music friday

Santana, Oakland Coliseum, 1977. Third-billed for a Day on the Green headlined by Peter Frampton, with The Outlaws playing before Santana and Lynyrd Skynyrd playing after them. Santana had moved beyond their initial popularity; although they still had an audience in the mid-70s, their comeback didn't arrive until Supernatural in 1999. They were good at this show, although I confess it was Lynyrd Skynyrd that I really wanted to see, and they delivered. Here is part of that show ... look for a young Sheila E. (The drummer is Graham Lear ... rumor is Carlos chose him because he looked like Woodstock star Michael Shrieve.)

Graham Parker and the Rumour, Old Waldorf, 1979; Warfield, 1982. We saw them twice, once in a small club, once in a mid-sized hall (I think he'd broken up with The Rumour by then). The 1979 show came on the heels of Squeezing Out Sparks, and it was terrific ... Parker was a dynamic performer, especially up close. It was later released as the album Live in San Francisco 1979. Here is the show as it was recorded off the radio:

The Time, Civic Auditorium, 1982; Oakland Coliseum Arena, 1983. Both shows were as opening act for Prince. Holy moly, they were a great band, easily one of the handful of best "opening" bands I ever saw. The 1982 show was bittersweet for me ... I'd seen Prince the year before and found the crowd to be as diverse and wonderful as any I'd ever experienced, but in '82, I had my pocket picked. (Greil Marcus was at the first Prince show, and described the crowd as "the most excited and diverse crowd (black and white, punk and funk, straight and gay, young and old, rich and poor) I’ve been part of in a long time".) Here is The Time from late 1982:

Beck, Shoreline Amphitheater, 1995. The Bridge School Benefit was an annual charity concert put on by Neil Young and his then-wife Pegi. They ran from 1986 through 2016. The shows were mostly acoustic. Although the shows featured top acts, and although the venue was only about 45 miles from our house, we only attended two of them (not surprisingly, the ones Bruce Springsteen played). In 1995, besides Young and Springsteen, the roster included Beck, Emmylou Harris and Daniel Lanois, The Pretenders, and Hootie and the Blowfish. Beck was between albums in 1995. Here is his closing number from that night:

music friday

Mikey Dread, The Warfield, 1980. Opened for The Clash. Dread, a leading DJ in Jamaica, hooked up with The Clash around 1980, touring and recording with them, especially on Sandinista! One of the best things to come out of their collaboration was "Bankrobber", the single of which had a dub version from Dread. Here are both:

Gang of Four, American Indian Center, 1980. One of the more surprising concerts of my life. I loved the first Gang of Four album, Entertainment!, but for some reason I didn't figure out from that record that they were a great dance band. Seeing them live convinced me. Here is that show:

Pee-wee Herman, Wolfgang's, 1983. I'll be honest, the site and date are educated guesses. This was before Big Adventure and Playhouse. As I remember, we had seen Pee-wee on Letterman. He toured with The Pee-wee Herman Show, which HBO showed at one point. Our seats were in the front, stage left. That's Phil Hartman as Captain Carl.

Jim Lauderdale, ?, late-80s. I know I saw him. He was an opening act. But I don't remember who was the headliner, I don't remember the venue, I don't remember the date. I remember my wife wasn't impressed. He's best known as a songwriter for folks like George Strait, and people from Elvis Costello to Lee Ann Womack have recorded his songs. There's even a documentary about his life:

music friday

Lee Dorsey, The Warfield, 1980. Dorsey opened for The Clash on their 1980 tour. They often demonstrated their love of influences by touring with them (which wasn't always completely appreciated). Dorsey had his biggest hits in the 60s, but he remained a solid example of New Orleans music, releasing music through the early-80s.

Albert Collins, Slim's, 1980s. Dynamic live performer, and a huge influence on guitar players like Stevie Ray Vaughan. One of his popular live routines, as seen below, was to go down into the audience while playing guitar. We saw him at Slim's, a 500-600 seat club in SOMA started by Boz Scaggs. At one point, Collins left the stage, went into the crowd, then went out the front door and kept playing for the people on the street.

The Feelies, Berkeley Community Theater, 1989; The Warfield, 1991. In Berkeley, they were opening for Lou Reed on his New York tour. In '91, they co-headlined with fIREHOSE. I liked them better the second time ... it's hard being an opening act. They were influenced by the Velvet Underground, and themselves influenced later indie bands like R.E.M. They played "The Willies" in Jonathan Demme's Something Wild, and he directed this video of what is probably my favorite of their songs:

Bratmobile, Fillmore Auditorium, 2000. They opened for Sleater-Kinney. One of the earliest riot grrrl bands, Bratmobile had reunited after breaking up in 1994, and, having a new album, toured with S-K. I'm not positive, but I think this video comes from the first show they played after coming back together.

music friday

Eric Burdon and the Animals, Fillmore Auditorium, 1967. Saw them about ten days after Monterey Pop. They played between Steve Miller and Chuck Berry.

The Avengers, Winterland, 1978. Along with The Nuns, they opened for the Sex Pistols. I've told the story many times, how my daughter was born the next day, and then a few decades later, she told me she'd met this woman I might have heard of named Penelope. I said you tell your new friend I saw her in concert the day before you were born.

Apollonia 6, 1984? Hell, I don't remember what year it was. We saw Prince every year back in those days, and I'm guessing Apollonia turned up in '84, since that was the year of Purple Rain, which she appeared in.

Bangs, Fillmore Auditorium, 2002. Bangs were an early riot grrrl band that didn't consider themselves to be a riot grrrl band, which is actually kind of cool. I saw them open for Sleater-Kinney, the ultimate spawn of riot grrrl. 

music saturday

A day late. Hey, it was xmas.

Ross, 1974. I can barely remember them, such that I wasn't sure this video clip from 1975 was the same group until Don Kirshner tells us they opened for Eric Clapton, which is where I saw them at the Cow Palace. They don't seem half bad here:

Cecil Taylor, 1979? I remember Cecil Taylor, although I'm not sure if it was 1979 that I saw him. It was a co-headliner gig with Sun Ra, who I much preferred. Taylor's not my cup of tea.

New Order, 1985. I've told the story many times, of how New Order was always my favorite synth band, and "Temptation" by all-time favorite song, one that they have sung a billion times in concert. But when I saw them, they never got around to playing it. Here's "The Perfect Kiss" from that year:

GG Allin, 1989. It's probably best that I don't include a video for GG.

music friday

This week, all four acts were openers when I saw them.

Robert Gordon, 1977. Gordon was the lead singer for the Tuff Darts, a punk band from New York that appeared on a early live compilation recorded at CBGB. He broke off and teamed up with guitar legend Link Wray for his debut album, which came out in 1977. Part of the rockabilly revival of the time, Gordon was already 30 when the album, Robert Gordon with Link Wray, was recorded (Wray was almost 50). I saw him on a bill at Winterland headlined by J. Geils. "Red Hot" got most of the attention on that first album.

A few years later, he turned up in a skit on SCTV:

English Beat, 1982. Another revival, this time ska in England. They opened for The Clash at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium. Known simply as The Beat in their home England (renamed for the States, as there was already a band called The Beat here), they had released three albums, and while their popularity in England was dropping, they were more popular than ever in the U.S.  They broke up in 1983, spawning General Public and the Fine Young Cannibals. Singer Ranking Roger died of cancer last year at 56. "Stand Down Margaret" is a favorite of mine from their first album ("Margaret" being Thatcher): "I see no joy, I see only sorrow. I see no chance of your bright new tomorrow. So stand down Margaret, Stand down please, Stand down Margaret."

Malcolm McLaren,  1984. Also opened for The Clash at The Civic, only this time, it was what I think of as the Faux Clash, after Mick Jones had left. McLaren, of course, had a varied career, only part of which was spent making his own music. I can't remember a single thing about his performance that night. His music wasn't insubstantial, including this blend of opera and R&B:

Jewel, 1995. Finally, there's Jewel, who opened for Liz Phair at the Warfield. I wrote about that show earlier this year. She closed that night with "Chime Bells", which she still sings today.

music friday

Interesting angle to this week's batch of acts I saw in concert: all but one were opening acts.

The Band, 1974. We actually saw them twice that year. First was the Dylan/Band tour (which you can hear on the album Before the Floor ... recordings on that album came from Los Angeles just a couple of days after we saw them). Later in the year, they were second-billed to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young at a Day on the Green. Here they are at Wembley a couple of months after we saw them that second time:

Air Supply, 1977. Definitely a band I would never have paid to see. They opened for Rod Stewart ... we saw them at the end of the tour. Here they are ... if I were you, I wouldn't bother to click on the video, it will just take four minutes out of your life you'll never get back:

Rosanne Cash, 1982. Now this is my idea of a great opening act. She opened for Bonnie Raitt, who was still several years away from her big breakthrough. An excellent pairing. Here is "I Wonder", which hit #8 on the country charts in '82.

The Bobs, 1983. Finally, a headliner! Funny thing is, they are by far the least-known of the acts on today's list. They were touring behind their first album, and we saw them in a small theater with a capacity of barely over 300. Their schtick was that they were an acapella group who reworked classic rock tunes like "Helter Skelter" using nothing but their voices and bodies. This song lives on at our house ... pretty much the only tune of theirs we still remember:

What the heck, I'll give them a second video, one of their specialities:

music friday

Joe Walsh, 1974. Days on the Green were a great place to see a lot of bands for a relatively low price. They simulated the festival experience, except you had restrooms and food vendors. I saw Joe Walsh as one of the openers for CSNY and The Band. Here he is with one of his biggest solo hits, from 1973:

Edgar Winter, 1975. Barely counts ... I saw him, but have little memory of the event. It was a show with Edgar and Johnny Winter. Edgar played first, and the sound was so awful (San Diego Sports Arena) that we left before Johnny came out. Here is a 1974 cut from Edgar:

The Who, 1976. This was sold as a Day on the Green, with The Who and the Dead. It was my only time seeing these two bands, and I am grateful that Moonie was still with us.

Vanity 6, 1983. Opened for Prince and The Time on the 1999 Tour. Word is The Time backed Vanity 6 from behind a curtain, which didn't go over too well with the band. Here they are a few weeks before we saw them:

catching up: the last five books i've read

I'm always reading one or two books, but I never write about them. So here are a few words about the last five books I've read, starting with the one I just finished.

Simon Wells, She's a Rainbow: The Extraordinary Life of Anita Pallenberg: The Black Queen. It's probably impossible to write a boring book about Anita Pallenberg, and in fact, I stuck with She's a Rainbow for no other reason than to see what Anita was up to next. I feel like Wells overstates her importance, but I did buy this book, released this year, so obviously I find her interesting. Of course I wanted to read about Performance, and it's there, although Wells doesn't offer much new. It's nice to have her whole story in one place, but I wish the book were better. Wells is an idiosyncratic writer who sometimes seems to be unaware of how to structure a sentence, although I finally realized it's just one quirk, repeated endlessly. A sentence will suffice for evidence: "Draped over her old friend, musician Richard Lloyd, at Xenon’s, one opportunist snapper, Ron Galella, captured a truly derelict Anita as she vainly attempted to avoid the camera’s lens." No, Simon, Ron Galella was not draped over Richard Lloyd.

Anne Helen Petersen, Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation. I've long been a fan of Petersen, who has a PhD in media studies and who studied the history of the gossip industry. In an interview, Petersen said, "After I turned in my dissertation, I was hungry to write in a non-academic way ... [I] began writing pieces on the intersection of celebrity, feminism, and contemporary media for other places as well—all while working as a full-time academic. The academic job market is rough—and when the visiting professorship I had ended, I couldn’t find another job. But I had been subconsciously building a 'life raft' of sorts away from academia for years with my writing." Her Facebook page, "Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style", is a must-read, as is her newsletter, "Culture Study". Can't Even does an excellent job of identifying burnout, but I wasn't always convinced that millennials are notably different re: burnout than the rest of us.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. Even with things I read only recently, I tend to forget rather quickly exactly why I chose a particular book to read. Such is the case with Everybody Lies. Stephens-Davidowitz calls himself an "internet data expert", and in this book, he explains why he thinks "Big Data" (i.e. all the stuff Google knows about us and everything else) is crucial to understanding our world today. In the Internet/Google era, there are no small sample sizes. Everybody Lies is a first step ... the data is so immense, and there are so many questions to be asked. As for the "Everybody Lies" part? Stephens-Davidowitz stakes his claim from the start: "The power in Google data is that people tell the giant search engine things they might not tell anyone else."

Nick Hornby, Just Like You: A Novel. I rarely read fiction, but I almost always read Hornby, who hooked me with his first book (Fever Pitch, which happened to be non-fiction). Hornby was the first writer to be tagged within the genre "Lad Lit", and to be honest, it fits. To my eye, he has gotten better with his female characters, and he's certainly not afraid to move outside of what he might immediately know. Just Like You is the story of a romance between a 42-year-old white woman and a 22-year-old Black man. Like a lot of Hornby's fiction, the characters are believable, but the story feels a bit slight. That could just be me.

Kim Gordon, Girl in a Band: A Memoir. Makes an interesting pair with the Anita Pallenberg biography, in that Pallenberg's influence in the music world was based mostly on her relationships with musicians, while Gordon's place in music history comes from her membership in Sonic Youth. I've never been the biggest Sonic Youth fan, but I enjoyed reading about the life of a "girl in a band" from the girl's perspective. And Gordon's book revolves less around gossip than does the Pallenberg bio. The lesson, it appears, is that if you want it told right, tell your own story.


music friday

A couple from the 1970s, and a couple from the 2000s. Every one of these were opening acts.

Ike and Tina Turner, 1971. Opened for B.B. King. Quite the double bill!

Derringer, 1977. Opened for Led Zeppelin. Rick Derringer got his start with The McCoys, who had a hit with "Hang on Sloopy" when he was 16. He then hooked up with first Johnny Winter, and then Edgar Winter. In the 70s, he was best known for this one:

Awesome Color, 2009. Confession: even though these next two are the most recent, I can't remember anything about them. This band opened for Sonic Youth:

Grass Widow, 2010. And they opened for Wild Flag.