I have a special treat for you today. A great documentary about, Jefferson Airplane, the best of the San Francisco bands from the 1960s. This is true rock history, some amazing rock music, and a chance to observe the beautiful and talented Grace Slick in her prime. Enjoy……
The San Francisco Sound
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!
Some of you may not be familiar with Quicksilver Messenger Service so here’s a quick introduction from my copy of Lillian Roxon’s Rock Encyclopedia…..
One of the very first bands to take part in the San Francisco rock scene of the sixties. Quicksilver can trace its roots back to 1965. They played mostly for the citizens of Haight-Asbury at free concerts and for the patrons of the Fillmore and Avalon at the height of the flower period in 1966 and 1967. They did not record until quite late in their careers, turning down offers until they considered themselves entirely put together and ready for the studio. Their first album disappointed some of their fans in that it was a “studio” album in the traditional sense, with much of the band’s in-concert power pasteurized (albeit magnificently). They more than made up for this lack of edge on their second album, Happy Trails, one of the finest live albums ever recorded. Lead guitarist Cipollina’s glittering, quivering guitar lines stole the show, making the hard-hitting band sound like the equivalent of a sea resort “happy feet” machine.
So with this as an introduction I give you the first two Quicksilver albums in their entirety. I highly recommend that you take the time to enjoy the talents of John Cipollina (guitar), Gary Duncan (guitar, vocals), David Freiberg (bass, vocals), and Greg Elmore (drums)……..
Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968)
Happy Trails (1969)
While the two albums above were represent Quicksilver at the height of their musical prowess, their biggest radio hit was still yet to come in 1970. As a bonus, here is a great 1971 live version of that hit, Fresh Air, from 1971 at the Fillmore.
By the time of this performance John Cipollina had left the band and Dino Valente had returned. (note: Dino was a founding member of the group but was in jail for a pot bust by the time the group recorded their first two albums.)