For my second post in The San Francisco Sound series I have another great Bay Area band from the 60s, It’s A Beautiful Day. Here’s a short history of the band that I compiled from bluoz.com and Wikipedia.
It’s a story that has been repeated way too often in the music business……talented band signs with crooked manager. Unfortunately it’s exactly what happened with It’s A Beautiful Day. The band initially formed in San Francisco in 1967 and soon signed a management deal with Matthew Katz. Katz was already the manager of two established San Francisco bands, Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape , so It’s A Beautiful Day thought they were on their way. Little did they know that both Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape were scrambling to cut their ties with Katz. Rather than allowing the band to start to establish its reputation in the hot San Francisco music scene Katz exiled them to Seattle………to play at a crappy club that HE owned. The band tanked in Seattle! When they finally made it back to San Francisco they took matters into their own hands, started to book their own dates, and began building a fan base.
Let’s listen to a couple of great live performances from the great Fillmore Concert Hall in San Francisco during that timeframe……
Hot Summer Day (Live At The Fillmore 1968)
White Bird (Live At The Fillmore 1968)
After kickstarting their career (without the help of Katz) they started to try to sever their ties with Katz via a lawsuit. It was ugly but the band won their freedom in mid-1969 with the court determining that it was the band’s talent, not Katz’s management, that was the basis for their success. Once free, the band quickly signed a recording contract with Columbia records and recorded a terrific, self-titled, debut album that included both of the songs above. White Bird actually became a minor hit for the band, reaching 118 on the singles chart.
As it turns out, Katz wasn’t completely useless…..the band wrote White Bird while exiled to Seattle. In the words of David LaFlamme, a classically trained violinist and defacto leader of the band,…..
“Where the ‘white bird’ thing came from…We were like caged birds in an attic. We had no money, no transportation, the weather was miserable. We were just barely getting by on a very small food allowance provided to us. I was quite an experience, but it was very creative in a way.”
Talk about turning lemons into lemonade…….
Unfortunately, the band soon started to implode with the original members leaving over time. There would be more albums but none that reached the heights of their amazing debut. As a bonus, here’s that debut album in it’s entirety.
1. White Bird (0:00–6:11)
2. Hot Summer Day (6:12–12:02)
3. Wasted Union Blues (12:03–16:12)
4. Girl With No Eyes (16:13–20:03)
5. Bombay Calling (20:04–24:32)
6. Bulgaria (24:33–30:47)
7. Time Is (30:48–40:27)
Remember Katz…..well he wasn’t done with the group yet. In 1973 he refiled his original lawsuit and this time he won….. most likely because the original group no longer existed. Katz won the rights to the band name and the group, at least under the name It’s A Beautiful Day, was no more. Yet another sad tale from the music business!