This article orginally appeared in Issue 11 of Crawdaddy in September/October, 1967
The DOORS, in person, have become the best the West has to offer. In concert at the Village Theater several weeks ago, they were frightening and beautiful beyond my ability to describe. In the audience, young men with thoughtfully groomed beards contorted like Beatles fans in the days of Shea Stadium. Robbie, Ray, and John excelled in musicianship, constantly adding to the perfection of their album (now #2 in the country—!—and certainly indelible in the minds of the audience) and leaving no note unturned in their desire to communicate. And as it was meant to be, Jim stole the show. “I tell you, I tell you, I tell you we must die!” “Hope not,” he added. Our hearts stopped. “The men don’t know, but the little girls, they understand…Don’tcha?” The audience gasped.
The first show was the unexpected by way of the familiar, anti-climaxing nicely with “Light My Fire.” The difference between “records” and “live,” the subtleties of “new” and “old-as-new” were illustrated with utter clarity. Jim brilliantly carried the audience from anticipation to excitement to over-the-edge fright and joy. And the second show, opening with “When the Music’s Over,” made the first an introduction. If “Horse Latitudes” had shaken us stem to stern, still we didn’t know how lost we were till Jim spoke, without accompaniment, the Sophocles section of “The End.” And then fell, worshiping some young lady knelt before the stage. And suddenly flew into the air, a leap to make Nureyev proud. And finally swung his microphone on its cord, around his head, toward the audience, more and more violent, prepared to release—everything; and we knew he’d do it. One of us would die. “This is the end,” he sang into the now-frustrated, un-violent microphone, “my only friend,” and Jim was wonderful shrugging his shoulders and letting the boys carry on in “Light My Fire.”
The Doors are now the best performers in the country, and if the albums are poetry as well as music, then the stage show is most of all drama, brilliant theater in any sense of the word. Artistic expression transcending all form, because you knew as Jim died there for you on stage that that wasn’t mere acting—but it was all for art. Christ, they say, became the perfect criminal, negating all crimes in his own most heinous one. Absolving the world by absorbing all sins. And Jim dies a little more each day, pulling toward him all the violence around him, frightening and beautiful as he strains to perfect his art. And every day more of a pop star, pied piper of mice and the flower kids, and when the music’s over…
When I first heard a dub of Strange Days, l thought of Rap Brown’s troubles and suggested that in six months everyone connected with this album might be in jail. But I wasn’t kidding. Cancel my subscription…
WABC in New York will not play records over 3? minutes long until they’re in the Top 20 nationwide. WMCA is trying to follow a similar policy (records affected include “All We Need ls Love,” “Ode to Billie Joe,” “Pooneil,” “Whiter Shade of Pale,” “We Love You,” and “Dandelion”). And WOR-FM doesn’t really play better music, only more. And they still publish a weekly “best-selling” chart. Who’s in charge here?
The MONKEES had to cancel a concert in Detroit because of the riots. ::: Rays of hope: APOSTOLlC, the first twelve-track recording studio in the country, is now open at 53 East 10th Street in New York. This may be a real boon to the development of local rock groups; it’s certainly friendlier and more aware than the average studio. And on the West Coast, Bill Graham is building an independent eight-track studio for use of San Francisco groups. The studio, and rehearsal space, will be in the Geary Temple, two doors from the Fillmore
Auditorium, in downtown San Francisco. Modern recording facilities, operated with modern attitudes and placed close to centers of rock activity, are vital investments in the future of this music.
Mick Jagger wanted to record the Stones, the Beatles, and Allen Ginsberg singing “Hare Krishna” for the next ROLLING STONES album. It probably won’t happen, but the thought was nice. Other Stones projects: a Bill Wyman song for the next LP; “She Comes in Colours,” a new Jagger-Richards composition backed with strings; and a color film of The Trials of Oscar Wilde, with Mick Jagger as Wilde and Marianne Faithfull as Bosie, made to promote “We Love You”! The tape played backward at the end of “We Love You” is the last few bars of “Dandelion” (which was recorded last November, around the time of “Ruby Tuesday”). Says Mick: “I’m not involved in this ‘love and flowers’ scene, but it is something to bring people together for the summer. In the winter we’ll probably latch onto snow.”
The BLUES PROJECT has broken up completely now; Steve Katz and Al Kooper have formed a new group entitled Blood, Sweat and Tears and expect to record for Verve-Forecast.
Los Angeles is getting interested in country & western music. C&W, already a huge influence on rock past and present, could well become more directly relevant to what’s good in modern rock. The Byrds, the Buffalo Springfield are groups that already show a strong country influence; the possibility of c&w getting into the heads of a group like Love, or some of the blues bands, is very exciting indeed. RCA is recording a group called the Stone Country, with one producer for pop music and a different one for country. The CANDYMEN, Roy Orbison’s former backup group, are recording for ABC. All of the Candymen are successful Nashville songwriters experienced in traditional rock and country music, and fascinated by new approaches. Their first LP is intriguing for its musical cross-references, but nothing like the really fine music l expect this group to someday record. In person, they project other people’s material more powerfully than any other group I’ve seen; believe it or not, they make performing overfamiliar material a valid art! And we can expect more country-based rock groups very soon…
JEFFERSON AIRPLANE’s third album will be out at the end of October; it’s called After Bathing at Baxter’s, and comes in a fold-out jacket designed by cartoonist Ron Cobb. Included are “Young Girl Sunday Blues” (Marty), “Ulysses,” “Two Heads” (Grace), and “Martha,” “Follow Me,” and “Pooneil” (Paul). :: One of the greatest problems facing rock music is finding suitable environments outside San Francisco for presenting good rock to large audiences. A frontal attack was made on this problem in early August when Bill Graham presented Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead at Toronto’s enormous, posh O’Keefe Centre. The Dead and the
Airplane performed onstage surrounded by several hundred members of the audience, dancing and smiling, with sound equipment imported from San Francisco and light shows by Head Lights (S.F.) and Sensefex (New York). The press was enthusiastic, and the audience more so—more than 20,000 saw the show at O’Keefe during the week of performances, and another 50,000 attended free concerts given by the two groups in Toronto and Montreal. The message was crystal clear: It can happen here.
In New York, the Village Theatre (after such disasters as the Who concert earlier in the summer) has become an excellent showcase for visiting groups—the Yardbirds, Cream, the Byrds, and the Doors have all played highly successful concerts there recently. Boston-area authority figures have done a pretty good job of harassing the Crosstown Bus, but the Boston Tea Party remains open and is doing extremely well—the audience is wonderful, the whole scene is warm and exciting. The Family Dog has opened a ballroom in Denver, and reports great success. And Washington D.C. has the Ambassador Theatre, which after many hassles has opened and has turned into something very groovy. In fact, with offspring flourishing across the country, San Francisco itself seems least hopeful of good things to come. Dance permits are being revoked for the ballrooms; outdoor music is being hassled as well. The people are fighting back, with some success, but the city government is pulling out the plugs wherever and whenever it can. The next war may start this way.
“Ode to Billie Joe” was one of the few records ever to make it on pop, country, soul, and easy listening charts simultaneously. ::: Reprise is releasing albums by and giving heavy promotion to Jack Elliott, Jim Kweskin Jug Band, David Blue, and Arlo Guthrie. ::: The Supremes appear as nuns on a forthcoming Tarzan TV show.
An overfamiliar theme around here is the amount of freedom rock artists have achieved. We should remember, while rejoicing, that rock groups are well treated by the music business right now only because rock sells. Esmond Edwards, new a&r director of Verve jazz product, had these friendly words for jazz artists: He feels, “it’s not too much to ask that they think in terms of earning a greater income by sporting more commercialized sounds and still maintaining basic jazz elements of their artistry.” Uh huh… ::: The nicest regular event in New York right now is the Group Image Wednesday thing at the Palm Gardens. For a buck-fifty you get to spend four hours in a really groovy environment, with fine people, and music that isn’t always good, but getting better all the time. Go.
RAVI SHANKAR is scoring and conducting the soundtrack for a Hollywood film called Charly. ::: BlG BROTHER & THE HOLDING COMPANY should not be judged by their Mainstream LP. Mainstream released the album against the group’s wishes—it contains ten tracks recorded on the group’s first visit to a recording studio, some ten months ago. The group was recorded under bad circumstances by people unfamiliar with rock, and some of the tracks on the album aren’t even completed; Mainstream simply released whatever it had. In spite of all this, it’s a good album, and worth owning. But the Holding Company are a dozen times better than the album indicates. They are one of the finest groups in the country—as they proved again at the Monterey Pop Festival—and this record doesn’t begin to capture their greatness.
Number two in England at this writing, and a very pleasant record, is KEITH WEST’s “Excerpt from a Teenage Opera,” which it really is—the entire opera will be released as a two-record set in December, and Keith, a member of a new British group called Tomorrow, is making a film of
Lance Fent has left the PEANUT BUTTER CONSPIRACY and is replaced on lead guitar by Bill Wolff. The group has high hopes of dumping Gary Usher and recording a good LP. Gary Usher is a producer for Columbia on the West Coast, who works with the Byrds and Chad & Jeremy. He was a friend of Brian Wilson’s and a bank teller when Brian collaborated with him on some songs and brought him into the music world. Interestingly enough, it was a record produced and arranged by Gary Usher, called “My World Fell Down,” which—because of similarities between
“My World Fell Down” and Smile tapes which Brian had stored under lock and key at Columbia’s Studio D in Los Angeles—caused Brian Wilson to stop using professional studios and instead build a four-track recording studio in his new home. Much of the BEACH BOYS’ Smiley
Smile was probably recorded there. :
Smiley Smile, by the way, is not the same album as the much-anticipated Smile. The latter was to be a full collaboration with Van Dyke Parks, and would have included “Surf’s Up,” “The Child ls the Father of the Man,” and “The Elements” (a four-part evocation of earth, air, fire, and water) among others. What happened to it? The gap between conception and realization was too great, and nothing satisfied Brian by the time he’d worked it out and gotten it on tape. And eventually the moment passed—if Smile could have somehow been kidnapped in January of
1967 and released as an unfinished work, the world would be considerably richer. But like many other fine artists before him, Brian was unable to realize his original concept of Smile when he wanted to, and after a while he no longer wanted to. He no longer had the same vision.
Most of those tapes have reportedly been destroyed; anyone who ever heard any of the achingly beautiful tracks laid down for Smile must be deeply saddened by that news. Very few growing artists like what they did six months ago—which doesn’t mean it isn’t good, of course. Brian got to a state where—because he grew so fast—he couldn’t stand last week’s stale genius, he had to forge ahead. And Smiley Smile…like “Heroes and Villains,” it could no longer be a perfect work, so it might as well be whatever it was (“Heroes and Villains” originally had a chorus of dogs barking, cropped when Brian heard Sergeant Pepper, and was in many ways
[the bicycle rider] a far different song). Smile is the one that got away.
Albums you must buy right away include: Procol Harum, The Live Kinks, Chelsea Girl (Nico), and Pearls Before Swine. Fail not at your peril. ::: The INCREDIBLE STRING BAND’s second album is being compared to Sgt. Pepper over in England, where they come from. The group is exceptional; from the way the British press is raving, the release of that album over here will be a major event. Nice to look forward to.
The Rolling Stones will produce their own records from now on; farewell Andrew Loog. ::: The DOORS album is now #1 on the Cash Box charts. Like “Light My Fire” and the Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, it is a certified million-seller. Other chart statistics (from Billboard): all of the Top 14 albums are rock (for better or worse), and more than sixty of the Top 100. Are You Experienced?, #12; Byrds Greatest Hits, #13; Vanilla Fudge (despite the single, a dismal album), #17; Country Joe, #39; Absolutely Free, #41; Big Brother & the Holding Company, #90.
Things are in good shape.
The MAMAS & PAPAS aren’t exactly breaking up, just taking it easy till they find something they want to do. ::: Harold Wilson has filed suit against the MOVE, a well-known group in England, who publicized their latest hit with an embarrassing drawing of Wilson and his secretary and the inscription, “Lewd and disgusting though Harold may be, beautiful is the only word for ‘Flowers in the Rain.’”
Jon Landau writes from Boston: “The BAGATELLE is unquestionably the finest group in the Boston area. They are a modern, hip soul band tuned in to more than just soul.” I agree completely, having seen them at the Boston Tea Party; they are fine musicians and performers, getting into important stuff. This is a Crawdaddy-certified good group; they’re in New York now, sometimes—look for them. ::: We’re still plugging: The GENTLE SOUL, now on Epic, and DENNY LAINE, on Deram. John Handy and Jerry Hahn both have new LPs to look for. Donovan’s writing a soundtrack, Procol Harum’s making a movie. No room left on this page —Paul