music friday: earth quake, jonathan richman, lawrence hammond

I start with Beserkley Records, formed by Matthew King Kaufman.

Earth Quake, Winterland, 11-22-74. Kaufman managed Earth Quake in their early years. When he started Beserkley Records in frustration with how the record biz worked, he located it at the home of Earth Quake singer John Doukas. Bezerkley issued only singles at first ... you can hear some of them on the album Beserkley Chartbusters Volume 1. The first Beserkley single was by Earth Quake. Other label artists included The Rubinoos, their biggest "star" Greg Kihn, and the immortal Jonathan Richman. When I saw Earth Quake, they opened for Lou Reed and Arthur Lee. Here they are a few days after I saw them (the video is also at Winterland):

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, Boarding House, 1976-7? Richman is the only legend associated with Beserkley. Kaufman had something to do with the early Modern Lovers demos, so his label made sense as a landing spot for Richman in the mid-70s. Richman recorded one of his many versions of "Roadrunner" for a Beserkley single, backed anonymously by Earth Quake (who also recorded the B-side). By the time we saw Richman and the Modern Lovers, he had formed a new version of the band, who appear on this video, recorded a year or two after we saw him:

Here is the version of "Roadrunner" with Earth Quake:

Lawrence Hammond and the Whiplash Band, Rio Theater in Rodeo, 2-26-77. Far as I know, there is no connection between Lawrence Hammond and Beserkley. We saw Hammond and his band at a converted movie theater. It was a memorable night for many reasons, none of which really involved Hammond. But as the band played their version of country rock ... well, I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. Here is a cut from an album Hammond cut in 1976:

My friends and I were at this concert to see Naomi Ruth Eisenberg, who was mostly known as one of Dan Hicks' Hot Licks. My wife and a couple of the others in our group that night worked for Naomi Ruth's brother. The headliner was Hicks himself, accompanied by Eisenberg. I've told that part of the story many times, so I'll skip it here. Anyway, my friends, not knowing anything about Hammond, assumed he was a typical country rocker (which in fairness, he was). I, however, knew a different Hammond, a man who had once led the band Mad River. I owned their first album, played it a lot. Trust me, it was not country rock.

I lost track of Mad River. Apparently their second album was much more countryish ... it even included a vocal by Richard Brautigan. If I had heard the album at the time, I might have better understood the Whiplash Band. In any event, back in those days, I was an even bigger asshole than I am now. I was intrigued by my friends' surprise at what I told them of Hammond's musical past ... they decided he wasn't "authentic" or something. So, in between songs, I shouted out a request for "Amphetamine Gazelle". Hammond rightfully told me to "crawl back into your time capsule".

It's amazing, but that wasn't even the worst we acted that night.

music friday: the cramps, willie nelson

The Cramps, Kezar Pavilion, 10-13-79. They followed local faves The Dead Kennedys as openers for The Clash. The Cramps were the earliest (or one of the earliest) practitioners of Psychobilly.

Willie Nelson, Berkeley Community Theater, 9-22-04. Willie seemed ancient then ... he was 71 years old ... that was 17 years ago, he's still at it! Lucinda Williams was his opening act ... we were seeing her for the bazillionth time ... among other things, she was born the same year as my wife and I, so when you see her in this video, imagine us in the audience, looking like we're the same age as Lucinda:

music friday: screaming gypsy bandits, pearl harbor and the explosions

Screamin' Gypsy Bandits, Town Cinema Theatre, Bloomington Indiana, April 1972. They opened for the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I wrote about that show last year. The band, and their lead singer Caroline Peyton, were big on the local scene at the time. Here is a Spotify playlist of their 1973 album, In the Eye:

Pearl Harbor and the Explosions, Berkeley Community Theater, Old Waldorf, 1979. The first time we saw them, they were the opening act for The Clash's United States debut concert. We saw them a couple of months later opening for Graham Parker and the Rumour, and we saw them a third time, although I can't remember anything about that show. They were a popular local band (my wife liked them) who made a little noise locally. Lead singer Pearl E. Gates has had an interesting life (see this 2013 interview). She was in The Tubes and also in a side project of theirs, Leila and the Snakes. Then came the Explosions. Somewhere in there she was married to Clash bass player Paul Simonon. Here is their biggest hit, live a few weeks before we saw them:

Here she is with The Clash in 1982. You've got a half-Filipino woman named Pearl Harbour singing "Fujiyama Mama" in front of a Japanese audience. Somehow it works:

music friday: the nuns, flipper, los lobos

An interesting threesome, all groups I saw opening for punk bands.

The Nuns, Winterland, 1-14-78. The infamous Last Show of the Sid Vicious Sex Pistols. The Nuns were an interesting band, and in 1978 were stars of the local punk scene. Their most famous member was probably Sheila E's uncle Alejandro Escovedo, still at it at the age of 70. Their first album didn't come out until 1980, by which time they had mostly broken up. Two tracks from that album got a lot of play. My favorite was "Lazy", the lead cut in this segment from what is (I think) the gig I saw. (The singer is Jennifer Miro).

The other track was "Suicide Child", and this clip is definitely from that show:

Flipper, South of Market Cultural Center, 5-10-80. The headline act here was Johnny Rotten's next incarnation, Public Image Limited. The venue was a disaster, a rectangular building with the stage at the "wrong" end, so that the crush from back to front was awful. It was my only time seeing Flipper, one of the great bands of their day. My wife really hated them, so it was funny that she ended up at this show when a friend bought us all tickets. At most they had only released a single or two when this show happened. Here they are in Berkeley, a couple of months after we saw them:

And here, during their 40th (!) anniversary ... two of the original members are actually in this band (there have been deaths over the years, most notably singer Will Shatter). There are so many great songs to choose from, but "Sex Bomb" is probably their high point:

Los Lobos, Civic Auditorium, January 1984. Opening for The Clash, or "The Faux Clash", as I like to call them (after Mick Jones had gotten the boot). Say one thing for The Clash, they always had interesting opening acts. At this show, Los Lobos had yet to release a full-length album under that name, although there was a Spanish-language album from "Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles", and a well-received EP in 1983. Opening for The Clash helped get them exposure, and by 1987, their performances for the movie La Bamba put them at #1 for the title tune. (Trivia note: I have only sung karaoke twice in my life, and one of those times, I sang "La Bamba".)

african-american directors series: summer of soul (ahmir-khalib thompson, 2021)

Summer of Soul is subtitled "(Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)", which carries some irony in this streaming era when the movie was released simultaneously in theaters and on Hulu. But one of the most dumbfounding things about the film is that in effect is wasn't televised, or even shown anywhere at all, for fifty years. Seeing it now, it seems impossible that the footage of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival was buried, while Woodstock, which took place at the same time as the Harlem festival and was turned into an Oscar-winning film in 1970, has been hailed as the chronicle of a generation ever since. Of course, the reason Woodstock triumphed while the "Black Woodstock" went undiscovered is obvious. Only one musical act appeared at both festivals: Sly and the Family Stone.

It's impossible to single out any one moment in Summer of Soul, because it is filled with them. I can't resist listing a few favorites.

There's the 5th Dimension, singing "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In". Thompson shows Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo watching the footage with tears in their eyes, explaining how important it was to play Harlem for the first time. (Rolling Stone had a nice little piece on this.) And there's one festival attendee, talking about how beautiful McCoo was, admitting as if he was realizing it for the first time, "God, she's my first crush." This segment also shows that Thompson, a novice film maker, understands better than most how to integrate interviews with music. It is a pet peeve of mine that movies of musical performances too often truncate those performances, as if there was something more important we should pay attention to, This happens in Summer of Soul, but it's an interesting move by Thompson: the words blend with the songs, make the songs expand, give them context. He never loses a connection with the performances, but he invites the interviewees into those performances. At those times, it seems impossible that Questlove had never directed a movie before.

The gospel section is thrilling. We see the Bay Area's own Edwin Hawkins Singers. We see the Staple Singers. We see Mahalia Jackson. And then, a beautiful moment, set up at the festival by Jesse Jackson, who said "Precious Lord" was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s favorite song. Mahalia Jackson was scheduled to sing it, as she had at King's funeral, and once again, Thompson knows exactly where to put interview material. Mavis Staples says Mahalia was her idol, and then, as if she were narrating what we are seeing, she said Mahalia "leaned over and told me, 'Baby, Halie don't feel too good today. I need you to help me sing this song." Thompson inserts relevant footage of King's last minutes as Jackson speaks, and then Mavis sings. After a verse, Mahalia stands up and takes the microphone, and she sings (the captioning says simply "VOCALIZING"). Mavis steps up, and the emotions as they sing together are overwhelming. Mahalia hands the mic to Mavis (in her interview, Mavis says, "When she gave me that microphone back, I said, 'Oh, she likes what I'm doin'").

Sly and the Family Stone demonstrated not just that they were a pre-eminent band, but that they changed everything. This is more apparent here than in Woodstock, where their monumental appearance is just a great moment among great moments. Thompson once again uses interviews to set the stage for what we are seeing. One man describes his expectations for R&B groups at the time: all men in matching suits. "You're wondering, 'What are they doing with girls in the group? What is white people doing up there? And a white guy is the drummer?' We couldn't get this thing, that the white guy is the drummer. You know, he's not supposed to be able to do that. As soon as everything was kicking, it was on!" A female attendee says, "To see a Black woman playin' a trumpet made me feel great." None of this would matter if Sly and the Family Stone weren't also one of the great bands.

The movie I was most reminded of was Dave Chappelle's Block Party. That movie featured a variety of acts at a neighborhood concert in Brooklyn, and the sense of community is so strong ... at the time, I called it "the feel good movie of the year". The same can be said of Summer of Soul, which brilliantly blends great music and social context in a package that is the best new-to-me movie I've seen this year.

music friday: judy collins, jesse colin young, b-52's, cadallaca

Judy Collins, Berkeley Community Theater, March 4, 1967. My first concert, and, according to this flyer/ad, her first appearance in the Bay Area:

Judy collins bct 1967

She was touring behind In My Life. I remember I needed new glasses, so I wasn't seeing as well as I wanted, which mattered, because it was very clear that Judy Collins was beautiful. I was 13 years old, she was 27.

Jesse Colin Young, Oakland Coliseum, July 1974. He was the opening act for a Day on the Green headlined by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The Youngbloods broke up in 1972, and Young's solo career was never higher than it was in 1973-4.

And a reminder that The Youngbloods were more than "Get Together":

The B-52s, Lower Sproul Plaza, 1979? Not sure about the date, but this was the time of their classic debut album. This was a lunchtime show on the Berkeley campus. Here they are before their fame:

Cadallaca, Davis Coffee Shop, Bottom of the Hill, August 1999. This is when I interviewed them for Punk Planet.


Sarah Dougher teaches Women's Studies at Portland State. 

music friday: peter frampton, steve marriott, wild flag

Back to usual, as I continue to look at artists I've seen over the years. I don't think any of these people will end up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although you never know about Frampton, and the Carrie/Janet combo from Wild Flag might get in with Sleater-Kinney.

Peter Frampton, Oakland Coliseum, 1975, 1977. I saw Frampton on either side of Frampton Comes Alive. He's always seemed like a decent guy, but my memory is that the earlier show was better and the later show was bloated. Here he is from Oakland in 1977:

Steve Marriott, Winterland, 1976. After leaving the Small Faces, Marriott formed the band Humble Pie that made some noise in the early-70s. Peter Frampton was the lead guitarist in those early days. When I saw him he was opening for Robin Trower, so I didn't pay as much attention to Marriott's set as he probably deserved. Here is Humble Pie with Frampton:

Wild Flag, Bottom of the Hill, Great American Music Hall, Fillmore, 2010, 2011, 2012. During Sleater-Kinney's "hiatus" Carrie and Janet joined forces with Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole in Wild Flag. The first time I saw them was in a teeny club before they had released an album. The second time was in a bigger club after the album had come out. By the third time, they were headlining the Fillmore. Then they just kinda faded out, and soon S-K had returned. 

music friday: rock and roll hall of fame part 5

[This is the last in the series of artists I've seen, that haven't previously been featured in this long series, who are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They'll appear in order of their induction, and I'll mostly avoid comments ... I'll just post some relevant videos.]

Lou Reed, inducted 2015. (Winterland, 1974; Berkeley Community Theater, 1976, 1989; Old Waldorf, 1978, 1980. I may have forgotten a few others.) These are the shows I can remember. I'm sure Winterland in '74 was the first ... that was the Sally Can't Dance tour, where Reed famously simulated shooting up on stage. He wasn't as good as when I saw him at later club dates, nor was he as good as Rock 'n' Roll Animal, which had come out late the year before. But he was good enough. Here he is from earlier in 1974:

Steve Miller, inducted 2016. (Fillmore Auditorium, 1967). Part of the legendary-to-me first rock concert I ever attended (I'd seen Judy Collins a few months earlier). Chuck Berry was 40, and hadn't had a hit for a few years, but he was still Chuck Berry, and he was still a touring artist. He would use local bands for backup, which for these nights at the Fillmore meant the local Steve Miller Blues Band. This was just before Boz Scaggs joined. It occurs to me that this is a perfect Hall of Fame post, since all of the artists on that long-ago rock concert ended up in the Hall: Chuck Berry, the Animals, and Steve Miller. Here is what Miller and the band sounded like back then, before their first album:

music friday: rock and roll hall of fame part 4

[I'm going to take the next few weeks to adjust the current "acts I've seen live" theme. What will follow for a month or so will be artists I've seen, that haven't previously been featured in this long series, who are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They'll appear in order of their induction, and I'll mostly avoid comments ... I'll just post some relevant videos.]

Prince, inducted 2004. (The Stone, 1981; Civic Auditorium, 1982; Oakland Coliseum, 1983, 1988; Cow Palace, 1985;  HP Pavilion, 2004.) There aren't too many artists I've seen six times ... Bruce, obviously, and Sleater-Kinney. I've seen Pink six times. I lost track of the number of times I saw Lou Reed, but he might be up there. Prince is the equal of all those artists, and that first concert, at a 700-seat club, was arguably the most notable show I ever attended. As for the others, The Time opened in '82 and '83, '85 was the Purple Rain tour (he played six shows for his Cow Palace gig), '88 is when I took my son for his first Prince show (I think ... and I think that was the Lovesexy tour), and '04 was the Musicology tour. Here he is, about a week before we saw him in 1981:

U2, inducted 2005. (Civic Auditorium, 1982.) The last time U2 opened for another act, other than in festivals. (J. Geils was the headliner.) This was somewhat like that first Prince show, in that U2 was just about to hit big, and once they did, well, there weren't too many acts bigger. The audience for the J. Geils band in 1982 was a lot different than the audience for U2, but my memory is U2 went over quite well, with Bono impressing with his showmanship. But then, I was on mescaline, so my memory might be warped. Here they are, about a week after I saw them, playing mostly the same setlist:

Peter Gabriel, inducted 2014. (Oakland Coliseum, 1988.) This was the Amnesty Tour, or, as it was officially known, The Concert for Human Rights Now! Wikipedia says Roy Orbison was a guest, although I don't remember him (he died only a couple of months later). Joan Baez guested, and I do remember her ... it was Bruce Springsteen's birthday, and she led 58,000 of us in a rendition of "Happy Birthday". As for Gabriel, I admit I spent a lot of time in my nosebleed stadium seat trying to spot Gabriel's then-current partner Rosanna Arquette (I failed). Here are parts of the final show on the tour, which means you get some Bruce and some Sting with your Peter Gabriel, but the quality of the video is so good I have to use it:

music friday: rock and roll hall of fame part 3

[I'm going to take the next few weeks to adjust the current "acts I've seen live" theme. What will follow for a month or so will be artists I've seen, that haven't previously been featured in this long series, who are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They'll appear in order of their induction, and I'll mostly avoid comments ... I'll just post some relevant videos.]

Eric Clapton, inducted 2000. (Cow Palace, 1974.) My wife and I started going to concerts together in 1974. First Dylan and The Band, then a Day on the Green headlined by CSNY and The Band. Clapton finished that streak off. I looked forward to this one, as a fan of Clapton since the 60s, and as someone who worshipped (and still worships) Layla. 461 Ocean Boulevard came out about the same time, which I liked. But my memories of the concert aren't overwhelming. Mostly I remember, accurately or not I can't say, that George Terry played way too many guitar solos given the presence of Clapton. Eric was 29. Here is the song he opened with that night.

Bonnie Raitt, inducted 2000. (Concord Pavilion, 1982, 1991.) When we saw her in 1982, she was touring behind Green Light. The next year she was dropped by her label. When we saw her in 1991, she had 4 Grammys in her pocket, and had released Luck of the Draw, which was as good as what people thought Nick of Time accomplished. Both concerts were top notch ... whatever else went on, she was consistent on stage for us. (For context, my favorite Bonnie Raitt album came out in 1975.) She was 31 the second time we saw her.

Talking Heads, inducted 2002. (The Boarding House, 1978.) A club date soon after they released their second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food. Compared to what came later (think Stop Making Sense), this was a stripped down, elemental set. They were 26, 27, 27, and 29. Here are the first two songs from our show:

The Ramones, inducted 2002. (Davis Coffee House, 1979; The Warfield, 1980.) The first show was in a little place ... well, it was called the Coffee House. The next year they had moved up to a 2300-seat hall. They were great both times, although obviously I'd give the nod to the dinky club date. They were 28, 28, 30, and 30 at that first show.