geezer cinema: leave her to heaven (john m. stahl, 1945)
three days of the condor (sydney pollack, 1975)

music friday: the mahavishnu orchestra and the screaming gypsy bandits

On this date in 1972, I saw a concert that is in the running for the loudest show I ever attended. (Only competition I can think of is Neil Young and Crazy Horse at the Cow Palace, which you can see/hear by watching the movie Rust Never Sleeps.) The opening act, The Screaming Gypsy Bandits, were a highly-regarded local band (I was living in Bloomington, Indiana at the time) led by singer Caroline Peyton, who remains in the music business ... she recorded an album as recently as 2014. Here are a few excerpts from a 2016 interview with Michael Bourne, who played with the Bandits for a time and spent a lot of time in Bloomington (a college town ... Indiana University is there).

Caroline was a wonderful singer. She could've been a bigger star if she was handled right. But we all fell apart in the studio, like I said. They could've gone on to great things. But she did go on to greater things - she did come to New York and started working in the theater.

It's a very odd thing when you think about her career. She was this really wild hippie girl with a great voice, and then she ended up singing in musicals and operas in New York, then ended up in Nashville with a church choir. It was a complete ark of all these different styles of music....

It was just an extraordinary time. When you look at it politically, Indiana was a red state, but Bloomington was a blue city. Music was involved in all the politics of the time. It connected to everything in every way, from the Women's Liberation movement to Civil Rights. People were naked everywhere. All this sex was happening everywhere. There were people writing poems who were never creative at all. People were getting involved politically. It was remarkable how much the music scene did.

Here is a track from an album of unreleased material the band put out in 2009:

It was the Mahavishnu Orchestra that was extremely LOUD. Don't know how much I need to say about that band. "Mahavishnu" was the brilliant guitarist John McLaughlin, who had played on several crucial Miles Davis albums (including In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, and probably my favorite Miles album, Jack Johnson). He could play at blistering speeds, and Billy Cobham was the perfect drummer for those speeds. The band also including Jan Hammer, who gained fame later for his music on the television series Miami Vice.

I am not a jazz aficionado, by which I mean, I know what I like, but I don't know much about the music in general. When I think jazz, I think improvisation, and McLaughlin and Cobham, at least, were capable of that. But as I heard the music of the Orchestra, it grew out of repeated segments, and live, they sounded pretty much like they did on record. Of course, that's how rock bands worked, and their first album, The Inner Mounting Flame, was an amazing early example of jazz fusion, and a fairly "easy" listen for fans raised on rock.

Here is "Awakening" from that first album. P.S. TURN IT UP!


Walter Kolosky

Hi Steven,
I write about Mahavishnu and just came across your informative blog about Mahavishnu and Caroline Peyton. Good stuff! Especially since I am currently hard at work documenting every single gig of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra for my next book. I virtually had nothing on this show until I ran across your piece. I would love to include your memories in this project. Is there anything else beyond your blog that you remember that may be of interest? i.e Why were you there to begin with? Do you remember if the show was crowded? What do you remember about the venue itself? How did you learn of the show? Stuff like that. I try to make the stories personal when that is called for. So, a few words about your career, retired etc. would be helpful. Any consideration of this request would be greatly appreciated.

Steven Rubio

Hello Walter. Please feel free to use this as needed. Not much to say beyond what I wrote above, but I'll try to answer a few of your questions. This was when Inner Mounting Flame came out. There was one of those label-based EPs at the record store that included one song from that album, and I was so taken with it that we got the album and loved it, so when they came to town, we got tickets. Don't remember how crowded it was ... we were at or near the front. It was a seated venue, a converted movie theater, actually. As I noted, my memories all these years later is that they were LOUD, and that Billy Cobham was amazing.

Walter Kolosky

Thank you so much, Steven :-)

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