Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Brunel's Great Eastern

(National Maritime Museum)

Yesterday's cycle ride which passed the launch site of Brunel's famous Great Eastern ship on the Isle of Dogs reminded me to share one of my favourite paintings with you. Building the Great Leviathan, by William Parrott, shows the construction of the great ship at Millwall Shipyard, with the domes of the Old Royal Naval College in the background.

It's not really the kind of painting I would have on my wall, but it moves me for a number of reasons. I am a great admirer of the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and his life and works continue to fascinate me. The fact that he is so inextricably linked to Deptford and surrounds by his involvement in the Thames Tunnel (through which the East London Line now runs) and the construction of the Great Eastern, pleases me more than I can explain.

Often when I'm gazing out across the River Thames from Millennium Quay, I try to imagine how the view would have been when Brunel's 'great leviathan' was finished and ready for launching, towering over all the buildings that surrounded it. I am sure that if it was there now it would still look impressive, even with all the tall blocks around it.

The painting is usually on display at the National Maritime Museum - you can find out more about the story of the ship at the NMM's website here.


Photographer Robert Howlett documented the construction of the Great Eastern for The Times, and his famous photograph of Brunel in front of a set of enormous chains was part of this work.

If you are interested in finding out more about Brunel, you should take a trip to the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe, which is housed in buildings at the top of the shaft from which the Thames Tunnel was driven.

Many books have been written about Brunel; I would recommend two in particular.

LTC Rolt's biography of Brunel has endured several decades; it might not have the glossy photos and diagrams of other publications, but the style and content is excellent.

For great pictures (including a large fold-out print of Parrott's painting) and a stylish design which is nonetheless not compromised by content, try Steven Brindle's excellent hardback book 'Brunel; The man who built the world'.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Docklands and Lee Valley

One of the presents I received for my birthday, just before Christmas, was Sustrans' new book Cycling in the UK (now being reprinted thanks to unprecedented demand, I see from the website!). It's an excellent book which gives directions for short sections of some of the UK's national routes (ranging from about 7 to 25 miles in length), along with info on refreshments, things to see, places to hire bikes from, what age/experience the routes are suitable for, how many hills they include, where the nearest train station is, and what routes they link into. There's a section on longer tours and challenge routes, as well as suggestions of the best industrial heritage routes, birdwatching routes, coastal routes and so on. (Incidentally I do take issue with their claim that the latter includes Dover to Folkestone - the worst section of the south coast's part of route 1 in my opinion and one that I would definitely bypass on a future trip!)

However that's all just a roundabout way of saying how lucky we are in Deptford to be close to so many great traffic-free cycle routes. I've written before about the Thames path down to Erith and beyond and the cycling around Surrey Docks. We are also at the start of the Waterlink Way and the Lee Valley route (scroll to the bottom of the page where you can download a free pdf of the route), both of which feature in the book. I've ridden the waterways of East London several times but today I went further north across Hackney and Walthamstow marshes, and into the Lee Valley. It's well worth a trip if you want pleasant, largely traffic-free day out - about 23 miles in total there and back, with plenty to look at and places to stop for coffee and cakes/a nice pint! Do be sure to take a map though, because some parts of the route are badly (if at all) signed.

From the north side of the foot tunnel I take the Thames path along the west side of the Isle of Dogs. It's a little patchy and there's a couple of annoying places where the path runs out unexpectedly, but it's well worth the effort to enjoy the views of the river and to pass the site of the Millwall Docks where Brunel's Great Eastern was built and launched.

Close to the top of the island you will pass an old pier which is usually a great spot for seeing some of our larger sea and wading birds. Today it was providing a resting place for about 20 assorted shags and cormorants, and three herons.

Once you have navigated through the Limehouse Basin to the Regent's Canal, the next few miles to Victoria Park are fairly simple and well-signed. You can either stick to the canal, although this can be busy, or follow the cycle route through Mile End Park, which is rather meandering but more picturesque.

At Victoria Park, turn right and follow the path along its southern border to the east end of the park, then dip back to the bank of the Hertford Union Canal (also known as Duckett's Cut) and follow it to its junction with the River Lee. Once you've crossed the bridge (and marvelled at the new Olympic Stadium, which is just over the fence next to the river) you can either head north up the Lee Valley for a longer ride, or south back towards the Limehouse Basin.

Today I headed north to explore Hackney and Walthamstow marshes along the Lee Navigation.

The route is fairly easy to follow although you need to pay attention at a couple of junctions and mind your head at the very low bridge (5ft headroom!) just before the Lee Valley Marina. There are free maps of some parts of the park that you can download from the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority website here.

I made it as far as Markfield Park before stopping for a cup of coffee and cake at the lovely new cafe right next to the shed which houses the restored beam engine.

Heading back down the Lee, go straight on at the junction with the Hertford Union Canal, continuing along the edge of the Olympic site. There's some great graffiti along this stretch, and the buildings are a mixture of decaying warehouses and modern apartments, spattered with some impressive industrial heritage and quirky bridges.

At Bow Bridge the riverside path evaporates and you have to cross the big roundabout at road level. Ignore all the cycle path signs and go straight across at the roundabout as if you are going towards the Blackwall Tunnel, then immediately turn left down a short dead-end road and it will bring you back to the river again.

Three Mills Island with its historical tidal mill sits at the junction of various waterways and rather incongruously opposite a large Tesco's supermarket.
Turn left across the bridge towards the mill and then right between the Lee Navigation and the River Lea, which emerges below the tidal mill as a proper river.

The path runs between the two for half a mile or so to Bow Locks, where you cross a very quirky concrete bridge and then follow the 'pontoon' footpath along the edge of the water into the Limehouse Cut. From here it's a straight run back to the Limehouse Basin.

If you are cycling this route on a weekend it can be very busy with walkers and other cyclists, so don't forget to give a couple of rings on your bell in good time if you are approaching people from behind. If they have to make a concerted effort to enable you to pass, for example if the path is very narrow, it's no effort to say thank you and I find this courtesy always leads to smiles and responses.

The only downside of this route is the need to deal with the idiosyncrasies of the lifts in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. I was pleased to see they were both in operation as I set out, and was sure to check the closing time for my return journey. However no-one saw the need to put up a notice about the south lift being closed mid afternoon for servicing - very frustrating since I'd taken the opportunity to do a bit of shopping on the way back through Canary Wharf and so had to lug both the bike and the shopping up all the steps. Tsk!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Guest Flute Players with The Grateful Dead: June 13, August 3 and August 21, 1969

I recently wrote about the Grateful Dead's performance at the Aqua Theater in Seattle, WA on August 21, 1969. During this show, they were joined by a flute player for a few numbers, the third time it happened in 1969. This peculiarity has never been directly discussed, to my knowledge, so I will address it here.

Charles Lloyd

I was recently looking at an excellent blog post that summarized all the known guest appearances with the Grateful Dead from 1967-75. Clicking on all the links, mostly to the archive site, I was reminded that every time a flute or saxophone player sat in in with the Grateful Dead, people have always asserted that it was Charles Lloyd. This gets repeated so often that it became gospel, and the archive site lists Charles Lloyd as the guest on Aug 21 (with a question mark), with similar (albeit skeptical) comments on June 13, 1969 in Fresno and August 3 at The Family Dog.

In fact, I think there is a lot less evidence that Charles Lloyd played with the Grateful Dead after 1967, much as he may have wanted to, and that the flute player on the August 21 Seattle show and the June 13 Fresno show was actually one of the horn players for the group San Paku, although I have not been able to determine that individual's name. August 3 is a different matter, which I will deal with at the end.

Charles Lloyd and The Grateful Dead
Charles Lloyd was an exceptional modern jazz musician who excelled on both the tenor saxophone and flute. He rose to prominence with drummer Chico Hamilton's great Los Angeles groups in the early 1960s, featuring Gabor Szabo on guitar and Albert Stinson on bass. In the mid-1960s Lloyd formed his own quartet, with Keith Jarrett on piano, Ron McClure on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Lloyd was one of the first jazz musicians to see the commercial and musical possibilities of crossing over to the Fillmore market, and he played the Fillmore and Avalon a number of times (His Atlantic album Love-In was recorded at the Fillmore on January 27, 1967, when he was opening for Paul Butterfield).

Exactly where Charles Lloyd met the Grateful Dead isn't clear, but he was part of the San Francisco music scene in early 1967. In early January 1967 group was playing a club near the Haight called The Both/And (at 350 Divisadero--the ad above is from the January 24, 1967 Chronicle) and somehow Lloyd ended up onstage with the Grateful Dead at the Human Be-In, adding flute to "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl." A few months later, Lloyd played several nights with the Grateful Dead at a place on Mission Street called The Rock Garden, and probably jammed with them there as well. Lloyd and Garcia apparently hit it off, but efforts to record or tour together never came to fruition. Lloyd largely dropped out of playing live jazz for most of the 1970s, although he returned fully charged in the 1980s and remains an exceptional performer today.

Although Lloyd actually played more tenor sax than flute, Lloyd was one of the few flautists playing aggressive Coltrane-style jazz on the instrument (Eric Dolphy and arguably Herbie Mann and Jeremy Steig were among the others). Some of Lloyd's recordings, such as his great 1965 Columbia album Of Course, Of Course (with Szabo, Ron Carter and Tony Williams) were seminal recordings for jazz flute. As a result, Lloyd is so influential as a flautist that even though the August 21 flute playing (on "Minglewood" and "China Cat Sunflower") sound like Lloyd, most modern jazz flute players owe a lot to Lloyd, and most rock ones too (Ian Anderson certainly included). So the fact that the flute-playing on the August 21tape sounds like Charles Lloyd means less than you think, since most forward looking players at the time owed a lot to Lloyd.

Charles Lloyd is a great musician, and I love the idea that his 1967 jamming with the Dead was so memorable that he turned up in Fresno, San Francisco and Seattle two years later to sit in with them. I just don't think there's much evidence beyond wishful thinking to support it. A hard-nosed look at the history of Grateful Dead guests always points towards members of bands on the bill or players who live or have a gig in the town the Dead were in. I find the idea that Lloyd played tenor sax on "Dark Star" at the Family Dog quite plausible, since the Southern California based Lloyd might have had reason to be in San Francisco, but from that point of view John Handy is more plausible, and Lloyd in  Fresno and Seattle are an awful reach, much as I'd like it to be so. Lloyd wasn't working much in 1969, for personal reasons (he was interested in Transcendental Meditation) but I actually think that makes him less likely to go to strange places to jam with his peers.

San Paku
San Paku was a now little known band managed by the Bill Graham organization, and booked by Bill Graham's Millard Agency. During the 1968-69 period, the Millard Agency also booked the Grateful Dead. Other groups working with the Millard Agency included Santana, Elvin Bishop, Cold Blood, Aum and Its A Beautiful Day. A look at Northern California and West Coast rock poster from late 1968 through 1970 shows that all these bands played together many times, so the musicians all must have hung out regularly. It is not surprising to find out that members of those bands were periodic guests, studio collaborators or jamming partners with the Dead or Garcia: Bishop, Wayne Ceballos (of Aum), David LaFlamme (IABD) and Santana band members (including Carlos) were among the most prominent.

Its my understanding that San Paku was an eight-piece jazz rock group, perhaps with a Latin tinge, and they played with the Dead a number of times. I just find it more plausible that a guy from the opening act was a jamming partner in a place like Fresno or Seattle, far from home, than a jazz musician with no specific ties to either area. There are no circulating recordings of San Paku, so I have to guess as to their true sound. I know their lead singer was Rico Reyes, who worked with Santana and Quicksilver and later helped lead the fine group Azteca, and the guitarist was Sacramento musician Mark Pearson, later of Nielsen/Pearson Band. Supposedly they were a hopping group, but they broke up in Fall 1969, and I have been unable to follow up on my theory--hopefully a San Paku band member is out there and can confirm or reject my theory that the flute on the June 13 and August 21 shows was actually one of the players in San Paku.

August 3, 1969 The Family Dog At The Great Highway

The Grateful Dead played The Family Dog At The Great Highway on Sunday, August 3, and for the first three numbers ("Hard To Handle", "Beat It On Down The Line" and "High Heeled Sneakers") they are joined by flute and electric violin and later "Dark Star" they are joined by a tenor sax and electric violin. The archive notes list David LaFlamme on violin and Charles Lloyd on tenor, both of which seem like conventional choices. However, since there is flute on the first number and great tenor sax on "Dark Star", Lloyd seems like a pretty likely possibility. Lloyd probably lived in Los Angeles at the time, but its not so unlikely to think he would be in San Francisco (as opposed to Fresno).

There were so few electric violin players in San Francisco, or anywhere, that LaFlamme is a reasonable choice too. However, I wouldn't rule out Michael White as a possibility. White had pioneered electric violin playing in jazz with John Handy's mid-1960s group, based in San Francisco. By 1969, White was in the jazz rock group The Fourth Way, who were regulars at The New Orleans House rock club in Berkeley. In fact, The Fourth Way were scheduled at the New Orleans House on August 3, but that gig may have been earlier in the evening (bassist Ron McClure, formerly of Lloyd's quartet, was in The Fourth Way, so there were plenty of connections).

To my ears, the playing on "Dark Star" sounds more like White than LaFlamme to me, but we'll have to wait for some firmer evidence, as LaFlamme is still a plausible choice. The presence of the electric violin and tenor sax on this night make the "Dark Star" very different than most 1969 versions, and that is why I am inclined to think top-of-the-line players like Charles Lloyd and Michael White are participating. The version of "High Heeled Sneakers" is unique as well, with the electric violin triggering the song and a strange swinging tempo.

August 20, 1969 unnnamed bar, West 15th Street, Seattle, WA Grateful Dead

Many years ago Dennis McNally let me have a copy of his notes on Jerry Garcia's non-Dead appearances (which I still have somewhere). One interesting fact that I transcribed was his marking that the Grateful Dead and the New Riders of The Purple Sage were scheduled to play the Green Lake Aqua Theatre in Seattle, WA, on Wednesday August 20, but they were rained out, and so played the next day (August 21) instead. There are a number of interesting points from McNally's notes
  • The confusion of on the dating of the August 21 tape is made clear; the show was scheduled for August 20, but actually played the on August 21, accounting for the confusing dating on Bear's tape of the show (which he correctly identified as August 21).
  • The Aqua Theatre show seems to have been the first joint performance of the Dead and the New Riders, certainly the first "proof of concept" out of town performance
  • On the night of the 20th, the Dead, and possibly the Riders, played a bar on West 15th Street in Seattle. Update: the bar was apparently El Roach, at 5419 Ballard Avenue NW, in the suburb of Ballard (just Southwest of Seattle proper).
The last item is the most tantalizing. I love items like these. Somewhere this Christmas Eve, some old biker was saying "yeah, one Summer we were hanging out at the bar one rainy day, and the Grateful Dead rolled up and jammed all night, " and his grandkids rolled their eyes and said "Mom, Grandpa's had too much eggnog." This time, at least, Grandpa's memory may have been right.

There is not actually a West 15th Street in Seattle (the streets are on different axes), so I have to assume the unnamed bar was either around 15th Ave NW a few miles West of Green Lake or else on 15th Avenue, near Downtown and Seattle University, about 7 miles South. The bar must have had a stage and some facility for power, and thus certainly must have regularly presented music, so it couldn't be completely unknown. Any suggestions as to the mystery club are certainly welcome (update: El Roach was just 2.8 miles from the Aqua Theatre, not far from 15th Ave NW). 

Green Lake Aqua Theatre, Seattle, WA
The Aqua Theatre on Seattle's Green Lake was built in 1950 to accommodate a Water Ballet at the Seattle Summer Sea Fest. The stage of the Theatre was actually on the shores of Green Lake, with a huge reflecting pool in front of the stage. The arena initially seated about 5,200, later expanded to 5,582. Various visiting shows and musical performers appeared at the Aqua Theatre over the years. Some high profile events were scheduled there for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, but there were problems due to the unpredictable Summer Weather, and the venue fell out of favor with promoters. By the late 1960s it was somewhat of a white elephant for the city of Seattle, but it was still used sometimes by rock music promoters.

The most famous rock show at the Aqua Theatre was on May 11, 1969, when Led Zeppelin performed there (with Three Dog Night as the opening act). Led Zeppelin sites have some great photos of the venue and recollections of the concert. This photo in particular gives an interesting perspective on bands performing at this unique venue (note how relatively little equipment Led Zeppelin had in 1969).

The Grateful Dead performance on August 21, 1969 apparently caused some concern about the grandstands. They were inspected, and structural flaws were found that caused the venue to be closed, making the Grateful Dead performance the last concert at the venue (whatever Led Zeppelin had not destroyed, the Dead seemed to have finished off). The venue was torn down in 1970. Parts of the grandstand still remain, and a historic marker identifies the site at 5900 W. Green Lake Way N.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

August 5, 1966 English Bay Beach Bandstand, Vancouver, BC Grateful Dead (first free concert)

(The Bob Masse poster for the Grateful Dead's performance at the Pender Auditorium in Vancouver. H/t Ross for the scan)

Free outdoor concerts are an essential part of the story of the Grateful Dead and San Francisco rock. Part of the international fascination with the San Francisco music scene in 1967 was the idea that popular bands simply played for free in a  public park, and anyone who wanted to could come hear them. They weren't scheduled events, they just happened, because the musicians felt like playing. Such an idea was unprecedented in popular culture, and it had enormous ramifications. The Human Be-In of January 14, 1967 was picked up by the National TV networks, presaging the Summer of Love. By Spring there had been Be-Ins of different sorts around the country, and through 1968 at least, when the Grateful Dead or the Jefferson Airplane played a new city, they played somewhere for free in a public park.

Up until the Summer Of Love, making money in the Entertainment industry had been about reducing access, not granting it. Touring performers--whether 19th century opera singers, early 20th century vaudeville performers or late 20th century singers--made sure that their public performances were a rare and exclusive commodity. Musicians were initially nervous about the radio until they discovered that radio airplay increased audiences for public appearances, but of course a 2-minute recording was hardly an entire concert. As Television rose up in the 1950s, musicians and their managers rapidly figured out that TV appearances would increase ticket sales, but it too was a limited medium. As far as live appearances went, it was considered strategically important to make each show a special event, so that people would pay for the privilege. Playing for free was for unknowns, has-beens or the desperate.

In 1966 and 67, The Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and other San Francisco bands were all headlining at the Fillmore and The Avalon. Their recording careers were just starting, but they were already stars around town, making a modest hippie living by headlining the local dance halls. It defied all business knowledge to simply play in the park for free. Ironically, however, the Dead and other bands' willingness to play for free evinced a confidence that the more you heard them, the more you would want to, to the point where you would pay for the privilege. In that respect, the Grateful Dead anticipated Internet marketing before the Internet was even invented.

It is particularly ironic then that the first free Grateful Dead performance in a public park actually took place not in San Francisco but in Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, August 5, 1966. The first Grateful Dead performance in the Panhandle, just East of Golden Gate Park and in the center of Haight Ashbury, did not take place until October 6, 1966. I am aware that there are various assertions (such as on Deadlists) that the Dead played for free in San Francisco in the Summer of 1966, but that is sadly wishful.

In fact, the Dead did not even live in San Francisco until around September of 1966. After they had moved from Palo Alto to Los Angeles in February of 1966, putting on Acid Tests with Owsley and the Pranksters, they returned not to San Francisco but Marin. They lived at Rancho Olampali, where many famous (and well-photographed) bacchanals took place, and then spent several weeks at a disused Summer camp in Western Marin. The band did not fully relocate to 710 Ashbury until September, so the chances of playing casually in San Francisco prior to that are fairly unlikely.

The Vancouver Trips Festival
The Grateful Dead and Big Brother and The Holding Company were invited to perform at the Vancouver Trips Festival from July 29 to 31, 1966. This event kicked off psychedelia in earnest in Vancouver. Vancouver, British Columbia, a free thinking seaport with balmy weather, had a very interesting music and arts scene in the 1960s. One of the peculiar characteristics of Canadian hippiedom, however, was that it had very little political strife attached to it, as Canada was neither involved in a ruinous war in Southeast Asia nor had a history of oppressing black people. As a result, though Vancouver hippies were no less enthusiastic than anyone else on the West Coast, the scene was more about music and the arts, with considerably less of the "Us vs Them" confrontation between straights and squares that characterized America in the 60s.

Vancouver promoter Jerry Kruz had a club called The Afterthought, which was putting on shows at the Pender Auditorium (at 399 Pender). He invited the Grateful Dead to stick around Vancouver and play a show on Friday, August 5, for which the above Bob Masse poster was made. Opening the show was a band of hip high school students, the United Empire Loyalists. Up until a few weeks earlier, they had called themselves The Molesters, as a cheeky joke, but Kruz told that they needed a more reasonable name if they expected it to be on rock posters around town, so they adopted the name of Americans who had resettled in Canada after the Revolutionary War. The Vancouver teenagers found themselves as the hosts of the Grateful Dead between Sunday's Trips Festival event and Friday's concert.

The band's website picks up the story from here, from drummer Richard Cruickshank:
However, between the Sunday and the Friday The Dead needed at least one practise; and unbeknownst to Richard's parents who were away on vacation, that practise ended up chez Cruickshank. The one problem lay in the location of the Cruickshank residence being in staid, upper middle-class West Vancouver: "Picture this: nobody'd seen people with hair that long - people with shoulder-length hair. Nobody here had hair that long!" remembers Richard.

Jeff [Ridley, the guitarist] also recalls: "So we all paraded into Dick's parents' place with The Grateful Dead and their hippie entourage and all the neighbours peering out from behind their curtains!"

"This was an upper middle-class neighbourhood of dentists and businessmen and retired people, and nobody could believe this was happening!" continues Richard, "They rehearsed on our equipment, and the neighbours could hear it. They made our equipment sound good too! As a sixteen year-old, you tend to think that you'll sound good when you can afford better gear. But there was not a single problem; the only damage that was caused was by me: I left a cigarette in an ashtray which burned a hole in the top of my parents' stereo cabinet. And all our food went missing - the fridge was empty, but at least it was clean! They were the nicest people as I remember them, really sweet guys. Very good people." Naturally, after the practise extended well into the evening and eventually turned into a party, a neighbour did call the police and shut the festivities down.

Then comes the interesting part. By Friday, the Loyalists are driving around Vancouver in the band's van, when serendipity strikes. Ridley:

"They wanted to do some publicity for the gig they were playing that night so they were driving around Vancouver and saw the bandstand at English Bay. Without getting any permission, they decided they'd play there; they set up and were promptly shut down by the police. Everywhere they went they got shut down! Another time they were planning on playing Kits Beach on a flatbed truck which was all set up for that and we opened up. But by the time we finished out set the cops had already arrived and shut the whole thing down and again they didn't play."

Stanley Park is a huge bayside park on the water, and English Bay is on the Western edge of the city. There appear to be a number of bandstands on the English Bay side of Stanley Park, which may have been revised considerably over the decades, so I will leave it to British Columbians (past or present) to attempt to parse the exact location of the performances. Rock Scully recounts another version of the story, from the Dead's point of view, and I have read another interview with a Loyalist that recaps the stories as well.

The essence of it seems to have been that the Dead simply pulled up to a stage in Vancouver's largest public park, set up quickly and began to play. After a few numbers the police came along and shut it down, since the Dead had no permission whatsoever. Since it was Vancouver and not America, however, while the cops can hardly have been pleased, there was no harassment or hostility as there would have been with American police. So the Dead of course simply followed the teenagers directions to another bandstand and pulled the stunt again, until the cops came, and then again (at Kits Beach), this time letting the Loyalists play a number before the police stepped in.


By the time of Friday night's show at the Auditorium, there must have been some kind of buzz around town, since the gig seems to have gone off well. By the time the Grateful Dead return to California and migrate into San Francisco (once Rock Scully and Danny Rifkin have found room for them at 710 Ashbury), the Dead adopt the San Francisco version of the Vancouver trip. Starting with the Panhandle show on the day LSD was made illegal in California (October 6, 1966), the Dead and then other groups made a regular habit of appearing in the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park without even beginning to ask for permission. Similar events started to occur in Berkeley, in Provo Park, and bands rapidly figured out that without an album there was no better way to get heard. The implicit confidence that the more you heard a band the more you would want to hear of them evoked the idea that San Francisco rock bands were making Art, not just disposable entertainment.

The Grateful Dead's final free concert was November 3, 1991 at the Polo Grounds, in a memorial to Bill Graham.

The Afterthought moved from Pender Auditorium to the Kitsilano Theatre at 2214 West 4th. It closed by 1969, but it was fondly remembered (along with the Retinal Circus) from the golden age of Vancouver psychedelia.

The United Empire Loyalists, after having spent a day racing around Vancouver playing guerilla shows with The Grateful Dead, decide that its a rock and rollers life for them and become one of Vancouver's leading underground bands. They were a popular and successful band in Vancouver, although save for one single they did not release an album while they were still together, because Vancouver wasn't a big enough market. The band managed to have some remarkable adventures, including opening for Cream and nearly becoming Country Joe McDonald's backing band (too long a saga to explain here), but the group started to split up by 1969, and completely ended in 1970. Fortunately, however, a 1998 cd of demos and live performances gives a good idea of their sound.

Afterthought on The Afterthought
Existing lists of Grateful Dead concerts show the band playing the Afterthought (at Pender Auditorium) in Vancouver on Friday and Saturday, August 5 and 6, 1966. In fact, the poster (above) does not support that--it clearly states the band as playing only August 5. Initially, I thought that there may have been no gig on Saturday, August 6, but apparently the Bob Masse poster is commemorative, so the Dead very well could have played Saturday night as well.

The next Grateful Dead gig was Sunday August 7 at the Fillmore, which doesn't answer the question either way.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sound Storm, York Farm, Poynette, WI April 26, 1970 Grateful Dead/others

The Grateful Dead are intimately connected to the history of outdoor rock festivals. The Dead's first free outdoor performance was actually in Stanley Park in Vancouver on August 5, 1966. The then-underground Grateful Dead needed a way to publicize their shows in Vancouver, so they spent the day with a flatbed truck, playing hit and run songs in the park, guided by the teenagers in the opening band (The United Empire Loyalists), playing a few numbers before the local cops chased them away. This strategy caught on in San Francisco, but the expensive and popular nature of rock music forced outdoor rock festivals to turn into more commercial events.

The first rock festival on a field on private property was certainly the "Piano Drop" on Van Over Farm in Duvall, WA on April 28, 1968, featuring Country Joe and The Fish and a piano dropped from a helicopter. This was followed up by the three day Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Air Fair on an organic raspberry farm in Sultan, WA. From August 31 through September 2, dozens of California, Oregon and Washington bands, along with a few out-of-towners (like Pink Floyd) kept the music going for three straight days over Labor Day weekend. The Dead heard about the fun Friday night and flew up to join in, playing Monday (Sep 2).

The Woodstock and Altamont Festivals in 1969 are the most famous Rock Festivals, since there were popular movies made of both of them. While those two events are rightly famous, the fact is there were attempts to hold large outdoor rock festivals all over the country in 1969 and 1970, so every region had their own "Woodstock"(good) or "Altamont" (bad). Almost all rock fans of a certain age those two Summers either attended a giant outdoor festival, tried to attend one, were not allowed to (by parents or the military) or refused to join their friends in attending one. While not every rock festival had a movie or an album, the experiences were just as memorable--good or bad--for the thousands of people who attended each one.

By 1969, the Grateful Dead were legendary, but not particularly successful. They had various financial problems, and substantial debts to Warner Bros (incurred in recording Aoxomoxoa) insured that album royalties would be close to non-existent. This left the band little choice but to make money as a touring outfit, but fortunately they loved to play. Jerry Garcia has commented various times that he saw the Dead as carrying on the Prankster tradition, bringing psychedelic consciousness to places it hadn't been yet. Some rock festivals had substantial backers (like the ones at Woodstock, Texas or Louisiana in  Summer 1969), so they were able to book a slew of well-known bands. Yet many other rock festivals were the hopes and dreams of some inspired locals, and regular touring acts were considerably less likely to take a chance on a long journey into the countryside with an inexperienced promoter, risking no payday and worse.

The Sound Storm, held at the York Farm in Poynette, WI from April 24-16, 1970 was one such festival. The vision of local promoter Peter Obranovich, it was a determined effort to bring a hippie rock festival to Wisconsin. Tiny Poynette was just 30 miles North of Madison, and 100 miles West of Milwuakee, but 79-year old Irene York heard about the promoters efforts to find a venue, and offered her family farm. The town was in an uproar, but there was little they could do legally to stop the event, as it was held on private property.

Although Obranovich and his partners in Golden Freak Enterprises had never put on a rock festival, since almost nobody had, he wasn't completely naive. He had spent time in San Francisco, Oregon and Washington, had visited Ken Kesey's farm and had helped the Grateful Dead move equipment when they played the Northwest. There were a number of rock festivals in Oregon and Washington in 1968 and 1969, so he seems to have had some idea of what he was attempting. The sound equipment was hired from the Kinetic Playground in Chicago, and money was raised by selling concessions for food and drink in advance.

Since Obranovich knew the Grateful Dead, he was able to hire the band to headline the Festival. There were numerous bands on the bill, but they were all local bands, with a few regional acts from Chicago, like Rotary Connection, Mason Profitt and Illinois Speed Press (which I have commented on here). Obranovich was friendly with Jerry Garcia, so the Grateful Dead agreed to play for $9,500, which was well within the promoter's budget. The Dead were playing Friday and Saturday night at the Mammoth Gardens in Denver, so the extra Sunday gig fit in nicely with their touring schedule.

With the Grateful Dead as headliner, with their Fillmore-and-Woodstock pedigree, the show had the indelible stamp of a real rock festival, not just some local fun in the sun. The town was frantic, of course, since the Dead were seen as the harbingers of doom, bringing bikers, drugs and loose morals to the hitherto peaceful Wisconsin countryside. Sound Storm had little national impact, but it was the biggest event in Wisconsin rock history up to that point (and perhaps after), and although the event was well off the radar for most folks, Sound Storm was an event of great importance to that state.

Over the course of the weekend, about 30,000 people seem to have showed up. That wasn't large by big city or Woodstock standards, but it was the largest event that rural county had ever seen. The weather was perfect, the police took an appropriately hands off attitude, there was enough food and supplies, and the music went on around the clock. While there seem to have been plenty of drugs, they appear to have been the sort that make people relax, and there were few arrests. Local shopkeepers appreciated the fact that almost every single item in their stores was purchased. The AP Wire story (from a Wisconsin paper, the Stevens Point Daily Journal) anxiously reported in Saturday's edition (April 25, 1970) that everything seemed manageable, but the air of expectation hangs over the article. Up until this point, it was just sort of a regional event--what would happen when the headliners made their appearance, if in fact they did?
After flying in from Denver, The Grateful Dead arrived in Wisconsin and were driven to the site in a station wagon. The Dead began their set at about 2:30 pm on Sunday, April 26 on a bright, sunny day with the temperature in the 70s. The Dead were only contractually obligated for a 50-minute set, but the tour was just beginning, the band was feeling good and everything was flowing, so instead they played three sets until 7:30 pm. Memories were frazzled by events, but everyone recalls a fantastic performance and to begin the third set, Phil Lesh announced "we're going to do a Sunset Raga," and the band launched into "Dark Star."

The Dead had a reputation for blowing the big ones, like Woodstock or New Year's Eve. They also had a reputation for delivering a knockout blow in the unlikeliest of locations, like a gymnasium in Binghamton, NY just a few weeks later (or a deserted sports arena in Fresno in 1978). The hippies who organized and attended Sound Storm had the Grateful Dead as headliners because they were an integral part of the 60s rock explosion and everything associated with it. By all accounts, this was one of the winners: hippies who had driven a long way, and camped out, and put up with all sorts of things just to see a big-time headliner got a show for the ages, hours and hours of jamming on a perfect Spring day, reminding everyone how transporting great live rock music could be.

Sound Storm and the weekend at the York Farm in Poynette, WI seemed destined to remain a fond yet fuzzily recalled rumor, one of those events that may or may not have occurred in the manner in which it is recalled. Remarkably, however, esteemed historian Michael Edmonds has researched the history of Sound Storm in extraordinary detail, and the story will be told in the March 2010 issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History. Even more remarkably, Edmonds discovered numerous unpublished photos of the Grateful Dead and other bands.

Unfortunately, according to Edmonds, as the concert wound down the tired organizers lost track of most of their gate receipts and also the tape of the concert. Sound Storm was the pinnacle of Wisconsin 60s hippiedom, but it ended in a financial bath for Golden Freak Enterprises. Nonetheless, photos turned up after all these years, so maybe a tape will too. And here's to hoping that there's missing treasure trove like this one for The Bullfrog Festival (August 23, 1969, Helens, OR) or Reed's Ranch (July 3, 1969, Colorado Springs, CO).

(thanks to Michael Edmonds for explaining what really happened--look for a great article in the March 2010 Wisconsin Magazine of History. For more information about the other bands at Sound Storm, see here).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

October 26, 1966 North Face Ski Shop, Broadway, San Francisco Grateful Dead

The North Face Ski Shop was a hip boutique on Broadway in North Beach, right next to Carol Doda and The Condor. The North Face pioneered expensive sports wear as everyday wear for the active groovy person, like Eddie Bauer or Esprit. In fact, the founders of The North Face, Doug and Susie Tompkins, went on to found Esprit, which they sold in 1990 for a substantial amount of money. Initially a mail order company, they opened stores in North Beach and Stanford Shopping Center in 1966, showing their uncanny knack for anticipating markets.

At the North Beach store, the Grateful Dead apparently played, along with a fashion show featuring Joan Baez and Mimi Farina. I assume they just played a few numbers. It was a Wednesday, and while North Beach was pretty raucous they probably had some informal limit on how long they could make noise in a non-approved venue. Nonetheless, the mixture of cool fashion for young people and cool bands for young people is a winner which gets you into the Society Pages. Here is a photo of the event from the October 31, 1966 San Francisco Chronicle, which features Mrs. George Fox, "Pigpen" of the Grateful Dead, Mrs. Doug Tompkins and Peggy Knickerbocker. Mr. Pen does not seem to be wearing North Face apparel, but he seems to be enjoying himself, sort of.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

February 5, 1967 Fillmore Auditorium Grateful Dead (possible)

I don't think its that likely that the Grateful Dead played the Fillmore on Sunday,  February 5, 1967, but its possible, and I am posting this in particular to show that there is no explicit reason to insist they didn't play the Fillmore on Sunday night. The paragraph above is from the Ad Libs section of Ralph Gleason's column from the Friday, February 3, 1967 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. Gleason is referring to the Sunday night show of a three-day stand at the Fillmore featuring Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Dino Valenti. Most Sunday Fillmore shows in this era were afternoon shows or benefits, and this one seems to have been both. The very connected Gleason says
Sunday the Fillmore runs from 2pm until 10pm with the regular weekend cast of Dino Valente, the Jefferson Airplane and the Quicksilver Messenger Service. In addition (as this is a benefit for the U.S. Strike Committee), there'll be special lights by Head Lights and Dan Burns, costumes and appearances by the New Delhi River Band, the Loading Zone, Country Joe and The Fish, the Grateful Dead if they're back from their recording in L.A. and others.
The implicit reaction to this information--it was mine, certainly--was "the Dead didn't play, because they probably weren't done recording." But we have absolutely no evidence one way or the other. Maybe the Dead did play--as you'll see, its hardly beyond the realm of possibility.

The February 3-4-5 Fillmore shows are known from their posters. It is my understanding that there was a separate poster (or flyer) for the February 5 benefit, which has led to confusion about the February 5 gig as a whole. Gleason's comment seems to confirm that the regular bill (Airplane/Quicksilver/Valenti) had merged with the benefit. Perhaps there had been an idea that the main bands would play in the afternoon and the benefit would be at night, but for whatever reasons they seem to have become one show.

The Quicksilver and Airplane performances are known from tapes at Wolfgang's Vault, which are remarkable documents in their own right. However, since Wolfgang's Vault has the dates wrong (they list the shows as February 4-5-6 when they are February 3-4-5) it is safe to assume that their staff has little more information than what was written on tape boxes, so no conclusions can be drawn from those tapes (other than that Quicksilver was a hell of a band even back then). It does appear that the show listed as February 6, 1967 must actually be February 5.

The truth is, I don't know of any review of the February 5, 1967 show at the Fillmore, or any web account of the show, or any other record not based on reading the poster and listening to poorly dated tapes. It was a benefit, and since no one was getting paid, anyone could have shown up or not, with little consequence. What if the Dead turned up at 9:00pm and plugged in and played a set? What if Jerry Garcia sat in with Country Joe and The Fish? All of our information is assumed, and Gleason was a lot more connected than we are. The Dead were at least planning to show up--did they?

Its a well known story that the Dead were given a certain budget to record their first album in five days, and told that if they finished early, they would get cash, so its unlikely their recording in Los Angeles ran overtime. If nothing else, since their last known show was January 29, 1967 at the Avalon, it pretty firmly locks in the recording date for the Dead's first album (deaddisc.com take note). But if the Dead got it done in 5 days, as the legend goes, with cash on the barrelhead to boot, why couldn't they be back at the Fillmore by Sunday night? Is there a review that proves otherwise?

The one person who might recall the answer to this question would be David Nelson. His New Delhi River Band were Palo Alto's finest, and they were a big deal in the South Bay (at The Barn and elsewhere), but they never made many waves in San Francisco despite their efforts. To my knowledge, this was New Delhi River Band's only Fillmore appearance, and I'll bet Nelson remembers if his old pal Garcia and his band showed up.

What do we know?
  • The Grateful Dead hoped to perform at the Fillmore on Sunday, February 5, 1967 if they were finished recording in Los Angeles
  • The Dead have repeated many times the story that they rushed the recording of their first album because it was in their financial interests to do so
  • No unmediated review or eyewitness account of the February 5 Fillmore show has surfaced, and anyone might have played
Of course, the fact that the Grateful Dead wanted to play and weren't booked doesn't mean they played--someone could have been sick, there could have been transit issues or any other number of problems. But all the evidence "against" the Grateful Dead performing has so far been based on pre-conceived notions that stem from posters and tapes, not any concrete evidence in the face of their stated intentions. While I'm hardly ready to put February 5, 1967 on the list of confirmed Dead shows, I'm now interested in at least considering the possibility.

September 16, 1967 Convention Center Rotunda, Las Vegas, NV Grateful Dead (speculation)

A fellow scholar recently observed that the career chronology on Tom Constanten's website indicates that TC's first live performance with the Grateful Dead was at the Las Vegas Convention Center Rotunda in September, 1967. Although this performance does not appear in any known Grateful Dead performance list (to my knowledge), I suspect that Constanten's memory was pretty likely to be accurate. At the time, Constanten was in the Air Force, stationed in the desert somewhere, but he had lived in Las Vegas before. If Tom's old pal Phil Lesh and his band showed up in Vegas on a day when Airman Tom could get leave, he wasn't going to miss it. As such, it must have been pretty memorable, considering that Constanten went on to help record Anthem Of The Sun and then joined the Dead for about 16 months (November 23, 1968>January 26, 1970).

Taking Constanten's memory as a given, I have been looking into the exact day in September when the Grateful Dead's show at the Las Vegas Convention Center may have taken place. The Las Vegas Convention Center, at 3150 Paradise Road, was opened in 1959. Its main hall was a giant rotunda that had seats for 6,300. By the standards of the 1960s, a 6,300 seat auditorium was a very substantial venue. It thus follows that the Dead would have been playing Las Vegas on a Friday or Saturday night, as back in 1967 there were few weeknight gigs out of town. Most bands tried to fill up their gig sheet on weekends, using the weekdays for rehearsal and the occasional local gig or benefit. A brief review of their September 1967 weekend evening gigs on Deadlists reveals the following

Friday, Sep 2: Cabrillo College, Aptos, CA 
Saturday, Sep 3: Dance Hall, Rio Nido, CA
Friday, Sep 8: Eagles Auditorium, Seattle, WA
Saturday, Sep 9: Eagles Auditorium, Seattle, WA
Friday, Sep 15: Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, Sep 16: none
Friday, Sep 22: Family Dog, Denver, CO
Saturday, Sep 23: Family Dog, Denver, CO
Friday, Sep 29: Straight Theater, San Francisco, CA
Saturday, Sep 30: Straight Theater, San Francisco, CA

It seems pretty clear that the most likely date for a Vegas show was Saturday, September 16. With that in mind, let's consider the rest of the weekend. Friday, September 15 was a show at the outdoor Hollywood Bowl (2301 North Highland), a huge venue with a capacity of 17, 376. This Bill Graham promoted event had the title "Bill Graham Presents The San Francisco Scene." The triple bill was headlined by Jefferson Airplane, far and away San Francisco's biggest band, with two smash hit singles, with the Dead and then Big Brother opening the show, and the Airplane's Glen McKay providing the light show.

Given that the Dead and the Airplane were playing a big show on Friday night, and the fact that Las Vegas is just 4 hours from Los Angeles by car (traffic permitting of course), a Saturday night encore in Vegas for the San Francisco scene seems pretty plausible. Certainly in Fall 1967 the Dead, with just one poorly selling album, would not be able to headline a 6300-seat arena in Las Vegas, where they had never played, but with the Airplane heading the show, it suddenly seems very plausible. Most shows from the 60s are known through their posters, and if there was no poster for this show, or no attractive, collectible poster, its not at all surprising it dropped off the radar.

Dead.net does indicate a show on September 16, 1967, but it lists a free concert at Griffith Park  in Los Angeles with Jefferson Airplane. This seems as likely to strengthen my argument as not. If the Dead and the Airplane were on their way to Vegas, why not play a free concert in Los Angeles? Free concerts in Griffith Park were comparatively common, and since (as we know) it never rains in Southern California, a free concert would have been a good way to attract some attention and have some fun. I find it highly unlikely that the Airplane and the Dead had an early curtain in Las Vegas, so that left plenty of time to play Griffith Park and head Northwest on I-15 towards the Convention Center. A look at the best available Jefferson Airplane concert chronology at least reveals no conflicting Airplane performance on September 16.

As for Big Brother, a look at the definitive Big Brother performance history shows that on the afternoon of Saturday, September 16, 1967, they were playing on the afternoon blues program of the Monterey Jazz Festival. Since Big Brother had to hurry back to Monterey, that explains why they did not play the free concert in Griffith Park. Although I have not checked the jazz festival schedule for that year, the blues session was usually confined to the afternoon, so it does not absolutely rule out Big Brother joining the Dead and the Airplane for the repeat performance in Vegas.

What are we left with:
  • Tom Constanten clearly recalls the venue and month he first played with the Dead
  • The venue was a big one, and it was likely to be used only for a weekend gig
  • The only weekend night in September 67 where the Dead are "free" was September 16
  • The Dead, Airplane and Big Brother played Hollywood Bowl on September 15
  • The Dead and Airplane played Griffith Park on the afternoon of September 16
  • The Dead would need the Airplane to headline at Las Vegas Convention Center
If you find this series of enthymemes (strictly speaking a ratiocinatio) plausible, then a Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead gig at the Las Vegas Convention Center Rotunda on Saturday, September 16, 1967 seems like a likely proposition.

Friday, December 18, 2009

May 17, 1970 Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT

Due to a discussion on Deadlists, I have gotten interested in the May 17, 1970 Fairfield show.   Fairfield University, a Jesuit school founded in 1942 in the town of the same name, has a fine academic reputation despite its recent vintage. Fairfield, CT is midway between White Plains and New Haven, just within commuting range of New York City.

Someone who currently lives in Fairfield wrote in to Deadlists, frustrated that there seems to be no information about the show, so I poked around and I, too could find out absolutely nothing. I did find out one interesting thing, however: The Doors were supposed to play on May 9, 1970 and the show was canceled on May 8. According to Greg Shaw in his fine chronology The Doors On The Road:
This much anticipated show was purportedly canceled due to a management dispute over the audience capacity, but the campus newspaper's front-page headlines announced that the concert had been canceled after an emergency meeting of the board of trustees to prevent The Doors from appearing at the upcoming gig.Following that session the board issued a statement:

"It is not in the best interests of the Fairfield community to have as its star attraction at spring weekend a person such as Mr. James Douglas Morrison."

The statement went on to warn that "undesirable and immoral elements might infiltrate the campus under the guise of watching the concert." The cancellation created enough of an uproar to warrant coverage by the New York Times when approximately half of the student body protested with a boycott and called for the resignation of the university's president. After the uproar, refund were given for all returned tickets sold and the event silently became another chapter in Doors history.

There's two ways to look at this. The first is that the University was afraid of a campus riot if they canceled the Grateful Dead, too--no joke in the wake of Kent State just a few weeks earlier. The other is that if a school found Jim Morrison and The Doors might attract "undesirable and immoral elements," it doesn't seem that likely that they would say "however, a band with a lead singer named Pigpen and his Hell's Angels friends are still always welcome."

There are a few other things to consider:
  • the show was at the end of a tour, and its always easiest to cancel the last day of a tour
  • Fairfield University was about to admit women in Fall 1970, and the college may have been extraordinarily conscious of how they appeared to parents
  • The Grateful Dead had played two shows at the Fillmore East on Friday May 15, 1970, and Fairfield is only about 60 miles from Greenwich Village
I actually think the last point may be the most relevant. Although the Dead played a rock festival in Philadelphia on Saturday, May 16, the Philadelphia and New York markets were distinctly different. Southern Connecticut, however, would probably have been perceived by Bill Graham (rightly or wrongly) as his turf, and he may have objected to a show being promoted that would discourage people from coming to Manhattan for a Friday show if they could just stay in New England.

Assuming the show wasn't canceled outright, it may be that the show was simply not publicized, thus placating Graham--it may have been a condition of a Fillmore East contract--and making it very difficult for historians to determine much about the show. A few years earlier it had been possible to have "stealth" shows on a University campus, booking the Dead under a false or vague name, and spreading the news through word of mouth. This appears to have been done at SUNY Stony Brook on June 3, 1967, for example (see this comment thread). By 1970, however, even Jesuit Administrators had heard of the Grateful Dead, and FM radio would rapidly spread the word, so a stealth or free concert was pretty unlikely on the East Coast on 1970, particularly if Bill Graham's wrath might be incurred.

A more plausible explanation, given the date, was that the performance was a University sponsored event, like the Senior Prom, and it was not open to outsiders. This is not as far-fetched as it might sound. Often these events had substantial budgets, and/or wealthy benefactors (such as if the children of wealthy alums were graduating), and were held in a large venue. On October 16, 1970, Drexel University in Philadelphia rented Irvine Auditorium at U-Penn (nearby) for their Homecoming Dance  and hired the Grateful Dead. In that case, every other row was reserved for Drexel students and their dates, many of whom were not expecting what they got (this was written up in Deadbase IX by Zea Sonnabend, who attended). Clearly some hippies got their hands on the Drexel Homecoming budget, went through an agency and got an empty space on the Dead's schedule.

Given that May 17 was probably the end of the semester, or near it, a big blowout event on or near campus for graduation seems pretty plausible. Many University events are closed to outsiders, so the show may not have been advertised at all. Certainly, after the Doors debacle, whichever students had helped recruit the Dead must have known to keep their heads down if they wanted the concert to go on.

All my reasoning about the Dead playing Fairfield or not, under various scenarios, still proves nothing one way or another. Until someone can definitively say they attended, or explain why or how the concert was planned and then canceled, this will remain another unconfirmed mystery on the list of Grateful Dead performances.

Update: A commenter who attended Fairfield University somewhat later says that school lore holds that the Grateful Dead played an off-campus event called "The Clam Jam." The Clam Jam was an annual beach party (also called "The Luau") held on the beach at Long Island Sound, not far from campus and where many students lived in rental housing. This fits several scenarios: the event would have been advertised as the Clam Jam (or Luau),  not a Grateful Dead concert, fulfilling the Fillmore East contract and holding off suspicious University administrators (while it may not have been a campus event per se, a hostile University never helps). Whatever the exact financing of the Clam Jam, there may have been some money available to pay the Dead to make it worth their while to stick around an extra day.

The Clam Jam and Luau were quite large events that attracted young people from far away. As the town of Fairfield Beach has become more residential (rather than seasonal) over the years, the events have been curtailed.

Update2: Commenter and ace researcher Tony found a mention of this show in the Bridgeport paper. It was supposed to be a rock festival featuring the Dead, Chicago, Butterfield Blues Band and some local groups. He tracked down someone from one of the local groups who recalled it being canceled. That explains both why the contract existed (the source of the list in the first place) and why we could find no record of it. If there was a Clam Jam show, perhaps it was some other time.

Plans for part-pedestrianisation of Greenwich town centre

Plans for part-pedestrianisation of Greenwich town centre are bound to have a knock-on effect on people living in Deptford, so it is worth taking the time to read the proposals on the council's website and register your comments.

There is also an exhibition of the proposals at Devonport House in Greenwich this Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 8pm, with traffic engineers in attendance to answer any questions you may wish to raise.

A description of the proposals and the opportunity to download detailed information can be found here. To call it a 'car-free scheme' is rather optimistic and even somewhat scaremongery - the only bits that would be car free would be College Approach and King William Walk. What the council wants to know is what you think should happen to the traffic if these closures are implemented.

One of the options is to create a new one-way system incorporating Norman Road, which would have implications for local drivers if Creek Road and Greenwich High Road also became one-way streets. It would also have implications for the cycle route and pedestrian route between Deptford and Greenwich which crossed Ha'penny Hatch footbridge and leads into Straightsmouth.

Piling at Tidemill School

You might have been wondering what was going on at the site of the new Tidemill School this morning with this strange looking machine - in fact it is the start of installation of the foundations for the building. This machine is used to put piles into the ground before the building can be built.

Piles are effectively underground columns which are used to support buildings, bridges and other civil engineering structures. They stop the building from sinking into the soil, which would otherwise compact with construction of something heavy on top of it. The piles usually extend quite a long way into the ground, right down as far as the bedrock, so that they will bear the weight of the building.

The machine you see here is being used to install what are known as 'continuous flight augur' piles. It's the quietest and most vibration-free method of installing piles, which is why it is usually used in urban areas.

The big 'corkscrew' or augur is driven into the ground to the required depth, and the soil comes up to the surface by the action of the screw. As the augur is removed, concrete is pumped into the bottom of the hole through a void in the shaft of the augur to fill the hole. If you tried to take the augur out before putting the concrete in, the hole would simply collapse because of the ground pressure around it. Once the hole is full of concrete and the augur has been removed, a reinforcement cage is lowered into the hole, to complete the structural system of the pile.

The piling contractor is Miller Piling - you can find more information about the CFA system and this type of machine on their website.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

June 1, 1967 Tompkins Square Park, New York, NY Grateful Dead (free concert)

The Grateful Dead's first Eastern tour began with an eleven-day booking at the Cafe Au Go Go, a nightclub in Greenwich Village on 152 Bleecker Street. The Au Go Go was a small (400 capacity) place with low ceilings, not an ideal venue for the band, but the Dead were unheard legends from the West, and the Village was where it was all happening.

Interestingly, however, thanks to careful research by an esteemed scholar, it appears that the Dead's first appearance in New York City was actually at Tompkins Square Park, on Thursday June 1. I have seen allusions to the Dead's performance in Tompkins Square Park, but until now I have not had it pinned down. However (h/t Psychlops), a careful review of the June 8, 1967 Village Voice, in a lengthy story about police hassling hippies and free concerts in the city, reveals this paragraph:
June began on Thursday, and the Grateful Dead were in town, and, despite some rumble rumors from the Puerto Ricans, the prospects for peace looked promising.  A happy, scruffy parade of 80 marched down St. Mark's Place, complete with police escort, to present the Dead with a white carnation key to the East Village, graciously accepted by Pigpen. And the Tompkins Square bandshell rocked with San Francisco glory until a noise complaint was lodged in the late afternoon. Rather than tune down, the Dead turned off.
The link to the article is here--see page 21.

When the Dead had played Vancouver in July and August of 1966, underground legends but with no records to their name, they had hit on the idea of playing for free in a public park to publicize their performances. The performances in Stanley Park in Vancouver actually preceded any free shows in the Panhandle, and as the Dead started to tour they used free shows in public parks to attract publicity. It seems to have worked in this case, and it would work again when the Dead played Toronto and Montreal a few months later.

Tompkins Square Park is a relatively small public park in the East Village, bounded by East 10th Street, Avenue A, East 7th Street and Avenue B. A look at the entertainment section of the Village Voice shows what a happening place it was: the Grateful Dead were playing the Cafe Au Go Go, supported by Toronto's coolest band, Luke And The Apostles. Moby Grape was at The Scene, and The Doors were booked for the following week. Wes Montgomery was at the Village Vanguard, andthe Roy Haynes Quartet was at Slug's, although as always, Slug's on Monday night, Sun Ra held court. Upstairs from the Cafe Au Go Go was The Garrick Theater, and the featured act that Summer was Frank Zappa and The Mothers, with their show "Absolutely Free" (which was not, in fact, free, as at least one visitor from New Jersey discovered). Zappa, of course, was famous for not letting his band smoke pot, a prohibition that was very difficult to enforce with the Grateful Dead performing in the basement. According to Rock Scully, members of the Mothers told the Dead that if Zappa caught them smoking pot, they would be punished with more rehearsal.

So although the Dead were underground legends, the 1967 Village was a happening place indeed, so its not surprising that the Dead had to put themselves out there to make sure that rock fans chose them over the numerous other excellent choices.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Lucky Strike"=Jerry Garcia--Not

I had a delicious theory, namely that whenever the Keystone Berkeley advertised the band Lucky Strike it was code for Jerry Garcia. My evidence was that Lucky Strike was advertised both for New Year's Eve 1974 and 1975, and both times Jerry Garcia was in fact the featured the performer. I found another show as well (May 13, 1975) that appeared to fit the profile.

An awesome theory, but apparently not the case. A loyal Commenter gives me the sad but accurate news
Hate to ruin a good theory, but unless Kathie Staska and George Mangrum were *really* into promoting the ruse, it doesn't seem like it holds up. Check out the "Rock Talk from KG" column in, e.g., the Fremont Argus from 1/24/75.

"Lucky Strike is the best East Bay band that is not yet on a record label. A very easy band to get behind. They are a very together clear sounding group of six young men that play danceable rock. When they play clubs in your area Lucky Strike is a must to see and hear. They play their own material and it is excellent."

I have been poking around this and the theory really *almost* works. There are many "Lucky Strike" dates that could plausibly be Garcia dates. There are many that couldn't (e.g., November 8, 1974), but maybe Merl and Martin and them would just jam without Jerry. But the above --and evidence that Lucky Strike played other venues, including Winterland-- seems pretty cut-and-dried.

Despite my brief (36 hour) elation that I had cracked a secret Keystone code, I'd rather be right. Still, I will say in my (rather self-serving) defense that Lucky Strike must have had some connection to Keystone management, since getting pre-empted for big shows by a local headliner more than once isn't likely to be a coincidence.

Its a good lesson though--I had heard from many people that Jerry was a Camel guy, and I didn't pay attention.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

May 13, 1975 Keystone Berkeley Lucky Strike (Legion Of Mary)

In a previous post, I pointed at evidence that Jerry Garcia played New Year's Eve shows at Keystone Berkeley under the name Lucky Strike, as the Keystone billings for both 1974 and 1975 listed "Lucky Strike" as the band. I mused that scholars should start looking for Lucky Strike billed at the Keystone.

Lo and behold, here are the Oakland Tribune listings (above) from Sunday, May 11, 1975 for the Keystone Berkeley, and the Hayward Daily Review listings for May 9, 1975 (right). The acts for the week are
  • Sunday, May 11 Kraftwerk/Paul Pena
  • Monday, May 12 Holly Penfield/Spectrum
  • Tuesday, May 13 Lucky Strike/Sunsmoke
  • Wednesday, May 14 Delta Wires/Eola
  • Thursday, May 15 New Riders of The Purple Sage
  • Friday and Saturday, May 16-17 Alice Stuart/The Rowan Brothers
  • Sunday, May 18 Rowan Brothers/Clouds Of Joy

The significant clue here is that according to the Jerry Site, Deadbase lists a Legion Of Mary show at Keystone Berkeley on May 12, 1975, complete with setlist. Now, "Lucky Strike" was booked for Tuesday May 13, but I am now much more inclined to believe that there was a Keystone Berkeley show this week. I would lean towards the May 13 date, under the circumstances.

I grew up in the Bay Area, and read the San Francisco Chronicle "Pink Section" entertainment listings with an eagle eye every Sunday, and I had no idea about Lucky Strike.

(update: Despite the awesomeness of my theory, it appears that it isn't true, and Lucky Strike was a local East Bay Band)

I cannot resist commenting on the other bands.

Kraftwerk/Paul Pena
Kraftwerk had become almost sort of semi-famous behind their 1974 Autobahn album, and did their only American tour. Their show had been booked for Berkeley Community Theater, but poor ticket sales caused it to be moved to the Keystone Berkeley. Kraftwerk is hard to explain if you don't know, and their impact at the time is even harder to comprehend. Suffice to say, America was not ready for Beach Boys influenced German industrial pop. Joel Selvin wrote perhaps his greatest review ever for this show.

Paul Pena, a Keystone Berkeley regular, was a blind guitarist and songwriter who wrote "Jet Airliner" for Steve Miller. He was a strange choice to open for Kraftwerk, but so was everyone else in the East Bay at the time.

Alice Stuart
Alice Stuart had been playing Berkeley and the East Bay since 1964, with a few interruptions (like briefly joining the Mothers of Invention in 1966). At this time, she was probably playing with her electric trio.

The Rowan Brothers
The Rowan Brothers at this time would have been Peter, Lorin and Chris Rowan, then signed to Asylum. I think they had a rhythm section at this time, and played fairly electric music.

New Year's Eve 1974 and 1975 Keystone Berkeley "Lucky Strike"

I have written two posts about the fact that Jerry Garcia played the Keystone Berkeley on New Years Eve 1974 and 1975 without any advertising. For the 1974 gig, I posited that perhaps the band didn't play at all. For the 1975 gig, since we have a tape, we know the gig occurred, but I noted that the Garcia Band was not advertised.

Reviewing my own work, and before someone else catches it, let me point out that both times the Keystone Berkeley advertised Lucky Strike, and Garcia played the show. With this in mind, I have to retract my speculation that Garcia-Saunders did not play New Years 1974, as Lucky Strike seems to be Keystone Berkeley code for "Jerry's playing New Year's."

I guess now I have to start looking for other times that "Lucky Strike" played Keystone Berkeley (update: someone has done that, and despite the awesomeness of my theory, it turns out that Lucky Strike was an East Bay band, and my idea that it was secret code for Jerry Garcia wasn't the case--more's the pity)

December 31, 1975 Keystone Berkeley Jerry Garcia Band

The Jerry Garcia Band played Keystone Berkeley on New Year's Eve 1975. It was Nicky Hopkins last performance with the Garcia Band, and Gregg Errico sat in for Ron Tutt, as Tutt had a conflict with his other employer, Elvis Presley (the Jerry Garcia of the 1950s), playing a gig at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, MI. We can be certain the Garcia Band played New Year's Eve, because the extant tape includes Hopkins leading a New Year's Countdown.

However, it is interesting to see that the show appears not to have been advertised. Above is the weekly listings from the December 26, 1975 edition of the Hayward Daily Review. For the Keystone Berkeley, it lists
  • Friday, December 26 Cold Blood, Ruby with Tom Fogerty
  • Sunday, December 28 Kathi McDonald
  • Monday and Tuesday, December 29 and 30 The Bold Truth
  • Wednesday, December 31 Grayson St., Lucky Strike
  • Thursday and Friday, January 1 and 2 Stoneground with Kathi McDonald
  • Saturday, January 3 Eddie Money
Most of these bands were established East Bay club bands. Only Bold Truth and Lucky Strike are unknown to me. For the record, I assume Cold Blood and Ruby also played Saturday the 27th. At this time, Eddie Money was simply a local East Bay singer, some years from stardom.

Grayson Street, booked for New Year's Eve, were a popular East Bay band. I believe they played a sort of funky rock music, typical of groups like Stoneground or The Loading Zone. Note, however, that there is no sign of the Jerry Garcia Band, not even a hint like "Special Guest." Given that this list was published on December 26, and based on a weekly calendar probably mailed the week before, this means the Jerry Garcia Band show was not being publicized as of two weeks before.

I think the reason for the surreptitious gig is quite simple. The Jerry Garcia Band was headlining two shows at Winterland on December 19 and 20, and Bill Graham probably insisted that Garcia not advertise gigs in the area before his shows were past history. Obviously, Bill knew he couldn't stop Jerry from actually playing, but it was a common request to insist contractually that bands booked at a major show refrain from advertised show within a certain distance and certain time of the event. Also, while JGB played some shows in San Diego (Dec 27-28) between Winterland and New Year's, there may have been some uncertainty about the group's plans.

I assume there was a secondary reason, which was that while Garcia Band shows at the Keystone Berkeley were a routine occurrence, a well publicized New Year's show could start the inevitable rumor that the Grateful Dead were appearing, causing no end of trouble on the intersection of Shattuck and University. In any case, Garcia Band shows at the Keystone Berkeley never sold advance tickets. All Garcia Band shows only sold day-of-show tickets, so the need for advance publicity was small.

I have to assume that Grayson Street played anyway, as it would be unconscionable for a club to cancel a lucrative gig for them without warning. Anyway, since Deadheads would have been lined up all day and come in as soon as the doors opened at 7:00, they would have been happy to hear music before Jerry finally came on stage some hours later, probably about 10:00 or 10:30.

October 1, 1972 Springfield Civic Center, Springfield, MA Roberta Flack

It may be unexpected to see a Roberta Flack concert listed in "Lost Live Dead," but you have to bear with me on this one.

Stuart "Dinky" Dawson, born in Worksop, Nottanghamshire in 1947, was an English dj who almost accidentally became Fleetwood Mac's road manager and soundman in 1968. Although the Mac had made their first American tour without him in 1968, Dinky returned with them at the end of the year as they tried to conquer America. Alone among English bands in 1968, Fleetwood Mac toured with their own PA system, as Dawson felt with some justification he knew more about live sound than any local, and in any case he had a vested interest in his band's success, and knew proper sound would be an essential part of it.

It can hardly be a surprise that when Fleetwood Mac returned to San Francisco in early 1969 to play the Fillmore West (January 16-19, between Creedence Clearwater and Albert Collins), both Dawson and Fleetwood Mac got on famously with the Dead. From 1968 to 1970, protocol required that visiting bands jam with the Grateful Dead or the Jefferson Airplane (and later Santana) on their first time through town. This was the social equivalent of jazz musicians playing with Charlie Parker or (later) John Coltrane at Birdland or the Village Vanguard when they came through New York. Real players would show up and jam, and failure to show the flag often had peculiar ramifications. Fleetwood Mac and the Dead hit it off big time, however, and Dinky Dawson found a kindred spirit in Owsley Stanley.

The Grateful Dead were one of (if not the) first American rock bands to tour with their own sound system, provided to them with the technical and financial participation of Owsley. Naturally, the group would gravitate to a band who carried their own system, particularly one with no less than three lead guitarists and a smoking rhythm section. Fleetwood Mac toured America heavily throughout 1969 and 1970, and they had many adventures with the Dead, including the New Orleans bust and the famous jam at Fillmore East with the Allman Brothers (on February 11, 1970).

Dawson left Fleetwood Mac and became road manager and soundman for The Byrds, and after extensive touring with them, he set up a sound company (Dawson Sound) in Massachusetts in 1972. While Dawson periodically went on tour with such groups as The Kinks, Steely Dan and Mahavishnu Orchestra, his company also provided house sound systems for venues in the region throughout the early 1970s.

Dawson wrote an informative and engaging memoir in 1998, entitled Life On The Road (with Carter Alan, Billboard Books), a great read for anyone interested in the mechanics of rock and roll touring back in the day. Dawson's description of providing sound for a Roberta Flack concert in 1972 includes some fascinating details that are worth repeating in their entirety (p. 222)
On the first of October we worked a show for Roberta Flack at the Springfield Civic Center, an ice hockey rink in the Western Massachusetts city. With all of her recent chart success, Flack could fill the big hall's six thousand seats and brought along a full band to broaden out her music. For the number of speaker cabinets I had, this was a big gig for Dawson Sound Company. I'd be testing the limits of my system to fill up the cavernous space. Still, I was confident that I could do a better job than anyone else, and if the sound seemed weak, then we'd just construct and add speaker cabinets for the next time.

Some merry pranksters from my past, sound aficionados in their own right, showed up to see Flack and hear how well my gear worked. Yes, it was my good friends from the Grateful Dead--Stanley Owsley [sic] and Jerry Garcia. Since tonight would not be a good occasion to soar chemically into orbit, I instinctively stayed away from ingesting anything that the pair even remotely approached. I didn't know if the guys were in the mood to dose me, but I knew I needed to be straight for this gig since it would be a tough one and I wanted to show these two professionals just how good my system could be. As my friends joined me in the mixing booth and the show went on, I was dying of thirst, but I abstained from drinking anything, even unopened sodas, for fear that Owsley's absent smile would indicate he had gotten his man.

Jerry Garcia and Stanley Owsley were transformed by the concert, my sound system reproducing Flack's music with such clarity and crispness, even in the potentially overwhelming space, that they could barely find enough superlatives to compliment me. At one point, as the cello player performed a solo, Garcia's mouth hung agape, until he was distracted when some of the ice that was under the floor of four-by-eight plywood sheets behind us made a sharp cracking sound. Owsley, who had been lulled to sleep, woke up with a start. "What was that?" he cried. "Have you figured out how to project sound behind us too?!"

"One of these days we'll get to quad," I laughed, "but right now I've got to be content with what I've got."

"I'll tell you what you've got--you just cracked ice with a cello solo!" Garcia said excitedly.
I love this image. The Grateful Dead were playing Springfield Civic Center the next night (October 2, 1972), and here Garcia and Owsley were, a day early, sitting in the mixing booth watching the show. We tend to think of Roberta Flack as a pop singer, as her huge hit "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" was very big at the time, but she was a classically trained pianist and an accomplished jazz singer. Her hit single allowed her to tour with a killer band (Eric Gale, Richard Tee, Chuck Rainey, Rick Marotta and Ralph McDonald with Terry Plumeri on ice-cracking cello), so the musically omnivorous Garcia must have enjoyed the music as well as the sound.

Roberta Flack and the Grateful Dead had pretty different audiences back then, but there must have been a few hippies there, on a date or something, and I always imagine them staring at the sound board, thinking, boy, that guy at the desk looks like Jerry Garcia. Dawson continues the tale (p.223)
"What's your secret? Owsley coaxed.

"It's no secret," I replied. "If you use the right speakers in the right boxes, you will have the same results."

Right then and there, Owsley decided that he would build a system for the Grateful Dead that was based around my principle. He and the Dead's ace soundman, Dan Healy, regularly checked in over the next few months to ask questions as their own construction began on a system that they eventually called "The Wall Of Sound." Owsley and Healy completed their work the following year and used the complex speaker arrangement in 1973 and 1974. But the pair discounted a critical piece of my advice, which was to avoid using standard P.A. speakers and instead utilize either home equipment or self-designed gear like mine. The result was that "The Wall Of Sound," an impressive thing to look at since it virtually framed the Dead's entire stage, always sounded heavy, and devoid of the smooth warmth that purred through my speakers. The Grateful Dead would pay for that oversight as constant adjustments and overhauls of the speaker system nearly bankrupted the band. However, even for its flaws, the "Wall Of Sound" still outperformed any other system on the road at that time (except for mine, of course!). So the band deserves major credit as a leader in the field of concert sound reproduction and high marks for attempting to give their fans a much better concert experience.
Dead fans tend to think of new sound systems as simply appearing, deus ex machina, but in fact the Wall Of Sound took extensive research and planning. The first iteration of it was seen just 4 months after this concert, on February 9, 1973 at Maples Pavilion, Stanford University. The full Wall Of Sound appeared the next year. Its very interesting to hear Dawson's professional assessment, but all I can say is that he must have had a hell of a system, because The Wall Of Sound sounded pretty awesome to me. Its not surprising that Oswley and Dawson, two of the most forward looking soundmen of the 60s, preferred to consult with each other in the 1970s.

Dawson has retired, and his health has not been great. Nonetheless his rock and roll legacy is second to none. Like any great soundman, he taped pretty much everything, and his tapes have found a home at Wolfgang's Vault. You can listen to the Roberta Flack concert, if you want, and you can make your house all cold, and don't drink anything so that you get real thirsty, and then you're in the soundbooth at Springfield Civic Center with Dinky Dawson, Jerry and Owsley, listening to Roberta while you wait for the next night's Dead show.