Saturday, October 17, 2009

November 18-19, 1967, Cow Palace-Hollywood Bowl: Free Concerts


November 18, 1967 Cow Palace, Daly City, CA
November 19, 1967 Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA
The Association/The Animals/Everly Brothers/Sopwith Camel/The Who/Sunshine Company

These two concerts stand out on lists of old rock concerts, for any number of reasons. The 1967 rock market was quite small, and the 11,000 seat Cow Palace (at 2600 Geneva Avenue, just South of San Francisco) and the prestigious 17,000 seat Hollywood Bowl (at 2301 North Highland) was on a substantially larger scale than the Fillmore or equivalent venues. The Association, The Animals and The Who had all headlined the Fillmore, the Everly Brothers, while past the prime of their radio popularity, were still very well known, and Sopwith Camel had had a radio hit ("Hello Hello").

What is particularly different about these rock concerts was that they were effectively free. The article above is from the Oakland Tribune 'Teen Age' section of November 8, 1967, and it says
Tickets to the musical extravaganza are free with the purchase of any one M-G-M or Warner Brothers stereo album at any Bay Area White Front store, sponsor of the event.
White Front was a large department store, like Sears or Macy's, and there were quite a few around the Bay Area. Thus you could have gone into the store and purchased, say, Freak Out by The Mothers of Invention (on MGM), or the first Grateful Dead album (on Warners), and gotten a free ticket. Of course, in those days, the record sections of stores had considerably fewer albums, and you might find yourself having to buy a considerably less attractive album.

The article also says the show was scheduled to run for two and one-half hours. With six acts, even with a shared sound system and rapid equipment changes, bands could be playing for no longer than 25 minutes. The groups who had gotten used to the Fillmore, with its Owsley Stanley designed sound, intimate setting and two hour-long sets, must have found these shows to be trivial and alienating.

Notes on the bands
The Association
The Association were one of the most commercially successful folk-rock bands. While they were all fine musicians, they wore suits on stages, and did coordinated dance steps and little skits between songs, like a Las Vegas act, so they were roundly dismissed by the hip underground. Their big hit in the Summer had been "Windy," and their current hit was "Never My Love." They were on Warner Brothers Records.

The Animals
The Animals had been one of the biggest acts of the British Invasion. However, the "new" Animals were very different creatures indeed than the minimalist R&B combo of the mid-60s. With twin guitarists Vic Briggs and John Weider and Eric Burdon's powerful if histrionic vocals, they had a big hit with the psychedelic "San Franciscan Nights" (how good was Owsley's acid if Eric thought a San Franciscan night was warm?). On stage, the band sounded like a cross between the original Animals and Quicksilver Messenger Service. They were on MGM Records.

Everly Brothers
The Everly Brothers had been one of the biggest acts of the early 1960s, and they were a huge influence on The Beatles and many other groups. They were all but single-handedly responsible for showing that the traditional brother harmonies of old time country music (originated by the likes of The Delmore Brothers) could be effectively transposed onto popular rock music, a lesson the Beatles took very well. Although the Everlys were still making fine albums, they were no longer pop hitmakers in America. They recorded for Warner Brothers Records.

Sopwith Camel
The Sopwith Camel had formed at 1090 Page Street, the same hippie rooming house that spawned Big Brother And The Holding Company. Although the Camel was one of the original ballroom bands, they had been signed quickly by Kama Sutra Records, and had an early 1967 hit with their song "Hello Hello." The Fillmore underground rather unfairly dubbed them "sell-outs", and they missed being attached to the underground wave that they had helped begin. Reputedly they were a pretty good live band, with a tough twin guitar sound somewhat at odds with the Lovin Spoonful-ish style of their album.

The Who
The Who hardly need an introduction here. Similar to the Animals, The Who spent 1967 converting themselves from a pop-oriented British Invasion band to a serious Underground band. The band had already headlined the Fillmore (June 16-17, 1967) and played Monterey Pop (June 18), but they had spent the next eight weeks touring America with Herman's Hermits. The band's most recent album was A Quick One, released in America in May 1967 (December 66 in the UK). Their current single was  the great "I Can See For Miles", from their forthcoming classic The Who Sell Out. This show was the beginning of an American tour where The Who still played "teen" venues, but by 1968 they had evolved into serious rock musicians who played the Fillmore East. The Who recorded for Decca Records.

The Sunshine Company
The Sunshine Company played a sort of psychedelic pop music native to Los Angeles, with catchy tunes, nice harmonies and quirky arrangements. They had a modest hit with "Back On The Street Again." They recorded for Imperial Records. The Sunshine Company may not have played the Hollywood Bowl.

Notes On The Venues
The Cow Palace 2600 Geneva Avenue, Daly City, CA
The Cow Palace, originally the California State Livestock Pavilion was built in the depression and completed in 1941. A local politician was quoted as saying "People are starving, and we're building a palace for the cows," and the name stock. With a concert capacity of around 11,000, it was the biggest indoor concert venue in the Bay Area until the completion of the Oakland Coliseum in 1966. The Beatles played there twice, and the Rolling Stones played there as well. Although it became increasingly outdated, many fine rock concerts were held there when better venues were filled up (I saw great shows there by Pink Floyd, Neil Young and Nirvana, to name a few, and a dreadful Iron Maiden/Twisted Sister show). The building is currently slated for demolition.

Hollywood Bowl, 2301 North Highland, Los Angeles, CA
The 17,000 capacity Hollywood Bowl is an outdoor venue carved out of a natural amphitheater on a hillside above Los Angeles. It was used in a basic form for outdoor concerts as early as 1922, but a substantial and distinctive bandshell was constructed in 1929. The Hollywood Bowl has always been a prestige venue in Hollywood, for those acts big enough to play there. It remains an active venue to this day.

4 comments:

  1. The Cow Palace was a huge part of the Bay Area music scene long before the shows you mention. Radio station KYA promoted numerous shows there. I remember one about 1963 that was a Motown affair with the Rightous Bros and about 10 other acts like the Ronnettes etc...and Phil Spectre on stage conducting all of them....wild! Oh, and toward the end of the show he lead a little blind black kid out on stage who played harmonica and sang. It was the only time I've seen Stevie Wonder live.

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  2. This was the first concert I even attended. I was already 15 but my parents drove me and my cousin to see this. I don't remember much about it except we were pretty far away because our tickets were "free". The sound was not very good and the acts were short. I thought the Who's act of "destroying" their gear seemed very staged and artificial. We were just beginning to discover this wonderful new music now coined Classic Rock

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  4. I was at one of these shows at the Cow Palace, and it was quite entertaining. I remember that if you purchased two LPs at White Front you got seating towards the front, but one LP gave you seating towards the back half of the Cow Palace. I don't know why I remember this but an LP at White Front then cost $3.58 (or was it $3.56?) if stereo, and $2.78 if mono.

    I rather stupidly bought only one LP but did manage to walk around and see some of the show from closer to the stage than where my "one LP" seat was. I do remember I did move close to the stage when Eric Burdon was on.

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