Wednesday, August 27, 2008

History of Festivals Part 7: Miami Pop 1968; 5 Free Yngwie albums

Miami Pop Festival December 28-30 1968

This festival is an important one because it was the first major fesitval held on the east coast, following on from a smaller Miami event in May.

Over 100,00 attended all from the Fort Lauderdale-Miami area.
It as actually held in Hallandale, just outisde of Miami in Gulfstream Park, a massive race track. Promotor Tom Rounds who had organised the Mount Tam fest in Oakland the previous year amazingly rented the track for just $5,000 and a 5% gross of the gate. This more or less guaranteed a decent profit could be made.

Rounds and his associates had already realised you needed to get everyone on your side, so he secured backing of local Governor Claude Kirk, the Mayor of Hallandale and local community groups. All of whom worked together to solve difficulties over sleeping arrangements and traffic jams.

This was an early example of a two stage festival where one band could set up while another played on another stage a few hundred yards away. With stalls and booths inbetween it ensured there was always plenty to do and the music was more or less continuous with bands all playing around 45 minutes each.

The line up was broad-ranging and diverse. From the folk side of things were Joni, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Richie Havens and Ian & Sylvia. Blues was represented by the brilliant Butterfield Blues Band - do check out all their albums if you can; hard core electric chicgo blues at its finest.

Also on the bill were Canned Heat, Booker T and the James Cotton blues Band. Hugh Masekala and the Charles Lloyd Quarter were the jazz element; soul was there in the shape of Marvin Gaye; The Box Tops, Junior Walker and Joe Tex - that's hot stuff right there eh!

If you fancied a bit of bluegrass then Flatt & Scruggs were there to finger pick you to heaven. On the pop side were The Turtles, Three Dog Night and Jose

And finally there were the rock n roll bands. Oh yeah. You got Terry Reid; Procul Harem; Fleetwood Mac; Country Joe; The Dead; Pacific Gas & Electric; Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf, Sweetwater and Chuck Berry and a host of other local bands. This was one hell of a lot of music wasn't it??! And all for just $7.

The Dead's set was Lovelight, Dark Star > St.Stephen > The Eleven > Cryptical Envelopment > Drums > The Other One > Cryptical Envelopment > Feedback > We
Bid You Goodnight.

By all accounts it was West Coast rockers Pacific Gas that rocked the festival, playing 4 times to thunderous applause. A much forgotten band PG & E are well worth checking out. They were from Los Angeles and were an early racially mixed band. Their 1968 album Get It On, the eponymous follow up and 1970's 'Are you Ready' are a fine triumverate of records. For no good reason I've recently been collecting all their singles on vinyl!
Check them out on youtube here Man they look super groovy!

The Miami Pop Festival was a big success. No trouble lots of great music Rolling Stone ran a headline saying ' The Most Festive Festival of 1968' and indeed, it proved to be a great way to wrap up a great year of rock n roll.

Tom Rounds got all the plaudits and planned a follow up fest the next year and had got everyone on board once again, then Woodstock happened and the authorities panicked. They feared half a million kids would show up in Hallandale this time and wreck the whole place. They pulled his permits and the festival never happened. In one short year the whole festival vibe had gone from being one of groovy acceptance of this new social phenomena to fear of the
breakdown of society. All of which seems a shame really.

As this fesitval showed early on, it was quite possible for everyone to have a good time, to get their rocks off, for the promoters and bands to get paid and for everyone to go home happy to have been part of some good vibes and great music.

Within a year Altamont had proved to be the flip side to this enlightened dream, ending in violence and murder. But in 1968 in Miami the future still looked golden as the bands jammed together long into the night.

Free Stuff

This week you get a chance to win 5 Yngwie Malmsteen Albums. yes 5!

You get all of these:
War To End All Wars
Magnum Opus
Double Live
Seventh Sign

If you like a sweeping arpegio, a lot of legato noodling then these albums are right up your shanghai noodle factory. If you've not got our Yngwie shirt it is here

I've got 5 sets of these to give away. For a chance to win email me with your address and Malmsteen in the subject box. I'll draw 5 at random next week.

All other draws have now been made so ther's no point in entering any of the ones below!

Rock on!


Monday, August 18, 2008

History of Festivals 6: The Denver Pop Festival 1969: Free Black Label Society

The Denver Pop Festival 27th -29th June 1969

This mile high festival went down in history as one of the most violent of the era with cops and long-hairs fighting pitched battles.

It seems that the violence was partly the result of radical political activists. The American Liberation Front, a collective of young Socialist, radical clergy, students for a democratic society and anti-war protestors, had got a permit from Denver City Hall to stage a series of protests and demos at City Park culminating with a July 4th march through downtown.

The ALF leaders wanted to get festival goers to join their ranks, one of the first instances of outright politicization of the counter culture. City leaders didn’t like the idea of this at all and drew up plans to prevent it happening by enticing festival campers to pitch up at the local baseball ground rather than in the park where the demos were to be held. Free transport would take them to the gig.

Ticket prices were $6 per day, or $15 for all three days

The Denver Pop Festival was promoted by Barry Fey, the leading dude in the area; a man who had put gigs on at Red Rock and Deniver Auditorium. The festival was to be held in Mile High Stadium; it made sense there was all the facilities needed there so all he had to do was stage the music and take the tickets. That was the theory anyway.

The line up was headed by Jimi Hendrix, along with CCR, Three Dog Night, Joe Cocker, Poco, Iron Butterfly, Big Mamma Willie Mae Thornton, Taj Mahal, Johnny Winter and one of the first appearances by The Mothers Of Invention. Incidentally, Zephyr were also on the bill, a local band featuring a young Tommy Bolin – do check out Zephyr’s albums – they’re well worth it.

Thornton opened the gig on Friday night, followed by The Flock – featuring violinist Jerry Goodman who was to later play with Mahavishu Orchestra(wasn’t he also Nash The Slash?)

Then came Three Dog Night, The Mothers and Iron Butterfly.
Everything seemed cool with only a couple of gate-crashing incidents for the Police to deal with. The music was loud so many ticket-less fans just hung around outside to groove anyway. The ALF passed out literature but there was no hassle.

This all changed on Saturday evening. The gig was due to start at 6.30pm. Fans with tickets were let in at 5.30 and while that was happening, a large crowd that had gathered at the south end of the stadium charged the fence, only to be repelled by Police and security, however several hundred managed to get in. By 7.30pm aonther large group had gathered by the main gate. Police reinforcements arrived in riot gear which only provoked people more and a hail of bottles and rocks were thrown at them, those who had got in free began to attack the security from inside the stadium.

When one cop was floored by a wine bottle, the tear gas was brought out and fired at the mob who simply threw the canisters back. In what sounds like a scene from the Simpson, the prevailing wind then took the gas into the stadium which understandably upset the fans who were at the time watching jonny Winter. Bedlam broke out and Barry Fey, under pressure from the Denver Police Chief, opened the gates up and let everyone outside in for free.
Barry was not a happy man, and was angry that the Police hadn’t kept control. Now a precedent had been set for Sunday night. A big crowd gathered demanding to get in free.

This time the cops, feeling like they’d been humiliated by a bunch of student and long-haired freaks the previous night, were determined not to give in. Retaliation was in the air. Police dogs surrounded the stadium, an extra platoon of cops in riot gear was deployed, and a thing called a pepper-fog machine was on hand to pump tear gas and skin-burning mace into the air. Everything you need for a good night of rock n roll eh?!

This provoked the kids to throw more rocks which in turn provoked the police to use the pepper-fog like a machine gun, mowing down their enemy. As kids tried to get away they were billy-clubbed and arrested. Violence was rife on all sides. Who was to blame? It wasn’t easy to say; no one was innocent. Howeverm nany in the alternative community felt that the authorities were simply scared of what they saw as the threat of the counter culture and that the ‘straight’ town officials just totally over-reacted and panicked.

Fey was under pressure from the cops to open the gates again to stop more trouble and again he gave in. Over 3,000 gate-crashed and caught the end of Hendrix’s set. He played Purple Haze and legged it as a wave of gate-crashers poured across the field towards the stage. It was to be the Experience’s last ever performance

The whole festival was a disaster and city fathers said it would be the first and least festival the city ever put on because it was impossible to control such large scale events. However, only 50,000 at most had actually attended at any one time so it was far from a big sprawling festival such as Woodstock which would happen a few weeks later.

However, the idea of containing a festival within a stadium was an idea that was not dead and it would be resurrected in the 70s to greater effect because it offered the chance to regulate and control fans with more sensitive policing.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see how and why the authorities got this wrong. The left wing activists mixed up with a bunch of long haired kids and freaks looked like revolution to some people; the end of the American way. It wasn’t of course and it was never going to be – most just wanted to have a good time and get their dose of rock n roll.

No one came out of this one with much honour. The set that Hendrix played – which is of course available as a bootleg – is very, very good though. But it must have been hard to dig it if you’re eyes are streaming with tear gas!


This week we’ve got a very special package of four Black Label Society albums to give away to 6 lucky winners thanks to Rob at Eagle Rock.

Sonic Brew
The Blessed Hellride
Stronger Than Death
Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live!!(2CD set)

This is a must have quartet of albums for any Zakk Wylde fans and for fans of heavy duty metal everywhere. For a chance to win just email me with Black Label Society in the subject box. I’ll draw out 6 lucky winners next week.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

History of Rock Festivals part 5 & free Sabbath & Leonard Cohen

California Jam I & II

The first Cal Jam was held on 6th April 1974 at Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, Southern California.

Promoter Lenny Stogel felt the location for this 12 hour gig was ideal. Two highways bordered the speedway and it was within driving distance of L.A and San Diego. It also had parking for a massive 50,000 cars.

It had been hoped to get Led Zeppelin, The Band or The Stones to play but their fees were too high.

However, the headlining bands were still top calibre; ELP, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Also on the bill were boogie merchants Black Oak Arkansas, Seals and Croft, Rare Earth, The Eagles and Earth Wind and Fire.
Now that’s what I call a killer bill eh!

Stogel was sure that the way to make a festival a success was to keep everyone’s attention 100% of the time, so to that end he had a stage built on tracks and with hydraulic lifts so that one band’s great could be set up while one band played their set. Then within 15 minutes of a band leaving the stage, the next was ready to go.
On top of that skydivers, stunt men, skateboarders and other entertainers kept people amused.

ELP had a hell of a lot of gear by this time and had to have a special platform constructed for them – impressive really when you consider there were only 3 of them in the band. It was around this time that Carl Palmer had a 100% steel drum kit built which weighed something insane like a tonne and must have needed its own truck to be ferried around.

The gig pulled in 200,000 fans all paying $10 a ticket; the gross was one of the biggest in rock at that time. ABC filmed it for their In Concert series. It’s this footage that you will see on all manner of DVD’s of Purple and Sabbath in particular.

First on where Rare Earth who hit the stage 15 minutes early! Although it was still just 1974, it already felt a long way from the hippy fests of 5 years earlier.
Some felt it was brilliantly organized and executed, others saw it as the death of experimentation and creativity.

However, the music was at times superb. Purple’s set, with the newly installed David Coverdale on vocals and Glenn Hughes on bass played most of the new Burn album and Blackmore was on excellent form. They finished their set in mayhem with Blackmore throwing guitars into the crowd, sticking his guitar into one of ABC’s cameras, dousing his amps in petrol and blowing them up!! They left the site by helicopter fearing ABC might be a bit cross about all this and want the police to arrest them!

ELP closed the show. You’ll have seen the famous footage of Emerson playing a grand piano while spinning 50 foot up in the air! It’s an amazing site to say the least.

You can buy downloads of all bands sets from the superb web site.

Lenny Stogel later said, I didn’t want anything popping off unexpected. I wanted to be in total control….two hundred thousand kids is a big responsibility. I used to get a funny feeling in my stomach whenever I thought about it. I had to be in control – for the preservation of my sanity.’

Stogel was to die in 1979 in a DC-10 plane crash in Chicago.

The lure of the big bucks made Cal Jam II inevitable at some point. 18th March 1978 was the date for the gig at the same location. This time 250,000 turned up, it was also filmed and this time it was recorded for an album.

By now the old festival spirit of love, peace and grooviness was gone. This was all about everyone making big money from rock n roll.

The line up was FM radio friendly. Santana headlined supported by Dave Mason, Heart, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Mahogany Rush, Rubicon and Bob Welch. Some commented that this illustrated the so-called stagnation of rock in the late 70s. The performers had a choice of either being helicoptered in from The Beverly Hills hotel or chauffeured in lavish customized vans with paintings of the bands latest album spray-painted on the side. I’ve seen a photo of the Heart van – it looks awful – like a cheesy cartoon style painting you’d see at a fairground.

This was the era of rock star excess. Plates of M & M’s with the yellow ones removed and pinball machines backstage all of which must have been great fun for the musicians but a bit of a pain in the backside for those who had to service their needs.

If you want to watch the ABC shows and/or buy all the music played, go here to do that just that

The Cal Jams were undoubtedly a big success for the promoters and for the bands too and they are fondly remembered by many who attended. There’s no doubt some brilliant music was played. It was at such gigs were the modern notion of a well organized festival was born. It wasn’t a counter-culture happening that was so revolutionary a few years earlier but it was nonetheless a great place to get your rock nr oll rocks off and who amongst us can say that isn’t a very., very good thing!



This takes you from the beginnings of the band up till 1978. You get 11 excellent live performances including N.I.B; Snowblind & Never Say Die interspersed with comments from Tony & Geezer.
However, the stand out thing is the 1970 live version of War Pigs performed in Paris in an early version with slightly different lyrics. It is frankly astonishing; a spine-tingling moment of rock n roll with a manic Ozzy and Tony Iommi’s precise riffing both amazing. However, it’s the rhythm section that steals it – Bill’s drumming is the very definition of powerhouse, driving home the riff with Geezer restless and inventive. Later live shows features Vill on a massive kit but in 1970 he’s got a basic set up and yet is more powerful. It’s stunning stuff. Honestly. You have to see it if you’ve not already done so.
I’ve got 3 copies of this DVD to give away

Death Of A Ladies Man & Recent Songs

‘Death of a Ladies man’ was Leonard’s fifth album in 1977. Phil Spector get’s a co-credit on everything and his wall of sound is very much in evidence. This was a break with his classic, folk based style and featured the cream of LA session musos, The Section.

Recent Songs two years later was his next album and he’d changed his sound to a more jazz/eastern influences.

With Leonard touring and getting rave reviews these two albums are beautiful examples of the breadth and quality of some of his lesser known work.

I’ve got three pairs of these albums to give away.

Just email me with Sabbath or Cohen in the subject box for a chance to win these.

All previous draws have been made – if you won, you’ll have heard from me.