music friday

Dave Brubeck, Concord, 1970s. Not sure if we saw Brubeck more than once. The Concord Jazz Festival started in 1969 ... I believe it is still running. It took place each year in Concord, California (Brubeck's birthplace, along with Tom Hanks, and about 15 miles from where I grew up). My wife's dad was in the newspaper business, so he often got free passes to the Festival, plus the Festival was created by a local car dealer and my dad was in that business, so sometimes he got free passes, too. We went to a few of them over the years ... can't remember when, but in the 70s. Brubeck being a local boy who did good, he was always welcome at the Festival. "Take Five" was that rarity, a jazz track that was a crossover hit. It was written by Paul Desmond, who plays sax. Brubeck is on piano, of course, Eugene Wright was on bass (he was probably gone by the time we saw Brubeck), and Joe Morello was the drummer who does wonders with the 54 time. This recording is from 1961:

Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers, Keystone Palo Alto, 12-3-82. Clarence put this band together to play with while Bruce was working on something, probably Born in the USA. They released one album, Rescue, which wasn't bad, with a singer named J.T. Bowen who could shout with the best of them. On this date, the crowd spent most of the time waiting for Bruce to show up (he didn't). At one point, Clarence teased us by saying they were going to play "Fire", only to perform the Jimi Hendrix song.

Bruce wrote a song for Rescue, "Savin' Up":

Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Candlestick Park, 9-8-84. I wrote about this a few years ago. It took place after a Giants' game ... CS&N set up on the field and played a set. Don't remember a lot about it, except that it happened, and I was there. You can listen to a show from the next day by clicking this link. Meantime, I'll once again post this, the best song Crosby and Nash ever did:

Tracy Chapman, Oakland Coliseum, 9/23/88. Human Rights Now! was a tour to benefit Amnesty International, with a load of stars: Sting, Peter Gabriel, Youssou N'Dour, Tracy Chapman. Bruce and the E Street Band closed the show. This was his 39th birthday ... as I recall, Joan Baez sang "Happy Birthday" to him. Chapman had released her self-titled debut album that year, featuring the runaway hit "Fast Car".

The last show of the Human Rights Now! tour, in Buenos Aires, was the last time Bruce toured with the E Street Band for more than a decade. The crowd in Argentina was bonkers:


music friday

Foghat, Winterland, 1-16/17-76. Foghat was a popular arena rock band in the 1970s who are still plugging away all these years later. They were formed when several members of Savoy Brown left that band and formed their own. They were known for their live performances, and hit it big in late 1975 with the album Fool for the City, which included their biggest hit, "Slow Ride". We saw them a few months later on a show headlined by the J. Geils Band. No disrespect intended, but if you were on a bill with J Geils, I probably don't remember much about your own set.

Rod Stewart, Cow Palace, 12-19-77. A disappointment, one I have written about before. His first solo albums, from 1969-1972, were masterpieces, and his simultaneous work with Faces was sloppy rock and roll fun. Then he got even more popular and famous, and it's simplifying things, but it was all downhill from there. (In 1980, Greil Marcus famously wrote, "Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart; rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so completely. Once the most compassionate presence in music, he has become a bilious self-parody – and sells more records than ever ." At his best, Rod was able to pull off softer music with literary touches, and balls-out rockers. In his greatest song, "Every Picture Tells a Story", he managed to work in a line about "Dickens, Shelley or Keats" without sounding dumb. In 1977, he was touring behind his recent release Foot Loose & Fancy Free, which was one of those self-parodies that sold a lot of records. The big two-sided hit from that album was a perfect example of where Stewart had gone: the stoopid raunchy "Hot Legs" backed with one of his most poignant ballads, "I Was Only Joking".

At that concert, he came out to "The Stripper" by David Rose, and finished with a snippet of "Every Picture Tells a Story". It was never more true, or more sad.

Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, Keystone Berkeley, 7- 2-80. I wrote quite a bit about Lane a few years ago ... you can read it here. Meanwhile, here's one of her songs from back then:

(She opened for The Undertones at that show. We exchanged emails awhile back, and I told her about that show. She replied, "Boy did the Undertones hate us. We liked them a lot though."

The Black Keys, GAMH, 2-3-03. Yet another band I saw when they opened for Sleater-Kinney. They only had one album out then. They were a cult band that made it big, winning several Grammy awards along the way. A guitar-and-drums duet, I didn't connect with them at the time. They played a lot of covers: The Beatles, The Stooges, "Have Love Will Travel".

I think I know now what's making me sad
It's a yearnin' for my own back yard
I realize maybe I was wrong to leave
Better swallow up my silly country pride
Going home, running home
Down to Gasoline Alley where I started from
Going home, and I'm running home
Down to Gasoline Alley where I was born


music friday

Dave Mason, Oakland Coliseum, August 1975. This was a Day on the Green, headlined by Robin Trower. Mason was second-billed, even though Fleetwood Mac and Peter Frampton were also on the bill. I loved (and continue to love) his solo debut, Alone Together, but his output since then has been hit or miss. Here he is in 1974 ... this set includes his version of "All Along the Watertower".

The Sex Pistols, Winterland, January 14 1978. What more can I say about this show that I haven't already written? It was the band's last concert with Sid Vicious, and in fact their last concert until much later, when they started played reunion shows. Here is the whole show:

John Hiatt, Warfield, May 1982. Hiatt has never quite made it as high as his fans think he deserves. At this show, he was opening for Graham Parker. Hiatt may be best known for the songs he wrote which were recorded by others, most notably Bonnie Raitt with "Thing Called Love" from her breakthrough album Nick of Time. Hiatt was featured once on the late-great TV series, Treme.

John Prine, Concord Pavilion, October 1991. Speaking of Bonnie Raitt, she and John Prine had a nice partnership over the years, with their duet on Prine's "Angel from Montgomery" being most memorable. Prine opened for Raitt at this show, which turned out to be the only time I saw him. One of the greats in my book. His most recent album in 1991 was the excellent Grammy-award winning The Missing Years. Here he is in 1992, performing the title song:

And why not:


music friday: fleetwood mac, 1968; 1975

Fleetwood Mac, Fillmore West, July 1968; Oakland Coliseum, August 1975. I saw them twice, once in each of their most notable permutations: the Peter Green band of the 60s, and the Buckingham/Nicks version of the 70s and beyond. It is hard to imagine two more different groups.

The Fillmore West show saw the band opening for Paul Butterfield and Ten Years After. My memories of the show, 50+ years later, are mostly about Alvin Lee, and the potty mouth of Jeremy Spencer. Here's a clean version of one of Spencer's spotlight numbers:

"Oh Well" was a popular Peter Green song that originally had two parts. The second part, beautiful as it is, rarely turns up. But the newer versions of Fleetwood Mac still trot it out.

"Albatross" was another Green composition, with that same "Part 2" feel to it:

Finally, Green was a masterful blues guitarist, someone who impressed the likes of B.B. King. Here is my choice for his best blues:

The second time I saw the band was with the musicians we all know and love today. They were touring behind their first album with Nicks and Buckingham, which had come out shortly before my concert. This was another Day on the Green special, and Fleetwood Mac were fourth-billed on a five-band show (Robin Trower, Dave Mason, Peter Frampton, Fleetwood Mac, Gary Wright). I used to think of Stevie Nicks as a weak link, but I was wrong.

HAIM is often compared to Fleetwood Mac, which refers to the pop sounds of their records. So I find it ironic that one of their big covers in concert was this:


bruce, jeep, super bowl

Today, Jeep released their Super Bowl ad for 2021. It features Bruce Springsteen.

Bruce had never done an ad before this. It helps that he isn't hurting for money ... he hasn't had to pick up the extra dough. But now, something changed.

I think it's depressing that he did a commercial.

Nobody is perfect. If you look up to someone, you don't expect perfection, but it is good to feel as if that someone represents our better selves, even when they, like all of us, fuck up.
Call me naïve, but the fact that Bruce Springsteen did a Jeep commercial for the Super Bowl is extremely dispiriting.
 
He doesn't need the money, he doesn't need the exposure. It is rare, if ever, that he could be accused of selling out, which makes this all the more depressing.
 
I do not have much issue with what Bruce says in the commercial. I am uninterested in coming together with the middle, but that's not the problem. The problem is that the one artist who has held out against the use of his work as fodder for advertising has broken the faith. He has many outlets for his message, and there's not much new in what he says in the ad. I just really wish he hadn't decided to do it in a Jeep commercial.

music friday

The Undertones, Keystone Berkeley, 7-2-80. Band from Northern Ireland led by singer Feargal Sharkey. They recorded four albums before Sharkey left. We saw them in a club that held maybe 500, which is ideal. But the truth is, we'd come for the opening act, and left after only a couple of songs by The Undertones. Not their fault.

Barrence Whitfield, Slim's, 6-12-90. Slim's, run by Boz Scaggs, was about the same size as the Keystone, although in my mind it was bigger and less crowded. Whitfield and his band, the Savages, were known to be tremendous live performers, so we checked them out ... I might have won tickets to the show. They certainly lived up to their reputation.

Superchunk, Greek Theater, 7-2-99. Superchunk have been around for more than 30 years, and I've seen them live, but I can't tell you a thing about them. I saw them in a festival-style show, and they got lost in the shuffle.

Mary Timony, Warfield, 6-4-05. I only saw Timony once as a solo act ... she opened for Sleater-Kinney, and as I recall she performed solo on stage. I did see her three other times, though, when Wild Flag was around. I liked her in that band.


the live music questionaire

Everyone else is doing it, and it seems like a nice sidebar to recent Music Friday posts about concerts.

First concert: Judy Collins, Berkeley Community Theater, March 4, 1967.

Judy collins bct 1967

Last concert: Sleater-Kinney, Fox Theater, Oakland, November 17, 2019.

Best concert: Bruce Springsteen, Winterland, San Francisco, December 15, 1978.

Worst concert: Edgar Winter, San Diego, September, 1975. Brother Johnny was also on the bill, but we left before he came on. Sound was awful, so I can't really say how good/bad Edgar was.

Loudest concert: Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Cow Palace, San Francisco, October 22, 1978. This was the concert filmed for the movie Rust Never Sleeps.

Seen the most: Bruce Springsteen (36 times), Sleater-Kinney (17 times), Lou Reed (a lot), Prince (6), Pink (6), The Clash (5).

Most surprising: Probably an opening act, since by definition I didn't expect much out of them. Examples that come to mind: Rockpile (1979 opening for Blondie), The Gossip (2000? opening for Sleater-Kinney), Matt Nathanson (2006 opening for Pink at the Fillmore).

Next concert: Whatever it is, I fear it will be virtual.

Wish I could have seen: Elvis Presley, '68 Comeback Special sit-down session.


music friday

Some question marks here ...

First, according to my "records", I once saw a band called SST. I don't remember them, and I can't find any evidence that I ever actually saw them. So there's no SST today.

B.B. King, Bloomington Indiana, 1971. Another question mark. For almost 50 years, I've told everyone that I saw Ike and Tina Turner open for B.B. King. But in writing this blog post, I found that I probably saw them in the same venue, but a month apart. I now think that B.B. had James Taylor's brother opening that night. Anyway, B.B. was in his mid-40s then, and had released a live album, Live in Cook County Jail, in January of that year ... it was on the Billboard charts for most of 1971, and was the only album of his career to hit #1 on the R&B charts. At my concert, his backup band, led by his longtime drummer Sonny Freeman, opened with a few songs, and then BB hit the stage. Here he is in France in 1971:

The Flamin' Groovies, Henry J Kaiser, Oakland, 1979. They opened for Patti Smith. They began in San Francisco in the mid-60s, but didn't rise above cult status until they signed with Sire Records in the mid-70s. Pretty much the only thing I remember of their performance was when one of the band made a joke comparing his guitar to a woman ... it didn't go over well. It was at Sire that they recorded their most timeless song, "Shake Some Action":

The Pretenders, Shoreline Amphitheater, 1995. This was one of the Bridge School Benefit concerts, and The Pretenders were the highlight of the show (not easy when one of the acts was Bruce Springsteen, but it was perhaps the only time I ever saw Bruce put on a subpar show). The Bridge School shows were mostly acoustic, which worked well for The Pretenders, who a few days later released their acoustic live album, The Isle of View. It's not a great album, but I loved seeing them nonetheless ... I always loved Chrissie Hynde, and this was the only time I saw her. It's funny ... we've come full circle, for Chrissie was in her mid-40s when this show took place.

This is from the concert that ended up as The Isle of View. It's one of my favorite xmas songs:


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: