Monday, July 14, 2008

Festival history and Free Cream

Last week we created two new designs.

AC/DC’s Angus Young in full head banging mode, and Dickey Betts, the Allman Brothers and Great Southern’s legendary guitarist. I’ve been really pleased with the response to these, especially to Dickey Betts who I rate as a top player and much under-rated in the UK anyway. He plays with great melody and lyricism and has always had killer tone. Outside of his work with the Allman Brothers, his band Great Southern are well worth getting into if you’ve not heard them yet. The band are currently on tour in Europe and their latest album Lets Get Together is as good an album as you’ll hear in 2008. You always get at least one great long instrumental on his records going right back to In Memory Of Elizabeth Reid of course.

History Of Festivals: Part 2

The history of festivals is littered with disasters with the army being called in, promoters losing a ton of money, artists not being paid, bad acid and crazy Hells Angels acting as security.
But it wasn’t always like that. This week I’m looking at two festivals held in July 1969 that were both very successful in terms of good vibes, good music and good money.

The Atlanta Pop Festival was held on the 4th and 5th of July 1969.and pulled in 140,000 people to the Atlanta International Speedway in Georgia.
Despite riots at recent festivals in Denver and Northridge, California the local authorities gave the event their blessing. Local newspaper The Atlanta Journal ran an editorial praising the variety and quality of performers and saying ‘a full music diet is good for a city. Pop music is important and expressive of our times.’

How enlightened and, like, groovy man.

And as if by instant karma, the whole festival ran smoothly and everyone had a great time.
The Friday night was choc full of top notch blues and jazz bands including CCR, Canned Heat, Johnny Winter, The Butterfield Blues Band, Dave Brubeck, Booker T and Blood Sweat and Tear. The Saturday gig included Led Zeppelin, Janis, Spirit, Joe Cocker, Chicago, Grand Funk Railroad, The Staple Singers and Tommy James and Shondells.
The festival was organized by Alex Cooley who later put on the excellent Texas International Pop Festival later that year in Dallas.
The thermometer tipped over 100 degrees and the local fire department hosed the gathered rockers down with fire hoses. But unlike at other festivals where high temperatures seemed to go hand in hand with violence or demands for a free festival, no such trouble happened in Atlanta.
Photos of the event show a massive, shade-free venue with a tiny stage set in the middle of it. It’s about as far away from the giant stages and sound systems we see today.
The program for the event interestingly dealt openly with drugs, stating,

“Atlanta is a generally cool town, with relatively few dope busts. Almost all psychedelics are available with the exception of grass. Prices on lids range from $15 to $20, tabs of acid from $4 to $6, hash at $10 a gram. We have music and be-in's in the park every weekend."

I don’t know how that compares ot prices today – has their been inflation or deflation in drug prices? The latter I’m assuming.

Alex Cooley made $12,000 from the event. The fact that it had passed off so successfully was credited with helping the counter-culture flourish in the area.

There are a few blogs of people’s personal experiences at the festival and most seem to confirm how excellent most of the band were, especially Led Zeppelin who where sweeping across America at the time, taking the country by storm.

How much anyone could have heard with the primitive PA systems is open to debate but this was certainly one festival fondly remembered by those who attended.

The Seattle Pop Festival was held 25-27 July at Gold Creek Park, Woodenville, Washintgon. It was $6 for one days, $15 for all three. Bands playing included Chuck Berry, Black Snake, Tim Buckley, The Byrds, Chicago Transit Authority, Albert Collins, Crome Syrcus, Bo Diddley, the Doors, Floating Bridge, The Flock, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Guess Who, It's A Beautiful Day, Led Zeppelin, Charles Loyd, Lonnie Mack, Lee Michaels, Rockin Fu, Murray Roman, Santana, Spirit, Ten Years After, Ike & Tina Turner, Vanilla Fudge, and the Youngbloods. Not bad eh!

70,000 attended and it was promoted by Boyd Grafmyre who had previously worked with the New American Community at successful and highly groovy not-for-profit Sky River Festival in ’68 also in Washington.

This was one of the first not to use any regular or off-duty Police officers as security. He brought in 150 youth volunteers from Seattle’s Head Start programme. They were ticket collectors, maintenance and security.

The whole weekend ran so smnoothly that Grafmyre grossed over $300,000 in return for $200,000 spent. This huge profitable successp roved that if you did it right festivals could make you a lot of money.

Chick Dawsey who owned Gold Greek , was surprised by the fans who turned up,
“I disagree with their movement 100 per cent," said Dawsey, "but some of us adults better get the hell closer to them. They respond very much to kindness, we older people better learn this -- If they need a drink of water we, the establishment, should go out and offer it."

Hey that sounds like a straight due getting with the programme to me. Cool.

Of the bands that played, naturally Zep were brilliant as the soundboard bootleg that has been available for decades proves. There’s a great contemporary account of The Doors set here and Santana, who were to be a big hit at Woodstock the following month, were also widely acclaimed.

While there were problems with sanitary issues and water supplies, this was still a well run, peaceful, very cool festival. Not bad for $15 certainly.

This Weeks Free Stuff

I’m pleased to say that a big pile of new freebies is now sitting on my shelf and boy you are in for some treats in coming weeks. And we kick off with some Cream.

DVD CREAM: The Fully Authorized Story
This is an abolsute gem. You get a 200 minute documentary of the band and an additional CD with Swedish radio sessions from 1967 ajnd 5 previously unreleased audio tracks from 1967.
There is stacks of archive footage, interviews with all concerned, clips, and 6 full length live tracks.
Cream remains one of my favourite bands of all time – the ultimate power trio.
This is a must have DVD and I’ve got 6 copies to give away.

If you can get an original vinyl copy of this and it’ll cost you up to £30, then you really should because the artwork is so good. However, the music is equally stunning. Kicking off with Strange Brew and Sunshine of your Love and containing other classic like SWLABR and my favourite Tales Of Brave Ulysses – what a vocal on that on – Jack Bruce is so under-rated as a singer, possibly because he’s such a staggeringly great bass player.
It’s an incredible 41 year old now but it sounds fresh, challenging and blows the bins right out on your speakers.
I’ve got 4 copies of this historic, legendary album to give away.

Book: Cream: How Eric Clapton Took the World by Storm by Dave Thompson.

320 pages of history which takes you back to the mid 60s and tells the whole story about how the band came together, why they were so revolutionary and how in a short space of time – less than three years – it all fell apart.

CD Five Live Yardbirds
The original vinyl album is highly collectible and it really is the finest expression of the early 60s British R & B boom. The band’s power is undeniable. Their Smokestack Lightin’ is monumental and Five Long Years is Clapton at his best. Also on this CD you get all the 7” singles featuring Eric, all of which stand out as classics.
Wild raw and recorded live at The Marquee in 1963, this is historic music.
I’ve got 3 copies to give away.

To win any of these just send me an email with Cream DVD, Cream CD, Cream book, or Yardbirds or any combination of those into the subject line along with your address. I’ll pick the winners next week. Good luck!

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