The purpose of this page is to try and document all the known performances of The Soft White Underbelly, Stalk Forrest Group, as well those that occurred in the immediate aftermath of their transition into Blue Oyster Cult.
Straight from the start, I can say that this is an impossible task to do with any sort of precision because nobody was taking notes back then. There often weren't any tickets for gigs, and no newspapers were reviewing them.
A lot of the information comes from casual mentions and half-remembered events almost half a century old! It's a wonder I've been able to uncover any solid dates, but, thankfully, there are a few...
The task now comes of trying to slot the vague memories of such and such a gig into the actual timeline of known dateable gigs and events...
As usual, if anyone can help with any info whatsoever, please let me know...
The Disciples was the name of the band formed between Albert, Donald, Bruce Abbott, Jeff Latham and Skip O'Donnell during their second term at Clarkson College early in 1966.
They only lasted until the school broke up for Summer, and Buck Dharma's on record as saying The Disciples never played any actual gigs...
However, Albert begs to differ...
No, no - that's not true - we had one gig, we played for the Alpha Zoo - the AZ Fraternity and they hired us and the setup was we played in a little basement in a room that was probably 12 feet wide and 20 feet long... it was teeny, and when we went down into this room, there were two, three, four people, no girls - just a few guys and we set up and we started playing, and then - one-by-one they all left...
So finally we were just playing by ourselves and at the end of the night, we'd played like three sets - the first set we drove everybody out of the room, and then the other two sets we played for ourselves and then the guy who hired us comes down and gives us the money - he said, "Well, you guys were loud and we wanted a loud rock band, so we got what we wanted so thanks a lot" [Chuckles] We sucked!!
Ha, yeah. We were loud. I suppose we sucked by objective standards. But we weren't terrible. Just likely not what a fraternity party would be looking for in a band. We didn't play the hits.
And when you first start out, you don't pay that much attention to dynamics and gelling together like you do later once you know what you're doing.
Didn't play the hits? I'd be interested in seeing a setlist of the songs they did play that night.
I asked Albert if there were any other gigs after that fraternity party?
I think we did a talent show or something also - we had another situation where we played but it wasn't a real gig - we didn't get paid - but we had great ideas, "grand ideas" - as I say in "Change the World Henry" - and we just thought well, we'll continue next year...
After a Summer spent playing around the 1000 Islands with The Clansmen, Albert came back to Clarkson in Fall 1966 full of fresh ideas as to the type of music they should be playing - namely the Blues... it so happened that also during the summer, Donald had been very impressed after seeing The Blues Project, and suggested that was who they should be emulating - and so they changed their name to The Travesty to signify their change of direction.
I only know of this gig thanks to Sandy Roeser's notes:
My first encounter with Buck and Albert was in my sophomore year at a Italian restaurant and bar called "Fiacco's."
I'll never forget walking into this place on a Friday night and being amazed to find that the band, (which included four guys from the engineering school across the river, Clarkson College), "The Travesty", was doing Blues Project cover tunes. I was the biggest Blues Project fan in town so I was excited to see what they could do.
I stood there in front of the band for a few songs, absolutely stunned that the guitar player was nailing Danny Kalb's guitar leads note for note. His name was Donald Roeser.
The rest of "The Travesty" were Albert Bouchard on drums, Bruce Abbott on bass, Jeff Latham on guitar, keys and flute, and Skip O'Donnell on vocals.
That night we started a friendship that would span three decades and would be among the most important in my life.
That's interesting that Sandy says Bruce Abbott was on bass - Albert says that when they went back to Clarkson for that second year and decided to go down the Blues Project route, he endeavoured to get Bruce to switch to keyboards because his bass playing wasn't solid enough:
I started a campaign to get Latham to switch to bass and Bruce to play keyboards, because I'd heard him play and he had studied classical music and he was really pretty good on the keyboard and I said "You could do that and you could sing - you'd have an easier time singing and we'll buy a Farfisa organ" so that's what we did, we bought an organ - but that wasn't until the second year...
But it looks like this gig must have been early on in that second year if Bruce was still playing bass...
Again, my knowledge of this gig comes solely from Sandy Roeser:
In the Spring of 1967, our shared experience of life together in the little college town ended with the last gig The Travesty would ever play.
The band members were moving on and leaving Potsdam. Donald and Albert were going to Long Island to start a new band, and the others were going on with their lives and scattering all over the country.
I remember the band's last show at The Arlington Hotel, the 'R', as if it was yesterday.
I remember hearing the last few notes of the last song. I was sitting at a table with Donald's parents when it ended. The song was "Wake Me, Shake Me" and as it ended, I found myself so overcome with emotion that I ran onto the stage and put my arms around Donald and his guitar.
As the applause continued, we stood on that stage holding each other all of us thinking that our time together was coming to an end.
As Sandy mentions they were about to go their separate ways, I've assumed this gig took place near the end of the College year...
I've also assumed that by that time, Bruce Abbott had switched to keyboards...
This small section is only speculative, but I think that before the first known Soft White Underbelly gig on 20 Oct 1967 at Stony Brook, there were (at least) two gigs planned featuring Albert and Donald, although only one was actually played.
Here they are:
See below for more details as to why this was cancelled...
I am sure we played some earlier gigs at Stony Brook in September in G or H quad. We played the weekend after the Ravi Shankar concert (whenever that was) and that was our second gig.
The reason I'm placing these two (scheduled) gigs before the first known SWU gig - and not after Ravi Shankar - is all down to something Albert once said.
I'd once asked him about what gigs he could remember from 1967 before the Cafe au Go Go gig in November, and that's when he told me about the gig in the quad, and that it was "the weekend after the Ravi Shankar concert" (where he first met Helen Robbins, incidentally).
OK - well the Ravi Shankar gig was Friday 17 November 1967, so I wasn't quite sure what he meant by "the weekend after" that? Friday is sort of part of the weekend, so are we talking the next day, i.e. Saturday 18 November? Or are we talking about the next weekend after that, starting Friday 24 November...?
But, whichever it is, 17/18 or 24/25 November, there was no real problem so far as that went...
But Albert later expanded a little further on this - and succeeded in completely muddying the water:
Q: In an email to me you once said I'm sure we played earlier than that in the quad or something
A: Yep, a mixer in the quad with the bass-player from 3 Fifths Alice... we played at least one gig with a bass-player - we had been hired to play - this was just Donald, myself and this other guy from three fifths Alice and we played in the quad but we also...
Q: Hang on - why wasn't Andrew Winters playing bass?
A: Oh I think he had to work at the pharmacy or something
Q: No keyboards? - just you three?
A: No... y'know, I think this might have been way before that - this was when I was still living at Donald's parent's house in that first 2 weeks - we'd gotten a gig at Stony Brook and we also got - one day the phone rang and the guy said "I'd like to speak to Don Roeser", so Don gets on and he says "yeah, I have a band, you want us to play at the opening of your restaurant...? OK... where is it? La Petite..." so he says "we got another gig - we're going to play at La Petite restaurant"... so me, Don and this bass-player we go to this restaurant and the bass-players got like a bassman, y'know, long hair and I've got my drums and stuff and we come into the restaurant and the guy goes "Oh no - I thought you guys were a jazz band" and Donald goes "oh... you meant Don Roeser SENIOR"... (Chuckles) - the guy goes "Oh please, I'll pay you but don't play - this will ruin me if you guys play, this is a jazz club"... so that was the gig that we got paid not to play...
Q: I bet Don's dad was happy about that...
A: I don't know if he ever found out...
So... we've now gone from these gigs being after Ravi Shankar in November to being around the time Albert stayed with the Roeser family (and painted their house) back round the start of September. This clearly predates - or coincides with - the formalised creation of the Underbelly as a performing entity.
From what Albert says, it is clear that the mixer gig with the 3-piece line-up was contemporaneous with the failed restaurant gig, so also was around September 1967 - my interpretation of Albert's words is that the restaurant came first, whilst they were still in the midst of preparing for the Stony Brook gig...
The question also remains: if this is all true, then what gig was Albert thinking of that happened after the Ravi Shankar gig?
A word about Alice...
One other confusing feature in all this is the name of this mysterious bass-player's band. Albert called them "3 Fifths Alice" but every other mention I've ever seen of them has simply been "Alice" and have been described by Robby Barkan as "a local power trio from Port Jefferson".
Alice did hang out in Stony Brook, much like SWU, as Robby has also said: "One Saturday night in November 1967 a Hendrix-Cream copy band named Alice was playing in one of these lounges. The boys and Sandy were hanging out listening. Alice lent them their instruments and let them sit in."
There definitely seems to have been a close relationship between the two bands.
Meltzer and Pearlman were continually peppering SWU's name in various publications - for example, in the "What Goes On" section in Crawdaddy #12 (January 1968) it said: "In the middle of Long Island there are signs of life, two bands operating on or near the Stony Brook Cultural Nexus. The Soft White Underbelly and Alice. The former features lots of virtuosity (in the Cream/Hendrix bag even) and unstructured improvisation, the later the same sort of virtuosity but more structure. Both with famous guitars, bass and drums."
The inclusion of Alice here makes me think that maybe Pearlman was also keeping an eye on Alice maybe with future management in mind. He also had them lined up for a support slot at The Village Theatre in February 1968, but - unlike SWU's appearance on 2nd Feb - this didn't materialise.
The question that is left hanging in the air is: whatever became of Alice...? And does anybody know the name of this bass-player...?
Please note, in this section I've designated all the Soft White Underbelly gigs as either versions 1,2 and 3. Here is the rationale behind those distinctions:
This is the first SWU gig I know of but I suppose you could say it wasn't a proper Underbelly gig as such - they simply learned a bunch of Steve Noonan songs and backed him up at this gig.
I presume this came about through the auspices of John Wiesenthal, who had previously brought Jackson Browne, Steve Noonan and Tim Buckley out to play at one of the Stony Brook dorms (JSouth lounge on 19 March 1967). BOC fans might be interested to know that a certain George Geranios handled the sound for that gig.
Phil Ochs was "a civil rights movement folkie guy", so, on the face of it, it might seem to be a strange pairing...
Yes but this isn't that odd because we played with Steve Noonan who was a folkie... and he played acoustic guitar, Donald played very light electric - we were a folk group...
I think we had about 2 days (to practice his songs) - but we had the band house so we could practice for as long as we wanted - we could practice all day, and we played a whole set...
Q: Did you get to play any of your stuff or was it all his?
No, purely Steve Noonan - we didn't do any of ours... so it wasn't really our first gig but it was with Andy Winters, Allen Lanier and John Wiesenthal.. the full band...
Was Jeff Richards in the line-up, I wonder...?
I was a student at Stony Brook from September 1967-June 1971. I espcially remember seeing them at a dance (we called them "Moods") in H Quad at SUSB. They seemed to be the "house band" and played at a lot of semi-official events on the campus.
Here's my ticket stub (#326) from the 1967 Phil Ochs concert and my youthful note on the reverse, (including the name of my date that weekend at the bottom!).
"Phil Ochs... A Dove Perched Atop His Guitar"
The Phil Ochs Concert, sponsored by the Student Activities Board in the Stony Brook gym, on Friday, October 20, signalled the start of Fall Festival Weekend. It promised and confirmed an exciting evening.
Phil Ochs was excellent. Strumming, a dove perched atop his guitar, he sang some of his best folk ballads.
His songs were designed to mix the controversial with the poignant. Ochs sang to tell a message that had to be told. It was a message that demanded an answer.
Ochs appealed to reason. He asked if we would calmly accept the suicide of the United States, when he sang "I Declare the War Is Over."
He challenged the youth of America for their meekness in going to war because their elders tell them to, and he sang "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore."
Ochs provided a bitter commentary on American life in "When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do", and when he sang "Changes", one forgot the outer world and only rememembered the inner world of passing time.
Ochs shared the Stony Brook posters with a musical group, Steve Noonan with Soft White Underbelly. Noonan and his group were loud and exciting.
Noonan had a great voice, and was backed up with a comfortable beat by his group. Their songs like "Tumble Down" and "Songs to the Street Singer" were electric. Or, Noonan's rendition of "Buy For Me" was soft and plaintive.
A note in passing about the Holy Modal Rounders who opened the concert. Comprised of a fiddler who gave a running commentary, and a silent guitarist, the Rounders were a very disappointing start to a great concert.
Their music was thin and trite, as was the fumbling for a flat pick or even the right words to use.
Even though the Holy Modal Rounders were poor, Phil Ochs and Steve Noonan with Soft White Underbelly combined to form a fantastic start to Stony Brook Fall Festival Weekend.
from "The Statesman" (25 October 1967) by Robin Simon
I only know of the date (and existence) of this gig thanks to John Wiesenthal, who kindly sent me an image of the poster he designed for the event.
Hence, although this is gig number 2, this is probably the first SWU gig under their own steam. Being as it was a disco, however, maybe they were constrained (by the tradition of these things) to play a set of covers...?
Again, I don't know if Jeff Richards was yet a part of the line-up for this gig...
I think so. I had a picture once with Allen in the lobby but it could have been just a lounge...
OK Jeff, well for now, I won't add you to the band list because you don't reckon you played in the following gigs and my thoughts are that the gigs you played would have been in a contiguous block - you wouldn't have played this gig, and then not the next 3 and then the one after that etc - that's my logic for now, anyway.
I only know of this gig thanks to the following:
When I was a student at Stony Brook University in the fall of 1967 young Sandy Pearlman started bringing the boys around to the college. At first they would jam in the dorm lounges. One Saturday night in November 1967 a Hendrix-Cream copy band named Alice was playing in one of these lounges. The boys and Sandy were hanging out listening. Alice lent them their instruments and let them sit in. They had no singer then. They jammed like you and I breathe--every waking moment it seemed.
SWU let me sing a Doors song "My Eyes Have Seen You" during that set, which they expanded into a long jam after the second verse. I stood right next to Donald and Andy Winters, their original bassist, who was quite good. Donald was all over his guitar, as the saying goes. He flew. The room tripped out with them playing in it. The boys were tight and fast and rocked hard even then. This was 1967. Pearlman knew exactly what he had.
If this gig did indeed take place on "a Saturday night in November 1967", then it would had to have taken place on one of the following dates:
04 November 1967
11 November 1967
18 November 1967
25 November 1967
The Doors "Strange Days" LP had only been released on 25 Sept 1967, so the fact that SWU had worked up a song from it only a few weeks later and that Robby in the audience stepped up knowing all the lyrics indicates the significance and impact the Doors were having on the Stony Brook "cultural nexus" at that time...
Was Jeff Richards on board yet? I don't think so because he says he didn't play the next show...
We played the Cafe a Go Go sandwiched between James Cotton and Richie Havens...
This is going to be a hard gig to date. A week after the Stony Brook Ravi Shankar gig, I know the Soft White Underbelly played at the Cafe A Go Go Blues Bag, which was held during the Thanksgiving Holiday week between 21-26 November 1967.
"Weird Tales from the Early Days of BOC" by Vivien Goldman
Richard Meltzer: "I was the singer for one night, that was the best... this was at the Bluesbag Cafe a Go Go in New York.
They used to have people like Howlin' Wolf, James Cotten, people like that on there, and for some unknown reason this band was booked on it. We're speaking of '68.
So anyway, we decided Rich was gonna be the singer that night. He stood up onstage and went PISS! PISS! SHIT! So then I stood up, I took my shirt off, I stuck my head inside the drums, I pulled the plugs out..."
Allen intones solemnly from his corner, "It was really the blues, man." To me, that vivid little evocation is a strong reminder of performance art, or some similar 'art statement' theatrical form.
Sounds 31 July 1976
Here's Meltzer again on the subject of this gig (albeit writing about himself in the 3rd person):
That Thanksgiving the boys got to do their first non-college type gig, the annual Blues Bag at the Cafe au Go-Go, and Wiesenthal was present on unamplified keyboard (so you wouldn't hafta hear him). The nite before he'd taken off on the wings of mesc-o-leen and was particularly off-the-wall so he got R. Meltzer - an old college buddy of his and Pearlman's - to be the 'singer' for the show. Meltzer was allowed to do anything he wanted and all he did was rip off his shirt (an Indian shirt), stick his head inside the bass drum, and yell "Piss!" in each of the three mikes set up in front of the stage. Then he pulled out the plug on Don's guitar (club schmucko Howard Solomon was screaming for them to stop by then cause they were starting to infringe upon his half-hour limit) and their first gig was over (they got paid a hearty handshake for it).
Backstage Wiesenthal befriended Richie Havens and the talk was kosmic, all about shiny lovebeads and the month of July, whole lotta horsepoop.
At this time Dutch was in the army cause he failed to physical himself out of it.
So they needed some extra meat to make their music. Jeff Latham, a college chum of Albert and Donald from somewhere upstate where they had all dropped out of (droppin' out was a big deal at the time), was employed and he brought along his skinny broad. Jeff became rhythm ax man. Meanwhile the other Jeff, Richards, was called upon to both sing and play sax (tenor).
Meltzer seems to suggest Allen Lanier didn't play this gig as he'd already been drafted by this stage: so, did his fill-in replacement, Jeff Latham, play this gig?
And was Jeff Richards brought in to play this gig yet, or was he still yet to come...?
I went I think, but didn't sing...
The question also remains: on which of the six days that the Blues Bag ran did SWU play?
I couldn't tell you the exact day. Only that it was a one night stand. It is possible that Howlin' Wolf was also on that bill. Jim Morrison came in and I talked with him about Rock musicians bringing the Vietnam War to an end. He agreed to help. Unfortunately our conversation never went any farther than that.
I also had a wonderful conversation with Havens. Great man, gentle soul.
By the way - I played I played Hammond organ at this show. On all other performances with the band, I played guitar...
During this time we were doing free-form improvisation inspired by Jackson Pollock's painting and Cecil Taylor's piano. AVANT GARDISM. I'm no keyboard player and my experiments on the organ were just that: blind (but not deaf) explorations of the spontaneously created harmonic and rhythmic environment we joyfully spawned.
In keeping with this, at the Cafe au Go-Go, Richard Meltzer shouted "Piss, Piss" into the microphone and stuck his head in the bass drum.
Actually, John's mention of Jim Morrison popping in would - if accurate - be useful in helping to date the show a bit more precisely. The Doors gig schedule went thusly:
18 Nov 1967: Winterland San Francisco, CA
24 Nov 1967: Hunter College Assembly Hall New York, NY
25 Nov 1967: Washington Hilton International Ballroom Washington, D.C.
26 Nov 1967: Bushnell Auditorium Hartford, CT
So if Morrison was available to be on hand, it can't have been 24-26 Nov as he was gigging. But if The Doors were playing in NYC on the 24th Nov, then the 23rd is the more likely date for him to be available to call round at the Cafe au Go Go...
The main bands on the bill present a slightly confusing picture also. Adverts say it was Butterfield Blues Band, the James Cotton Blues Band and Richie Havens who were the main bands on, and Buck confirms these last two, but suggests the SWU didn't actually open:
However, Albert says that Muddy Waters - although not on any of the adverts - was also definitely on the bill - perhaps in a headlining slot.
On Albert's monthly radio show on WFKU.org (on the Tuesday 17 Dec 2013 edition), he played "Stuff You Gotta Watch" by Muddy Waters and then gave much more info on the Cafe au Go Go gig: "A year or so later we opened the show for Muddy Waters and Richie Havens..."
Afterwards, Albert told a story about having a good chat after SWU's set with Richie Havens who gave him his phone number - and then he said he went up to Francis Clay, who played drums for Muddy Waters and had a nice chat, and he was thrilled when Clay took him to the Go Go's dressing room to "meet Mudd"...
He also said he ran into Francis Clay again when SWU played the Generation Club in 1968 because Clay was playing with the headliner BB King at that time.
When I mentioned this on the Cafe A Go Go Facebook page, and asked if anybody had any more info, I got told to remove my post and to stop posting inaccurate information as Muddy Waters was not on the Blues Bag bill!
I asked Albert for a definite clarification - did Muddy definitely play this gig, or could he be mistaken? He assured me he wasn't - Mudd played!
This, therefore, opened up another potential avenue for determining the date - Muddy Water's availability...
After a bit of research, I discovered that Muddy Waters & His Blues Band apparently played at The Electric Circus on the following dates:
Tue 21 November 1967
Wed 22 November 1967
Thu 23 November 1967
So there we have an interesting situation: we know the event lasted from 21st Nov to 26th Nov 1967 - on one of these dates, the SWU played - but which night?
(a) If Muddy Waters played on the same day as SWU, then it's unlikely to have been on the 21st-23rd November (because Muddy was playing at The Electric Circus on those nights) - that leaves 24th-26th Nov.
(b) However, if John Weisenthal is correct about Jim Morrison popping in, then it's unlikely to have been on 24th-26th Nov because The Doors were gigging on those nights.
My initial guess for this gig was 23 Nov, but I've since upgraded that guess to Friday 24th November 1967.
This date allows Muddy Waters to be available to play the show and although on the face of things, that would seem to prevent any appearance by Jim Morrison during the proceedings, maybe it doesn't...
On the 24th, The Doors were playing Hunter College (Park Avenue) so, in theory, were he so inclined, Jim Morrison would have been free to stroll on down the road to catch the show at the Cafe au Go Go... a bloody long stroll down Park Avenue, of course, but that's a mere detail...
But if anyone can help me date this gig for definite, please let me know...
The concept of celebrating Beethoven's Birthday with a party was a new concept to me, but I had heard something before about SWU playing just such a gig, thanks to Meltzer:
Bout this time was when they decided they needed a singer. They played a Beethoven's birthday party at Stony Brook and all sorts of guys tried out singin' with 'em, including Larry Silvestri (a shorty) and Les Braunstein (an asshole from summer stock who once wrote a hit for Peter, Paul & Mary or maybe it was just on an album or something, "I'm in Love with a Big Blue Frog"). Les had a van too and that's what they needed so he became their singer. This was not a singer's band, just a bunch of musicians who took long jams and they didn't want any of this singer shit but they finally had to settle cause none of them wanted to do it.
Now Meltzer placed this party after the February 68 Anderson gig, so that's when I thought it must have roughly occurred.
Furthermore, I also had an advert for a 15 December 1967 "Irving Christmas Party" gig at the ABC Lounge in Irving College, and for a long time I thought these were two seperate gigs until John Wiesenthal told me this:
The December concert was called a Beethoven's Birthday Party. That poster is probably around somewhere.
Allen's girlfriend Hope Nigro was part of a school planning committee and she set up some of the dorm shows for us.
I then researched Beethoven's birthday and discovered it was thought to be on December 16, and realised John Wiesenthal had it correctly - this December gig was the Beethoven's Birthday Party show - Meltzer had got his timeframe wrong...
Again, my usual question is: did Jeff Richards play this gig?
I only know of the existence of this gig due to a mention in an article by Robert Somma in the 18-25 Sept 1968 edition of the New York Free Press - it said the following in a caption under a photo:
They (The Soft White Underbelly) played once at the Coach House in Stony Brook in a low-ceilinged room, one of whose walls bore an advertisement for "The Soft White Underbelly: a classic rock quintet."
But there was no indication as to when the gig occurred. I asked Les Braunstein:
As for the Coach House - the boys played a number of gigs around Stony Brook before I sang with them. I don't remember this place.
Therefore, I'm placing this gig before Les joined - maybe January 1968?
I'm also placing it before the next few gigs with because Jeff Richards tells me he didn't play this gig, and I want to group the shows he did play together in a contiguous block...
I only know of the existence of this gig due to this recollection:
I remember one gig at an Episcopal Church in Sayville, NY of which my then late grandfather had had been minister for 50 years...
I found a "St. Ann's Episcopal Church, 257 Middle Rd, Sayville, NY 11782" on Google - could this be the place where your grandfather was minister...?
Yes - I attended the gig, but didn't sing...
I literally have no recollection of this gig, but I probably could recall it under hypnosis.
If Jeff said so, it likely happpened. I don't remember ever playing in a church.
One gig I do recall was when we played a society party at the townhouse of Marrietta Tree (who was I think the Ambassador to the UN at the time) for Penelope.
And that was all I knew about this gig until I heard from Lee Balstad, who was able to fill in a few more details for me:
SWU played at a posh party on the upper east side of NYC, given by upper class Ronald Tree of the UK, and his American society wife Marietta.
We arrived and were escorted into the servants quarters which were literally 'downstairs'. I remember being eager to talk to the servants, but they would have none of us. They really looked down their noses at us.
We went up to the ballroom to set up, in a corner of the room. The invitees were such glitterati and they had come there to see and be seen. So no one all night really listened to the music at all. Lauren Bacall was there with her husband Jason Robards who was falling down drunk. She was three sheets to the wind herself.
Jeff rightly characterized the party as elitist and decadent, too true. There were people dancing on the very expensive antique tables. Ugh.
The Trees were really something. At the party was Penelope Tree who was their daughter, our age, who was a famous high fashion model at the time.
The party was actually set up through Crawdaddy, and it was a welcome home party for Marietta's other daughter, Frankie Fitzgerald, on her return from Vietnam.
She had been there researching her Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam", a topic only too well known to her father, Desmond Fitzgerald, a wealthy CIA operative who was a well known spy in SE Asia and ran CIA operations there before and during the Vietnam War.
And then there was the mother, Marietta Tree, who was, so it was said, the one true love of John Huston, and had a long affair with Adlai Stevenson when he was running for President. She was with him when he died.
That would have been late winter or early spring 1968.
I only previously knew of the existence of this gig was due to the following mention by Jeff Richards:
You asked about gigs I remember... End Lounge and Cafeteria in Dorm G at SUSB...
Jeff also tells me he thinks this lounge gig was the first he ever played with the band. When I asked him how many actual gigs did he think he played in total, he says he can't be sure... "but maybe three"...
So if that's correct, and I do know Jeff played his last gig with the SWU at the Anderson, then that would place this lounge gig approximately here in the time-line...
I only previously knew of the existence of this gig was due to the following mention by John Wiesenthal:
There was a club in Port Jefferson owned by a retired football pro, Frank Imperiale. They had a psychedelic light show and we played there maybe more than once.
However, I had absolutely no clue as to when it occurred except to say that Les says he doesn't remember it, so it looks like it was before his time - so sometime between November 1967 and January 1968, probably...
And then Jeff Richards mentioned this:
One gig I remember was at a Port Jefferson nightclub called "The In Crowd"...
Could this be the same venue mentioned by John Wiesenthal?
Yes - same place. I sang on this gig, but don't recall the date...
If anyone has any extra info about this, please let me know...
I was able to date this show thanks to Les Braunstein's info that the Group Image hired the venue on the Sunday before the show.
It served as an opportunity for the band to get a feel of the venue and allowed Les an opportunity to wander onstage at one point and perform an off-the-cuff vocal improvisation that possibly sowed the seeds in Sandy Pearlman's mind that Les could actually make a decent fist of the job of frontman...
Les goes into a lot of interesting detail about this show in his "Lucky Monkey" autobiography, and is definitely worth a read for the full background story...
Soft White Underbelly: February 2, 1968. Yiddish Anderson Theater.
"In spite of their marvelous name, this is a rather undistinguished group that appeared not to know what to do with themselves most of the concert.
A tall pretty fellow, in an antique costume, placed himself on the the stage where the lead singer belongs, but he hardly sang - in one piece playing saxophone instead.
The group's leader appeared to be a pint-sized guy, dressed in a cossack shirt, who is enormously adept on guitar. Either they were missing something that evening, or I was."
from "The Fillmore East - Recollections of Rock Theater" by Richard Kostelanetz, and Raeanne Rubenstein (Photographer)
"Stony Brook's Underbelly Hits The Big Time"
Opening of the Anderson-Crawdaddy Theater: Country Joe and the Fish, Jim Kweskin Jug Band, and our own boys, the already awesome Soft White Underbelly. Country Joe and the Fish alone would have packed the place twice. But the A-C Theater presented a second act, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, which sold out at Town Hall recently, and a fantastic up and coming second group with whom we at Stony Brook are all acquainted with, the Soft White Underbelly.
The Soft White Underbelly opened the show. The audience was pleasantly surprised. The Underbelly received moderate applause and only a few catcalls from Kweskin fans, the same few people who walked out when Country Joe came on.
The Underbelly is unquestionably one of the strongest instrumental groups to play in New York since the Cream whom they have surpassed in technical virtuosity. Their major flaw was a weak vocal showing, which improved in the second show. "You" was superb. Jeff and Albert did amazingly well with their voices.
Albert's drumming and Don's lead guitar were out of sight. "Hangin' Round", a song about draft boards, had some of the clearest, most integrated organ of the night. "Green" is a beautiful folksy piece. It was followed by a tight hard rock number, "All Night Gas Station", which introduced Jeff on a tastefully used saxophone.
They do what few rock bands can do: add a saxophone in a non-raucous manner. "Alan's Song" was the weakest piece. "Rain is Falling", a soul song, was fantastic, enlivened by Don's unsurpassed guitar rushes.
The Jim Kweskin Jug Band, the best of that type of music around, was tumultously received. As a second act, it was one of the biggest successes around. As usual, the breaks between the numbers were an integral part of the show.
The band generated a warm friendly feeling and the crowd, geared to rock, ate them up. "Gwabe, Gwabe," an African folk song and "Kicking the Gong Around" were excellent, but without a doubt the two best Kweskin numbers were "Never Swat a Fly," and "I'm a Woman."
In both, Marie's vocals were fabulous, but in the latter the electric violin solo was one of the best things done by any jug band.
The stage work accompanying the change from Kweskin to Country Joe was the most professional that I've ever seen. The sparkling clear and radiant introduction was followed by Barry Melton's voice and guitar dominating the song "Love." The harp in "Masked Marauder" was perfect and the organ was just incredible.
"Thursday," by Chicken and Dave, is filled with perfect examples of the Meltzerian tongue categorizations. When Country Joe announced satirically that he was dedicating "Superbird" to President Johnson, he brought the house down.
After "Acid Commercial," they went back to some more political rock, dedicating "I-feel-like-I'm-fixin-to- die" to Che Guevera. With Barry on kazoo and everybody in a real good time music spirit, the song was better Jug band music than Kweskin's stuff.
"Death Sound Blues" is the best American rock has to offer in the way of harmonious instrumental virtuosity. The next song could be called psychedelic soul because of the James Brown influence.
Applause to "Not So Sweet," and "Thought Dream" was unrestrained. They knew what they were doing, and one sort of got the feeling that the whole thing was a show.
from "The Statesman" (9 Feb 1968) by Howie Klein
Howie's line "Their major flaw was a weak vocal showing, which improved in the second show" not only high-lighted the need for a frontman in the form of Les Braunstein, it also indicated that there were two shows from The Underbelly - and, presumably, everyone else too.
Jeff Richards recalls definitely singing on this gig, and has told me that he thinks this was his last gig with the band. He attended later gigs, but didn't actually perform as a band member...
The context for this improvised early morning gig that took place at the gates of the University hark back to the local police's "Operation Stony Brook" raid on Wednesday 17 January 1968, when about 200 Suffolk County Police Department officers carried out a drug bust on the campus at 5 a.m. by coming into Stony Brook University dormitories and arresting 24 students for marijuana possession.
At the Stony Brook pot bust benefit, we had both Allen Lanier and Jeff Latham in the band. We also had Les Braunstein and Jeff Richards too, so we were a 7 piece.
I'm actually very sure so that would be line up #5 or 4 1/2.
Also the Fugs headlined and Helen Wheels and I arranged it with Tuli at a Yippie meeting the week before.
I think it was Jeff Richards last gig as well.
NB: Jeff Richards has told me he didn't perform at this event, and that he thinks his last gig was at The Anderson gig on the 2nd February.
By the way, the first gig I did officially with the boys was the Pot Bust demonstration with the Fugs after the big campus bust at Stony Brook.
I sang an extemporaneous song about it and I noticed that the school paper echoed my words in their headline...
The Tea Smoking Party took place, but SWU apparently "weren't able to show up" (see second clipping above)...
Presumably this event took place in the context of the whole pot bust controversy that was raging at the time, and was a reaction to the administration's new clamp-down...
All I know about this one is this:
In March (Zodiac Aries) there was a themed "The Lion And the Lamb" dance. I painted a large Lamb mural as a stage backdrop.
I had gotten some basement space from a dorm administrator and some money from a student government committee to set up a silk screen shop.
I set out to change the face of the campus bulletin boards by replacing mimeographed posters with my colorful versions. The posters came from that effort. I did all the designs.
I looked through all the relevant issues of The Statesman, but could find no mention of such an event...
All my previous research had pointed to the Underbelly playing a series of 6 nights at this venue in support of Chuck Berry - I asked Albert for confirmation:
No that is absolutely NOT right - the contract was for six days and what happened is we got fired on the third day...
In his book, "Lucky Monkey" (available from Amazon), Les Braunstein goes into a lot of interesting detail about these gigs.
We played a club in Manhattan called Generation. Like many of our gigs, Sandy had gotten us into a big club before anyone knew us. It was an unlikely gig.
The club had been open for only two weeks when we got there. The first week was Janis Joplin. The second week was Jessie Colin Young and the Youngbloods. The third week was going to be Chuck Berry and B B King.
And, oh yeah, the Soft White Underbelly.
Les tells about how Chuck Berry saved on costs by travelling without a band by insisting on venues supplying him with backing musicians at each show - "he could actually pull this off because everyone knew his stuff"- and on this occasion it was to be the Underbelly.
The plan was: BB King would play, then the Underbelly would play, then I would get down off the stage and Chuck would step on and the boys would back him up.
No question this was a prestigious engagement, and to mark the occasion, Sandy Pearlman had a nice surprise waiting for them when they showed up in the afternoon before the gig for a quick run through with Chuck - two shiny new black Fender Twin Reverb amps.
The band had been in dire need of new amps. Most of what we had was old and played. What the boys needed were some classic Fenders. Marshalls were louder, but Fenders had the sound. And here they were. Sandy had gotten them in time for this big gig.
Les was also pleased that the club had a "proper" PA - he'd only ever sung through a guitar amp previously and had never really been able to hear his vocals clearly before...
Shortly after they'd set up - complete with their brand new amps, Chuck came in, but there wasn't much in the way of rehearsal...
Well, everybody knows Chuck's songs... there's the Shuffle kind and the Rocking kind, and you play 'em both... [Chuckles]... and there was no rehearsal, and he just says - and it's a visual thing so you gotta see - [gets up and mimes Chuck with guitar] -
He goes "Who's the drummer - right, drummer - OK - here's how it goes - when you see me raise my guitar like this, and I go down like that, you gotta stop right there OK, otherwise you just keep playing OK and when you see me go like this - that means the end of the song, wrap it up boys..."
By the time the gig started, Les describes in "Lucky Monkey" how he had to tame the crowd somewhat after BB King's set to try and get them onto the Underbelly's wavelength - they started off with a blues jam, and then did three SWU songs only before Les left the stage and Chuck Berry took over.
One interesting feature to note, according to Les, was that at one point during Chuck's first set, he let Donald do a lead:
Donald took a step forward. He glanced down at his guitar and rolled a knob. He smashed his foot down on his pedal and took off into the kind of soaring lead that he was to become rightly famous for years later. He didn't look down, or back, or at Chuck. The crowd had never heard such a thing.
Although Donald was totally out of place at that show, in that moment he was their master. Now they screamed for him.
That was Donald's last lead.
Albert chuckles when that is mentioned: "I seem, to recall that happened, yeah..."
Strangely enough, though, it was after the gig was finished that the real action started to get underway...
Hendrix was in the audience and watching BB King and after BB finished, the owner of the place or the booking guy came over and said "Some of the guys want to jam with Jimi Hendrix - can they use your stuff? And we said "Sure - we wanna see it", y'know...
He said we got the Paul Butterfield Band, most of them are here, we got Al Kooper here, Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield and this guy Davenport, the drummer from Butterfield... and Hendrix - they're going to jam - is it OK if they use your stuff and we said that's great, man we wanna see that!!
Les's recollections of this are slightly different - he reckons there was no Hendrix until the next night:
Up to the stage stepped Al Kooper. We knew him because he had produced a demo for the Soft White Underbelly at Columbia. And, of course, he had played in the Blues Project, a band we'd all seen and respected.
And right behind him was Paul Butterfeld and Elvin Bishop. Along with a couple of their friends, they stepped on to the stage, plugged into the Underbelly's new amps and began to play. Rolled those dials up much higher than we had, and rocked into the night.
During the course of the set the we occasionally asked the players to turn down, to spare our new amps. Kooper had been understanding and cooperative but others had disregarded us and cranked the amps. The band was just scraping by at that point. Money was scarce and these new amps were our livelihood. We watched with awe and concern.
Incidentally, the fact that Les mentions they already knew Al Kooper because he'd produced their demo is important because it helps place that Al Kooper session into the timeline before this gig... probably March, by my reckoning...
So they got up there and they started playing - it was awesome but we had a three hour drive back to Stony Brook, and it was about 4 in the morning and we had to be back there at about 5, so it was about 6 hours of driving so we had to go, so we left while they were still playing...
So we come back the next day... and everything is broken... well, not really everything, but we had two Fender Twin Reverbs and Don had one and Allen had one - both of them when you turned them on - nothing! and we're like "Oh Shit" and it turned out the fuses were blown - it probably had nothing to do with the people playing, it was more to do with there might have been bad electricity in the club...
It was really just a little cheesy club but it was on 8th Street in the West Village which is a happening street - it's still a happening street in New York, there was always tons of people going by - it seemed like it was a great tourist area - but anyway, the fuses were blown, my hi-hat was broken, the connecting pedal to the thing which makes the hat go up and down had been snapped - admittedly, this was the drum gear that I had in the Regal Tones from high school, y'know...
So we had to make an emergency run to a music store to get another hi-hat and to get some fuses for the amps and we did that and the money we'd made the night before we had to use to buy a hi-hat...
So OK, that's the way it goes, but we're going to make more through playing for six days so we play the next night...
Regarding the actual SWU performance on the second night, that seems to have gone down well enough:
The next night was a lot like the night before, except Jimi Hendrix was there to see BB King.
This time the Underbelly was ready for the crowd and knew how to handle them. A little jam-rap to establish solidarity, a quick set and off the stage.
After the gig, it was the same story as the night before...
At the end of the night, the owner comes over and says "Listen, Al had so much fun last night and he's back with his new band called Blood Sweat and Tears and they're gonna play with Hendrix, can they use your gear?" and we said "No!!"
And he said what do you mean, "no?" "Well we came in this afternoon and you weren't here but everything was broken, y'know and nobody's offering to pay for it - all the money we made last night went to fix our stuff".
He said "well, I'm sorry but that's just the way it goes - you guys left, and who knows what happened but they want to jam - what are we gonna do?" We said, "well OK - how about this? Whoever's going to use my equipment has to come over and talk to me about it first - it's not just somebody's gear, it's MY gear, and you don't abuse it cos it's mine! I'm doing it as a favour to you."
So just like that, everybody came over and asked "can I use your gear?" and we said OK, Bobby Columbi from Blood Sweat and Tears came over and asked me if he could use it and I said fine and he said "You know what - there's no hard feelings - I really respect that - I've let people play on my stuff and then I get up and the drum is useless - it has all these welts on it from people hitting too hard and bad technique or whatever, but don't worry, if anything happens, I'll fix it or replace it, whatever..." so I said OK, cool! So - and we've been friends ever since that night actually, Bobby Columbi and me - he's an A&R guy..
Anyway, they played and they were great - they played some BS&T songs and then Hendrix got up and played with them... we left, once again... about 4 in the morning...
We came back the next day, and all our gear was fine, everything was cool and the owner comes up and says "we got another band, you guys can take your stuff - you're fired!"
So that was the end of our Chuck Berry gig... the week gig that turned into two days...
By the way, if you're wondering what Chuck Berry did for a back-up band for the rest of the week, Les offers an interesting coda:
Later, I had the bus pulled up in front, and while we loaded up the amps we could see Chuck Berry inside practicing with his new band of hopeless musicians fresh off the street. He didn't look happy.
That club, Generation, closed after just one season. But it was quite a season.
And Hendrix must have had a great time because he bought that club and made it into his personal studio, Electric Ladyland.
I only know of this gig thanks to the following mention in the Wednesday, April 24 1966 edition of the Integrator (the Clarkson College in-house magazine)...
Students for an Open Society will sponsor what they call a "multi-band super-concert" this Sunday, April 28, at 12:30 in the Clarkson Arena. The title of the concert is "Blues Bag World War III".
Groups appearing at the concert will be The Soft White Underbelly, The Beautiful People, The Mason-Frederick Line, The Jug Band, The Group, and Fran McKendree and Company.
When I was a student at Stony Brook University in the fall of 1967 young Sandy Pearlman started bringing the boys around to the college. At first they would jam in the dorm lounges. One Saturday night in November 1967 a Hendrix-Cream copy band named Alice was playing in one of these lounges. The boys and Sandy were hanging out listening.
Alice lent them their instruments and let them sit in. They had no singer then. They jammed like you and I breathe - every waking moment it seemed. SWU let me sing a Doors song "My Eyes Have Seen You" during that set, which they expanded into a long jam after the second verse. I stood right next to Donald and Andy Winters, their original bassist, who was quite good. Donald was all over his guitar, as the saying goes. He flew. The room tripped out with them playing in it. The boys were tight and fast and rocked hard even then. This was 1967. Pearlman knew exactly what he had.
They began opening for every rock concert at Stony Brook. One of their best performances was at the Grateful Dead concert in the gym. After their set the Dead were rigging up. Bob Weir set his Gibson SG against his amp. When he walked away the guitar fell over and the sound of the neck cracking filled the gym. Weir was upset to say the least. Donald also played an SG so guess whose guitar Weir used that night? Mr. Roeser at his kindest.
The boys lived in a house on Lake Avenue in Saint James, the next town over from Stony Brook. I hung out with them a couple of times. The walls of the rooms were painted black. They practiced in a spare room. One bedroom had a fabulous mural of Jim Morrison and the Doors, artist unknown to me. Jim was depicted as a strutting lion.
I asked them if they needed songs--I had started writing some of my own. No, they said, they had plenty. I asked them if they needed a singer. No, they'd found one--probably Les. One thing I remember is the boys were always kind, even in rejection. Polite and kind. They got the success they deserved.
Summer of 1968. I was asked to join guitarist Eddie Schrager's band as bassist and singer. Eddie borrowed the SWU's amps when came time for our Stony Brook gym concert. I remember driving to their house in Great Neck with Eddie in my '60 Chevy to pick them up--three Fender Twins. The boys were still asleep but for one, who let us into the basement studio to fetch the amps.
That's all I can remember about the boys for now. These are sweet memories indeed--happy to share them with you...
I did wonder which of the Stony Brook Dead shows was it that SWU played on... The Dead played there three times:
Anyway, I now know that it was this gig - thanks to Jane Alcorn, who also provided the above ticket - that it was definitely the 1968 gig with The Incredible String Band as she noted the fact in her scrapbook.
It's annoying that SWU never got billing on these gigs - not even the reviews in the college magazine mention them...
I don't have much recollection about the Dead show, you might ask Albert, he may have a better memory for it.
I don't remember loaning my SG to Bob Weir, although I certainly would have. Most likely it was the '68 show. I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't have billing on either of those shows.
All I initially knew about this gig supporting Country Joe is the flyer above which I once saw for sale on the Wolfgang's Vault site. Helpfully, it includes no dating info whatsoever - I mean the whole point of a handbill is to get people to turn up, and they don't put the bloody date on it!! Planks!
According to the flyer, the Riverside Plaza Hotel gig was set up by the Columbia University Strike Coordinating Committee and was to be a Benefit concert (sorry, make that "Beneft concert") for the "Liberation School". Could these help date this show?
My first port of call for Country Joe info, chickenonaunicycle.com (the Country Joe gig list site), couldn't help - it had this gig listed simply as "1968".
It's probably not particularly relevant to go over the causes and course of the protests here - there's a helpful overview on wikipedia, which includes links for further information if you want to read up on it further.
I've been looking at the chronology of the Columbia protests, and there were two distinct phases:
According to the timeline, after the police bust of April 30, the Strike Coordinating Committee (SCC) set up a Strike Education Committee (SEC) on 2 May 1968. The SEC created and coordinated an alternative "Liberation School" that offered "counter-classes" to replace those being boycotted during the strike.
Therefore, this benefit gig for that Liberation School had to have taken place sometime after this date - but when?
Albert initially told me that this gig "couldn't have been the 22nd of May because that was the day the police came but as I recall it was toward the end of the protests, maybe the 20th or 21st." But was Country Joe in the area at that time?
I went back to chickenonaunicycle.com and looked for when Country Joe could have been in the area to do the gig.
I discovered that Country Joe spent the period of 2 May - 24 May gigging on the West coast, but here's the known CJ gig schedule for the period just after that:
Fri 24 May 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego CA [with the Genetic Dryft]
Sat 25 May 1968 Fillmore East, New York City NY [with Blue Cheer, Pigmeat Markham]
Sun 26 May 1968 Woolsey Hall, Yale University New Haven, CT
Wed 29 May 1968 Action House, Island Park NY
Fri 31 May 1968 Cheetah, Venice, Los Angeles CA [with Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Pacific Gas & Electric]
So it looks like Country Joe was only - potentially - available to play this gig sometime between Saturday 25 May-Thursday 30 May 1968.
Hmmm... Maybe it was after the 2nd round of protests? I think they were trying to raise legal defense money. Maybe the 27 or 28th, before the Action House gig. I went to the Fillmore show with Blue Cheer.
My memory of the Columbia show was that it was not at any sort of a venue at all but in a dorm or apartment building up around Columbia.
We only played a few songs and I remember talking to Barry Melton at length about all the shows we had just played with them.
They were one of my favorite groups at the time so I was chuffed (love that word that you English use). I am sure that it was after that Fillmore show (25 May) as well. I thought Blue Cheer was awful.
OK, well for the time being I'll date this as 27/28 May 1968 and hope someone can fill in an exact date on some future occasion...
Incidentally, after much searching of the internet for potential info on this gig, I've only ever seen one (undated) reference to this gig. Loads about the Grateful Dead's set outdoors set on the porch of Ferris Booth Hall on 3rd May, but bugger all about the Country Joe gig.
Anyway, here's part of a post by Steve Goldfield on columbia1968.com:
[Apart from the Dead] We had two other benefits that I recall. For one, we rented an old hotel ballroom on 96th Street. Country Joe and the Fish played with a light show. The hotel only had 100 amp circuits, and the band kept blowing the circuit breakers. They'd strum their instruments until I got the circuit breakers back on. Then somebody moved the plug for the light show to the same circuit, and they kept blowing the circuits except much faster.
The second benefit was at a club in the village. I remember riding down to it in a cab with Dick Gregory. There were a lot of performers: I recall Dave Van Ronk, Stephen Stills, some others, and especially Jimi Hendrix. He had played a show at Fillmore East and then played for us from 2 am to 4 am.
I remember meeting with the manager of the Jefferson Airplane, but we didn't get them to play. One day a free concert was to be held in Wollman Auditorium, but nobody would come inside to hear it.
So, the performers came outside and played on the lawn with no amplification. I remember the Pennywhistlers, Jerry Jeff Walker, and the New Lost City Ramblers, among those who played.
If that "second benefit" was after the Hendrix Fillmore East gig, then I can date that to 10 May 1968. By my current thinking, this must - chronologically - have been the first benefit because, as I've already stated, Country Joe wasn't available until after the 24th May.
OK - I've listed this date as a single gig for now, but Albert reckons it was a week-long engagement - but is this at the start, middle or end of that run? I don't yet have the answer to that, unfortunately...
During our week of playing at the Scene - there's a Beatles book, I think it's called "Off the Record" or something - it came out 2004 or so and it is a day-by-day chronology of the Beatles from pre-Hamburg to their breakup...
June 18th 1968, Ringo goes to the Scene with Jimi Hendrix and Hendrix jams with Jeremy Steig and Ringo declines to play drums, OK?... And that was my drums that he declined to play on... I said it'd be a great honour for you to use my drums... but he said "No no thank you very much"...
I wanted to see Ringo with Hendrix, that would've been awesome, right? And after everybody left right - Teddy Slater the house manager of the Scene came over to me and said "You know why Ringo didn't want to play your piece of shit drums? Because they're just crap!! You need some new drums"... and that was June 18, 1968..."
That date seems be suspect - DC, who does the superb Streets You Crossed blog kindly provided me with the following info:
I contacted my fellow rock venues blogger Corry from Rock Prosopography 101, and here's what he told me:
We are fortunate that crack researcher Mark Skobac shares his research with me, for no reason that I can tell except that he's a super nice guy. He does most of his research at the New York Public Library, so he's not affected by Google's gaps. His list for The Scene shows the following
1-2 Gary Burton and Larry Coryell
4-8-Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Mose Alison
9-12-Mose Allison, Steppenwolf, Kenny Rankin
13-15-Mose Allison, Kenny Rankin
16-21-Jeff Beck Group w/Kenny Rankin, Earth Opera
Nothing about the Soft White Underbelly, unfortunately. However, the tiny ads in the Village Voice just had "highlights" of coming attractions, as you well know, rather than a detailed listing.
This seems to imply that Kenny Rankin opened a few days for the Beck Group, and Earth Opera moved in for two weeks. June 16-21 (the Beck residency) was Sunday through Friday.
If there was a "transitional" day between Kenny Rankin and Earth Opera, Tuesday June 18 would make the most sense.
So - it's not impossible, of course, but Albert described it as a week-long residency and that doesn't seem to correspond with the above.
It'd be very useful to check the reference in that Beatles book that Albert describes - I've asked him but he says he no longer has access to it...
Anyone out there got a copy?
Stop Press: an anonymous online contributer to the Streets You Crossed blog added this info:
Concerning Ringo's visit to the Scene club, from what I have researched, it was probably June 16, from the account given by Mal Evans, Beatles' equipment manager and inner circle member who travelled with Ringo and George at the time. He remembered "went to see Jimi Hendrix and a flute player - Eric Clapton showed up, all back to the Drake Hotel"...
That's intriguing - the 16th was a Sunday - if that marked a midway point in SWU's residency, as Albert says, and if that June list of Scene gigs above is correct, then SWU would seem to have played some dates on the "Mose Allison, Kenny Rankin" bill and some on the "Jeff Beck Group w/Kenny Rankin, Earth Opera" one.
Yet I'm pretty sure Albert would have recalled playing with Jeff Beck... I obviously need to try and find out more info...
I am as confused as ever on the date of that event. It seems Jeff Beck was playing on the night I thought it was and I no longer have the Beatles Day by Day book. Maybe I can score another copy.
If anyone has any info that might help date SWU's residency here at this time, please get in touch...
One of my mom's uncles lived in Syosset and worked at Republic Aircraft on Long Island... we were visiting in late July 1968.
My cousin Mike got saddled "baby sitting" me, was 11 at the time. He had plans for the evening, so he took me along to see SWU.
I remember there was music, but mostly the girls who liked him buying me Coca Colas all night because I was cute and they thought it real nice of him to bring me along.
I remember it was Soft White Underbelly, as the name struck me... had finished a unit on WW 2 in summer school about Winston Churchill and his obsession with the "soft underbelly" of Europe.
Counting that, have seen the band 20 times over the years, never been disappointed.
Regarding the venue - I emailed my cousin (he lives in Florida now)... his memories of the time are hazy (as was the air in the bar), but "The Mug" is a place he recalls going to quite frequently.
Thanks - I just looked it up and it appears there was a "The Mug" in Glen Head which is just a little west of Syosset, so that seems to tie in.
OK, I'll put the venue down as "The Mug" for now - until I hear anything different...
I only know about this gig thanks to Les:
We played a gig at Hunter College that I thought Roni Hoffman set up...
This is the gig they arranged to act as a showcase for Jac Holzman from Elektra to come and check them out.
Also round this time they were beginning to do their own material with lyrics by Pearlman and Meltzer and music mostly by Bouchard and Lanier (one song also by Winters, a longie called "Green" that later became the legendary "St Cecilia").
Stuff with titles like "Mothra", "Sittin' on the Buddha's Knee", "Bonomo's Turkish Taffy", "Bark in the Sun", "John L. Sullivan's Readymade", et cetera. By midsummer they were real solid and playing Group Image Dances at the Hotel Diplomat.
One such nite they were opposite Wind in the Willows (Capitol recording stars) and Jac Holzman was down to check 'em out for Elektra. The old buzzard was on THC and he thought he was witnessing the new Morrison, that's what he thought Braunstein was!
Braunstein wasn't allowed to do shit except on their finale he was allowed to do a long monologue about poking your own eyes out (schmucky-wucky) and that's what Holzman liked. The place wasn't air-conditioned and Holzman said, "I want this group".
"Weird Tales from the Early Days of BOC" by Vivien Goldman
Richard (Meltzer) is sparkling as he recounts a tale of, "Les Braunstein, he was our singer then. His entire American career before that consisted of the summer stock version of 'Brigadoon'... he couldn't sing his way out of a paper bag, but he had a VAN and they needed a van.
"Anyway, Jac Holzman (head of Elektra Records) sees this guy Les who can't sing, and he says, 'I've found the new Jim Morrison!'"
Allen takes up the saga. "Every set Les would go into this 25-minute monologue that would end with his eyes being pulled out (ghoulish glee)."
"The thing about it that was so good was that it has a lot of similarity to a song Morrison eventually wrote called 'Peace Frogs' - you remember, 'blood in the streets of the town in New Haven'? It was the same thing, about kids in the street, prevention, police beating up heads... in one of those songs, Les said, 'You might not know it, but out in the streets, right now REVOLUTION is taking place'.
"He does this 25-minute thing, then at the end, he says, "I can't SEE it! I can't bear to LOOK at it! I take these two pins, and I go AAAGGGGG! I cry out!'
"And then the band comes back in, y'know..."
Sounds 31 July 1976
It's known that a month or two later (October 1968) SWU played a residency at the Diplomat with Wind in the Willows, and I think that's what Meltzer's remembering when he says that Wind in the Willows played on this showcase gig.
The reason why I think this is that Sandy Roeser has previously said:
It was 1968, the night of the Democratic Convention in Mayor Richard Daley's Chicago.
It was also the night of an important Soft White Underbelly show at The Diplomat Hotel in New York City... The band was playing with a band called "Group Image" in the ballroom of this old hotel.
We were pretty jazzed about the whole thing and there was a pre-show party at the apartment of Les Braunstein's sister, Andrea. The party was great until someone turned the television on. Our collective party head crashed as we watched the horrifying images of the brutality in the streets of Chicago... of the Daley's police beating our contemporaries.
Billy clubs, tear gas, young people being bloodied and bowed, restrained and arrested. I remember us standing in front of the television watching yet not quite able to believe what we were seeing.
It was difficult to comprehend. The gig loomed large. It still had to be played. But it seemed odd in the context of what was going on, sort of frivolous in a way.
But that wasn't the way it went. Because what was happening in the streets of Chicago literally fed the music that was played that night.
Driven by the events in Chicago, the show shared an important event on the historical time line. In my opinion and memory, the band played a show that night that can only be described as transcendental.
The evening already had an air of unreality. For me, it was easy to be swept away by the music... relieved to be delivered from the chaos and violent images. I stood there and let it happen.
This was the night of the famous stream of conscious rap in "All Night Gas Station" as the band jammed intensely, punctuating Les Braunstien's violent imagery-Les working himself into a fugue state, describing putting needles into his eyes, and blowing into the end of a brass fire hose nozzle.
The band was on fire. The air was charged and the audience galvanized by the energy coming from the stage. I remember thinking how good it was to be on the side of the "good guys."
And the good guys were being beaten in Chicago.
From what Sandy says, she seems to be talking about the Holzman showcase gig, and that the "Group Image" were the other band on the bill, and not "Wind in the Willows", as Meltzer had previously attested...
The contextual details Sandy provides about the Convention and riot are helpful from a dating point of view. The 1968 Democratic National Convention was held at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago IL from 26-29 August 1968, but the police riot she describes took place on 28 August - hence that's why I've dated this gig accordingly...
If you know different, please let me know...
I only know of the existence of this gig due to a mention in the 18-25 Sept 1968 edition of the New York Free Press - it said the following in a caption under a photo:
The Soft White Underbelly, one of the lead groups at the Free Press in the Park Sunday, September 8th (photo courtesy of Crawdaddy's).
I didn't know which Park this might have been, so I asked Les:
I know we played with Wind in the Willows one summer afternoon in Riverside Park in NYC. I don't remember any other park gigs, so this could be that....
The advert above appeared in both the East Village Other (Friday 27 Sept 1968) and The New York Free Press (Thursday 26 Sept - 2 Oct 1968 issue).
"Wednesdays" clearly refers to some sort of mini-residency, but I currently don't know when it started or ended. The ad doesn't give a starting date, so that makes me think that the residency had already started when the ad appeared.
The next Wednesday after the ad was the 2nd October, so that's why I've appended that date to this gig entry but logic would say that they probably also played on the 9th, and maybe the 16th also. Not the 23rd October, as the SWU were playing in the Stony Brook gym on that date - see next gig entry...
If you're doing a weekly residency, then you might assume that the minimum sort of time period would be a month-long engagement. If we know that the last Wednesday they could play is the 16th, and we factor in that that they probably had already started before the gig on the 2nd Oct, then it's possible to make an initial tentative guess for this Hotel Diplomat residency:
Wednesday 25 Sept 1968
Wednesday 2 Oct 1968
Wednesday 9 Oct 1968
Wednesday 16 Oct 1968
If you have a better guess, please let me know...
I found a clipping in the 7 Oct 1968 issue of the "Columbia Daily Spectator":
AT NEWYORKER THEATER
"THE COLUMBIA REVOLT"
A full-length engaged and
partisan account of last spring's
insurrection on Morningside Heights
and live on stage
Children of God & Soft White Underbelly
I checked other online sources to see if I could find any other mention of this anywhere, without much success, but I did spot the following in the 4 Oct 1968 of the "East Village Other":
Monday, Oct. 7 -
6, 8 and 10 pm
The Newsreel presents: "The Columbia Revolt"
The New Yorker Theatre
88th Street and Broadway
So - unhelpfully, there was no mention of there being any live bands on the bill. But the cryptic "6-8-10" which appeared at the top left of the "Columbia Daily Spectator" ad is explained - it refers to the three different screenings: 6,8 and 10 pm.
But that then begs the question: how many times did the bands play - was it just the one set each? And who headlined?
I don't know much about "Children of God" - but it seems they were just having a record released on A&M at the time, so maybe they headlined...?
By the way - that film mentioned in the ads, "The Columbia Revolt", is available to be viewed online in two parts - check it out:
Going purely on the adverts from The Statesman above, this series of gigs seems to have undergone some form of mutation.
The first ad published on page 5 in the 18 October issue has this info:
Tue 23 Oct: (should obviously be 22nd)
The Chrills (obviously should be "Churls")
Wed 23 Oct:
Blood Sweat & Tears
Rhinoceros, (Moby Grape?)
Thu 24 Oct:
Ten Years After
Soft White Underbelly
So - that's three gigs on consecutive days - but some of the info is clearly wrong/mis-labelled.
Anyway, the second ad that came out 3 days later on page 7 of the 21 Oct edition of The Statesman had this info (now with no mention of the "Three Days Concerts" - presumably it was now "The Two Days Concerts"):
Tue 22 Oct: [9pm Gym]
The Chrills (again, obviously should be "Churls")
Wed 23 Oct: [7pm Gym]
Blood Sweat & Tears
Ten Years After
Soft White Underbelly
So, that now looks like they'd taken 3 gigs and "squashed them" into two, putting Moby Grape onto the Procul Harum bill on the Tuesday and jamming 10 Years After and the Underbelly into the Wednesday Blood Sweat & Tears show.
An article in 29th October issue of The Statesman confirmed it was definitely two days of concerts, and not three.
I initially had a problem with this date because the first ad for the 23rd Oct gig (above) says SWU supported Ten Years After on the 24th Oct, but the second ad provided the correction, so I'm now reasonably happy SWU supported Todd Rundgren's Nazz on this date.
I only know about this date and the following Chambers Brothers gig at the Electric Circus because Les mentions them in "Lucky Monkey":
We'd had several gigs at the Electric Circus. As I remember, we played there with the Chambers Brothers and also with Sly and the Family Stone.
I've placed this Sly Stone one as occurring before the Chambers Brothers gig because that's just the impression I got - but I don't actually know, so if anyone knows the truth, please let me know...
Both Sly and the Family Stone and the Chambers Brothers were considered to be "house bands" at the Electric Circus at various times - unfortunately, I have yet to see any documented gig lists for the Electric Circus, so it's hard to be specific so far as dates are concerned...
However, I do know that Sly and the Family Stone had a residency here from Tuesday 20 August - Sunday 25 August 1968, but I haven't seen anything for November yet...
Could Les's memory of the gig with Sly possibly be from three months earlier?
I only know about this date because Les mentions it in "Lucky Monkey":
But tonight was the Chambers Brothers. The Chambers Brothers big tune was "Time has come today" which they began by calling out "Time" over and over, accompanied by the, at that time, most famous use of a cowbell...
We have something special planned for tonight. We have just picked up the rough mix of Rational Passional and have given it to our friends the boys in the sound booth. At our signal they will play it through that powerful sound system.
We finish our next to last song and I flash the boys upstairs. Right on cue Rational Passional begins and we begin to play, although what the audience hears is the recording pounding from the PA. We know the song well and can play along pretty perfectly and no one notices.
Then about a third of the way through Donald gestures to a pretty girl bopping by the edge of the stage watching him enthralled.
"Me?" she seems to be saying. "Yes, yes" he encourages her to come up onto the stage next to him. He stands behind her and slips the guitar off his neck on to hers. She doesn't know what to do, she can't play guitar.
"Strum, Strum," he seems to be saying. So she strums and... it sounds great! Wow. Both she and the audience are wowed by this. She begins to really get into it. Then Albert brings another girl up on stage and sits her at the drums and Wow! she can play too!.
I have turned away from the audience and have slipped on the mask. I turn back and go into the final verse. The audience stands and stares. My face is... vacant. They're held in place. They can't understand what has so completely transformed me. And they are stoned!!!!
I notice that Albert to my left is now dancing on a Go Go pillar. This is funnnnnnn!!!!!
We played the Electric Circus several times...
Once, we lip-synced to one of our tapes that we had cut previously. I think we were high on something-or-other. I remember dancing on a sort of column next to the stage. We were a bit nuts... but it was fun.
If you're wondering how I've been able to tentatively label this gig as 20/21 November 1968, that's down to the fact that Les mentions they'd just picked up a copy of the "Rational" rough mix.
Thanks to the acetate of "Rational Passional" stamped with the date of "19 November 1968" on its label that appeared on ebay in Feb 2016, I'm now able to get an approximate date for this gig.
"Weird Tales from the Early Days of BOC" by Vivien Goldman
The band, with their Elektra contract, moved on to a gig at the exotic Electric Circus in New York.
"The place was a drag," recalls Allen disgustedly, "a bunch of psychedelic lightshows and whacked-out acid head idiots jumpin' around, like a bad scene from 'Blow-Up' or somethin'."
With typical prankish wit, the boys made the DJ play the pressings of their forthcoming Elektra album while they enrolled the services of various ladies in the audience into playing their instruments for them.
Wonderingly, Allen continues, "The audience of course, being so whacked out, didn't know shit... and these stupid chicks are playing, and the record's still going, and they're saying, 'Hey, we're playing real good!'..."
The next night, the band reacted with even more of a conscious art statement - "It was all like psychedelic 60's, and we said, that's a DRAG, man, let's go as if we were the most hicks in the world.
"So we put on the most obnoxious old herring-bone jackets, old ties, shirts, greased our hair all the way down, and the audience is STILL out there going (imitates a rather moronic ape) hugga hugga hugga."
Well, the Cult were kicked off Elektra before the release of the album ever took place, largely because of the bass player saying to Elektra's Art Director, "And whatever we do, don't let's have one of those normal Elektra Records covers."
Sounds 31 July 1976
Allen's description of dressing like hicks dovetails neatly with Meltzer's description of the band's appearance at the Circus on the 29th November where they met Eric Bloom (see next entry), but how much credence can we put in the bit that said "the next night"...?
If that's true, then this gig would have been on 28 November 1968...
I initially thought the date for this gig was the 28th November as a result of an account given by Eric Bloom detailing how he came to bring down his PA gear for SWU to use for this gig. However, I've now amended that to the 29th November as a result of the following info.
The show I saw at the Electric Circus with SWU was on Friday, Nov. 29, 1968 (day after Thanksgiving) and that the other group on that night was Grafetti.
Bands at the Electric Circus back then usually played multiple dates, so it is entirely possible that SWU was also there on the 28th (if the EC was open on Thanksgiving night ?). It's a good bet that they also appeared over that weekend, especially on the Saturday.
I am however 100% certain about the Nov. 29 date. I think that Grafetti opened and SWU was the underbill for that date.
My notes indicate only that I rated both groups very highly, but after all these years I don't remember any details about them other than that. I do remember being impressed with them and it was only years later that I realized who they were.
Hope this helps in some way !
Manny had been the Rock King of the Finger Lakes (his actual title) when he went to Hobart along with Eric Anderson and all sorts of other heavies and now he was down to dealing certain illicits and that's how the band was first introduced to him, thru his illicits.
It was Thanksgiving '68 at the Electric Circus where they were playing with Graffiti and that nite they decided to dress up like hicks and slick their hairs back and so happened that Manny had also gone to school with Les so there's the connection.
Les brings Manny down and he supplies 'em with illicits and so happens he has a van too so right away he's living in Great Neck as a roadie.
I've read that we brought Eric in to do the PA one night at the Electric Circus, but I don't remember that. I remember them having the best PA in town. I remember hanging out up in the sound and light balcony, and looking down on the craziness.
This place was like no other in that it brought in theatrical and circus elements. A trapeze artist twirling like a sparkler high up in the strobelights, a juggling unicyclist rolling back and forth amongst the dancers.
A big white cat led through the black light on a diamond leash. The beauty of the Electric Circus was in its understanding of spectacle and how spectacle all around the people brings them into the show.
Makes them part of the show. You can't be a voyeur. Now smoke a joint.
"Weird Tales from the Early Days of BOC" by Vivien Goldman
The next night, the band reacted with even more of a conscious art statement - "It was all like psychedelic 60's, and we said, that's a DRAG, man, let's go as if we were the most hicks in the world.
"So we put on the most obnoxious old herring-bone jackets, old ties, shirts, greased our hair all the way down, and the audience is STILL out there going (imitates a rather moronic ape) hugga hugga hugga."
Sounds 31 July 1976
If "the next night" statement is accurate, then that would indicate two consecutive gigs at this venue on 28 and 29 November 1968...
I recall being very stoned... You know what? I think Meltzer is wrong about that... he's the one that said we slicked our hair back? Yeah cos Helen Wheels took a picture of me at the Electric Circus... I have a picture and I'm wearing the outfit that she made for me and my hair is not slicked back... looks just like it does today... [chuckles] - except no grey...
However, as SWU played the Electric Circus on a number of occasions, I think Albert's photo must be from a different night because both Allen and Meltzer have referred to this "hick" thing...
I only came across news of this gig by accident on a website called Muswell Hill Music ("the place to find the music, songs and recordings of Waqidi Falicoff and friends"). Here's the section that caught my eye:
Shortly after going back to Stony Brook University in 1965, Waqidi hooked up with a fellow student, Bill Laletin, to form a duo, at times called "Bill & Willie" (by the music reviewer for the university paper, The Statesman, Jim Frankel) and finally "Abelard & Dr. Jones".
They performed primarily at the university. They also performed on an ABC documentary on university life as well as performing as a trio with a girl student at the university (who left to get married).
Waqidi also performed with others at the university including, a fellow student, Jeff Kagel, the now famous Kirtan singer, Krishna Das.
Mostly Bill and Waqidi stayed in the folk music genre (Bill still has a list of the songs in their repertoire).
However, on at least one occasion the two went electric with several other student performers to perform more in the folk rock style that was popular at the time (such as Jessie Collin Young's "Get Together" and the early Bee Gee's "New York Mining Disaster").
In one concert the extended group opened for the rock group "The Soft White Underbelly" (later to become the Blue Oyster Cult).
The common connection between the two groups were the students, Sandy Pearlman (he later became the manager for the BOC) and Richard Meltzer (famous for his early work "The Aesthetics of Rock" and other works - see Richard Meltzer's wiki page) as they both were involved with booking the acts for the concerts.
In addition, these two, like Waqidi, were philosophy majors and in many of the same classes and knew each other.
I had certainly not heard anything about this gig before, so I contacted Waqidi to see if he had any more details, and perhaps maybe a date...
I was also intrigued by seeing the mention of Jeff Kagel (Krishna Das), who once tried out as vocalist for SWU and I wondered could he have had any part of this gig at all?
After consulting with my friend Bill Laletin, who I played with at the time (and am still friends with), here's what I can piece together about this gig:
Aside from playing as a trio in 1965 (with a girl singer who left to get married) Bill and I performed exclusively as a duo (he had other gigs without me at times).
I jammed with Jeff Kagel but unless he was on the stage in that concert with SWU (which is unlikely), he never performed with both Bill and I in a paid gig. Krishna Das may have other recollections.
I was a Philosophy major at the same time as Pearlman and Meltzer and we attended quite a few classes together.
I remember Meltzer brought into class a comic book where he added "things" onto the pages. It supposedly had deep meaning. I was not very impressed.
Pearlman was an excellent debater in the class but his technique included citing facts that no one could corroborate at the moment. No Internet.
One of these Philosophy courses was in the field of Aesthetics (most likely with Prof. Donald Goodman or less likely Sydney Gleber) and is where I believe Meltzer started his work on the philosophical overtones of rock lyrics "The Aesthetics of Rock".
My work was on the Aesthetics of Architecture, much less memorable. I later ended up as an academic in the field of Architecture for a few years.
I remember Meltzer commenting on writing an article for Crawdaddy in 1967.
I was also the fellow who put the note on Richard Meltzer's Wikipedia page about him bringing a tape recorder to class: "One of his actions involved sending a tape recorder to class with his comments for the day on tape. Fellow student Sandy Pearlman was responsible for pushing the button."
We got away with a lot in those days!
I remember one class in Philosophy (taught by a Prof. Geoffrey Brogan from Oxford) where the grades of most students were based on the quality of a single question they had to present to Prof. Brogan on the last day of class.
I and a few others were exempt (automatic A's) as the Professor said we already proved our worth in class participation. I don't think Brogan lasted very long at Stony Brook.
He even "stole" away the girlfriend of my friend and fellow student, Gary Sloane.
That was what it was like in the '60s...
By the way my friend Jay Rosenberg (and who I wrote and published songs with in 1960s) ran against Sandy Pearlman for school president in the year Sandy won.
Jay and I just recently rekindled our song writing collaboration with the song "Heaven Release Her" which is in tribute to a 15 year old girl who was killed in Chicago in 2013.
One thing I just remembered is that I picked up a guitar riff from a guitarist with SWU during that concert. And I can even play it now. Funny how things stick with you. It is based on a C7 chord in the 5th position...
As a result of Waqidi's information, I'll place this gig round about here in late 1968, and hopefully, at some time in the future, I might come across further information that might help me date it more accurately...
The gig was cancelled because Bill Graham fell out with the MC5 as a consequence of a mini-riot at the MC5's Fillmore East gig on the 26th December. Read about the background to the trouble here:
and an account by Wayne Kramer here:
Note that the poster above has been censored by Elektra - it should have said "Get Down for Sixty Nine"...
"I know that we went to the Bill Graham show and we met the MC5 backstage and as I recall, there was some problem, a riot or something that happened at the gig and it was not cool... so I remember that we were down to play with them and we met them because they were our label-mates, so that's where I met the MC5 at that Bill Graham gig which was like a week before or something right?"
According to the originalcafeaugogo.com site:
Earth Opera was a famous Boston psychedelic rock group featuring virtuoso folk and bluegrass performers such as Peter Rown and David Grisman.
The Soft White Underbelly were a Long Island rock group, who ultimately evolved into the famous Blue Oyster Cult.
The sequence of ads above help explain the date range I've given to SWU's support slot for these shows.
The first ad gives the NRBQ residency at Steve Paul's Scene club as "Jan 27 through Feb 2" (Monday - Sunday), although it gives no information about any other bands on the bill.
The second ad doesn't actually give the date range of the residency, instead it merely says "Tonight Thru Sunday" - but gives the additional information that Hal Waters would be the opening act, with Soft White Underbelly going on before NRBQ.
I initially thought that this meant SWU were present for the full run of shows, although the ad didn't really say so. I suppose it all rested on what date "Tonight" referred to - and I didn't have a date for the clipping to offer me any clues, unfortunately...
However, the third ad is much more helpful in that it separates the two bands and shows that SWU only came in for the last three shows ("Jan 31 - Feb 2").
By the way - these clippings all come from one of the most engrossing blogs I've ever seen called "It's all the Streets you Crossed", dedicated to documenting NYC's rock'n'roll heritage.
I only saw SWU play live maybe twice. My friend Josie, who worked in Publicity at Elektra really liked Les and we all became friends.
I do remember Josie and I went to see them live at a club in Brooklyn called Dynamite. Les soon left to pursue other opportunities or something like that.
It was a few years later that I realized the rest of the band became BOC.
I only know about this gig courtesy of a reminiscence by Harold C. Black on Facebook, who remarked:
Shared the bill with my ol' Elektra mates, first with them as Soft White and then New Year's Eve, as BOC at the A of M '73.
I knew about the Teenage Lust Academy gig he referred to, but I never heard that he'd played a gig with the SWU before.
Of course, his earlier band, David Peel & The Lower East Side had been on a bill with the SWU and the Mc5 on that infamous New Years Eve bill at the Broadway Central Hotel in 1968, but that one unfortunately had it's plug pulled and it didn't take place - what a gig that would have been!
I asked Harold for some more info:
It was in Central Park - with Les Braunstein...
I once saw an ad for a "Free Press in the Park" gig which featured SWU on Sunday 8 Sept 1968 advertised in the New York Free Press. I asked Les which park this might have been and he said:
"I know we played with Wind in the Willows one summer afternoon in Riverside Park in NYC. I don't remember any other park gigs, so this could be that..."
Could this be the gig you're referring to? And who else was on the bill?
No, it was a big day at the Sheep Meadow... it was very, very close to Les's departure from the band. Les was having a bad day and Jac was getting pissed...
It was the last time I ever saw Les... Maybe it was a "Be-In"...? all I remember is the look on poor Les's face... :-(
Regarding other bands on the bill, I only remember just the two of us...
So... this seems to be a different gig to the one Les remembers as being at Riverside Park. And it's interesting that Harold mentions Jac Holzman was present - I wonder why he'd turn up to a "hippy" gathering in the park...?
My initial attempt to find a likely chronology for this gig returned the following date: 6 April 1969. Check this page out:
No. 8 on the list was this (pay attention to the final sentence):
8. DAWN AT NEW HOPE, PA. (Atlantic)
Atlantic Records and Syntonic Research, Inc.'s Environments series. I have nothing against these records in principle -- a friend claims that playing the surf noises on the first record absorbs the traffic noises and crime-of-violence shrieks penetrating apartment walls in New York City, thus obviously reducing the tortures of the damned (meaning apartment dwellers, not crime victims).
But I began to suspect they might be running short of inspiration, if not long on scam, when they followed Volume 2's Dawn at New Hope, Pennsylvania with Volume 3's Dusk at New Hope, Pennsylvania.
Still, David Peel completests will want to pick up Volume 3, because he makes a cameo appearance on side one's "Be-In (A Psychoacoustic Experience)," recorded at Sheep Meadow in Central Park April 6, 1969.
So, that's a David Peel performance at a "Be-In" in Sheep Meadow on 6 April 1969 - those were the exact parameters I was searching for, so this would seem to fit the bill very nicely. No mention of SWU, but that's not likely, as they weren't on the record in question anyway, so why would they get a mention...?
I consulted the East Village Other/Village Voice online archives to see if they could throw any light on this (BTW: there doesn't seem to be any sort of archive available for The New York Free Press, unfortunately, so if anyone can help by looking in any back issues of that particular publication, I'd appreciate it...)
Here's an advert for the upcoming event from the 1 March 1969 edition of the East Village Other:
I like the line that stated a "Permit for Nudity" was being applied for...
The date is also confirmed in the 3 April 1969 issue of The Village Voice:
Here we go again. Another Easter Sunday. Another Be-in in Central Park Sheep Meadow, becoming as much a part of Easter as dyed eggs and as colorfully predictable.
Lots of diverse groups are in on the be-in's "planning" this year undoubtedly be the usual flower-freaks, bongos in the dirt, finger cymbals, open weed smoking, and dancing up the dawn.
The 10 April 1969 issue of The Village Voice carried a report of the event, but again no mention of the SWU or any bands playing any sort of formalised gig. David Peel is mentioned: "David Peel, an angry young singer from the Lower East Side, is playing pied piper for the day and leading a march for legalised marijuana."
After dark, bonfires were lit:
"Peel, the hip evangelist, stands off to the side of the fire singing as bedlam breaks out all around him, "I do my balling in the bathroom," one of his songs begins and with that a boy standing near him grabs the girl next to him (it is unclear whether he knows her or not) and in a flash they are down on the ground screwing. A curious circle surrounds the couple complete with a tambourine for rhythm.
The evening seems to have culminated in a naked young man leaping into the middle of a bonfire and getting badly burned, and that provided the Voice's headline for the piece: "Young Man on Fire: The Final Escalation".
The 9 April issue of the East Village Other carried a report of how the police manufactured an opportunity to arrest some 'trouble-makers':
So, it seems pretty clear that the 6 April date is valid and happened. But was this the one that included the SWU? I just wish there was some mention of them in the reports....
However, I did find another possibility - David Peel was at a Central Park event a month later - check out this photo:
Below the photo it says this:
Location: New York, New York Date taken: 22 May 1969
David Peel, with sleeveless vest, performing with The Lower East Side Band in Central Park 1969
There are other photos from the event linked off this page. So - if that date is correct, then that puts David Peel back in Central Park over a month later on 22 May 1969.
Could this have been the occasion with SWU which Harold recalls?
The problem is: nobody knows at the moment exactly when Les left the SWU - the assumption is that it was mid-May but it could have been a bit later in the month. Maybe this 22 May date is a viable option for this gig after all, but it's not terribly likely.
The last SWU gig with Les was the outdoor show in Aurora sometime in May, but we don't know the exact date of that, so this gig has to precede that one.
The later the date in May for this Sheep Meadow gig, the less time we have to fit in the Aurora show into the available chronology...
By the way, here's some background info on "be-ins":
Unfortunately, they don't give any relevant dates for the gig in question...
I used to think that this was Les Braunstein's last gig with the Underbelly but now I've had to re-examine this theory - I now think that the last gig might have been Wells College. That still presents logistical problems - see the Wells entry for more details on that.
The Band gig was Soft White Underbelly opening in the gym on May 3, 1969. It was kind of funny, because I was going to a concert with a guy I really didn't know... a BLIND DATE in fact. I was pretty young, just 15 and he was going to Stony Brook. We had talked on the phone and he told me he was premed, and spoke about how he liked all kinds of music, and spoke of classical music too. When he invited me to see the band, he was so low key about it, I thought he meant the school band, like a recital or something. The only other concert I had been to was the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1966.
So, here I was dressed all nice and pretty in a DRESS with cutesy tights and cutesy dress shoes, all lovely and ready for some kind of classical evening. It turned out the band he was referring to was THE Band...as in Bob Dylan, The Weight, Big Pink, and Stage Fright. The rest of the audience looked NORMAL, like jeans, shirts, etc, and here I was like Barbie, all dressed up. Oh well, in spite of the Fashion Crisis, I enjoyed myself immensely anyway.
SWU was great, powerful and I can't remember what they played at all. And the Band was fantastic. I had been listening to FM radio, so I knew a lot of their stuff... just never realized who they were. I still love them.
One side note to SWU: a few years ago, I had some minor orthopedic surgery done. The doctors in there had WNEW on (they used to be the most pioneering rock station in the NY market; then a talk station; now they don't know what they are) in the operating room. As the anesthesiologist was telling me to count backwards, "Don't Fear the Reaper" was coming on....great timing, eh?
As far as Stony Brook show are concerned, I saw quite a few of them, and heard even more on the evenings when I couldn't go. I lived about 1 mile from campus, and I can remember sitting outside and listening to the music bounce across the golf course... it was very loud and very clear. I remember listening to the Who, and quite a few other bands as well. I think I know that house on Lake avenue that was referenced in Robbie Barkan's SWU/Grateful Dead review, although I wasn't there till about 1970 or maybe 71.
I remember concerts in the Gym that cost 50 cents to get into if you were a student. I saw the Moody Blues with Timothy Leary, Odetta, Richie Havens, the Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Bad Brains who opened for Peter Tosh, Bob Dylan, Janis Ian, Aztec TwoStep, and a whole bunch more that I can't recall immediately.
I lived in the area from early 1969 till 1993, and also volunteered at the radio station you mentioned, WUSB from 1981-1993, so I got to see a lot more as years went on. It's a pretty magical place, and some great memories for me.
"Band And Underbelly Fit Opposite Ends Of Spectrum"
Spring Weekend and damn if it didn't want to rain again. Therefore: lots of people without tickets, and no time to "hang the horns" (set up the sound system properly).
Needless to say, two hours were taken mid-concert to set the sound system anyway, and for the first time since I've been here, the extra-superspecial expensive sound equipment was utilized properly. To those of you at the first show: my condolences; The Band was fantastic the second show.
The concert was a game of errors, but somehow those who stayed for both concerts (an exercise in fortitude) came out ahead. The Band and The Soft White Underbelly stand at opposite ends of every spectrum I can think of. The Band are cool, long-time musicians (country, not electric, I fear); the Underbelly are young aspirants to fame.
The Underbelly have an, as yet, unreleased album on Elektra Records, and The Band have an outstanding hit in their Columbia album, Big Pink. The Band are big and clear, smooth and good listening. The Underbelly are small and cluttered, choppy and much too loud.
The Band have the power in their restraint on volume, and clear, sharp bluegrass-arranged harmonies. The vocals are meaningless in the work of the Underbelly and the arrangements are hokey and unfulfilling.
I may be proved wrong with respect to record sales or with respect to their upcoming album but I fear that, in their present motif, the Underbelly will forever be a "second group." Perhaps it is like Les, the unaudible and Morrison imitative vocalist for the Underbelly said in "Stony Brook."
Something has changed, but not just with Stony Brook. The Underbelly, too, has changed and they are no longer the great sit-and-listen band they used to be. Perhaps this is good; there's no money here in Stony Brook. As much hype as they get from Elektra, however, they will not make super-group status for a long time. The Underbelly's forte is the last section of their second set, playing to a small group of people in a friendly atmosphere. For perhaps the last time, the Underbelly were with their audience.
Humanistically, the Underbelly are superior to The Band whose private life is almost as sheltered as that of their mentor Bob Dylan. The Band is out in the world, and I hope experience makes them less likely to lay clinkers like the one the organist Garth Hudson put down in the intro to 'Wheels of Fire."
The new material they played was fine, but certainly not great country or rock; just good. The guitarist is basically an acoustical guitarist and luckily didn't try to do anything beyond himself or too loud. The drummer sings better than he plays drums or mandolin (same, too, about the bass). Together, however, they put down a smooth and full sound more than the elements of the band simply added together.
It would be unfair to judge in terms of the size of audience for the second (best) show. Most people had come to see The Band and then left because of the late hour caused by the bummer sound system. The Underbelly were perfect for the hundred or so devotees left after The Band split.
When faced with a choice of what to play after the concert, the Big Pink Band album seemed the obvious and smooth choice. You just can't get enough of their prophetic country prose (Dylanesque). I had plenty of the Underbelly to last for a long time.
from "The Statesman" (6 May 1969) by Arthur Bromberg
Despite the Statesman (Stony Brook college magazine) review of this gig above saying that SWU were billed as "The Underbelly" for this show, Jane Alcorn's ticket above clearly shows they played this gig as "Soft White Underbelly"...
What I remember of that show was The Band did a long sound check and weren't happy with the sound, and they held the admittance of the audience for an hour or so while they fiddled with it. I can't remember now if they did two shows.
Don't remember much about our performance.
The Wells gig in Aurora NY was pretty significant in the story of Blue Oyster Cult, and it took place in the context of SWU's recording of their 1st Elektra album.
I originally had this gig pegged at around March 1967 simply for logistical reasons.
So far as I can tell, the main LP tracks were recorded in January 1969, and all that remained was Les's main vocal tracks.
Here's what Les had to say in "Morning Final #13":
I started doing vocal overdubs. We moved out of the big studio and over to Elektra's small studios. I recorded every day with Peter Siegel, for about a week to 10 days. I feel that at the end of that, only some of it was my best work. Some of it had lost its spontaneity. I was getting too close to it. I was stressed out about the distance that was opening up between me and the guys who I loved playing with.
Around this time, while I was recording the vocal overdubs, we had booked a gig up in the Finger Lakes at Wells College in Aurora, NY. Beautiful territory, overlooking the lake, and it was my stomping ground in college. I went to Hobart, on the next lake over, but I hung out in Aurora at the beautiful girls' college of Wells, which had nothing but beautiful, classy women.
Somehow we had booked a gig there, and we were going up to play, but the night before I was scheduled to do more vocal overdubs, so the band went up with the van, and I drove up to Aurora after I was done recording. It was a seven hour trip, so I drove all through the night, and I was pretty spaced out. I hadn't been back to the Finger Lakes since I graduated college in '67, and this was '69.
OK - if his overdubs took place over a "week to 10 days" or so after the main body of the album had been recorded, the most generous of calculations would put this into mid-February 1969 or so. Let's say March at the latest.
As Les says he was scheduled to do more vocal overdubs the night before the Wells gig, you'd have thought we'd be looking at February/March 1969 as the timeframe for this gig.
In Les's autobiography, he tells how he drove up to Aurora overnight after a Friday evening recording session (meaning that the Wells show was on a Saturday) and arrived in time to perform a great gig with the Underbelly, but he described it as "our last gig"...
After the concert was finished, the band packed up and drove back to Long Island, leaving Les there amongst all his old Finger Lakes friends. Instead of returning back to carry on with his overdubs, Les stayed up there with his pals for four days and just took it easy.
When Les does eventually return to resume his recording duties, afterwards, there's a gap which Les describes as a few days before the fateful band meeting at Great Neck which informed Les they wouldn't stand in his way if he wanted to leave.
So looking at that sequence of events, Wells would seem to be last gig because there's no space/opportunity for the gig at Stony Brook with The Band.
We know the Band gig was 3rd May 1969, so Wells would have to be after that somehow...
I do believe that the Wells gig was the last gig that Les played with us, so the Wells gig had to be after the Band gig... so it could have been May that we played in Wells - I recall that the College was still in session... maybe it was right after that Band gig... It was right at the end of the year - I think that's why he stayed up there because College was over for her... it was probably their last dance or whatever...
So that's both Albert and Les who reckon Wells was their last gig together. What does this mean for the timeline, if true?
Well, if the album was basically recorded in January, and if Wells took place in May after The Band gig, then that gives a period of about three months during which time Les was recording his overdubs... and that doesn't sound realistic...
So maybe the album was recorded later - March or April, 1969 maybe...? At the moment, that's the only thing that makes any sort of sense to me...
If you have any information that might throw some light on this puzzle, please let me know...
I saw Les Braunstein play once with Soft White Underbelly at an all girls college near Ithaca.
I can only think that Joe was referring to the Wells gig... I don't know of any other all girls colleges around that way that SWU could have played...
This was my first gig. Richard Meltzer came along tripping on acid, which was very entertaining to us.
There were 2 bands playing, SWU and a society band playing standards (Lester Lanin I believe). I can't recall how many sets we did, maybe only 2.
I couldn't tell you what we played but it must have been material from the SWU (Stalk-Forrest) albums, i.e. Bonomo's Turkish Taffy, etc.
The origin of this show: The 16 yr. old came to the band house in Great Neck with a friend to hear some tapes. She had been pointed at SWU by Elektra Records. She was looking for an up-and-coming band to play her party.
I was the only one home that day and played her some tapes of the pre-production of the SWU album. I can't recall who negotiated the deal, but the girl liked the tapes and the gig was booked.
At that time, I wasn't the singer. A couple of months later was the actual gig and by then I had replaced Les.
Anyway Manny was their first real singer and their first real gig together was a deb party in Westport Connecticut.
Manny did the "Uncle Willy" and brought the house down (house included classy debs and their escorts in madras tuxedos). Other band was Lester Lanin.
Here's a preview from "The Herald Statesman" from the day of the gig:
Beck's At Fillmore Tonight
The Jeff Beck Group, whose latest rock LP is "Beck-Ola," will play the Fillmore East tonight.
Tomorrow and Saturday the Fillmore will feature the Iron Butterfly.
With Beck, lead guitarist, on his fourth visit to Fillmore will be Rod Stewart, vocal; Mick Waller, drums; Ron Wood, bass guitar, and Nickey Hopkin, piano. Also on the bill will be Jethro Tull and the Soft White Underbelly.
Butterfly, whose third LP is "Ball," features Doug Ingle, organ; Ron Bushy, drums; Erik Brann, guitar, and Leo Dorman, bass. With them will be Blues Image and Man.
Lights for the three nights will be by Pablo.
This was Eric's first major gig, but things did not go well both musically and visually - Buck had some pennies sewn on his trousers and they all fell off as he played:
Ah, the penny pants... either quarters or pennies...
Well, one of the things that happened was I had seen other bands at the Fillmore and what always bothered me was that you could never hear the drummer - it just wasn't loud enough and so before the Wells gig, I tried this thing where I got a bunch of contact mikes and I put them inside my drum and put them through the PA...
It seemed to sound pretty good as the Wells gig was outdoors in May and we had Eric's PA which was 4 fifteen inch speakers - which were huge colums y'know, six and a half feet tall and so when we played the Fillmore East, I brought along the contact mikes and the columns - the drums were horrendously loud and not just horrendously loud but horrendously bad sounding - I dunno if you've ever heard what contact mikes and drums sound like, but if it was a good idea, people would be doing it to this day [Laughs] - it was a bad idea - another experiment that failed...
But you know - we thought it was a bad gig but we didn't think it was horrible but then there were some bad reviews - there was more than one...
The "review" above by Lucian Truscott from The Village Voice was not exactly complimentary towards SWU, granting them a mere 14 words:
Soft White Underbelly played a sickening set that doesn't even deserve to be reviewed.
So far as reviews go, this was a massive cop-out and completely unhelpful in that it's devoid of any detail whatsoever - I bet the old git turned up late and didn't even see them...
However, the story goes that the reviews were so bad that it made Pearlman decide the band's name was now mud in the town, and therefore they needed a new name.
But, really - is the review that bad? I don't think so - it really is a bit mysterious...
Especially since Robert Christgau gave a rebuttal of that review a couple of weeks later:
Lucian Truscott's putdown of the Soft White Underbelly a few weeks ago was unwarranted. One of the few acceptable New York bands, the Underbelly needs a singer but has good material and a great lead guitarist.
Robert Christgau Village Voice, 31 July 1969
Albert says there was more than one bad review, but I've not been able to trace any others... According to Meltzer, it was the Truscott "review" that caused the problem:
So they finally play the Fillmore and they had real dyn-o-mite shit by now but the crowd ignored them cause it was the 4th and these other two big-mutha bands were on the bill and they got this shitty review from Lucien Truscott of WestPoint in the Voice so Pearlman decided fxxk he better change their name or their ass is grass (in fact, they lost a gig at the Circus cause the Circus guy read the revue).
Now that Les had left the band, Elektra were reportedly dubious about the prospect of Eric Bloom being the frontman - after all, they'd signed them largely on the strength of Les Braunstein's performances.
According to the Rhino CD notes, it looks like another showcase gig was arranged to demonstrate their talents to Elektra - this time at the Electric Circus:
Holzman didn't like Bloom fronting the band, but Pearlman persuaded him to give the band a fair shake and after a show at The Electric Circus, Holzman finally agreed to let them take another shot at it.
We played the Electric Circus several times. I remember Jac Holzman was there at one of the gigs and looked annoyed.
That sounds like that is referring to this gig - Holzman, although (seemingly) visibly annoyed at the lack of Les, was still persuaded by Pearlman to give the band a chance.
Trying to pin a date on this gig, Albert thinks it was around the time of the Columbia demos on 21 July 1969 and 11 September 1969 - for more info on these, see the early recordings page)
You think it was July when we did those demos? Oh? Wow... Well, I believe the Electric Circus gig was in between... Because that's when Elektra said we don't have faith in Eric, so yeah - it had to be there...
At that point Sandy said "we've got to get off Elektra - they're not going to go for this"... and that's when we did the Columbia demo... I think he used the Columbia demos to convince them (Elektra)...
So if Albert's correct and this Electric Circus gig was between the two Columbia recording sessions, then August 1969 would seem to be a likely date...
We know they recorded demos a month or two later under the name "Oaxaca" (because it's written on the tapes) but what we don't know is what name did they play this Electric Circus showcase under?
As previously mentioned, the story has always been that Sandy changed the band's name to "Stalk Forrest Group" pretty soon after the poor reviews they received after the Fillmore East gig - although they appear to have continued to play around the Stony Brook campus as "Soft White Underbelly" during this period.
But we also have this interim, almost joke name of "Oaxaca" to contend with - did they ever play a gig under this name?
In an interview, Allen Lanier has confirmed that they only ever played as SWU, SFG or BOC - never as Oaxaca, Knife-Wielding Scumbags, Santos Sisters etc etc et ad infinitum, but that's the only quote I've ever seen that has referred to this.
So the question remains: did they play this gig as "Soft White Underbelly"?
My first Soft White Underbelly show was at Stony Brook University (Kelly Quad Cafeteria) - as a part of the 'Mood' series.
I am pretty sure it was October - but not 100% sure. Always recalled it as such. I remember being totally knocked out by Donald's guitar playing - that I remember well!
I was a student at SB '69-73... I've been a faculty member there now for several decades. I do remember the triple BOC/Mahavisnu/Byrds gig at the gym - and the SFG gig outdoors on the fields in May '70 I think - I was and still am pals with sandy p too..
That's interesting because I'd previously heard that the band had play some "moods" in Kelly Quad cafeteria in the fall of 1969 under the name "Stalk Forrest Group", but the only evidence that I've seen would seem to indicate that they were - around the University at least - still playing under the Soft White Underbelly name at that time - see the gig below for an example of this...
Check out the ad above for this 17 December mood - this indicates that they were still playing under the Soft White Underbelly name at that time.
This is of interest because we know they had just finished recording their Elektra demos as "Oaxaca", at a time they were supposed to have already become "Stalk Forrest Group".
Yet here they are playing Stony Brook still under their "Soft White Underbelly" banner.
Actually, I think this was purely a flag of convenience - all the students would know who "Soft White Underbelly" were and would turn up, whereas a different name would probably have just caused confusion...
But, the question remains - when exactly did the name change occur officially? At the moment, all I can say for sure is that they played the 3rd July 1970 show as "Stalk Forrest Group" so I think we're looking sometime between Jan-June 1970 for that...
Band was billed on tickets as "Stalk Forest"...
The ticket lists the following four names in this order: Jefferson Airplane, Stalk Forest, Roxy, Glen McKay's Headlights. It also says the gig was scheduled for 7pm in the gym.
This is interesting because the gig was held outdoors on the athletic field. I can only think they got wind of the size of the proposed audience who would want to attend, and realised the security problems that would cause.
17,000 "Fly" With Airplane: Mini-Woodstock Peaceful Event
About 17,000 people jammed onto campus Friday night to hear a five-hour concert featuring the Jefferson Airplane.
The crowd, creating a smaller and less-together Woodstock atmosphere, sat on the athletic field and watched three groups and the Airplane perform on a makeshift platform.
First-aid and an ambulance were on duty throughout the evening to treat victims of various incidents. Two non-students were treated for drugs. There were also two assaults, one on a professor, and a rock-throwing incident.
Security estimated handling 6,500 automobiles Friday night. As the concert ended, University Police directed a constant stream of five-lane traffic leaving the campus for a one hour and forty-five minute period. The cars of the many outsiders jammed campus roads and lots filling almost every available space.
At one point, an almost solid line of parked vehicles lined the campus loop road. All three campus entrances were kept open throughout the night to handle the flow. Security guards were stationed at all entrances to direct traffic on and off the congested Nicoll Road.
At least 200 calls complaining of excessive noise were received from the surrounding community.
The campus remained unusually crowded throughout the weekend as both Carnival and Alumni Weekend attracted more visitors. Carnival continued through yesterday with a multitude of rides and amusements on the library mall.
Alumni Weekend brought SB graduates from as far back as the class of '61, here. The weekend was topped with an Alumni dinner hosted by Acting President T.A. Pond and President John Toll.
from "The Statesman" (4 May 1970) by Ronny Hartman
Also of interest is the review said that the show was "three groups and the Airplane" - therer are four names on the ticket (Jefferson Airplane, Stalk Forest, Roxy, Glen McKay's Headlights) and I initially thought these comprised the full bill for this "mini-Woodstock".
However, I soon discovered that "Glen McKay's Headlights" was actually the name of Jefferson Airplane's travelling light show, and not a band as such, so maybe I'm still missing one actual band name...?
The running order can only be guessed at. Looking at the ticket, you'd have thought "Stalk Forest" were second highest billing, but Buck is on record as having said this:
The outdoor Airplane show we definitely played. I remember it being very cold, and I was very ill with a fever and a bad cold.
We were hours away from the Airplane, I don't think I even stayed for their set...
So it looks like "Stalk Forest" might have opened, and band running order printed on the ticket was purely aesthetically pragmatic - it was arranged for layout reasons: "Glen McKay's Headlights" being too long to fit on the first line...
One confusing thing is that I occasionally see mention of the fact that Hot Tuna might have played this gig also - for example, check this link that explicitly says so:
Just the Airplane. No Hot Tuna. I don't think they were a band yet.
From what I can tell, Hot Tuna were already formed by the time of the SBU gig and had already played a number of gigs with the Airplane...
About that Stony Brook show with Stalk Forest and Airplane... My only memory is the equipment: we had a lot of rental Fender amps. We decided to hook them all together for both Airplane and us and we shared. Funny the stuff you recall.
Of the gig itself, I don't remember anything. Other than becoming a bigger fan of Marty Balin, one of my favorites (of all time)...
The above ticket stub comes from a great MC5 gig list site:
Could this have been the last gig with Andy Winters?
What a gig this would have been. Stalk Forrest Group on the same show as Led Zep, The Allmans, Iggy, Janis, Ted Nugent, Cactus, Buddy Guy etc - also booked, but not mentioned on the ad, were The MC5. Not bad for $6.50!!
The gig was cancelled on Wednesday 12 Aug by Boston Mayor Kevin White... The story is here:
Also above is an advert for the rescheduled gig with Led Zep at the Boston Garden on 9 Sept 1970 (with no SFG, unfortunately...)
Incidentally, Joe Bouchard once said that the band enticed him to join with tales of an imminent gig they were going to play with Led Zep but which subsequently never happened, and this sounds like it might have been that very gig.
If that's true, then my best guess for when Joe joined would obviously be before this gig was shut down on 12 August, so I think we're looking at something like the end of July and the first week of August for Joe joining SFG.
That's officially speaking, of course, because Albert has said that they recruited Joe into the band before Andy Winters was gone, because the experience with Les Braunstein had left them worried about being left in the lurch with committments to fulfill and a missing bandmate...
Stop Press: OK, regarding my posited dates above, it looks like I was trying to apply logic to something that was operating outside logic. Here are some recent (Jan 2015) Facebook posts on the subject:
This is an interesting ad. When Albert called me up in the middle of the night in August of '70 asking me to join the band he said "you gotta come right away because we're opening a tour for Led Zeppelin!"
Of course I said I'll get there as soon as I finish my last production at the Vineyard Players. I was the musical director. So I drove through the wickedest Labor Day traffic I've ever seen from Martha's Vineyard to Great Neck LI.
I got to the house and I said I'm ready for Zeppelin. Then Albert Bouchard says the tour is not happening. :(
A few days later we got the telegram from Elektra....
This was interesting. I've googled "Labor Day" and apparently it's the first Monday in September, so in 1970 that'd be 7th September, so at last that gives me the date that Joe actually joined the band and as a corollary, marks the end of Andy Winter's tenure in the band.
But there's an anomaly here. If Joe joined on 7 Sept with high hopes of playing a Zepp gig - actually, Joe says he was told by Albert it was going to be a "tour"!! - then how can that be? The 14th Aug Zepp gig had been cancelled by the 12th August - nearly 4 weeks earlier!!
The only way I can make sense of this is that Albert might have erm, let's be kind, fibbed a little to Joe in order to get him to come down...?
Albert responded on faceBook:
I might have done that. Sorry Joe.
Blimey. Incidentally, the telegram Joe alluded to above is the one from Elektra telling them that the album SFG had recently recorded for them was going to be shelved:
A few days after I joined the band at their house in Great Neck we got a telegram (you remember those things?) from Elektra saying we were "off the label". No reasons given, just a short note that we were "off the label". I was royally pissed. But it worked out I guess...
Well at least they didn't send you an invoice asking for the advance back...
I think the first gig I played was in the park in Great Neck in September of 1970. Most all of the songs were Soft White Underbelly songs.
I think Sandy Pearlman might have played harmonica for a song. I sort of remember him being on stage with us, but he didn't seem too comfortable.
But my memory of that gig is definitely foggy. We played on a flat bed truck for free. We were desperate to play anywhere then.
Shortly after that we played a two day gig at Swan Lake in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. That was where we met David Lucas who let us use his jingle studio to make the early demos.
OK - a quick note about the tentative dates of 18 and 19 September I've ascribed to this and the next day's show. This is just a guess. I know the two gigs were on a Friday and Saturday in September. The options are:
If Joe is correct about having joined BOC on "Labor Day" (7th Sept) that rules the first set of dates out, and since we know his first gig was in a Great Neck park, that doesn't leave enough time to learn the songs, play that Great Neck gig and then be able to play these two shows on Sept 11-12.
Thus, the first set of dates it could realistically have been are the 18th and 19th Sept, so I'll go with that for now, but if you happen to know any different, please let me know...
Now, about the gig itself...
Max Bell recorded in his latest Classic Rock piece (March 2012) that the band headed up from Long Island to this private nudist event "in a beat up Chevy van with singer Eric Bloom leading the way on his motorcycle", arriving to find the nudists enjoying a "Swingers" weekend.
The show apparently took place on a tennis court with Stalk-Forrest playing inside an orange plastic bubble"...
Their repertoire is originals like Buck's drug murder 'Then Came The Last Days Of May", Bloom's schmaltzy 'Four Door Blues" and Lanier's nasty 'What A Lovely Face', plus covers of Iron Butterfly's 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida', Grand Funk Railroad's 'Aimless Lady', The Grateful Dead's 'Casey Jones", 'All Along The Watchtower' - even Free's 'Alright Now'.
This was the gig where the band had their date with destiny - well, jingle maestro David Lucas at any rate, who was in the audience.
After the show, Lucas approached Sandy Pearlman in what was described as a "cosmic coincidence" and offered the group some free time in his 8-track Warehouse Studio on 46th Street, NYC.
These are the demos which Pearlman said were "so good we got a deal."
I don't know on which of the two nights the Lucas meeting happened, though... and I would also love to know exactly what demos were recorded and when...
OK - dating this gig as "November" is just a guess based on Albert saying the following in an interview:
Albert: ...there were two Conry's - we played that one on New Years Eve and then I think maybe it was before that we played a week at Conry's... by that time we had played Serge's Cabaret in Wilkesburg PA, we'd played upstate a lot of different gigs...
So, if they'd already played Serge's Cabaret before the 31 Dec 1970 NYE show at Conry's, then obviously it could be any date previous to that date.
I chose November as an approximate guess - and also because I didn't have any other November gigs listed, and it's nice to have at least one...
If you can help with any dating evidence, please get in touch...
The New Years Eve show at Ken Conry's Bar in 1970 marks the occasion the Cult backed Fatima from Istanbul, a Turkish bellydancer who lived in NYC. I believe they played while Fatima danced. She wasn't singing...
They would have played many of the songs from the next January batch in the other Conry's (West) bar. They definitely did In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida at this gig...
I also heard there was an "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight - this business of SFG playing their stuff whilst Fatima danced is certainly intriguing, and makes me think of Hawkwind and Stacia, but with maybe more clothes on...
We played at Conry's East in Levittown NY from Jan 5 to Jan 10. I have the tapes. We recorded all 6 shows.
Here's the set list for Jan 5/6 Not in order. Plus lots of duplicates:
This flyer was sent to me by Sam Judd who said Eric Bloom had come across it in his basement...
My advice to Eric is to get back down into that basement and get searching for more of the same...
NB: Check out the name on the handbill: "Stalk Forest". That's interesting - most of the printed ads I've come across all say the same thing - not "Stalk-Forrest Group" (with 2 "R"s) but simply billed as "Stalk Forest"!! Can they all be wrong?
In fact - I've only seen the one reference to "Stalk-Forrest Group" in an ad for the SFG/MC5/TYA gig at SUNY on 3 July 1970, and one for "Stalk-Forest Group" (19 March 1971). All the others have been for "Stalk Forest"...
And yet if you check out the label for the Arthur Comics 45, it's the full SFG name....
OK, this ad is interesting not just because it shows that in March 1971, SFG were still doing "moods" at Stony Brook, but also because it shows that the band were still gigging as "Stalk-Forrest Group" (well, strictly speaking it was "Stalk-Forest Group".
We played a gig at a fraternity at Dartmouth College and all the students were so blasted that they were barfing all over the place - some of the Fraternity brothers were even licking the alcohol that had spilled off the floor.
Phil King - who had got us the gig - was appalled and said, "These are the future leaders of our country!"
As for the date - Joe and I have discussed this and we have narrowed it down to either April 3, 1971 or April 10, 1971. It had to be one of those days because it was around spring break, way before the first album was recorded...
Albert once told me: "We played Tony Mart's in July, probably the 9th and 10th..." However, I have since come across an advert for the gigs from the "Philadelphia Daily News" (16 Apr 1971).
The advert states:
Tony Mart's - Somers Point
Now Open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday
Just Like Summer! Great Shows! Great Crowds!
All Week! 2 Big Bands
By popular demand
Looking at previous Friday editions of "Philadelphia Daily News" (which was the day they list all the local gigs), it becomes obvious that the ads concern current gigs, not upcoming ones, so it's reasonable to assume the SFG run at this venue had already started on the Wednesday. Apparently, for some reason, Tony Mart's weren't open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, making this a four-night stint.
I also found it interesting that SFG were apparently promoting themselves here as a Rochester band ("A Little Touch of Rochester"). This wasn't the first time they'd tried to make themselves sound more exotic by claiming to come from somewhere else...
Their motto: "Through these Doors Walk the Most Beautiful Women in the World"!
Many years later some of the interiors for "Eddie and the Cruisers" was shot there. Tony once threw Bill Haley and his band physically out of the place.
Each band had to learn the break song of the previous band and start playing along before the last band finished. Continuous music.
The club had about 8 bars and a bandstand in the middle of each one. You played right to the boozers.
What was SFG's break song, I wonder? Obviously, it would probably have been a Stones song or whatever, but it might have been fun to make Fat Rabbit learn "Gil Blanco County" or something...
Tony Marts: these shows are indelibly etched in our collective brains.
Fat Rabbit were nice guys, all driving nice Corvettes and such, obviously doing well. Their drummer had a huge kit with probably 20 drums, Albert might remember more detail.
The clubs aesthetic was 'continuous music'. We would play our set and our last song would become their first and vice-versa.
I don't recall how many sets we played but probably 9pm-1am would be a fair guess.
It was probably the weirdest set up we ever played. Our stage was little more than a T shaped area behind a bar and we had to stack our gear on top of each other to fit.
I had to stand out at the end of the T and the other guys were bunched in the back, with all the amps stacked up on top of each other.
Fat Rabbit got a decent bandstand facing in across on the other side of the room to our right, which was made up of a variety of bars.
Tony Mart's rep was he had thrown Bill Haley out for not listening to what Tony wanted. Tony was supposed to be a no bullshit guy. Don't cross him... but we had no trouble...
I think we stayed in shitty motel-type rooms for the week. Fat Rabbit's big tune was a good rendition of 'Sweet Judy Blue Eyes'.
Part of the fun of the shows was trying to throw each other with the last song of the set causing some stress to the other band to pick it up, but it was all in good fun.
We threw in originals when we could, which ones they were are beyond my ability to recall, nor can I remember how much we got but work was work.
We only ever played there for one stint, but I don't know the dates. It was such a strange gig I remember a lot about it, we all do...
Here are a few links to photos of the venue:
I found it interesting that Eric says they stayed in a motel - they were a Long Island band playing in Long Island - why didn't they go back to the band house after each night/early morning to save money...
But then I thought: April 71 was when they left the Great Neck band house, and there was a bit of a "band house hiatus" before they moved into Dix Hills in late Summer...
I'm guessing - with these gigs taking place in April 71 - that the hiatus had already started and they had no band house to return to...?
In the ad on page 6 of The Daily Messenger (Canandaigua, NY) dated "Wednesday, May 5, 1971", it says: "Thursday Night: It's here now - from New York to California - Stalk Forrest - One Night Only - Top Flight Entertainment"...
I can only see small versions of the image at these urls - otherwise you have to bloody subscribe:
If anyone is already a subscriber, please let me know, and see if you can get a bigger version of the advert for the site.
I've long been trying to pin down the point where SFG became BOC, and I now know it has to be sometime during the 5 months between this gig and the 29 Oct gig in Uniontown (for which I have a newspaper ad to show that they definitely played as "Blue Oyster Cult")...
I saw them as SWU in 1971 at a bar in Mineola near where I was living for the summer at my uncle's house in Westbury, LI... damn... I can't remember the name of the bar... it was a big place... eez... too much tequila that night and too many years since.
The latest SWU gig I've ever come across was 17 Dec 1969 - after that it was SFG until... well, here's the thing, I have yet to discover the "cross-over point" - they were deffo SFG on 19 March 1971 and deffo billed as BOC on 30 Oct 1971 - my current best guess is they became BOC approx August 1971.
That's why I'm so interested in your post - if you definitely saw them in Summer 1971, and they weren't yet called BOC, then there's a good chance you saw them just before the name change-over - but like I say, they would have been called SFG at that point (if not BOC)...
If you can come up with a venue name and maybe a more focused date range (eg "July" or "August"), please let me know...
It was in June of 1971 that I know because I wasnt 18 yet... I know i got my SWU t-shirt at that show (still have it..a few holes but a classic)... but maybe they were SFG by then and i didnt know it... its all a blur... 43 years ago
This gig was presaged by a number of mysteriously-worded ads in the "Wilkes-Barre Times Leader":
Well, after that, I'd definitely want to check them out!
The Tuesday 13 July 1971 edition went into hyperbolic overdrive:
HENDRICK'S DID IT IN MONTEREY...
LEAD ZEPPLIN DID IT AT EAGLE ROCK...
- AND NOW -
WILL DO IT AT
- ART STOCK'S -
"Hendrick's" and "Lead Zeppelin", eh? Clearly tribute acts... :-)
The irony is, of course, that Stalk Forrest were on the orignal bill at Eagle Rock before it got cancelled and when the show got rescheduled and moved to Boston Garden, there was no Stalk Forrest, unfortunately.
So I suppose, in actuality, "Lead Zeppelin" did not "do it" at Eagle Rock at all - they "did it" at Boston Garden...
Anyway, moving on, the ad on the 14th of July 1971 was just plain odd:
DON'T HIDE BEHIND YOUR TREE!
STAND BESIDE IT!!!
- TONIGHT -
Live and In Concert
GOTTA BE HERE
TO BELIEVE ANYTHING
- ART STOCK'S -
There's obviously some sort of "Forrest" tie-in going on there with the "tree" thing, but why stand "beside" it? Why not in front?
I tried to research this club as much as I was able, but all I could find was this testimonial from someone from the Leer Brothers Band:
Art Stock's Colonel's Garter was a popular club in the Narrow's Shopping Center in Edwardsville, Pa. Working for manager Dave Carey was like working for a friend - he was a natural who hired naturals... His bartenders (Dave, Lenny, Carmen, Andy - there are more) always had our favorite refreshments ready and waiting when break time came.
Even though the club's motif was "olde tyme" barbershop quartet, the crowds came to rock! We always ended up going home drained.
The Garter provided a stage for a lot of bands and launched some successful careers.
We remain grateful to all of you who came and rocked with us.
Yes, the infamous Colonel's Garter. We played there quite a bit. Kind of a shady joint in a strip mall.
I thought it was in Wilkes-Barre PA, but I guess Edwardsville is a suburb of W-B.
It was booked by Phil King, and the manager was a guy named Dave. I think we stayed at a small house the manager owned.
See the 13 July advert text above to find out where this gig entry comes from...
The text didn't mention any other bands on the bill, so that's why it's currently designated as an SFG only gig, but of course, there could well have been a local support act on the bill also...
The following advert appeared in the Wednesday 04 Aug 1971 edition of the "Wilkes-Barre Times Leader":
More Action than a
- TONIGHT -
I only know about this gig because it was mentioned at the foot of the previous advert...
- ART STOCK'S -
I saw this post (from 2001) on CigarFamily.com in a thread about Soft White Underbelly:
Saw them at the Sherwood Country Club in Indianapolis about 1971. Great concert. I remember walking out and seeing the interior of a VW Beetle on fire. (wonder how that happened?)
I also remember later that night being escorted out of the city of Warsaw by the local authorities. hehe You just brought back a memory for me.
If accurate, this is an interesting entry in that it represents the furthest gig I know of that the SFG ever played away from their Long Island base of operations - it would have been quite the trip for them back then...
I would appreciate some help with dating this a bit more accurately, if anybody knows...
When did "Stalk Forrest" become "Blue Oyster Cult"? Well, they signed their contract as "Blue Oyster Cult" on 28 July 1971, so all gigs before this date will be designated "Stalk Forrest Group", and all those afterwards as "Blue Oyster Cult"...
We played here in August, probably the 13, 14, 15...
This is a weird one. First off, they were now in their second month of being "Blue Oyster Cult" but were still playing gigs as "Stalk Forrest" - presumably, they'd booked it earlier under that name so it was easier to keep on being "Stalk Forrest" rather than trying to explain the name change...
Second, this gig was advertised like so:
This Afternoon 2 to 6 P.M.
- at -
My first thoughts on seeing this were: An afternoon "jam session"...? WTF is that all about...?
I know you sometimes hear about local bands battling against each other with the prize being a slot supporting a national touring act at the venue at a later date...
Could that have been it? Some sort of "Battle of the Bands" type thing between Stalk Forrest and The New Breed...?
Or - am I reading the advert wrongly - does the jam session have zero to do with the bands listed below the club name, and the ad is simply highlighting that there are two phases to the day's entertainment: a jam session in the afternoon and the gig proper in the evening...?
It's hard to be sure, but if the two bands were fighting it out for a potential future support slot, I couldn't help noticing at the foot of the ad that "The Box Tops" were due to play there the following Monday (on 6 Sep 1971)...
The reason that jumped out at me was because there is a currently "unknown" gig I'm looking to add to these lists where Stalk Forrest once supported The Box Tops at a club in PA - I know about this because Albert recounted the story on his radio show. He initially said that he thought it was at Serge's Cabaret (Wilksbury PA) and that he recalled they drove back over night to NYC and auditioned for Columbia - "the penultimate audition" - where they played the songs they'd be playing at Serge's - their own songs - plus Bad Boy.
He later corrected this, upon further reflection - he said he thought it was probably at a "nicer club (but I can't remember the name) in Scranton".
OK, I know this wasn't Scranton, and I know that, as the Columbia audition looks like it took place some time back in July, that doesn't correspond either, but...
SFG did play at least five gigs that I know of at this venue over July - August, so maybe that could have confused Albert's memory banks, and, after all, he said say that he wasn't really sure just where it was, anyway, so that leaves the door open...
So... maybe the Box Tops gig here on Monday the 6th Sep was indeed the missing SFG support slot I've been searching for...?
Captain's Log (Additional):
But - and I know it's not particularly relevant to this entry, but never mind - I just want to draw attention to Albert's remark about a "penultimate audition" for Columbia!! Previously, I'd only ever heard about that one audition, the whole thing with Clive Davis, Harry Nilsson, Bobby Columbi - and somewhat oddly, Patti Smith, also...
So which audition was that one, and, if so, what on earth happened at the "penultimate audition"? And how many auditions were there in total?
I don't remember an afternoon jam session, but it probably did happen since we were stuck there with nowhere to go in the afternoon.
Finally found evidence supporting the existence of this gig in the Monday 6 Sept 1971 edition of the "Wilkes-Barre Times Leader":
The Letter - Soul Deep - Cry Like A Baby
Are A few of Their Million Sellers
- TONIGHT -
Dave the manager got royally pissed at Phil King for booking the "BoxTops". There were no original members in the band, a fake Box Tops.
The dead giveaway was when they played "The Letter" the big hit, they played it like Joe Cocker!
I was there and saw it all.
This was not a New Year's gig. It happened later in the year when we were starting to record our first album. We drove there after a night of recording, probably September or October.
Catasauqua is indeed the name of the town. It's in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, about an hour's drive south of New York City.
Interestingly enough, the Slovak Center apparently still has bands from time to time:
I only know about this gig because Albert mentioned it in an interview in "Morning Final":
Albert: I remember recording "Before the Kiss, A Redcap" and then as soon as we finished the song, we went to Youngstown Ohio to play at The Bedroom (a club), and we played on a bed. A stage in the shape of a bed. The trip to Youngstown Ohio is about 8 or 9 hours and we didn't stay overnight.
So we must have finished the session at four in the morning and then left and got to the gig at like four in the afternoon and slept in the van, and set up on the bed.
Now I'm not sure but that could have been the same place that the marquee had "Tonight Blue Oyster Cult" and then they switched the letters around.
Even if it's not true, I mean it's true at one point, it was somewhere over there in Ohio, and it was right in the early years, it was like the first album year, it might have been The Bedroom.
When we got there it said "Tonight Blue Oyster Cult," when we left the gig at the end of the night the sign said, "To light, Blue Oyster Cunt!"
The ticket image above has been ruthlessly cropped from a great photo I noticed on Flickr, thereby ruining a nice composition, so check out the original here:
One of the oddest grouping of bands that I've seen was at a $3. concert at Cortlandt College.
Lowest billed was Blue Oyster Cult. After them, this guy we never heard of came on stage, with SHORT hair, and a double-neck guitar. It was an early appearance of The Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin. Blew us away. Revved up the orange sunshine in us.
And, headlining, very definitely anti-climactically, was The Byrds. Go figure.
According to the poster above, BOC weren't lowest on the bill - they seem to have been billed second...
December 3 - Auditorium-University of Maine, Orono, Maine
Byrds, Blue Oyster Cult, and Mahavishnu Orchestra featuring John McLaughlin - 2 shows: 7 & 10:30pm
Just an update on the show at Clarkson. I was there as it was my freshman year;-). I wish I could remember more about the setlist but it was 45 years ago.
The Byrds did not appear on the bill. Edgar Winter's White Trash was on the bill in their place. This was a tour put on by Columbia Records to promote three of the new acts.
I do recall that all three bands were excellent.
Blue Oyster Cult did come back to play the college on the Agents of Fortune tour.
Well, the adverts says there were two shows - however, the review above only seems to refer to the late show - apparently the Byrds took the stage at 3am!! - it doesn't mention an early show...
Great report of BOC's performance by Ken Simon: "But what about Blue Oyster Cult? I refuse to waste the space."
We went in a caravan of vehicles to Stony Brook from Dix Hills. I thought that Don, Sandra, Allen, and Patti were with us, but I'm not certain.