music friday: patti smith at the boarding house, 1976

43 years ago today, we saw Patti Smith for the first time, at the Boarding House, which sat 300. It was a couple of months after the release of Horses. Noel Redding, former bass player for Jimi Hendrix, was the opening act.

It was an interesting show, of course. She did several covers, including two Velvet Underground songs. Only four songs from her then-current album, along with two from the subsequent album, Radio Ethopia, and even one from Easter. I remember she had star quality, and thought the band was only OK ... by the next time we saw them, the band was much better. Here is the setlist:

  • We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together
  • Privilege
  • Ain't It Strange
  • Kimberly
  • Redondo Beach
  • Free Money
  • Pale Blue Eyes/Louie Louie
  • Pumping
  • Time Is on My Side
  • Flying Saucers Rock and Roll/Poem/Gloria
  • My Generation

And here is an audio-only bootleg of the show, which was simulcast on local radio:

music friday: winterland, 45 years ago today

This will be quicker than usual ... I'm trying to get my new computer running smoothly. So I'll fall back once again on This Day in Bay Area Music, which I really don't intend to be a regular feature. This was the lineup at Winterland on February 8, 1974. At that time, Dylan was touring with The Band ... we saw them a few days later, in fact. It's also a few days after Patty Hearst was kidnapped.

Opening the show was Stray Dog. They started as a power trio, made a few albums, went nowhere. Sometime in 1974, they went in a more AOR direction, which didn't work out. They eventually disbanded. Their most famous member was vocalist/guitarist W.G. Snuffy Walden. After a few years doing session work and occasional backup band jobs for touring bands, Walden was asked to score a new TV series, which turned out to be thirtysomething, which was a big hit and earned Walden an Emmy nomination. He has done numerous series since then, and won an Emmy for The West Wing. Here is Stray Dog performing "Worldwinds":

Next up was Stoneground. They were a locally-popular band from Contra Costa County (my old stomping grounds). Sal Valentino, formerly the lead singer for The Beau Brummels, was the front man, although by 1974 he had left the group. They made a name for themselves on the Medicine Ball Caravan, a cut-rate travelling Woodstock event. After Valentino left, two members of the band formed Pablo Cruise, who had some hits. Singer Jo Baker, about whom more in a bit, was one of the many singers to pass through Stoneground. This video cheats a bit ... it's from a couple of years before 1974, and features Valentino. But I can't resist ... it's from the movie Dracula A.D. 1972:

Headlining was Elvin Bishop. Bishop had been around forever, first as a charter member of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the early-60s. As a solo artist, Bishop was quite popular in the Bay Area, although he didn't really hit the big time until "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" in 1976. The aforementioned Jo Baker sang with Bishop during this time ... she and Elvin were also a woosome-twosome for awhile. Bishop's sound gradually went from blues to the Southern Rock that made him famous. Eventually he returned to the blues ... he's still at it. He's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Butterfield Band. A few months after this Winterland show, he released the album Let It Flow, which included his first charting single, "Travelin' Shoes":

One fairly irrelevant bit of trivia that I find delightful is that Bishop is BFFs with Dusty Baker.

Finally, how can I resist adding his classic "Midnight Creeper", where he explains that he read that smoking marijuana made you grow mammary glands. He then notes that weed makes you eat everything in the house. His proof is that once, a friend got him high on Thai stick, and when he got home, he ate so much he couldn't fit into his brassiere anymore.


40 years ago today: the clash play their first u.s. concert

In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I recall an event from 40 years ago that I have written about on this blog at least twice. Why write something new on Throwback Thursday? So here is a little cut-and-paste.

From November 29, 2007, "The Clash and Bo Diddley":

We actually saw the first show The Clash ever played in the USA, it was in Berkeley, not their first North America show, I think they played Vancouver first. Anyway, the band was asked who they wanted to have as an opening act, and they said they'd love to play with Bo Diddley. And they were told hey, that might not work, can't you come up with an up-and-coming punk band? But no, they wanted Bo Diddley, he was one of their idols and they wanted him to play. And they got their way, which is why, on February 7, 1979, I saw Bo Diddley play for the first and only time. He was great, of course.

Time sure does fly. I remember that part of Bo's act that night was to make fun of his age ... he'd bend down and as he did so, he'd have his guitar making creaky noises like his bones were too old to take the stress. Well, I just looked Bo Diddley up on Wikipedia, and damn, he sure was old back in 1979 ... 50! Yep ... Bo Diddley was younger the time I saw the old geezer than I am now. Geesh.

And from five years ago, "Music Friday: 35 Years Ago Today":

Next up was the legendary Bo Diddley. As I have mentioned before, as part of his act, Bo played up how old he was compared to all the young punks. He’d bend down, and his guitar would make screaky noises as if his bones were too old. This story seems less funny to me with each passing year, since Bo was only 50 at the time. Here, he talks about what it was like opening for The Clash:

Here's something that wasn't in those older posts: The Clash from later in 1979, playing "I Fought the Law":


bonus music friday: music january cranked out a report on my Spotify listening for January. Some highlights:

I listened to an average of 39 tracks a day, a total of just over 3 days worth. This is surely impacted by my "listening" at night as I fell asleep.

Bing Crosby was at the top of many lists, no doubt reflecting the fact I'd read the second installment in Gary Giddins's biography of Der Bingle.

The top five tags for my listening were: Classic Rock, 60s, Rock, Folk, Blues.

They have something called the Mainstream-o-meter, which compares my favorite artists to favorites overall. I came in at 52%. My most obscure artist (I don't think anyone else on listened to this one in January) was Gil Turner, a folkie from the early-60s Greenwich Village scene who helped introduce Dylan to that crowd. The song I listened to was "Benny 'Kid' Paret", which appears on Broadside Ballads, Vol. 1 ... Dylan had three tracks on the album under the Blind Boy Grunt pseudonym, including "Only a Hobo".

music friday: 49 years ago at fillmore west

Continuing a theme from last week, here's a look at the show at Fillmore West on February 1, 1970.

The opening act was Ten Wheel Drive. They are noteworthy because of their lead singer, Genya Ravan, who has had an interesting career that includes several solo albums, a producer's credit for the first Dead Boys album, and DJ work on Little Steven's Underground Garage. She was played by Castle star Stana Katic in the movie CBGB. Ten Wheel Drive made three albums when Ravan was in the band ... the second, Brief Replies, came out in 1970 and was probably featured in their set that night. Here is the oft-covered "Stay With Me":

Next up was Sha Na Na ... do the youngsters of today need to be told who these guys were? They played at Woodstock and got a 90-second clip in the movie of the festival. They've made a lot of albums over the years, but they made their reputation as a live act. They had a syndicated TV series from 1977-1981, and they were in the movie version of Grease, as Johnny Casino and the Gamblers. I saw them headline a show at Fillmore West in June of '70, and they were pretty entertaining.

Headlining the show was The Steve Miller Band. They released their first (and best) album in 1968, later than most of the big local bands (Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company). Boz Scaggs was with the band for their first two albums. I saw them at the Fillmore in 1967. Miller later became a pop star, starting with "The Joker", but his band was psychedelic blues at first. Their most recent album as of this particular concert was Your Saving Grace.

I'm giving Miller extra space. One of his all-time geetar classics was "Your Old Lady", an Isley Brothers tune he performed on the soundtrack to a movie called Revolution. Dumb lyrics, once he plays the guitar it doesn't matter.

music friday: 50 years ago at Fillmore West

On January 25, 1969, Bill Graham put on a show at Fillmore West headlined by Iron Butterfly, with James Cotton and A.B. Skhy as openers.

Formerly the Carousel Ballroom, Graham turned it into Fillmore West in June of 1968. The chronology for Graham's San Francisco and New York Fillmores goes as follows:

Graham began promoting shows at the Fillmore Auditorium in December of 1965. His first show, a benefit for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, was headlined by Jefferson Airplane and The Great Society!.

In March of 1968, Graham opened Fillmore East in New York City. In July of 1968, he moved from the Fillmore to Fillmore West in San Francisco.

Graham closed Fillmore East in June of 1971 and Fillmore West a month later. Graham re-opened the original Fillmore in the mid-80s, but it became unusable after the earthquake of 1989. Graham died in 1991. Since then, the Fillmore was refurbished and re-opened yet again in 1994, where it still stands. There have also been Fillmores franchised to other cities.

My first trip to the Fillmore came during the Summer of Love in 1967, when I saw Chuck Berry, with Eric Burdon and the Animals and the Steve Miller Blues Band. Miller and his band accompanied Berry for his sets, which were later released as Live at the Fillmore Auditorium. I was also at one of the first set of shows at the new Fillmore West: Paul Butterfield, Ten Years After, and Fleetwood Mac. I think the last show I saw at the Fillmore was Wild Flag in 2012.

And so, to January 25, 1969. A.B. Skhy were a Milwaukee band that moved to San Francisco and opened several shows at the Fillmores. Their first of two albums was released in 1969 ... I"m guessing it hadn't come out in time for this show, but I could be wrong. This single barely inched its way into the top 100:

Cotton was a veteran blues man who had been around forever, even though he was only 33 at the time of this show. He worked with Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters. His biggest album on his own at the time of this show was probably Cut You Loose!, which was cut in San Francisco in 1968.

This was typical of Graham's shows in those days: 3 acts, a local one, a blues act, and a headliner that at times had no clear connection to the other two. Iron Butterfly, coming off of their huge, career-defining "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida", had just released their third album when this show took place. In 1970, they released a live album that had been recorded at some May 1969 shows, that probably works as an example for what they might have sounded like that night at Fillmore West a few months earlier.


music friday: january 18, 1968

The top five from 51 years ago, from the Billboard charts:

5) Gladys Knight and the Pips, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"

4) The Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett, "Woman, Woman"

3) The Monkees, "Daydream Believer"

2) John Fred and the Playboys, "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)"

1) The Beatles, "Hello Goodbye"

A bonus: #36:


throwback thursday: thank you, bruce and ann

Five years ago today, I posted about an interview Ann Powers did with Bruce Springsteen about his then-new album, High Hopes.

I mentioned on Twitter that I had a favorite part of the interview, but that I wasn’t sure why. It comes when Bruce is describing what it was like making records when he was in his 20s: “It was terrible, you know. In truth, it was awful, an awful way to make records but it was the only way we knew how. Everybody simply suffered through it and the endless, endless, endless hours I can't begin to explain.”

Ann’s response was the part I loved most: “We thank you for those hours.”

I’ve had a couple of days to think about it, and I think I know now why this resonated so deeply with me. When I first heard she was going to interview Bruce, I thought she was a perfect choice, that people like myself would be well-represented. That one sentence is what I meant, when she stepped back momentarily from her professional role and briefly spoke as a fan. I am not the only Bruce fan to spend too much time wondering what I would say if I met him. Part of me thinks I’d just ask him to play “Back in Your Arms” the next time he comes to the Bay Area. That’s part of why people bring signs requesting this or that favorite song … it’s a way to talk to the man on the stage.

But the truth is (and from talking to friends over the years, I know I’m not alone in this), if I had a chance to meet Bruce Springsteen, the one and only thing I’d want to say is, “Thank you”.

So consider this blog post my way of thanking Ann for thanking Bruce on our behalf.

I included a video that is one of my favorites. Here it is again. As always, I tell people, look at the faces ... if you've never been to a Bruce concert and want to know what it's like, look at those faces. As wonderful as Springsteen on Broadway is, it is missing one thing: those faces.


music friday: mary j. blige

Happy 48th birthday to Mary J. Blige! She is still going strong ... if her 1992 debut What's the 411? arguably remains her best, she came close with the aptly-named The Breakthrough in 2005, and her most recent, 2017's Strength of a Woman, is no embarrassment. The sobriquet "Queen of Hip Hop Soul" might have been a promotional tool at first, but Blige made it real. She has had a record 23 Top Ten tracks on the Billboard Adult R&B charts. And she has maintained an acting career that is more than just a sideline, receiving an Oscar nomination for Mudbound. Here are some of her best:

"Real Love"

"I'm Goin' Down"

"I Can Love You"

"Family Affair"