredients and tonal colors whose progression from start to finish is non-focused but dynamic. The Dead are organizers of sound events, composers of pure sound/music. Sometimes the sounds are identifiable, sometimes not. Listening closely we can single out dozens of styles and quotations, all miraculously interwoven.
One final observation: the brevity of any single element in this music - electronic tape collage, African log drums, calypso steel band rhythms - relates to the ephemerality of phenomena in daily life. As John McHale points out in his essay, "The Plastic Parthenon," expendability and impermanence are the hallmarks of the new age. . . .  Thus no single element in the Dead's music is carried to its conclusion. Rather we are given an impression sufficient for psychical use in "understanding" what is being said. This is especially apparent in "Alligator," a masterful sound panorama which amounts to half of the album.
Musicians like the Grateful Dead are introducing disorder to the American musical culture historically based on order. If only for that reason, they relate more to contemporary experience than, say, Simon and Garfunkel, who may not seem so profound within the contest of the coming world society.

(by Gene Youngblood, from the Los Angeles Free Press, 13 September 1968)

* * *

PAINT IT BLACK  (abridged)

Is it just me, or is this really a new year, and the old one is dead and gone, finally?
Lotsa friends (well, maybe only three or four) have suggested to me their incapacity to repeat another year like 1968. One friend spent Dec. 31, 11:59 P.M., alone in Merced listening to radio coverage of the Times Square New Year celebration. Alone in Merced. He thought the scene an apt one, considering the entire tone of the year past.
1968 - the year of the speed freak, the empty fuck, the year our political energies wasted away into a thousand petty frustrations, the year that Spring skipped.
Maybe you don't agree. You had a groovy year of it. No paranoia. But really, do you remember Spring? Do you remember a flowering? Has last winter ended yet?
Our artists' changes reflect our own. And vice versa. A year ago the Beatles were picking pansies and meditating hour after hour after hour.
The Rolling Stones were 2000 Light Years from Home.
Dylan apparently was laid up for months with a broken neck. If so, death must have been very real to him. Anyhow, the space between BLONDE ON BLONDE and [JOHN WESLEY HARDING] is an immense one.
And the best of the SF bands, The Grateful Dead, kept never getting together a second album. There were months of rumors about its release, but the birth of ANTHEM TO THE SUN was a long time coming.
Art is about getting along. No one was making it very well.
OK everyone, this is 1969 - find your road and do it in it.
The Beatles are back in style. They feel good. . . .
The Rolling Stones . . . they are so together it is dazzling. BEGGAR'S BANQUET is tight, solid and constant, and perhaps the finest rock band ever. Thoroughly "professional" in the highest sense of the word.
And the Grateful Dead - god, what an incredible creation they've given us. ANTHEM TO THE SUN contains the mythical context for revival. It's a common theme, death and rebirth, but rarely is the theme wrought so carefully and profoundly that one can take it within oneself and make it serve in the real, everyday world.
I was reassured of the importance of ANTHEM after hearing Beethoven's quartet opus 132 last night. Hearing one after the other brought things together a little more for me. The compositions are identical in terms of purpose and tone.
Listen particularly to the "Song of Thanksgiving upon Recovery from Illness." Compare its expressiveness to the first section of ANTHEM. It is quiet and tearful, yet somehow ecstatic. Sad but straining to burst open.
And both pieces do burst open. They blossom and sing and affirm.
It is impossible to be precise when talking about music. All I want is that you should listen to the music with this subject in mind. Because I think maybe Spring isn't too far away, and if we know about it we can all applaud its arrival together.
We mustn't fear the death of the past, mustn't be frightened into turning away. Instead, watch it die. The Grateful Dead - their new album explains their name. Always the finest art has indicated styles of responding to the powers of darkness, and the Dead seem to be tuned into that fact.
I mean, the blues are here to stay, but even on dark rainy days you can feel so good and rich and full of life. We've just got to keep things going. . . . 

(by KL, from the Berkeley Barb, 21 February 1969)

See also:

June 9, 1968: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Police argued for three hours Sunday in Golden Gate Park with the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.
In the end, the Cub Scouts won out.
As more than 3,000 people waited for sounds that never came, police stood firm on their demand that the rock musical groups have a concert permit.
"This is not a concert," said Bill Thompson, the Airplane's manager. "It is a wake for the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, and the Cub Scouts would like the music."
Finally the people left and turned Speedway Meadow over to the Cub Scouts, who had a permit.

(from the Hayward Daily Review, 10 June 1968)


Lack of a permit prevented two famed rock bands from holding a wake for the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy in Golden Gate Park yesterday.
The Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane announced over two radio stations that they would have a memorial service in the park’s Speedway Meadow.
Police estimated that more than 2000 young persons had gathered in the meadows for the service.
But during three hours of arguing with representatives of the bands, police pointed out that the meadows had been reserved by a Cub Scout pack, and more important, the bands did not have a city permit to play in the park.
So the crowds drifted away, disappointed.

(from the San Francisco Examiner, 10 June 1968)


Three hundred Cub Scouts who didn't exist stopped a memorial wake for Robert Kennedy last Sunday in Golden Gate Park.
The Ghost Scouts had some help from the fuzz.
At about noon Sunday free people began to gather in Speedway Meadows to help celebrate a wake for the late Senator. The Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane were in attendance and the event had been announced on KMPX and KSAN.
As the band trucks arrived a cop Sergeant, badge #269 announced that the wake could not be held, since a group of Cub Scouts had prior permission to use the area. A tail-chasing argument with the Dead's manager ensued, and the cop eventually refused to tell the manager who to see about getting permission.
Three to four thousand people waited as this went on, and about 40 SF Tactical Squad superfuzz also waited in several cop cars. They had helmets and three-foot clubs ready.
The cops gave the Dead's manager 45 minutes to make a phone call. He did and came back without reaching anyone. The bands departed and about half of the crowd left as well.
Some of the remaining persons stayed to investigate. Motorcyclists fanned out over the area and could find no trace of a group of scouts. No scouts ever showed up at the meadow.
Later in the week the manager of the Airplane checked and found that no permit had ever been issued to any scouts for the meadow's use that day.
Of course minor matters like that could not obstruct the mind of Mayor Alioto. As reported in the mass press he loyally upheld the version of his cops. Fortunately, no Ghost Scouts had applied to use the meadow for the upcoming Sunday (June 16) and the wake may be held on that date. At BARB press time no firm plans had been made.

(from the Berkeley Barb, 14 June 1968)

1968: Apocalypse Now


The world came to an end last Saturday night, and BARB was there.
That was the night the planetoid Icarus, a pock-marked lump of rock approximately the size of Mount Everest, zapped the Earth. The effect was catastrophic. We were all wiped out by a four mile high tidal wave that raced around our globe. Or, by another account, Icarus plowed into us, quaking the Earth and turning us all to cinders. In the end, however, the details seem unimportant.
BARB saw all this destruction from the top of Mount Tamalpais, a widely accepted end-of-the-world spot.
With us at the death of the earth were up to two hundred other patient victims. Most, however, were waiting for the Grateful Dead, and refused to treat the occasion seriously. They played guitars and transistor radios and laughed a lot, even under the circumstances. Probably hysterical.
It was a poignant time. High on the mountain. We sat about and talked about our last hours on old Mother Earth. Someone passed a yellow cig around and pretty soon there were those who said their whole lives were flashing in front of their eyes. I sniffed the wind and found myself growing maudlin over the simple things - like the smell of grass.
Below us on the Marin Peninsula the lights of Sausalito and Mill Valley formed in strings giving the night a fitting Disneyland effect. The bay sat silvery beneath the nearly full moon and as quiet as the eye of a storm.
By three or four in the morning - time seemed to stand still so it was hard to tell - the Dead hadn't arrived, in spite of all rumors. The desperate few on the mountain had dwindled to no more than fifty.
Saving our strength for the end, most of us rolled up in a blanket and went to sleep. We never awoke.
The end came while we were asleep.
The next time we looked around, the sun was rising over the crest of Mt. Tam. I was covered with flea bites that itched as though I were alive, and the new world looked just like the old one.
Except for one thing; now I know who the Zombies are.
This is definitely the end.

(by DC, from the Berkeley Barb, 21 June 1968)

Aug 15, 2018

1968: The Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco

The Grateful Dead and a group of other rock bands, including the Jefferson Airplane, have taken a lease on the old Carousel Ballroom on Market Street (formerly the El Patio) and beginning Friday night will run dances there regularly.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights the Airplane and the Dead will play there for dancing.
Next weekend, Chuck Berry and the Buffalo Springfield will appear.
The Carousel is owned by Bill Fuller, the Irish ballroom operator who has similar properties in Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Manchester, and throughout Ireland.
As part of the current arrangement, it is hoped to organize a European tour later this year with some of the San Francisco groups based on Fuller's ballrooms. 
(excerpt from Ralph Gleason column, San Francisco Chronicle, 13 March 1968)

Ron Rakow, who helped put on the Great Northwest Tour of the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, has leased the Carousel Ballroom near downtown San Francisco for a series of weekend dances that have so far featured the Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Chuck Berry, and Country Joe & The Fish. The Carousel holds substantially more people than the Fillmore or Avalon...and a lot more of them dance. The owners of the Carousel also run a chain of dance halls in England and on the Continent, and have reached an agreement with Rakow about using them for a tour of American rock bands.
(excerpt from "S.F. Ballroom Circuit Grows," Rolling Stone, 27 April 1968)

The Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane, both unhappy with the sound and environments of the Avalon and Fillmore Auditoriums, have purchased twenty percent of San Francisco's largest room, the Carousel. The groups will not only play there, but advise on bookings.
(from John Carpenter's "Roach Clips" column, Los Angeles Free Press, 5 April 1968)

* * *

A review of the Carousel re-opening shows:
"The cream of San Francisco rock - the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead - got together here for the first time in many months. Following a three-month Pacific Northwest tour, the Dead and the Airplane had returned as partners to open their own ballroom, the Carousel, in competition with Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium and Chet Helms' Avalon Ballroom.
The Dead had not played for either Graham or Helms in nearly a year, because they opposed the way most dance-concerts are conducted.
Both bands did two sets, each lasting more than an hour. Though the Airplane has by far the biggest national reputation, the Dead proved to be the stronger musicians..."
(from Geoffrey Link, "Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead," Down Beat, 27 June 1968)

Ralph Gleason's observations:
Promoters traditionally have labored to avoid putting on a last-minute, hurry-up event wherein they had only a few days in which to inform the public. History says you have to have a really hot attraction to get away with this.
Another cardinal rule is not to confuse your audience with contradictory or ambiguous statements.
Both these rules were violated last month by the new series of dances at the Carousel Ballroom. The announcement of the first weekend dance was not made until Wednesday, and there was considerable confusion about prices and attractions for the Sunday night show.
Nevertheless, the hall was packed on Friday and Saturday (last night's advance was good, too) and it is a tribute to the strength of the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead that this is so.
The new series also had another asset. The Carousel is by far the best hall in San Francisco for rock groups in almost every imaginable way. [ . . . ]
The Carousel now has the bandstand facing the cafeteria section. There is good sound everywhere, ample space to sit and listen, and room to dance. Ben Van Meter's North American Ibis Alchemical Co. light show was interesting and effective, and the two bands played magnificently. There is no question but what these two groups inspire one another and to hear their lead guitarists - Jerry Garcia and Jorma Kaukonen - play on the same evening is pure pleasure. [ . . . ]
Next weekend Chuck Berry appears there along with the Grateful Dead. . . .
(from Ralph Gleason, "A Great Weekend at the Carousel," San Francisco Chronicle, 18 March 1968)

Pete Welding's review of a May '68 Carousel show:
In operation only about a year [sic], the Carousel is one of the newer of the large psychedelic total-environment dancehalls the San Francisco scene has spawned. It also is one of the handsomer, boasting a number of comforts that the large, better-known rock halls do not possess: a decent, well-appointed restaurant adjoins the hall and offers moderately priced meals, a large snack bar dispenses the more usual fare, and there is a seating area where one may take a respite from the hectic dance floor activities. Too, there is the usual top-notch light show that one has almost come to take for granted, this one by the North American Ibis Alchemical Co. And the hall books top groups, as this recent billing of three popular bands demonstrated... (p.28)

Philip Elwood's review of 6/7/68:
Sure recipe for a mob scene - the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead in a downtown ballroom on a Friday night in June.
The Carousel last night was jam packed, but crowd quantity did not guarantee musical quality, and neither group was at its best form.
These affairs aren't dances, they are concerts. The San Francisco sound is no longer the catalyst for dancing. The fans either don't want to dance or they can't because of sardine-can conditions. So what's happening on stage, through the loud speakers, is the whole scene.
And as a concert hall the Carousel is woefully inadequate. The light show doesn't illuminate enough of the stage; the sound system, last night, was distorting badly; and if 3000 people are going to sit, there might as well be chairs.
Far more bodies would be closer, and more comfortable; maybe the created floor space would then invite dancing. I miss it... 
(from the San Francisco Examiner, 8 June 1968) 

* * *

On the Free City Convention: 

FREE   (excerpt)
outrageous acts are being perpetrated in the city from the steps of city hall to tiny verona place a scruffy anarchic band of urban outlaws is engaged in subverting the lawful government of san francisco they call themselves the people of the free city already they and their fellow travellers have gained effective control of the san francisco post office from the steps of city hall which they partially control free food is distributed to the urban populace so as to get the masses used to taking something for nothing the danger of redistributive looting grows more imminent as fervour for public sharing spreads thru the city the steps are also put to effective use by the outlaws as they exhibit joy and ecstasy in public poetry music and dancing to the ever present drumming which provides rhythm for their activities exhortations are made to the assembled populace to leave work and go home and embrace their women in an affectionate manner and eat and enjoy over the past several weeks their numbers have swelled and now include some of the leading citizens of the community [ . . . ] mr free went on to state that ... public giving will break out spontaneously throughout the city and that by the summer solstice the entire city will be liberated free goods food people everything he then announced that further details for the liberation will be announced at the free city conference at the carousel ball room on may 1 admission is free ...
(by Robert Novick, from the San Francisco Express Times, 25 April 1968) 

The Berkeley Barb more soberly reported:
 "The Free City group has been on the steps of City Hall every weekday for two weeks freeing the steps. Now they're promoting the May Day convention to free the city... Singing the 'Free City Blues,' a handsome young man sat on the City Hall steps giving a politic invitation to the Free City Convention at 7 p.m. May Day, at the Carousel Ballroom..."
(excerpt from "Those Free City Blues," the Berkeley Barb, 26 April 1968)  


Even the hellfire preachers loosened up a little, accepting colored chalk from hippies and decorating the sidewalk with their Christer slogans.
One of their wives slyly took an orange.
A gaunt young male preacher climbed onto the Carousel Ballroom stage, switched on the sound, and exhorted the May Day crowd at the Free City Convention.
But there the evangelicals stopped swinging, for he could not bear to share his pulpit with a fellow clergyman: a naked Boo Hoo of the Neo-American Church, chanting "Hare Shiva, Hare Rama."
Everyone else grooved: hippies, blacks, Hell's Angels, servicemen. The anonymous organizers had apparently learned from the mistakes of past Be-Ins, whereat vast crowds were centralized around distant platforms of notables, participating passively via loudspeaker. This time it was decentralized for the first three hours, lots of little scenes and happenings.
Like underground television, home-taped programs on closed-circuit TV. A freeman elaborately demonstrates how to roll a joint, which uniformed soldiers smoke. Somebody lays in bed and raps about the "ship" he lives in. People jive, mumble, whatever.
Like the grand council circle of comfortable chairs grouped around a village fire of candles and such, headquarters for conga drums, teenyhip girl on a big acid trip, small white dog attacking the entire legbone from a pig, sparklers, wine, candles burning on a boar's foot complete with fur: the whole pagan bit.
Like the topless chick with painted torso, and at least two nude males. Like the cat who blew me for the TV cameras, and an admiring crowd, but the camera crew couldn't get organized fast enough to catch the scene.
Like smoking pot in a hookah with a gasmask attachment, your mouth and nose immersed in cannabis just like the hospital ether trip. Like integrating the women's john, with a girlfriend for protection: "Hold my hand, I'm a stranger in paradise." Like the wrestling ring.
Later the Sons of Champlin played and everybody danced for hours. During the dance, BARB  was too drunk to notice or do much, except for necking with a fine chick from a rural commune.

(from the Berkeley Barb, 3 May 1968)

* * *


Rock fans loyal to the KMPX strike are choosing up sides this week as the Carousel Ballroom continues to advertise on the struck station.
The Carousel broke the strike early last week because, according to Ron Rackow, Carousel general manager, the ballroom is going broke.
"I've lost fifty thousand dollars in the last nine weeks because of my sympathy for the strikers," Rackow told BARB Friday night. "Last week (two weeks ago) I spent $1200 on five AM stations; I've got more people out there tonight than I had in three nights last week."
Indeed the hall was considerably full; however, visits to the competing Avalon and Fillmore ballrooms turned up thoroughly packed houses, more so than at the Carousel. Neither of the other two have broken the strike.
Striker Bob McClay, just returned from a week in New York, was understandably perturbed. "If it wasn't for KMPX there wouldn't BE a Carousel!" McClay was referring to the live-remote broadcast the station did of the Dead and the Fish several months ago which provided the initial push for the ballroom's success.
Rackow told BARB that both the Dead and the Airplane, who are partners in the ballroom, were informed of the move to advertise beforehand, and that while they disagreed in principle they consented on the grounds that Rackow was in charge.
"That's not true," McClay countered. "I was in New York at the Chelsea Hotel with the Dead, Tuesday night when Rackow went on the air and Jerry Garcia told me he had heard nothing about it. It wasn't until AFTER the contracts were signed and it was too late to do anything about it that the Dead was told."
Rackow still contends that his "sympathies lie with the strikers; I'm sorry to [go] back on the air but it's the only thing that works. I'm running this ballroom as a business."
"So are the Straight Theater and the Avalon," McClay bit back, "and they're not in any better financial shape than the Carousel. They've just got more principle."
An aftermath of the Carousel ads, according to McClay, was the intimidation of Avalon manager Whitey Davis by the station management. "Whitey was told that he'd better go back on the air now because in a couple weeks the station 'would be hard to deal with.' Whitey's reaction was 'Do you want to tell that to my lawyer or should I?'" 

(by Jef Jassen, from the Berkeley Barb, 10 May 1968) 

* * *


The Carousel Ballroom is a beautiful place to hang out. There's good local bands like the Dead and the Airplane, plus they've presented people like Thelonius Monk, Johnny Cash, and Dr. John the Night Tripper. But it's more than a dance concert. The place is big enough so you aren't forced to listen. You can wander off into the side rooms and talk or eat and drink. And since you have all those choices, it's easier to listen, easier to be relaxed. It's like a big party in a big house.
Food? I had a plate of chicken cooked in tomatoey sauce, saffron rice, asparagus cooked in wine, and home-made bread for 95 cents. My old lady had a piece of Ambrosia Cake with real orange slices in the layers. Ahhhhhh, instant Falstaff bliss! Take your whole harem for a meal today.
The dance floor has a ceiling made of velvet silver glittery drapes arranged like huge upside down mushrooms. There's carpets and chairs on the side, and a big bar area with more carpets and a restaurant with damask walls.
It was groovy like a Victorian opera house bordello even before people started turning it into a rock palace with their decorations. Now paintings are growing on the walls. Mouse painted a stoned Donald Duck on a pillar. Spider did a wall. Ovid is painting a three-wall mural. You can't go wrong with names like that. And Bob Thomas is painting a Magical Black Light Forest.
The Carousel, new as it is, radiates an important force in the community. There's a great sense of participation there. We're all part of it. There's jam sessions on Tuesday night for a dollar. A band forms up and plays for about an hour, then another band forms. Last week, Jerry Garcia and Elvin Bishop jammed together. And last Sunday, the Carousel moved their whole show, which included the Dead, Charley Musselwhite, and Petris out to Golden Gate Park for the afternoon as a holiday celebration.
Last Friday Ron Rakow, the manager, got together with Bill Graham for a three-hour talk over breakfast about ways in which the ballrooms could cooperate so that each could do their scene and it would all work and make a more total thing.
A lot of people like to put down Bill Graham. It's a favorite indoor sport. Because he's successful, or ornery, or commercial, or too straight...lots of reasons, lots of put-downs. The great thing about put-downs is that while you are describing what THAT person did wrong, you don't have to DO anything right yourself, you can just play Instant Expert.
We can't afford that luxury now. We have to do something affirmative, whatever we can: rap, sew, eat, dance, sing, or set up another dance hall. Argument can be very good when it's face to face. When we do our thing somehow in relation to each other, a tremendous energy force flashes between us, our various scenes and methods reflect on and strengthen each other. Insofar as we do that, we are a community.
So when the Carousel people and Graham try to work out ways to cooperate, just the fact of their trying helps us. This kind of sharing and of breaking down barriers is characteristic of the things the Carousel has been involved with, such as the beautiful Free City Convention, the Hells Angels Dance, the jam sessions...even the strike-breaking that Ron Rakow got into when he advertised on KMPX. I didn't like that, but in fact it DID help blow open a situation that had by then turned into pretty much a game.
The whole feeling of the Carousel is that it's a gathering, a place for all of us to happen, rather than a concert. Go there and hang out, meet your friends, it's our palace.

(by Sandy Darlington, from the San Francisco Express-Times, 6 June 1968)

* * *

Ralph Gleason on the ballrooms:
Fewer and fewer people seem inclined to dance. This became obvious last year and is increasing. It is now at a point where, at The Fillmore or Winterland, a very small percentage of the audience, sometimes no one at all, dances. There is more dancing at the Avalon and the Carousel.
Several factors are at work. The Fillmore and Winterland presentations are star-system shows, a more rational and a non-teenie bopper version of the Cow Palace concert syndrome. People come to see the scene. People come to see the bands, the singers, and the audience. They stand in front of the bandstand and they sit on the floor. They do not dance. When the crowd is large, all the dance floor is covered with human bodies, prone, seated, etc.
Since the Avalon and, in a sense, the Carousel, are basically not competing with the Fillmore (generally) in the star system game, the attendance, most times, is proportionately smaller. Hence there is more actual room in which to dance. The vibes in both the Avalon and the Carousel are different, too. There is more of a sense of audience participation than at either the Fillmore or Winterland, both of which seem to make the audience into spectators rather than participants.
There's a feed-back here. The bands are getting more complex. Given the changing audience, they are affected by the change as well. It is noteworthy that when the Airplane and the Dead last played the Carousel, the house was jammed but people stood, rooted by the physical proximity of others, and danced from the ankles up. Also, when The Loading Zone and The Foundation (both excellent dance bands) played at The Fillmore, people danced. Possibly they could not do otherwise.
Recently, dancing at The Fillmore seems to be only on the side gallery and almost never on the main floor, which is exclusively for spectators. People bring chairs up to the stage which makes a row about ten feet in depth before the floor squatters begin. They cannot see over the chair sitters so sometimes they are forced to stand. . . .
This all repeats a pattern of the Swing Era in which the original jitterbugs became the Sinatra Swooners and then the concert audience crowding around the bandstand. Dancehalls like The Palladium and Roseland eventually made it mandatory to keep moving. You could not stop and cluster around the stage, you had to keep dancing. The audience who wished merely to listen and to watch was relegated to tables and sofas and seats along the walls or in raised areas surrounding the dance floor.
The San Francisco affairs are now labelled "dance-concerts." They are really concerts. They are still much better than the night club atmosphere, freer, more informal, and with much better vibrations (and not only from the absence of booze). But they are a long way from being dances, except occasionally.
Meanwhile, something which should be said and repeated over and over in the face of official and police concern with these halls (especially, at the moment, the Carousel) is that a salient characteristic of the San Francisco dancehalls over the past two years, a period in which hundreds of thousands have passed through their doors, has been the absence of fights. They have not had fights. Police supervision is more necessary at football games than at the dancehalls.
(from "Changing Role of Ballrooms," San Francisco Examiner, 30 June 1968) 

Ralph Gleason on June 4, 1968:
At midnight Tuesday night it was a beautiful scene at the Carousel Ballroom. People came in off the street with late election news and inside there was a long jam session going on with all kinds of guitar players and saxophones and rhythm men and on the floor there was more dancing than I've seen anywhere in months.
Throughout the ballroom an outstanding feature was the peacefulness and the joy as a wondrous assortment of people relaxed. There were Hells Angels and hippies, many black people and many long-haired youth. It seemed for a moment like the hope of the future.
And then I went outside, got into the car and punched the radio button only to hear a voice saying "...when Senator Kennedy was shot tonight." And the terrible real world came crashing in on me again.
(excerpt from "Strung Between Dreams and Reality," San Francisco Chronicle, 7 June 1968)

* * *

The Jefferson Airplane will not play at the Carousel Ballroom this weekend.
The reason is that Superior Court Judge Charles S. Peery signed a restraining order against Headstone Productions Inc., which conducts rock dances at the Market Street and Van Ness ballroom.
City Center Ballroom of California, which operates the dance hall, had charged that Headstone owes $11,600 in back rent, that customers damage furnishing and fixtures, and that liability and assault and battery insurance has been canceled.
The complaint also alleges that Headstone had a "lewd and lascivious word" on the marquee, a word "so lewdly repugnant" that it would only be introduced into evidence if necessary.
 (from the San Francisco Examiner, 8 June 1968) 

San Francisco (UPI) - The Carousel Ballroom, one of the city's three regular rock music halls, opened as usual this weekend after its lessees filed a $5,000 bond with superior court.
Judge Charles S. Peery withdrew a temporary restraining order forbidding planned weekend concerts by the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.
The judge granted the restraining order at the request of City Center Ballroom of California, owners of the Carousel. The firm charged [that] Headstone Productions, Inc., which leases the hall for rock dances, failed to pay $11,600 in back rent and that visitors were damaging the ballroom.
(from the Independent Press-Telegram, 9 June 1968)

* * *


The Carousel Ballroom family is fighting for its life amid a morass of legal hassles and big business finagling.
Tuesday, deputy police chief Al Nelder suspended all dances at the Carousel until June 25, except for a benefit for the Black Man's Free Store to be held on the 19th.
A restraining order banning any more performances at the dance-hall was dropped. Headstone Productions Inc., [part of sentence missing] came to late Wednesday by the managers of the dance-hall, City Center Ballrooms of California. 
Performances will be held this weekend - "concerts" - but no dancing will be allowed.
The agreement was reached after Ron Rakow consented to step down as the president of Headstone Productions Inc. Both Headstone and City Center will stage this weekend's entertainment.
City Center Ballrooms, a group of businessmen, originally tried to evict the Carousel crew claiming back rent was due. The matter is pending in civil court but could take weeks to resolve.
To speed up the process, the businessmen asked for a hearing before deputy chief Nelder to rescind the dancing permit of the Headstone crew.
But conflicting testimony at the hearing from two lawyers involved still left everyone in doubt as to just who was sponsoring the dances. Brian Rohan, a lawyer who was issued a permit for the dancehall, claimed that he never produced a dance at the Carousel. Headstone Productions were never issued a permit.
Nelder's action came on the advice of Captain Phillip Kiley of the Mission District who claimed that immoral and illegal activities were taking place at the Carousel.
He alleged minors were allowed into the dancehall, marijuana was smoked, fire regulations were violated by overcrowding, and that there had been reports of nudity.
"After the so-called Digger Convention, I also saw a sign on the marquee which read CUNTVENTION," Kiley added from his seat next to the businessmen.
To substantiate his charges he said that two people had been arrested last Friday for possession of grass.
"The situation is obviously getting out of hand," Nelder said in response. "We're only interested in seeing that no one is injured."
"I'm telling you here and now that you're not to sponsor any dances for 15 days," he told the two lawyers.
Everyone seemed to have forgotten Headstone Productions, who weren't even allowed a rebuttal to the charges.
"This is a typical land grab," Rakow told BARB afterwards, "now that we're doing things, everyone wants a cut."
The trouble began last Thursday, June 6, when the Carousel crew arrived at the ballroom to find the doors chained shut by the managers.
They finally managed to sneak in by the roof, BARB was told. Rakow then threw a table through one of the doors, and had the chains removed as city police stood by watching.
By last Friday, Riester, Rakow, and Jon McIntyre, managers of Headstone, declared the dancehall "Free Turf" and were preparing to bring the entire Carousel family to defend the building from the businessmen and city police. But no attack came.
The family includes 60 Carousel employees, Diggers, the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, members of the Black Panthers, and members of the Hell's Angels, McIntyre told BARB.
By larger count, they number more than 500 in all.
"This is liberated territory, a place where people can get together," Headstone manager Johnathon Riester told BARB last week. "We'll fly as straight as we can but we won't leave."

(by TAR, from the Berkeley Barb, 14 June 1968)

* * *

Scully's message to the press, 6/24/68: 
Rock Skully, the long-haired group's long-haired business manager, also disclosed that The Dead hope to take over the Carousel Ballroom on the Fourth of July.
The Dead hope to unite with other "heavy bands" such as The Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Steve Miller's Blues Band to form an "aesthetic, artistic operation...something different," Scully added.
(from the San Francisco Chronicle, 25 June 1968) 

* * *


Headstone Productions, whose operation of the Carousel Ballroom at Market Street and South Van Ness Avenue resulted in police complaints ranging from the smoking of pot to nude dancing, will toss in its rock and roll sponge today.
One of two other rock and roll production groups will take over within two weeks.
Headstone has rented the ballroom from City Center Ballroom of California, Inc., whose president is William Fuller. Yesterday, James Reilly, counsel for Fuller, informed Deputy Police Chief Al Nelder that Headstone, behind in its rent to the tune of $13,000, had surrendered its dance permit, held in Fuller's name, and signed an agreement to vacate the premises today.
Nelder then re-issued a dance permit to City Center Ballroom. Reilly told Nelder that two rock and roll promoters, Billy Graham and Rubin Glickman, now are negotiating to make appearances in the Carousel.

(from the San Francisco Examiner, 26 June 1968)

* * * 

The Carousel Ballroom family is apparently in the process of "moving out."
After almost a month of fighting the law, big business, and "nasty politicians," the crew is finally getting the shaft.
One spokesman for the family told BARB, "negotiations continue on four or five different levels." Another source, however, said many of the family have already left.
Speculation on who will take over the Carousel centers around The Grateful Dead, called the "spiritual leaders" of the present Carousel, and Bill Graham, the person appearing to be the more likely prospect.
Graham has been engaged in negotiations with the owner of the ballroom, a member of Graham's staff told BARB. "The possibility definitely exists," he said, that Graham will take over the dancehall.
Graham, who was out of town at BARB press time and not available for comment, presently runs the Fillmore Ballroom, and is involved in plans with Mayor Alioto to bring a pops festival to San Francisco this Fall.
The Carousel crew has been putting out hard rock sounds at Market and Van Ness for the past 4 months. It ran into trouble about a month ago when businessmen claimed that back rent was due on the dancehall.
After a number of court battles, the businessmen brought in the fuzz to close the place down. It will remain dark this weekend but should be open the following week, BARB was told.
"We're not interested in running the place anymore," one of the family's spokesmen stated. "Our trip wasn't economic and this has just gotten too heavy."
"But none of us are dead," another spokesman added, "no one has heard the end of us. The whole idea was to turn people on, and our trip was turning people on to the real sounds - people who don't have enough bread to pay for an acid trip or to get into a dancehall."
"We're not finished yet," he continued, "the music scene will still go on even though someone wants to turn it into a money scene."

Bill Graham now holds the lease to the Carousel Ballroom. In the coming week, he will split the bands between the Fillmore and the Carousel, BARB learned at presstime.

(from the Berkeley Barb, 28 June 1968)

* * *


The Fillmore Auditorium, the birthplace of all that is San Francisco sound, will close its doors this weekend in favor of the larger Carousel Ballroom.
The Carousel, to be renamed Fillmore West, officially became the property of promoter Bill Graham late last week when Headstone, the cooperative in charge of the hall since early spring, failed to make good on financial obligations to the hall's owner.
"We've been needing a bigger place for quite a while," Paul Baratta, Graham's chief assistant, told BARB Tuesday. "So when the opportunity to get the Carousel came along, we took it."
As for the Fillmore, which fostered the San Francisco scene more than two and a half years ago with the Mime Troupe, Jefferson Airplane, Great Society, and many more, Graham intends to turn the use of the hall over to neighborhood organizations of the black community.
"Our plans are to use it for shows that would benefit the community which the hall is in," Baratta said. Graham will retain ownership of the building.
There is some speculation, however, that Graham may be getting out at the right time. In recent weeks attendance at the hall has fallen off because of uptight blacks harassing white patrons. Graham himself has been physically assaulted by young blacks who evidently felt that he had drained money from the neighborhood without putting anything back in.
According to Baratta, plans for the new Fillmore West will take on more of a community feeling. "Besides the regular shows we hope to have workshops and seminars for musicians, poster people, light shows, and everyone else involved in the community."
Fillmore West will be dedicated in grand style this weekend with the appearance of the Butterfield Blues Band, Ten Years After, and Fleetwood Mac.

(by Jef Jassen, from the Berkeley Barb, 5 July 1968)

* * *


The Fillmore Auditorium, of supergroup, lightshow and dance poster fame, ended its two-and-a-half year career as a fulltime rock hall on July 5. Bill Graham, the Fillmore's manager, is moving his scene to the old Carousel Ballroom, which recently became a well-known rock dancehall in its own right under the goodhearted but insufficiently professional ownership of Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and some cronies. The Carousel will henceforth be known as the Fillmore West, to complement Graham's recently opened New York operation, the Fillmore East.
There were several reasons for Graham's move. The old 1500-capacity Fillmore was always overcrowded, for one. Graham usually booked big acts on prime nights not at the Fillmore, but at nearby Winterland, which has a capacity of 4200, though its dance floor is small. For another, the Fillmore is located in the Fillmore District, a Black ghetto, and the sporadic instances of harassment of patrons had become more frequent since the assassination of Martin Luther King, according to Graham. And finally, the Carousel is a more desirable hall, larger and more attractive and more accessible by public transportation.
The Carousel had been operated for several months by Headstone Productions, a corporation initially financed by a series of dances given by the Dead and the Airplane starting on St. Valentine's Day this year. The operation of the Carousel was marked by careless mismanagement in many details, although it was generally agreed that the feeling of the dances was good. On several occasions Headstone booked unwisely, paying high fees for low draws, and it was saddled with what Ralph Gleason has called "the stupidest lease in show business." The Free City Convention, a freakout with nude dancing, public grass-smoking and a "dirty" word ("cunt") on the marquee, started bringing an undesirable amount of police attention to the hall, and when Headstone fell several thousand dollars behind in its rent, landlord Bill Fuller opened his ears to Bill Graham.
Graham had started organizing dances as manager of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. The first Mime Troupe Benefit held at the Fillmore, on December 10, 1965, headlined Jefferson Airplane, the Great Society and John Handy. Graham's Fillmore dances began on a regular basis in March 1966, at first alternating weekends with the Family Dog. In the early days Graham had to overcome the reputation rock concerts had for violence, and the Fillmore happened to be one of the halls in town that would rent to him. Today, after innumerable hassles with civic authorities, he can point to two and a half years of dances without a major disruption.
Graham's lease on the Fillmore runs to March, 1973. He plans to put the hall at the disposal of the Fillmore community, at no profit to him, for Black-run political events and musical and theatrical productions. He has already contacted Eldridge Cleaver of the Black Panthers, the Peace and Freedom Party and the Black Student Union. Graham emphasizes that the incidents of harassment of the dance patrons have never involved militant Blacks.
As for the new Fillmore West, Graham plans to remodel the stage and perhaps replace the satin ceiling. The Tuesday night musicians' jam session instituted under Headstone will be revived and one night a week will probably be set aside for "jamming" and rapping among local lightshow technicians. Graham also has hopes of establishing a "young political platform" and building the solidarity of the underground community. "Haight Street is a tragedy," he has said, "and it should be saved."

(from Rolling Stone, 10 August 1968)

* * *


Fillmore West (nee Carousel, El Patio, et al), is settling down as a typically comfortable and efficient Bill Graham enterprise.
Last night's crowd of about a thousand would have filled the old Fillmore floor, but in the new Market and Van Ness complex it had room to roam, dance, sit and sprawl. Or drink and eat (the vegetable soup is great).
Graham has noticeably cleaned, polished, and rearranged the place. The sound system is good, not yet magnificent, and the Holy See light show is cramped by a low ceiling and a multitude of archways skirting the ballroom floor.
They probably will come up with an ingenious new-style horizontal light show.

 (by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, 10 July 1968)

* * *


If you're an intelligence freak, the "Fillmore West at the Carousel Ballroom" should appeal to you, because it was obvious on opening night that the place is being intelligently managed.
It's neater. The bandstand has been moved from the south wall to the east, so more people can see at once, and that eliminates the dark cavern where people could get busted for naughties. However there are still remote corners and couches to make your own trip without joining the applause manufacturers.
I'm almost afraid to mention the beautiful windows and little balconies that keep you from feeling like you're in a giant non-selfservice elevator - intelligence is sure to board them up for some sanitary reason. As of Friday, they were still there.
The saddest change was in the food. Maybe the scoff was good, I don't know, I was too disheartened to try when there were no beautiful sloppy cobblers, cakes and pies in view. They were replaced by boxes of something plastic. Let us hope they will find somebody stupid and/or turned on to run the kitchen.
God, here I am in San Francisco two months and already I'm nostalgic. I'll never forget the perfect night, a Friday, when Tim Buckley was at the Carousel, a night that proved you could get there without drugs.  [6/14/68]
I knew from the time Fleetwood Mac billed with Jefferson Airplane, or was it Big Brother [6/20-23/68], that Mac would provide a more genuine turn-on for the crowd than the big name, and that's what happened. I don't want to go any farther into music criticism because I seem to shock people with my heresies.
Maybe it's my head, but big names keep giving me this we-don't-need-you-anymore vibration. To the raised eyebrows, I say that at the end of the Butterfield set, the audience was kind of tired; at the end of the Fleetwood set following, they screamed for and got an encore. 
Three dollars isn't much compared to what is being charged for movies, but it multiplies rapidly if you're a sound freak. Couldn't somebody convince Bill Graham that it would be intelligent to sell season tickets?
Even the bridges have commuter tickets for tolls. As it is, I'm afraid many of us will mostly be on the outside listening in.

(by Tadeusz, from the Berkeley Barb, 12 July 1968)

* * *


Ron Polte manages the Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Congress of Wonders, and the Ace of Cups. This is the end of an interview with him which began in last week's issue.


A bunch of hippies, a bunch of good people, got together and refused to run a business. And I'm sorry, but you gotta live in that world if you're going to run a business. Like Bill Graham has. He's a business man. He's not fooling himself. He knows that the only way a dance hall is going to be successful is to have a margin of profit.
Even if you take that margin of profit, and even if that margin of profit is 50%, and you throw it off the roof of your dance hall, you've got to make it first. If you leave that line for profit at 10%, or 5%, or like no % sometimes, it's not enough room to breathe.
It's like what Ron Rakow did to those people, he chained them to a machine that couldn't make money. It wasn't free. And the energy of all those good people in that building wasn't going anywhere, it was being trapped. Because he chained them to a financial problem, which was $9,000 a month rent, plus 20%. They couldn't have made it in 25 million years, man.
And then when he was going down, and he was $66,000 in the hole and they were in danger of losing it, they ran to the community and said, "Let's get the community together, together we can save it." It was a bummer to lay on the community.
In front, had Ron Rakow been honest with himself about business, he would have said, "$9,000 a month is too fucking high. And if we can't get this dance hall for $5,000, let's not take it." But instead, he took it. So it just went down the tubes.
And Graham went over and negotiated a much smaller lease, and he's running it. In fact, the straight person who owns the dance hall says to himself, "Look at those crazy long hairs who'll give me 9,000 a month for this dance hall. They can't make it, but who gives a fuck? They're long hairs, they're stupid anyway. They ain't gonna be around for long, because it's only a fad, so I'll take their 9,000 a month now, and when they go, I'll rent it to somebody who's a businessman." Which is what he did.
And we had good credentials: Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver...they make pretty good money, they can afford 9,000 a month. It's crazy, man, it was unreal.
And the only reason that Bill Graham got that dance hall was because they gave it to him. He would not have taken that dance hall. Ask Ralph Gleason, Ron Rakow, Bill Thompson, Rock Scully... They said, "If we can't score it by Wednesday, if we can't make any deal with the owner to come up with the eight grand or a new ballroom manager, and a new organization, then you're free to go do whatever you want on Thursday." And that's what he did.
[ . . . ]

(by Sandy Darlington, from the San Francisco Express Times, 31 July 1968) 

* * *


The death of the hippie was celebrated in pageantry and press agentry at the end of last summer, and like most such charades had little to do with reality.
No noticeable diminishing of the hippie population took place. Instead, the long hairs increased, as empirical observation indicated, and the proliferation of bands and other activities continued.
What has changed, however, is the ability of the youth movement itself to mount any substantial events involving large groups of people, and continued, energetic planning. The Summer Solstice was a disaster. There have been other examples and the most significant, I suspect, was the smothering in confusion, mismanagement, and ego-tripping of the Carousel Ballroom operation.
The Carousel was taken over early this spring by a group which included Brian Rohan, lawyer for many of the rock bands, Ron Rackow, a business drop-out and camp follower of the Grateful Dead, and with the support of several investors. The Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane both played there for minimum scale fees in order to get a fund established with which to run the ballroom. A staff of hard-working and intelligent people was assembled, but the whole thing disintegrated in a legal tangle and ended in disaster, stranding Fleetwood Mac, the British band, and Buddy Guy, the Chicago blues man and his group, without work.
At the final meeting, the management - Scully, Rackow, et al - told the "community" that Bill Graham was the only person who could run a ballroom and therefore it had to be turned over to him. The initial dream for the Carousel to be a community center for the new culture, in which seminars, workshops, rehearsal halls, offices, and art exhibits would be nurtured, was a fine dream.
When it came to the practicality of running the place, innumerable deficiencies manifested themselves. It didn't help any that the place was continually being buzzed by the cops. If the bands went one minute past two a.m., there was a rumble, even though other ballrooms locally now function with some flexibility on this score, occasionally running an hour overtime.
But the basic problem was not the police nor the owners of the building. It was the fact that somebody has to organize and run a venture like that, and the hippie ethic of permissiveness, unless it lucks into the right combination of people (as it did at the Pops Festival, for instance) will self-destruct eventually.
There is a way in which the Carousel caper was the perfect example of how the hippies can be led by someone who sounds like he knows what he's doing - the man on horseback, the fascist power figure. It was disappointing to see, too, the ways in which ego trips, economic interest, and a desire to avoid unpleasant reality, kept a really honest view of the situation from ever being given to the "community."
The Digger ethic of "take it, it's yours, it's free" which ignores money, has at its base a death-wish. The way in which the Carousel was run, and in which other events and ventures are operating now, seems in the same category.
It may only be a phase and it may be a reflection of the national malaise which affects everything from politics on up. But the practical view can only see the whole sequence of events as the real death of the hippie. And this time without any pageantry or press conferences; just a whimper.

(by Ralph Gleason, from the San Francisco Examiner, 7 July 1968)

* * * 

AIN'T IT A CRYIN' SHAME?  (excerpt on the 11/27/68 Fillmore West Thanksgiving party

On Thanksgiving Eve at the Carousel (now the Fillmore) Ballroom, the survivors of a social movement gathered to enjoy the largesse of a man who, through them, had made it. Yet what was to be a child of joy was for me a misshapen dwarf, a grotesque homunculus aping true sentiments, the product of a marriage of belated and too late generosity and a lack of real compassion and memory.
In short, it was a success party, a testament to the fortitude of Bill Graham and some of those who three long years ago got swept up in the commercial implications of Ken Kesey's acid vision. On the surface, nothing went wrong, but something bad, very bad, the worse for being ignored, kept trying to intrude.
[ . . . ]
The night began in earnest with the bands, Santana and It's A Beautiful Day. For the most part nothing was built. The audience and performers never came together to create a force larger than their individualities and their separatedness. Except for the conga drum solos of Santana, which, like most drum solos, sounded good to most people and warranted a response simply for happening, the performances were listless. The crowd stood like unfeeling mutes, still, swaying slowly, passive, dead. Nothing happened. Or, stoned, the crowd was content to receive, standing like antennae, conceiving no vision of an ecstasy in which they might have had to participate to create. All the electricity in the hall was from PG&E.
Everyone there expected a good time, they might even now say that it was a good time, but it was not. By no stretch of the imagination. The success party was not without some feeling, but it was without joy. It was as if the words love, dope, peace, and hassle combined to eradicate the experience of joy. And as for catharsis, or even getting your rocks off, that was not to be had. You could only get high and tired. Not a hell, of course, but no better than purgatory.
If joy was hard to find, it was perhaps that the Carousel harbored images of all those who did not attend, all those who did not make it through the scene to become musicians, djs, store owners, film makers, or promoters, those who did not have a chance to reconcile their way of life with the great god Success.
Despite the presence of those who had prospered, those who had arrived, the Carousel had felt the lives of those with blown minds, hepatitis, syphilis, those cold on the sidewalk, those who went home, cut their hair, went back to school or in the service, those who were busted, and those who had died. And perhaps the hall itself, its soul enveloped in the folds of the mushroom curtains hanging from the ceiling, had visions of the Hell's Angels' Birthday Party last spring, and levied a curse over all success achieved in the presence of so much death.  [5/15/68]
That night, despite the power and beauty of Janis Joplin, the event was marked by the pointless violence and sheer brutality of those who were also in the fold. That night, you may recall, the Angels rode in police cars telling the huge crowd that there was no more room. That night the Angels, hundreds of them, Angels of all sizes, ages, and appearance, left their line of choppers gleaming in the street, defiant to the gaze of the night IBM employees across the street, entered the hall to assert failure as a way of life, and had, in the piss on the floor and the stompings in the dining area, made their credo, their apologia, and their mea culpa.
Like the hosts of all parties, the Angels eventually parted, roaring away into the night. The sound of the engines finally died, but the Carousel, I think, retained the evening in its floors, walls, and windows. For the Angels spoke not simply for themselves but for all the death and fragmentation of a movement which had borne at least its share of darkness. Those with memories could remember, if success was the theme of Thanksgiving Eve's celebration, the course of at least one life which fared badly.
All this, needless to say, was not the fault of Bill Graham. But it was in the air, on the streets, and in the music. Even the band sounded like the old Airplane. It had the San Francisco sound. But that style spoke for other days, days when everyone was younger, fresher, a little more original. It has been three years.

(by beelzebub, from the San Francisco Express Times, 18 December 1968)

See also: