Thursday, September 4, 2014

July 2, 1971: Fillmore West, San Francisco Grateful Dead KSAN-fm Broadcast (FM IV)

The entertainments listings from the Hayward Daily Review of July 1, 1971. showing the bookings for the closing of Fillmore West along with the other coming attractions
The Grateful Dead have been influential to the music industry in ways that are not always self-evident. One way in which the Dead have had a huge influence on the music industry was their enthusiasm for live FM broadcasts of their concerts. In the early 1970s, the Dead's willingness to broadcast their performances for free over the airwaves was in complete opposition to music business orthodoxy. Very rapidly, however, as the Dead started to sell records without benefit of a hit, the industry started to take notice. Live FM broadcasts became a staple of rock radio by the mid-70s, and they laid the groundwork for the explosion of music available on the internet, however distant that future might have been.

In the first installment of this series, I described the very earliest live FM broadcasts of rock shows. The first show broadcast, to my knowledge, was the HALO Benefit at Winterland on May 30, 1967. I remain alone in asserting that the Dead did not play that show, even though they were billed, but the show was unquestionably broadcast, as KMPX-fm's Tom Donahue can be heard as the host on a circulating Quicksilver tape. In any case, the Grateful Dead and Country Joe and The Fish broadcast live from the Carousel Ballroom on February 14, 1968, and the resulting copies were foundational for Grateful Dead tape collectors over the years. There were a few other early experiments, including a live broadcast on Berkeley's KPFA-fm from the Avalon Ballroom on April 6, 1969, and a set from San Diego on KPRI-fm (106.5) on May 11, 1969.

For my second installment, I analyzed how many of the Grateful Dead tapes from the 1960s that circulated in the 1970s and 80s were broadcast on San Francisco's KSAN-fm in the 1970s, although they were not in fact actually broadcast during the 60s. In my third post, I looked at all the live broadcasts by the Grateful Dead and various individual members from 1970.  None of the circumstances of any of the 1970 broadcasts were ever duplicated, but it made a good case study on how the Grateful Dead determined the best way to promote their music for their own benefit. For this post, I will look at the live broadcast of the Grateful Dead's concert at the closing of the Fillmore West on July 2, 1971.

The Fillmore West broadcast was the basic blueprint for just about all the Grateful Dead concerts that were broadcast throughout the 1970s. KSAN-fm was the best rated music station in what at the time was the hippest music city in the United States. When a band played live on the air for nearly three hours, with no commercials (except during the setbreak), it was an unprecedented event. By 1971, enough people had tape recorders hooked up to FM receivers that great sounding tapes could circulate. Thus the July 2 '71 Fillmore West Grateful Dead show was the first concert in wide underground circulation, even if that circulation was mostly by bootleg albums rather than tapes.

The front cover of a bootleg double-lp made from the FM broadcast of the Grateful Dead's performance at the Fillmore West on July 2, 1971. Upper right it says "entire 1 3/4 hour show". I purchased the album in a used record store for $4.00 or so in about 1974 (photo courtesy u.t.)

The Closing Of The Fillmore West, June 29-July 4, 1971
Bill Graham and Chet Helms had made the Trips Festival into regular musical performances at the original Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom, respectively. But it was Graham who made the weekly Fillmore rock concerts into a commercially viable proposition. His empire expanded to the Fillmore East in Manhattan and then to the Fillmore West in San Francisco. The Fillmores were the first venues that stood on their own as a mark of taste and style in the 60s rock universe. If a band had played any of the Fillmores, they had status in Albuquerque or Altoona.

However, though Bill Graham had been critical in defining how to run a proper rock concert, the very success of the young industry made the Fillmores too small to complete. Graham had moved out of the original Fillmore (official capacity 1500) to the larger Fillmore West (official capacity 2500) in July 1968, but by 1971the rock market had outgrown the Fillmore West as well. The last night at the Fillmore East was June 27, 1971, and last call at the Fillmore West was a week later. At the time, Rolling Stone and other observers considered this "the end of the 60s," and so on. This was probably true, as a matter of fact, although Graham and many of the Fillmore headliners went on to become even more successful in the 70s. At the time, however, the classic San Francisco bands were in flux, and it did seem like things would never be the same again. The final week's bill at the Fillmore West was:
June 29, 1971: Sawbuck/Malo/Kwane and The Kwanditos 
June 30, 1971: Boz Scaggs/Cold Blood/Stoneground/Flamin' Groovies
July 1, 1971: It's A Beautiful Day/Elvin Bishop Group/Lamb
July 2, 1971: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Rowan Brothers
July 3, 1971: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Hot Tuna
July 4, 1971: Santana/Creedence Clearwater Revival/Tower Of Power plus closing jam
Of the groups that could legitimately be called 'original' Fillmore performers, only the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver were really the same continuous group. Many of the bands featured players that had played the Fillmore in the day (such as Boz Scaggs with the Steve Miller Band), and the Santana Blues Band had opened for some shows as far back as 1967.  By 1971, Santana and Creedence had become the biggest rock bands to come out of San Francisco, but it was left to the Dead and Quicksilver to show the flag from days of yore.

The Grateful Dead, Summer 1971
In the middle of 1971, the Grateful Dead were in a very different position than they had ever been before. For the first few years of their existence, the Dead were underground legends, with all the baggage that entailed: three inconsistent albums, lots of peculiar gigs, some of them rumored to be great, along with a devoted clutch of diehard fans. In November, 1969, Live/Dead suggested to discerning listeners that those legends might be true. More shockingly, the arrival of Workingman's Dead in June, 1970 revealed a completely different band, accessible and reflective, yet without quite removing the stoned overtone. Soon after, American Beauty was released in November, 1970, and the Dead were no longer underground. Workingman's and American Beauty were played regularly on FM radio across the country, and rock fans all over America started getting curious about the Dead's legendary performances.

Of the classic Fillmore bands, only the Dead were on an upward trajectory in Summer '71. Jefferson Airplane kept losing members, and hadn't put out an album in a while. Quicksilver had lost their archetypal guitarist John Cipollina, and while new lead singer Dino Valenti helped them sell records, older fans of Quicksilver weren't happy with the new sound. Country Joe and The Fish had broken up, and while Big Brother And The Holding Company had four of their original members, with Janis Joplin not on board they were no longer Fillmore West material. Yet the Dead were bigger than they had ever been back in the day, and their previous two albums had been their most coherent and popular. By modern standards, however, the rock concert industry was still small. The Dead's magic was in live performance, and there was no way for them to play for enough people. The Dead, like every other 60s group, had tried the rock festival circuit, but by '71 bands, communities and promoters were fairly fed up with outdoor festivals in a muddy field.

The answer turned out to be live FM broadcasts of Grateful Dead concerts. The Dead, along with a few other groups, had experimented with different ways to broadcast their shows. Included amongst these ideas were studio tv performances, quadrophonic fm and a variety of other configurations which we would not now recognize as typical. However, once uninterrupted Grateful Dead concerts were broadcast in every city that the Dead played, the Dead landscape changed dramatically. The rock audience was young and suburban, and new FM rock stations ruled the market. When the Dead were on the radio for hours at a time, all the hipsters had to listen. Enough of them liked what they heard, particularly some who were too young, too broke to too carless to get to wherever the Dead were playing. It didn't matter--the FM radio was a bus stop just the same, and people in every city got on.

The first broadcast that we would recognize as a "typical" Grateful Dead broadcast was the July 2, 1971 Fillmore West show. Soon afterwards, in the Fall, to support their new live album, the Dead would get Warner Brothers Records to agree to spend $100,000 in promotional money--a lot of money for those days--to broadcast 14 shows throughout the country [McNally p.410]. No rock band had ever done anything like this. Of course, no rock band would ever do anything like this again, either, except for the Dead themselves in 1976. Still, after the success of the Grateful Dead (aka Skull And Roses) album, behind the FM broadcasts, the industry took notice. Live FM broadcasts became a staple of rock marketing from 1973 onward, and it was no coincidence. Even thought the Fillmore West was closing, even in its waning moments it was still a place that influenced the rock music business.

The label from one of the bootleg lps. The album was on the Record Revolution label (not that any such label really existed)
The Broadcast
The Grateful Dead's Fillmore West performance on Friday, July 2, 1971 was broadcast on KSAN-fm, then San Francisco's leading rock station. KSAN was one of the top-rated stations in the Bay Area, against all other types of programming, not just other music stations. KSAN had grown out of the groundbreaking KMPX, and it prided itself on being innovative. KSAN had already broadcast the Dead a few times, so they were the obvious choice as the broadcaster for the Fillmore West show. With both the Rowan Brothers and the New Riders Of Purple Sage opening the show, the Dead probably came on stage at about 10:00 or 10:30, and probably played until a little before 2:00am.

It is important to emphasize that KSAN would not have been broadcasting the Grateful Dead on a Friday night just for charity. Warner Brothers Records would had to have compensated the station for the lost advertising time. There would be no ads during the performance, although there may have been ads during the set break, and KSAN would not go without ad revenue for four hours. In any case, Warners probably would not have paid cash directly to KSAN (although they might have). More likely, Warners probably committed to a certain number of ads on KSAN in the next month, or some other similar arrangement.

I have also seen indications that the Fillmore West show was broadcast on KMET in Los Angeles. I do not know if this was a full or partial broadcast, or live or tape-delayed. However, KSAN and KMET were owned by the same corporation, Metromedia--who also owned WNEW in New York--so the collaboration seems very plausible.

To tape aficionados, the performances from the closing of the Fillmore West are well-known and circulate widely. It is generally asserted that all the shows from the last week were broadcast on either KSAN or KSFX-fm (which may have been a less-hip corporate sister to KSAN). After many years of research and speculation, I for one, do not believe that the closing week of Fillmore West was broadcast. Yes, the Dead were broadcast; yes, the closing jam from the final night (in the wee hours of July 5) was broadcast; and I think Hot Tuna was broadcast, although I'm not certain of that.

As to the tapes of the rest of the week, all of which circulate (many as a sort of collection curated by the gaily-named "Hell's Honkies"), they are generally marked as "pre-FM." I'm not aware of actual FM broadcasts of any of the other bands, the sort of tapes where djs cut in and with other anomalies. Even if one or two of the other bands were broadcast, and I'm not aware of it, I'm still convinced that the bulk of the shows were not broadcast. I would be very interested in hearing from Bay Area rock fans of the era (you know who you are) who may recall how much was actually broadcast.

My reasoning for believing that most of the shows were not broadcast is worthy of a lengthy blog post on a different blog, so I will just point out some highlights:
  • Bill Graham and CBS Records were recording the shows for the planned Closing Of The Fillmore West album and movie, so the existence of the tapes is not surprising
  • Broadcasting a complete live performance was a radical thing for a band to do, and not something that would generally be approved by record companies. Even if bands were inclined to do it, their record companies would have to pay for it, which was another layer of difficulty. Bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival (Fantasy) and It's A Beautiful Day (CBS) had no history of management approving untried, costly new approaches to promotion.
  • Although many of the bands who played the closing week of Fillmore West are well-known to us today, lots of them were quite obscure at the time. Boz Scaggs and The New Riders for example, were not big acts--the Riders didn't even have an album.
  • As for July 2 itself, the New Riders Of The Purple Sage and the Rowan Brothers were both Columbia (CBS) acts who had not yet released their first album. CBS was not going to pay KSAN to broadcast groups who did not yet have albums they could sell.
My thinking is that the fact that the Dead show and the closing jam (and perhaps one or two others) were broadcast was so unprecedented that the story morphed over the years into "all of them" being broadcast. I would be very interested to know exactly which sets made it out over the air.

[update] Correspondent Rion weighs in with some memories
having lived to tell the tale, I can affirm that the whole week was broadcast, except 6/29, which I never thought of as part of the closing celebration.  Proof:  in the Fillmore movie, Graham is arguing with Santana’s manager and says that all the groups for the entire week agreed to let their music be broadcast except Santana.   The bill for the last night was not revealed before hand.  Everybody I knew thought it was the Airplane, and were disappointed because Creedence was not that interesting.  I had tapes of everything, but didn’t keep them because most of the music wasn’t that interesting.  Santana’s show was not broadcast. 
As far as I can remember, all the shows were on KSAN.   I would bet that  they were all on KSFX too, because the Hot Tuna tape I made again had Paul Krassner as the announcer.   The big tease for the final night was the last act.   That wasn’t announced until showtime, I believe.   I’m sure I didn’t make it all the way through and have no info about the jam.
As you can see from the ad above, the final night's bill was listed as Santana and Tower Of Power, so there must have been plenty of intentionally placed rumors about a "surprise guest" on July 4. I do find it fascinating that the unrecorded opening acts were broadcast as well. 
The back cover of the bootleg lp. Since the album appears to have been made in 1971, the song titles are just guesses ("Had To Move," "My Uncle" and "No Chance Of Losing" for example) (photo courstesy u.t)

The Bootleg
Bay Area rock fans had had more opportunities to hear the Grateful Dead perform live on the radio than anyone else. What few FM broadcasts there had been were mostly in the Bay Area, whereas other parts of the country had mostly only heard the May 2 '70 Pacifica broadcast (from Harper College at Binghamton, NY), if they were lucky. For the then-small-but-daily-growing coterie of Deadheads, it wasn't enough. Bay Area Deadheads at least could see the band with great regularity. However, in the Dead's other stronghold, New York City, other means were needed to disseminate live Grateful Dead music. 

The sprawling, interconnected web that links the Grateful Dead taping community is now world-renowned. It is little recalled, however, that in the early 70s the principal way that interested Dead fans heard alternative Grateful Dead music was through bootleg lps. These lps, with minimal graphics, or just white covers, and incorrect song titles and little or no information about the recording, were quietly available in hip (non-chain) record stores. Unofficial recordings of Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones had led the way, as documented in the Clinton Heylin book Bootleg. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, the truly committed amongst the Deadheads made their own live tapes and produced them as albums, often selling them outside of concerts.

The subject of bootleg Grateful Dead albums, and their intimate connection to the underground movement of tapes and other products from one coast to another is worthy of a book. Fortunately, one is being written. Fellow scholar Jesse Jarnow is working on Heads: A Biography Of Psychedelic America, and the bootleg lp will be resurrected and given its rightful due. It will be well worth the wait to see the rightful context. As for me, I can give a flavor of their importance by describing the bootleg lp of the Closing of The Fillmore West show that I purchased in late 1973 or so.

When I was in the 10th grade (1972-73), a friend with older siblings had loaned me the Bob Dylan Royal Albert Hall bootleg (actually Manchester, but of course we didn't know that). I was floored. The idea that there was a different, better, live version of Dylan's greatest music was staggering. Grateful Dead bootlegs started to appear in Palo Alto and Berkeley the next year (1973-74). By this time, I had the existing Grateful Dead albums and had memorized them. I purchased a double-lp of the Fillmore West show in the middle of the school year. The front and back cover (or most of it, anyway) and the label are reproduced above. I bought it as a "used" record, which I think was the dodge to get around the illegality. It was a revelation.

Now, I had gotten a couple of Dead bootlegs along with it, around the same time, and they were great. But I couldn't tell where they were from, nor anything else about them, so they were straight up mysteries. Within a few years I figured out that they were from Binghamton (May 2 '70) and Felt Forum, but I didn't know that at the time. But the Fillmore West lp seemed to be a complete concert, with a date and everything. I had even seen the Dead a couple of times, so I wasn't completely innocent. Yet here was an alternative version of Skull And Roses, complete with strange cover versions that I had never heard of.

It is a 21st century opinion to dismiss the Jul 2 '71 Fillmore West show as a weak show. From some points of view, that may be correct, although I think people are unnecessarily harsh. From my 11th grade point of view, however, it was beside the point. At the time, there were 9 Grateful Dead albums, and I perceived the band's music as having had a certain arc. Here was a 10th album, and my perception of the band's arc was completely wrong. I didn't yet know what it was, of course, but I had to throw out everything I had thought. Here was a different, Godchaux-less "China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider"; here were lengthy covers of "Good Lovin" and "Sing Me Back Home"; here they went back into "Not Fade Away" after "Going Down The Road."

It was all well and good for grizzled veterans of the Fillmores (all of about 26 years old at the time) to say, "c'mon, everybody knew that." I didn't know that, and I didn't know any grizzled heads, either. I was stuck in the suburbs, wishing I was in the mix. Bootleg Grateful Dead lps put me in that mix. I ended up with about 12 of them, and a couple of New Riders bootlegs as well, and I memorized them all. Of course, a few years later, I discovered cassettes and the tape-trading universe, and the bootleg lps didn't matter, but without them, the doors would have taken a lot longer to open.

The blue double lp that I had was regularly seen in Bay Area used record stores for the next several years--it was about as near to a "regional hit" as a bootleg could ever be considered. It's not surprising. A local show, broadcast locally, pressed somehow, and quietly distributed to sufficiently cool stores. That was, in fact, pretty common on the East Coast and less so in the Bay Area, but with respect to my listening it jump started me by about four years. I couldn't have been the only one.

After the distribution of the Rolling Stones bootleg lp Liver Than You'll Ever Be, record companies and bands were very worried about disintermediation. The Grateful Dead were no exception, and went to some lengths to stop bootleg lps from being sold. One of the reasons bands were so cautious about live broadcasts, and record companies so unwilling to support it, was the fear that once the shows were broadcast, the bootleg lps would cut into "real" record sales. The Dead, though no fans of bootlegs, were pretty much alone in thinking the rewards of live broadcasts outweighed the risks, and hewed their own path.

For major 70s rock bands, indeed for any 70s rock band, the Grateful Dead must have had more hours of concert broadcast by several magnitudes over other bands. After various experiments from1968 through 1970, the Dead had finally found the formula at Fillmore West, and that concert was the template for almost all the broadcasts that would follow. Whether or not you think July 2, 1971 was a good show--my feelings are obviously quite personal--it was a critical performance in Grateful Dead history.

The King Biscuit Flower Hour
The record industry surely noticed that after two successful studio albums, the Dead put out a comparatively indifferent double live album (Skull And Roses). It had no hits, they only included one older and sort of weird song, and there was a bunch of pretty strange cover versions, plus some new material. Yet the album was the first Grateful Dead record to go gold. The only thing different about the album was that Warners had spent $100,000 getting them broadcast live in 14 cities. Fear of bootlegging, as well as fear that some 70s bands couldn't really deliver on stage, kept any other bands from really joining in.

However, the rock industry noticed. One of the ways the industry took notice was with a syndicated radio show called The King Biscuit Flower Hour. The King Biscuit Flower Hour was started by some young rock veterans, including some Fillmore East managers, who recognized what was going on. King Biscuit was a weekly hour long syndicated radio show that featured live recordings of touring bands (in my day, it was on at 9:00pm on Sunday nights on KSAN). King Biscuit would record the bands professionally. Some larger bands had the entire show, but more typically there were two half-hour segments with different bands.

Since the show was syndicated, there were regular ads between songs, which made it a viable proposition. The bands (or their management) got to choose the songs, so any fears about what should or should not be circulated could be assuaged. Since only part of the concert was typically broadcast, any clunkers could be edited out as well. King Biscuit would let the artists mix the tape themselves, if they wanted. Record companies could time the broadcast, more or less, to get maximum effect for their promotional campaign.

The first King Biscuit Flower Hour was broadcast on February 18, 1973, with Blood, Sweat And Tears. For many years, King Biscuit shows were the only circulating FM soundboards for many touring bands. King Biscuit finally ground to a halt in 1993, but they were a critical part of rock music marketing in the 1970s. Although some tapes were lost in a fire, the remaining material is now part of Wolfgang's Vault. There's no question in my mind that the record companies saw what the Grateful Dead had done and looked at the Biscuit as a way to commodify the market channel (as they say). Without the Grateful Dead and Fillmore West, the King Biscuit experiment would not have happened the way it did.

Appendix:     Grateful Dead, Fillmore West, July 2, 1971

One Bertha [5:47] ;
Me And Bobby McGee [5:38] ;
Next Time You See Me [3:50] ;
China Cat Sunflower [4:50] >
I Know You Rider [5:47] ;
Playing In The Band [4:54] ;
Loser [6:33] ;
The Rub [3:34] ;
Me And My Uncle [3:10] ;
Big Railroad Blues [3:35] ;
Hard To Handle [7:19] ;
Deal [6:13] ;
The Promised Land [2:46] ;
Good Lovin' [17:16]
Two Sugar Magnolia [6:41] ;
Sing Me Back Home [9:48] ;
Mama Tried [2:47] ;
Cryptical Envelopment [2:02] >
Drums [5:16] >
The Other One [15:40] ;
Big Boss Man [5:18] ;
Casey Jones [5:36] ;
Not Fade Away [3:49] >
Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad [7:22] >
Jam [1:09] >
Not Fade Away [3:35]
Encore Johnny B. Goode [3:43]

Johnny B. Goode [3:43]