As the hot weather arrived my part time job turned into full time summer employment and that was the excuse I used for not going on my family’s first extended vacation. “I’m staying home to work”. Full time employment gave me plenty of cash to spend on my obsession: music, live music. Money Orders and Self Addressed Stamped Envelops became the norm for pay days, and tickets started arriving almost daily.
But as they sang on ever popular TV show LAUGH IN “what’s the news across the nation”,
Warren Burger becomes CHIEF JUSTICE of THE SUPREME COURT and two weeks later he votes with the majority in ROE v WADE, establishing a woman’s right to an abortion. In late June I read an article about the STONEWALL RIOTS, a confrontation between gay rights activists and the NYPD outside the gay bar STONEWALL INN located in Greenwich Village. Sexuality, the way folks thought about sexuality was changing right in front of our eyes, Women’s Rights, Gay Rights.
For some strange reason in the late sixties record companies coined the phrase SUPER GROUP, as in “CREAM the first” and a bit later more notably BLIND FAITH. TIME magazine even wrote about the designation of “supergroup” as a “potent but short-lived rock phenomenon” which was an “amalgam formed by the talented malcontents of other bands.” The same article acknowledged that groups such as Cream and Blind Faith “played enormous arenas and made megabucks, and sometimes megamusic” .Harsh words but somewhat true especially in the case of BLIND FAITH, JULY 12,1969 at MADISON SQUARE GARDEN.
To put BLIND FAITH in context, the week they performed at THE GARDEN, “IN THE YEAR 2525” by Zager and Evans was a Number 1 hit across the nation. Lord help us. So for what in today’s economic standards would be a meager $6.50, but was costly in ’69, I ventured to see the American debut of BLIND FAITH the “newest” SUPER GROUP featuring Eric Clapton (guitar/vocals) and Ginger Baker(drums) from the aforementioned “supergroup” CREAM, Ric Grech (bass and violin) from FAMILY and Steve Winwood (vocals, guitar,keyboards) from TRAFFIC on the same bill with FREE, and DELANEY, BONNIE and FRIENDS. All to be showcased on a revolving stage set in the middle of the cavernous arena; which in hindsight the center stage placement was not a good idea.
A few of my thoughts on the performance are a bit cloudy, musically that is, especially the BLIND FAITH portion of the show as their first lp was still days away from hitting the shops and most of their live material they played that night was unfamiliar to the attending audience, me especially. It was believed that their musicianship when blended together should have perked up our ears, as the members were already “musical legends”. In hindsight one could say that these guys as a band hit the road a bit too early. Add to that, the sound system used that evening was atrocious.
The English group FREE kicked off their American career with an enthusiast set to which the audience responded in kind, some even positive. Most of their tunes were unfamiliar to this crowd as would be BLIND FAITH’s set.
This night was my second shot at seeing DB and F in only a month’s time. Again the sound system hindered their funky proselytizing but from where I sat they worked and wooed the crowd to its feet.
Blind Faith on the other hand was dead in the water from the opening tune.They appeared underrehearsed, seemingly uncomfortable with each other on stage and then there was the poor sound system to deal with. About 18,000 people awaiting to hear songs they were unfamiliar with didn’t add anything positive to the mix. It was truly a blind faith on our part for showing up as only one song had been released by this “super group”. Being familiar with Traffic and Cream I was anticipating a blend of both from this outfit and Blind Faith did their Cream/Traffic thing as expected until tensions in the crowd grew and the show was ended by the NYPD. Ginger Baker hit some security guard (NYPD) who allegedly “manhandled” a girl near the stage. Show over or the musical portion had but now the dramatics began as the security team attempted to get the “supergroup” through the crowd surrounding the circular stage in the center of Madison Square Garden. From what I remember the NYPD who were slighted by Mr. Baker did little to control the crowd hindering the security attempt to exit the band.
Despite all this drama and a poor sound equipment, overall, this show was a great concert experience for my young concert days. Yes, sometimes the crowd IS the show as it was tonight and sometimes the undercard (Free and DB&F) is better.
The set list is from a bootleg which has circulated for some time.
Had To Cry Today
Can’t Find My Way Home
Sleeping In The Ground
Well All Right
In The Presence Of The Lord
Sea Of Joy
Do What You Like
Means To An End