Altamont- Dec 6,1969

Altamont, the Rolling Stones, and the

Death of the Sixties Dream

by Lara Zarum

In the nearly fifty years since the Rolling Stones played a free outdoor concert at a racetrack in Alameda County, California, the word “Altamont” has become synonymous with the end of the 1960s, and the death of the hippie dream. On December 6, 1969, the Stones played for a crowd of over 300,000 people, with the Hells Angels serving as an ad hoc security team at the suggestion of the Grateful Dead — who would end up so cowed by the bikers’ overzealous tactics that they left the grounds without playing. The concert had been hastily arranged, and the location chosen at the very last minute; the lack of planning or foresight, combined with a deeply misguided trust in the Angels as counterculture allies, resulted in an infamously disastrous show that culminated in the death of eighteen-year-old Meredith Hunter, an African American concertgoer who had traveled to Altamont from the Bay Area with his girlfriend and a couple of friends. He would never make it back.

ON THE TURNTABLE: November of 1967

ON THE TURNTABLE: In November of 1967 I was purchasing mostly albums, having drifted away from single (45rpm) releases.This change in my purchasing, as well as the purchases of like minded teens listening to the same current music, was due in part, a large part, by one singular event; that being the change in FM radio broadcasting.

(A brief history thanks to Allen Sniffen) In 1966 the Federal Communications Commission ruled that major market FM radio stations could no longer simulcast their AM sister stations.  FM had to become separate with individual programming.  This was deemed necessary to allow FM to grow and develop its own audience.  The ruling put radio station owners in a bind.  They needed to come up with new formats for these weaker and less desirable stations. Since FM was more difficult to receive,  its universe of potential listeners was much smaller… and so was its billing.  The new formats therefore had to be both different and relatively inexpensive to program. It was in that environment that RKO General Broadcasting launched its new WOR-FM  (98.7Mhz) “Hot 100” format on July 30, 1966.  The name is deceiving because, in fact, it was the first progressive rock station in the country.  It marketed itself as stereo as a way to distinguish itself from AM radio.  The problem was that many of the records played by the station were not in stereo.  While it was true that most record albums were stereo, singles were not.  Since the singles came out before the albums, much of the new music it was breaking was in mono.

So to me as a 14 year old, my listening experience changed overnight, well actually after purchasing an AM-FM radio which did not exist in my house.The newly staffed WOR-FM hired some of NYC’s hottest “Top Ten” dj’s, specifically MURRAY“The K”(Kaufman) from 1010 WINS, SCOTT MUNI from 570 WMCA and later 770 WABC, and ROSKO, the coolest sounding person on the radio, anywhere. Murray The K appeared to be the draw for WOR-FM and the “new” MURRAY was a 180 degree departure from what I was familiar with while listening to him on 1010 WINS (AM). This was not “Top 40” jive talking any longer, as a matter of fact it was a “cool” MURRAY, one who it has been claimed broke the song  “Society’s Child” in the Summer of 67 (because it should be heard), as well as PROCOL HARUM’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” simply because HE “liked it”.AND Murray  was famous in the area  for his holiday stage show extravaganzas, the last which brought THE WHO and (as billed) THE CREAM to NYC for the first time, Easter of 1967. My buddy went and raved about those two bands.

But WOR-FM was a short lived experiment as program directors tried to rein in the playlist, to the chagrin of the radio hosts. Murray was fired in September of 67 despite having the highest rated FM program in NY, even higher than most AM shows. During his short tenure at WOR-FM “The K” attracted not only a large audience but in the audience advertisers found a different demographic, a newer demographic,that being a more mature college aged kid and with this newer, older audience the station drew in record companies as their advertisers. Record companies had found the station (WOR-FM) was highly valuable at influencing sales of rock albums especially new artists and groups like Cream, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, acts which were having their records played and /or being introduced.

At WOR-FM (October 1967)with a new tighter playlist ROSKO quit while “on the air”. He was soon found (October 30,1967) hosting the 7PM to midnight program at the “all girls dj’s” of WNEW-FM 102.7 FM. WNEW-FM was at that time a MOR station with an entire staff of female Dj’s, a unique experiment at the time. But at the 7PM hour Rosko had a free hand to “do his thing”. JONATHAN SCHWARTZ (10AM- 2PM) was added on November19, and a few days later SCOTT MUNI (2-6PM) joined the staff. ALLISON STEELE  later dubbed “The Nightbird” (2AM-6AM) was held over from the formerly “all girl” staff and WNEW-FM took off.

Note: a few years later the line up included John Zacherle and Pete Fornatale with Vince Scelsa added on weekends.

So all this AM/FM babble is the background to my “new” listening experiences which in turn changed my record purchases from TOP 40 hits (45RPM) to albums.

During that November I purchased “Love Forever Changes”, my first LOVE lp, their third and final collection. I picked up  CREAM’s “Disraeli Gears” (did not have “Fresh Cream”) and spent hours looking at the cover while trying to decipher the meaning of “SWLABR”. Incidentally, the album was recorded (May 1967) following the nine days of CREAM being part of MURRAY THE K’S “Music In The Fifth Dimension” series.

Murray The K’s Music In The 5th Dimension | RKO 58 St Theater (28 shows over nine days and nights) featuring:

Mitch Ryder & Detroit Wheels, Wilson Pickett, The Who, Hardly-Worthit Players, Cream, Blues Magoos, The Blues Project, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Jim & Jean, Mandala, The Chicago Loop, Phil Ochs, Simon & Garfunkel, The Young Rascals

(udiscovermusic.com)When both The Who and Cream made their live debut in America, it could hardly have been any less auspicious. It happened for both of them on 25 March 1967 at the RKO Keith Theater on 58th and 3rd Ave in New York City. The shows were redolent of the old 1940s variety shows with a bill packed with artists that actually began at 10 o’clock in the morning and ran all day with a movie thrown in for good measure. All the artists on the bill played five shows a day and it was grueling; the whole thing was promoted by New York’s legendary DJ, Murray the K.

The Who and Cream, or The Cream as they were billed, were well down the bill. Headlining were Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Wilson Pickett, with Buddy Miles was on drums, The Hardly Worthit Players, The Mandala, the Chicago Loop, Simon & Garfunkel, Jim & Jean, Phil Ochs, The Young Rascals and The Blues Project, Al Kooper’s band.

My next album was “Buffalo Springfield Again” their second album (my first) followed by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE’s  “After Bathing at Baxters”. “Surrelistic Pillow” was a man stay on my turntable before this collection was released on November 30,1967. This was departure and I loved that band. By the end of the CHRISTMAS release season I also had Hendrix’s “Axis As Bold As Love”, Dylan’s “John Wesley Harding” and an album I still love “The Who Sell Out”. Times surely had changed and so did my record collection.

Recently, I checked the files for purchases I made when I was 16 years old in 1968. Not surprisingly, those discs were all receiving heavy rotation on WNEW-FM: “Super Session”-Bloomfield,Kooper and Stills, The Airplane’s “Crown of Creation”, Jeff Beck’s amazing “Truth”, Big Brother and The Holding Company’s “Cheap Thrills”, Traffic’s second album, The Doors “Waiting For The Sun” and a fav of mine The Small Faces “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake”. Also included were:Dance To The Music,We’re Only In It For The Money, The Notorious Byrds Brothers, Anthem of The Sun, Child Is The Father To The Man, Odessey and Oracle, SweetHeart of The Rodeo, The Village Green Preservation Society, Wheels of Fire, Dr John’s GRIS GRIS, Electric Ladyland, Beggar’s Banquet, Music From Big Pink and of course THE BEATLES akaThe White Album.

 

TICKETS TORN IN HALF:October 31,1970- LEE MICHAELS/CACTUS/Juicy Lucy@FILLMORE EAST

TICKETS TORN IN HALF:October 31,1970- LEE MICHAELS/CACTUS/Juicy Lucy@FILLMORE EAST The phone rings during the week and surprisingly my supposedly ex-girlfriend was asking if “we”were still on for the Saturday night Halloween show at Fillmore East. She added we might need to “talk” to clear the air. Having already decided that the ticket(s) was hers I told her I was not going to go. The next day she showed up at one of my classes and asked me to reconsider, to go, please.So now It’s Halloween 1970 and LEE MICHAELS, CACTUS, JUICY LUCY is the bill at Fillmore East. We took the train, rather than me driving as I knew I would have a better time by not driving. I grabbed two train passes so that was no transportation expense for me. I also decided not to be anyone’s fool so no wine did I purchase, just my smokes. The ride in was reasonably fun and I suspected a good time could be in the making.However, Juicy Lucy was forgetable. Having snuck in my portable tape recorder I captured a great Cactus performance the highlight of which was Rusty Day’s Halloween Boogie rant. Lee Michaels was just okay to me but my concert compatriots adored him. Me thinks it was his looks for the ladies and the musical inexperience on the part of others.The show was lackluster and so was the relationship.

 

TICKETS TORN IN HALF:ZAPPA’s HALLOWEEN in New York.

TICKETS TORN IN HALF:ZAPPA’s HALLOWEEN in New York.

First, there was a residency at the Garrick Theatre in 1967. I was a youngster but do remember the poster of their shows gracing many walls and telephone poles throughout lower Manhattan.(see attached). Then there were the “Mother’s Day” shows at Fillmore East, and finally the HALLOWEEN EXTRAVAGANZA’s. What a glorious time it was. Here’s what I wrote in my “music journal”, by date, not years, so pay attention.

TICKETS TORN IN HALF: FRANK ZAPPA-OCTOBER 28,1978 at THE PALLADIUM  in New York. This is my fifth Zappa show and second for HALLOWEEN @The Palladium. It’s a tradition for ZAPPA, one which I needed to see again and my wife arranges a babysitter so she can come. It’s another fantastic ZAPPA extravaganza, long and of course with the mandatory audience participation. The HALLOWEEN dvd was recorded the night we were there. The only problem with sitting in the orchestra is that the tall ass mother…who sat in front of me had on a huge, round bunny head with large floppy ears costume, making my vision to the stage blocked quite a bit.

(discog.com)

Instruments Check

The Deathless Horsie

Intro / Band Introduction

Dancin’ Fool

Easy Meat

Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me?

Keep It Greasey

The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing

City Of Tiny Lights

A Pound For A Brown (On The Bus)

Thirteen

NYC Audience

Bamboozled By Love

Sy Borg

Mo’s Vacation

Bobby Brown Goes Down

Prelude To “Packard Goose”

Packard Goose

Encore Intro

Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow

Nanook Rubs It

St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast

Father O’ Blivion

TICKETS TORN IN HALF:FRANK ZAPPA- October 29,1977:My fourth Zappa show and first HALLOWEEN experience@ The Palladium.This was an amazing spectacular performance. The band was tight, the audience loose and me mellow as can be. What a great night it was. We need to do this again,soon. Prior to the show while waiting on line to get in, I’m having a smoke and four drunken teens walk by. One said loudly “ Hey man, ain’t you the new teacher?” I looked him directly in the eye and said What?”, to which he restated the question. I said, “I’m not a teacher, man”. They left. The next Monday in school I saw the kid sitting on the radiator outside my class. I walked over and asked, “How was Zappa?”. He jumped up and said, “I knew it was you.”

FRANK ZAPPA and THE MOTHERS.

From zappa.com:

1.  10-29-77 Show 1 Start/Introductions  4:06

2.  Peaches En Regalia  2:42

3.  The Torture Never Stops  12:59

4.  Tryin’ To Grow A Chin  3:34

5.  City Of Tiny Lites  7:15

6.  Pound For A Brown  8:26

7.  Bobby Brown Goes Down  6:06

8.  Conehead (Instrumental)  5:50

9.  Flakes  3:53

10. Big Leg Emma  1:52

11. Envelopes  2:42

12. Terry’s Solo #3  3:51

13. Disco Boy  3:57

14. Lather  3:40

15. Wild Love  22:51

16. Titties N Beer  6:01

17. Audience Participation #3  2:42

18. The Black Page #2  3:05

19. Jones Crusher  2:53

20. Broken Hearts Are For Assholes  3:50

21. Punky’s Whips  9:18

22. Encore Audience #3  1:46

23. Dinah-Moe Humm  5:12

24. Camarillo Brillo  3:29

25. Muffin Man  5:09

TICKETS TORN IN HALF:October 31, 1980_FRANK ZAPPA@The Palladium This is my sixth Zappa show and third Halloween Palladium event. I did not write much in my journal after this but did note” CHUNGA’s REVENGE but no PEACHES. Another great ZAPPA show”.

(background)It must have been that GARRICK THEATRE poster that I saw while walking around Greenwich Village especially the one which lasted for years outside the movie theatre on 8th Street that piqued my interest in this strange looking ensemble known as THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION. Strange name also. Who or what are they?

It’s Spring of 1967, me a fifteen year old who most every Saturday when the weather was good was checking out the street art shows in and around THE VILLAGE with my art teacher, a Franciscan Nun. She was hip to what was happening, and years later left the order for a commune or something. Anyway back to the poster. We get off the subway and there it is. A few steps later there is another and another, and another. So on down the street. THE MOTHERS (written in bold) of Invention (not so bold) at THE GARRICK THEATRE Tuesday thru Sunday ,each poster with a photo of a man with a pronounced almost comical mustache and the heads of some other guys under his photo.

A few months later Back at school (September) a guy in one of my art classes brings in two albums: THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION- Freak Out and ABSOLUTELY FREE. Hey, that’s the poster, I thought. Who are these guys? I must admit my naive ears where not accepting what I was hearing. This isn’t rock music. WTF. I gave up early.

1969: I got an 8 track copy of CRUSIN’ WITH RUBIN AND THE JETS (released 1968) which never left my player for the longest time. It was a blast. This lead me to buy the album WE’RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY (released before R&TJ). October finds the HOT RATS album in the racks of the local record store and I’m sold on FRANK ZAPPA.A few months later CHUNGA’S REVENGE (1970) is joining my ever growing collection of vinyl. I need to see this band and soon.Until then add as many MOTHERS records to the pile.

I had every intention of seeing THE MOTHERS at their FILLMORE EAST performance November 13, 1970 but as I had tickets for TYA at MSG I missed it. It’s a long story.Geez, it would have been nice in more ways than one to see ZAPPA that night.

Now, I have two tickets for the late show June 1971.It’s never been the same as that night along with other nights changed my perception of live music. Even thought I left early AND missed John and Yoko with the MOTHERS, it WAS never the same. They were funny and musically sound. WOW

 

ROCK’S IN MY HEAD:CHAPTER 34-VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA

ROCK’S IN MY HEAD:CHAPTER 34-VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA

After taking my siblings to see The Stones and it being Thanksgiving Weekend I think Mom forgave me for my indiscretion(s) because the day after seeing The Stones I was back on the train to enjoy Jefferson Airplane, again. Man, I loved that band. Tonight they were sharing the bill with another San Franciscan band, The Youngbloods. I only bought two tickets so I had no problems with “other” friends expecting seats. This show was for ME, seeing one of my favorite live bands, except my girlfriend was suspiciously catching on to me leaving my seat just before the main act. Joseph Eger was a classical horn player trying to infuse rock and jazz into what he did, hence CROSSOVER, which was strange even for a Fillmore opening act. Crossover was followed by The Youngbloods who played a nice, truly enjoyable, laid back set. Jesse Colin Young had a great voice, smooth as silk. Then, THE AIRPLANE landed even hotter than the last time. Happy Thanksgiving weekend, I couldn’t believe it, with The Airplane and The Rolling Stones. It would be back to reality as we had school on Monday.

It’s almost 1970, actually December 69, but we are near enough to start the celebration of  a “New Decade”. Closing out 1969, America had experienced the festival known as WOODSTOCK, cheered for the soon to be nicknamed “Amazing” NY Mets who won the World Series, while on television Americans watch our astronauts plant a flag on the moon. Then, The Stones played Altamont. 1969 in a nutshell: The good, the great, the bad and the ugly.

At one of the notorious weekend house parties at a friend’s house with  TIME WAS being played in the background someone suggests we, the group, get tickets to see JETHRO TULL. Subliminal? I think not. Stoned, definitely . Who ever was in was in, as was said ,and if you were in then you needed to toss in your money ASAP.This was going to be a large group outing. My heart said NO, as I wanted to see HENDRIX on NewYears Eve and was saving my money it being Christmas and all. But the group won, actually my girlfriend won as she wanted to go with the group. Many tickets for TULL with FAT MATTRESS and GRAND FUNK RAILROAD opening were purchased… Grand WHAT? WHO? Never heard of them but I threw in my 11 bucks for two seats.

Tickets arrive and away we go. A few bottles of wine for the train ride and some Marlboro Reds, orchestra seats far back on the right side. Grand Funk Railroad opened and were loud, very loud, fast and so loud, with a hair flowing lead guitarist running about on the stage. Geez, they got an encore and then another encore…WHAT? An opening act at Fillmore East getting multiple encores? Grand What? It was unusual even with my limited concert experience to see an opening band called back more than once. I was not too impressed saying so later to the group. Oh, not too cool on my part as most everyone in our little group loved them.

Then, FAT MATTRESS hit the stage, a band which was basically Noel Redding the ex-bassist for Hendrix’s Experience, now on his own playing lead guitar and singing. Seems like he hooked up with a bunch of his drinking buddies to form this band. Fat Mattress was not particularly good, terrible actually. They did a tune called ALL NIGHT DRINKER to which I think Noel wrote because he was a drunk and proud of it. Then JETHRO TULL hits the stage opening with NOTHING IS EASY. Pretty cool but something was amiss, somewhere the natural order of this my small circle of “friends” appeared to be changing as 1969 morphs into THE SEVENTIES. Different drugs, different likes, different reactions.

1969: Records In My Rotation included the debut album from Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, THE BEATLES Abbey Road, which is a hard listen for me, THE WHO Tommy another difficult record to listen to all the way through, KING CRIMSON’S In The Court Of The Crimson King a great record, one that for its time was truly unique, THE ROLLING STONES Beggar’s Banquet which never left my turntable and the follow-up release Let It Bleed, NEIL YOUNG’s masterpiece Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, ZAPPA’s Hot Rats which help change my musical perspective, FLEETWOOD MAC’s Then Play On, CSN debut, Blind Faith’s one and only official release which is a strange record, Nashville Skyline by BOB DYLAN, The MC5’s Kick Out The Jams, Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul which came when I did not respond in time to a record company selection deadline and glad I got this gem,Chicago Transit Authority double set before they shortened their name to CHICAGO,  Jethro Tull’s Stand Up, Live Dead, The DOORS Soft Parade, PINK FLOYD’s Ummagumma, Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers, and PROCOL HARUM’s A Salty Dog which was actually my brothers record.

TICKETS TORN IN HALF:October 26,1974-JACKSON BROWNE/BONNIE RAITT@ Capital Theater in Passaic, New Jersey. 

TICKETS TORN IN HALF:October 26,1974-JACKSON BROWNE/BONNIE RAITT@ Capital Theater in Passaic, New Jersey.  Late For The Sky his 3rd lp was released, selling like hotcakes and he was recently on the cover of Rolling Stone. Last outing,October where he headlined Philharmonic Hall was a blast and we had to go again. Bonnie was in her element also that night.

 

TICKETS TORN IN HALF: The Who @ Fillmore East Performing “TOMMY” October 25, 1969

OCT 25, 1969: It has only been about 5 months since their last performance at FILLMORE EAST but 5 months in 1969 was an eternity for a rock band. Scheduled as THE WHO “TOMMY” @ FILLMORE EAST for Six nights, just THE WHO, no opening act and – WOW was this loud as THE WHO brought their own sound system, all 45 speaker cabinets worth cluttered the stage to premier their rock opera TOMMY, mixed in with a few hits and misses. First time a band played FILLMORE EAST midweek and for 6 consecutive days AND allowed to use their own PA.Two sets with an intermission between.  Keith on UNION JACK Premier drums. WOW/LOUD/UNBELIEVABLE is all I wrote in my notebook after the show.

 

TICKETS TORN IN HALF: October 24,1970- DEREK AND THE DOMINOES/HUMBLE PIE/Ballin’ Jack @FILLMORE EAST

TICKETS TORN IN HALF: October 24,1970- DEREK AND THE DOMINOES/HUMBLE PIE/Ballin’ Jack @FILLMORE EAST

I was officially alone, a one ticket kinda guy, encouraging some friends to see Derek and The Dominoes with Humble Pie and Ballin’Jack at Fillmore East. However, I knew this particular small circle of friends would not last too long as far too many drugs were ingested, by them not me. I was there for the music. Tonight was like babysitting brats. One guy lost his ticket outside after cussing out a NYPD officer, another nodded off during Humble Pie (as loud as they were), and then, the guy who lost his ticket shows up with an usher just as Derek and The Dominoes were introduced and claims I have his ticket. The usher politely asked me to accompany him to the lobby, to which I responded “NO” and then I explained that the empty seat next to me is for “the drugged out motherfucker” who dropped his ticket somewhere. The usher nodded, and sat my “friend” who promptly took a nap. I couldn’t wait to drop them off and vowed that it would be the last time I would go out with them as danger lurked there. HUMBLE PIE was a knockout success and DEREK AND THE DOMINOES as expected, outstanding. Musically, I was one happy man.

 

TICKETS TORN IN HALF:October 22,1971-DR. JOHN/ WEATHER REPORT @ BEACON

TICKETS TORN IN HALF:October 22,1971-DR. JOHN/ WEATHER REPORT @ BEACON

Dr John and Weather Report @ Beacon. Two tickets supplied by Atco Records for  playing Dr. John records on my radio show. First row with complimentary bar service.This happened to be my first real date with a new girlfriend (later to be my wife), impressive it was as we were invited to meet the band and stay for the second show but the train was awaiting for our journey home.The good Doctor was in the house and killed it for sure. I only wish the house was filled but it was sparse to say the least. Weather Report was just okay. I had expected so much more from them after hearing all the raves at the Newport Jazz Fest about this “supergroup”. Maybe it was just an off night.