Thursday, February 25, 2010

Avalon Ballroom, July 1-2-3, 1966: Grass Roots/Daily Flash/Sopwith Camel

This post is part of a series analyzing every show at the Avalon Ballroom

July 1-2-3, 1966 Grass Roots/Daily Flash/Sopwith Camel 
Since the 4th of July was on a Monday, the Avalon had a three day booking for the weekend instead of just the normal Friday and Saturday night shows. The Sopwith Camel were not booked for Sunday night, July 3--I do not currently know if any other band performed on that night.

The LA folk-rock bands are now playing the Fillmore and Avalon regularly.  ‘Folk-rock’, epitomized by The Byrds, was not only popular, but hip, and bands like The Turtles, The Grass Roots and The Association appeared to have more in common with Quicksilver or The Airplane than they do today.     The Grass Roots were starting to break out nationally.  Their current Dunhill single, “Where Were You When I Needed You,” peaked at  #28 nationally.

The Daily Flash, while founded in Seattle, had relocated to Los Angeles, where they shared management with the Buffalo Springfield. Nonetheless, they had been a huge hit at the Avalon, so they had a following in San Francisco. The Daily Flash’s repertoire actually included a lot of folk covers at this time, so this show really was a folk-rock bill, although the obscurity of these bands recorded releases meant that the audience would not know what they sounded like until they were actually at the show.

The Sopwith Camel were another group that had been founded out of the rooming house at 1090 Page Street, just like Big Brother. They had begun rehearsing at a place called The Firehouse (an abandoned Fire Station) where a few shows were presented as well. Their second show was at the Fillmore in February. They had improved steadily, however, and became a viable band. 

By July, The Sopwith Camel had been signed by Kama Sutra Records. In May, a friend of the band had sent an early demo tape of the song “Hello Hello” to Lovin Spoonful producer Erik Jakobsen, who immediately sought the group out.  He met them returning from a gig at a private girls school, and they were all dressed in tuxedos.  Nonetheless, Jakobsen recognized the potential and signed them immediately.Jakobsen was on the prowl because The Lovin Spoonful were getting even bigger.  “Daydream” had reached #2 in the spring, and “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind”, their current single, would reach #2 as well.

The Spoonful’s biggest hit, “Summer In The City” would not even hit the charts for a few more weeks. However, the Lovin Spoonful would never play the Avalon or the Fillmore. Sometime in the Summer (probably after a May 21, 1966 show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley), Spoonful guitarist Zal Yanofsky was busted for pot, and he gave up his dealer, apparently a member of The Committee improv troupe. This poisoned the band's reputation in the Underground, and the Spoonful were persona non grata at the Avalon and the Fillmore, so they were never booked there. The drug bust problems of Yanofsky would have seemed like trivial show-biz problems to the record companies.  The idea that a band’s inability to play obscure venues in San Francisco would affect their future popularity would have been incomprehensible to a New York record company.

Oddly enough, the Sopwith Camel appear on a Fillmore poster for Saturday, July 2 (supporting Great Society and The Charlatans), and that presents a conflict with the Avalon poster. By this time, Bill Graham and Chet Helms were fierce competitors and would not have allowed a band to play both venues on the same night. Given that the Camel did not play the Avalon on Sunday, July 3, perhaps the Fillmore poster was mistaken and the Camel played on July 3 at the Fillmore (which was billed as Love/Grateful Dead/Group B).

next: July 8-9-10, 1966: Sir Douglas Quintet/Everpresent Fullness

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