King Koncert: Memoirs of an American Rocker
by Tim Van Schmidt
February 4, 1974- Paramount Northwest. Shawn Phillips and Quartermass
Just like when I saw the Grateful Dead for the second time, I felt like an insider going to see Shawn Phillips again, this time at the Paramount. Thanks to the sensitivity as well as the challenge his music offered, Phillips had become a personal favorite and I had collected his back catalog of albums- after all, music was my best friend at the time. Keyboardist Peter Robinson and drummer Barry De Souza were now joined by John Gustafson and were called Quartermass. Musically, the most memorable moment was a version of Phillips’ new song “Bright White,” full white lights accentuating the chorus. I ran into George Ratzlaff of the band Potliquor out in the lobby during Phillips’ performance. He recognized me from the interview at the Whiskey in 1972 and reported to me that the band was in Seattle to do some recording. It was a pleasure to be recognized by someone from my LA past, even if it was a musician I had met only for a brief time.
February 9, 1974- Seattle Coliseum. Bob Dylan and the Band
If there was ever an American god-on-earth of the rock era, it was Bob Dylan. After a motorcycle accident in 1966, Dylan retired from the road and became reclusive. He chose to return to the circuit in style, recording a new album with the Band, Planet Waves, and setting out on a mammoth, much-anticipated tour that sold out most dates despite a complicated mail-in lottery system. Seattle was one of the few cities not to sell out a Dylan show, but the singer-songwriter made front-page news anyway.
The show was divided into sets featuring Dylan and the Band, the Band, then Dylan playing solo acoustic, then Dylan and the Band. One of the most memorable highlights was when the master songwriter performed “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” the crowd whooping approval when he emphasized the words “even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.” Dylan came out of retirement with an aggressive, hard-edged vocal style that sounded harsh and forced, but still worked wonders in the arena setting. His efforts were greeted in Seattle with thousands of lit matches held aloft in the darkness.
The Dylan tour was heralded with an avalanche of press in the local and national media. This was bigger than the Rolling Stones, if for no other reason than the fact that Dylan had not been as accessible to fans as the Stones. He played out a few times- like for a Woody Guthrie tribute and for the Bangladesh concert with George Harrison- but those times had been rare indeed. Other reasons included the revered position Dylan still held in the contemporary culture. David DeVoss, of Time magazine, suggested that Dylan was “one of the very few personalities to emerge intact from the ‘60s whirlwind.” DeVoss also declared that “never in the history of American rock has a tour aroused so much public interest.” According to De Voss, the proof was in the mail box: “Within hours after mail-order tickets were put on sale, more than 5,000,000 letters…inundated post offices along the tour route.” De Voss relayed a report from a trade publication that calculated that 7.5% of the nation’s population had requested tickets. Promoters reportedly had to take out ads to ask people to stop sending requests.
In Seattle, the announcement had come in the form of a very simple, very striking ad that said “Bob Dylan/ The Band” in a large field of white space. Tickets were available “by mail order only” and the instructions were very explicit: “Any orders not meeting the above requirements will be returned.” I became a part of the 7.5% of the population and sent my order in on the required date- December 2. A month and a half later I was rewarded with two tickets for the 8 PM show. I was so pleased, I went out and photocopied the tickets so I had an artifact from the tour. Included with the tickets was a six-point list of information, including a warning against ticket scalpers and counterfeiters.
In the December 6 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, a full-page article by David Felton gave the insider view of the Dylan tour. Famous promoter Bill Graham was identified as the tour’s organizer and the article stated that he was able to “reserve two dozen major concert halls…without revealing to hall owners who was to play.” Felton went on to declare that “surely this is the most enterprising tour that either Dylan or Graham, as a booking agent, has undertaken….Assuming most shows sell out, the tour can expected to gross between $4 and $4.5 million.” The article listed the proposed tour- starting in Chicago and ending in Hawaii- as well as detailed the speculations that the tour was being set up to promote something more- like a new Dylan/Band record. Dylan’s contract with Columbia Records had expired and it was widely known that Dylan was entertaining offers from elsewhere, particularly David Geffen, chairman of Elektra/Asylum Records. According to Felton, Dylan’s previous tour had been in 1965, backed by a band that later became the Band.
In a subsequent article in Rolling Stone– with the headline “Bob Dylan Sells Out”- Felton described the effects of Dylan-mania. According to Felton, traffic was blocked up for five blocks from the post office in San Francisco: “The scene resembled the income tax deadline hour.” Montreal was the only location where fans could purchase tickets over the counter and “people were lined up four abreast for three blocks.” New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles post offices “were asked by tour producer Bill Graham to deliver no more requests to local box offices. He had them mark the envelopes ‘return to sender.’…nationwide the response was unprecedented.” Felton also confirmed that Geffen had indeed signed Dylan and that an album would hit the streets on the day the big tour started- January 3, 1974.
In the press the tour attracted, Bill Graham, famous for his Fillmore West and Fillmore East operations, became a colorful character that the media could not resist. An Associated Press article by Edith M. Lederer, published in the Seattle Times, described Graham as a “bearded entrepreneur” and revealed a good sense of humor about big music business. About the fact that venues were booked in secrecy- without revealing the headliner’s name- Graham said “they had enough respect for this organization…that I wouldn’t rent it for a hula hoop contest.” Lederer also quoted Graham about the number of personal ticket requests he was receiving: “The last time I heard from Arnie Weingarten was when he sat behind me in math class in high school…and that was 27 years ago. Well, even he called me for tickets.”
The Seattle press also hailed the tour in advance. Paul Boyd of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, suggested that “to many, it is no less than The Second Coming.” Boyd also questioned the appeal of a musician whose “voice was a harsh cacophony of nasal raspings that one critic likened to a dog with its leg caught in barb wire.” But then Boyd answered his own question by stating “it was the lyrics that really mattered.” The Seattle Times published a Chicago Sun-Times review by Al Rudis of the first Chicago concert. Rudis called the atmosphere in the crowd “subdued”: “It was the oldest audience at a stadium rock concert since the Elvis Presley shows and even more well-behaved. Barely a trace of pot was in the air, and only one crazy at the very front of the main floor represented the usual dozens of freakouts.”
The mood outside the Seattle Coliseum was indeed subdued on the day of the show. It was chilly and one big line waited while the first show audience cleared out. Amazingly, the afternoon show had not sold out and the newspapers ran articles to tell fans there were still tickets. Inside was the same kind of quiet patience that the crowd had exhibited outside, however all with an underlying current of expectation that something special was about to happen. Then the lights darkened and the time had arrived to experience Bob Dylan live. The crowd was not subdued any longer.
The show itself garnered plenty of press, including a front-page story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A big chunky photo appeared on the front page- Dylan walking off stage, a single figure in a sea of fans, everyone applauding, yelling, heads turned to focus on the star. The headline read “Dylan Comes to Seattle and 29,000 Fans Rock.” On the same page, President Ford made the statement that “gasoline rationing will be imperative if Arab oil embargo continues.” Writer Paul Boyd opened his news article/review by describing the climactic moment when Dylan finally performed “Like a Rolling Stone,” the spotlights roving over a crowd that had stood up to clap along: “At those times it seemed the 1960s weren’t just a dream after all.” He also commented that the average age of the crowd was generally older than at most rock events and that some audience members sported “turtle-neck-sport coat combinations and even a few white shirts and ties.”
Boyd noted that Bill Graham announced to the crowd that the performance was being recorded live, then ticked off the song titles that Dylan presented: “You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine,” “Lay, Lady Lay,” “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” “Everybody Must Get Stoned,” “It Ain’t Me Babe” and “Ballad of a Thin Man.” Though Boyd concluded that Dylan was the main attraction, he still recognized the musical power in the Band’s featured set, which began with “Stage Fright.” According to Boyd, the Band “shifted instruments like chameleons” and the music relied on Robbie Robertson’s lead electric guitar work, “which snaked clearly through the entire evening.” Then Dylan rejoined the Band for “All Along the Watchtower.” Versions of “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” followed, then intermission.
Dylan then returned for a solo set with an acoustic guitar and harmonica holder. Boyd called each “symbols in and of themselves and of Vietnam and Civil Rights protest days.” Dylan played “The Times They Are A Changing,” “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” Boyd reported that the two-hour show was “choreographed beautifully,” building to the finale of “Like a Rolling Stone.” The group then returned to reprise “You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine.”
The Seattle Times also published huge photos- a view from behind the stage, spotlights piercing across the darkness; a close-up of Dylan, a bead of sweat trickling down his face; a shot of the scruffy, hairy crowd waiting for the show to begin. Writer Eric Lacitis described Dylan’s arrival by limousine and the scene back stage: “A bodyguard was in constant attendance. Before and after each of his several appearances on stage during the show he would seclude himself in an especially decorated room backstage…It featured a color television, an Oriental-style rug, an old-fashioned sofa, a rocking chair with an Afghan quilt and other similar furniture.” According to Lacitis, the entourage had a Ping-Pong table and the menu included Chinese food, roast beef, scallop and shrimp Newberg, honey and tea. Lacitis also reported that security personnel had stopped several patrons from bringing in tape recorders.
Seattle Times reviewer Patrick MacDonald detailed both shows and saw the apparent change in Dylan’s performance style: “Dylan would emphasize certain words and almost yell them.” He listed the Band’s set, including “King Harvest” and “Cripple Creek.”
According to MacDonald the Band’s second set included “Rag, Mama, Rag,” “This Wheel’s On Fire,” “The Shape I’m In” and “The Weight.” Then Dylan returned to perform with the Band on “Forever Young” and “Highway 61 Revisited.” According to MacDonald, audience response to “Like A Rolling Stone” was “a deafening roar.” The evening show included “Just Like a Woman” and “It’s Alright Ma” in the acoustic set and Dylan performed “Blowin’ in the Wind” at the end of the concert. MacDonald noted that Dylan was more animated and relaxed on stage for the later show: “He moved around more…sometimes taking an Elvis Presley stance, one leg in front of the other, sometimes leaning way back while he strummed his electric guitar.” MacDonald also found new meaning in Dylan’s material: “Dylan’s way of rephrasing his songs made them all the more forceful.”
The great Bob Dylan tour of 1974 resulted in the double disc live album Before the Flood. The recordings would be attributed to some of the final shows in the tour- in Los Angeles- but when I listened, I thought I could hear myself in there cheering.
March 15, 1974- Paramount Northwest. Tom Waits, Frank Zappa.
Poor Tom Waits. The unruly crowd hadn’t waited in line in the rain for two hours to hear some unknown, frog-voiced singer-songwriter open the show. The boos were merciless and Waits left the stage in a hurry, spitting out one final insulting tune, titled “River of Shit.” Zappa blew it all away, however, with long excursions of quirky classical/jazz rock and, of course, cock-eyed comedy. His antics included carrying Ruth Underwood around on stage on his back. Compared to the Hollywood Palladium, the Paramount was a superior place to see Zappa- in a real theater environment rather than a big, open ballroom.
While in the Pacific Northwest, Patrick MacDonald of the Seattle Times would become the most trusted rock and roll writer in the area for me, much like Robert Hilburn in LA. MacDonald’s articles had fewer of the sweeping statements Hilburn made about the cultural significance of rock and made more comments about the actual music. One trustworthy thing about MacDonald was that if he didn’t know the details, he admitted it. Still, he observed plenty.
In his review of Frank Zappa at the Paramount, MacDonald gave a complete inventory of the stage personnel including George Duke on keyboards. By that time Duke had been playing with Zappa for several years and MacDonald commented that the pair “work well together, as evidenced by their song ‘Inca Roads,’ which was one of the best of the night.” Other musicians on stage included drummer Ralph Humphrey, marimba and vibe player Ruth Underwood, lead vocalist Napoleon Brown, who also played guitar and sax, Tom Fowler on bass and Bruce Fowler on trombone, as well as Jeff Simmons on guitar and harmonica. MacDonald identified Simmons as a former member of a Seattle-based band, Easy Chair, and that he had played bass in a former version of the Mothers. MacDonald also noticed another uncredited musician who sat on a chair on stage through the entire set, except when he stood for a single vocal part on the song “Babbitt”: “Like a lot of soul singers, his specialty was falsetto and he hit some amazingly high notes.”
For MacDonald, Zappa’s original compositions were “just as crazy as ever” and he called Zappa “the Spike Jones of rock.” According to MacDonald, the set list included “Montana” and a medley of “Pygmy Sunrise” and “The Idiot Bastard Son.” The show was sold out and MacDonald reported that the audience waited until the end of the performance for a “rousing” standing ovation.
May 21- Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Grateful Dead.
By this time- my fourth trip to see the Grateful Dead- I considered myself a “Deadhead,” the playful term the band itself bestowed on their fans. The Europe ‘72 album, my favorite since that was the first year I saw the band, included a come-on to “Deadheads” to sign up for a mailing list. Indeed, at this show on the campus of the University of Washington, the band also had sign-up booths to get on the “Deadhead” mailing list. That meant getting mailings of band news and sample records of the latest recording projects, including Sea Stones and Tiger Rose. The booths also were passing out promotional stickers and cards for Wake of the Flood, Sea Stones, Steal Your Face, Mars Hotel, Tiger Rose and Garcia. Later I would receive Grateful Dead Records samplers and a newsletter that outlined a strange new idea the Dead were toying with- pyramid shaped music products that would be played with a laser beam- far out.
The Dead’s set-up was especially impressive and it was an awesome sight when I first entered the concert hall. This was the time of the mammoth, band-built sound system covered with custom tie-dyes and standing high above the performers. Seattle Times reviewer Patrick MacDonald gave details about “the biggest sound system in rock”: “In scaffolding several stories high there were 459 speakers and several hundred amplifiers.” The system was both powerful and precise. In fact, MacDonald stated: “You don’t just hear it…You feel its vibrations and it seems to pass through you.”
For me, the most memorable jam of the night was a 45-minute version of “Playing in the Band.” The Deadhead’s Taping Compendium called it “the longest known version” of the song and I tried to dance to the whole thing. Other tunes the Dead included were “Here Comes Sunshine,” “El Paso,” “Mississippi Half-Step,” “Eyes of the World” and “Sugar Magnolia.” Again, we had to leave the show early to make the ferry and our departure was serenaded by a moody “Stella Blue,” echoing into the night. MacDonald, like most Dead reviewers, noted the unusual length of the show- four and a half hours. He then hit the nail on the head in terms of describing the appeal of a Grateful Dead concert: “The atmosphere was the closest thing to a rock festival since they were banned.”
May 25, 1974- Paramount Northwest. Kiss, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Savoy Brown.
Kiss had already become known for its theatrical stage antics, so Gene Simmons’ blood-from-the-mouth trick at this show was already anticipated and well received. The facial make-up added to the delight. Their music was a very directed hard rock, featuring a particularly aggressive approach- and confidence- for the time. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band was crossing between pop and progressive rock, a refreshing combination. The group threw band stickers out in the audience and performed a celebratory version of Bob Dylan’s song “Quinn the Eskimo.” I couldn’t help but notice that the young woman who appeared next to me in the aisle during Savoy Brown’s set had taken off her top and bounced freely within her overall bib. She smiled at me then bounded down closer to the stage. Meanwhile, a reformed version of Savoy Brown produced a rough-edged blues-rock. The next event I would attend was high school graduation.
June 29, 1974- Paramount Northwest. Greg Smith Group, Quicksilver, Tower of Power.
I was a Quicksilver fan thanks to the long jamming on the Quicksilver Messenger Service album, Happy Trails. By this time, however, the band had honed their sound into shorter pieces like “Fresh Air,” featuring the distinct, soulful voice of Dino Valenti. At the Paramount, Valenti certainly wailed but it was a short set, hardly a whisper of the band’s earlier days.
At their commercial peak thanks to hit albums like Back to Oakland and radio favorites such as “What Is Hip?” Tower of Power ruled the stage at the Paramount with a powerful presence, the band stretched from side to side on the stage. Tower of Power’s music was straight-on funk, clipped, precise and blasting. The business was making music that bumped and jumped and Tower of Power delivered. We missed the regular ferry back to Bremerton so we had to drive north to catch another. On the way, we got pulled over, so we quickly spilled our boilermaker drinks onto the van floor. The cops checked us out but let us go.
July 1, 1974- Paramount Northwest. Kiki Dee, Steely Dan.
Vocalist Kiki Dee had just come out with her one main solo hit, “I’ve Got the Music in Me,” and on stage at the Paramount she was energetic, bright and seemed to be grateful for the opportunity to tour, showcasing her blatantly pop-oriented songs. This was not the case for Steely Dan, however. Keyboardist Donald Fagen seemed surly, verbally discounting the band’s hit “Do It Again” just before playing it. This would be the last tour for Steely Dan in the 1970s, a band that by then included keyboardist and vocalist Michael McDonald. The current hit was “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” but the vibe was that Steely Dan was uncomfortable with the role of being a singles band. Their stage set-up was elaborate in terms of instrumentation and, of course, produced a powerful sound. Guitarist Walter Becker provided the clearest and most dramatic musical focus on stage. We got to the show early enough to actually grab front row seats- which was impressive until other audience members insistently pushed in front of us when Steely Dan hit the stage. One rotund fellow- without a shirt- not only pushed in, but also wanted to dance. This was probably what Steely Dan wanted to get away from- the unwashed crowd.
July 16, 1974- Tempe Stadium. Jesse Colin Young, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
It was my plan to continue school at Arizona State University in Tempe- another big blot on the map melding into the metropolis of Phoenix. I was a trust fund baby and chose Arizona as a kind of homecoming. I was pleased to be getting back in touch with old friends I had left behind when my family moved to California and Washington. To prepare, I went to Arizona to visit during the summer- and managed to see some concerts.
Tempe Stadium was a utilitarian facility with few distinguishing features other than the red desert hills that framed one side. This would be the first time I would hear the name “Barry Fey,” promoter of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young show and the Eric Clapton show only a few days later. Fey would be a pivotal figure in the Denver concert scene when I moved to Colorado years later. Arizona Republic reviewer Hardy Price described the scene on that hot summer day: “A light blue marijuana haze floated over the infield just at sunset…The 24,002 persons jamming into Tempe Stadium created one huge sauna.” Price reported that the official attendance of the CSNY show had beaten the record set by a 1969 Led Zeppelin show at the Coliseum by nearly 10,000. This show would attract the largest crowd assembled for a rock and roll show in the state. As a result, a massive traffic jam greeted fans arriving at Tempe Stadium.
As a reviewer, Price paid more attention to the event as such than to the music, even though the headlining act was “one of the first super groups.” His basic assessment of the music was that it had been a “lay back” concert. Other than that, he wrote about an unconfirmed altercation between fans and security and interviewed a Maricopa County Sheriff. Besides quoting attendance figures, Price also quoted Barry Fey, who expected “a crowd of between 17,000 and 18,000 for Clapton’s Thursday night concert.”
As a veteran rocker, who had seen shows in bigger cities and had even written a few reviews himself, I was infuriated by the review and wrote a scathing letter to the Arizona Republic pointing out what I thought should be in a concert review. I loved concert reviews and I collected them as souvenirs of the events. Price was just reporting on the concert, not reviewing it. As for his “lay back” comment, I had only scorn: “Big deal. I wish I could be paid for such infinite wisdom.” The newspaper published my letter on July 24. A friend sent me a copy and I was proud.
My memories of the show are first of all based on the uncomfortable heat. It was Jesse Colin Young’s tough task to open the show before the sun had gone down. His music, however, was light and pleasant, Young’s strong, upper register vocals carrying with reasonable effect over such a large crowd. When Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young came on, the energy level certainly rose, but the heat seemed to keep any kind of hysteria in check. The heat also seemed to affect the band. “Wooden Ships” sounded like the Woodstock version, but the vocal harmonies on “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” were weak and wilted. The strength and power of the group’s definitive live album Four Way Street was missing. Strongest on the stage was Neil Young, who seemed to dominate with his more aggressive presence and material. This would be the last tour for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in the 1970s.
July 18, 1974- Tempe Stadium. Ross, Eric Clapton.
My return to Tempe Stadium two days later to see the great guitar hero Eric Clapton created a mixture of emotions. Since his days in Cream, Clapton had set the pace for contemporary guitarists with instrumental virtuosity and creativity. However, Clapton’s show at Tempe Stadium demonstrated that something had changed. Yes, the super guitarist was on stage and he was fronting a large, powerful band. But the music was pared down to shorter songs, like a presentation of pop music. Adding to the “pop” feel of the show were back-up vocals by Yvonne Elliman, of Jesus Christ Superstar fame. “I Shot the Sheriff” was a number one single in 1974 and its strange sound- reggae- did not sound anything like rock. There were only a few grand moments when the guitarist was showcased as an instrumentalist. The vocal nature of the material generally cut short the guitar parts. The glory of rock did surface, particularly during the stately “Badge,” but only in short, contained doses. It was exciting to see Clapton live, but the show itself was not the kind of excitement I had hoped for. No dizzying guitar solos or moments of jamming intensity- just a well-executed show band performance.
July 25, 1974- Paramount Northwest. PFM, Santana.
Back in the Northwest, I made my pilgrimage to see another Woodstock standout- Santana. 1974 was a year of seeing legends perform and the idea of seeing guitarist Carlos Santana in a relatively small place was enticing. The Paramount was now my favorite venue and was a welcome destination especially after the big arena and outdoor shows by Dylan, CSNY and Clapton.
Seattle Times reviewer Patrick MacDonald called the concert “another leap ahead” for Santana: “He was playing better than I’ve ever seen him; great performances by Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix and McLaughlin came to mind.” The show started really late and Santana didn’t come on until midnight, but he brought a number of his old cohorts with him. That included members from the original band including “Chepito” Areas on congas, bells and cymbals, Mike Shrieve on drums and David Brown on bass. MacDonald reported that it was Areas’ birthday and that at the end of the concert his bandmates “showered him with confetti, popped open champagne and we all sang ‘Happy Birthday.’” Other musicians on stage included Armando Peraza on conga drums, Leon Tatillo on drums, Jules Broussard on sax and flute and Tom Coster on keyboards.
MacDonald noted certain “religious overtones,” particularly when Santana asked for silence at the beginning of the set. His request was met with much the same response that John McLaughlin received at the Paramount- some noisy concert-goers acting up while many others tried to comply. MacDonald reported that the concert began with sound problems and that a huge gong became unhinged when Santana played it. MacDonald also saw that Santana’s music, from classics like “Oye Coma Va” and “Black Magic Woman” to newer material, had taken on a new flavor, leaning toward jazz: “The music flowed with few breaks.”
The show started at 10 PM and MacDonald complained that the opening band, PFM, played too long. Known in Italy as Premiata-Forneria-Marconi, MacDonald described the quintet’s sound as “very busy” and that it was inspired by “symphonic rock” bands like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. MacDonald credited the group with rousing the crowd with a version of the “William Tell Overture.” According to MacDonald, Santana came on at midnight and left the stage around 2:30 am.
For my friends and me, this late evening was not over. When we got back to my friend’s car, it wouldn’t start. Eventually, we discovered that someone had stolen the battery. We had missed the last ferry to Bremerton long before, so it was essential that we drive. It took “pawning” a pocket watch at a local taxi company to get a battery and get on the road. Afterwards I would buy a copy of Santana’s Abraxas album and I remember my friend chiding me for “falling for it.” I didn’t know what he meant and he explained that musicians tour in order to stir up excitement about their music, consequently stirring up record sales. Though I was vaguely aware of the process, I hadn’t thought that it was so calculated. He only laughed.
July 29, 1974- Moore Theater. Randy Hiatt, Steeleye Span.
Since I had seen Steeleye Span several times and had researched their record catalog extensively, I worked up the courage to try to arrange an interview with the band on their tour swing through Seattle. This time I wasn’t writing for the high school newspaper, but set my sights on Circus magazine, a rock and roll publication more geared toward guitars than English folk music. Nonetheless, I managed to get in touch with the road manager and told him I was a freelance writer and that I would submit my article to Circus. Whoever I talked to, however, didn’t pick up on the subtlety of what I was saying- that I intended to submit it but really didn’t have a gig with the magazine. They thought I was assigned by Circus to cover the band. Later, when I went backstage to make my connection, the manager asked, “Where’s the guy from Circus?” Even though I knew it wasn’t true, it made me feel good to get a little respect as a writer.
The Moore Theater was a large, old-style movie theater-type facility that probably looked best in the dark. Patrick MacDonald of the Seattle Times reported an audience of “about 500” and described the band’s colorful image and colorful songs: “The six came out in Medieval costume for the first number….The songs were about magicians who changed themselves into dogs and birds and clouds; merry maids a-milking; wicked and ugly witches, pursued maidens and corrupt kings.” MacDonald saw that one of Steeleye’s special talents was strong vocal harmonies. He also recognized that one of the group’s main assets was vocalist Maddy Prior, who was blessed with “a voice that can only be called lilting.” MacDonald reported that electric violinist Peter Knight introduced all the songs as “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and often stuck his tongue out at the audience.
MacDonald also detailed the most unusual part of the show, a short English mummers play with traditional characters like St. George, Bold Slasher the Turkish Knight and the King of Egypt’s Daughter. The “cast,” made up of the members of Steeleye Span, wore costumes and masks and the dialogue was recorded on tape. The reaction in the crowd was an audible rustle of delight. Since theatre and rock and roll were not all that separate in intent, Steeleye’s play brought the two together in a rowdy, irreverent way.
At the concert, a friend acted as photographer- capturing images of Steeleye’s initial stage dress, plumed hats and all, as well as the playfully over-exaggerated costumes for the mummer’s play. My own bootleg tape of the concert revealed that Steeleye had become adept at combining precise instrumental parts with full vocal harmonies, interweaving them and delivering the results with jaunty energy. Humor filled the introductions of the songs and a general sense of lightheartedness prevailed. Still, there was plenty of electric fiber to the music and Nigel Pegrum’s drum kit work helped anchor the tunes to a familiar rock sound.
On top of everything in Steeleye’s performance was Prior’s distinctive voice. On “Alison Gross,” her part was a harmony part, but the unmistakable individuality of her voice and those sliding high notes at the end of the chorus dominated. Steeleye also performed a traditional-sounding version of “John Barleycorn” (traditional at least compared to Traffic’s popular version,) building the vocal harmony chord one voice at a time, plus “Cam Ye O’er Frae France” (complete with a moody instrumental section,) “Little Sir Hugh” (an upbeat tale of a little boy’s murder) and “One Misty, Moisty Morning” (featuring precision instrumental parts counterpointing Prior’s vocals.) The show also included the group’s unexpected English hit “Gaudete,” an a cappella tune sung in Latin that received the most sustained applause. The concert climaxed with “Thomas the Rhymer,” which built steadily into a dramatic triumph. Steeleye finished the show with some instrumental jigs and reels, moving from Celtic to American barn dance styles, revving it up faster and faster.
My interview after the show was with guitarist Tim Hart. I sat down with him in the theater with my friends also ringing around to listen. We talked about the band’s record catalog and their recent experiences in the studio with Ian Anderson and David Bowie. An attractive Oriental-looking woman kept peeking out from behind the curtains on stage to see if Hart was done yet. After a few more minutes it was obvious he wanted to go. We thanked him and he quickly disappeared. I actually sat down and wrote the article, but then chickened out when it came down to sending it to Circus. I did write a full research paper on Steeleye for my “Pop Arts Audio” class, but I don’t think that was the publicity the group had in mind.
September 14, 1974- Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. David Bowie.
The move to hot Tempe, Arizona and ArizonaStateUniversity was complete. To begin with, I did not have a car and depended on friends for rides. Our first excursion was to see David Bowie at the Coliseum, another kind of homecoming for this concert-goer.
What greeted us was a stage setting made out of stylized buildings- with some suspicious looking goop dripping down their sides. Between the buildings were ramps and catwalks. When Bowie himself appeared, he was not dressed up in futuristic clothing, or heavily made up- as he was in the concert ad. Instead he was playing the part of an urbane crooner ruling an ultra-hip yet curiously anonymous show band. One memorable highlight for me was when Bowie returned after the intermission, lowered over the heads of the crowd in a bucket for “Space Oddity,” blue lights playing over the audience. Also impressive was the final tune- “Knock on Wood,” Bowie already showing his next phase of white soul man. I wasn’t particularly a soul fan, but his handling of the tune was great showmanship- not acting or fulfilling some predetermined role, but just performing, working to bring the audience along with him in a well-calculated climax.
In his review of the Bowie show, writer Donald Arthur Rennie, of the State Press, ASU’s student newspaper, described “theater rock” as “a sophisticated blend of music and mascara.” According to Rennie, the concert audience was made up of “glitter-bugs from Phoenix’s morlock community” and described the opening tune, “1984,” with colorful language: “Campy and bitchy, Bowie mimed and sashayed flawlessly about the stage.” Rennie noted that Bowie rocked on “Suffragette City.” During “Moonage Daydream,” from Ziggy Stardust and His Spiders From Mars, Bowie performed on “a vertically moving catwalk.” Other Bowie songs included “All the Young Dudes,” the first hit for Mott the Hoople.
Rennie also described the start of the second set, when Bowie was suspended over the heads of audience members for “Space Oddity,” “simply supported by steel and surrounded by ethereal mystery.” Rennie, however, was most impressed by the final stage trick, a hexagonal container completely made out of mirrors used during the opening of “Time”: “He was encased with black lights and was reflected in multiple images.”
For my own part, I felt like I had finally made up for the mistake of not seeing Bowie perform at the Santa Monica Civic at the height of his Ziggy Stardust days. Though Bowie had left the heavy make-up and costuming behind, the stage setting and cool performance helped insure that the Bowie experience remained unique.
September 21, 1974- Celebrity Theatre. Charles Lewis Quintet Plus One, Gato Barbieri and Ensemble.
This was my first time going to the Celebrity Theatre, the most popular music spot in Phoenix at the time. It was a theater-in-the-round venue with a revolving stage, but much friendlier and much more active than the Valley Music Theater in California. For one thing, full service bars were conveniently located around the perimeter. I had heard of the Celebrity from friends, particularly raving about some performances they had seen by a guy named Bruce Springsteen. This trip, however, was to check out jazz. The drinking age in Arizona at the time was 19. I was still 18, but being so close made me pluck up my courage and order a drink. To my surprise, they served me without a blink of an eye, so I took the cool gin and tonic and found my seat.
First up was a local jazz pianist named Charles Lewis. The band cooked- all based on Lewis’ stylish piano work- and I was impressed even though I had never heard of them. I would seek out other opportunities to see Lewis again, most memorably at a local jazz festival held in an area park. This was the first occasion that I remember embracing a “local” musician of any kind. I didn’t know who the headliner was either- Gato Barbieri- though my friend guaranteed a good time. Gato- “the Cat”- played a hot salsa-inflected fusion music. It was certainly loud and electric, just like contemporary jazz fusion, but it was fully spiced with honking Brazilian energy. It was edgy, yet ultimately positive music. The rhythm- in all its syncopated glory- served as an engine, on top of which the melody instruments danced with passion.
September 27, 1974- Tempe Stadium. Lindisfarne, Rare Earth, Traffic.
By now it was clear that Tempe Stadium was not the best place to see a concert. Still, it took little consideration to decide to stick it out again to see the venerable folk-rock fusion group Traffic. It was now later in the year, the darkness fell early and it was much cooler than it had been for the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young concert. British folk pop unit Lindisfarne opened with a set of music that had a distinctive sound- voices and instruments blending to make a well-steeped, savory folk rock. Then another oddity of concert billing brought Rare Earth to the stage. Known for their aggressive soul rock sound, Rare Earth had more of the appeal of a singles band, with hit songs like “Get Ready” and “I Just Want to Celebrate” being among their best, though several years old by this time. That made the band seem out of place next to Traffic’s more meditative and artistic approach.
Traffic was nearing the end of its run in the 1970s, having graduated from psychedelic folk rock to a more jazzy, jam-oriented music with The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. Despite all the years and all the miles, Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood could still make evocative music, however. My clearest memory of their set at Tempe Stadium was just what I had hoped for- a long, slow, gentle version of “John Barleycorn.” I lay back while Wood’s flute work meandered through the night sky full of stars. It was the single most beautiful concert moment that I experienced at Tempe Stadium.
October 5, 1974- Celebrity Theatre. Elvin Bishop, Roy Wood and Wizzard.
One of the great things about the Celebrity was that besides bringing in hip acts and providing a reasonably intimate environment, they also produced programs for each show. The program for this Roy Wood show, founding member of both the Move and Electric Light Orchestra, detailed Wood’s solo advance from the intense psychedelia of his Boulders album to the Wizzard’s Brew release. Wizzard’s Brew, the program declared, featured “blaring horn work with arrangements so demonic that they seem to look ahead to 1984, rather than back to the 1950s.” The program also revealed that the throwback theme to the roots of rock and roll would continue. Wood’s latest project to date, Eddy and the Falcons, “again confronts his musical influences (the Ronettes, Phil Spector and Elvis Presley among them) it must also be said that these roots are seen through a surrealistic lens…distorted with a kind of ironic detachment.”
Wood and Wizzard took the stage with full facial make-up- Wood’s face painted with a star- and rock and roll clothing that certainly didn’t look like anything they could have found in Phoenix. The music was hard, rough, loud and twisted- horns blasting, guitars digging in, all in a presentation that disregarded niceties and just rocked hard. A friend got Wood’s autograph as the band left the stage and came back holding the pen gingerly, saying breathlessly, “He touched this pen!”
Opening the show was Butterfield Blues Band alumnus Elvin Bishop. This was another one of those strange billing situations. Though Bishop’s music was strong and exhibited skilled musicianship, the aw shucks, good-old-boy-having-fun routine seemed silly, especially when followed by Wood’s brawny, serious rock and roll. Bishop’s forte was stinging guitar solos, including some well-placed chicken scratching. His stage demeanor was friendly and the purpose of his set was simply to entertain. Bishop’s current album then was Let It Flow, his first release on Capricorn Records, a label known for its association with Southern rock.
November 1, 1974- Gammage Auditorium. Jackie DeShannon, Leo Kottke.
My dorm room at ASU was only about a two-minute walk across a big parking lot from Grady Gammage Auditorium. Gammage was a stately, attractive hall designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the venue of choice in the region, particularly for classical music events. I had been to Gammage years earlier on a class trip to hear an orchestra play. As part of student fees, ASU students were able to get free tickets for select series events, which, added to close proximity, made it real easy to go to Gammage to see just about anything. That included a stage reading of Don Juan in Hell, directed by John Houseman and featuring Myrna Loy and Ricardo Montalban. I also checked out heavily made up pop singer Vicki Carr, performing her highly dramatic hit song “It Must Be Him.”
The first concert I went to at Gammage once I moved to Tempe, however, was to see Leo Kottke, a guitarist that I must credit for influencing my own guitar playing. I owned a copy of his Six and Twelve String Guitar album on the Tacoma Records label and its acoustic freshness and strange, syrupy sound encouraged me to find new tunings and to try to play with precision rather than beat on the poor instrument as I did when strumming.
Opening the show was singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon, who added some vocal power to the evening and some old style 1960s idealism, singing “Put A Little Love in Your Heart.” As a solo guitarist, Kottke fit well within the generally formal presentation style favored at Gammage, especially since he had helped elevate contemporary guitar music to an art. I remember the soothing effect of the rolling rhythms Kottke played and the way he picked a melody out in between the waves. After the concert, I hung around outside by the stage door. Kottke’s guitar handler came out to load his instrument in the car and I handed him my ticket stub and asked for an autograph. On his second trip out, he produced Kottke’s signature.
November 13, 1974- Celebrity Theatre. Etta James, Van Morrison.
Life in a college dorm can be full of unexpected events. One night, some acquaintances were having a birthday party for a friend. One of the guys who showed up was on medication and wasn’t supposed to mix in alcohol, which is exactly what he did. This guy started to freak out and was causing trouble on the floor. Meanwhile, another guy was heading out to see Van Morrison’s late show at the Celebrity and offered a ride. The party was dissolving and the maniac was yelling down the hall, so the choice seemed obvious.
The opener at the Celebrity was Etta James, a big soulful woman. This was a hard working performer, who put her body into the groove and stood confidently at the center of a crack band. James had an endearing swagger and her blues-rock was rousing. Unfortunately, Van Morrison was in a lousy mood. He verbally sparred with the audience, sulked and approached his set as if it were a difficult task, ending with a curt nod and a quick walk off stage. I found out later that the guy back at the dorm had climbed out a twelfth floor window and threatened to jump, broke a window, tried to stab a cop, then lead the campus police force on a chase across the campus. I couldn’t decide what was worse- a crazy student, or an arrogant performer. It was a toss-up.
November 14, 1974- Tucson Community Center. George Harrison.
On my way to class one day, a friend slipped me a piece of paper with the most exciting concert news I’d ever heard- George Harrison was coming to Arizona. Intellectually, Dylan’s resurgence was spectacular, but emotionally, the idea of seeing Harrison- a Beatle!- was even more thrilling. His album All Things Must Pass had been a favorite and I considered it the most successful of the ex-Beatles’ work. An ad in the newspaper confirmed the news- Harrison was set to play at the ASU Activities Center. It was being billed as the “Only Arizona Appearance” and the musicians included Ravi Shankar, Billy Preston, Robben Ford, Tom Scott, Chuck Findley, Andy Newmark, Emil Richards and Willie Weeks. The State Press augmented the information with an announcement that the local date was a part of a 27-city tour that started on November 2. Harrison’s last concerts had been the artistically successful benefit events for Bangladesh he had organized at MadisonSquareGarden in 1971. His last American tour with the Beatles had been in 1966. I couldn’t believe my luck. However, there would be trouble in paradise.
Only a few days later, a brief article by Ben Wood appeared in the State Press with the headline: “Contract disagreements may halt Harrison gig.” Sadly, it was followed soon after by another piece that realized everyone’s fears: “Harrison show cancelled.” Wood reported that the cancellation had to do with a contract clause about musician conduct that tour officials did not want to sign. Warren Sumners, managing director of Gammage Auditorium and the Activities Center, said that “ASU has never used the conduct clause against a performer, but it was standard in ASU contracts…If someone can’t accept that clause, we don’t want them on campus.” Sumners weathered a hurricane of outrage over the decision. In the State Press, Donald Arthur Rennie wrote a protest letter that established Harrison as “an American bloodline, an artery which stretches across the Atlantic. He was a member of a band which enjoyed unprecedented popularity.” Rennie also gave Sumners a warning: “You better leave, you are the one we don’t need on campus. I find your attitude in contempt, let alone obnoxious.” I wrote my own letter and sent it directly to Sumners, pleading for a reversal in the decision
Hardy Price of the Arizona Republic gave more details: “Phoenix was dropped…because Bill Graham’s FM productions couldn’t have their way.” According to Price, the ASUActivitiesCenter was originally selected because, of all the halls in the state, it held the most people- 15,000. Tucson’s Community Center, where the concert was being moved to, only held a maximum of 10,000. He reported that the decision had to do with a paragraph in the standard ASU leasing contract which stated that ArizonaState reserved the right to “withhold all monies in the event that the performers use obscene language, drugs or liquor on stage during a performance.” According to Price, none of a variety of acts, including Cat Stevens, James Taylor, John Denver, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Bill Cosby, had refused to sign in the eight years that ASU had been including the clause. Price noted that in an interview with tour promoters, the word “unprofessional” was used in connection with the ASU staff and that got Price’s goat: “If there is one part of show business that is lacking professionalism, it’s rock and roll.”
Ben Wood followed up the controversy with an article in the State Press that appeared with the headline: “Risks and catering demands plague concerts.” In this case, Wood reported that Harrison’s catering “demands” came in the form of a letter to Sumners. The requests included a coffee urn, donuts, orange juice, milk; domestic beer, canned Coca-Cola and 7-Up; fresh spring water, ice, a deli platter, fresh fruit, assorted crackers and breads. The letter also requested “a dinner which would include a salad with no meat or fish, a medium rare roast beef platter and additional beverages.” According to Wood, Sumners turned down the requests: “Try to explain to somebody that putting on a concert is not like ordering a bag of groceries.” So the George Harrison concert moved to Tucson. My brother was living there at the time and became an easy connection for tickets and a place to stay. Several Phoenix friends made the trip with me, as would just about anybody else in Arizona who loved rock music.
The same friend who tipped me off to the event in the first place took notes during the show with a blow-by-blow description of the concert: “Harry’s On the Road”-instrumental; “While My Guitar Gently ‘Smiles’”; “Something”- harmony by Billy Preston, “I hope so” in place of` “I don’t know”; “Will It Go Round in Circles”- Billy w/ Harrison harmony; “Sue Me, Sue You Blues”- “for Jojo”- “Zoom Zoom”- Ravi Shankar conducting, Harrison band accompanying; “Nana Dondee???”- Harrison band leaves stage, but Harrison watches from side; “Chakama???”- title means Pisces, featured “dueling tablas”; “Andrad???”- title means romance, Ravi plays sitar at beginning and end, Tom Scott and Emil Richards play flutes; “I Am Missing You”- Ravi conducting w/ Harrison band accompanying, following song, Harrison introduces Ravi’s band; “Dispute and Violence”- Ravi conducting w/ Harrison band accompanying; intermission; “For You Blue”; “Give Me Love”- Harrison plays acoustic guitar; “In My Life”- intro: “Tripping down memory lane…with a song written by an old friend and a new friend,” as song ends and applause begins, Harri says “John Lennon. God bless him”; “Tom Cat”- “boogie number” by Tom Scott’s LA Express; “Maya Love”- Harrison plays Magical Mystery Tour guitar; “Nothing From Nothing”- Billy, crowd, in a frenzy, descends on stage, others standing on seats, Harrison plays guitar; “Outaspace”- begins almost immediately with no intro; crowd reaches new heights; “Outaspace” reprise- Harrison and Preston, arms locked, do a jig on stage; “Dark Horse”- Harrison plays acoustic guitar; “What Is Life”; encore- “My Sweet Lord”; “Greensleeves” over PA.
Larry Fleischman of the Tucson Citizen called the show “a concert of wondrous proportions.” Fleischman reported that the highlights of Shankar’s Indian music set included a “haunting raga” titled “Romance.” The song titled “I Am Missing You,” performed with the rock band, “was an interesting fusion of raga and Middle Beatle.” As for Harrison’s music, it was hard for Fleischman to overcome the vibes to make any kind of critical statement: “The very fact that George is George makes it hard to evaluate the show…The man has done so much already for music of all types. He is a teacher and a listener.” A sidebar article stated that along with the musical celebrities that were touring with Harrison, “comedian Peter Sellers flew into Tucson, unannounced.”
Despite the realization that “George is George,” it was obvious that not everything about Harrison’s “Dark Horse” tour was perfect. Particularly, Harrison’s voice was hoarse from strain, not matching the instrumental power on stage. Jim Kennedey of the Arizona Daily Wildcat admitted that “Harrison looks like an uncomfortable superstar.” On the other hand, Kennedey saw that Billy Preston looked confident: “His phrasing and technique were clean and expressive, whether improvising in an Indian mode with Ravi Shankar’s band or banging out one of his own hits.” Kennedey also praised Shankar’s contribution to the show with up to twenty-five musicians onstage: “The pieces were dynamic displays of Shankar’s genius and the musicians’ virtuosity.”
When Preston launched into his pair of hits in the second set, Kennedey reported that the crowd pushed toward the stage and the security guards were on edge. Both Harrison and Preston intervened when security confronted a cameraman and tried to eject him. The good times ruled. Preston was dancing, people stood on their chairs, clapping, singing along and when the band ended the set, Kennedey noted the roaring hysteria of the moment: “This audience would not stop.”
The Tucson Citizen reported that 15,911 people saw the two Tucson shows, setting a one-night attendance record and grossing $142,507.50, “eclipsing marks set by Elvis Presley two years ago.” Presley, however, had given only one performance, which attracted 9,500 patrons, still the Center record for a single show. According to the article, “Presley had a smaller backup group than did Harrison, resulting in increased seating.” The Beatles had truly become bigger than Elvis.
Anne Fisher, also of the Tucson Citizen, wrote a feature about Harrison’s shows from the perspective of working in the crowd. According to Fisher, the job of being an usher, for example, involved “telling a six-foot ticket holder he can’t stand in the aisle and trying to maintain balance as a crowd of a few thousand decide they want to move closer- all at once.” Fisher described the fashions in the crowd, what they were drinking and what kind of cameras they were using: “Everything from Instamatics to Nikons were focused and fired at singing George.” Fisher noted that Harrison’s voice was raspy and was amused when the ex-Beatle lead the audience in old Indian prayer chants, though no one but the star knew the words. In the end, Fisher only saw the leftovers, including “some shattered nerves.”
Donald Arthur Rennie of the State Press, the writer who had criticized ASU so severely for losing the concert to Tucson, also leveled his criticism at Harrison. After the show, he lamented that the end of an era had come: “The concept of the Beatles, like God, is dead…Another god-like concept must rise in its place, for a tremendous void exists.” Harrison, Rennie suggested, was “carrying the weight of a Beatle, a Herculean task that has left his voice raspy, rough and hoarse.” However, Rennie also reported Billy Preston’s triumph: “Preston’s obsidian-like eyes and ubiquitous smile sparkled.”
A special note should be made of the Harrison tour program. First of all, the sale of the program benefited the Appalachian Regional Hospitals Inc., once again reflecting Harrison’s charitable nature. The program included song lyrics to several songs, including some not being performed on the tour: “Simply Shady,” “Ding Dong,” “Dark Horse,” and “Far EastMan.” But more, the program also included an essay by Ravi Shankar, titled “Indian Music: An Insight,” as well as several pages of descriptions, diagrams, and a glossary explaining Indian instruments such as the sitar, sarod, sarangi, santoor and many more. It also featured biographies of the featured players in Shankar’s group, including Alla Rakha on tabla. I had bought tour programs before. Herb Alpert and the Stones published pictures of themselves. Eric Clapton’s program included a Clapton “family tree,” tracing his career through his association with other musicians. But Harrison’s program contained real information.
The most appealing thing about Harrison, perhaps, was the feeling that you were not getting just a pop star, but also substance. Harrison’s show was culturally ambitious, featuring such a huge hunk of Indian music, and the stage was jammed with fine Western musicians, offering challenging, big band arrangements of beloved songs that in and of themselves had social and even spiritual meaning. It was a first class production, with style. Of course, it also helped that this was a Beatle and a rare moment in concert history. Harrison would not tour again in America.
November 27, 1974- Celebrity Theatre. Love w/ Arthur Lee, Lou Reed.
The Celebrity program for this show called Lou Reed “one of a bare handful of rock stars whose aphoristic lyrics have the quality of authentic street poetry.” His Transformer album, produced by David Bowie and containing the hit “Walk on the Wild Side,” had also turned him into a pop star, riding the glitter rock wave. 1974 saw the release of Reed’s great Rock and Roll Animal, a no-mercy live album, then Sally Can’t Dance, a studio release.
On stage, Reed kept up his glitter appearance with bleached blonde hair- a strange look for someone who was naturally dark. The most riveting moment of the evening was when Reed wrapped the microphone cord around his arm and play-acted shooting up for the old Velvet Underground tune “Heroin.” Opening the show were Arthur Lee and Love. Known as a band from LA that started in folk rock, then expanded into psychedelia, this reformed version of Love played a tough urban music, mixing hard rock and soul. Lee was in the spotlight, attacking the music with full passion.
November 30, 1974- Celebrity Theatre. Shawn Phillips and Quartermass.
By this time, I considered myself a Phillips-head and cheerfully organized a group of friends to go enjoy another burst of Phillips’ progressive folk rock. Imagine my date’s horror when I showed up in a full white suit I had bought at a tux shop that was going out of business. I thought it looked cool and wanted to be stylish for the Phillips show. I didn’t get a second date, but I would see Phillips again.
December 14, 1974- Celebrity Theatre. Donovan.
When my family moved from Phoenix to the San Fernando Valley in 1970, I went through a period of intense melancholy. So besides continuing to listen to Grand Funk, Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, I also purchased a copy of Donovan’s greatest hits album and allowed the Scottish balladeer’s gentle musical approach to offer solace to a displaced adolescent. By 1974, Donovan was being called a “rock and roll survivor” in the Celebrity program and his return to the stage after a several year lay-off was a welcome opportunity to reconnect with a personality who offered comfort. Donovan had released several albums without touring, including Cosmic Wheel and Essence to Essence. By this time, he was working on an “operetta” titled 7-TEASE and he brought his props, lights and costumes on tour with him. Donovan’s band included Mark Radice on piano, Stewart Lawrence on drums, John Selt on bass and Philip Donnally on lead guitar. However, it would be the music itself that would be memorable, including a rousing version of “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” Donovan’s stage presence- warm, calm and purposeful- made for an especially satisfying live music encounter.
December 28, 1974- Paramount Northwest. Deodato, Herbie Hancock.
On our way to the Paramount for this show, walking from the ferry station to the venue, a drunk on the street, raising his head up from the gutter, hailed me as Jesus and pleaded for me to “bless” him. With my long hair and beard, I supposed that I could have looked like Jesus, so I obliged.
Jazz fusion continued to make its mark in the rock world thanks to the relatively loud volume and instrumental flash that jazz players were applying to the genre. Keyboardist Herbie Hancock was offering a different kind of fusion to audiences with his band, the Headhunters, mixing electric sounds with African percussion and a good dose of funk. The hit song was “Chameleon” from the Headhunters album but his tune “Watermelon Man” remained the most recognizable Hancock composition. At the Paramount, Hancock’s band not only took the opportunity to offer huge helpings of their funkified, ethnic jazz, but also took off on spacey musical excursions, the lights dimming while time itself disappeared.
Opening the show was another keyboardist- Deodato- who took jazz fusion in the direction of dramatic classical music with clear pop, even disco-oriented arrangements. That included a hit version of Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” At the Paramount, Deodato took the stage late, his keyboards stuck off to the stage left corner. This would be my last trip to the Paramount.