music friday: the fillmore, 50 years ago today

Here was the bill for a show at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco on August 26, 1966:

The poster was done by Wes Wilson, and can be seen on the SF MOMA website:

If the link works (it does now, but there’s no guarantee it will always be there), you’ll see that while the 13th Floor Elevators were apparently the headliners, Grace Slick was the drawing card. It probably says something about those days that I couldn’t find any info about the actual concert, but it was easy to find the poster.

This is the moment when I have to decide how much I need to explain. I only have a few regular readers, but a good portion of them weren’t even born in 1966, and I don’t know if the three bands on the bill are known these days. So I’ll assume they are new to most folks.

Sopwith Camel was a San Francisco band that suffered from not fitting into the “San Francisco Sound”, whatever that was. They were the second S.F. band to sign a record contract, and ... well, let’s quote from their website:

Because the Camel shared the same label and producer (and similar musical tastes) with the Lovin' Spoonful, most people thought they were from New York. Their friends in San Francisco groups "accused us of being sellouts. That's absurd; back in those days, we were all looking for hits. It's just that ours was the first." The Camel's big return to San Francisco met with disaster. "We were headlining over the Airplane and the Dead. The Dead did one of their long, long sets, and by the time we were on, we were only able to do three tunes before the cops pulled the plugs before curfew. We took it to be a sign of some sort."

That first hit was “Hello, Hello”, which hit #26 on the charts. The single hadn’t been released in August of 1966, which may explain why they were on the bottom of the bill. It was their only hit. For some reason the original is nowhere to be found on YouTube, so here they are in 2011:

The Great Society were the spawning ground for one of the best artists from that period. They had actually released a single for Autumn Records (owned by the legendary Tom "Big Daddy" Donahue) earlier in 1966 that went nowhere. A story goes that Sly Stone, a producer for the label, gave up on the band after they spent (depending on who is telling the story) 50 takes on one of the songs without getting it right. Less than two months after the concert that is the focus of this post, the female lead singer left the band, taking two songs with her, with the result that Jefferson Airplane, with Grace Slick, recorded their own versions of “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit”. Here is The Great Society’s version of “White Rabbit”:

There is a reason The 13th Floor Elevators headlined. They already had a hit single, “You’re Gonna Miss Me”. They were out of Austin, Texas, and had been together less than a year in August of ‘66. Of all three of these bands, The Elevators are the most influential. Singer Roky Erickson has lived a rough life, but he is a truly unique artist. Here is their big hit, on American Bandstand ... this song still packs a punch, even 50 years down the road:


There are television shows (and movies, for that matter) that my wife tends to avoid because they have no characters to “root for”. It’s not about a contest, it’s just that she likes to have a least one person who has some chance of becoming a good person, if they aren’t there already.

For this reason, I’ve told her that she should avoid Unreal, a series that takes us behind the scenes at the making of a reality dating show. Almost every character has ulterior motives (some actually wear their motives on their sleeves, so I guess those aren’t ulterior) ... almost every character is concerned almost entirely with their own personal agendas of advancement. Shiri Appleby is presented as the one person with a conscience ... when the series begins, she is returning to the dating show (called Everlasting) after having a nervous breakdown during the show’s previous season. She is very good at her job, which requires that she manipulate the women who appear as contestants trying to win the heart of the man of their dreams, doing what she can to get them (and that year’s Man of Dreams) to act in a way that will make for a good season of Everlasting. Over time, she abuses every one of the women she deals with, but because she has a conscience, she feels bad about what she does. Thus, we think she might become a good person.

Except, at least through Season One, she never makes it. She is still pulling shit as the season ends. And she is what passes for a likable character. (I haven’t yet watched Season Two. It has drawn some seriously negative reactions ... I threw out a query to some of the critics I trust most, whether I should continue watching Season Two, and the best I got was Mo Ryan saying the first two episodes were good, but that then it went downhill.)

The thing is, the people behind Unreal are quite aware of what they are doing with these characters. They are not meant to be likable. I don’t think the creators of Casual are in that place, however. Casual, a Hulu series which just finished its second season, is about a woman who is breaking up with her husband and moves, with their daughter, into her brother’s home. Once we meet the siblings’ parents, we understand why they are having such trouble as adults ... they had a rough childhood in a psychological sense. And over two seasons, the three main characters work gradually towards becoming better people. All three of them are extremely self-absorbed, but when they step outside of themselves we see some pretty decent people. The characters feel real, with all of their flaws, and we root for them.

Except ... the brother is the #1 amongst equals when it comes to self-absorption. He tramples on the lives of others, always thinking that he is the one who is suffering (in fairness, he often is). I know this kind of person ... I am this kind of person. And I try to do better, as does the character. But he is so horrible that, using my wife’s criteria, he is practically unwatchable. The writing is good, the acting is good, but I simply can’t stand that guy. I don’t even like when he gets a comeuppance, because I know it will lead to more scenes where he thinks only of himself and his traumas.

Let’s just say he hits too close to home for me. It’s a good show, but I can’t say I enjoy it much.

Everyone loves Leon, though:


(I wrote about the first half of Season One last year.)

picnic at hanging rock (peter weir, 1975)

Reminiscent of L’Avventura in both the mysterious disappearance of a character(s) and the ambiguous non-resolution of the mystery at film’s end. The similarities don’t reach too far, though. By the end of L’Avventura, everyone has given up wondering about the missing woman, while in Picnic at Hanging Rock, the mystery still matters after you leave the theater. Both disappearances serve as MacGuffins, in that the movies aren’t really “about” the mysteries. In Antonioni’s film, the disappearance is just a way to introduce the main characters, whose alienation is the central theme of the movie. In Hanging Rock, the disappearances distract us, at least a little, from the subtext that drives the picture. Weir relies on cinematography and the soundtrack to create an almost other-worldly ambience, such that the mystery feels ominous, and there is always the possibility that something extra-ordinary is behind the events. But what is truly unsettling is the undercurrent of sexual repression, between the schoolgirls, but also between the girls and the school’s headmistress. There are a couple of young men who also have their eyes on the schoolgirls, but you never get the feeling they’ve got a chance. Nothing is overt ... it’s like watching These Three, the Children’s Hour adaptation from the 30s where lesbianism is transformed into heterosexual infidelity. Meanwhile, Anne-Louise Lambert, as one of the missing girls, Miranda, is nearly angelic. Part of this is Lambert’s performance (and, to be honest, her looks), but just as important is the way she is photographed, as if she is simultaneously of this world and outside of it. You can see why people would obsess about her. #586 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10.