Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Yardbirds "Think About It"

When Jeff Beck made his final departure from the Yardbirds, there didn’t seem to be much discussion about the future of the band. They were back in the studio three weeks later and then back to the US for more tour dates. 1967 should have been a big year for the Yardbirds. The West Coast was exploding with music, much of it influenced by the innovative sounds the Yardbirds had produced over the previous two years. Sadly they were eclipsed by these very same bands, and the new crop of British bands like Traffic, Cream, The Who and certainly Jimi Hendrix.
Jimmy Page suggests they bring in bit maker Micky Most to handle production. Most had done well for the Donovan, The Animals and Herman’s Hermits. The band had already attempted to record You Stole My Love with Paul Samwell-Smith at the helm. He wasn’t pleased to learn he’d be rerecording a song he’d already produced for the Mocking Birds. We wouldn’t hear the results until it appeared on the Little Games Sessions and then the short lived Cumular Limits.  
Little Games/Puzzles
Epic 5-19156 April 3, 1967
The Yardbirds first effort with Most was a fair size hit and not a half bad song. Little Games had a lot going for it; an aggressive beat, and interesting arrangement and some meaty guitar. Just months after Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, it seemed a serious step backwards. This was the only one of the last four singles they’d play live when I saw them. Live version can be heard on the BBC Sessions and the Stockholm broadcast. The B-side was a very good original powered by Page on 12 string guitar. It’s a shame Puzzles wasn’t added to the Little Games album. It might have helped.
Ha Ha Said The Clown/Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor
Epic 5-10204 July 17, 1967
Non- stop touring was the order of the day in 1967. Another single was released early in July. The Tony Hazzard tune, Ha Ha Said The Clown had been released as a single by Manfred Mann, who enjoyed chart action in the UK and Europe with it. I suppose Micky Most figured it hadn’t been heard in the US so why not give it to the Yardbirds. This novelty number might have suited Manfred Mann, but it didn’t help the Yardbirds declining stock. This time we didn’t even get a unique killer B-side. Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor would appear on the Little Games album three weeks later.  I do remember hearing Ha Ha Said The Clown as we drove up to SF to see the Yardbirds at the Fillmore. Needless to say, they didn’t play it that night.
Once again, the four piece Yardbirds played a fab show to a large enthusiastic audience. Richie Havens and James Cotton were also on the bill. Cotton with his authentic Chicago blues band made a strong impression. He had Sam Lay and Luther Tucker in his band that night. The real deal. The Yardbirds set was made up of the hits with several songs from Little Games added. The title track, White Summer, Drinking Muddy Water and Smile On Me were performed with plenty of enthusiasm.
Much has been said about the Little Games album good and bad. It’s been repackaged several times now. A mono release is being prepared for release as we speak.  In reality, the album suffered from extreme neglect on the part of the producer and the record labels. There are some good songs to be found. The only real dog is a cover of the old jug band number Stealing, Stealing. Smile On Me and the heavy psych piece Glimpses are standouts. The alternate version of the latter on the Little Games Sessions and More double CD is stunning. The rushed nature of the recording sessions and the brutal rough mixes left the album sounding flat. Not a good thing in a time when the album was the format to display your art. The shoddy cover didn’t help much either. EMI didn’t feel the need to release the album in the UK. Most of the material was remixed for the Sessions album, and a few other bits and pieces were gathered up to fill out two CDs. This rehabilitation has at least given the album a bit better sonic appeal. Serious fans will want to seek out the now out of print Cumular Limits which add a few more fragments from the final sessions. Sadly, no lost gems are to be found, it’s just the last efforts of a band whose time has run out.
Yardbirds - Happenings Ten Years Time Ago Live 1967
Taking a look at the landscape of that famous summer, it’s pretty clear that the Yardbirds are no longer considered the cutting edge. Montery Pop had taken place just a few weeks prior to this Fillmore gig. The only “old school” British Invasion band to perform at that historic event was Eric Burdon’s new Psychedelic Animals. In one weekend Hendrix and The Who had changed the game. Cream had also been invited to perform, but Robert Stigwood didn’t think it that important. There was no doubting Page’s musical abilities, but the Yardbird’s rhythm section was looking a little long in the tooth in the face of Keith Moon, Mitch Mitchell and Jack Cassidy.

Ten Little Indians/Drinking Muddy Water
Epic 5-10248 October 16, 1967

Jimmy Page has said how much he disliked their next single. A song by Harry Nilsson looks like a good idea on paper, but the nursery rhyme lyrics of Ten Little Indians didn’t impress the band. Page made the most of it, layering bowed guitars and backwards echo. EMI didn’t bother releasing this one in the UK either.  The B-side was again taken from the Little Game album.
Goodnight Sweet Josephine/Think About It
Epic 5-10303 April 1, 1968
1968 saw the Yardbirds back in the US for another two and a half months of touring. One more single was recorded before the band hit the road. Another Tony Hazzard tune was selected, Goodnight Sweet Josephine. The results of the first attempt were not satisfactory, so Page went back and cut a new track with session musicians. The song was a lot like Ha Ha Said The Clown, only not as good. It’s the B-side that caused a stir. Think About It was classic Yardbirds and a hint of things to come.
Yardbirds - Think About It Live 1968
Yardbirds Fillmore Auditorium
May 1968
By the time the band left for what would be their last tour, Keith Relf and Jim McCarty had decided they wanted to move on to something different. Page knew exactly what he was going to do next. The show I saw in May 1968 was a blueprint for Led Zeppelin. Sadly the Live At The Anderson Theater album shows you very little of what was heard in the spring of 1968.  Dazed And Confused was a feature as were two long pieces which included Waiting For The Man, Hey Gyp, How Many More Years and Smokestack Lightning. When Page returned with Led Zep seven months later, it was a very similar set, with a version of For Your Love dedicated to Keith Relf.
Historical note:  The Jeff Beck Group made their famous Fillmore debut just a couple of weeks later.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Denny Laine's Electric String Band

I don't remember where I first read about Denny Laine's Electric String Band. It could have been in Rave. The concept was unique at the time. Former Moody Blues singer fronts a group with an amplified string section. Viv Prince was in the band for the first few months. Trevor Burton is often listed as a member, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. You can imagine I was excited to find a Top Gear Session on a friend's tape trade list. The aircheck Roy had is missing Say You Don’t Mind the most famous of the four single tracks. Say You Don’t Mind was featured on Colin Blunstone’s debut, Year One. I’d seen Blunstone on his US tour promoting that album. We were treated to a lovely version of Say You Don’t Mind in that short set.
In 1975 I returned to London, staying in Putney with my tape trading friend, Roy Wilbraham. He was a great host, and guide. I also met up with Andrew Lauder from UA records. Between the two, I was taken around to some of the best record sellers in London. I don't remember if I scored the two Denny Laine singles on this trip or one of the subsequent record buying excursions. It looks like I paid £3 for the 1969 reissue of the 1967 debut release Say You Don’t Mind/Ask The People ( Deram DM 227). I picked up a promo copy of Too Much In Love/Catherine Wheel (Deram DM 171) from the same dealer for another £3.
The penultimate Moody Blues single featuring Denny Laine, Boulavard de la Madelaine/This Is My House hinted at what his solo career might offer. Not surprising Denny Cordell is the producer for both of these projects. Denny’s own version of Say You Don’t Mind is a jaunty affair. The string arrangement is tasteful and sympathetic to the song. A great vocal from Denny, hitting the high notes and his acoustic guitar is right up front. It might seem a little raucous to those familiar with the Colin Blunstone version.
The flip side, Ask The People is just as good. This one wouldn’t have been out of place on the first Move album, another Cordell production.
The second single was released in January 1968. Too Much In Love reminds me of Donovan’s psychedelic sounds. It’s the B-side that really stands out and maybe suggests what the Electric String Band might have sounded like live. Catherine’s Wheel is a powerful rocker with the strings a muscular compliment. One would think Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne were well aware of Denny and his new band, being another Brummie. Apparently the failure of this single was one of the reasons for the band splitting before an album could be attempted.
It seems that they were regulars on the touring circuit. The question is, what happened? Why no album? There was clearly plenty of material. Besides the two singles the band performed six other numbers on their two Peel sessions: Why Did You Come, Guilty Mind, Machine Song, Masks, the folk standard Sally Free And Easy and the Tim Hardin classic Reason To Believe.
A version of Why Did You Come was recorded for release, but it never appeared. One story suggests the tape was lost in the mail. The likely story is that Denny Cordell wasn’t happy with the results. This John Peel session features the lineup which included Andy Leigh on bass and Peter Trout on drums. In the end, the band only lasted for just a little more than a year. The few recordings that exist show a man with a very good idea, and some great songs to back it up.

Denny Laine And The Electric String Band "Why Did You Come"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Yardbirds "Jeff's Boogie"

Jeff Beck joined the Yardbirds in March of 1965. Over the next 21 months he recorded a scant two dozen released tracks. Nevertheless, that was enough to turn the Yardbirds into one of the most important bands of the 60’s. The period with Clapton established the group as a great live act. With a substantial hit on the charts and the more cooperative Beck in the lineup, the Yardbirds embarked on a two year run of hits which did much to turn the music world on its ear. The effects are still felt today.

Heart Full Of Soul/Steeled Blues
Columbia DB 7594 Released June 4, 1965
A single and an EP were recorded in quick succession during the first weeks after Beck joined. The Yardbirds again tapped the song writing talents of Graham Gouldman for the A-side, Heart Full Of Soul. The original idea was to have a sitar play the main riff, but this was quickly abandon, and Beck reminded them why he was hired. The intro riff sizzles in Beck’s hands, and the slide guitar solo shows his keen sense of melody. The flip, Steeled Blues, shows how advanced Beck’s playing was when he joined the band. He’d already made a name as a guitar slinger, fronting the popular live act, The Tridents.

The Crescents with Jeff Beck "Pink Dominoes"

Five Yardbirds EP
Columbia SEG 8421 Released August 6, 1965
More Jeff Beck flash is heard on the Five Yardbirds EP. My Girl Sloopy seems like an odd choice, but it was a proven hit in the States, so it probably seemed like a good idea. Mose Allison’s I’m Not Talking is taken at breakneck speed. The mad solo is light years beyond anything Clapton had done to that point. There is probably more than a little bit of Les Paul influence, but it’s cranked up to 11. Ain’t Done Wrong is a Keith Relf rewrite of the Elmore James number Done Nobody Wrong. The song is played with a bit of aggression, and then it gets to the machine gun middle section. They change gears again for a stunning solo. Beck has already been pealing off blues licks through the verses. He switches to a moody slide figure as the song winds down. These three songs would appear on the US only album, For Your Love.

Evil Hearted You/Still I'm Sad
Columbia DB 7706 Released October 1, 1965
Once again, the Yardbirds recorded a Graham Gouldman song for the A side of the new single. An innovative original, Still I’m Sad graces the B-side, though it receives plenty of airplay. Evil Hearted You doesn’t stray too far from the formula. A good riff a double time bridge and a hot guitar solo. Listen for the lick Beck plays midway through the bridge. Where did that come from? The Gregorian Chant influenced Still I’m Sad was often copied, but never equaled. These two sides lay the cornerstone for everything psychedelic that would follow. In the States, 100,000 garage bands would attempt to capture the fuzzed out eastern sounds of the Yardbirds.

I'm A Man/Still I'm Sad
Epic 5-9857 Released October 11, 1965
A studio version of I’m A Man replaces Evil Hearted You as the A-side of the fall release for the US market. The basic track had been recorded a month earlier at the famous Chess Studio. A live version with Clapton had appeared on the Five Live album. The single version frees Beck from any “pop song” limitations. Any sense of melody is replaced by aggression and violence. It’s easy to see why the Yardbirds were big favorites of the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol. The San Jose band Count V would borrow most of the arrangement for their own hit single Psychotic Reaction. 1966 was a banner year for the Yardbirds.

Shapes Of Things/You're A Better Man Than I
Columbia DB 7848 Released February 25, 1966
 The release of Shapes Of Things in February was the first shot in what would become a devastating barrage by the end of the year. For the first time, the A-side was a band original. The strong “state of the world” lyrics probably owed a little to Bob Dylan. The previous singles were far heavier than their pop tunesmith origins, but this one was downright brutal. When the guitar solo kicks in, all bets are off. The UK B-side, You’re A Better Man Than I had already been released in the US three months earlier on the Having A Rave Up album. This American only release gathered together four UK single sides, four Clapton era recordings from Five Live, a killer version of Train Kept A Rolling and the studio version of I’m A Man. The last two never got an official UK release during the bands existence.

Shapes Of Things/New York City Blues
Epic 5-10006 Released March 28, 1966
 Again in the US we got an exclusive track for the single B-side. New York City Blues is a rewrite of Eddie Boyd’s Five Long Years, which had was also on Five Live. One only has to compare this blistering performance with the more subdued live recording to see how far they’d come with Jeff Beck in the band.

Over Under Sideways Down/Jeff's Boogie
Columbia DB 7928 Released May 27, 1966
The follow up was released just three months later. A reminder of how productive bands were expected to be in the 60’s. Over Under Sideways Down wasn’t as revolutionary as Shapes, but it was plenty exciting and keep the band on the charts. Over Under is in fact based on the rock classic Rock Around The Clock. The album track, Jeff’s Boogie was picked for the B-side in both the UK and US. This is an amped up version of Arthur Smith’s Guitar Boogie and something Beck probably still plays live.

The second Yardbirds album, and the only one Beck was involved in, was released shortly after. In the US the single became the title track. It wasn’t included on the UK release, simply title “Yardbirds”. Epic saw fit to drop two songs along the way; a Slim Harpo rewrite, Rack My Mind and the Elmore James inspired Jeff Beck feature, The Nazz Are Blue.

The Yardbirds - "Dust My Broom" Live On The BBC

Historical Note: On August 30th, 1966, just four weeks after the Over Under Sideways Down album was released in the US, I went to see the Yardbirds for the first time. Before the tour started, it was announced that Paul Samwell-Smith had left the band and session guitarist Jimmy Page would be stepping in as bassist. Just before the curtains parted at the San Jose Civic Auditorium, the promoter came out and announced “Jeff Beck, the bass player is ill, but the band will perform as a four piece”. We’d heard a few warm up notes from an unseen guitar that had sounded an awful lot like Beck. There wasn’t time for disappointment as the curtains parted and we were hit with the most amazing sounds I’d ever heard. The look of the band was unlike anything I’d seen on stage up to this point. It was a 22 year old Jimmy Page armed with Beck’s sunburst Les Paul and a double stack of Jordan amps that was responsible for the incredible guitar. I seem to remember a fair number of the hits being played, including some from the new album. Lost Woman was a highlight. Also played were Scratch My Back and The Stumble. Opening the show were the E-Types and Chocolate Watchband. When I saw the Watchband a few months later, they played the Stumble, and Dave Aquilar quoted Keith Relf as he introduced Mark Loomis as “Jimmy Page”. Several years ago, Sundaze released a live E-Types album. The photo on the front cover was taken at the Yardbirds show. If you look close, you can clearly see the back of my head, and my groovy checked mod shirt. The tour was completed as a four piece.

Happenings Ten Years Time Ago/Nazz Are Blue
Epic 5-10094 Released October 31, 1966
Beck did rejoin the band in the September and recorded the third 1966 single release, Happenings Ten Years Time Ago. Most will agree, this was the pinnacle of the Yardbirds recorded output. Beck and Page trade licks through the verse, and then meet up for the explosion in the middle section. Even today, this record carries the same impact. The UK B-side Psycho Daises promised more than it actually delivers. Jeff Beck’s tribute to his girlfriend Mary Hughes, sounds like a throwaway recorded to make Jeff happy. In the States we got the missing album track Nazz Are Blue. This song turned out to be very influential. Two bands named themselves after it, Todd Rundgren’s Nazz, and a band from Arizona which became Alice Cooper. There are plenty of garage band cover versions. The Chocolate Watchband’s rewrote it as Sitting Here Standing for the Riot On Sunset Strip sound track. At the end of the US tour in December 1966, it was announced Jeff Beck was leaving the Yardbirds to form his own group.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yardbirds "Got To Hurry"

In their brief career, the Yardbirds made some of the most innovative records of the era. Yet the Yardbirds discography is in fact pretty slim compared to most of their contemporaries. During their existence, only three albums were released. One of those was not even released in the UK. Epic Records managed to assemble four albums, while Columbia/EMI only saw fit to release two. Eric Clapton wasn't even credited on either of the US albums he appeared on. It wasn't until he had joined up with John Mayall that any us press bothered to mention he'd been in the Yardbirds.

The contractual mess that dogged the Yarbirds career is also responsible for the complicated release situation. Giorgio Gomelsky, the band's original manager produced the first records, but was eventually ousted and replaced by Simon Napier-Bell and then Micky Most. Bassist, Paul Samwell-Smith also sat in the producer’s chair as well. Napier-Bell and Micky Most were only concerned with producing hits, and had little interest in the band’s own ideas. The Yardbirds weren’t the most prolific writers and always looked to outside material or resorted to rewrites of blues standards. In the early 70’s a handful of Gomelsky era demos surfaced and have remained in circulation since. Most of the catalog has been endlessly repackaged in various compilations, often of dubious origin. These shoddy packages have done little to further the bands legacy. The most reliable source for the authentic recordings is still the original UK vinyl releases, the two albums and singles released between 1964 and 1968. The mono editions of the first three US albums and the Greatest Hits collection also offer a fairly complete collection of recordings and add a few US only releases. Surprisingly, the best served material is the Jimmy Page era.

I Wish You Would/Certain Girl
Columbia DB 7823 Released May 1 1964
 British beat and r&b bands did a good job of searching out choice tunes to cover. There were plenty of Bo Diddly tunes to go around for everyone. For their debut 45, The Yardbirds chose to cover the Billy Boy Arnold tune, I Wish You Would. You get a taste of their signature "rave up" style on this solid cut. An alternate version appeared in the early 70's compilation Remember The Yardbirds. The single verison is more focused and a better indication of things to come. The B-side, A Certain Girl comes from the pen of Allen Toussaint, though it's credited to Naomi Neville, one of his writing pseudonyms. The original version was recorded by New Orleans great, Ernie K-Doe. Clapton gets a ripping solo on this one. Both tracks appear on the US only For Your Love album.

Good Morning Little School Girl/I Ain't Got You
 Columbia DB 7391 Released October 30 1964
The Yardbirds chose a song titled Good Morning Little School Girl for their second single release, though it’s not the familiar Sonny Boy Williamson tune, but rather a cover of the 1961 Don & Bob hit of the same name. Like A Certain Girl, this is not a pure blues number, but rather a rockin’ dance tune. Clapton sings on the version which appears on Five Live. The flip side, I Ain’t Got You, is the first Yarbirds recording that fulfills the promise of this band. Clapton again cranks it up for the solo and plays with real fire.

On the heels of this release, the band records a live album which attempts to capture their stage sound. A story has been told that after playing a blistering set, Paul Samwell-Smith managed to erase the tape while attempting to listen to the playback. The album is probably a fair representation of the band at the time. Three more contemporary recordings have surfaced since, but Five Live remains the best document.

Yardbirds - "Let It Rock" Live 1963

For Your Love/Got To Hurry
Columbia DB 7499 Released March 5, 1965
When the Yardbirds returned to the studio at the beginning of 1965, there was a certain amount of pressure to produce a hit. Eric Clapton lobbied for a cover of an Otis Redding song, but was overruled, and For Your Love was chosen as the next A-side. Despite Clapton’s protests, this was a wise decision, and proved to be the breakthrough hit the band was looking for; four of them anyway. The flip side was Clapton’s send off and the key to his future. Got To Hurry is just a shuffle, with a killer guitar solo over the whole track. The band sounds relaxed and grooving, something they didn’t always master. John Mayall apparently heard this in a motorway cafĂ© and knew straight away the hapless Roger Dean was out of a gig.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Rolling Stones Altamont 6 December, 1969

6 December
Altamont Raceway, Livermore CA

  1.      "Jumpin' Jack Flash"
  2.      "Carol"
  3.      "Sympathy for the Devil" (stopped when fights breaking out)
  4.      "The Sun Is Shining"
  5.      "Stray Cat Blues"
  6.      "Love in Vain"
  7.      "Under My Thumb" (stopped when fights breaking out)
  8.      "Brown Sugar" (first live performance)
  9.      "Midnight Rambler"
  10.      "Live with Me"
  11.      "Gimme Shelter"
  12.      "Little Queenie"
  13.      "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
  14.      "Honky Tonk Women"
  15.       "Street Fighting Man"

It was a much different scene that the Rolling Stones would return to after a three year gap in touring. One story has Mick Jagger calling Pete Townshend to ask what to expect in the way of modern sound and production. The Stones had seen the departure of Brian Jones and his subsequent demise. The four studio albums released after their 1966 tour showed a dramatic evolution in the band's sound. The arrival of ace guitarist Mick Taylor would give the band the solid musicianship required to perform on such a large scale.  The half hour sets heard in 1966 would no longer be considered acceptable by a new audience accustom to much longer performances.

Not taking any chances, the 1969 tour would be a generous package tour that would feature BB King, Ike and Tina Turner and Terry Reid as opening acts. The three week long tour opened on November 7th, with a warm up gig in Boulder, Colorado before the official start at the LA Forum. The third stop would be at the Oakland Coliseum for two shows on the 9th of November.

My brother, a couple of friends and myself booked tickets for the late show, which was meant to begin at 9pm. Of course this was wildly optimistic. The brand new Ampeg amps built for the band failed during the early show, causing a long delay. The Grateful Dead supplied the amps for the second show, but these had to be trucked in from the Dead's warehouse across the Bay in San Rafael. It was probably closer to midnight when we were finally let in to the arena. I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to call home and let her parents know the shows were running late. She declined and paid the price when we returned at dawn.

Terry Reid opened the show with a short three song set. It was quite enjoyable, and made me a fan for life. I don't know why this relative unknown was chosen for this high profile tour, but he was fully up to the task. BB King's set was good but maybe a little slick. This tour did a lot to advance his career and put him in front of a new audience.

Ike and Tina Turner weren't all that familiar to the rock and roll crowds before this tour, but that all changed and gave these veteran performers a whole new career. It was also a very hard act for the Stones to follow. There was at least an hour gap between Ike and Tina's set and the appearance of the headliners.

We had no idea what to expect from the Stones. My first impression was that everything was played slower than the records. The addition of I'm Free to the set list was probably the biggest surprise. More than half the set was drawn from the two most recent albums, Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed. Satisfaction, Under My Thumb and Carol were the only other songs performed from their early catalog. I can still remember the incongruous site of the Stones playing in front of the Dead's tie-dyed Fender amps. I think they had some problems with the borrowed gear, but got through the show with out any interruptions.

Rolling Stones - "Prodigal Son" Oakland November 9 1969 Late Show

At the end of the tour, talk of a "free gig in the park" began to circulate. This was quickly nixed by the city fathers. An alternate plan was to hold the show at the Sears Point Raceway, in Sonoma, north of San Francisco. Just two days before the December 6th date,  the event was moved to the Altamont Raceway, between  Livermore and Tracy,  east of Oakland. This last minute change was probably a warning sign that all would not go well, but we and 300,000 others chose to ignore it.

The night before the show, my brother and his friends would be going to see the Dead and Humble Pie (making their SF debut) at the Fillmore West. The plan was for them to drive back to San Jose to pick my girlfriend and myself up with all the necessary supplies and head back up the other side of the Bay to the gig. Visions of Woodstock were still dancing in our heads, and we all expected a day of peace, love and the Rolling Stones.

Sam Cutler tries to make some sense of it all
Altamont is not a place you'd want to go unless you were really in to stock car racing. The dry rolling hills of the interior of Central California didn't offer much except wide open spaces. The early December weather was mild if not warm. The relocation of the concert meant there were no sort of preparation for 300,000 attendees. The stage and PA were hardly up to the standards one had come to expect. The low stage compounded the problems that were to erupt later in the day.

The Trail Of Tears
I remember driving out to this desolate location well before the sun had come up. It wasn't hard to find our destination. Seems like once we got off US 580, we drove as far as we could, then got out and walked. It was pretty surreal. The first hint that all was not well came as we neared the race track. People were headed the other way saying 'things are pretty weird". As if on cue, a couple of longhairs attacked at hapless program vendor screaming that he was a rip off. Yikes.
View from the top
There was already more than 100,000 people when we got to the performance area. Clearly, we weren't going to be getting a spot anywhere near the front of the stage. We ended up setting up a little behind the stage, on the left side. As we were on the side of a hill, we did have an ok view. It's just what we were seeing wasn't your standard rock gig behavior. A lot of people seemed to have decided this was going to be a good time to take a lot of drugs and get really wasted. Some one near us seemed to be going into violent convulsions. His friends pinned him down, shoved some reds down his gullet followed by a large dose of jug wine. This was not an isolated incident.

I'm pretty sure Santana was the first band to play. I managed to dose off, only to be woken by the commotion on stage. Marty Balin, from Jefferson Airplane had waded into a crowd of Hell's Angels in an attempt to stop some sort of violence being committed on a member of the audience. Marty got knocked out for his trouble, and the rest of the band was pretty unhappy. I'm surprised we didn't pack up and leave at this point. My brother and his friends decided to wander away to see what they could see. I don't know what they might have been thinking. A dose of acid probably didn't help their judgement.

I do have a vivid memory of the Flying Burrito Brothers playing Six Days On The Road, but that's all. Gram Parsons was there, but I don't have any way to prove it. I didn't have any sense of time either. At some point I thought I'd walk down to the out houses for a pee, but one look at the overflowing honey buckets dashed any urgency. A friend from high school who was also there had similar memories:

.....my clearest recollection was going down to the hollow where they'd set up porta-potties.  guys (i must presume it was at least mostly guys) had been urinating on the ground rather than wait in line, so it was all muddy with pee.  There was a guy wearing nothing but a pair of jeans who was having a very bad trip, and was screaming and writhing around in the mud while people ignored him.  I thought, "ugly...so not Woodstock." 
At some point several Angels decided they needed to park their bikes right in front of the stage. The sight and sound of them forcing their way through the packed crowd down in front was plenty disturbing.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were the next band on stage. Again, there isn't anything I remember about this set, and I'm sure they were sorry they signed on. The Stones decided they wanted to wait until the sun went down before they would play. This meant a very long delay between CSN&Y and the Stones. Not a good idea when the crowd was already in the early stages of Lord Of The Flies. Before long, bonfires were lit around the rim of the natural bowl we were situated in. This was very unsettling, and give the proceedings an air of some strange pre-historic gathering.

A promising start
There was a bit of hope when the Stones hit the stage. From our vantage point, we had a good view of Charlie Watts' head and we could see Mick when he'd jump up. You'd like to think music soothes the savage, but this wasn't going to happen today. By the third song, Sympathy For The Devil, things started to erupt. The band stopped and Mick pleaded with everyone to cool down. If you've seen the Gimme Shelter movie, you can get a pretty good idea at the chaos of a very out of control situation. A few songs later, just into Under My Thumb, I saw the most incredible thing I think I've ever seen in my life. In a blink of an eye, the whole crowd in front of the stage flew back 100 feet or more in a cloud of dust. The crowd let out an audible gasp, wondering what just happened. Again, the band pleaded with the audience to calm down. If they had stopped now, I think things would have just exploded.

Thing turning weird

They tried to restart things with a debut performance of Brown Sugar. Due to the pathetic PA, I thought I was hearing "Crap Shooter". Amazingly, they continued on with this and another seven songs to complete the set with out any more interruptions. By this time I was sitting on the grass with my head in my hands. I was concerned that we hadn't seen the rest of our group for several hours. Everything going on around us was just not pleasant. Sitting in the cold and dark with the possibility we might not find our ride home was not my idea of fun.  I imagine everyone was happy when the music stopped and a few lights came on at the race track, which was behind the stage. There were no calls for an encore, just the realization it was over and time to go. The Dead were suppose to play, but it was clear that this wasn't going to happen.

Much to my relief, my brother and friends appeared out of the darkness and helped gather up our little camp. It was like a defeated army in retreat as we all made the long long trek to the car. We walked at least two hours each direction. I had no idea where we were, or where we parked. The familiar buzzing of the power transmission lines overhead were the only indication we were nearing our goal.

I don't think I went to many concerts in the next year and with few exceptions avoided the football stadium gigs that were the norm in the 70's. Watching the documentary of the tour and this gig, Gimme Shelter still brings back some very unpleasant memories and emotions. Needless to say, I never went to see the Stones again.

This piece was commissioned by Deniz Tek for his blog. This is the original unedited text.

Turn Your Radio On

I love singles. A lot of people considered them disposable, and as a result their collections were tossed out with their comic books and model cars. Too bad. Mostly they were just played untill the grooves were worn down and the labels faded.

One of my early memories was the time spent at my Aunt and Uncle's place. There was lots for us little kids to do. When I discovered their record player and stacks of singles, I was hooked. My cousins were all older than me. The oldest, Mike was a drummer who played in a few bands around the East Bay in the late 50's and early 60's. I suspect most of the records were his. His younger sister, Virginia, would spend the afternoons watching American Bandstand, with her friends and learn the latest dances. Her records usually had her name written on the labels. I wonder where all those platters ended up?

My parents always had some sort of hifi. They gave my brother and me a little record player and a bunch of kids records. The concept of recorded music available on demand was something I always understood. Radio was another matter. We'd sit in front of the radio, twisting the tuning dial to see what we could find. I don't know how I discovered you could call a radio station and talk to the DJ. My mom use to dial the phone for me and I'd cast my vote on the Spin It Or Stop It segment that came on early in the day. I must have been about four years old at this time. The seeds were sewn at an early age.