Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974, it's a scientific fact" - Homer Jay Simpson

[NOTE: Some of the links are to clips with sound that starts when you click on the link, you have been warned]

While I can't completely agree with Homer Jay --there's simply too many bands that I love that came after that time frame-- I've long believed that 1971-1973 was one of the peak years of rock. While searching for pictures of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, I came across the handbill above (from here). I think it's a fascinating snapshot of what it must have been like to be a music fan and have all those choices (I was 12, living on the Air Force base in New Jersey that my Dad was stationed at and still a few years away from regular concert-going).

The ELP/Mahavishnu Orchestra bill is what first caught my eye. Apart from the absurdity of having a weak edition of Blues Project on the bill, this fits in to a comment made by Yes bassist Chris Squire that I read years ago (and can't find now): Punk didn't kill prog rock, the Mahavishnu Orchestra did. His point was that when the MO first started regular gigging in 1971, they blew away a lot of musicians. He said that Yes began to think they had to play 8,000 notes a bar to keep up with the groundbreaking music the MO was playing. ELP certainly weren't immune to that mindset and they had the chops to pull it off.

The King Crimson listing is bittersweet, as their Winterland gigs were some of the last dates that the Fripp/Collins/Boz (RIP)/Wallace (RIP) band did before it imploded in a welter of bad vibes and non-communication. For years, this band was much maligned among prog geeks because the only aural evidence of its existence was the very poor Earthbound live album. Thanks to DGM Live, however, there's been a steady stream of evidence that this was a fine band, a worthy addition to the bewildering number of KC lineups.

Deep Purple must have been something to see/hear back then, the classic Gillan/Blackmore/Lord/Glover/Paice lineup still intact and reputedly the loudest band in the world at one time. They were touring to promote the recently released Machine Head, I wonder if Space Truckin' lasted 20 minutes yet?

Don McLean was still riding high off of the success of the "get off my lawn you damn hippie kids" vibe of American Pie and his glorious ode to Vincent Van Gogh, Vincent, to see him in the interesting looking Berkely Community Theater must have been wonderful.

The Humble Pie/Edgar Winter Group/Osibisa bill is especially strong. I love The Pie and their lead singer/guitarist/leader Steve Marriott, who left the fab Small Faces to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton (yes, the same). The Pie were on their never-ending tour, in this case promoting the recently released Smokin', while The Edgar Winter Group had just gotten started with their classic lineup of Winter/Montrose/Hartman (RIP)/Ruff, the awesome Frankenstein still in their future. I like what I've heard of Osibisa and hey, Roger Dean did some of their album covers, they can't be that bad, right?

Joe Cocker had accrued enough of an audience to play the Oakland Coliseum arena, but in retrospect, the buzz from Woodstock/Mad Dogs & Englishmen had started to run out, alcoholism and syrupy Top 40 stuff not far off. Then we have West, Bruce & Laing, featuring my first musical hero (and reason I became a bass player), Jack Bruce. They were one of the numerous "supergroups" that dotted the landscape in the late 60's/early 70's after Blind Faith and Crosby, Stills & Nash (&Young) lead the way (Beck, Bogert and Appice anyone?).

Sure, it's easy to get all nostalgic for this period in concert going, but I bet if I was 20 back then and showed this to some older hippie, he'd say "You kids today with your loud heavy metal so-called music! Back in MY day we had Hendrix, Cream, Janis, the Dead and the Airplane playing here all the time, now THAT was music!".

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