Ramblings From The Past in Music

Thought I’d create a thread to recount memories from live concerts to share and discover artists. Apologies to HBB for crashing his thread. I’ll copy my posts from there to here. I find myself listening to the recommendations in music and artists from everyone, some of whom I’ve not heard. Hearing about live concert experiences has also been both entertaining and informative.

So here goes…Steppenwolf:

I saw Steppenwolf live at the old Avalon Ballroom in S.F. in 1967 when I was in High School and just before this album was recorded in 1968. Back then, they were pretty much an underground band out of the L.A. scene. The stage and ballroom were very intimate - the ballroom was half full - and the atmosphere was laid back. It was a gathering of the underground locals - more like a small party.

When they got to this number, they pulled out the all the stops and drove it hard, real hard, their L.A. hard-driving club sound rocking the ‘F’ out of that little ball room in S.F. It seemed like they were playing it forever. It didn’t hurt that the commune hippies came into town, carrying around LSD-25 in a punch bowl earlier that evening, dripping it onto sugar cubes with an eye dropper to the willing consumers (the same way they distributed the Salk Vaccine a decade ago to eradicate Polio). Full light show, Steppinwolf and physcedelia…What was not to like? Incredible to me as a 16 year old teenager. Anndddd - The amps were all tubes and just feet away from the ballroom floor!

Historical Credits: The LSD-25 was courtesy of the legendary Augustus Owsley Stanley III who went on drip it onto purple Necco wafers for ease of distribution which became known as the infamous Purple Owsley. It was never sold. You had to be deeply connected. It was pure ‘25’, uncompromising and uncompromisingly laboratory grade clean, bless his soul, no freak outs - the original. Dr. Timothy Leary took no other.

I assumed that Steppenwolf was ‘coming on’ when they hit Magic Carpet Ride. Heh…

The light show was courtesy of the legendary Bill Ham, the inventor and pioneer of the projector light show.


What CREAM brought to the table was a novel band configuration: lead, bass and drums. Jack Bruce was a jazz bassist, Ginger Baker was a lunatic drummer and Eric Clapton, who was so stunned by Jimi Hendrix when he came to the UK, fashioned the band in his light.

That night in 1967, at the old Winterland Ice Arena, a mere blocks from my home, Cream was headlined to appear. From England they came to put on a show in the underground rock capital of the world - San Francisco.

The band before them ran way over - close to two hours. Cream was backstage. As a result, all the young kids - the teenyboppers - out on their dates all had curfews and had to leave, which rendered the arena less than half full at best. I was 16 but was good. I was standing dead center in front of the stage. There was a lot of air space between everyone. The floor was half full at best. Heh…

Out they strode, plugged in and immediately got it on. Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce were transcendent in their technical chops and Ginger Baker was driving the snot of them. All of a sudden, in the midst of the second tune, they each left the stage, starting with Ginger Baker, leaving Eric and Jack carrying on with the performance. When he returned, they left Ginger to solo with his dual bass drum kit.
He was an animal. No one had ever seen anything like it. He beat the hell out of those drums in a torrent of physicality driven by rhythms from the Druid Celts, summoning spirits and completely hypnotizing the attendees while Eric and Jack were getting down in the backstage.

When they returned and were back in position, they synced with Baker, hit the overdrive switch and took off. It was the most powerful performance I’d witnessed to date. The Brits reclaimed the throne that night only to be dethroned when Hendrix came to Winterland!!! Those tubed amps were singing, Eric Clapton’s prolonged solos with Jack Bruce’s counterbalance, both running up and down the necks of their axes with such incredible technical proficiency it gave life to the word brilliant. By 1:00am, when they finally finished, we remaining hard core San Francisco underground serious rock music heads collapsed as a group - completely drained yet completely fulfilled. My ears were ringing…


Great write up, I look forward to the next one :+1:

Ginger Baker was a wild one for sure as I’ve recently been learning about cream’s history…

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I’ll post up a few more rambings if there is any interest. I spent my entire youth starting in my pre-teens going to hear live music. It was an obsession. I try to capture the atmosphere and color as it was to embellish the stories as they were an integral part of the whole experience.

The first two ramblings were of concerts of post '65 rock band. I 'll can also post up other genres as well. The Jazz scene was alive and well, traditional Blues bands were in their heyday and bands coming out of the 50’s were still headlining. Think James Brown! (Seeing him was on a whole 'nother level). Out of this gumbo, emerged Psychedelic Rock. From the canned bubble gum chewing 50s AM Radio hits era, evolved a genre that would change the world of music forever. From the Beatles I want to hold your hand to Yellow Submarine.

Then, concerts were accessible. Heck, I saw The Grateful Dead on Haight Street when they blocked off the street and played on a flatbed truck. There were more FBI agents on the fire escape taking pictures with telephoto lens’ than you could count. As a 15 year old, I’m in those pictures for sure as I was standing right in front of that flat bed stage. This was the beginning of the free concerts held in the panhandle of Golden Gate Park, an extension of Haight Street and adjacent to the infamous ‘Hippy Hill" where Santana’s congo player, Chepito, often held court. Dubbed "Human Be-Ins’", these concerts were where many fledgling bands played who went on to make great music as well as established artists were evolving their craft to the new paradigm. It was a ‘Mecca-like pilgrimage’ and people were pouring in from all over the world.

In the Haight, there were so many bands honing their skills. I could literally walk from my house and hear inumerable bands in their garages and in their living room flats playing Jazz, Rock, and Blues. Hearing Santana developing Latin-Rock and Janis Joplin belting out the blues as no other white woman had ever done, broke down stereotypes and brought people together. Hence the term Human Be-In’s.

Black music was shunned on the radio up until Elvis. He along with the early R&B/Rock’n Roll pioneers - think Little Richard - brought Black R&B style music to the mainstream. He literally unleashed the genie from the bottle. Preachers and politicians who had been railing against the ‘infection’ of Black music saw their worst nightmares come true. AM radio picked it up. Juke boxes were blaring it and Pat Boone died. Once the Brits locked on to it and brought it back home to America the acceptance was complete. The Beatles versioned it into hits, the Stones made it raunchy and that was that. The new amalgamated Black and White rock was born.

It was the next evolution which spawned the psychedelic era in San Francisco. Free form, in your face, hard driving music birthed by Jimi Hendrix who beget Clapton and Cream, who beget Led Zepplin, who beget the big stadium hair bands, to the underground punk minimalist bands where is all started again.

Black music from the Mississippi Delta through Elvis, to Chicago, to the Stones right on up to the inner city kids in New York who gave birth to Hip-Hop, there is a continuum. What was then and is today is the righteous notion that music is our common bond as a race of people.

I just try to be the chronicler. The musicians before me, passed on the early history of Jazz. I sat at their knees at a child and listened to their stories of the Jazz bands and that era, and I was bitten by that bug. :sunglasses:


He went to Africa and lived for a few years hanging and THEY were in awe of his rhythm. HA!

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Perhaps others may share their live music experiences…there’s nothing quite like a live venue and the memories it creates, no matter the decade and type of music