Thursday, October 9, 2014

November 21, 1968: Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service – Los Altos High School Gym, Los Altos, CA

Guest Post by Light Into Ashes

After more than forty years, our knowledge of the Bay Area rock performances of the ‘60s is still growing. Despite the diligent efforts over the years of researchers and sites like this to compile the histories of bands and venues, show lists even for the most famous bands are still incomplete. Some shows remain unknown or forgotten to this day, lasting only in the memories of a few aging fans.
Our knowledge that a concert took place primarily comes from posters or newspaper listings from the major cities; but when those aren’t available or don’t survive, shows can often slip through the cracks and become “lost,” especially if they were played outside the traditional venues. So when someone reminisces about the old days and says, for example, “I saw Santana and Quicksilver play a show at my high school back in ’68,” it can be hard to find any corroborating dates or details, since such a show can’t be found in any of the bands’ performance listings:

Nonetheless – in this case, not only was the show played, but there is quite a lot of information about it, including audience memories, ticket stubs, photos, and even a short review!

I first heard of this show when corresponding with Randy Beucus, a graduate of Los Altos High, about various concerts he’d seen. He commented, “When I was in high school I was able to book Santana and Quicksilver… I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of these high school shows have been forgotten.” 
This show had indeed been forgotten, and I was surprised to hear that a concert with these two bands had never been reported before.

A search revealed that a few people had mentioned the show online after all – in fact, it left quite an impression on them. For instance, on the “Fandalism” site, musicians were asked, “What was the first concert you ever went to?”
Byron Laursen: “Late 1968 at Los Altos High School, with my brother, then a teacher, who had to chaperone at a concert featuring two emergent SF bands... The show was so loud that all I could be sure of was that the second band was rock-and-roll-y and the first one had some Latin influence. It was Santana opening for Quicksilver Messenger Service.”
http://www.fandalism.com/bytree
Alan Eglington: “The first pro Pop Concert I ever bought tickets for and attended without adult supervision was, dare I say it? (drum roll please!) "Chad & Jeremy" (hey! I had a good time so sue me!) at the Los Altos High School main gym. But to show how fast things changed…I attended my second pro concert in the same location, the "Santana Blues Band" opening for "Quicksilver Messenger Service!" That concert had a huge impact on my personal development, because soon after I was drumming in my second band. And that band ended up playing a lot of Santana & Quicksilver material.”
http://fandalism.com/eyebone

Eric Weitzmann also mentioned on Facebook, “Santana and Quicksilver Messenger Service played our high school (Los Altos, Ca.) in 1968. I'll never forget that show, and still have the ticket stub.”
This was exciting news, and he was able to add further details:
“The show was on Thursday, November 21, 1968. 7:30 pm in the Boys Gym, Los Altos High School. $2.50 for students with Student Body Cards and $3.00 all others. It was cool, they had a "Light Show," very psychedelic. The bands sounded really good, it wasn't unusual for rock bands to play high schools back then because there wasn't the club venue scene like there is now. I remember waiting in line before the show and all the guys from Santana walked right by us.”  
The show was well-attended, and was quite an event for the school. “The basketball floor was open for dancing, with bleacher seating on both sides… I don't recall many parents or hipsters coming. Mostly, the student body.”

Paradoxically, Randy Beucus, who’d booked the show, had no memory of it:
“I didn't go, even though it was my senior year in high school and I was pretty much responsible for putting the show together… I stayed away from the show even though I helped put it on. I just couldn't see myself seeing those bands at my high school. I was seeing both bands anyway [in San Francisco] around the same time… 
“That was the only show that I booked, but I went to a lot of rock & roll shows from my freshman year in high school, and when I found out the school had a certain amount of money to get a "big" known San Francisco group to play, someone contacted me… I must have called one of the Polte brothers (Ron & Frank) who managed Quicksilver, and maybe the same for Graham who was managing Santana at the time.”

Santana was booked by Bill Graham’s Millard Agency – Graham could be reached by phone at the Fillmore for bookings. Quicksilver would have to be contacted separately – they were booked by the West-Pole agency run by Ron Polte, who also managed the band. (Frank Polte was their road manager.)
The school’s budget is unknown, but Bill Graham for one was eager to get high school bookings, as a way of building an audience for his bands on Millard. One story from the Santanamigos site illustrates this point, when a show was booked by a San Jose high school in March ’69: “My friend Jamie called Bill Graham (promoter and Fillmore owner), and asked for Santana to play. Bill asked how much the student body had as a budget, and Jamie told him we had $2,500. Bill laughed and said ‘no way,’ Jamie said ‘thank you, we will get someone else.’ Bill called back within about 10 minutes, and said ‘OK, you can have them and the three other groups for that price!’”

Corry writes: “It was very much the Millard strategy to put their bands in the suburbs. They were all Fillmore West openers, so they could play the 'burbs and advertise truthfully, "Direct From Fillmore West." It certainly built an audience for Santana. Don't forget that the rock audience was pretty young… All of the Millard bands also played a lot of gigs at suburban gyms and movie theaters, that held 700-1000 people. A lot of parents who weren't going to let their high schoolers drive to San Francisco had no problem with letting them drive a few miles to a local place.”
It must have been a treat for the Bay Area teens who couldn’t drive to San Francisco to have the Fillmore bands come to them.

Santana played quite a few local high school shows in the year before their first album came out – in fact, the day after this show, November 22, they would play at Campolindo High in Moraga. Other examples include:
Mission San Jose High School, Fremont (fall '68 dance)
Elizabeth High School, Oakland 10/18/68
Woodside High School, Woodside 2/11/69
James Lick High School, San Jose 3/7/69
Washington High School, Fremont 3/8/69
Las Lomas High School, Walnut Creek 4/1/69
Palo Alto High School, Palo Alto 6/10/69 (graduation dance)

In contrast, Quicksilver were rarely spotted at high school shows at this time. They were the more established, well-known band and had just taken a short cross-country tour in October; whereas Santana would barely leave California until the summer of ’69. Making this booking even more unusual, this was to be one of Quicksilver’s last appearances before Gary Duncan left the band in January ‘69, effectively leaving Quicksilver in limbo for another year before he rejoined.

This was an unusually high-profile booking for Los Altos High, which typically had less well-known local bands play its dances. For instance, the Homecoming dance in ’68 was played by The People (fresh from their regional hit “I Love You”), and the prom dance in ’69 featured the Syndicate of Sound (still best-known for their ’66 hit “Little Girl”) – both popular San Jose bands who’d been in the charts, though not the kind of acts you’d see at the Fillmore.
Randy mentions: “I tried to have Paul Butterfield to play my high school the year before…but when I called Albert Grossman, the price he wanted for the Butterfield Blues Band was higher than the school could pay for.”
Other concerts at Los Altos High from ’66-70 were played by such local groups as the Tribesmen, the Lord Jim Quartet, Bogus Thunder, New Dawn, Green Catherine, and Gropus Cackus, and others even more obscure, or still in high school – we only know of these since they were pictured in yearbooks. (Chad & Jeremy’s show there is still fondly remembered by some grads, though!)

As a big show for the school, you might wonder if the Santana/QMS concert was mentioned in the school yearbook, the Excalibur. I was thrilled to find out that the show actually got a two-page spread in the 1969 yearbook, with photos and a brief report:




Pictures courtesy of Randy, who observes: “Notice the mistakes in names for the members of Santana. The yearbook company got into trouble for adding the balloon caption over Duncan's head!”

In an odd case of misreporting, the Santana bandmembers’ names are totally mistaken. In reality, the bass player was David Brown; the drummer was Bob “Doc” Livingston; and the percussionist was Marcus Malone. (Livingston and Malone were soon to leave the band within the next few months.)
The yearbook culprit who had Gary Duncan saying “I’m so sweet” has not yet been found.

The text:
Shades of Quicksilver and Santana 
“The sometimes annual fall concert featured the sounds of “Quicksilver Messenger Service” and “Santana” and the lights of Mr. What. The barrier between performers and the sizable audience of 2000 was broken when members of Quicksilver asked some of the listeners to come closer and sit on the floor. Although given second billing, Santana drew the admiration of many, and their blues sound was widely considered better than the rock of Quicksilver.”

It’s interesting that the relatively unknown Santana proved more popular with the audience. Quicksilver had one album out, but Santana had not yet recorded and their first album wouldn’t be released until October ’69, so they were perhaps known mostly by their live reputation. Some students might already have seen a few of the many San Francisco shows Santana had played that year.
On the other hand, Santana’s band and its “Latin influence” may also have seemed more fresh and new to older listeners than Quicksilver, who had been playing the same small repertoire all year.
Santana’s “blues sound” is mentioned – at the time they were sometimes still billed as the “Santana Blues Band.” (Though they’d shortened their band name back in the summer, show posters outside of San Francisco still kept the older name.)

Randy wrote: “As I recall I was told that the bands only played one set each. At that time Quicksilver's first sets were nothing special. Kind of like the Dead, they really came alive in their second sets.”
Quicksilver’s request to the audience to “come closer and sit on the floor” is also striking. Perhaps they were having trouble ‘coming alive’ – one wonders why this empty floor wasn’t filled with dancers?
But that reminds me of a recent eyewitness memory of a somewhat older crowd at the Dead/Quicksilver show at South Oregon College in Ashland, Feb 4 ’68: “I was there and it seemed the only ones dancing were the ones that had a fair amount of LSD in our systems (far too many folks were sitting on the floor with their mouths agape).”

Scheduled for 7:30, the concert probably did not run very late. As the opener on a weeknight high-school show Santana’s set may have been short, but their setlist was probably similar to the Fillmore West sets from the next month released as “Live at the Fillmore ’68.” Quicksilver’s setlist was most likely much the same as at their famed Fillmore West run earlier in November, partly used on the Happy Trails album and later circulating on tapes and bootlegs:  
So it’s easy to imagine what the show must have sounded like in the crowded gym.

Mr. What also did the light show at Santana’s 2/11/69 Woodside High concert, but I haven’t seen them listed elsewhere.

At any rate, the bands were loud, the light-show psychedelic, the gym converted to a mini-Fillmore for the night, and the experience was burned in students’ memories. No doubt before long many of them were heading off to San Francisco to see more rock shows.
While it would be nice to report that this show passed into Los Altos legend, oddly enough, any word of it instead soon vanished into the fog of the sixties. No ads or posters have survived, no press listings were found; and the yearbook spread appears to have remained unknown outside the student body. As a result, only those who attended remembered that it ever took place.
It’s possible more memories of this show may come to light, now that this article has been posted. Los Altos High also had a biweekly newspaper, the Lance, which may well have run an article on the show, if anyone has access to issues from November ’68…


Two related posts worth checking out:  
A description of a Santana/Quicksilver show with the Dead at Winterland a month later (and “so sweet” Gary Duncan’s last appearance with Quicksilver for a year) -  
And a listing of Palo Alto High School concert highlights, 1967-69 -  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

COLOUR ME POP - BBC2 1968-1969

Colour Me Pop was a late night show broadcast after 10:30 on BBC2 in 1968 and 1969 (on Fridays until the end of August 1968 then on Saturdays). Initially it was a effectively an adjunct to contemporary discussion programme Late Night Line Up which featured a slot for folk, pop and rock acts on a weekly basis, and provided a monthly best of the bunch summary.
 
Most weeks a singles act would perform a 25 minute set broadcast without a break. Occasionally there would be more than one act and occasionally outside broadcasts would be aired. The most notable of these were the three broadcasts put out in November 1968 featuring the recordings taken from Olympop! - A Benefit for the British Olympic Appeal Fund held at Fairfield Halls in Croydon on September 29, the same year. The first showcased Eclection with the wonderful voice of soon to depart Kerrilee Male, Spooky Tooth and Jethro Tull. Two weeks later we saw a performance from The Nice and a week later The Alan Price Set and Julie Driscoll Brian Auger & The Trinity.
Unfortunately, many of the original recordings have now been lost.

Performance History
 
14 June 1968 Manfred Mann
21 June 1968 The Small Faces (performance includes: "Song of a Baker", "Happiness Stan", "Rollin' Over", "The Hungry Intruder", "The Journey", "Mad John" & "Happydaystoytown")
28 June 1968 Eclection
12 July 1968 Salena Jones with The Brian Lemon Trio
19 July 1968 Fleetwood Mac
26 July 1968 The Kinks (performance includes: "Dedicated Follower of Fashion", "Well Respected Man", "Death of a Clown", "Sunny Afternoon", "Two Sisters", "Sitting by the Riverside", "Lincoln County", "Picture Book" & "Days")
09 August 1968 The Peddlers
16 August 1968 The Tremeloes
23 August 1968 Barry Noble
30 August 1968 Spooky Tooth
07 September 1968 The Hollies
14 September 1968 The Moody Blues (performance includes:"Ride My See Saw", "Dr Livingstone I Presume", "House of Four Doors", "Voices in the Sky", "The Best Way to Travel", "Visions of Paradise", "The Actor", "Om")
21 September 1968 Unit 4 + 2
28 September 1968 David Ackles
05 October 1968 O'Haras Playboys
12 October 1968 Honeybus; Clodagh Rodgers
02 November 1968 Eclection; Spooky Tooth; Jethro Tull (all performances were recorded on 29-Sep-68 at Olympop! - A Benefit for the British Olympic Appeal Fund held at Fairfield Halls in Croydon) 
09 November 1968 Foggy Dew-O; Lew Prinz And The Bedrocks
16 November 1968 The Nice  (performance includes:"America", "Ars Longa Vita Brevis" & "Rondo" and recorded on 29-Sep-68 at Olympop! - A Benefit for the British Olympic Appeal Fund held at Fairfield Halls in Croydon) 
23 November 1968 The Alan Price Set; Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger  and The Trinity (all performances were recorded on 29-Sep-68 at Olympop! - A Benefit for the British Olympic Appeal Fund held at Fairfield Halls in Croydon) 
30 November 1968 Giles, Giles and Fripp
07 December 1968 Timebox
14 December 1968 Love Sculpture
21 December 1968 Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (performance includes "Canyons of Your Mind", "I'm the Urban Spaceman", "Mr Apollo") 
04 January 1969 The Move (performance includes:" I Can Hear the Grass Grow", "Beautiful Daughter", "Goin Back", "Wild Tiger Woman", "Christian Life", "Blackberry Way", "Something", "Fire Brigade" & "Flowers in the Rain")
11 January 1969 Sons And Lovers
16 January 1969 The Pop Tops
25 January 1969 The Toast
01 February 1969 Chicken Shack
06 February 1969 Bobby Hanna; The Art Movement
15 February 1969 The Equals; Barbara Ruskin
22 February 1969 The Marmalade
01 March 1969 Ten Years After (performance includes:"A Sad Song", "No Title" & "I'm Going Home" Audio exists)
08 March 1969 World of Oz
15 March 1969 Caravan
22 March 1969 Harmony Grass
12 April 1969 Free
19 April 1969 Jimmy Campbell; Sweet Thursday
26 April 1969 Elastic Band
10 May 1969 Family (performance includes: "The Weavers Answer", "Observations From a Hill", "How Hi the Li", "Processions" and "A Song For Me")
17 May 1969 Cats Eyes
31 May 1969 Group Therapy
07 June 1969 Lions Of Judea
14 June 1969 Strawbs (with David Bowie and Tony Visconti miming to “Poor Jimmy Wilson”)
05 July 1969 Trapeze (performance includes"Magic Carpet Ride", "Meet on the Ledge" & "Can't See a Thing" all recorded at a live show in Wolverhampton introduced by Emperor Rosko), Samson 
12 July 1969 Copperfield
26 July 1969 Orange Bicycle
02 August 1969 The Love Affair; Philip Goodhand-Tait
09 August 1969 Gene Pitney with the Mike Cotton Sound
30 August 1969 The Fortunes
Not Broadcast Chambers Brothers

Friday, March 2, 2012


The Parliament Hill Fields Performances, London

Wednesday September 4, 1968: Bandstand, Parliament Hill Fields, Hampstead Heath, London - Jefferson Airplane, Fairport Convention

Photograph Copyright of Brian Richards
After a short break following their August 31 performances on the Isle of Wight, Fairport Convention and the Jefferson Airplane were booked to appear on the corrugated iron bandstand on Parliament Hill Fields on the south-east corner of Hampstead Heath in London. Camden Council had organised the event but had failed to adequately promote proceedings. John Peel had mentioned the event on his Top Gear radio show and International Times carried an advertisement. 

Nevertheless, only a few hundred showed up, perhaps others were kept away by the persistent rain. Of those who did show up a pocket of post-lemonhead mods/proto-skinheads made their feelings known about the dirty hippies and freaks. Fortunately the rain drove them back to the Bull & Last. Although Sandy Denny was late arriving, Fairport Convention opened proceedings and a partial set list includes Suzanne, Stormy Weather and I'll Keep It With Mine. As an aside, Richard Thompson attended William Ellis School on Parliament Hill close to where they performed.

The Jefferson Airplane played a pretty much standard short set: She Has Funny Cars, Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil, Won't You Try/Saturday Afternoon, It's No Secret, If You Feel, Somebody To Love, Today and returned with White Rabbit as an encore.

Grace Slick and Paul Kantner thanked the audience for standing in the rain and enjoying their set. The long demolished bandstand itself provided shelter for the performers.

Friday May 9, 1969: Bandstand, Parliament Hill Fields, Hampstead Heath, London - Pretty Things, Musica Electronica Viva, Pete Brown and his Battered Ornaments, Jody Grind, Pink Floyd, Roy Harper

Come May 1969 Camden Council had decided to not only allow, but sponsor three more free shows at the Parliament Hill Fields bandstand. The first of these saw a very good crowd of about 8,000 London hippies (including Ladbrook Grove denizens and weekend hippies), casual observers and head-band clad drug squad officers witnessing a strange mix of performances. 

Roy Harper opened and was soon followed by Pink Floyd playing a somewhat rushed set (they were booked to play Southampton University later that evening) on Orange equipment that was not proving reliable. The Pink Floyd set was: Astronomy Domine, Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun. Careful With That Axe Eugene, A Saucerful Of Secrets (shortened version).

Jody Grind (organ, guitar and drums heavy trio) and Pete Brown did what Jody Grind and Pete Brown did, keeping the audience happy but not ecstatic. Poet and Cream lyricist Brown would soon be thrown out of the his own band The Battered Ornaments. Italian experimental band MEV were, reportedly, not well received at all and quickly headed off. 

The evening concluded with a set by the Pretty Things with the stage occupied by many of the audience dancing, Twink climbing everything he could climb, Mick Farren and many others.  

Sunday May 18, 1969: Bandstand, Parliament Hill Fields, Hampstead Heath, London - Procol Harum, Soft Machine, John Fahey, Third Ear Band, Blossom Toes, Forest, Yes

A reported 16,000 folks turned up to see a rather more laid back afternoon of music under gray clouds and light rain. Previously called Mabel Greer's Toyshop, Yes performed their set which at that time still included covers of Byrds and Beatles numbers and was far from the painful progressiverock that would become their trademark.

Forest were a Grimsby sired folk group that took refuge in the midlands. A favourite of John Peel, they produced two decent albums and are often tagged as part of the acid folkgenre.  By the time of their performance at Parliament Hill, Blossom Toes had drifted from their psychedelic roots demonstrated on their first album (We Are Ever So Clean) to being a pretty much down the line rock band – as capably demonstrated on their second album (If Only For A Moment) released that summer.

Photograph Copyright of Chris Downes
The Third Ear Band was an evolving musical collective that utilised traditional orchestral instruments in an improvisational manner. At the time of this performance, their Peter Jenner produced album Alchemy was being released (featuring John Peel on Jaws Harp).  The line up for the show was Mel Davis on cello, Glen Sweeney – chimes, tabla and hand drums, Dave Tomlin and Richard Coff playing violins.

John Fahey also played a Roundhouse benefit for Fairport Convention with Al Stewart on May 25. After a May 11 performance at Mothers in Birmingham with Eclection, Fairport Convention’s Martin Lamble died in accident when the van carrying the band crashed on the M1.  Fahey followed the benefit with a Top Gear session for John Peel on May 29.

At the time of the show the Software Machine would have been playing as a four-piece with Robert Wyatt on Drums, Mike Ratledge on keyboards, Hugh Hopper on bass and Brian Hopper on sax.  Procol Harum were still riding high in the States but by mid 1969 there popularity was waning in England. This was the first show in England since the spring of 1968 and one of only half a dozen shows before they would return to North America.

A second stage had been set up to aid the transition between performances.

Friday May 30, 1969: Bandstand, Parliament Hill Fields, Hampstead Heath, London - Fleetwood Mac, Edgar Broughton Band, Duster Bennett, Bridget St John, Poet And The One Man Band, Taste

An all night event attracting a crowd reported to be around 25,000, the show was cut short by serious trouble with the crowd. Skinheads threw bottles, coins and heckled Fleetwood Mac when they came on stage and mobs threatened the audience and bands alike.

Rory Gallagher’s Taste opened the proceedings with their loud and heavy blues-rock set a little after 9PM playing on the second stage. Poet and The One Man Band were a short-lived vehicle for Albert Lee, Jerry Donahue, Pat Donaldson (previously of Dantalian’s Chariot), Pete Gavin andTony Colton most of which would later be involved with Fotheringay and Heads Hands & Feet. They released a couple of decent (or so I recall) albums in the folk rock genre. A story that needs telling.

1969 saw Bridget St John release her, and John Peel’s Dandelion Records’, first album. She played a well received set including Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne and Joni Mitchell’s Night in the City as well as a number of songs of her own.

Duster Bennett was a Welsh country-blues one man band and singer that was always well received live, but never really successful in terms of record sales. Fleetwood Mac had provided the back line on his first album and he went on to produce a couple more for Blue Horizon. There was trouble already brewing when Bennett played but he carried on undeterred.

The Edgar Broughton Band were the mainstays of the British festival scene and continue to play benefits and tour to this day.  The anthem, Out Demons Out, was belted out that night – perhaps antagonising the skinhead demons that were to soon wreck the evening.

A little after midnight, Fleetwood Mac came to the stage and played a couple of numbers including Albatross. Soon after, the evening was bought to a close as the skin heads forced the band off the stage. Peter Green's father was so upset by the events of the evening he wrote to the press to complain:

My son travels all over the country playing to different audiences practically every night and last Friday was one of his nights off. But instead of taking advantage and resting, he offered his services to play for free at an open air concert along with other artists. Everything would have gone off fine, when along came a small group of hoodlums - not I may add, long haired freak , as is their usual description - but a gang of crew-cut young thugs who seemed to delight in spoiling a night out for the vast majority of people who were there to enjoy themselves.

After many nasty incidents the concert had to be abandoned, much to the disgust of the organizers who went to a great deal of trouble to arrange it . It is time sterner measures were taken by the law and stiffer sentences imposed on these so called citizens of the future.

J Green

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

August 17, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane (and a new PA)


A promotional photo from the August 10, 1966, San Francisco Chronicle, advertising the Grateful Dead's weekend appearance on August 12 & 13

August 17, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Mimi Farina with The Only Alternative and His Other Possibility/Quicksilver Messenger Service "A Psychedelic Fashion Show" Presented by The Mod Hatter

On Wednesday, August 17, 1966 the Fillmore had a rare midweek event, a psychedelic fashion show curated by The Mod Hatter, a hip Marin boutique. This wasn't totally unprecedented, as the Mod Hatter had held a fashion show at the Fillmore before. That June 26 event was headlined by The Great Society, with former model Grace Slick no doubt the main attraction. The event appears to have been by invitation only, although I suspect the invitations weren't hard to come by. The lettering on the invitation makes it look like Mimi Farina was the planned attraction, and the more popular Jefferson Airplane were only added at the last second. Nonetheless, I think this unheralded event was a very important one for the history of rock concerts, but the reason for its importance lies in the Grateful Dead performance the weekend before.

One of the defining contributions of the Fillmore and the Avalon to rock concerts was the seemingly foundational assumption that a true rock concert had great live sound. Both the Avalon and all three Fillmores--the Auditorium, West and East--were revered by touring musicians for their great house sound systems. However, I don't think the original Fillmore had great house sound until August 17, 1966. After that time, the Fillmore and all its successors were state of the art, and by setting the standard for live performance the Fillmore lifted up all its competitors as well. The reason I am confident of the date was that sometime in August, Bill Graham purchased the sound system that Owsley Stanley had designed for the Grateful Dead and had it installed in the Fillmore. Although I can find no confirmation of the date of purchase, it only makes sense that Owsley would bring in the system with the band, and then leave it there.

Thus the Wednesday night fashion show would have been more than just a party. It also would have been a test run for Graham's staff to try out the new sound system. The Young Rascals and Quicksilver were headlining the weekend show, and no doubt the crew would have wanted to get the bugs out of Owsley's notorious complex system. Although I know nothing about the music at the Fashion Show itself, I do know that the Fillmore had a sterling reputation for its sound system that only grew throughout the years, so the BGP crew must have figured out how to take advantage of Owsley's handiwork pretty quickly.

The First Owsley Sound System
The story of Owsley is shrouded in myth and tall tales, the majority of them created or spread by Owsley himself. In February 1966, Owsley Stanley had agreed to be the patron of the Grateful Dead's music, and he took them to Los Angeles where they put on a series of "Acid Tests" in conjunction with various Southern California crazies like Hugh (Wavy Gravy) Romney. From the proceeds of his various commercial activities, Owsley purchased the Grateful Dead their own public address system. At the time, the largest speaker available was called a "Voice Of The Theater" speaker, used for large auditoriums. Owsley reputedly went to a Bay Area music store and purchased every Voice Of The Theater speaker and wired them together. The speakers had been designed so that a single unit would provide enough sound for an auditorium, but that was insufficient for Owsley. He bought a bunch of them and wired them all up in some crazy fashion.

Thus the Grateful Dead were among the very first rock bands to actually travel with a full size public address system, louder than anyone else's at the time. Owsley was a genius, of course, and a visionary, but practicality was never his strong suit. The equipment that Owsley had purchased was designed to be installed in a theater, not hurled in the back of a panel truck and driven hundreds of miles, only to be rolled out and wired together. Apparently, many of the practical considerations of modern rock touring, like reinforced cables or easy connectors, had not yet been invented, and many things had to be done by laborious means. While no member of the Grateful Dead second guessed the sound of Owsley's system, it was furiously impractical to take on the road. According to Dennis McNally and Blair Jackson's Grateful Dead chronology The Illustrated Trip, Owsley sold the sound system to Bill Graham in August of 1966.

At the Fillmore, the sound system remained in place, so the complexities of setting it up were merely a one-time affair. Owsley purchased the Grateful Dead a new, more portable system, apparently equally fabulous sounding but more manageable on the road. Owsley's first sound system stayed in one place, wowing touring bands from afar as they came to play the Fillmore, just as Bob Cohen's system did over at the Avalon, and elevating the experience of rock concerts in general.

The Mod Hatter Fashion Show
The Mod Hatter was a hip fashion boutique in Mill Valley. The Wednesday night show was a private party, which is why there are invitations but no poster. As a result of being a party, the show was neither advertised in the paper (to my knowledge) nor reviewed, so nothing is known about it. The invitation has Mimi Farina and The Only Alternative in large letters, with "Jefferson Airplane" hand printed in an empty space. Quicksilver Messenger Service, then just an underground band, are listed in tiny print at the bottom of the invite.

Mimi Farina was Joan Baez's younger sister, and while she had a lovely voice and was stunning looking, she was much shyer than her more famous sibling. At the time, she was sort of a "guest singer" with The Only Alternative band, but this effort to be a rock singer never really suited her. Nonetheless, it was clear that the Mod Hatter needed a stylish young woman topping the bill, and Mimi fit that requirement very nicely, even if she herself may have had second thoughts. Obviously, once Signe Anderson and Jefferson Airplane were available, that meant two young women at the top of the bill, and some of the pressure may have been off both of them.

I'm sure this event was only partially a rock show. Rather than all three bands playing double sets, they probably all played single sets, interrupted by some sort of fashion shows. Indeed, with the Fillmore filled with fashion models, it must have been a pretty interesting night. If I am correct about the timeline, and Owsley had left his sound system intact on Saturday August 13, I have to think he would have dropped by as a technical adviser for the Fashion Show on Wednesday. Let's see: new sound system, Jefferson Airplane, fashion models, Quicksilver, Owsley and the future of rock music--an interesting night indeed.

Rock Concert Sound
Chet Helms's partner at the Avalon was soundman Bob Cohen, a true legend in his own right. The Avalon was always famous for having spectacular sound, so the Fillmore would have had to match it. No specific names are associated with the sound systems at the Fillmore and Fillmore West, so I think Graham had a series of technicians or consultants. While I think Graham made an effort from the beginning to make the Fillmore into a quality experience, with no Bob Cohen as a partner he needed outside expertise, and I think Owsley was the first of those. Of course, Graham's in-house staff must have started modifying the equipment immediately, so it may have strayed quite far from Owsley's original concept.

Nonetheless, the San Francisco ballrooms established the blueprint for the rock concert experience up to this very day. No rock concert goer today would expect any less than exceptional sound, loud as can be but clear as a bell, where any distortion is intended and not just an unfortunate byproduct. That's not to say we always get what we want as listeners, of course, but we know what we are supposed to get. So if I'm right, August 17, 1966 at the Fillmore marked the night that rock's most famous auditorium got a state of the art sound system and kept it that way, setting the standard for rock concert sound forever after.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

2201 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA The Electric Factory: Concert List July-December 1969 (Philadelphia IV)

[this post continues the series about rock concerts at and presented by the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in the 1960s]

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is one of America's great cities, but its proximity to New York has always made an unfair comparison. Philadelphia has an exciting music history, and an exciting rock music history in the 1960s, but that history can only be documented in the most fragmented of places. These posts about the Electric Factory marks the beginning of my effort to organize and analyze Philadelphia rock history in the 1960s. There are probably more dates to be found, but these posts will make a good starting point (thanks to Bruno for some fantastic research).

The Electric Factory, 2201 Arch Street
The Electric Factory, a former tire warehouse, opened in early 1968 at 2201 Arch.  The owners were the Spivak brothers, all experienced bar owners in the Philadelphia area. Their booker was Larry Magid.  They rapidly dominated the concert scene in Philadelphia, and the Electric Factory were the most important promoters in Philadelphia until they ultimately were purchased by larger corporate interests in the 1990s.

The Electric Factory was a critical stop on 60s concert tours, and an integral part of the "Premier Talent" (Booking Agency) circuit that included both Fillmores, the Boston Tea Party and Chicago's Kinetic Playground. Philadelphia was a big, important city and Philadelphia fans were not shy about showing their appreciation or displeasure (a trait that has endured). However, since the Electric Factory did not generally use posters with collectible art for advertisements, the venue has been somewhat lost to 60s rock history. There were many relatively trivial 60s venues that had a famous poster or two, often printed in The Art Of Rock or otherwise promulgated, that are recalled much more often than the Electric Factory. Outside of Philadelphia, the early history of the Electric Factory is largely ignored, and I am attempting to begin to correct that here.
This post presents the lists of Electric Factory concerts from July through December 1969, as well as major Philadelphia rock events during that period. The list is almost certainly not complete. Our knowledge of shows at venues like the Fillmore, the Avalon or Detroit's Grande Ballroom comes from the wonderful (and collectible) posters that lived on in dorm room walls long after the venues ceased operating. However, the Electric Factory rarely used colorful, artistic posters to advertise the shows. I think the Electric Factory advertised on the radio and with print-only ads in various newspapers, making it harder to discern their schedule.
This post represents my best efforts at determining late 1969  shows at the Electric Factory, as well as shows promoted by Electric Factory concerts. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or recovered memories (real or imagined) is encouraged to Comment or email me, and I will update the list accordingly. 
(For earlier efforts at psychedelic ballrooms in Philadelphia as well as the first half of 1968 for the Electric Factory, see here, and for the second half of 1968 see here, and for the first half of 1969 see here)
Electric Factory Concerts in Philadelphia, July>December 1969
By the second half of 1969, rock concert promotion was big business, and Larry Magid and The Electric Factory were the dominant promoter in Philadelphia. Ironically, however, the market had gotten so big that many of the concerts were now held at the much larger Philadelphia Spectrum. The Electric Factory was also the primary promoter at the Spectrum (at 3601 Broad), though not the only one. I have tried to include all the major rock events at the Spectrum from this period, even though I am not always certain that the events were promoted by the Electric Factory. 

At the same time, the Electric Factory was under pressure from police commissioner Frank Rizzo, who managed to get the Electric Factory shut down for most of the Summer of 1969. The Electric Factory was busy promoting events at the Spectrum as well as the Atlantic City Pop Festival, but the Factory itself was closed for some portion of the Summer.
July 11-12, 1969 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Spectrum Pop Festival
>July 11, 1969:  Sly and The Family Stone/Mothers of Invention/Ten Years After/Jeff Beck/Savoy Brown
>July 12, 1969: Blood, Sweat & Tears/Edwin Hawkins Singers (afternoon show)
>July 12, 1969: Led Zeppelin/Johnny Winter/Al Kooper/Jethro Tull/Buddy Guy’s Blues Band

Many of the acts who played the Spectrum Pop Festival had previously headlined at the Electric Factory. The Summer of 1969 was the Summer of Rock Festivals, however, and bands had started crisscrossing the country.

July 16, 1969: The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Blind Faith/Delaney & Bonnie & Friends/Taste
The Blind Faith tour was probably the biggest National rock tour up until this time. Taste featured Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher.

July 19, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Tom Rush
July 23, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Crazy World Of Arthur Brown/Sweet Stavin Chain


July 25-26, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: AUM/Sweet Stavin Chain

July 29, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Dr. John The Night Tripper

July 30, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Lothar and The Hand People
Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo managed to get a judge to close the Electric Factory ("corrupting the youth" seemed to be the charge) for the rest of the Summer.

August 1-3, 1969 Atlantic City Racetrack, Mays Landing, NJ: “Atlantic City Pop Festival”
Although held outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey, about 50 miles to the Southeast of Philadelphia, this show was promoted by the Electric Factory. During this time, the Electric Factory was holding “Be-Ins” at Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park, but the city would not have allowed a rock festival outdoors.  Even in freewheeling Atlantic City, the event still had to be called a “Pop” Festival.

Like most 60s festivals, it is difficult to determine who actually showed and who played, much less in what order. According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 1, 2004, the festival was a commercial and musical success.  It was promoted by Philadelphia’s Electric Factory (who could not get a permit for anywhere in Philadelphia), and crowds of about 40,000 showed up all three days.  There was a campground next door, and adequate facilities (as well as a fence) at the horse racing track.

The advertised acts appear to have varied significantly from who actually played. I am unable to determine even whether bands appeared for two days or three. My guess is that three days were planned, and after a series of cancellations the show was scaled back to two days. A program circulates with only two days of acts, differing dramatically from what was advertised. Such changes were common occurrences in late 60s' festivals. I suspect that the first night featured Philadelphia area bands, since many people would have started camping out on Friday August 1.

Poster courtesy of the collection of Ed Galm

Atlantic City Pop Festival: Advertised Acts
Friday, August 1: Iron Butterfly/Johnny Winter/Crosby Stills Nash & Young/Chicago Transit Authority/Procol Harum/Joni Mitchell/Mother Earth/Santana Blues Band/Booker T & The MGs

Saturday, August 2: Jefferson Airplane/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Tim Buckley, B.B. King/Butterfield Blues Band/The Byrds/Hugh Masakela/Lighthouse/American Dream

Sunday, August 3: Janis Joplin/Canned Heat/Mothers Of Invention/Moody Blues/Three Dog Night/Sir Douglas Quintet/Joe Cocker/Little Richard/Buddy Rich Big Band/Dr. John The Night Tripper

The actual reality of who played seems somewhat different. CSNY canceled, apparently because Graham Nash had vocal nodes, insuring that he would be well enough to sing at Woodstock two weeks later. Johnny Winter was unable to play because his equipment did not arrive, although it appears he borrowed a guitar and sat in with Janis Joplin.

A program exists listing acts only on Saturday (Aug 2) and Sunday (Aug 3). It includes some of the acts scheduled for Friday night. Did some bands play twice, was Friday's billing re-organized or was it canceled? My guess is that there was a concert Friday night, but it featured mainly local bands.

Atlantic City Pop Festival: Programmed Acts
According to a circulating program (above), these were the acts on Saturday and Sunday, in order of appearance, from 1:00-9:30 pm.

Saturday, August 2: American Dream/Tim Buckley/The Byrds/Booker T and The MGs/Hugh Masakela/Butterfield Blues Band/BB King/Lighthouse/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Jefferson Airplane

Sunday, August 3: Sir Douglas Quintet/Santana Blues Band/Canned Heat/Three Dog Night/Joe Cocker and The Grease Band/Mothers Of Invention/Buddy Miles Express/Johnny Winter/Janis Joplin/Little Richard
Janis Joplin is actually listed on the program twice. I assume this was just a misprint, and some other act came on between Joe Cocker and The Mothers (I don't envy them). Johnny Winter was reputed not to have made it, but of course I can't be sure. Keep in mind that many of the big names booked for these days were not big names at the time. Acts like Santana, Joe Cocker, Three Dog Night and Joe Cocker would have just released their first albums at this time, and would have been big surprises to the Festival audience.

Anyone with more specific memories of the acts playing the Atlantic City Pop Festival is encouraged to Comment. For a more general picture of the Atlantic City Pop Festival, there is an interesting website by one of the promoters of the event.

September 5-6, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Spooky Tooth/Chicago Transit Authority

September 9-11, 1969 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Tyrannosaurus Rex/Chris Smither
I suspect that the Electric Factory was closed for most of August 1969, just like the Fillmore East. I don't really have a sense of how many 1969 shows I am missing from the Electric Factory itself, as I'm not sure if they tried to be open every weekend no matter what.

Although Tyrannosarus Rex featured Marc Bolan, it was not the hard rocking glam of "Bang A Gong," but a hippie folk duo featuring Bolan and a conga player. They would have been a sort of cult act at this time, a clear indicator that the bigger acts were playing the Spectrum or elsewhere, at least in the Summer.

Chris Smither was a Cambridge, MA based folk blues guitarist. 

September 12-13, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Junior Wells/Mandrake Memorial


September 19-20, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Buddy Miles Express/The Stooges


September 26-27, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: MC5/American Dream

October 3-4, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Mountain/Lonnie Mack

October 10-11, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: War featuring Eric Burdon/The Raven/Lee Michaels
Eric Burdon was a big star, but his collaboration with War was a new venture. Lee Michaels was shy of his first big hit as well. This was probably a terrific show, but the bands were not major acts at the time.

October 17-18, 1969 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Aum/Elvin Bishop
Aum and Elvin Bishop were both managed by Bill Graham's organization, and they both had new debut albums.

October 19, 1969 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: The Who/American Dream
There were two shows at 4 and 8 pm, where The Who memorably played all of Tommy. The Who had probably been booked prior to the album, which broke The Who into another level of stardom. The band would not play venues this small again.

October 24-25, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: The Byrds/Litter/Elizabeth/P.I.L.T


October 26, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Benefit For Burned War Children


November 7-8, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Lee Michaels/The Flock


November 14-15, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Joe Cocker/Holy Modal Rounders


November 21-22, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Youngbloods/Rockin' Foo

November 21, 1969 The Palestra, U. Penn, Philadelphia, PA: Jefferson Airplane/Lighthouse/Sweet Stavin Chain
The Palestra was Penn's basketball arena. I'm not sure whether Electric Factory promoted this event, but I thought I would include it for completeness.

November 25, 1969 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Rolling Stones/B.B. King/Ike & Tina Turner/Terry Reid
The Fall '69 Rolling Stones tour eclipsed the Summer's Blind Faith tour as the biggest rock event so far. This was near the end of the tour (Altamont was only 11 days away).

November 28-29, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: The Sons/Jacobs Creek

November 30, 1969 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Jethro Tull/The Sons
This date is from the Jethro Tull list.  If this is accurate, Tull would have been opening for someone else, as they were not yet at the level of Spectrum headliners.

December 5, 1969 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Chambers Brothers/The Kinks/Spirit/American Dream
The Kinks, having settled their issues with the American Musicians Union (Ray Davies had punched someone important in the face in Los Angeles in 1965), had begun to join their peers in touring across America.

December 7, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA “Benefit For Help”
Elizabeth/Stone Dawn/High Treason/Stock Yard/Sweet Stavin Chain/Hard Road/Edison Electric/The Max/Maholo Reigns/American Dream  (Sunday afternoon show)
I'm not sure whether this concert benefited the Electric Factory itself or some other cause. All of the groups were local Philadelphia bands who had probably played the Electric Factory many times.

December 12-13, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Edison Electric Band/Sweet Stavin Chain/Max

December 26, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Cold Blood/American Dream/Pookah
December 27, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Grand Funk Railroad/American Dream/Pookah

December 31, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA: Lighthouse/Catfish/Elizabeth

Although my concert list is not entirely complete, the general trend makes it clear that the rock market had outgrown the Electric Factory venue. In fact, 2201 Arch Street would remain open through November 1970, but Electric Factory promotions increasingly moved to the larger Spectrum. Even when the Arch Street facility closed down, Electric Factory promotions remained active in the Philadelphia area. Electric Factory was far and away the biggest promoter in Philadelphia through the 1990s, when it was ultimately merged with larger corporate interests.