It’s funny how things come to you…..The local PBS station had a Woflgang’s Vault (I’ll explain that later) program on last night as a fund raiser. It was a Peter Frampton -Lynyrd Skynyrd concert from the Oakland Stadium “Day on the Green”, July 1977. It was such a deja vu moment: It was a concert that BASS had sold tickets for…..after the first Day sold out I was able to convince Bill Graham there was enough interest to add a second and eventually a third date; they all sold out. It was fun watching how the performers and audience looked: they have to be in their fifties or sixties now. There was Bill walking around the stage busy, the Barsottis (production), Eric Christensen, Jerry Pompili and I might have even seen the famous photographer Baron Wolman. And I knew I was sitting somewhere behind the stage in the backstage area.
I never thought when I was promoting Roller Derby that I would ever be associated with Rock and Roll. But if I had thought about, there were definitely things in common: the intensity and empathy with the spectators, how much they all got into the performances and the game.
One of the main reasons I loved Roller Derby was that I could get just as excited as the other fans with a great block, a jam (I loved the speed and agility of the skaters) and the game itself. And rock and roll, that was a whole different but similar story. I had gone to the Fillmore before as a curiosity but never got into it. With my Atherton friends we had gone to the Oakland Arena to see Jimi Hendrix just so we could dress up sixties but I didn’t appreciate him. And when we took my son Steven to see the Beatles at the Cow Palace, the audience was so screamy and the sound system so inadequate that we couldn’t hear them.
But after Hal and I started BASS Tickets I really wanted to understand why the “kids” were so fanatical about the music. I started (in my forties) to go to the shows, obviously to see if there were problems with the ticketing, but also to hear the music. I think my first Winterland show was Montrose (who?), which I really enjoyed. Then there was BTO (not so much), Beach Boys (cute, kind of boring), Blue Oyster Cult, and then finally the Who (no one better), the Stones (more fun than anything), Led Zeppelin (who I hated, but not just because of their music), Rod Stewart (before he got on his oldies kick) The Pretenders, Joan Jett, and so many more.
It was only after I got the music and the audience energy that I really grew to understand what so many “adults” didn’t: it was such a great release, you had such community with those around you, and you just felt good. I really miss that in today’s music…Obviously I got the same feeling from Motown.
I was at one concert with a friend that was amazing: I had heard Springsteen on records on the radio but wasn’t that impressed. However in person, I think he is the most dynamic performer there is, if you can last the four hours. And an amazing thing happened. I was sitting in the tenth row and Bruce came off the stage during one song, jumped on the chair next to me, and my friend and I held his legs while he rocked on. I guess that is the ultimate bonding experience.
Now about Wolfgang’s Vault, as I told you in an earlier blog about Bill Graham and me, Bill’s real name was Wolfgang. Apparently, after Bill died one of his storage buildings was sold off. I understand the buyer was not that concerned with the building (who is he?) but with all the unheard tapes from Winterland, Days on the Green, and memorabilia that was stored there, and he has turned it into a very profitable business; of course if he hadn’t I wouldn’t have seen the program last night.
I really learned about the rock and roll people when I toured with Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Revue; if you haven’t already, read my earlier blogs on the tour. I do have some funny stories to tell about it, but not today.
As for Led Zeppelin: they were scheduled for two Days on the Green and they sold out immediately and Bill had about 3 mil waiting to be split. The drummer Bonham’s son was walking around backstage being a smartass with no backstage passes on, and one of Bill’s blue shirts (security) stopped him. Zeppelin’s manager, a real creep, sent his goons out and they beat the guy up. This was the first day of the two-day stop. It turned into an impasse, Zeppelin refusing to go on the next day unless Bill and the security signed a statement that it was settled andthey wouldn’t sue or prosecute. I know it killed him, but Bill did it. However, after the concert ended the next day the Oakland police somehow came around with a warrant for the perps arrest.
Bill knew he had blown it with the Zeppelin but I sure admired him for it. He was always more concerned with all of his people and that included his $30 a day security.
In later years I heard the Eurythmics, Culture Club, Dave Mathews and on and on, but I have always felt Rock and Roll in the sixties and seventies represented our last real happy time. You can argue with me if you want.
The music of the 21st Century: you can hear at any Derby Girls game.
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