“One Pill Makes You Smaller” . . : Jefferson Airplane At Woodstock

There’s been a lot of hubbub about the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. I’m not going to be one of those people who claimed to have been there but I was about 20 miles (and a world) away.

I was eleven years old. Every summer, my family would stay at a bungalow colony in upstate New York in an area that was known as the Borscht Belt (The Borscht Belt was a nickname for the network of summer resorts in the Catskill Mountains that were popular with New York City Jews between the 1920s and the 1970s). I was just getting into rock music and I saw the posters for Woodstock in town (South Fallsburg, NY to be exact). I saw that my favorite band, The Jefferson Airplane were scheduled to play on Saturday so I asked my parents if I could go. You can guess what the answer was (as a side note, I fractured my foot about a week later so I was in a cast when Woodstock took place, further reducing the already zero chances of my going to negative).

So I never got a chance to see Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock. Hindsight being 20/20, I sure it was a good thing. My eleven year self would be freaking out at the chaos of the situation. Actually, now that I think about it, I never saw Jefferson Airplane live. By he time I began going to concerts, the Airplane had morphed and split into Jefferson Starship (a band I was never into) and Hot Tuna. Like choosing who in a divorced couple you stay friends with, I went with Hot Tuna.

Luckily, a good part of the Airplane’s set was filmed though it was not included in the Woodstock movie. At Woodstock, Jefferson Airplane was scheduled to be the headliner for Saturday, but due to delays caused by rain and general chaos. instead ended up playing at 8am on Sunday for a tired Woodstock crowd. The early “maniac morning music” session included their songs from their previous albums as well as new material that would appear on their next record “Volunteers”.

Now I can finally see what I missed.

Jefferson Airplane -Somebody To Love, White Rabbit (Live At Woodstock 1969) –


Jefferson Airplane – Volunteers (Live At Woodstock 1969) –


Jefferson Airplane – Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon (Live At Woodstock 1969) –

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Posted in Classic Rock, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Moonhead” . . . : Pink Floyd Jams To The Moon Landing

Fifty years ago today, on July 20th, 1969,  Mankind did the coolest thing in it’s existence and walked on the Moon (unless you’re one of those pinheads who think it was all a hoax. In that case, just go away now and please, for the sake of an already shallow gene pool, don’t reproduce). I was eleven years ago and stuck in the back of a crowded room in upstate New York, trying to see a small television screen with lousy reception. I couldn’t see shit. Suddenly everyone begins cheering so I assumed that Neil Amstrong stepped foot on the Moon.

That’s my recollection of where I was when Man first walked on the Moon. But if you happen to be, oh let’s say, David Gilmore of Pink Floyd, it would be slightly different. A part of a live BBC broadcast centered on the Moon landing, titled So What if It’s Just Green Cheese?, Pink Floyd was commissioned to perform instrumental music live on the air as the Apollo 11 crew’s video and audio signals came through. The program included actors such as Ian McKellen and Judi Dench reading quotes and poetry about the Moon. Dudley Moore and his Dudley Moore Trio also performed, as did jazz singer Marion Montgomery but let’s face it, the only part that we care about now was Pink Floyd’s improvisational jam session.

In the summer of 1969, Pink Floyd was nowhere near the superstar level they would reach in the ’70s. With songs such “Astronomy Domine” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”, they were an underground band whose psychedelic explorations were firmly associated with outer space. That and having already appeared on various U.K. TV programs, made them uniquely qualified for the task.

David Gilmore from a 2009 inrerview with The Guardian:
“It was a live broadcast, and there was a panel of scientists on one side of the studio, with us on the other. I was 23. The programming was a little looser in those days, and if a producer of a late-night programme felt like it, they would do something a bit off the wall. Funnily enough I’ve never really heard it since, but it is on YouTube. They were broadcasting the moon landing and they thought that to provide a bit of a break they would show us jamming. It was only about five minutes long. The song was called Moonhead — it’s a nice, atmospheric, spacey 12-bar blues.”

The music produced by the group that night was very trippy, with a dark ambient vibe that is sometimes reminiscent of the early Pink Floyd tune “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”. In the beginning there are a few bits of dialogue spoken over the music but it’s not too overbearing. Otherwise it’s a interesting bit of pre-Dark Side Of The Moon Pink Floyd jamming away and being a part of history.

Pink Floyd “Moonhead” -1969

 

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Posted in Classic Rock, Improvisation, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis

Reflections On The Fourth Of July: Two Songs by Paul Simon about America

Today here in America we are celebrating our Independence Day. As I was looking at my news feed I was noticing several music lists of Fourth of July appropriate music. A lot of chest thumping, “party in the USA” songs. I’m sorry, I’m not feeling it. When displays of national pride and values begin to resemble old film footage of May Day parades in Moscow, then I’m not on board with “America, Fuck Yeah!”.

Given what I see around me, I am not in a particularly celebratory mood. Mine is more reflective. My feelings about America are complex and they should be. Everyone’s should be. When big complex things are boiled down to simplistic, love/hate options, you run the risk of letting Evil frame the discussion in ways that preclude nuance, sympathy and empathy.

These two songs by Paul Simon are much more about what I and many others are feeling about our country today.

Simon & Garfunkel – America


Paul Simon – American Tune

Have a safe holiday.

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“How Will The Wolf Survive” . . : Jerry Garcia’s Wolf Guitar Comes Out To Play

This is a call back to a previous post (https://roymusicusa.com/2019/05/25/pictures-from-an-exhibition-the-instruments-of-rock-roll-at-the-met-part-iii/) where I talked about the custom made guitars of Jerry Garcia. Just recently while Dead & Company were playing here in NYC at Citi Field, John Mayer played Jerry Garcia’s famed Wolf guitar. Wolf has been on display at The Met as part of the museum’s Play It Loud: Instruments Of Rock & Roll exhibit.

I always thought that great guitars are functional art and Wolf is a great example of this. Wolf was created first and foremost as a tool for Garcia to make music with. It’s creator, Doug Irwin, went beyond the basic parameters of a guitar’s function by making it an aesthetically pleasing object to look at. But if Jerry felt that it didn’t deliver as a guitar, it never would have seen the light of day. That’s why I was glad to hear that it was brought out of it’s glass case and actually played recently. Guitars should be played. Wolf went back on display at The Met the next day. near the galleries that showcase The Met’s collection of artifacts from ancient Egypt. There you can see beautiful objects whose function from long ago are a bit of a mystery. What were these beautiful things used for? I wonder if sometime in a possible future, someone will be looking at Wolf in a museum, admiring it’s beauty and reading the plaque next to it and wondering, “What the fuck is a guitar?”.

The two clips below are courtesy of nugs.tv who have been putting out on You Tube the opening songs from each set of Dead & Company’s summer tour. The first set opener (go to 6:40 for the actual start) is the Dead classic St. Stephen. As an old deadhead, that is a impressive out of nowhere choice. That plus the appearance of the Wolf guitar must have had the fans going nuts.

Dead & Company: Live at Citi Field, NYC 6/23/19 Set I Opener –


Equally impressive as a second set opening number was Lady With A Fan > Terrapin Station.


Dead & Company: Live at Citi Field, NYC 6/23/19 Set II Opener –

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Posted in Equipment, Grateful Dead, Jam Band

“Bouncing Round The Room” . . : Videos that put Phish Jams under the microscope

Let’s take a break from visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll”, which has been the subject of a series of posts. Instead I want to talk about Phish. I have discussed them previously in a post about their 2014 Halloween show  (https://roymusicusa.com/2015/10/29/ooh-scary-phish-perform-disneys-chilling-thrilling-sounds-of-the-haunted-house/) and my opinion of them has pretty much remained the same: I am generally unimpressed with their songs but I really like their jamming. The feature about their jamming that most impresses me is their ability to improvise structure within their jams. The appearance of these improvised subsections give the jams a suite like narrative flow. I find this a common trait among my favorite pieces of extended improvised music. A excellent example of this is The Allman Brothers Band’s Mountain Jam. The song goes through a series of musical sections that feel like you have taken a journey. Mountain Jam’s suite like structure however, evolved over a period of time, with a loose arrangement of the sections eventually becoming more formalized over time (for my discussion and analysis of Mountain Jam, see my post https://roymusicusa.com/2014/06/30/first-there-is-a-mountain/). The Grateful Dead, particularly in the early seventies, would sometimes play thematic instrumentals in the middle of larger jams. Though they were improvised, these sections were probably based on themes the Dead tried out in rehearsals, so when one bandmember suggested a chord sequence, the others could quickly pick up on it. If you really want to deep dive into the Dead’s use of thematic jams then here are links to several articles on the website Grateful Dead Guide:

http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2010/01/deads-early-thematic-jams.html

http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2009/08/mind-left-body-jam.html

http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2014/03/1972-melodic-jams.html

This leads me to the videos put out by YouTuber Amarguitar. These videos start with background on the song and it’s place in the context of Phish’s history. The songs however are just the starting point for what can be extended improvisations that would go far afield from the song’s original structure. As one of videos explains, the jamming can be provided into roughly two types: Type 1 where the improv is based on the existing structure of the tune and Type 2, where new structures are created on the fly. The videos below are part of series that Amarguitar put out where he provides musical analysis for some of the more noteworthy Phish improvisations.

Phish – Anatomy of a Jam – 11.22.1997 – Halley’s Comet – Hampton Coliseum


Phish – Anatomy of a Jam – 8.17.1997 Bathtub Gin – The Great Went


Phish – Anatomy of a Jam – 2.28.03 Tweezer – Nassau Coliseum

As a side note, I realized that this is the five year anniversary since my first blog post. Wow. Thank you to everyone who reads my blog. I always get a thrill when I see  someone from another part of the world (or my part of the world for that matter) checking out what I have to say.

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Posted in Classic Rock, Improvisation, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Pictures From An Exhibition . . : The Instruments Of Rock & Roll At The Met Part III

Continuing my posts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll”, I think another name for this post could be “Jerry’s Kids”. The guitar pics that I’m featuring in this post were played by the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia. The guitars were custom made for Jerry and really transcend their role as just musical instruments and cross over to the realm of functional art, so much so that they were given their own names: Wolf and Tiger.

In the early seventies, the Grateful Dead already had ties with the San Francisco based luthiers of Alembic Guitars. It was there that Jerry came upon an instrument built by Doug Irwin and bought it on the spot. He eventually asked Irwin to create a custom guitar for him with the result being Wolf, which Garcia first played starting in September, 1973. It was Garcia that first placed the wolf sticker on his guitar but while the guitar was in for some repair, Irwin replaced the sticker with wood inlays that replicated the sticker, giving the instrument its name. The guitar was predominantly used during the 1970’s, though it resurfaced in 1989 for a MIDI synthesizer experiment, and was last played by Garcia in 1993. Wolf was auctioned off to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 2017 for over $1.6 million, and the bid was matched by an anonymous donor, raising a total of $3.2 million for the SPLC.

 

 

Immediately after receiving Wolf, Jerry asked Doug Irwin to make another guitar, telling him, “don’t hold back.” Six years later, Irwin delivered the guitar known as Tiger and it became his most played guitar. Jerry talked glowingly about the variety of sounds it gave him to play with and it was his primarily guitar through the eighties, eventually being replaced by another Doug Irwin made guitar known as Rosebud (which is not part of the exhibition). After Garcia’s death, Irwin won the guitar back in a legal settlement, and auctioned it off for $850,000 in 2002. It was purchased by Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts and guitar collector. Irsay has been generous with lending out the instrument and on what would have been Garcia’s 74th birthday, the guitar was played publicly for the first time in over 20 years at Red Rocks Amphitheater in 2016 by Warren Haynes.

More to come . . . .

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Posted in Classic Rock, Equipment, Grateful Dead

“Pictures From An Exhibition . . : The Instruments Of Rock & Roll At The Met Part II

In my previous post, I talked and posted pictures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll” (https://roymusicusa.com/2019/04/26/pictures-from-an-exhibition-the-instruments-of-rock-roll-at-the-met-part-i/). This time I want to talk briefly about this one single display in the show. First I want to preface this with a single statement: I love Gibson SG’s. I have a SG Standard and it’s one of my main “go to” guitars. I use it for rock, fusion and slide guitar. I think their tremendously versatile, play great and are much easier on my back than Gibson Les Pauls.

The guitar that we know today as the SG was actually first introduced by Gibson in 1961 as a Les Paul. With sales of Les Pauls in decline, Gibson redesigned the guitar with a thinner, flat-topped mahogany body, a double cutaway which made the upper frets more accessible, and a contoured body. However the new design also resulted in problems with the strength of the body and neck. In addition, the redesign was done without knowledge of Les Paul himself and who was dissatisfied with the new guitar. Les Paul insisted that his name be taken off the new model and in 1963 Gibson reintroduced the guitar as the SG (for “Solid Guitar”).

This brings us the the trinity of Gibson SG’s we have below. The SG on the left belongs to Derek Trucks. He bought it in 1991 and has since been autographed by dozens of his musical heroes. The SG on the right was the one played Angus Young in concert since the 1980s. And in the center is a guitar that made my heart swoon. It’s the SG used by Duane Allman as his main slide guitar, including on Live At The Fillmore East. Yes, this is the guitar heard on Statesboro Blues. Yes, this is the guitar that CHANGED MY LIFE (too dramatic . . maybe). Fellow Allman Brother guitarist Dickey Betts gave this guitar to Duane so he would not need to spend so much time onstage retuning his guitar for slide playing. As a interesting side note, this guitar was eventually passed down to Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash.

More guitar porn next post . . . .

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Posted in Classic Rock, Equipment
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