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murder by contract (irving lerner, 1958)

music friday: on this date in 1967

What actually happened on this date is a matter of dispute.

Bill Graham offered his "Opening the Fillmore Summer Series" with a six-night stand, June 20-25, at the Fillmore Auditorium. Jefferson Airplane were the headliners. They were coming off of their second album, the seminal Surrealistic Pillow. They were also coming off a performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, which took place just a few days earlier, June 16-18, with the Airplane playing the Saturday night show.

Second on the bill was Gabor Szabo, a prolific jazz guitarist who recorded five albums in 1967 alone. Here he is at Monterey in 1967, although in his case, we're talking about the Monterey Jazz Festival:

The opening act, at least the first night of the six-night stand, had also played at the Monterey Pop Festival. When Graham booked him for these shows, the man was mostly unknown. After playing the Fillmore shows and a few others on the West Coast, he signed on as the opening act for The Monkees, who were on their first U.S. tour. While our Fillmore man was American, he had hit first in the U.K. ... Monterey was the first time he got the attention of American fans, so to capitalize on that, it was thought that the Monkees tour would expose his music to a larger audience.

It didn't work out. His music wasn't quite what the Monkees fans were looking for, and he dropped out from the tour after eight shows.

Here he is, introducing himself to America:

There are many stories about what happened at that Fillmore stand. I'll let Airplane biographer Jeff Tamarkin tell the story, from his Got a Revolution!: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane:

What exactly happened that week at the Fillmore is a matter of conjecture, but from most accounts, the Airplane played the first night, June 20 (and perhaps the second), then canceled out of the rest. The official word was that Grace's voice gave out, forcing the Airplane to pass on the other shows, with Janis Joplin - newly benefiting from the Monterey raves - and Big Brother and the Holding Company replacing them. That's how Mitch Mitchell, drummer of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Sam Andrew of Big Brother and Bill Thompson all remember it.

Another popular version of the story goes like this: The Airplane, on that first night, saw what Hendrix was capable of doing to an audience and, although they did finish out the week, they switched the billing so that Hendrix could close the show. Yet another assessment - a minority opinion - has it that the Airplane stayed the whole week, closing the show as planned.

But one thing everyone agreed upon was that Hendrix took the old rulebook and threw it out the window. He married technology and technique in a visionary way, yet for all of the pyrotechnics and drama of his act, his music oozed soulfulness, sensuality and spirituality - there was nothing phony about it.

I don't want to let this go without noting again how diverse Bill Graham's concerts were in those days. A folk-rock band with psychedelic tendencies, a jazz guitarist from Hungary, and Jimi Hendrix.

Finally, a bonus. Big Brother may or may not have taken over for the Airplane during those Fillmore shows, but they (and Janis) definitely made a splash at Monterey. She's great in the movie, but they edit "Ball and Chain" to remove the psychedelic guitar solo. So here they are a couple of months before Monterey, from a little show that was broadcast on the local public TV station. It got some play on the underground FM radio stations ... it's a bit more raw than the version on Cheap Thrills:

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