music friday: the trips festival, 1966

The Trips Festival took place in San Francisco over three days, January 21-23, 1966. Quotes from Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test:

The Trips Festival was billed as a big celebration that was going to simulate an LSD experience, minus the LSD, using light effects and music, mainly....

“An LSD experience without LSD”—that was a laugh. In fact, the heads are pouring in by the hundreds, bombed out of their gourds, hundreds of heads coming out into the absolute open for the first time....

A hulking crazed whirlpool. That’s nice. Lights and movies sweeping around the hall; five movie projectors going and God knows how many light machines, interferrometrics, the intergalactic science-fiction seas all over the walls, loudspeakers studding the hall all the way around like flaming chandeliers, strobes exploding, black lights with Day-Glo objects under them and Day-Glo paint to play with, street lights at every entrance flashing red and yellow, two bands, the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company and a troop of weird girls in leotards leaping around the edges blowing dog whistles—and the Pranksters....

Three nights the huge wild carnival went on. It was a big thing on every level. For one thing, the Trips Festival grossed $12,500 in three days, with almost no overhead, and a new nightclub and dance-hall genre was born. Two weeks later Bill Graham was in business at the Fillmore auditorium with a Trips Festival going every weekend and packing them in. For the acid heads themselves, the Trips Festival was like the first national convention of an underground movement that had existed on a hush-hush cell-by-cell basis. The heads were amazed at how big their own ranks had become—and euphoric over the fact that they could come out in the open, high as baboons, and the sky, and the law, wouldn’t fall down on them. The press went along with the notion that this had been an LSD experience without the LSD. Nobody in the hip world of San Francisco had any such delusion, and the Haight-Ashbury era began that weekend.

Here is some video from the Festival. The music is the Grateful Dead playing "Viola Lee Blues":

The Dead's first album was released in 1967. Everyone agreed it failed to capture the band's live sound. It wasn't a hit ... there wasn't much interest in it as a Top 40 tune, and FM "Underground" radio was a few months away. There was a single from that album, and it got played on Bay Area radio ... I had to have heard it somewhere (I was 13). I was never a Dead Head, and the A-side of the single, "The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)", remains a favorite of mine to this day ... it's a lovely fantasy of life in the Haight in 1967:

See that girl, barefootin' along,
Whistlin' and singin', she's a carryin' on.
There's laughing in her eyes, dancing in her feet,
She's a neon-light diamond and she can live on the street.
Hey hey, hey, oh, by the way, come and (party every day)
Hey hey, hey, oh, by the way, come and (party every day)
 
Well everybody's dancin' in a ring around the sun
Nobody's finished, we ain't even begun.
So take off your shoes, child, and take off your hat.
Try on your wings and find our where it's at.
Hey hey, hey, come (party every day)
Hey hey, hey, come (party every day)
 
Take a vacation, fall out for a while,
Summer's comin' in, and it's goin' outa style.
Well lite up smokin' buddy, have yourself a ball.
Cause your mother's down in Memphis, won't be back 'till the fall.
Hey hey, hey, come right away
Come and join the (party every day)

I can't overstate how much this was all part of my ambition in 1967: to be a hippie.


music friday: january 7, 1967, fillmore auditorium

55 years ago today. Opening was The Doors. Their debut album had been released on the 4th, their first appearance in San Francisco was on the 6th, and this was the second night in a row for this lineup of bands. Here is their first TV appearance, lip-syncing to "Break on Through" ... the date is debatable, but probably a few days before the Fillmore shows:

Next up was a local band, Sopwith Camel. They were the first of the San Francisco bands to have a Billboard-charting hit (#26). This is another lip-sync, from Dick Clark's TV show Where the Action Is:

Headlining was The Young Rascals (they wouldn't become "The Rascals" for another year). I owned their first album ... I was 13, didn't own many albums, so the ones I had got played over and over. Theirs was no exception. Just after these Fillmore gigs, they released a second album. The biggest hit from that was "I've Been Lonely Too Long":

Organist Felix Cavaliere was one of the great blue-eyed soul singers, and Dino Danelli was one of the best drummers ever.

They had a nice reunion in the 2010s ... I can't embed this, but click here to see what I mean.


music friday: new year's eve, 2016

A couple of nights ago, during one of my incessant vivid dreams, I found myself at some function or another with Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney. In the dream, Janet had already been excised from the band, yet things seemed congenial enough.

I saw them on New Year's Eve, December 31, 2016. It was my 15th S-K show, the third since their long hiatus. It was the first, and likely the last, New Year's Eve show I attended, and we had a blast. I've seen two post-Janet S-K shows, and they were OK, but Janet meant so much to my feelings for the band that those shows were reduced to "just another concert", quite a drop from when I would see what was my favorite band of the past 20 years.

So that New Year's Eve show five years ago remains the last time I saw the Corin-Carrie-Janet version of the band, which will always be the one that matters to me. It's not as bad as when The Who continued after Keith Moon died, but the way it ended still makes me sad.

I wrote about the show here, if you want to get my immediate reaction. I went with Elisa Salasin, who among her many talents is an incomparable photographer. We have two of her photos from that night framed on the wall of the entrance hall of our house.  Here is one:

S-k new years 2

Here they are, shot by the incredible Admiral Needa, performing one of my live favorites, "Let's Call It Love", sliding into "Entertain", before counting down the seconds until the New Year:

Honestly, it makes me wanna cry seeing Janet behind those drums for what would be my last time.


music friday: shout

From Wikipedia:

In performances around 1958, the Isley Brothers would typically end their shows with a cover version of Jackie Wilson's hit "Lonely Teardrops". At one performance at the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia, lead singer Ronald Isley could see the audience standing and yelling their approval, so he extended the song by improvising a call-and-response around the words "You know you make me wanna..." "Shout!". The group developed the song further in later performances and rehearsals, using a drawn out "We-eee-ll" copied from Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman". On returning to New York City at the end of their engagement, they suggested to record producers Hugo & Luigi that they record the "Shout!" climax of the performance as a separate song. The producers agreed and suggested that the band invite friends to the recording studio to generate a party atmosphere.

The recording took place on July 29, 1959, with Hugo and Luigi choosing the studio musicians and the Isley Brothers inviting organist Herman Stephens. Released in August 1959, with the song split over both sides of the record, the single reached number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the group's first chart hit,[4] and later the brothers' first gold single on the basis of its longevity. Ronald Isley later said that church groups wrote to radio stations asking them to stop playing the record, because of its use of a traditional black gospel sound. [emphasis added]

The original:

Live on Shindig:

The Beatles:

Arguably the most famous version of them all:

It's been more than five years, and in these troubled times, there is no guarantee there will be another ... this is the last song we saw Bruce Springsteen sing in concert:


music friday: otis redding

On this date in 1967, Otis Redding died in a plane crash that also took the lives of six others. He was 26 years old. I consider him the greatest soul singer of them all (and a great songwriter, as well). I've told the story before, of how I awoke in the middle of the night to hear Otis on the radio that I kept on as I slept each night. It was one song after another, live Otis ... I'd happened upon Side Two of Live in Europe, and by the time he got to "Try a Little Tenderness", I was dancing in my bed. At which point, the DJ came on to tell us that Otis had died.

Here are brief excerpts from his appearance on a Cleveland TV show the day before the fatal plane crash.

He recorded his #1 hit "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" less than a month before the crash.

Here is my choice for his greatest song:

And the song that had me dancing in my bed:


music friday: spotify wrapped

It's that time of year, when Spotify tells me what I already know, that I listen to a lot of music from the 1960s.

OK, that's not quite true. For instance, my #1 song for 2021 is "I've Got a Feeling" by The Beatles, which is from 1970. #2 is "Ooh La La" by The Faces, from 1973. #3? "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" by Wings, also from '73. #4 is "Nature's Way" by Spirit, 1970. And #5 is actually from this century ("Someone Like You" by Adele). But #6-15 are all from the 60s.

My list of Top Artists is only slightly better: The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Pink, Billie Eilish.

The song I've listened to most lately doesn't necessarily turn up on the Spotify Wrapped, because I tend to watch videos of it on YouTube. And I never know which version to watch. The official version currently has 114,000,000 views. Live on Jimmy Fallon, 14 million. Live from the concert that aired on Disney+, 13 million. You get the idea. I'll choose this one here (3.1 million), since it has an audience:

The lyrics are endlessly quotable ("I could talk about every time that you showed up on time, But I'd have an empty line, 'cause you never did").

I'm never quite certain how "real" reaction videos are, but this is fun, in any event: people hearing "Happier Than Ever" for the first time. As "Plantation D" said in the comments, "i'd do ANYTHING to listen to this song for the first time again".

In the More Things Change department, a look at my Spotify Top Songs of 2020 isn't any better. The first three songs are by The Youngbloods, The Steve Miller Band, and Procol Harum. That list doesn't get interesting until #13:


get back some more

I finished Get Back on Sunday, when the final episode turned up. It's a treasure trove for Beatles fans. I'm not sure how much it would appeal to non-fans ... it's better than the average "behind the scenes" documentary, but I'm still not a big fan of the genre (I've always thought Don't Look Back was overrated). If I were to introduce someone to The Beatles today, I'd play the music and show A Hard Day's Night. Then I'd get to Peter Jackson's project. I don't mean this as a knock ... I am a Beatles fan, I gobbled up the entire thing and wouldn't mind doing it again.

Jackson deserves our thanks for showing the joy that was always part of the Let It Be sessions, along with the downsides. I've always thought the rooftop concert was odd, because they were having such a good time, and that didn't match the reputation of the sessions. Jackson shows us that it all made sense.

Rob Sheffield is the best at whatever topic he decides to write about. His book Dreaming the Beatles is essential. He wrote two pieces for Rolling Stone about Get Back. First was "‘Get Back’: Meet the Beatles Once Again, Courtesy of the Most Emotional Fab Four Doc Ever". Then, after we'd had the chance to watch all 8 hours, he gave us "24 Reasons We’ll Keep Watching the Beatles’ ‘Get Back’ Forever". Between the two, you'll get the perfect reading companion to the series. And there's this, from "24 Reasons":

The highlight of the rooftop concert: the joy of seeing Maureen Starkey, Ringo’s wife, bop her head to “Get Back.” Nobody on the roof is a bigger fan than Mo. She was a screaming girl back at the Cavern Club — she’s the only person here who ever stood in line and paid money to hear this band. (The first time she met Ringo, she was asking for his autograph.) She’s waited years for this gig. At the end, Paul looks over and says, “Thanks, Mo” — a beautiful moment that sums up what the Beatles were all about, but also sums up what they are about, even now, which is why this story refuses to fade into the past.

I also enjoyed the comments from my friend Tomás Summers Sandoval, not only because I enjoy his writing, but also because he watched with his kid. Since I wonder how the Beatles continue to be relevant to later generations, I found his family-based viewings particularly interesting.