Friday, May 8, 2015

Album Economics: Contemporary Live Albums From 1971 (Skull And Roses)

The front cover of Grateful Dead, a live double-lp released on Warner Brothers Records in October 1971. and colloquially known as Skull And Roses (for the iconic Kelly/Mouse cover)
The double live album Grateful Dead, released on Warner Brothers Records in October 1971, popularly known as "Skull And Roses," cemented the Dead's status as a successful rock band of the 70s. Unlike many of their peers, the Dead had made the transition from being a hip underground band of the 60s to an ongoing enterprise. The Dead's two prior studio albums, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, both released in 1970, had established the group nationwide with the FM radio listening audience. The Skull And Roses album, however, was structured like a miniature Grateful Dead concert, and featured a mix of original and cover material, and it was a more expensive double album. Yet it was successful as soon as it was released, a sign that the Grateful Dead had escalated up to the rock establishment.

In 1971, the Grateful Dead had become more popular than ever as a concert attraction. However, the rock concert industry was still small by modern standards, and the Grateful Dead's income from touring was not huge. In order to achieve their personal and musical goals, they would have to be successful recording artists as well. Although Skull And Roses was conceived and structured by the Grateful Dead themselves, with no real input from Warner Brothers, in many ways it was a very conventional early 70s album. 1971 was right in the sweet spot of bands releasing live double albums, and thus Warners knew very well how to maximize the return on the record. This post will compare the live Grateful Dead album to other popular contemporary live rock albums from 1971, the better to see how the Dead were both different and similar to their peers.


The cover of Live/Dead, the epic live double lp released on Warner Brothers Records in November 1969
The Grateful Dead And Warner Brothers Records
The Dead had been signed to Warner Brothers Records in December 1966 by Joe Smith. In '66, Warners was widely regarded as the least hip and most backward of the major record companies, and Smith correctly assessed that signing one of the most rebellious bands in San Francisco would attract industry attention. From that point of view, however, the Dead had always been a sort of prestige signing for Warners, meant to attract other bands and industry cachet. I don't think the company expected to make much money off the Dead. In 1969, however, when the Dead had a chance to opt out of their contract, manager Lenny Hart made a deal behind their back and re-upped the band for another three years. That meant, at least, that Warners was not unhappy with the Dead's record sales.

My expectation is that Warners had made money on the band's debut album and Anthem Of The Sun, even if the Dead themselves had not yet made any money from them. Warners must have been in the red on Aoxomoxoa, but it could not have been a frightening amount or they would have let the Dead go to Columbia or MGM (the other bidders). Joe Smith was still an important player at Warners, and his faith in the band was rewarded. First with Live/Dead, which was spectacularly well reviewed, if not really a best seller, and then with the radio-friendly Workingman's and American Beauty.

It is an oft-told story, by Smith and others, that the Dead came to Warner Brothers in mid-71 to have a meeting with him. They bought along "dozens of people," according to Smith, showed him the iconic Kelly/Mouse cover art, and demanded that the album be called "Skullfuck." Smith talked them down on the grounds that most conventional retailers, like Sears or Montgomery Ward, would not stock the album. How serious the band was in this request remains open to question, but in any case they backed down. In a sense, by naming the album after themselves, they were in effect introducing themselves to their newer fanbase, who had only gotten on board the bus in the previous 18 months or so.

However, the story of the meeting with Joe Smith tells an implicit truth about the early 70s record business. Even for a bunch of piratical outlaws like the Dead, in order to succeed they needed their record company to be onboard with their next venture. This wasn't a matter of music, or taste, per se. The key issue was promotion and distribution, which was in the hands of a far flung network of employees and contractors. Warners released dozens of albums every month. If the Dead's albums weren't advertised as available, or weren't present in the stores, then the album wouldn't sell. When the Dead--or any band--played the local civic auditorium, the marketing goal was to knock out the crowd, and inspire everyone to go the nearest record mart and buy the new album. If the album wasn't there, the fans would just buy something else, and the opportunity for a snowball effect was lost.

Thus in the Summer '71, the Grateful Dead and Warner Brothers got on the same page. The Dead would release a live double album recorded at recent concerts, and Warners would get behind it. Smith did his part: Warners committed to laying out $100,000 in promotional expenses to allow the Dead to broadcast live concerts from 14 cities on their fall tour. The money covered production costs, promotional costs and compensation to the FM radio stations for lost advertising revenue. This insured that the full Warners push would support Skull And Roses. Of course, Warners would charge the $100K against the Dead's royalties, and they would have to sell a couple of hundred thousand extra records to make up for it, but it wouldn't have happened if Warners wasn't willing to lay out the cash up front.


The cover of the Cream album Wheels Of Fire, released in the US in July 1968. One album was recorded in the studio, and the other was recorded live in San Francisco in March 1968
Live Rock Concert Albums
I am not going to attempt to tell the history of live rock concert albums in this post, interesting as that might be. In the context of this post, I am just going to highlight some key live albums of the 60s. These are the sort of albums that record companies and Rolling Stone writers would have seen as important and influential. Rolling Stone writers, and other journalists, were a critical part of the equation, since they greatly influenced what was played on the then rather free-form FM radio. A good review in Rolling Stone got an album played all over the country, as djs then had great freedom to play what they wanted. Thus in 1971, faced with Skull And Roses, Warners executives would not have been interested in the precise history of live albums, but rather would have looked around to some recent live albums by established bands.

When rock concerts first became big business in the mid-60s, there was little thought to live recordings. For one thing, it was hard to record electric music live, and for another most bands just played sloppy versions of their popular hits, so the idea of releasing live rock music was a novelty. There were a few instances here and there--Five Live Yardbirds, and the Rolling Stones' Got Live If You Want It, for example--but live albums were not really part of rock. Live albums were more of the province of jazz musicians, who were easier to record, and seen as producing "serious" music worthy of preservation.

Perhaps the first significant album to change the industry's perception of live album was Cream's Wheels Of Fire. Wheels Of Fire was a double album, one recorded in the studio in 1967 and early '68, and the other lp recorded at the Fillmore and Winterland in March 1968. Recording technology had significantly improved in just a few years, and the live material sounded great. More importantly, the lengthy jams on "Crossroads" and "Spoonful," not only showed off Cream at their best, the music was treated with the reverential seriousness of jazz music. Cream was one of the biggest bands in the world in 1968, so anything they released would have sold. However, releasing a double album, with much of it not Pop music at all, only made Cream bigger than ever. The record industry took notice.

When the Grateful Dead had released Live/Dead in November 1969, it received phenomenal reviews from Rolling Stone and others. The music was hardly radio friendly, even by FM standards, but the album was cause to treat the Dead as serious musicians. There were a few other albums like that around that time, such as Pink Floyd's Ummagumma, a double lp that was also had one live and one studio album, like Wheels Of Fire. In that sense, the live album began to establish itself as a platform for serious bands to show off their chops. It was particularly important in the 60s for bands to prove they were "authentic," and live albums certainly fit that bill.

Of course, there was another attraction to live albums: they were cheap to record. As the 60s turned into the 70s, rock bands spent more and more time and money in the studio recording. It wasn't wasted time, either. As better and better albums were released, quick and dirty studio recordings had less and less appeal. From that point of view, recording a few rock shows was a cut-rate alternative, particularly when a band played the same venue all weekend. If the band played great, then an album could be put together on the cheap. If they didn't play that well, no matter. For one thing, certain problems could be fixed in the studio. More importantly, if a band broke up, or if their next studio effort was useless, the record company could still hawk a mediocre live recording. So it was very attractive for record companies to encourage live recordings. 


The cover of Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs And Englishmen album, recorded live in March 1970 and released in August.
Precursors: 1970
The Grateful Dead had recorded Workingman's in February and March 1970, and American Beauty around July. It seems they had begun working on a live album as early as October '70. I think like many such projects, engineers Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor were really doing the listening and editing, but the band had to have at least tacitly approved of the approach. Certainly, letting Bob and Betty do their thing had worked well for Live/Dead. Warner Brothers' had a good connection with the Dead through Jon McIntire, so by 1971 Joe Smith must have known at least generally that the Dead were looking at another live album. Smith would have looked back at 1970, and must have liked what he saw with respect to such albums.

Live At Leeds-The Who (Decca) released May 1970 (recorded Feb 14 '70)
The Who, always a great live band, had gone from being a modestly popular Mod band to a hugely popular English rock institution, thanks to Tommy. Live At Leeds had a song from Tommy, a few old hits, and some great covers, and sold a ton. The record industry took notice on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mad Dogs And Englishmen-Joe Cocker (A&M) released August 1970 (recorded Mar 27-28 '70)
Joe Cocker had had two very successful albums and a hit single under his belt by Spring 1970, but he had lost his band. Leon Russell put together a new, very large band, on short notice and went on tour with Cocker. The resulting double album, Mad Dogs And Englishmen, spawned a giant hit single and was a hugely successful album. Not only were many of the songs covers (Cocker wasn't a writer, but Leon Russell wrote a few), most of them hadn't appeared on a previous Cocker album either. Yet the energy from the live performance made the album seem anything but perfunctory.

Untitled-The Byrds (Columbia) released September 1970 (live recordings Mar '70)
The Byrds had been around since 1965, which was "forever" in 1970 rock terms. At the time, the fact that only Roger McGuinn remained from the original lineup was always held against them. However, with the great Clarence White on lead guitar, the Byrds were playing terrific new music and were tremendous live. Both sides of the equation were shown off well with the 1970 album Untitled, which featured one live and one studio album, following the Wheels Of Fire model. While not huge, Untitled was the most successful Byrds album in some time.

Grand Funk Railroad Live, recorded in Florida in June 1970, and released on Capitol Records in November '70
Live-Grand Funk Railroad (Capitol) released November 1970 (recorded June 23-25 '70)
Grand Funk Railroad were a hugely popular concert attraction, coming out of Flint, MI. Grand Funk were widely derided by East and West Coast rock critics as a band of hacks who couldn't play, and their fans were dismissed as losers whose preference for downers and booze was all that made GFR popular. Nonetheless, Grand Funk Railroad Live, recorded in Florida in June of 1970, and released in November, was hugely popular. Whatever made the Funk popular in concert seemed to translate well enough to vinyl.

At our distant remove, we may see little connection between Grand Funk Railroad Live and Skull And Roses. I am confident, however, that Warner Brothers saw a significant connection. Grand Funk was a hugely popular concert attraction whose appeal was hard to grasp for many listeners, and yet the album went double platinum. Thus a lot of record companies were going to be very interested when one of their popular touring bands wanted to make a live album. The Dead weren't the only ones. With that in mind, it will be instructive to consider some of the other live rock albums from 1971 by working bands, and compare them to Skull And Roses. Some of these were released before Skull And Roses, and some after, but they were all conceived during the same year, so they are worthy of comparison.

1971--The Year Of The Live Album

The UK cover of Elton John's 1971 live album 17-11-70, recorded on November 17, 1970, released in April 1971 on DJM Records.
The 1971 Live Album
Looking backwards, we can see a format for 1970 and '71 live albums. No one really agreed on it in advance, and record companies didn't necessarily force it on bands, but they saw what albums sold. So when bands had a plan to record their concerts, the companies were pretty well-disposed if the final product conformed to similar albums that had been successful. Now, sure, there were a number of live albums from the era that were released for contractual reasons, or because a band broke up (see the appendix for examples), but for bands that were releasing new albums a definite pattern emerged.

It's hard to generalize about 60s live rock albums, but the best of them established the artists as serious artists with a capital "A": Wheels Of Fire, Ummagumma and Live/Dead had all made lasting statements, similar to Miles Davis Live At The Plugged Nickel John Coltrane Live At The Village Vanguard.  But 1971 live albums were a little different. First of all, 1971 albums were structured like a mini-concert, with a punchy opening number, various modes during the show, and then a rocking conclusion. Second of all, rock was still young, and most bands hadn't released many albums. Thus, 1971 live albums were also "the next album" for each group, so they couldn't really duplicate any releases that had come before. Most of the material was new, whether original or covers. Any songs that had been previously released were given a makeover, with new arrangements or a lot of solos. Since most rock fans couldn't see their favorite band in concert, the live album was both a mini-concert and a new album. Skull And Roses fit perfectly into this mold.


The US cover of Elton John's 1971 live album 11-17-70, recorded on November 17, 1970, released in April 1971 on Uni Records.
17-11-70-Elton John (DJM) released April 1971 (recorded Nov 17 '70)
Today we compare a live Elton John show to a touring company for Phantom Of The Opera (Elton probably does too). But back in 1970, Elton was just an English singer-songwriter pushing his second album, opening at the two Fillmores. He performed an hour-long set at A&R Studios in New York on November 17, 1970, and it was broadcast live on WABC-fm in New York. Elton only fronted a trio in those days, with drummer Nigel Olson and bassist Dee Murray (who many years later was the bassist in the Bob Weir band). Back then, Elton could really play, and to this day he considers the show his best live performance.

Elton John wasn't well known at the time, but tracks like "Your Song" and "Take Me To The Pilot" were getting played on both FM and AM radio. Bootleggers put out a 35-minute excerpt from the show, and it attracted a lot of attention. According to DJM records, the live album was rushed out to get out in front of the bootleggers. That may have just been hype, an excuse to put out the album, but that was the story. The album, with just the date of the show as the title ("17-11-70" in the UK, and "11-17-70" in the US), sold well and gave Elton John a lot of credibility for a pop artist. The release both showed how live albums attracted attention and also betrayed music industry nervousness about bootlegs of FM broadcasts.

The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East, then the finest band in the land, recorded on March 12 and 13, 1971 at the Fillmore East (and opening for Johnny Winter). Capricorn Records (distributed by Atlantic) released the album in July of '71
The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East (Capricorn) released July 1971 (recorded Mar 12-13 '71)
The Allman Brothers Band had been tearing up I-95 circuit throughout 1970, but they weren't widely known nationally. The Fillmore East album changed all that. The mighty Allmans, perfectly recorded in their prime by Tom Dowd, caught the FM listening nation's ear with this album. The double lp was a mixture of the best tracks from their first two albums and some great cover versions. In that respect, Allman Brothers At Fillmore East was similar to Live/Dead, bringing national attention to a great live band. Unlike Live/Dead, however, Fillmore East had some shorter, radio-friendly tracks and the album absolutely made the band. Of course, Duane Allman's unfortunate death at the end of the year brought even more attention to the group, but anyone who heard the album knew how great they were.

The double-lp format allowed Tom Dowd to structure the album like an Allmans concert set. It started with the punchy "Statesboro Blues," and the band went through its various modes, finally ending with the classic rave-up on "Whipping Post." Actual Fillmore East Allmans' sets were a lot longer, of course, but the album gave listeners the feel of an actual show. This sort of song sequencing had rapidly become standard practice for the double live album.

Frank Zappa brought the newest edition of The Mothers Of Invention to Fillmore East in June of 1971, and the album was released just two months later. The Mud Shark swept the nation shortly afterwards.
Fillmore East June '71-Mothers Of Invention (Bizarre/Reprise) released August 1971 (recorded June 5-6 '71)
Unlike the Allmans, Frank Zappa already had long and complicated history by 1971. Depending on how you want to count, the Fillmore East album was The Mothers' eighth album or Zappa's 10th (I am not counting Mothermania, OK?). Zappa had broken up the original Mothers in mid-'69, but by the next year, he had reconstituted the group with new members, fronted by the two former lead singers of The Turtles.

Fillmore East June '71 has aged in a peculiar way. Older listeners now find the instrumental tracks more interesting, and the ongoing narrative provided by Frank, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman easy to skip. But I am confident that 15-year-olds of any era were just like me, eager to hear about a chance meeting at O'Hare International Airport that Don Preston had with members of The Vanilla Fudge rock band, and how a dance called the Mud Shark was sweeping the nation. Zappa, in his own unique way, latched onto the nascent live album format to give his audience a clear picture of what the new Mothers were like, and I'm fairly certain the album sold pretty well.

Chicago At Carnegie Hall (Columbia) released October 1971 (recorded Apr 5-10 '71) [4lp set]
Chicago had put out three absolutely huge albums, with hit singles to go with them. For the fourth album, Columbia released a hitherto unprecedented 4-lp box set, perhaps the first of its kind. It also served as a kind of Chicago's Greatest Hits set, as well, but the new live recordings meant that all of the band's fans would buy it, too.

Chicago At Carnegie Hall was a huge hit, of course, but the band was never happy with the recording. Although Chicago had a sort of MOR reputation, the band was full of excellent players, and I think Columbia wanted to show the Rolling Stone readers that the band was real and not some sort of concoction. In any case, if a band as hot and huge as Chicago was putting out a double-double live album, it was definitely the flavor de jour of the music industry. 

The inside cover of the Grateful Dead album (aka "Skull And Roses") included an invitation to Dead Freaks. "DEAD FREAKS UNITE: Who Are You, Where Are You, How Are You?" it said, encouraging people to write in to PO Box 1065 in San Rafael.
Grateful Dead (Warner Brothers) released October 1971 (recorded Apr-May '71)
In the context of this list, the Skull And Roses album was pretty typical. The Grateful Dead were an established concert attraction with some recent albums that were popular on FM radio. The double album was structured like a concert, with a rocking "Bertha" to start it off, a wide spectrum of stuff in the middle, and a banging "Not Fade Away" leading into the final outro. Although 70 minutes was hardly a Dead concert, it gave a concert feel to someone who had never seen one. With only one song from another album ("The Other One"), existing Dead fans were all going to buy the album. There were a bunch of covers on the album, many of them quite contemporary. For someone who had only heard the Dead on record--which was most rock fans--this was new territory. However, as we can see, releasing double live albums with a bunch of distinctly interpreted cover versions was what bands did in 1971.

Still, a couple of things stood out about Skull And Roses, setting it apart from every other album on this list. For one thing, the Dead were on their second double live album, and everyone else was on their first. For another, the Dead and Warner Brothers promoted the album by subsidizing live FM broadcasts in no less than 14 cities on the Grateful Dead's Fall tour. I have discussed this unique promotional approach at length elsewhere, but suffice to say none of the other bands on this list did so. I think fear of bootlegging was the biggest barrier. Bootleg record sales were actually trivial, but as they were all in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, so they had a high profile in the record industry. Ironically enough, bootleg lps helped the Grateful Dead build a huge audience long before cassette tapes, so the Dead's appetite for risk paid off in unexpected ways.

Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore, by Humble Pie, recorded in May 1971 and released in November, was an important and influential album, even if no one remembers that now.
Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore-Humble Pie (A&M) released November 1971 (recorded May 28-29 '71)
Although not widely remarked upon today, Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore was an album with a huge impact. Humble Pie were a cult act before the album, but once FM radio wore out the grooves, the Pie became headliners all over the country. Also, the thunderous beat of the band, and the maxed out vocal style of Steve Marriott were hugely influential to later bands like AC/DC, whether you like those sort of groups or not.

More significantly, Humble Pie's manager was one Dee Anthony. Dee Anthony was also the manager of Peter Frampton, who left Humble Pie shortly after this album was released. While the Pie were headlining all over America, Frampton was grinding it out, third on the bill, except in a few places like San Francisco, where he got a lot of FM play. Frampton got so much FM play in the Bay Area, in fact, that by mid-'75, he could headline Winterland and Marin Vets on consecutive nights. Anthony drew on his success with Humble Pie, and packaged the tapes from those two shows into Frampton Comes Alive, which for many years was the best selling live album ever.

Frampton Comes Alive was released in January 1976, and it instantly went to the top of the charts. It sold 6 million copies during the year of its release, and appears to have sold 11 million copies worldwide. With numbers like that, record companies were going to copy the formula. However, Frampton Comes Alive was a different beast than a 1971 live album. All the songs were from previous Frampton albums, even the token cover version ("Jumping Jack Flash", which had been on his 1972 Wind Of Change album). Thus the 1976-era live album served as a sort of "Greatest Hits" album for newer fans. There was little or no new material, even covers, on 1976-era albums.

Almost every touring band followed Frampton Comes Alive with a double-live album in the "Greatest Hits' mode. Some of them were good, and some of them were successful. It was particularly attractive for bands or artists that had complex recording histories with different bands on different labels. They could put their most famous songs on their own album, and capture at least some of the rewards that had been directed elsewhere. Dave Mason's 1976 double lp Certified Live, to name one typical example, included material not only from Mason's Columbia albums, but his Blue Thumb material, songs from Traffic, and songs where he had only been a session man, like "Gimme Some Lovin'" and a Hendrix-style "All Along The Watchtower" (Mason had played bass, later overdubbed by Jimi).

The Grateful Dead's entry in the 1976 sweepstakes was Steal Your Face, an album memorable only for its cover. But it too was a product of its time. UA wanted a double live album because that was the flavor of the year in the record industry. It had worked for the Dead in 1971, but it didn't work again.

Coda
From '72 onwards, live albums became a staple of a rock band's career, as long as the band could actually play live. Depending on contracts and other things, some bands released live albums with greater or lesser frequency. Only Frank Zappa released as much live material as the Dead--arguably more, in fact--although they are hardly exact parallels. As for other groups, in the wake of Frampton Comes Alive, pretty much every touring band released a double live album, including bands that had already done so a few years earlier. And the live album became a traditional way for a record company to get some mileage out of a band that had broken up or was on hiatus, so a lot of live albums got released after bands had moved on.

The Grateful Dead, of course, released more live albums than any of their peers. Only the Dead would have followed a hit double live album with a triple live album, and then another live album (Bear's Choice) after that. We tend to forget Steal Your Face and Dead Set, too, but for people out in the world who didn't have taper friends, it was what they had. By the mid-80s, however, that too had changed, and the Dead's concert revenues finally made them less dependent on record company returns. The risk that the band had taken back in '71, to let everyone hear their music, first on FM radio, and implicitly on bootleg records, and finally on cassette tapes, had finally paid off in a very big way.

4-Way Street, constructed from various 1970 concerts by CSNY, and released by Atlantic in April 1971, in order to keep the fires burning for their biggest act.
Appendix: Honorable Mention
For this post, I was interested in a selection of relevant live albums from the 1970-71 period, the sort of records that would have been foremost in the minds of record company executives. I was not concerned with specific release dates or exact chart positions. Nonetheless, in the interests of completeness, I thought I would comment on a few other albums, if only to show why I left them out. 

On Tour With Eric Clapton-Delaney And Bonnie And Friends (Atlantic) released March 1970 (recorded Dec 7 '69)
Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett were nobodies at the time, but they toured England and America with Eric Clapton, so Atlantic made sure there was something to sell.

Get Your Ya-Yas Out-Rolling Stones (Decca/London) released September 1970 (recorded Nov '69)
This live album was not planned, but the Stones and Decca were frantic about Liver Than You'll Ever Be and other bootlegs, so this release was intended to head them off. The Stones were in The Pantheon, along with Bob Dylan and The Beatles, so record companies didn't necessarily see the Stones' commercial prospects as comparable to other groups.

Deliverin'-Poco (Epic) released January '71 (recorded Sep 22-23 '70)
Poco had changed guitarists in October 1970, as Jim Messina was replaced by Paul Cotton. The band continued to tour, but had no new material, so Columbia released this album. That was OK, because Poco was a terrific live band. As a strange footnote, New York dj Pete Fortanale wrote the liner notes, and said that Poco steel guitarist Rusty Young was recommended to the band by Jerry Garcia. Garcia did not know Young nor Poco, and the story was completely fabricated.

4-Way Street-Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Atlantic) released April 1971 (recorded June-July '70)
CSNY had effectively broken up, but sort of pretended they hadn't. So Atlantic released a double live album from the previous year's shows. A great record, albeit one rumored to have had its harmonies fixed up in the studio.

Live Johnny Winter And (Columbia) released May '71 (recorded Oct '70>Jan '71
Johnny Winter And was a great band, with Winter and Rick Derringer, with a great studio album, but when it bombed, Winter spiraled down in a bad way. Thus Columbia put out this terrible placeholder album. It turns out there was good, well-recorded material out there, finally released this century--I don't know what Columbia was thinking, releasing this junk.

First Pull Up Then Pull Down-Hot Tuna (RCA) released June 1971 (recorded late '70>early '71)
Hot Tuna's second album was live, as had been their first. Jorma and Jack were well known, but not Hot Tuna, but the penchant for live albums probably made RCA more amenable to their plans.
 
Rock Love-Steve Miller Band (Capitol) released September 1971 (live recordings early '71)
Steve Miller's sixth album, a single lp, was half-live, half-studio, showing off some of his blues chops.

Live In Concert-James Gang (ABC) released September 1971 (recorded May '71)
The James Gang were a truly great band who were still only popular in pockets. ABC may also have been nervous that lead guitarist and principal singer/songwriter Joe Walsh was on the verge of leaving. This fear was well-founded, but the live album made a nice memento for one of America's hardest rocking bands.

Welcome To The Canteen-Traffic (Island) released September 1971 (recorded June and July '71)
Traffic had always had a history of being an unstable band. In Summer '71, Traffic had done a few shows in England with a one-off lineup that included former member Dave Mason. The single album featured a mixture of Traffic songs from the first few albums, a Dave Mason song and a Spencer Davis Group classic. Fans were starved for any Traffic at all, and the album gave Island something to sell when the band toured America in the fall. 

Flowers Of Evil-Mountain (Windfall/CBS) released November 1971 (live recordings Jun 27 '70)
Mountain, too, released a half-live, half-studio single lp, probably due to lack of new material. The band stopped playing shortly after (although of course they had reformed within a few years). 

Jazz/Blues Fusion-John Mayall (Polydor) released 1972 (recorded Nov 18 and Dec 3-4 '71)
John Mayall's '71-'72 lineup was his best band, I swear, although this album doesn't show it. Given the tapes we have now, it's clear what a confused set of decisions Polydor made. They should have just released a conventional double live album.

Live With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra-Procol Harum (Chrysalis/A&M) released April 1972 (recorded Nov 18 '71)
A far more ambitious and very different album than everything else on this list, this record prefigured a lot of progressive rock acts recording with symphonies and the like. It was hugely successful, and brought Procol Harum several more years of life. Although a special event, and not a document of a touring rock band, it would have been far less likely to have been planned if live albums hadn't been the hot thing in the Summer of '71. Ironically enough, Procol Harum was a terrific, rocking band in concert, and yet there was no release that memorialized that back in the day. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Grateful Dead Bracket Analysis

When the Grateful Dead came to campus, as they did at the University of Cincinnati on April 3, 1970, you never knew if unsavory characters like Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters might just show up as well.
The 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament will get underway on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 in Dayton, OH. Most of America will have submitted their brackets by then, and the rest will have submitted them by Thursday, March 19, when the real round of 64 begins. While most of us have an easy time picking our favorites and downgrading those we think are overrated, it can be hard to make a judgement on every match up. Of course, defense and rebounding are critical in any tournament, and with the new hand-checking rules, 3-point shooting is more important than ever. Nonetheless, with dozens of variables, at a certain point, everybody has to decide how to weight various factors. Some people prefer to do detailed research on the strengths and weaknesses of the Sun Belt Conference, while others focus on more subjective factors.

Thus, as a public service, this blog is presenting a list of 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament participants ranked with reference to how many times the Grateful Dead performed on campus. I am including off-campus sites if they were the regular home arena or stadium for the basketball or football team, and you are free to discount those appearances if you feel that is not relevant. However, I am not considering exceptional events where a local college team plays the big arena as a "home" team (for example, St. Johns University in Queens plays occasional home games at Madison Square Garden, and Pitt used to play at the Civic Center once in a while).

You can decide for yourselves whether or not you need to listen to the tapes to assess the appropriate Mojo of each participant. Should the 8/9 Midwest Region matchup between Cincinnati and Purdue be determined because the Dead played Purdue first, or because Ken Kesey showed up at Cincinnati? When North Carolina State (8) plays LSU (9) in the Eastern regional, should you listen to the July 6 '90 (NC St) and October 16 '77 (LSU) tapes to make your choice? Picking your bracket isn't all science, and this post will help you consider the Jerrymetrical factors in play in the 2015 Tournament.

Remember:
  • Gambling is bad
  • All NCAA student-athletes play for the love of the game and to get an education, and the $6Billion that the Universities divvy up are kept from the players for their own good
  • Coaches only want what's best for the students and the institution, and only jump ship for higher pay if they've really, really thought about it and think it's for the good of the game


The Grateful Dead's first show at Providence Civic Center, home of the Providence Friars, was on September 15, 1973 (the prior night was canceled)
Providence College, Providence, RI (6th Seed, East Regional)
The home arena of the Providence Friars has always been the Providence Civic Center, which the Grateful Dead played on 19 occasions, from September 15, 1973 through September 9, 1987 . This is probably not who you expected at the top of the list, but that's why this post is such a service. The arena is currently The Dunkin Donuts Arena. Imagine the t-shirts--Dunkin With The Dead, America Runs On Jerry, Phriars for Phil, and on and on.

University Of Oregon, Eugene, OR (8th seed, West)
Not surprisingly, the Grateful Dead have played the University of Oregon 14 times. The very first time was at the tiny EMU Ballroom on January 30, 1968. Subsequently, they played three times at MacArthur Court, the basketball arena, and 10 times at the football stadium, Autzen Stadium. Oregon seems to have had the highest Deadheads-to-population ratio of any state.

UCLA, Los Angeles, CA (11th seed, South)
UCLA is the only participant with a canceled Acid Test. Nonetheless, there were still six Dead shows at Pauley Pavilion, the basketball facility: Nov 21 1971, Nov 17 1973, Dec 30 1978, Nov 25 1979, June 29 1980 and Feb 21 1982. The 1973 event was one for the ages, and released as Dave's Pick Vol. 5.


The poster for the Grateful Dead's first concert at Cameron Indoor Stadium basketball arena at Duke University, on December 8, 1973. Coach K was in the United States Army at the time. 
Duke University, Durham, NC (1st seed, South)
Duke hosted a variety of fine Grateful Dead shows in the day. The band's first Duke show was a thinly attended show at Wallace Wade Stadium, the aged 40,000-capacity football facility. More legendary were 4 shows at the Cameron Indoor Stadium basketball arena, on Dec 8 1973, Sep 23 1976, Apr 12 1978 and Apr 2 1982. I believe the last show at Cameron was when Jerry and Bob switched their on-stage positions for good.

University of Louisville, Louisville, KY (4th seed, East)
The University of Louisville used to play their home games at Freedom Hall. The Dead played an epic show there on June 18, 1974, supposedly to a largely empty hall (parts appeared on Road Trips Vol. 2 #3). They also played Freedom on Apr 9 1989 and June 15-16 93. In between they played at Cardinal Stadium, the football stadium on July 6 1990. Cardinal Stadium was torn down, as Louisville is now a football power that can't be playing in a crumbling old minor league stadium, and the basketball team now plays in the larger KFC Yum! Center.

Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA (7th seed, West)
Virginia Commonwealth was originally formed as a merger of medical and professional schools. While the school was officially created in 1968, the roots of its predecessor schools go back as far as 1838. VCU is part of the Virginia state university system, and has around 31,000 students. The school has been competing in Division 1 Men's Basketball since the early 80s. From 1971 to 1999, the home court of the VCU Rams was the Richmond Coliseum. The Grateful Dead played Richmond Coliseum four times in the early 80s (Oct 8 '83, Oct 6 '84, and Nov 1 and 2 '85), The November 1 '85 seems to have been a great one, and it was released as Dick's Picks Vol. 21.
update: commenter Steve H makes the point that "The Mosque", in Richmond, VA, is actually on the VCU campus. The Dead played a show there on May 25, 1977. The Mosque, now known as The Altria Theater (and previously as The Landmark Theater) was built in 1927 as a Shriners Hall. 

Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX (6th seed, South)
The Grateful Dead have played Southern Methodist University twice. The first time, they played a show at McFarlin Auditorium, on the SMU campus, on December 26, 1969. McFarlin Auditorium, capacity 2,386, was built in 1926 so that there would be a Chapel big enough for the entire student body. It was the third permanent building on the SMU campus, and it is still in regular use.

Among other things, it was the public debut of acoustic sets within the framework of a full Grateful Dead concert. The booking of this show has always struck me as odd, flying to Texas the day after Christmas to play a concert at a school that was closed for the holidays. Granted, they were on their way to a rock festival in Florida, and then to Boston for New Year's, but it still seems odd.

The Dead's second appearance at SMU was on October 15, 1977 at the Moody Coliseum. The Moody Coliseum is still the home arena of the Mustangs. It was built in 1956 and has a capacity of about 7000.

In December 1969, current SMU Mustang coach Larry Brown was a point guard for the Washington Caps, an ABA team that had moved from Oakland the year before (and would become the Virginia Squires the next year). In Fall '77, Brown was coaching the NBA's Denver Nuggets, starring David "Skywalker" Thompson and Dan Issel.

University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA (7th seed, South)
The Iowa Field House was built in 1927. The Grateful Dead played there twice, on Mar 20 1971 and Feb 24 1973. The Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team moved out of the arena in 1983, into the Carver Hawkeye arena, but the Field House is still used for some events.
[update: I am informed that the Feb 24 '73 was probably at Iowa State, in Ames, IA. But--the band played August 10 '82 at the Iowa Fieldhouse, so it's still a double]

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC (4th seed, West)
Chapel Hill fans had easy access to Dead shows in Durham, Greensboro and Charlotte, so there wasn't really any need for UNC-CH shows. Nonetheless, when the Dean Smith Center was built in 1986, there were occasional concerts in the 20,000+ capacity venue. The Dead played a pair of shows on Mar 24-25 1993. UNC won the NCAA tournament shortly after, yet the Grateful Dead were not invited back. UNC would not win another title for 12 years, which is a long time in the minds of Tar Heel fans.

No eyewitnesses have reported whether Jerry, Phil, Bob and Vince got into all four corners of the stage and stalled during the jam.

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Birmingham, Alabama (14th seed, South)
Although the University of Alabama at Birmingham is generally overshadowed by the massive football program at the flagship state university in Tuscaloosa. However, UAB is a large (18,000+) public institution in its own right, and it probably has more academic status than its larger and older sister. While UAB recently attracted attention for shutting down its football program, it has always had a surprisingly vibrant men's basketball program. From 1976 through 2008 the UAB Blazers played at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex, capacity 17,000;

The Dead played two shows on April 4 and 5, 1995 at the BJCC, which is usually colloquially listed as the Birmingham Coliseum. The venue is now known as the Legacy Arena. The UAB Blazers currently play at the Bartow Arena, on campus.

University of Arizona, Phoenix, AZ (2nd seed, West)
The Grateful Dead played at the University Auditorium at the University of Arizona on Apr 11 1969, but I have been unable to determine what building that is or might have been. Like many schools, there has been so much construction in the last several decades that old facilities have either been completely re-purposed or simply demolished.

University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT (5th seed, South)
The Grateful Dead played double shows at the tiny Student Union Ballroom at the University of Utah on Apr 12 1969. Utah got a lot of good rock shows in the 60s, because touring rock bands could add an extra night there on the way to or from Denver, Kansas City or Phoenix. Universities also had entertainment budgets, so there was additional money to pay bands to play relatively small places.

No doubt the Purdue University Administration eagerly looked forward to the Grateful Dead concert at Memorial Union Ballroom on April 18, 1969.
Purdue University, Lafayette, IN (9th seed, Midwest)
The Grateful Dead began their heavy run of college bookings in Spring 1969. One of the first was at Purdue, on Apr 18 1969. The band played at the Memorial Union Ballroom, rather than the basketball arena. The Purdue Memorial Union was built in 1924, but I don't know how big the ballroom was, probably not that large. Rick Mount was a junior at Purdue at the time, for those of you who care about such things.

San Diego State University, San Diego, CA (8th seed, South)
The Aztec Bowl was a municipal stadium that also served as the home field for the San Diego State Aztecs football team. It was built in 1936, with a capacity of 12,500. Also on the bill were Canned Heat, Lee Michaels and then-unknown Santana. Part or all of the Dead's set was broadcast on a San Diego radio station.

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH (8th seed, Midwest)
The Grateful Dead played a show at the Armory Field House at the University of Cincinnati on Apr 3 1970. The Armory Field House was built in 1954, and the basketball team moved to a bigger facility after the 1976 season. Oscar Robertson, The Big O himself, set his NCAA career scoring records at Armory. The facility is now a rec center.

update
Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI
A commenter notes that I missed the Dead's show at the home court of the Michigan State Spartans. From 1940 to 1989, Michigan State played at Jenison Field House (they moved to the Breslin Center in 1989). The Dead played Jenison (capacity 10,004) on March 13, 1971. At the time, Earvin Johnson was in nearby Lansing, aged 11. I am not aware that he attended the Dead show, or wanted to (nor that his mother would have let him if he did).



The Grateful Dead played the University of Wisconsin Field House on March 14, 1971
University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (1st seed, West)
The Grateful Dead were always popular in Wisconsin, but they only played one show on the U of WI campus, at the Fieldhouse on Mar 14 1971. The 10,600 capacity arena opened in 1930. It abuts the football stadium, Camp Randall Field, and is sometimes called Camp Randall Field House, though that isn't actually accurate.

{venue?}, Iowa State University, Ames, IA (3rd seed, West)
The Iowa State University was founded in 1858, and was made a Morrill Land Grant institution in 1862. Although details are murky, it appears that the February 24, 1973 show was at Iowa State, not the University of Iowa (Deadlists is apparently wrong, listing it as U. of Iowa). I'm not sure of the venue. If anyone can shed light on this critical matter, please Comment or email me before Thursday. Or whenever.

Ohio State University, Columbus, OH (10th seed, West)
The Grateful Dead played the surprisingly small Mershon Auditorium (2500 seats) at Ohio State University in Columbus, OH on Sep 30 1976. Ohio State's team was awful both the previous year (75-76) and the ensuing one (76-77).

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA (9th seed, East_
The Grateful Dead played the LSU Assembly Center, capacity 13,250, on Oct 16 1977. You would think that Baton Rouge, Louisiana would have been a great market for the Grateful Dead, but, well,  "too close to New Orleans," as the song goes. The venue is now known as The Pete Maravich Assembly Center, after "Pistol Pete" Maravich (b.1947-d.1988), LSU's most legendary player.

University of Indiana, Bloomington, IN (10th seed, Midwest)
The Grateful Dead played the University of Indiana's basketball arena, Assembly Hall, on Oct 30 1977. The 17,000 capacity arena had been built in 1971. Knicks fans will note that both Mike Woodson and Glen Grunwald were both members of the 1977-78 Hoosiers. Isiah Thomas would not arrive until Fall 1979.

University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (3rd seed, East)
The Grateful Dead played the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, OK on Nov 11 1977. The arena is downtown, but Norman is a classic college town, so it may as well be on campus. The arena was built in 1975. It has a basketball capacity of 11,000, but the Dead probably used the 6500 seat concert setup.

University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA (5th seed, East)
If you're looking for a sleeper, look for the University of Northern Iowa. I don't know anything about the current UNI basketball team, but the Dead played a great show there on February 5, 1978. Iowa is cold, and Northern Iowa is really cold, so cold that the football facility is indoors. The UniDome, capacity about 15,00 houses both the basketball and football teams. It must have been something, stuck in a Cedar Falls winter, to have the Dead come and light the place up.

University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY (1st seed, Midwest)
It's hard to bet against John Calipari and the undefeated University of Kentucky Wildcats in the 2015 NCAA tournament. The Dead played Rupp Arena on Apr 21 1978. The band played Rupp shortly after UK had won their 5th NCAA championship in St. Louis.



The Dead played the University of Virginia basketball arena on September 14, 1982.

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA (2nd seed, East)
The Grateful Dead played the University Hall arena at the University of Virginia on Sep 14 1982. The 82-83 Cavaliers featured the 7'4" center Ralph Sampson, a truly great player before his knees went, and future NBA coach Rick Carlisle. The 8500 capacity arena had been built in 1965. It was used by the Cavaliers until 2006 when they moved into the John Paul Jones arena (named after a billionaire contributor, not the bass player).

University of West Virginia, Morgantown, WV (5th seed, Midwest)
The Grateful Dead played the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown on April 10, 1983. The 14,000 capacity building opened in 1970, and is still the home court for the Mountaineers. The 1982-83 team was pretty good, going 23-8, but without any memorable NBA players. It doesn't matter, though, since WVU Mountaineer Jerry West's silhouette is on every NBA players uniform anyway.

North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC (8th seed, East)
57,000 seat Carter-Finley stadium was built in 1966. The Grateful Dead played there on July 10 1990. Although constructed on university land, it is actually a few miles west of the North Carolina State University campus. NC State is just one county over from both Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill, and it accounts for just as much local basketball madness as the other two. It has an equally long tradition as either of those schools, too, although it does not have their national profiles. NC State has a better football history than its rivals, but that's not saying much.

Jerry Garcia Bonus Picks
Villanova University, Villanova, PA (1st seed, East)
On his first Eastern tour without the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia played with Howard Wales at the Villanova University Field House on January 23, 1972. A tape is rumored to exist, but has never surfaced. By all accounts, Mahavishnu Orchestra's opening set blew away Garcia and Wales' noodling.

Georgetown University, Washington, DC (4th seed, South)
The Jerry Garcia Band played McDonough Gym on Nov 7 1981. The Hoyas that year were lead by future Knicks center Patrick Ewing and future Warriors guard Sleepy Floyd. Science has still not determined what a "Hoya" might be.







Friday, January 9, 2015

Hoffman's Bicycle>Bycycle 1968-69 (The Secret Life Of Dan Healy)

A Berkeley Barb ad for the New Orleans House, a club at 1505 San Pablo. Howard Wales and A.B. Skhy headlined the weekend shows on October 18 and 19, 1968, and Hoffman's Bicycle opened for them. 
A co-conspirator and I have a long-running project tracking the history of rock music in Berkeley, CA in the late 1960s. As part of our research, we have created performance lists for a number of key venues in the city. Many of the performers at these long-ago places are quite obscure. Over the years, a key part of our research has been identifying the performers in these bands, some of which only played a few times. Patience is rewarded, however, with occasional surprises, like the time that the band Deacon And The Suprelles emptied the house at their Mandrake's debut, until only one patron was left at the bar. The a departing friend told the band that an armed robber was in the house, and the police were clearing out the club in order to arrest him.

Nonetheless, certain intriguing mysteries remain. One nagging curiosity had always been the band Hoffman's Bicycle, who had opened for A.B. Skhy for one weekend at the New Orleans House on October 18 and 19, 1968. This cleverly named group, with a whiff of psychedelia and intrigue, could be found in no other bookings that I was aware of. However, a recent interview with the long-time chief engineer of Fantasy Studios, Jim Stern, revealed some tantalizing details about Hoffman's Bicycle. For one thing, they subsequently changed their named to "Bycycle," with a "y," a group whose name has been spotted on a variety of Bay Area adds and handbills in the 1968-69 period. More importantly, Stern revealed another long-lost fact: the bass player for Hoffman's Bicycle was none other than future Grateful Dead soundman Dan Healy. Suddenly the history of Hoffman's Bicycle and its successor Bicycle look very intriguing indeed.

Van Morrison's 1973 album, Hard Nose The Highway, engineered by Jim Stern at Fantasy Studios in Berkely
Jim Stern and Dan Healy
Scholar and journalist Jake Feinberg recently interviewed engineer Jim Stern on his show. Usually, Feinberg interviews exceptional musicians, not always best sellers but of the sort revered by their peers and serious fans. Stern was just one of those back-of-the-album names, someone you faintly recall without precisely remembering his specific contribution. Over the course of the amazing 3-hour interview, however, Stern turns out to have played a critical role in the history of Bay Area music. Stern was a professional drummer with an engineering degree, so he ended up working at Fantasy Studios in Oakland in the 60s. When Fantasy opened its new studios at 10th and Parker in Berkeley, Stern was asked to become chief engineer, and his career switched over permanently to the other side of the glass. Stern, now retired, produced many jazz and rock albums over the decades, including work for Van Morrison, McCoy Tyner and too many others to count.

Stern's own history is pretty interesting, and Feinberg gets Stern talking about his long gone past. Feinberg asked Stern how he had gotten to know Dan Healy, and the story was revealing indeed. Stern grew up in the Haight-Ashbury in the 1950s, and he went to San Francisco State in the mid-60s to get his engineering degree. On weekends, Stern played drums in "Top 40" cover bands around San Francisco. He knew the Grateful Dead from around the Haight, and even jammed with them on occasion at 710 Ashbury, apparently under the most casual of circumstances, so he was socially connected to the band and they knew of his drumming skills.

When the Grateful Dead opened The Carousel Ballroom, one of their ideas was to have regular "Tuesday Night Jams." While we have a few partial tapes, our knowledge of these events is a little sketchy. There seems to have only been three such events, on May 21 and 22 and June 4, 1968 (the Carousel closed shortly after). For one of them, Bob Weir called up Stern and asked him to be the "house drummer" for the jam. Although the syntax is a bit obscure, it appears that Healy was at this Tuesday jam, with his group Hoffman's Bicycle. In any case, although Stern may have already known Healy as a fellow engineer, he was the one who revealed in the interview that Healy was the bassist for Hoffman's Bicycle, and that they later changed their name to Bycycle.

The diagram of the Grateful Dead's 1974 sound system, "The Wall Of Sound." Dan Healy was a principal architect of this remarkable system, which was light years ahead of its contemporaries.
The Dan Healy Story, As Told By Dan Healy
Dan Healy is rightly famous as one of the principal audio engineers of the Grateful Dead, recording and producing many of their albums, and a crucial architect of their amazing live sound. As such, Healy has been interviewed numerous times, so the narrative of his 60s career is generally well-known. However, while I think everything we generally know about Healy is true, it appears that he left Hoffman's Bicycle out entirely. At various times in the 80s, Healy played live with a group called The Healy-Treece Band, so he had another life as a musician, going back to the 1960s. He simply seems to have left his 60s band out of any narrative, and no one has ever asked him about it.

Very briefly, the Healy story was that he was an engineer for Commercial Recorders in San Francisco in the mid-60s. After recording commercial jingles and the like during the daytime, he would sometimes sneak in his musician friends after hours to record demos (possibly including the Grateful Dead). Healy also was part of the tiny underground of FM radio enthusiasts, providing technical support to the various hipsters broadcasting interesting stuff on the FM band during odd hours of the night.

Marin real estate agent Gino Cippolina had gotten Healy a cheap rental on a Sausalito houseboat in late 1965. On the next boat over were some long hairs who included Cippolina's son, and they soon formed a band called Quicksilver Messenger Service. When the Quick's equipment broke during rehearsal, they discovered that the friendly engineer next door could fix everything. Several months later, at a Fillmore concert, soon after soundman Owsley Stanley had stopped working with the Dead because he had to focus on other business interests, Phil Lesh's bass broke. Healy came up from the crowd (probably invited by John Cippolina) and fixed it, impressing the band. Afterwards, Healy told Garcia that he didn't like the sound, and Garcia challenged him: "do you think you can do better?" As it happened, Healy did think he could do better, so he became the Dead's audio engineer, and proved that he was right.

After recording and producing Anthem Of The Sun with the Grateful Dead, Healy left the group to become a producer and engineer for Mercury Records. I'm not certain what his status was with Mercury--whether he was on salary or some sort of free agent--but the record business was coming to San Francisco in a big way. Starting in mid-1968, Healy engineered and/or produced a variety of records for Mercury and others, including albums by Doug Sahm, Harvey Mandel and other acts. He eventually went on to work with Quicksilver in 1969 and '70, working on three of their Capitol albums (Shady Grove, Just For Love and What About Me). Owsley had returned to his seat at the Dead's soundboard in mid-1968, but after a variety of legal problems Owsley had ended up in jail in July 1970. Once again, with Owsley gone, the Grateful Dead's live sound deteriorated, Healy criticized it, and he was invited back to fix it.

All of the above is relatively well-known in Deadhead circles, and Healy has commented on various bits and pieces of it over the years. Certainly the timeline and the backs of numerous albums document Healy's career as an engineer and producer in San Francisco in the late 60s. Yet Healy has never, to my knowledge, mentioned that he was in a band back then, much less their name.

The Leaves single "Hey Joe," on Mira Records, Pat Boone's label. The leaves on the cover were reputedly stylized marijuana leaves. Draw your own conclusions. 
Albert Hofmann's Bicycle
In the 60s, drugs and drug culture were a mystery to the mainstream, and all sorts of in-jokes were promulgated on the music industry. A rockin' Hollywood band called The Leaves, who had had a 1966 hit with "Hey Joe," had a stylized marijuana leaf on the cover of their first record, on Pat Boone's label, no less. A Colorado band called The Rainy Daze had a big hit in 1967 with a song whose chorus went "Old dogs can learn new tricks/When the streets are lined with bricks/Of Acapulco Gold." No one figured it out until after the single had sold 150,000 copies, when it was abruptly banned. 

Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann--with one "f" and two "n", unlike Abbie--had discovered LSD-25 as early as 1938. However, on April 19, 1943---the day before 4/20!--Hofmann experimented with the drug, and as he felt the effects of it, he rode home on his bicycle (wartime restrictions prevented the use of his car, and a good thing, too--what would Hofmann have done at a blue light?). Thus his bicycle ride was the first intentional acid trip. There was no Wikipedia in the 60s, but Albert Hofmann and his bicycle ride were known in an underground way, so the implications of a band called Hoffman's Bicycle--even mispelled--would have been instantly recognizable in places like Berkeley or San Francisco. Any band with a name like that would be pretty consciously wearing a psychedelic nametag, even if it wasn't overt in a newspaper listing.
Dan Healy was the "Executive Engineer" for the Grateful Dead's album Anthem Of The Sun, released in July 1968

Dan Healy As Grateful Dead Soundman, 1967-68
It is a truism of Grateful Dead history that Healy took over as the Dead's soundman after Owsley left. Yet what did he really do? I don't think Healy went on the road with them. Now, Healy probably attended the local concerts, and he may have gone along for the occasional out-of-town event, but he doesn't seem to have been part of the 1967 tours. Healy didn't go to New York in either the Summer of 1967 or at the end that year, for example, as far as I know. I think Healy acted as a sort of consultant, hotwiring gear and solving technical problems. 

Yet was Healy on the payroll? It's not really clear. Certainly the Dead had little money, and even if Healy was getting a few bucks from the band, he probably still had to freelance as an engineer on the side. Healy's great contribution to the early Grateful Dead was acting as engineer on the Anthem Of The Sun sessions. On the album, Healy is listed as "Executive Engineer." Healy's legend was cemented when he helped manage the multiple tape recordings that were merged together for side two. 

Healy had effectively taken over as Chief Engineer of the Grateful Dead when Owsley had departed in about August 1966. Bob Matthews seemed to be the band's house sound man, until he was fired in December 1967. By early 1968, Owsley's other business interests had put him in serious legal trouble, and he returned to the Grateful Dead fold. In particular, Owsley seems to have played a big role in setting up the sound system of the Carousel, while Healy was working on Anthem over at Columbus Recorders. By the Summer of '68, Owsley was back on board as the Grateful Dead's soundman on the road. Owsley had also effectively become the chief engineer for the Dead, whatever exactly that meant. Healy seems to have separated from the Dead right after Anthem was completed.

Both Owsley and Dan Healy are legendary figures in the Grateful Dead firmament, yet it is never remarked upon that they never really worked together. Neither ever bad-mouthed the other for the record, to my knowledge, but there seems to have only been room for one King on the throne. Healy started working with the Dead when Owsley was otherwise engaged. When Owsley returned, Healy finished the Anthem project and departed (McNally merely says [p.276] "Healy had left the band to work with Quicksilver in Hawaii," which misstates Healy's work with the Quick by a year). When Healy reappeared at the end of 1970, Owsley was in jail. Healy returned in 1971, and Owsley did not get out of jail until mid-72. Upon Owsley's release, it is generally told that "Owsley could not find a role" on the Dead's crew, but it is hard not to draw the conclusion that Healy had the scepter, and Owsley was no one's assistant. 

In mid-1968, however, the circumstances were different. The returning Owsley was the pre-eminent electronic genius, and Healy must have seen himself pushed aside. It's known that he became a full time engineer and producer for the newly burgeoning record industry in San Francisco, as his name can be seen on the backs of many albums. It's also logical that if Healy ever had thoughts of making it as a musician, 1968 was the perfect time: record companies were signing everyone with long hair, and he wasn't doing anything else. In any case, although studio engineering could be intense, it was still intermittent even when business was good. Rehearsing and gigging were always possible at all but the busiest times. So Healy must formed or joined Hoffman's Bicycle just as he separated from the Grateful Dead in the early Summer of 1968.
This Tuesday Night Jam art seems to have been used a couple of different times in various formats at the Carousel Ballroom in 1968. 

Hoffman's Bicycle>Bycycle Performance History
With all of this in mind, I am going to present what little is known about the band Hoffman's Bicycle and its successor Bycycle. Of course, all I know for an absolute fact is that Dan Healy was the bass player for Hoffman's Bicycle, and the band later changed its name to Bycycle. I do not know how long Healy was in the group. I also have to assume that various late 60s Bay Area listings for the band "Bicycle" were really Bycycle, which seems likely. Anyone who knows anything about any other members of Bycycle, or of Healy's non-engineering activities in 1968-69, is encouraged to include them in the Comments or email me directly.

June 4, 1968 Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA "Tuesday Night Jam"
Various San Francisco rock bands controlled The Carousel Ballroom from January through June 1968, but the Grateful Dead and their associates were in charge of the day-to-day operation. Near the end of their tenure, the Dead inaugurated Tuesday night jam sessions, with Jerry Garcia and others playing with various San Francisco musicians. Based on Stern's description of being invited by Bob Weir, and some other sketchy information, I am assuming that June 4 was the night that Stern was the "house drummer" and Dan Healy was present as the bass player for Hoffman's Bycycle. This would have been exactly when Owsley was reasserting himself as the Dead's soundman, and Healy may have seen greener pastures in the growing San Francisco record industry. 

October 18-19, 1968 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: AB Skhy/Hoffman's Bicycle
The only confirmed sighting of Hoffman's Bicycle was at Berkeley's New Orleans House on the weekend of October 18 and 19, 1968. During this time, the New Orleans House was a prime stop for Bay Area rock bands playing original music, along with The Matrix in San Francisco and The Poppycock in Palo Alto. AB Skhy was relatively newly arrived in the Bay Area, and they featured three guys from Wisconsin, along with expartriate-Cincinnati organ player Howard Wales. Wales would  of course go on to play with Garcia and the Dead, and its interesting to see a possible Wales/Healy connection prior to that. 

February 14, 1969 Londonside Tavern, Glen Ellen, CA: Bycycle
The next sighting of the band was several months later. If there was a window where Healy might have left the group, the October through February gap would seem to be the most likely. However, we have no evidence one way or the other. I would note that the performing career of Bycycle appears light enough that Healy could easily have continued his career as a recording engineer while still playing some gigs on the side. As to the name change, I have to think it was a concession to possible commercialism. Every band in San Francisco was getting signed back then--Mercury Records had signed a dozen acts alone in 1968--but being overtly named after the first acid trip was a poor strategy for success. By '69, media outlets were speculating whether the Beatles "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" was a code for LSD, so a band whose name really was in that code would have been ill-advised to keep it. Hence the switch to an archaic spelling of Bicycle seems prudent, while retaining the link for insiders.

Glen Ellen is a small town in Sonoma County, 50 miles North of San Francisco. At the time, Glen Ellen was only known because writer Jack London had an estate there from 1905 until his death in 1916. The tavern at the Londonside Inn in downtown Glen Ellen was a little hippie enclave, and all sorts of cool bands played there in 1969, including the nascent Hot Tuna (then just "Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady") and the Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band. The fact that Bycycle was booked there puts them right in the underground mainstream, if such a term makes sense.


On April 19, 1969, the Sir Douglas Quintet, Bycycle, Gentle Dance and Devil's Kitchen played the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. 
April 19, 1969 Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, CA: Sir Douglas Quintet/Bycycle/Gentle Dance/Devil's Kitchen
Sonoma County was small and rural in the 60s. The Sir Douglas Quintet had some popularity in San Francisco, but they weren't Fillmore West headliners. Out in the countryside, however, they could headline. There were numerous buildings on the Fairgrounds site, but I don't know which one they would have used for the concert. Devil's Kitchen were newly arrived in San Francisco from Carbondale, IL. They would soon become the house band at the new Family Dog On The Great Highway.

May 21-22, 1969 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Bicycle
Although we have to assume that the "misspelling" of Bicycle still represents the same group, it seems logical. Bicycle (sic) returned to the New Orleans House to headline a Wednesday and Thursday night. Generally speaking, weeknights at the NOH were for local bands to have their own chance to build an audience.


The performance listings from the June 3, 1969, San Francisco Chronicle. Bicycle was advertised as playing at the Fillmore auditions that night. 
June 3, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA :Transatlantic Railroads/Billy Roberts/Bicycle
Histories of the Fillmore West generally elide the Tuesday night series where three or four local bands played. These shows went on for most of the history of the Fillmore West, save for the Summers when the hall was booked full time. To my knowledge, I am the only one who has attempted to document the Tuesday night Fillmore West "audition" shows.

On Tuesday, June 3, the Fillmore West bill (per that day's SF Chronicle, above) was Transatlantic Railroad, probably a Marin band, Billy Roberts, who had actually written the song "Hey Joe" somewhat earlier, and Bicycle. Every Tuesday night Fillmore West show was recorded, although the tapes may not have survived. Bill Graham used the shows to check out new groups to open at Fillmore West, and the recording could act as a demo if he wanted to sign them. Alternately, BGP would sell the tape to the groups. So it's not impossible that there is an extant tape of Bycycle performing live at Fillmore West.

June 8, 1969 Unitarian Center, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups/Freedom Highway/Bycycle/others
To the extent that the band name Bycycle is recognized at all, it is recognized from some 1969 rock posters. Any posters in Paul Grushkin's book Art Of Rock are widely known, even if the events themselves were obscure. This benefit concert for the Unitarian Fellowship was held on a Sunday afternoon with a variety of second tier Bay Area bands, along with various light shows and other artists. Sons Of Champlin, Ace Of Cups and Freedom Highway were all booked by the WestPole Agency, run by Quicksilver manager Ron Polte, so the Quicksilver connection remained intact.

The Grateful Dead were playing at Fillmore West this weekend (from Friday June 6 through June 8). There was also a free concert in Golden Gate Park, so it was a big weekend for hip bands in San Francisco. This event was (per the poster) from 2pm to midnight. I'm not sure where the Unitarian Church was at the time, and true to the tradition, the poster is hard to read. In any case, San Francisco rock fans had a variety of choices throughout the day.

July 16-17, 1969 George's Log Cabin, San Francisco, CA: Bycycle
George's Log Cabin was on the farthest Western edge of San Francisco, right on the San Mateo County line, at 2629 Bayshore Boulevard, high above the now-departed Candlestick Park. It had gone through various guises since it had been a prohibition hangout back in the day. By 1969 George's Log Cabin was hosting rock shows, but the bands that played there were not so high on the rock food chain.

A flyer for the July 18-20, 1969 booking at the Family Dog, including the Sir Douglas Quintet and Bicycle. 
July 18-20, 1969 Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Sir Douglas Quintet/Bicycle/Kwan Ditos/Shades Of Joy
Chet Helms had closed the Avalon Ballroom in December 1968, although other promoters had since used it. In June of 1969, he moved his Family Dog operation to Ocean Beach, using a modest ballroom at a decaying Amusement Park. The posters called it The Family Dog On The Great Highway, but most of the locals called it Playland, as they always had. While the FDGH was definitely a rung below the Fillmore West, there was still plenty of optimism in July of 1969, and various hip acts played the room.

Once again the Sir Douglas Quintet was headlining a show where Bycycle opened, suggesting some other kind of connection between the bands. Its worth noting that Healy and Sahm had recorded together for Mercury, and Healy had mixed Sahm's hit "Mendocino," as well as working on his other albums. (For the record, the Kwan Ditos were a Latin rock band that featured pianist Todd Barkan, who was the proprietor of the Keystone Korner from mid-72 onwards, when it was a jazz club. The Shades Of Joy were a sort of jam band that featured saxophonist Martin Fierro, among others.)

August 22, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Womb/4th Way/Ace Of Cups/The Committee Benefit for The Wild West Organizers
Our most tantalizing clue about Dan Healy's career as a musician comes from his time working on the Shady Grove album for Quicksilver Messenger Service, which he engineered. At the end of 1968, guitarist Gary Duncan had left Quicksilver to form a band with singer Dino Valenti. Ironically enough, Duncan left just as Quicksilver was starting to get played regularly on the new FM radios throughout the country. The band's second album, the classic Happy Trails, was released in February 1969 and was an instant classic. Quicksilver was hardly a band, but Capitol really wanted an album.

Throughout the first half of 1969, Quicksilver had only existed in name only. The three remaining members (lead guitarist Cipollina, bassist/vocalist David Freiberg and drummer Greg Elmore) played a little with producer Nick Gravenites, but really they were doing nothing. Eventually, the band hooked up with pianist Nicky Hopkins, who had enjoyed his visits to the Bay Area with the Jeff Beck Group so much that he had decided to move to Mill Valley. The quartet began recording Quicksilver's third album with Dan Healy at the board. They recorded at Wally Heider's Studio in July and August of 1969, and switched over to Pacific High Recorders for August and September. The Shady Grove album would finally come out in December. It has some interesting moments, but it generally has the disorganized feel of a band that was struggling to find something to record.

I have only been able to confirm four Quicksilver Messenger Service shows from the Summer of '69, all during the recording of Shady Grove. The first two were July 18 and 19, in the tiny town of Seaside, near Monterey. The band played an old movie theater that had been turned into a burlesque house. Since Seaside was near Fort Ord, there had presumably been a steady supply of soldiers interested in womanly charms, but it appeared that Quicksilver's management was trying out different venues in order to start their own ballroom. In any case, Seaside was well outside of San Francisco, so it made sense for a popular band trying to work on new material in a live setting to play at an out-of-the-way venue.

However, Quicksilver Messenger Service also headlined a shows at the Fillmore West and the Family Dog On The Great Highway on Friday and Saturday, August 22 and 23. The biggest event of the San Francisco summer was supposed to be a giant rock festival in Golden Gate Park called The Wild West Festival. The event was scheduled for the weekend of August 22-24, and the entire event fell apart in amidst ill will and bitter arguments over money. The organizers had taken a bath, and as the bands had kept the weekend free, benefit concerts were held at the two venues to try and defray some of the costs.

Fortunately, we have a remarkably detailed account of the Friday night Quicksilver show at Fillmore West. Faren Miller was a Berkeley teenager whose parents also liked rock music, so they regularly took her to rock shows, particularly to see Quicksilver, her favorite band. Miller, to the delight of future rock prosopographers, would write a detailed description of each show she attended in her diary. About twenty-five years later, once the internet was invented, Miller excerpted all the rock concert parts. Thus she has provided exceptional details about the specific bands and venues for the shows she attended (and Faren, wherever you are, thank you so, so much).

In Miller's detailed description of Quicksilver's August '69 Fillmore band, she describes a loose band just getting used to having Hopkins as a member. Most intriguingly, however, she says that for several numbers they were joined by their friend Dan Healy, who played bass and guitar. Miller had no idea who Healy was at the time (nor did anyone else), so he must have been introduced from the stage. Although David Freiberg was a fine bass player, he had not always played bass on every number with Quicksilver, letting Gary Duncan take it over on occasion. So for this show, at least, Healy seems to have acted as a utility infielder, presumably playing bass and rhythm guitar on various numbers. Healy was mixing the Shady Grove album at Pacific High by this time, and he probably knew their new material as well or better than the band.

However, one thing that this unexpected sighting of Healy with Quicksilver tells me was that Healy was a pretty active musician at the time. The Quicksilver boys were loose hippies, sure, but they could all really play, and Hopkins was a certified session legend even by 1969. So Healy wouldn't have been on the stage, even in a modest role, unless he could play with the big boys. That leads me to think that Healy must still have been playing regularly. From that, I am inferring that most likely he had continued to play with Bycycle.

Incidentally, I got a detailed email about one of the Seaside shows from someone who attended, and he definitely does not recall Healy playing with Quicksilver at that show. He doesn't rule it out, but his memories were pretty clear, and he doesn't recall it. Noting that Quicksilver appears to have introduced Healy to the crowd at Fillmore West, that suggests he did not play at Seaside. I would note that Bycycle had a gig that weekend at the Family Dog, so sketchy as the evidence might be, the dates line up.

"Moby Grape" (actually The Rhythm Dukes) and Bycycle were booked at the Monterey County Fairgrounds on September 5, 1969. 

September 5, 1969 Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey, CA: "Moby Grape"/Fields/Bycycle
The Monterey County Fairgrounds were actually regularly used for rock shows, but of course they were far smaller than the legendary 1967 Festival at the main Horse Show arena. Although this concert was billed as "Moby Grape," it was really a band called The Rhythm Dukes, who lived in Felton and featured two former members of the Grape (Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson). Their difficulty in preventing promoters from using the name Moby Grape was just one of a long line of frustrations for the band. Based on the poster, and some things I know about the nascent Monterey rock scene, this seems to have been yet another very hippie promotion, which seems characteristic of the gigs that Bycycle played.

December 5, 1969 Cal Expo Auditorium, Sacramento, CA: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young/Taj Mahal/Bycycle
The final whiff of Bycycle was their biggest gig, by far. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were the hottest band in the country in 1969. The morning after this show, CSNY would be helicoptered over to Altamont Raceway (about 80 miles North) to open the soon-to-be-infamous festival featuring the Rolling Stones. Immediately after their performance, CSNY was helicoptered to the airport, where they went to Los Angeles and played UCLA that night. Only the next morning did they read the papers to find out what a mess they had missed by being choppered in and out of the festival.

How did Bycycle, not even a Sacramento band, end up opening the biggest show in Sacramento? Taj Mahal was on Columbia, well connected in Los Angeles and fine performer, so his presence was not surprising. But since every aspiring rock band for hundreds of miles around would have wanted the opening slot, how did Bycycle get the call? Who did they know, and when did they know it?

How long Dan Healy was in Bycycle remains a mystery--we of course don't know for sure whether he was in the band at all after the name change in 1969. However, their performance schedule seems light enough that he could have been. Healy went on to fame as the Grateful Dead's soundman and engineer, and in the 1980s he led his own group, the Healy-Treece Band. Yet he seems never to have mentioned that he had a sixties group. Somewhere out there are the other members of Hoffman's Bicycle, and here's to hoping they can tell us the other pieces of the puzzle.