Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fillmore East May 3-4, 1968: Jefferson Airplane/Crazy World Of Arthur Brown

(this post is part of a series cataloging every performance at The Fillmore East)

The first appearance of the Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore East featured the classic Airplane with Grace Slick and Marty Balin (along with Kaukonen/Kantner/Casady/Dryden), the flagship of San Francisco’s  Summer of Love.  The current album was After Bathing At Baxter’s (RCA Dec 67). “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit” had been big hits in the summer of 1967. Unlike almost every other band at Fillmore East, the Airplane did not use the Joshua Light Show, but their own light show (Glenn McKay’s Head Lights).  For the encore on Saturday night (presumbably the late show), Kostelanetz reports various drummers sat in for Spencer Dryden, the first being Mitch Mitchell (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience).

All four sets of the Airplane were casually recorded by Fillmore East soundman John Chester.  The officially released 2002 cd Jefferson Airplane Live At Fillmore East (BMG) is a sort of “best-of” the four nights.  The Airplane are ragged but exciting, with difficult arrangements and interesting songwriting mixed with erratic execution.

Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s big hit was “Fire.”  They had a notorious stage show in which Brown was hung up on a cross. “Fire” was not yet a hit, and neither the single or album of “Fire" had been released in the US. The single and album would go on to become huge hits. Various commentators report Brown entering the stage by being carried down the aisle by four men (in a coffin or throne, or some conveyance), wearing a mask that is on fire.  Organist Vincent Crane (later in Atomic Rooster) was the primary musician in the band, with drummer Drachen Theaker the only other member of the trio.

Next: May 10, 1968: Jimi Hendrix Experience/Sly and The Family Stone


  1. According to Italian sources, the Airplane used a substitute drummer for both nights, Canadian Jeff Cutler. Also, after this gig, Crazy World of Arthur Brown drummer Drachen Theaker left the band, to be replaced by--Jeff Cutler.

    Bassist Nick Greenwood was the other member of Arthur Brown's group, along with Theaker and Crane.

  2. I know that after the tour, and whilst still in the US, it was decided that Drachen Theaker would need to go and that Vincent Crane's well documented issues had come back to the fore. It was during this time that Jimi Hendrix had approached Arthur Brown regarding forming a band together - the band that would eventually end up as "Band of Gypsies". Arthur had other commitments and was unable to follow through with this project - but can you imagine if he had.

    Although Fire was a major hit and the album did well, I know that Arthur did not receive any significant payment for this work. It was rumoured that Bill Graham lent the members the funds to return to the UK as their management team (Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert) were dealing with their own particular issues.

    A further US tour was embarked on later in the year with Arthur Brown, a revitalised Vincent Crane and an unknown 18 year old drummer called Carl Palmer. After that tour was completed Crane and Palmer would split to form Atomic Rooster.

    Arthur does however continue to play live occasionally and in 2005 played a couple of shows in the UK with the Country Joe Band and The Muffin Men (featuring Jimi Carl Black). Arthur was also a surprise performer at the 40th anniversary Friars (Aylesbury) show with The Groundhogs, Edgar Broughton Band and The Pretty Things on June 1, 2009. I can report that he was in fine fettle and that his rerecorded version of "Devil's Grip" on his "Voice of Love" album is worth checking out.