Thursday, October 27, 2011

May 10, 1969, Rose Palace, Pasadena, CA: Farewell Cream movie/Grateful Dead/Kaleidoscope

This 1969 Rose Palace poster has mistaken dates (May 10-11 instead of May 9-10)

The Grateful Dead played at the Rose Palace in Pasadena on Saturday, May 10, almost two months after their debut performance there. There are a number of interesting facts about the second Rose Palace show. The most interesting fact is that for perhaps the only time, the Grateful Dead were second billed to a feature film. According to the poster, the "headline" act was a showing of the Farewell Cream movie, from Cream's final performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London on November 26, 1968. Uniquely, the Farewell Cream movie was not shown in theaters but rather in rock venues, mostly as the feature attraction. As important as Cream was, it's still crucial to remember that outside of San Francisco the Grateful Dead were still second on the bill to a movie. The Dead were famous, or infamous, but they still weren't that big a draw.

Cream
Eric Clapton is a huge star today, and every Clapton fan knows and probably likes Cream. Nonetheless, the enormity of Cream's impact on the rock music market tends to be taken for granted, given Clapton's numerous other triumphs. Cream was the first band who showed that thanks to FM radio, if a band had a good album and exciting live performances, they could sell a seemingly infinite number of albums without benefit of a hit single. This was truly revolutionary, something that had never happened in the music business prior to Cream. There had been hugely successful albums before, but their sales were built on an edifice of hit singles. The idea that albums could sell endlessly with little airplay on AM radio completely transformed the record industry.

Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce had formed Cream in England in the Summer of 1966, and their debut album Fresh Cream was released in December. The band had achieved some popularity, but save for a few Spring 67 shows in New York they had not toured America. Cream began their American tour on August 22, 1967 at the Fillmore. Since Cream was used to playing 45 minutes, at most, in the UK, it was a shock to have to play two hour-long sets in San Francisco. Their solution was simply to jam out every song, and the results were sensational. In between recording dates in 1967, Cream played relatively small rock clubs in the States to rapturous acclaim.

Cream's second album Disraeli Gears came out in November 1967. Although there were some modest AM hits ("Sunshine Of Your Love" and "Strange Brew"), almost every track on the album instantly became a staple of the newly emerging FM rock radio. Every concert that Cream played in the United States was a major rock event, with fans coming not to hear the hits but to hear instrumental virtuosity from the three members. This was an important transition for rock: the members of Cream were treated like jazz musicians, did not really have hits, and were hugely successful.

Cream's third album, Wheels Of Fire (released May 68), was a double album and was even more successful. Cream played larger and larger venues when they toured, almost always selling out. Record companies started to look for bands who could really play, and figured that those sort of albums would get played on FM, not AM, opening the door for bands like the Grateful Dead, who no longer had to look for a hit (not that they were trying). Ironically enough, Cream's three members were all mad at each other, and the band decided to break up. This too was unprecedented--how could the most successful act in rock decide to break up at the height of their powers? Cream agreed to make a final album and go on a "Farewell Tour" of America in Fall 1968--yet another first. For their last tour, Cream played the largest venue in every city (e.g the Oakland Coliseum) and sold them out, once again breaking new ground for the rock industry.

The final Cream concert was at Royal Albert Hall in London on October 26, 1968. The event was professionally filmed, and turned into what may be the industry's first "rockumentary." The movie was 80 minutes long, mostly performance footage interspersed with rather artificial interviews with the three band members. With no precedent, the decision was made (by who, I'm not sure) not to market the movie through theaters, but through rock venues. I think only a small number of prints of the movie were made, and this too would have cut down on the expenses. Also, 60s movie theaters would have had a hard time broadcasting the Cream concert sound properly, so rock venues made sense for a lot of reasons.

By 1969, Cream was more popular than ever. As a result, there were people all over the country who had never seen them live, and apparently never would. Cream had a new album (Goodbye), and they were rock's biggest attraction. How big were they? When they played suburban Pasadena, the Grateful Dead opened for their concert movie.

The Rose Palace Friday and Saturday, May 9-10, 1969
The concert poster for the May Rose Palace shows garbles the dates: it says "Friday and Saturday May 10&11," when in fact the shows were Friday and Saturday, May 9 and 10. The interesting bookings also tell us something about the strategy of the Millard Agency, the Dead's bookers at the time. The Farewell Cream movie was the headline act, at least according to the poster, and Santana was booked on Friday, May 9, with the Grateful Dead on Saturday May 10. The great Southern California band Kaleidoscope was on the bill both nights, about which I have more to say below.

The Millard Agency was the booking company associated with the Bill Graham empire. Millard's specific emphasis was on finding new venues in California for the Fillmore bands to play. Groups like the Grateful Dead were well known in California, but really only by name, since so many people had seen the iconic Fillmore posters. Millard was willing to work with promoters who were booking new venues outside of the big cities, often in suburbs like Pasadena. Santana, at this time, had been signed to Columbia and had probably begun recording their first album, but it was not  released until August 1969. Some hip LA fans might recognize Santana's name from some Fillmore West posters (they had headlined in February of '69), but the band had played Southern California the first time a month earlier, opening for Procol Harum at the Rose Palace on the weekend of April 11-12. Santana, too, was making a return visit, showing a careful strategy by Millard to build an audience over time for both bands.

Both Santana and the Dead had gigs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (May 9-10-11). The Dead played San Mateo County Fairgrounds on May 9, yet another case of Millard helping to get a show booked in the suburbs. On Saturday, with the Dead in Pasadena, Santana played a rock festival at a football stadium in Stockton, with a roster of other Millard bands from the Fillmore scene. On Sunday, May 11, The Dead and Santana played outdoors at a stadium show in San Diego, only the Dead's second appearance in San Diego and Santana's first. Both Santana and the Grateful Dead were popular live attractions all over California in the 1970s, but it wasn't an accident.

The cover of Side Trips, Kaleidoscope's first album on Epic (1967)
Kaleidoscope
Kaleidoscope were a remarkable and unique band from the Claremont area. Four of the five members (all but the drummer) were remarkable multi-instrumentalists, and Kaleidoscope took a layer of old-time American music and built a framework of world music on top of it, driven by an electric rock beat. They all but singlehandedly invented World Music, about twenty years too early. Musicians in every town were awestruck by them, but audiences simply weren't ready. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin has called them his favorite band ever--when Page was playing the Fillmore with the Yardbirds in May 1968, he would walk 12 blocks over to the Avalon to hear Kaleidoscope's sets.

Kaleidoscope released four albums, all glorious, none of which smelled remotely like a hit. The story is too long to tell here, but David Biasotti's wonderful Pulsating Dream site has the complete tale. There were various personnel changes and management struggles, and guitarist David Lindley tried to keep the band going against great odds, but he finally gave up in 1970. Of course, Lindley's subsequent career with Jackson Browne and as a solo artist has been marvelous, but Kaleidoscope were as good as anybody who ever played in the 1960s, Grateful Dead included.

The May 10, 1969 Rose Palace show may have been the first time that the Grateful Dead shared a bill with Kaleidoscope. This detail is significant since Kaleidoscope's manager at the time was one Chesley Millikin, an Englishman who played an important if amorphous role for the Dead over the next several years. I know that Millikin was instrumental in helping to book and arrange the Europe '72 tour, but I don't quite know whether he was employed by the band, Warner Brothers, an agency or some sort of free-lancer. Nonetheless, seems to have been a key adviser to the Dead, and he seems to have come into the band's orbit through Kaleidoscope.

I don't even precisely know what role Millikin served in for Kaleidoscope during 1969. The Kaleidoscope story has the typical overlay of bad deals with the record company and indifference to the band's virtues that so typified the era. David Lindley, by far the best known member of the group, has nothing nice to say about Kaleidoscope's management or record company, but he doesn't name names. I have no idea whether Millikin was a "good guy" or a "bad guy," if such terms have any meaning, but in any case the Dead seemed to have benefited from Millikin's experience.

The Show
According to the Archive, the Dead seemed to have played for about 100 minutes. I have to assume that the Dead actually came on after the movie. I think the order of battle would have been Kaleidoscope, Farewell Cream and finally the Dead. Since Pasadena was fairly suburban, I don't think the show would have run exceptionally late. I have some reason to believe that a Southern California band called Southwind may have played, but possibly only on Friday with Santana. I suspect there were a lot of teenagers there to see the Cream movie who may not have planned to stay for the entire show, but I'll bet at least some of them were glad they did.

An alternate handbill for the May 10, 1969 Rose Palace show, with Southwind opening
Update: The Yellow Shark weighs in with a neat alternative handbill, not only getting the dates right, but confirming that Southwind was on the bill. Southwind featured guitarist Moon Martin, who wrote such hits as "Cadillac Walk" (for Mink DeVille) and "Bad Case Of Lovin' You" (for Robert Palmer).

Update 2: An eyewitness correspondent brings us a striking picture of the event. It turns out that the Dead did play before the Cream movie.
I was at the Rose Palace concert.  I was 17 at the time at it was my first time seeing the Dead live.   I can tell you that your assumption  that the Dead must have played after the Cream film is incorrect.  The bands played in the order advertised;  Kaleidoscope opened, then the Dead, then the Cream film.  The Kaleidoscope were terrific and the Dead blew minds.  After the Dead played, the audience was reminded to stick around for the Cream film, and someone in the audience shouted out "What a bringdown:"  which was the title of a song of Cream's and an appropriate comment given the Dead's performance.  The film was not good at all (and I was a fan of Cream).   Yes, Pasadena was a suburb, but so is everything in Los Angeles, and it was no big deal to get in the car to go see them, even for a 17 year old.   I remember seeing them a few years later at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium as well.   
What struck me in those early days was how casual everything was.  That night there was a delay while the Dead resolved an equipment malfunction (a regular occurrence in those days), and Weir jumped off stage and went out to the lobby to buy a hot dog.  Their equipment was not tie-dyed; it was flat black, with the word DEAD on the sides.   In those days they would play a few songs to warm up, and then delve into the Dark Star thru Lovelight opus (as on this night), or Alligator/Caution or the full That’s it for the Other one.   The songwriting of Workingman's Dead and American Beauty was still a long way off, and even Aoxomoxoa had yet to be released (but would be shortly).   But I remember that period, 1969, as their peak as a performing band, and I saw them many times thereafter (I moved up to the Bay Area in 1972 and saw them at Winterland regularly).     In those days, they were psychedelic storm troopers, on a mission to blow minds.   Those days aren't coming back, but it's nice to hear the tapes occasionally.  There were only a few hundred people at that concert, and it holds a special place in my memory.

4 comments:

  1. Corry,

    A few footnotes from my "Kaleidoscope Family Tree - Shows List" that I have posted in my blog "Rock Prosopography 102":

    (1) Kaleidoscope was also on the bill with
    Santana Blues Band and Procol Harum at the
    Rose Palace on April 11-12, 1969.

    (2) Kaleiscope and Grateful Dead already
    shared a bill before this Pasadena shows,
    first on May 18, 1968 at the "Northern
    California Folk-Rock Festival" and then on
    August 20-22, 1968 at the Fillmore West.

    (3) Yes, I can confirmed that Southwind also
    played on Friday, May 9, 1969.

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  2. I'd never known the Dead had played a show with the Cream film! Hard to believe, really.

    The Dead had played two shows in Pasadena back in March, opening (along with Jethro Tull) for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. One witness on the Archive states, "The crowd liked the opening act, Jethro Tull, and the Dead, a lot more than Butterfield." So the Dead weren't unknowns in Pasadena!

    That the Dead were billed under the Cream movie perhaps shows more how big Cream were rather than how obscure the Dead were.
    It would be good to know what other bands were billed with the Cream movie at other theaters, to have some comparison.
    Since the Dead had opened for Cream back in March '68, it must have been odd to follow the Cream movie a year later!

    The Farewell Concert documentary, alas, has all of the bad traits of music docs of the time, and few of the good.
    It was first shown on the BBC back in January '69. (I think it was meant for TV in the first place.) And it was not 80 minutes long, but only 48 minutes, with less than 40 devoted to music; with the actual farewell concert so heavily edited, many audience members must have been disappointed!

    McNally on Chesley Millikin: He was "a martini-guzzling businessman in Berkeley before going to a 1966 Dead concert on campus, where he fell in with Danny Rifkin, Rock Scully, and Pigpen. After taking LSD for his alcoholism, he dropped out, eventually becoming the manager of a band called Kaleidoscope, then the in-house hippie at CBS in 1968, and then Epic Records' European manager in 1969. [When Scully went to England in September '69 to arrange a Dead show there, he went to see Millikin, who was already friends with Sam Cutler, then working with the Stones.] Millikin tour-managed the New Riders for a spell...and in May 1972 he and Sam Cutler founded Out of Town Tours, a booking agency that would handle the Dead and several other bands... OOT began to book Doug Sahm, the Sons of Champlin, Big Brother, and the New Riders, as well as the Dead."
    Millikin also briefly became the Dead's tour manager in the middle of the Europe '74 tour, when the Dead had a fight with their current managers in Germany.
    From what I've read, Millikin was not involved with arranging the Dead's Europe '72 tour (since he came onboard right after that) - Sam Cutler did that through the European Promoters Association, working especially with London promoters John Morris & Tom Salter.
    And, clearly Millikin knew the Dead long before managing Kaleidoscope - he became their manager in mid-1968, shortly before they played the Sky River Rock Festival. Millikin apparently went out the door not much later, as Kaleidoscope kept trying new managers.

    The Kaleidoscope web history has an interesting comment: "Now managed by the Robert Stigwood Organization, they supported Cream on their American farewell tour. Says Crill, 'Boy, people couldn’t wait for us to get the fuck off the stage.'"
    That would have been Cream's California shows of October '68 - I haven't looked into this, though. It's not mentioned on Bruno's show list, so possibly this is a mistaken reference to opening for the Cream concert film?

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  3. LIA,

    About Kaleidscope and Cream, yes, you're right, the comment is only a mistaken reference to opening for the Cream concert film, because I can confirmed that Kaleidoscope never played with Cream. Chester Crill is a friend of mine and helped me to compiled my shows list and he confirmed that his comment is only about this shows in Pasadena.

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  4. An eyewitness has written in with some great details about the show, and I added them to the bottom of the post. Among other things, there were only a few hundred people there, and the Dead played before the Cream movie.

    ReplyDelete