A closer look at music and its effect on history and culture
Here's the Latest Episode from The Echo Chamber:
As we gather this week to witness the inauguration of our new president, we find our nation in a state of great political unrest. While certain recent events of violence at the Capitol are no doubt unprecedented, it is certainly not the first time an inauguration in our country has been met with divide.
In 1973, the United States was reaching the concluding stages of our involvement in the Vietnam. And while the war would soon come to an end, the proceeding weeks leading up to the inauguration were met with some of the most intense and deadly bombing campaigns the war had witnessed. The anti-war movement was unhinged. They had marched, they had protest – all to seemingly no avail when it came to changing the foreign policies of Richard Nixon.
So what to do next…. American conductor, Leonard Bernstein, gathered an impromptu orchestra and choir to perform a “Concert for Peace”, following his belief that by creating beauty, and by sharing it with as many people as possible, artists had the power to tip the earthly balance in favor of brotherhood and peace.
Special thanks to Michael Chikinda, Alicia Kopfstein, Matt Holsen, and Bernie Swain for sharing their insight and memories of the musical events surrounding Nixon and his second inauguration in 1973.
A Plea for Peace: Leonard Bernstein, Richard Nixon, and the Music of the 1973 Inauguration
ARCHIVAL: Not everybody is here this weekend to celebrate. Thousands of demonstrators are expected. They’ve spent weeks organizing and are here to protest the war. “This is one anti-war demonstration that Mr. Nixon is not going to avoid. Past demonstrations he has fled town, nobody sees him now. He’s never explained to the nation why he ordered these saturation bombing rates on Hanoi and Haiphong, but this is one time he’s going to have to be present. We know he’s not going to be out of town and we want to be there at the same time.”
Alicia Kopfstein-Penk (AKP): The number of people who were in DC, it was thousands upon thousands. 18,000 were at the cathedral alone. To have the cathedral so full like that… full to the gills. There was no room. It was just overwhelming, to try to find a place to park, of course, but to be with so many like-minded people. Contrasting with so many protests now where there’s violence, it was so peaceful. There was such an attitude of goodwill and camaraderie and companionship. That was just incredible. I’m Dr. Alicia Kopfstein-Penk, I teach at American University and I’m a contributor and co-editor of a recent collection of essays called Leonard Bernstein and Washington DC. I was a singer in Leonard Bernstein’s “Concert for Peace” that happened at the Washington National Cathedral in January of 1973.
ARCHIVAL: Introduction to the three official inaugural concerts tonight. There’s a fourth unofficial one. Leonard Bernstein is conducting what is called a “Concert for Peace” at the Washington Cathedral. Admission is free, arrangements have been made to pipe the program outside. It is thought that 10,000 persons might show up, many of them anti-war protesters.
AKP: There was hope, there was desire for peace, there was love, but there’s also a resignation, a fear because people had done their utmost to try to protest the war and it didn’t seem to change anything. Years and years and years of protest still led to the Christmas bombing. So it was just, we’re getting desperate. Let’s do everything we possibly can.
The Vietnam War went from 1959 to 1975. When Nixon was elected the second time, it was shortly after some more horrors in the Vietnam war. We had Kent State and the Pentagon papers, the My Lai massacres. Films and photographs were available in Time and Look and all the major magazines and newspapers showing women and children and young people just lying dead by the road. Shocking for people in this country. There were a lot of anti-war protests and Bernstein participated in those anti-war protests.
Michael Chikinda (MC): The Nixon administration was very frustrated with the lack of progress in resolving the situation in Vietnam. So they began what was later dubbed the “Christmas Bombings”. There was this very intensive bombing campaign to try to force the Vietnamese government into submission. It was a very unpopular decision.
ARCHIVAL: The sound in the background is a jet that is gone by. I can hear some bombs in the distance. The sky is lighting up. So something’s gone on somewhere.
AKP: It was a two week bombing campaign with over 20,000 tons of bombs dropped on civilian areas of Vietnam. Over 1600 people were killed, civilians mostly. Over 2000 homes were destroyed. So, this is what people in the United States were hearing about.
ARCHIVAL: Arriving from New York. Ms. Baez said recent US bombing rates had delayed her departure from Hanoi for a week. After a warm greeting by family and friends in San Francisco, she outlined some of the bomb damage described by one of her colleagues as far heavier than the London blitz.
MC: The American composer Vincent Persichetti was approached by Nixon’s second inauguration committee on the recommendation of Eugene Ormandy, the principal conductor at the Philadelphia orchestra with a commission. They wanted him to compose a new piece of music that would accompany the text from Lincoln’s second inaugural address of 1865. The administration realized how unpopular the Christmas bombing was. Initially they approached Persichetti and asked him to maybe remove certain passages that they felt could somehow be construed as critical of the Nixon administration’s policies with Vietnam. And then ultimately they decided to remove the piece entirely and go a different direction. My name is Michael Chikinda. I’m head of the Theory Area at the University of Utah school of music. And I wrote an article for the Journal of Music and Politics entitled “Lincoln, Persichetti, and the Second Inauguration of Richard Nixon: A Study in Artistic Vision Versus Political Expediency.”
The inaugural committee were very concerned about anything that could bring further controversy to what was supposed to be a very celebratory event. There were massive protests going on across the country in Washington. And so they wanted to squelch any possibility of something that would be inflammatory that would really stoke the fire. There were these memos back and forth. And then they finally decided ultimately that even after they removed some key phrases, they still felt the spirit somehow of Nixon’s second inaugural that somehow people might draw a connection between this line of texts in Lincoln’s speech to certain policies of the Nixon administration. So they said, we’re going to dispense with this altogether and we’re going to look for other texts. They looked at Longfellow’s Hiawatha, the Declaration of Independence. They even looked at bizarrely at some poetry by Ray Bradbury. I think that was one of the most curious things that… just imagined for this….Okay. This is a presidential inauguration, right? You have the speech by one of the most important and beloved presidents from US history. Oh no, no, we can’t have that! Instead, let’s look at the poetry of Ray Bradbury called “Madrigals for the Space Age”. When you make a choice to remove something as important as President Lincoln’s speech and expect that that’s not going to have fallout you really, the naivety it’s just…it’s hubris. But when you make this step, when you decide, okay, this cannot see the light of day, you know, take it out. That inevitably always ends up having the opposite reaction. You know, in the case of the Nixon administration, they thought that by removing the Persichetti piece with the text by Lincoln, the press just had a field day with it. You know, what? You’re censoring Lincoln? There’s a wonderful cartoon by a satirist Wayne Stayskal and in the first frame, it shows this figure violently kicking Persichetti in his posterior and the leaves to the score flying Helter Skelter. And this person be anybody from the committee, Ken Reitz, Ed Cowling, whoever saying, Sorry Mr. Persichetti, your composition is being deleted from the inaugural concert because it mentions war. A little embarrassing to the president se feel. Then in the second pane of the cartoon, another figure walks up to this person who’s just kicked Persichetti. And he says, Oh dear, here’s another that mentions rockets and bombs. Well, get rid of it, whatever it is. And this person says, “Uh, it’s the National Anthem! Oh, on second thought we could play it softly!” I love that because that just really captures the field day the press was having with this, right? And at the same time, the utter absurdity, if the situation, you know, the thing that you can put a lid on these things.
MC: Richard Nixon was very fond of Eugene Ormandy and very appreciative of the work Ormandy did with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Wanting to have Ormandy in the Philadelphia Orchestra play, this was a personal preference of the president as was the inclusion of course of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
ARCHIVAL: Almost 70 years later, Tchaikovsky wrote this piece. It’s also a favorite of Mr. Nixon, as we told you, he first heard it in Philadelphia, played by this orchestra in 1970…
MC: That amongst everything else was something that had to be on the program. Now, why again, with all of the suspicion surrounding Lincoln speech, the defeat of Napoleon in Russia, you know, and some people were referring to Nixon as a dictator, given his policies of Vietnam. Why was there no connection drawn there? Really? Do we want some sort of tacit comparison between Nixon and Napoleon, but again, that was no problem there, you know, because Nixon absolutely loved the 1812 overture. The other thing is there are cannons! It’s scored for cannons going off.
MC: It’s just so funny. I mean, there’s no problem, no pains of conscience with the 1812 Overture, but Lincoln’s second inaugural address, hmm…that won’t do. It really boggles the mind, the thought process that goes into these sorts of things.
LINK: On January 20, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon and Charles W. Colson talked on the telephone from 1:04 am to 1:46 am. The White House Telephone taping system captured this recording, which is known as Conversation 036-018 of the White House Tapes. LISTEN
AKP: At the same time, Francis Sayre was the Dean of the Washington National Cathedral and Dean Sayre and Bernstein got together to decided to give a concert for peace in protest. And even though Dean Sayre said this is not an anti inaugural, it was scheduled on the same night at the same time. So what worked to perform? Haydn’s Mass in Time of War, it features ‘a dona nobis pacem’, a desire for peace. This is what he was hoping for. Also I’m sure Bernstein picked the Haydn in part because he knew modernist works took too long to rehearse. And this was put together very quickly with very little rehearsal.
Matt Holsen (MH): I got a call from somebody from Choral Arts from Norman Scribner, he was the director of the Choral Arts Society. And he was like the guy to go to for a choir in DC. There wasn’t time to do auditions for the Concert for Peace because I’m sure Bernstein called them and said, Can you have me a choir ready to rehearse in a week? I was on his list and he said, Do you want to do something with Bernstein again? And I said, sure. And I showed up for rehearsal.
AKP: It got pulled together amazingly quickly with phone calls. I remember Bernstein walking out somewhat resigned to a rehearsal with an amateur choir and he gave the downbeat and conducted a clear beat pattern. And the chorus sounded absolutely fantastic. And Bernstein blossomed and began just conducting the feeling of the music.
MH: We had one or two piano rehearsals, and then we had maybe one or two rehearsals with Bernstein, and then we did the concert. It was pretty intense. My name is Matt Holsen and in ’73, I was a bass in the choir for the Concert for Peace. I was 20 at the time. And it was extremely exciting. I really didn’t even understand a whole lot about what was going on in the war and in politics at that age. I really didn’t, but I was happy to be part of something protesting Nixon’s second inauguration. But mostly it was just, you know, working with Bernstein, which is a real pleasure. I mean, it’s…everything is so easy when you have a good conductor. There’s something about …the only way I could explain it is you just latched onto his hands and you did it. He made it easy.
Bernie Swain (BS): My impression, right from the beginning was that Bernstein had shouldered the burden of making up for any deficiencies in preparation or previous experience of this group. That he was going to personally lead them through the piece by sheer force of will and charisma. He leaned into the piece and into the space of the orchestra and into the chorus, exerting a level of psychic and even moral energy that by the end left him completely drained. His hair was wet and limp. His face was running, his clothes were soaked through. He had basically rung this performance out of the orchestra and the chorus. My name is Bernie Swain. I was working in Washington in 1973 at the age of 23, and I attended the anti-inaugural Concert for Peace at the National Cathedral on the evening before the re-inauguration of Richard Nixon. When the news came out that Bernstein might do a concert, I was very interested. The ticket would be free and available at noon, so they expect that a big line of people. My girlfriend’s classmate offered to go down. The limit was three tickets per person in line, and she offered to get a ticket for herself and tickets for us. And it turned out she got there at noon was basically first in line. And so we got first Pew tickets to the concert. I was in the very first seat, the aisle seat of the first pew. When the VIP’s arrived, most of the people who filed in directly across from us were people that we recognized. There was Senator Charles Mathias. There was Eugene McCarthy, there was Ted Kennedy and his sister, there was a whole range of big names of the Democratic party lined up just opposite us. Made us feel even more privileged because we were basically had the same sight lines they did. We were at the same distance that they were. There was a sense of fellow participation, of common bond because we knew we were all there for the same reason.
MH: I understood it as a counter inaugural. You know, that’s what people called it, you know, we are the counter inaugural concert. And I remember a lot of people talking about how well I’m glad my name’s not on any program because I work for the department of such and such. You know, there were a lot of people were like federal employees. There were a lot of members of the National Symphony who played and who, again, didn’t want their names on there because it was controversial. Although I gather the National Symphony felt snubbed because Nixon had wanted the Philadelphia Symphony to play. And I think everybody in DC knew that the Philadelphia was a much better orchestra.
BS: Of course, people were angry because they had not wanted Nixon reelected. They were doubly angry over the war. They were triply angry because of his choice of the inaugural concert. Not only had he snubbed the National Symphony, which was the traditional agent for the inaugural concert, but he had selected Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, which people took to be a fairly warlike choice. It just seemed like another lack of class on Nixon’s part. So I was particularly happy that Bernstein had chosen in a sense to rescue them by bringing them back on his stage. And if anybody in this country was a bigger figure at the podium than somebody like Ormandy, it was clearly somebody like Bernstein, who was the superstar of all American conductors. So there was a way in which the feeling was that this had trumped Ormandy, had trumped Philadelphia, and above all had trumped Nixon. And the audience they were kind of in a vengeful world. They were kind of almost triumphal. That maybe we lost the election, but here’s our chance to be heard. There was a kind of electric air as people gathered into the cathedral because they were so anxious to hear this event as a way of even kind of flipping the finger to Richard Nixon, it seemed like both politically and musically, it was the perfect revenge.
AKP: Bernstein, his fan mail said, I commend you for taking this courageous position. I admire you. It takes much courage for a public figure to take a stand and it is the most creative protest I have heard. The critic Richard freed actually wrote the marvelous Haydn mass you have chosen to perform is not a prayer for victory, but a supplication for peace is as an inspired, a choice for such an event as the 1812 Overture in the context of the official inaugural concert is obscene.
BS: The buzz that was in the cathedral before the speakers started was something the musicians were very aware of because they were on the stage. And I think they knew the import of this event. They knew what it meant to people. They knew that it wasn’t just people attending a concert to listen to music. It was a statement and it was a political statement. It was a national statement. It was a cultural statement. The fact that it was in the national cathedral, raise the ante on all of that. So I think the chorus of the orchestra was already primed. And so was the audience. When it ended, the chorus looked beat and the congregation exploded. It was thunderous. There was something like 10,000 people outside watching on television being soaked. And I was not outside to hear their reaction, but I would be surprised if that reaction wasn’t thunderous as well. I mean, I think we were all on our feet for some time.
It was what people could do that night if they wanted to make their statement. And of course, the next day on the mall, you had tens of thousands of people in an anti-war protest at the time of the inauguration. But that night, this was the event to do. And it was clearly much more than simply a musical concert. It was a historic event. Before the music began, Eugene McCarthy got up and gave a fairly long talk. And the brunt of his talk was we have tried everything to resist this war and he made a long litany of all the activities and events that had gone into it. And he said, we have arrived at long last with the recognition that there was nothing more we can do our say. And so we resort to music.
AKP: There was a huge moral question of should musicians perform for this person, for this event. And I think it’s interesting to contrast the performers at the Concert for Peace with the performance at the inaugural. At the Concert for Peace, it was a 50 piece local orchestra. Mostly National Symphony players, mostly first chair musicians who donated their services. So this shows a willingness to be present, to protest. 125 singers trained by Norman Scribner, donated their services, a solo quartet from New York, all young, donated their services. In contrast at the Kennedy Center, the Philadelphia Orchestra was performing at Nixon’s inaugural. And it became quite a moral question for a lot of the orchestra members. They even got telegrams from local churches and peace activism groups asking them to not perform. The musicians had to make a decision because it was in their contract that they had to perform. And many people protested this. They did not want to perform, but there was no way out of their contract. So some of them got sick. One person did not move at all when Hail to the Chief was played, that was his way of protest. And there were articles then saying that there should be a morals clause in musicians, contrasts, allowing them an out, if they disagree with the morality of the event or the person who’s the event is honoring. And Nixon called himself a Quaker who are pacifists. And obviously that was not the case with the Nixon.
MC: You read periodicals of the time. You know, those sort of columns we used to have about the who’s, who, who went to this event, who was there. Of course, they will talked about all the celebrities that were there and how, what a wonderful party. And they drank champagne and they have this lovely finger food. But when you look at the political commentary, what you would find on the opinion page, it was the exact opposite. It was not the frou frou, you know, how lovely it was and who was wearing this and who was on the arm of this person. It was all discussion about this endless campaign in Vietnam and the removal of this piece of music that was to include the text by Lincoln. So you get this very bizarre contrast between being an elite social occasion and don’t you wish you were there to this is another instance of an administration that’s tone deaf and not listening to the American people. I think there’s some people that were saying, given the situation in Vietnam, is it even appropriate to have, you know, you can have the inauguration ceremony, of course, which is important, but do you need an inaugural celebration? Do you need all of these concerts? This was the first time they were going to have three separate concerts, the symphonic concert, the American concert, and the youth concert. And a lot of people were saying, you know, look at the money that’s being spent on this. This is money that could instead be diverted towards helping those who were coming back from the war who’ve been maimed, who have sustained injuries. And is it really appropriate to have this type of celebration considering what’s going on? So again, I think a lot of people saw this as being tone deaf. So that counter concert at the National Cathedral, even though I don’t know that there’s anything that Hadyn ever stated explicitly that it’s antiwar. It has sort of been taken up as an antiwar piece, something that’s advocating for peace and reconciliation.
I like to think of a parallel universe where the inaugural committee had allowed Persichetti’s piece to be included and to be performed. I think it would have been an opportunity for the healing process to begin. I think as people heard the words of Lincoln again and heard this gorgeous music by Persichetti and to think about there is a possibility for healing, that this war will come to an end, and we can come together and heal as a nation as they did at the end of the civil war.
FURTHER READING & LISTENING
Leonard Bernstein and Washington, DC: Works, Politics, and Performances
Edited by Daniel Abraham, Alicia Kopfstein-Penk, Andrew H. Weaver
More Info HERE
Van Cliburn, Eugene Ormandy, The Philadelphia Orchestra – Music Featured At The 1973 Inaugural Symphonic Concert
Leonard Bernstein – Leonard Bernstein’s Concert For Peace (Haydn: Mass In Time Of War)
Joan Baez – Where Are You Now, My Son?
Leonard Slatkin, Nashville Symphony – Abraham Lincoln Portraits
Some candidates have their campaigns for presidency planned out before they can even vote. For others, such as General Eisenhower, it took a little Broadway magic to coax him into the race.
On this episode of The Echo Chamber, we bring you a special election episode – filled with a closer look into some unknown, and perhaps surprising, facts about campaign songs and how they have helped shape presidential history.
Special thanks to David Haven Blake, Cheri Burk and Juliet Cesario, Paul Christiansen, and Bob Gardner. And to the archivists at the Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford Presidential libraries for their hard work and dedication to preserve this important campaign material.
This is an expanded version of a story that originally aired on KALW in 2018 when Yoko Arimichi and her Powell Street Blues Band were celebrating their 40th anniversary at The Saloon in North Beach. The band formed when Yoko was busking around Powell and Market Streets in the late 70s.
Yoko Arimichi and her Powell Street Blues are currently one of the longest running acts at The Saloon, one of San Francisco’s oldest bars. Yoko can wail on an electric guitar with a flair that combines B.B. King, Chuck Berry, and Neil Young.
“We arrived [in the US] the same date, different year, but same date, that The Beatles first came to the United States. Every year February 7th I see The Beatles anniversary and I always think, mine too!”
She was born in Japan and raised playing classical music, but her life changed when The Beatles came to the Tokyo Budokan in 1966. She swapped her classical flute for a guitar, finagled passage on an American cargo ship toting Mazdas from Hiroshima, and never looked back.
Special thanks to Yoko Arimichi and her Powell Street Blues Band, Myron Mu and all of the staff at The Saloon. This story was produced in collaboration with Mary Franklin Harvin.
On this episode of The Echo Chamber, Shonen Knife – a story of cultural exchange through the cassette tape.
But also a story of an era in history just before the stronghold of the looming internet drastically changed, among so many other things, the way we consume and discover music. It was a time when culture – as writer Karen Schoemer said – was precious, you really had to fight for it.
A closer look at how cassettes, alongside fanzines and college radio, all worked to create an environment that made possible the seemingly improbable circumstance of an all-girl band from Osaka, Japan eventually opening for Nirvana – one of the biggest musical acts of the 90s, and how these women have retained their status of cultural influence some 40 years after their bands’ origin.
This episode features interviews with Shonen Knife; Karen Schoemer, former music critic of the New York Times; and Brooke McCorkle Okazaki, Assistant Professor of Music at Carleton College and author of the forthcoming book, Shonen Knife’s Happy Hour: Food, Gender, Rock and Roll
The Osaka Ramones – The International Impact of Shonen Knife
Naoko Yamano (NY): Sheena is a punk rocker [sings The Ramones “Sheena is a Punk Rocker]
NY: I’m Naoko, I play the guitar.
Atsuko Yamano (AY): I’m Atsuko, I play the bass guitar.
Risa Kawano (RK): I’m Risa. I play the drums.
NY: Shonen means boy in Japanese and it’s a very old brand name of a pencil knife. And the word ‘shonen’ has very cute feeling and the knife has a little dangerous feeling, so when cute and dangerous combined together, it’s just like our band. So I put that name.
Originally I liked The Beatles a lot when I was a child, and then in the late 70s, punk pop movement was happening and I became a big fan of The Ramones or Buzzcocks. First I listened to their music through radio. There was a radio program in Osaka and they played The Ramones or Buzzcocks. Many punk music…
When I was 15 years old I got an acoustic guitar. The strings were so hard and I hurt my fingers so I couldn’t play the acoustic guitar but after I get an electric guitar a few years after that. I rather like pop melody line punk rock, and inspired by such kinds of bands, I wanted to start my own band.
Brooke McCorkle Okazaki (BM): Shonen Knife – they formed in 1981. Naoko decided to form a rock and roll band after she heard some Ramones on the radio. My name is Brooke McCorkle Okazaki. I am an Assistant Professor of Music at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and I am the author of “Shonen Knife’s Happy Hour: Food Gender and Rock and Roll”. Michie and Naoko were currently working as secretaries and workers in a machinery company in Osaka, and Atsuko was actually still a high school student. She wound up graduating and going to fashion school. They all worked day jobs until 1994 when they went on the big North American tour. And it was then when they decided to quite and become full time musicians. So they were slugging it out for a good 13 years before becoming full time musicians. And they’ve been full time musicians since then which is just amazing.
NY: The Japanese Minna Tanoshiku means “Let’s have fun together”. We recorded it at our friend’s house and everybody was very DIY. One day a guy who’s record label is called Zero Records came to our show and he offered that he would like to release our record. For that cassette album we copied 40 cassettes and we put our kissmark on each jacket.
First I got postal mail from Calvin Johnson from K Records and then we exchanged letters because there was no internet at that time and of course there was no facsimile too. So Calvin Johnson said he wanted to release our album from his label K Records. So we sent our master tape to him by postal mail and then he made our cassette tape.
Calvin Johnson (CJ): The cassette came along and it was something where you could just make 30 or 50 cassettes and it didn’t cost $1,000. Cassettes had existed for a long time, but it was only around that time 1980, 1981, that they became viable in terms of their portability and their sound quality. So I took this concept into the world of underground music. We created our releases using that technology.
CJ: Another big influence was Folkways Records. The idea there seemed to be documenting things. And then making it available to whoever was interested in finding out about it or appreciating it. And I think at K we took on that a lot too. Find people in our town or Olympia or around that seemed worth documenting. Trying to present the same thing to the world.
ARCHIVAL MTV KURT LODER: Cute, keen, well fair enough, that’s Shonen Knife. The most lovable punk band on the planet. Or for that matter, off it. The Japanese group spent December on a tear through the midwest opening for Nirvana, whose members had been converted to the way of the Knife on a European tour the two bands had shared two years earlier.
ARCHIVAL KURT COBAIN: About five years ago when you guys put out the Burning Farm EP on cassette, well my friend Calvin from Olympia, he sold me that tape. I bought that tape from him because he works at K Records. And I heard it and I fell in love with it. And it’s taken a long time for people to hear you guys. We are glad that we finally got to go on tour with you. Now a lot of people, at least in England, love you guys.
NY: In 80s, Shonen Knife was only playing in Japan. And our first outside of Japan show was 1989. We just had only one show in Los Angeles. And in 1991, we played in four cities in the United States including Los Angeles where Kurt Cobain came to see us.
NY: Kurt wrote, When I finally got to see them live I was transformed into a hysterical 9-year old girl at Beatles concert. Wow! I’m very honored about that and I thank to him, Kurt, very much.
AY: Kurt came to our show and that time he didn’t say anything to us, but later he offered to open as a support band for Nirvana.
NY: We started touring from 1991. Members of Nirvana made contact to our management at the time and they want us to open up for their show. So everything changed.
ARCHIVAL NIRVANA: They went into their first song and everyone seemed sort of baffled and next couple songs…you know, they won over the audience by the night. But I remember I was an emotional sap the whole time. I cried every night. You couldn’t help it.
NY: I didn’t know about Nirvana at that time, so I felt a little bit scary to tour with them because they looked very wild. But after we met them, they were very polite – good gentlemen – and the touring was very nice because they were just breaking and every show is packed, so it was a very good experience.
Karen Schoemer (KS): It was like coming back to me, the Nirvana connection…and the Sonic Youth connection. And kind of reminding me at that time, like basically anything Sonic Youth told you to like, you just loved. They had this incredible influence – culturally, musically, fashion, you know, just everything. So that was one part of it that I had kind of forgotten about, about just how Sonic Youth had a lot to do with them kind of breaking in the states.
My name is Karen Schoemer. I’m a former music writer. From 1989 until 1994 I was a regular contributor to the New York Times writing features and criticism. And then from ‘94 until ‘99 I was the pop music critic at Newsweek.
KS: The thing that was central to me at that time was that was sort of big commercial music. There was MTV which had like hair metal and Madonna and there was just like huge pop music and then there was this resistance to it which was in like clubs and fanzines and college radio. And so we were kind of like underground, dropouts of mainstream music. So the serious to me was like less in the music than it was like in the kind of purity you were supposed to have of sort of the ethics of just being against commercialism. And as more and more bands were getting signed to major labels it was this big thing about like maintaining your purity and not like selling out. So in that sense Shonen Knife was kind of a part of that because they were so defiantly against anything polished.
BM: The reaction, especially in like hipster places like CBGBs and stuff, might come off as thinking Shonen Knife is instrumently incompetent or unpolished. But I actually think that that lack of virtuosity is an asset. It goes back to ideas of gender and gender stereotypes too. Masculinity in rock and roll has typically been conveyed by virtuosity, especially on the guitar. I mean, you have scholars like Robert Walser and Susan McClary who have both talked about, you know, the guitar is a phallic symbol and abilities on guitar as these abilities of masculine expression and dominance. I think about like, you know, Van Halen or somebody like that, just, you know, shredding on guitar and, and, you know, being elevated in some way because this technical virtuosity. So the opposite, this embrace of the sort of DIY teach yourself how to play kind of aesthetic that Shonen Knife has, is something that I think makes their music more accessible to non-musicians in a way. People see them and hear them and are like, this is something that I could and provides that kind of inspiration. And especially to young women, it’s an example of like this isn’t something you have to spend 20 years of private lessons doing. This is something you could go home, buy a guitar and teach yourself three chords and be able to play. And that’s okay too. And it’s just as valid as, you know, an intense shredding solo. And I think that’s part of why Kurt Cobain was so entranced by them. They didn’t perform virtuosically, but they didn’t ever feel bad or apologize for it. They’re genuinely playing music that makes them happy and it makes listeners happy. I think that’s one of the main charms of Shonen Knife.
When I was around 19 or 20, I was a fan of the Powerpuff Girls, the cartoon series, it was on Cartoon Network. And one night when I was watching, they had a music video that happened to be Buttercup, I’m a Super Girl that Shonen Knife performs.
NY: The author of Powerpuff Girls invited us to join the tribute album, Buttercup is a very strong, positive character. So, I wrote that song to make a very powerful song.
BM: I had never seen an all-female punk fan before. I knew about The Go-Go’s and The Bangles, but I’d never seen women really rock out like that. Even more specifically Japanese women because you know, there’s so many stereotypes in the United States about Asian women. And so it was really inspiring and awesome to see those women playing punk rock and representing sort of musical versions of the Powerpuff girls. Seeing someone like that, playing on television on something that’s cool as Cartoon Network was an inspiration.
KS: There were all these interesting women making music, taking the same sources that male bands were doing. But just trying to say, I hear this a little differently. I feel it a little differently. My goals with it are a little bit different. I’m not trying to be polished. I’m really trying to feel this music in the way that’s right for me.
BM: The Riot Grrl movement, which was coming out around the same time Shonen Knife was hitting it big globally in the nineties. And they are a strong contrast to some of those other female punk style bands, like The Breeders or The Slits or something like that in that Shonen Knife embraces their femininity. The idea of cute or kawaii culture in Japan, it’s a little different from how it’s perceived in Europe, and in the United States. By embracing this femininity or this cuteness, Shonen Knife is actually reclaiming girliness as a tool of feminist power. That they’re not nearly as blatant as some of the other UK groups or American groups. They’re not like we’re feminists, we’re here to kick ass. Shonen Knife instead is about embracing what it means to be a woman and taking pleasure in that, which can include wearing cute dresses on stage, singing about ice cream or cream puffs, or, you know, puppy dogs.
KS: When I think back on how I felt about Shonen Knife at the time. Like they were kind of a joke at the same time. And I think that goes in with the kind of exotic quality of it. I think that was the part of it that I was a little uncomfortable with. That we were sort of laughing at them even as we were kind of underneath it all kind of laughing at ourselves because fandom was also such a huge part of that scene. You heard that kind of fandom in Shonen Knife. You could imagine them being over there in Japan and being like, we love the Ramones, you know, and being like, we’re going to play the Ramones and, and it came out sounding like totally warped but at the same time it had that sort of genuine exuberance and sincerity that I think we all really related to.
NY: We were happy to play at CBCB.
KS: CBGBs at that time, there could be like six bands, like every night of the week.
NY: The club was very long an sometimes it’s a little hard to watch the band.
KS: The stage, like to get downstairs to the bathroom, there was a space that felt like it was about two inches wide. And then the area in front of the stage seemed like it was about four feet wide. It was a really awkward sized room. New York was still very grimy. It’s still had this hangover from the seventies and I miss that a lot, glad I got to be there.
NY: I was happy to play such a historical place. And when I was a high school student, I listened to Blondie or Talking Heads, like many bands played at CBGB. So when I got a CBGB t-shirt I was so happy and I was wearing it every day.
KS: By then, you know, CDGB’s like real kind of glory days as influencing music with Television and Blondie and all that stuff, you know, that was kind of long over. But it was still a place that a lot of people played and it still had all of that…you know, it had the disgusting bathroom and it had the terrible layout and it had the pistachio gumball machines that you would put a quarter in and you would get these like pink pistachios that left pink stuff all over your hand. At that point uou felt a little bit like you were entering in a shell of something that had been really, really important, but it was still there. You still got to partake of it. People like Joey Ramone would be sitting in the back. It’s still had a lot of that, like rank glamour to it.
NY: Marky Ramone came to see us when we play in New York in nineties and he played the drums for us and we played some Ramones songs on stage. And also we toured with CJ Ramone in the United States a few years ago. T
BM: The first time I saw Shonen Knife was in Philly and it was when they were doing the tour with CJ Ramone. So that was a very different experience from some of the other shows they’ve seen. The show was intense. A lot more hardcore punks were at that shows. There’s a lot of moshing and it’s not something you really expected at a Shonen Knife show. People moshing to Banana Chips is not something I ever thought I would see and in this lifetime, but I’ve seen it. So that’s kind of cool.
In the eighties, Hello Kitty was first making its way to North America. But it was really the early nineties when it explodes. When you start to have more and more Sanrio goods at the mall. Then of course Nintendo and Sega Genesis were the other sort of main introductions to Japanese popular culture I think for people of a certain generation, but Shonen Knife musically is likely one of many people’s first exposures to Japanese music culture. Aside from say, Yoko Ono. Shonen Knife in terms of Japanese bands was really one of the first to become part of this phenomenon that eventually was known as Japan’s “Gross National Cool”. It’s this idea that after Japan’s economic bubble bursts at the beginning of the 1990s, they went through an economic slump, but in order to sort of revive Japan’s economy and prominence in the globe, the government started promoting among other things, the exportation of popular culture abroad. And this is when you start having things like Toonami on Cartoon Network with Dragon Ball Z and later Naruto and Inuyasha as well as the explosion with Pokemon at the time. So you have around the nineties, early 2000s, you have this explosion of Japanese popular culture around the world. And Shonen Knife I think can be seen as heart of this Gross National Cool project as a way of sort of upping Japan’s image in the global economy and the global world in a way, and introducing young people, especially to Japanese culture. And it’s become a real core part of Japan’s economy. And I think Shonen Knife has contributed to that. Like they certainly have upped I think Japan’s prominence musically speaking in the world.
Certainly in Japan, I think Shonen Knife has had a huge impact on other female musicians, especially female musicians that were coming of age in the nineties and early 2000s. Otoboke Beaver, Afrirampo, there’s so many more bands with women performers or all female groups in Japan now. And I think that’s thanks in part to Shonen Knife really paving the way for these musicians. And I think that that translates both to fans in the States as well. Certainly for me personally, they were an inspiration and I imagine they’ve inspired many other young women all around the world.
KS: You know, it’s kind of nostalgia – Shonen Knife in a way it’s going to be nostalgia for people like myself. And then probably for plenty of other people, they still are that act of Japanese interpreting American culture. When Shonen Knife gives us punk rock back, they’re doing it in a very knowing, cunning way of knowing that they’re changing it and knowing that we’re going to hear it as both what it originally was and what they’re adding into it. So I think that’s as viable now as it ever was.
NY: I’m keeping my self fresh and that’s why I can continue the band. It’s getting more easy to exchange culture through internet, and it’s very easy to express music or art. But in our case, we don’t imitate the other people. We are very independent and very unique. I think that’s why many people listen to Shonen Knife.
Karen Schoemer’s New York Times articles on Shonen Knife
Pop/Jazz; Japanese Trio With Songs Of Animals And Oysters
August 16. 1991
Review/Music; Punk Rock From Japan
June 22, 1992
Brooke McCorkle Okazaki’s book Shonen Knife’s Happy Hour
Food, Gender, Rock and Roll will be released by Bloomsbury 2-11-2021
This episode features archival interviews from Nirvana and Calvin Johnson.
On today’s episode, Maximum Rocknoll – the story behind the famed punk institution.
Beginning in 1977, a group of Bay Area music fans led by Tim Yohannan, began a weekly radio show out of the studio at KPFA in Berkeley, California. The driving impulse behind the show was simple – an unabashed uncompromising world of punk rock. By 1982, the punk scene had grown into a worldwide movement and the founders of the show launched Maximum RocknRoll as a print fanzine, dedicated to anti-corporate ideals, leftist politics and relentless enthusiasm for DIY punk and hardcore bands from every inhabited continent of the globe. Over the next several decades, what started as a do it yourself labor of love amongst a handful of friends had extended to include literally thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of readers. For many, it became the punk rock bible. The inky smudge of the black and white newsprint providing a voice in community for young teenagers around the world, introducing them to bands and a sense of creative expression they had not known before. By 2019, the landscape of the punk underground as well as print media itself had dramatically shifted and MRR announced the end to its print publication. Over these 42 years with over 1600 radio shows and 400 issues of fanzine to its claim, MRR came to represent a certain do-it-yourself ethos that extended far beyond the music itself.
As the print scene came to an end last year, I invited some well the longstanding Maximum contributors to come together for a night to talk about that the zine and its lasting impact on the global punk scene. Here’s our conversation..
The Past, Present & Future of Maximum Rocknroll:
The Story Behind the Famed Punk Institution
Brandi Howell (BH): Tonight we have with us Martin Sprouse, Paul Curran, and Matt Badenhop. And before I introduce them, I just wanted to play a little taste of the early days of the radio show.
BH: So if you guys wanted to introduce yourselves a bit and kind of give your background and how you were first introduced to the magazine.
Martin Sprouse (MS): Yeah. My name is Martin Sprouse. I grew up in Southern California. So my first introduction to the magazine was the first compilation. Me and my friend, Jason Traeger, and Pat Weakland. We were doing our own fanzine in San Diego called The Leading Edge. And we found that record, Pat knew it was coming out and we found like the day they were unboxing it in a record store and we just go – Oh wow! Cause it was the first time we knew there were hardcore bands playing up here, you know, that they existed up here. Because in Southern California, we’re spoiled with them, but it was nice to see all these kids doing things. And then from that our local record store started carrying Maximum Rocknroll from the first issue on. And when we first looked at it, it was like so different than what we’re used to. You know, we’re used to Flip Side and Ripper, but Maximum to our teenage eyes was this thick. It had politics right on the cover and I was going – Holy shit, this is great! You know, it was newsprint, it was messy, just like it is now, you know, but it just looks so different, you know, and then we just kept buying issues. And we started coming up here and visiting in ’84, ’83 … staying at the Maximum house. And then I moved up here in ’85 to become part of Maximum. Is that enough background? And I stopped doing Leading Edge and started working on Maximum and been involved with Maximum projects since then.
BH: And Paul has also been with the magazine and various bands since 1983, contributing to all the graphics and the record reviews, he lists himself has a house cleaner. And now as a member of the powerful and mysterious MMR board. Paul, how did you first learn about Maximum?
Paul Curran (PC): I first learned about Maximum probably by seeing the magazine. I grew up in Benicia, which is a suburb…kind of far out suburb of the Bay area. But my dad lived in Berkeley on Telegraph Avenue. So I would come visit my dad and just hang out on Telegraph. And I think I saw it MRR in Universal Records, which was a olden days record store. And on page two or three, it shows where the radio show is broadcast. And it was broadcast locally on KPFA, which is a very powerful signal. And so I could get it out in Benicia and just listened to MRR and learn about punk rock. And, yeah, having that Berkeley connection… I, boy, I’m just, I was just like thinking like how much detail to tell, but, when you listen to the radio show, they would just tell people, like call in if you want to be a guest DJ, it was that simple. And I was like, Oh, I want to be a guest DJ. So I called in and I was a guest DJ. And through that connection ended up volunteering at the magazine, doing little paste up layouts of things. And it’s all downhill from there.
BH: And Matt, you first came, moved to the Bay Area in 2011?
Matt Badenhop (MB): Yeah, I was just thinking when Martin was talking, my getting involved with the magazine was kind of the same, but like many years later, like in the mid to late nineties. But I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas and me and my friends found it at Borders from from that big distribution that we were doing so, and then we, you know, as we started doing bands and touring and stuff, we would come out here and stay at the house and yeah, just, you know, knew a lot of the people connected to the magazine by that time. So naturally when I moved out here in 2011, I got recruited as a record reviewer and do radio show and all the other stuff now, too.
BH: And Martin, I was wondering if we could step back and just kind of give a background of Tim and sort of who Tim Yohannan was, the founder of this, the legacy.
MS: I don’t know how many people met Tim or just knew of him afterwards, but yeah, he was a pretty insane, but very special dude. I mean, some of his best characteristics was he loved fucking punk rock. He loved music, you know, just full on everything about it. And he loved, he was very, he’s one of the few people I met that has a very strategic mind. He’s always like 20 steps of everybody else. Not in a competitive way, but just thinking about new things, new projects, just to keep pushing forward, it was pretty amazing. He was not shy to do things that have never been done before. And he also had this laugh. Yeah. Everyone remembers the laugh, but you know…
BH: I feel like all the like, cause Dirk [Dirksen] had such a laugh… there’s another impresario of famous punk club that also had like, yeah,…
MS: Yeah…Tim, Dirk and Jello [Biafra]… put them in a room together, craziest punk rock history thing, and just these very crazy personalities. And when they’re all together, it’s pretty amazing. But yeah. And Tim Yo, he was just, I mean, there’s so much bullshit that’s come out since he died. Like, people weren’t really there, but they were just always talking shit about like he controlled everybody. It was just like this communist house and all that shit, but that was all, none of that that’s even remotely true. But also Tim was really open to bringing people into the projects. Like 13 year old kids, you know, barely know how to play instruments. He’d play their demo on the radio show. Someone said they want to write a review at Maximum. And there they live in East Bay. He’d make sure they get over here and write reviews. I mean, that was a special quality and that was honest. He didn’t, it wasn’t something he was trying to do. It was just second nature to them. It’s also just being part of the punk community. part of Maximum. And also a lot of other people had a lot of say in Maximum. It wasn’t just, it wasn’t a dictatorship at all. It was always this, whoever did the most work got the most say, it’s just kind of how organically Maximum’s structure worked.
BH: And you personally making the decision to move…you’re a teenager when you moved. Left San Diego and moved up and moved into punk rock house. And like, what was that decision based on?
MS: I forgot to mention, I was writing some reports for Maximum – San Diego scene reports. I don’t know, like ’83, I don’t know for a while there. And just coming up here and visiting and the whole weird story about me moving up here, I’ll make this really quick is me and my friend Jason were up here visiting and,Joan and Bessie from The Wrecks who were on the first compilation. They were…this was all in the first Maximum Rocknroll house over in Berkeley, right? Yeah. Oakland – Berkeley, right on the border there. And all of us were hanging out. And when we’re done hanging out that weekend, Tim set us aside and proposed that me, Bessie and Jason come and move up here and take over the magazine. This is ’84 and it’s because he wanted to start a punk club. And that was the very beginning of Gilman. At least the idea. So what happened is Joan and Jason didn’t want to move up here. So I moved up here by myself and it wasn’t really, we didn’t really use the term coordinators yet, but I came up here and just had a pretty big role in the magazine. So that was it.
Yeah. Moving the house moved from Oakland, Berkeley over to Clipper Street in the city. And also, I remember I was down in San Diego, I think, 18, 17, or something like that. And Tim would call me up in the afternoon. He goes, yeah. And he would like come back from work and start looking all over the Bay area for place where you can open a punk club, but we also could live. And I was going – Ugh, I’ve been going to punk shows for a long time, but I wouldn’t want to live where their shows were. You know? Cause America was a little different. It wasn’t like European hostile things or squats where it’s nice. It was just like, and he goes, yeah, I found this thing. Maybe we could build bedrooms in the corner. I’m like – Holy shit. I’m not going to live there. You know? But it worked out where he found this really nice house on Clipper and then Gilman Street came a little bit later. Um, What’s the dude’s name? Victor Hayden actually found the building where Gilman started.
So I know that was, I don’t know. I just wanted to be part of Maximum. It was nice. I’d been doing my own fanzine for so long. It just was nice to just be around a large group of people and be in San Francisco. But I was scared shitless. When I moved to San Francisco. The day I moved here as listening to some radio station and Penelope Houston was doing an acoustic version of a Ramones song. And I said – Fuck, man, this is going to be terrible! Really bummed me on. And I liked Penelope and used to like the Ramones, but I just thought it’s going to be so grown up. Things were changing. And it really, I was fearful I made the wrong decision, I mean seriously because San Francisco had older punk scene, you know, and we hadn’t really dived into the East Bay thing. You know, we’re all those amazing hardcore bands that were on the first record. That was truly a fear of mine.
BH: But fear not because Not So Quiet had just come out it…
MS: And also everyone that I knew from magazines started coming over and it had a way more youthful thing as well as it was just a nice collaboration of people that have been around since Day 1 and knew people. That was what that was true for all Maximum projects. And still now, you know.
BH: If you could give a little background about Not So Quiet and kind of the influence, and we have a few clips we can maybe play. So Martin had selected a band 7 Seconds. Can you talk a little bit about the track and then we could give it a listen or we can, let’s just, let’s give it a listen first and then…
MS: Everyone’s going to love it, right?
BH: So this is a selection from the comp that Martin first heard…
BH: So you’re a teenager in San Diego and you hear this song.
MS: It’s 7 Seconds. They’re great.
PS: That’s how long a song should be too.
MS: I think it was 49 seconds. Is it under a minute? Isn’t it? It is anyways. I still love that song. Right? The first seven inch was out and just like, they just had a whole different vibe of what’s going on. Like, you know, Saying, fuck racism. Fuck this. Fuck that…that song was called. Fuck your America, which still holds up.
BH: Had you listened to anything like that before much?
MS: Oh yeah, like I said, I think 7 Seconds’ first seven inch was out by then. And that was a super special 7 inch, Skins Brains and Guts. It’s totally great. And they had a couple of demos out before that, but also just love the sound of that song. It was when 7 seconds was it three-piece then, and I don’t know. Kevin Seconds is a special dude, too. So yeah, that song, I still love that song. I still love every song on that record almost except The Oven is My Friend … Church Police, some band that Jello probably put on that compilation.
BH: I was wondering if you could just share, there are like 42 songs or something on the album, but you know, you can get away with that on an album when they’re like one minute long punk songs, but you were saying the…It’s sort of, so most of them, it was a representation of Northern California hardcore bands, but one band that stood out for you as a band, it like 12 year old kids.
MS: Yeah. This is, this is a whole podcast in itself – very important. This band called The Maniax from Fresno. And this is really just kind of, I’ll make this story as short as possible, but it really shows you what Maximum is about. So there are a bunch of kids that 12, 13 years old, right? Like crazy young. They listened to Maximum radio show like Paul was saying, and then they didn’t even know how to form a band. They didn’t know how to play instruments. They didn’t know anything. And they made this crappy little, like it wasn’t even a demo. It was just a song on a cassette, sent it to the radio show. And there’s a clip of the radio show somewhere where Tim and Jello are just going – Maniax, you guys are great. Give us a call. We want to bring you up here and do things.
PC: Didn’t they say that they just recorded the tape and sent it. Like it wasn’t even a copy of the tape.
MS: No, it was like they made this tape for a Maximum and I think they recorded over like a, you know, some other music, like their parents’ music was just like the scrappy.
BH: An Abba album or some disco…
MS: I know…Tim and Jello were so you, there is a tape and you can hear how enthusiastic they are, and that’s really the essence of Maximum. And then the funny thing quick on the. The song that’s on the Maximum Rocknroll compilation. It’s crazy. It’s the second longest song. The first longest is Flipper, which is almost expected, you know, the droney Flipper thing. Maniax, the guys that didn’t know how to do anything, but just put their heart into it. They had the second longest song. And I think that’s because they didn’t know how to! They didn’t know stop. It goes on forever. And then the other quick thing is you listen to that song and the music or the guitars instruments go in and out. And you’re like, what are these kids about? What are they trying to do?
BH: Surround sound. Yeah.
MS: And then you figure out the story is that they’re in the garage. They didn’t know how to record. So they were towing a little red wagon around them and with a boombox. And then whenever a wagon went near the guitar, you’d hear the guitar. When the wagon went near the drums, you’d hear that, like everyone thought like – Oh, they’re really crazy. These kids, these kids are fucking smart – Fresno! And then you find out like, they just didn’t know how to do anything, which made it even better. And then. For all those that want to know more about it. There was a 15 minute documentary about The Maniax on YouTube that Dale Stewart from Fresno, he’s documenting everything about the Fresno punk scene. And didn’t even think twice just did about The Maniax. And you hear a lot of that story, you know, it’s pretty amazing. But anyways, that’s a perfect example of Maximum Rocknroll, just bringing everybody in and being enthusiastic about kids trying to do something. That is just, it was really amazing. So that’s really the main thing about that and the red wagon, those are two really good points about that story.
BH: And then Paul selection from the album is a song by The Wrecks. Punk is an Attitude. I was wondering if you could cue that up.
BH: So Paul, you’re listening to this as a kid.
PC: No, honestly, if I think back on it, it does baffled me like, cause I didn’t have the foundation of knowing what punk was in the first place. And then to be told, no, it’s not about that. It’s an attitude. And it’s like, I’m just like that whole album is just me absorbing and just trying to figure out what the fuck it was. So, but I think that now in hindsight, like that’s one of the most important songs on there because of, I mean, it being women, first of all, female band. And that was…
BH: Can you talk a little bit about The Wrecks? Do you know much about their origin?
MS: Yeah. I mean, personally, they’re all from Reno. Joan and Bessie Bessie was one of the women I just mentioned that they come up and take over Maximum. They’re from Reno. Bessie and Joan did this amazing fanzine called Paranoia. And it was just so smartassy and crazy. And they just do these funny interviews with all these dude bands. And they were just do this really dry humor and the guys are all thrown off. They were amazing, but the Reno scene had a lot of women, and it was a perfect combination. And then that song was just, you know, it’s like what Paul said. It was really good. And also having an all female band come out, you know?
PC: Yeah. And, I dunno, just thinking I’m going to go see Bikini Kill play in LA tomorrow night…
BH: Yeah. I mean, it seems like it set the stage for a lot of those bands.
PC: Yeah. I mean, it’s…
MS: They don’t get the credit they deserve.
PC: They just, they don’t. Yeah. When riot grrl happened, like people were like – Hey, check it out. Women are playing funk. And you’re just kind of like, well…
MS: Yeah, all those early, all female bands didn’t get the credit as much as they should.
PC: But yeah, Punk is an Attitude, trendy sucks. You know, again, it holds up America. America’s still sucks. Trendies still suck. And here we are.
BH: So if people aren’t familiar with kind of the structure of the magazine, so it was all compiled out of a punk house in the Bay that sort of moved around, but can you kind of talk about the community of shit workers as they’re called, the volunteer base that really put the magazine together throughout the years and what the early days, I mean, there’s such an aesthetic – this is the last issue, but, you know, sort of has that cut and paste zine feel that took a while to put together. Can you talk about just the structure and the layout and design that went into those early issues?
PC: Yeah. Well, again, it comes down a lot to Tim’s powers of organization. He was able to have things together enough to where people could come in and do it. So when I would come in to do a layout, he’d be like, well, you know, here’s all the, here’s the galleys. This is going way back in time for how things used to work. We used to like send things out to get typeset and sent back in these strips that we would cut and have the pictures. Like it had been half toned at a certain size. And so he would have all these things ready and then it’s like here, you know, like have at it. So in a sense, it was kind of like, Yeah, just like inviting random people over to do random work and hope that it gets done right. And on the other hand, it was like the most well oiled machine of the world. And only literally like only Tim could do it. Tim passed away in 1998. Right. And, you know, since then it’s been other people doing that particular job and it’s always taken two or three people to do that amount of work, and it’s still, still kind of too much for two or three people to do. But in the sense that, yeah, there’s, it’s always been contributor based like the, the columns and the interviews, you know, and just people sending their records in for review. It’s always been this thing that people want to be part of and they’re allowed to be part of, and I don’t know these kinds of things get me choked up cause it’s we just finished our last issue.
MS: But also you guys had Sunday work meetings. Right? Remember everyone would come over on Sundays and do layouts and type. Yeah. That was the main way.
BH: And what was the sort of atmosphere of those?
MS: That was, you knew more about it. I came there. I did some work when I was visiting, but yeah.
PC: Oh, it was just, it was exciting to be, you know, as a kid, just to feel part of something and that’s still to this day, the best part of working at Maximum is when a bunch of people are over at the house doing work and we’re listening to records. And, yeah, again, just having that structure for that stuff to come together was what it was all about. And, um, I don’t know what else to say.
MS: Yeah. It was a really great thing. And Tim blamed me for ruining those Sunday work parties.
MS: Because when I moved up here I’m was like a workaholic. Right. And I just started doing everything in the weekdays before Sunday, then eventually Sunday stuff just kind of faded away and I didn’t want it to be that way. But then Tim just goes, man, you just fucked that up. It’s just you and me sitting here. But a lot of people came over during the week, but they’re just the Sunday work parties faded out within a year or something. So yeah. Yeah, I did that one. Not very good…
BH: And then there’s also, so the zine and then the radio component and the first 10 years or so it was our of KPFA, which is a community station in Berkeley, that’s sort of imagine your typical Berkeley hippies running the station, and then a bunch of punks come in and take over the airwaves. And I just want to… so we have, if you could play the pledge drive clip. So this is a clip from ’81 during the pledge drive of a community public radio station in Berkeley with punks taking over the airwaves
BH: Just a little different than KQED. So anyway, you guys were just kind of taking over the airwaves and there’s always a bit of dynamics between the punks and the hippies, but you guys brought in the most fundraising. So you sort of held the power for a while. Can you talk about sort of those dynamics of the station?
MS: Um, gosh, they didn’t really like us, but they had to like us cause we brought in so much money, but you know, they were just weird Berkeley. You know, wearing ugly shoes and, you know, thinking that, you know, it just didn’t have that respect. And we really, you know, we brought in a lot of money. We respected the station and we really believed in it, but it was always a war with them. And couldn’t really figure out, they’re always trying to give us bad time slots, you know, then they tried to … early on they had a boycott, right? Or they had a protest. What was that over? That was late seventies, maybe.
MS: That was a time slot thing. Wasn’t it?
PC: Yeah. I think that the station had promised them a better time slot if they, you know, had like met certain goals and then they did. And then station said, no, and actually, and then Tim being the organizer, he is, was just like, we’re going to have a demonstration that right outside the radio station. Yeah. Like, and the great irony of, you know, having a having a protest outside the community radio station set up by the children of the free speech movement, you know, it was beautiful. And then, and it was successful and kept going. Yeah. And so they were ended up in a 9:00 to 11:00 PM slot, which. Yeah, to me, it was prime time. That was bedtime. And my parents weren’t going to bug me and I could just listen to punk rock at night.
MS: Yeah. And also another special aspect of when the radio show was there, everyone would come in and hang out at the radio show and where they’re doing, playing the records and Ruth or whoever was running all the turntable stuff. It was just a big hang there. It was amazing. Like all the Berkeley kids, Berkeley punk kids would come there and you just meet a lot of different people. Then the bands would come in there. So it had this really nice community thing based around people playing records and like what Paul was saying, doing guest sets, announcing records. And that was a good thing.
BH: And you can just come in and kind of DJ if you wanted to.
MS: You had to kind of arrange ahead of time. You could announce songs, but if you wanted to do a special set, you’d have to kind of let them know day or two before, but it was just people just listening to music and hanging out and talking. That was amazing.
BH: And I just wanted to play. So going through the archives, they’re like they’re saying, you know, bands would be coming through and would come in and guest DJ and come in for interviews and as I have been going through the archives and there’s a clip from the early days of Sonic Youth when they came through the station. So if you could play that.
BH: I think I just, I really loved hearing that, you know, just this era of life before internet, you know, before they obviously became one of the biggest rock bands a few years later, but here they are just coming through town and if people wanted to write Thurston, like he just gave his address on air. And I’m sure there’s a lot of moments that just like, you know, people coming through and different spontaneous moments, what were some of the highlights of those early radio shows?
PC: I remember being there when The Subhumans from England came and they were like the punkest people I ever saw, they wore leather jackets and had spiky hair stuff and like the Bay area punks, like kind of just dressed in flannels and maybe some boots is how punk as it would get. And like, yeah. And that was just like – Oh man, like there, that was pretty crazy. That also reminded me that like people would come on and there was kind of like the sort of like classified ad element to it. Like, I remember guest DJs being like – And yeah, if you want to treat tapes or anything, just like call me, you know, like give their phone number out, you know, and we totally would like to call those kids up and stuff and like, um, yeah, it was a real community thing. And something that I remember if we’ve touched on yet, but like the KPFA signal is something like 40-50,000 Watts, which is ginormous. And so, you know, most community radio stations are just like pretty, pretty localized things, but that was the entirety of Northern California. If you count that they had sister stations in like Guernville and Fresno and San Jose. So it’s just kind of baffling to think about the reach.
BH: So, you know, Ruth would be copying the tapes every week and distributing them out throughout the country.
PC: Oh, that’s you. Yeah, there were, yeah, it was syndicated like manually syndicated. Yeah. Mailing the tapes to the radio stations every week. Boy. It’s hard to imagine.
MS: I remember one crazy radio show. It’s when the SF skins came to the radio station to work things out, and this is pre Nazi skins, but SF skins were like the street dudes, Mark Dagger. What were some of those dudes? Man, they were just fucking mean tough dudes, but not Nazis, but street dudes. And they beat the shit out of everybody at punk shows, sucker punch, and it was just nuts. And I think even Tim got punched by one of them. So Tim never fearing conflict or confrontation, invited him to come on the radio show and work things out. And I was at that radio show – Like a fuck. These guys are here? And it was so crazy because they were trying to make peace and some kid called in and he goes, Just some, a young kid, he goes, Oh man, you guys suck, you punch all my friends and the guy goes, no, we don’t. What’s your phone number? Give me your phone number right now. It was just the whole night of that radio show was like that I was really tense and stuff, but again, it wasn’t a Nazi thing. It was just dumb ass, really big skinhead dudes, you know, but that was a very interesting thing of bringing confrontation in, you know.
PC: Also the most famous one was Bill Graham, right? They had.
MS: Oh shit. Yeah. Bill Graham came to the radio station. It’s a good interview. Tim Yo did it, right?
PC: I think Tim and Jeff. Yeah, exactly what they were confronting him about. Just about his strong hold on.
MS: He was trying to get started doing punk shows.. And they were gone no way. A couple of bands had started playing shows a little bigger bands, but yeah, they brought him on and he would just, he was saying, Oh, we can do this all together. And Tim and Jeff just said, no, you’re corporate. And they were just confronting him. It was actually a really interesting interview. I think that was it. Yeah.
BH: What I love so much about the magazine, you know, before everyone said, you know, it was the community that before the internet, you know, you either learned about new bands or listened and exchanged tapes. And there’s even like a pen pal section. Everyone talks about like, Oh, I had pen pals in the eighties and nineties.
MS: That’s how I met everybody, writing letters.
BH: Before social media.
MS: It was the internet, you know, we have pen pals. That’s how me and Winnie met. Winnie right there, he lived in Germany, I lived in the US and we traded fanzines, you know.
BH: That’s amazing.
MS: Yeah. And we’re still friends now, but yeah, that pen pal thing was a huge part. Not just at Maximum, just in the early eighties. That’s how all the bands met or how they all tried to tour the fanzines. Everything was amazing. A lot of those people I’m still friends with today.
BH: No, I think it’s such a like fantastic aspect. I mean, it just demonstrates that…
MS: Yeah, explain it to kid? It’s really weird. What the fuck is a pen pal?
BH: To think these sort of nostalgic correspondence via mail would come out of punk magazine. So anyway, so then you touched about, so when you moved up Tim had this idea that he was going to open a punk club. And at this point the zine was quite profitable and bringing a lot of money in and, but, you know, it was a DIY scene and they used the money to fund other projects. And one of them being, you know, now the most famous punk club, you know, one of them ever, you know, in Gilman Street. And I was wondering if you could talk about. Okay. That first time was Tim was like, Oh, I want to want to start this club.
MS: Yeah. And then that he, you know, the solo thing kind of went away pretty fast and he was bringing people in to help start doing this, you know? Cause it, it wasn’t a Maximum project. I mean, Maximum was making so much money then just from advertising and sales and Tim Yo always wanted to use that money for something else. Cause none of us got paid. So we always tried to give all the money away. So Maximum Rocknroll financed the beginning of Gilman, which was a chunk of money, but we didn’t even feel it. You know? And then what’s really interesting about Gilman is being in the East Bay. A lot of people from the East Bay that weren’t part of the Maximum directly, all came together and it started this whole new community of people that put in a lot of work, like a year’s worth of work to open Gilman, you know?
BH: And what was the duration between that initial stage and when it finally opens, how long did it take?
MS: Tim was looking to have us live in a punk warehouse and that was in ’85,’84,’85. And then Gilman actually opened in New Year’s Eve of 87, right? Yeah. And we actually had the lease a year before. We were doing construction and dealing with the city of Berkeley. They didn’t want a punk club opened. One funny thing is they wanted us to pay for like 20 streetlights in that area because they thought we were going to be a moneymaking business and we had to go to the community meeting with Berkeley people. And it was just another, like people in bad shoes telling us what, you know, it’s terrible, man. But we won. Tim Yo, again, organized this thing. People came there and told their own stories. He wasn’t coaching anything. It was just this heartfelt thing because we knew we were doing something right. And that’s way before we even opened, you know? And they still didn’t really like us, but they knew that we didn’t need to pay for 20 street lights, but then they started liking us, you know? Yeah.
BH: And if people aren’t familiar with Gilman, I mean, he knows there’s the music club, but it’s really, again, another DIY community that emerged out of that. You know, unlike The Fillmore or some of these, you know, major venues, it really it’s a community run all nonprofit, volunteer based music club. Can you kind of talk about the ethos behind that. The fundamental values and core behind the club.
PC: Yeah, it was meant to be, well, it was kind of meant to be a safe space before that was even a word because it was the days of… there literally were skinheads, just like randomly showing up and randomly beating random people up. And, um, and this was meant to be a place where that wasn’t tolerated and where. Um, other kinds of I don’t know, just racism, sexism, homophobia. It’s right there on the wall when you walk in…those things were acceptable because it was meant to be for everybody. And yeah, just again, another good example of like building a good foundation for then other people to just come in and run it. And it’s still, it’s still going. Like, it’s pretty amazing. Like it’s been through a lot of ups and downs, but it’s still run under the exact same principles. And, it’s, it’s very remarkable. And, uh, it’s, I don’t know. It’s, it’s almost like not really appreciated that much anymore because it’s so well established and been there forever, but I don’t know… people ought to…
BH: But at the time it was a pretty revolutionary idea.
PC: I was, yeah, I think so. Yeah. I don’t think anybody had done anything like that before. Right?
MS: Like, not like that. Run by punk kids for punk kids, you know, and it was really a hundred percent that way. And everyone did the work. We did the security and we wouldn’t let anybody, you know, that membership card was a way of being able to have people be part of the community and kick people out. You know? So if someone started a fight, we get, this is the reason to throw them out. It’s not like, okay, stop fighting. Let the show go on. We just kicked people out. And you know, we had to do our own security and again, skinheads. This was now becoming suburban skinheads that were more Nazi, racist, white kids. And they’d come to the thing and we’d have huge confrontations with them. Cause if someone started shit, all the bands had to stop. Music was secondary. The community was first and a bunch of scrawny, little punk kids were confronting these, you know, fucking skinheads. They just always are just what they are, you know, and, but we push them out is almost like this, just a blockade. They couldn’t come in and we’d just stand there until they leave. And then a bunch of bad stuff happened when they started beating people outside. But that was one amazing thing where kids just stopped. Cause I came from Southern California that never happened. They were just crazy fights all the time, but this, everyone came together and pushed people out and block the entryway. You know, that’s another huge thing again, that was the community coming together, you know?
BH: And then you kind of have out of that scene, the whole, you know, ’90s East Bay punk that really became synonymous with. Yeah, the punk breaking through in ’94 was big around that time, Turn It Around, another key comp album came, which featured a lot of the East Bay punk scenes. I was wondering if we could play the Op Ivy. So this was a song from Operation Ivy, which was one of the key bands from that era.
BH: And then like all of a sudden punk exploded. And how did that change things at a Maximum when every teenage kid in America was listening to punk and Green Day.
MS: I got a great story about Green Day.
MB: I was wondering when Green Day was going to come up.
MS: Yeah, when they went big Tim was still alive. We were living in the Clipper house and after Green Day sold, I don’t know what, a million records they get these little platinum things or would it be things in frames where they have the album and Green Day, you know, they get to I guess you could do get, how many of you want to give to your producer record label? They made a custom one for Tim Yo and had it delivered to the Maximum house. So he was stuck there with a Green Day platinum thing. It was the best joke they ever pulled on him. It was really, really funny. He just holding this thing now is a really good one. I don’t know where that thing is, but it was like etched and everything came right from the record label, right to the Maximum house with Tim Yo’s name on it. Got to give it up to those guys for that.
MB: Too bad we don’t have that. Now. We probably could’ve saved the magazine.
MS: I don’t know. I think Lance Hahn took it or something. I don’t know, Tim Yo tried to give it away the minute he opened the package, I don’t want that, but he was laughing because he appreciated a smart ass thing.
BH: So speaking of the record, so Matt was one of the last DJ to do a radio show w utilizing the record collection at the house. So Maximum with the closing of the zine also had to put their amazing record collection in storage. But Matt’s last show pulled deep from the archives. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the archive.
MB: I mean, when you do a regular radio show at the house, you know, I would always bring some stuff and try to play some new stuff, but then just play whatever I’m listening to. And, since I knew we were going to move, we have like, I don’t know the exact count, but we’re probably at about 60,000 records at this point. I mean, it’s everything from day one. And then everything since, and people still send us stuff for review and it all goes in the archive. So, I just thought, like, if you, you know, the records, we still have them. We don’t have, they’re not publicly like accessible now like they used to be until we find another space, but it potentially could have been one of the last times for awhile that we can have a radio show just based off of the collection. And I don’t know…with the internet nowadays like there’s nothing that’s obscure. There’s nothing, everybody knows about everything, but I kind of wanted to see if I could just dig real deep and turn some stuff up. And I had a few other people at the house like, Oh, have you ever heard of this or heard of this? And just stuffed by like bands called like the Angry Housewives and just kind of stuff that maybe didn’t ever make it onto one of these like crazy compilations, like record nerd compilations. Um, so I based the show off of that, and we actually found out about a really cool stuff. Here’s a little clip. If you want to play it.
MB: Yeah, it was basically just anything with like a crazy cover, like a ridiculous song title or something that none of us could, like, that was funny. And also mostly good. There were a few bad songs too, that I had to play title or something.
BH: Yeah. Now you, I think the first set. It was all fruit bands. So you have The Mandarins, Mangoes, and Endless Bananas.
MB: It was coincidence. But you know, when you’ve got all your material in front of you, you got to couple it up somehow.
BH: So then Space Invaders. Violent Anal Death doing a song called Hungry, Hungry Hippos.
MB: I think that was the one that I played just because they had probably never been played on the radio before. It’s not good.
BH: And then, like you mentioned the Angry House Wives doing the song…
MB: It was called Eat Your Fucking Corn Flakes. So good. And I, of course I had to do some research and this was like a promo single.
BH: I think it was like a community play.
MB: It was a play in Seattle, but the, the single is so good. Both sides of it are just awesome. It’s kind of like a fake punk band. There was this whole phenomenon of like fake like punk 45s, like limited copies in the late seventies and early eighties. And it totally falls into that category. Just still so good.
BH: And how did you go? I mean, what was it like going through just throughout your years as a DJ having access to arguably the largest punk collection.
MB: I don’t know. I took it for granted at this point. I mean, when I first started coming out here and visiting, I would, you know, be on tour with a band and we would stay there and we would all just be like trying to find the records we’ve never seen before, because me and a lot of my friends were record collectors or just, I mean, having access to that archive is like, if you’re into music, punk music specifically was like, there’s nothing else like it in the world. I mean all the rare stuff, all kinds of special stuff. And I should talk for a second and maybe you guys can add to this, everything. It has green tape around like green duct tape kind of because when Tim was a kid, he and his brother both collected records and like Tim used green tape and his brother used like blue or some other color. Um, and so that was how they tell, told their records apart. And this just became like, The Maximum Collection. So, and to this day we still put green, like 60,000 records with green tape around the covers Mmm. And that’s just another thing you show up and there’s just like wall of green.
MS: And it ruins all the records.
MB: It does. And everybody, we all hate it. Like why wasn’t there a stamp or like some other archival thing, but it’s just this tradition that you just don’t argue with and we just keep doing it. And like, whoever makes the green tape is like, probably stays in business because of that. But yeah, the archive is like amazing.
BH: So we have just a few minutes left and I wanted to just kind of close. So, in January it was announced that the zine was in its print run and this came as kind of a surprise to a lot of people. I was wondering if you could just talk about the decision. Paul and Matt are probably most involved and knowledgeable about the decision after 30 plus years of ending the magazine.
PC: Yeah. Well, I mean, there was a lot of stuff that’s like kind of nuts and bolts and not interesting about it. Um, but it came down to people just weren’t buying magazine anymore. People aren’t buying magazines in general anymore. And the cost of living is, you know, ever increasing, especially here in San Francisco. And for a long time, we’ve just been barely squeaking by, and it just kind of one day got to the point where we were just looking at it. And it’s like, it’s just untenable.
MB: And I think it was a matter of like doing it on our own terms rather than like outside forces, like crushing us.
PC: Right. Yeah. We didn’t want to wait until one day we just couldn’t pay the bill.
MB: You know, everybody quits or whatever.
PC: Yeah. So it’s just been this enormous ship to try to stop now. Uh it’s it’s um, Uh, it’s been a rough three months, but it’s also been kind of cool cause like a lot of, a lot of us have had to like band together and really, really make it, make it happen. Um, and then which I’m sure is the next question. Um, a lot of trying to take this energy and just move forward to still being on the web and still like providing what we’ve always done, which is coverage of underground music stuff that you wouldn’t otherwise know about.
MB: Still in the same spirit that, I mean, when you guys are early, early on, like radio show was like this and this it’s like, well, it kind of still is. It’s like all submission based. It’s like, you know, we want to be, if you wanted to come to the house and you were just like some random person, you like call and be like, Hey, can I come around five or whatever and check out the people would come and do research on like the magazine, archives and stuff. And that’s like the kind of spirit we want it to continue. Like with however, you know, we are going to go with this.
PC: So we’ll still continue to do MRR radio and still continue to write record reviews and do all the things. At least most of the things that the magazine did online, which, you know, isn’t as glamorous, but I have a feeling there’s going to be more people. You know, more, more people reading a website than I have been reading the magazine, even though, you know, everybody, when we announced that it was ending, was just like what the magazine is going away with. Like, if all those people that said what had actually been buying and reading the magazine, then we wouldn’t be in this predicament. So, you know.
BH: And just kind of in conclusion, if you want to talk to just, I mean, especially for, for Paul and Martin, who’ve been involved now since ’83, like what role has, you know, in reflection, what role has Maximum played in your life? And the influence..
MS: It ruined my life.
MB: Come on, you’re here now.
MS: I know, I know. No, it was essential, you know, moving up here when you’re a teenager and still being part of it and just watching it, even when I pulled back, I kind of pulled back a year or two after Tim died. I still kind of kept in touch with everybody, but it just keeps going and going. And that’s a beautiful thing. And Maximum has been going on longer without Tim, than it had with Tim. And it’s just amazing that it’s able to do that, you know, and actually I supported the board’s decision to end the magazine and I always have this thing, just a hypothetical that I think Tim would have shut the magazine down 15 years ago and gone online because it would be free and it would make so much more sense to him. He would have created this online presence that would be probably somewhat unique, you know? But he wouldn’t, that’s my thought he would have killed that thing and just said, no, no mail, nothing everything’s free and go that direction in a positive way, you know, killing the magazine in a positive way, going to the next, next stage.
MB: More accessible.
MS: Yeah. He would love that.
BH: Can you talk briefly about, so you designed the last issue cover? What went into your decision?
MS: It looks good, haha. There is a really weird deep concept there, but it sounds so arty and weird, you know,
PC: Give it to us, break it down.
MS: Oh my God, All right. I mean, as you can see, see, that’s the Discharge face, which is part of it. Well, most well known thing on shirts and stuff. And there’s a weird story behind that is like a face of Mark Stewart from the pop group that nobody knew that was his, uh, his face. And no one knows why Discharge used it. It’s a funny little story, but it’s also, the spray paint kind of represents killing the old and coming with the new, you know, and kind of both of them working together. You know, spray painting, someone’s face a little disrespectful and, there’s another, this is all so lame. No, it just looks good. The other thing is mean to me and Tim always used to talk about, you know, how music started Tim had this theory, that Discharge was the first thrash band and I go, wow. I think you’re right. And he goes, yeah. And so that was a really interesting thing. We never really talked about it publicly, but it was kind of interesting that way. And then putting Never Again on the cover, which is a discharged song. That was not my doing, that was Grace who works at Maximum. And I gave her like half the credit for the cover, because that was the best idea ever. I didn’t think of that. I’m not that clever, but it just made the final issue there. You know, we’re kind of left off some of the information and just said never again. Yeah.
PC: Why did you slap the barcode right in the middle?
MS: Cause it looks good. It’s being honest about it. You know, it’s being honest about the barcode. It’s like not shameful. I’m trying to hide it. Just like here it is. Yeah. But I think I left off the, I kept the date or no date. Right?
PC: We didn’t put the issue number on it.
MS: At first, I tried to not put any of that information on there, but they got mad at me … I didn’t want to put the logo on it. I go, we don’t have to put the logo on it. It’ll sell without the logo. I just, I was trying to do that, but I had a compromise there.
MB: I think it went well.
BH: And what’s it like for you Paul seeing the last print issue?
PC: Yeah. It’s …I don’t know. I had to happen at some point, so I’m glad it happened.
BH: Did he ever imagine when you’re, you know, a teenage kid that you’d be still involved?
PC: No. Nope. Not at all. Not at all. Because especially back then, like, punks didn’t stay punk, you know, like people dropped out when they became adults and got jobs or whatever.
MB: So some of which will probably hear this podcast.
PC: Yeah. But it’s amazing. I mean, there’s, especially in the Bay area, there’s tons of old punks and it’s like, yeah, it’s cool that a lot of us stuck around. And I don’t know to answer your question without, like, I probably won’t be able to without crying, but like, the influence that Tim had was that of being somebody, an adult who encouraged you to participate and gave you the means the tools to participate. And, uh, it’s, it’s weird to think that, you know, in hindsight that like so many people didn’t have somebody like that there, you know, they didn’t even know there was an alternative in the world to doing things the way you were told. And, that’s incredibly fucking special.
BH: And Matt, kind of continuing being part of the team that’s continuing. What do you hope to see for the future?
MB: I mean like, like Paul said, the radio and the reviews will still continue and like, it’s kind of hard to visualize exactly what it’s gonna look like. And we’ve, we’re having a ton of meetings trying to figure out how to like, take this content and like, evolve it, cause it kind of feels like we’re like behind the times in a way, and there’s like this huge space we could have stepped into like before, like social media became a thing. Cause now everybody’s just on that. Maybe we can reclaim some of it and like do this like completely different thing, but it’s just this, yeah, right now we’re, we’re, we’ve been doing logistic stuff the past three months and we’re just kind of at the tail end of that. And then. I mean, we still have enough people like here locally that I think are like invested to keep putting our energy and like uphold all of our principals and everything. And then we have people worldwide too, that are invested in this. And like, it could potentially be this really cool thing that’s way more decentralized where like our, you know, people in like Europe and Southeast Asia and everywhere else can be just as much a part of it as we are and do the same kind of work that we’re doing and creating something that’s like more accessible to everybody rather than then, like having to spend $25 on a magazine if you lived in Indonesia or something, you know.
BH: I think like Martin was saying, that’s like really represents Tim’s idea of bringing voice to, you know, these international communities now with the internet. I mean, you can really achieve those goals almost better than just having the zine holding everything together.
MS: Yeah. But Maximum really did bring the whole international communities almost sooner than anybody else, you know? Yeah. And like bands that nobody ever heard about,
MB: You could see it happen in the first few issues. It’s crazy. It’s like, there’s like a Finland scene report and then like a Brazil scene report. And then there’s this like this Finish Brazilian thing that’s to this day still exists. That’s just because of that.
MS: No, it’s like in first, second, third issue, you know, it’s crazy. So that was an amazing thing about it went global and it still is global total, you know?
PC: It’s like a web of worldwide intersecting ideas and like information
MS: Well put!
BH: So did Tim Yo invent the internet? Is that what you are saying?
PC: W-w-w. Maximum rock and roll.com. Write us email@example.com and get involved.
BH: Thank you so much
Special thanks to BetaBrand for hosting this event. And thanks again to Paul Curran, Martin Sprouse and Matt Badenhop participating in this conversation
The story of a small Filipino nightclub that transformed into one of San Francisco’s most influential punk venues.
“To play, you need a place – be it where you live, the street, a venue. For unrestricted play, you need an unrestricted playground. Dirk Dirksen envisioned The Fab Mab just as such a playground. Without him and The Mab, there might not have been the great punk scene in the late 1970s in San Francisco. The San Francisco punk scene was fun. I miss it. But as Iggy Pop said, ‘Let’s Sing.'”
— Mindy Bagdon
Special thanks to Denise Demise Dunne, Liz Keim, Penelope Houston, Ron Greco, John Seabury, V Vale, Janet Clyde, and Kathy Peck.
The archival interview with Dirk Dirksen is from Vale’s RE/Search Conversations 13.
Production support from Mary Franklin Harvin.
From Pinoy to Punk: The Rise of The Mabuhay Gardens
An Oral History of San Francisco’s Early Punk Scene
Penelope Houston (PH): The Mabuhay was not your average rock club.
Denise Demise Dunne (DDD): Here was this little club all of a sudden attracting the energy.
Ron Greco (RG): The Dills, Negative Trend, The Avengers…
DDD: So of course you are going to say, Oh, what is going on over there.
PH: More and more people started coming to town. The Ramones played there. Blondie played there. It just became the punk mecca.
RG: When I was real young, I would go by and see this place. It was there for years.
The music itself was nothing really developed yet in the very beginning. It was just a supper club. People would do the Mabuhay dance and stuff like that.
DDD: Dirk was helping Ness with the Amapola show. Amapola was this Filipino night club singer and she was popular within the Filipino community and had a TV show on Channel 26 and a number of characters from The Mab had performed there. My name is Denise Demise Dunne. I was Dirk’s assistant at the very beginning of The Mab.
V Vale (VV): Hi, welcome to The Counter Culture Hour. I’m your host V Vale and I published starting in ‘77 Search and Destroy, the punk publication chronicling the rise of the punk rock cultural revolution. My guest tonight is Dirk Dirksen, the impresario of The Mabuhay Gardens.
LINK: RE/Search Publications
Dirk Dirksen: We were open for ten years, did 3,600 plus concerts.
VV: The thing was at the time things were so conservative that no club wanted anything to do with punk rock until Dirk Dirksen showed up and made The Mabuhay Gardens available.
DD: Ness downstairs at The Mabuhay was having a tough go of it, so I came in and said, Look – how about if you give us Monday nights because that is your dark night. Let me try that and I will guarantee you $175 a night at the bar. I didn’t have $175 at the time, but I figured there are enough people I know that if I say hey, c’mon down and if they each drink two beers, we’ll meet the guarantee. And within a very short time we were grossing more on the Monday than he was grossing on the weekend with name Filipino acts.
Mindy Bagdon (MB): My name is Mindy Bagdon. My film’s name is “Louder Faster Shorter”. At one point on Mondays, which was a dead period on the Broadway strip, Dirk convinced Ness Aquino who owned the club to let him put on different acts. Little by little, it went from sort of vaudevillian variety acts to where The Nuns, who were one of the first groups to play there, apparently they went up to Dirk and they found out this venue was available and they said, Well can we put on a show? And I remember I was walking up Grant Avenue and Vale’s then girlfriend was coming down and proceeding me was the drummer for The Nuns and he was handing out flyers.
VV: My girlfriend who looked like a rocker – I guess I looked like one too, you know with platform shoes and spiked hair and all that junk, just superficial style – my girlfriend was walking down the street and a really short guy said, Hey…feel like coming to our band’s debut at The Mabuhay Gardens, which none of us had heard of because it was Filipino. I’ll put you on the guest list! Those are the magic words for any so-called real punk rocker. So we went and then the rest is history.
MB: The first time we went to The Mabuhay there were more people on stage than there were in the audience, because it hadn’t gotten around. But within two weeks it was packed. I mean, word got around town. Don’t forget this is before the internet, before smart phones, it was literally person-to-person or on the telephone or snail mail to say this venue was doing this. And like I said, within two weeks it was jammed. The joke was Bruce Conner, the famous artist, said – You’d be watching a band and you said, well I can do this too. So you’d go home and learn at least one chord on your bass and you’d get on the stand and you were the audience one week and now you are on the stage.
Kathy Peck (KP): I’m Kathy Peck, bass player for The Contractions and the co-founder and executive director of H.E.A.R, Hearing Education Awareness for Rockers. I came here with Don Peck and he was playing drums with Mary Monday. She actually started the punk scene at The Mabuhay Gardens. She was like the first one. There were other people that played there but she was the one that really…she was amazing.
MUSIC: Mary Monday, I Gave My Punk Jacket to Rickie
KP: She came from a dancer background, but she was really punk. She was just wild! And I would hear stuff at The Mab and see it being played. I loved the music. I got inspired by Mary and I had a bass – a Hofner Beatle bass. I was learning to play. I was self-taught. Yeah, it was really exciting. People were like, they call it pogo-ing or whatever, slam dancing. It was like very crowded and electrifying.
DDD: Dirk at that point asked me to be his assistant and it was like, Yeah, but I can’t type. Because I basically avoided typing because as a female you get pigeoned holed into being someone’s assistant. And he said, Well you don’t have to type that much and you get to do a lot of things around there.
John Seabury (JS): Pretty often during the evening he would be wearing what looks like the Groucho Marx nose with the glasses and eyebrows, except this one had a dildo instead of a nose.
DDD: Mustache, glasses, a bit overweight. I remember the beige jacket, the beret on his hair, and the poodle in his arms. The was the first time I met Dirk.
JS: At the end of the evenings of course, he’d come out on stage and tell everyone to get out which no one is ever paying attention to. So he had a real police whistle which he would blow as hard as he could through the PA til people would leave. His favorite line was “We can’t make anymore money off you, so get out!” I’m John Seabury. I started out playing in a band Psychotic Pineapple back in the 70s and I’m a graphic artist. I did all of the graphics for the band.
RG: I went to this nightclub called The Night Break, I guess you go downstairs on Columbus. This guy walks up to me. This big eye ball t-shirt and this big chicken hawk hair, red flaming hair, and he looks at me and says, Do you play guitar? And I say yeah. And so we talk for a little bit and within 30 days we each get Marshall stacks. That’s how quick it was. Zoom, zoom, zoom. Before we were Crime we were the Space Invaders. Ron Greco, Ron “The Ripper” Greco. I had a Gibson Ripper Bass and everybody goes – Man, you rip a lot! Ripper!
DDD: I took the job and would come in and help him go through all the paperwork. Listen to some of the demo tapes of the bands that came in. Get their press announcement, like Devo. I still remember it saying, Achtung, De-Revolution has begun!
RG: I got the band members together and said, Let’s walk in and talk to the owner. We had a good time there talking to him and so we arranged a show to play.
MUSIC: Crime, Live at The Mabuhay Dec 1978
PH: In 1977 I moved down to San Francisco to go to the Art Institute in North Beach. And after I got there I started to see these posters around town for this band called Crime. And they were really intriguing posters and they weren’t like anything I’d ever seen. They were at a club called The Mabuhay. I was 19 at the time but they let people in 18 or older but they let people in because it was also a Filipino restaurant, so they were able to let minors in. My name is Penelope Houston, I’m in a band called The Avengers. We started in 1977. That was my first band. I’d been going to these shows and ran into Danny Furious who ended up being The Avengers drummer. He had a friend in Los Angeles, Greg Ingraham, and he brought Greg to SF to be in a band with him. Danny had rented part of a warehouse out in Dogpatch and they had a PA set up for their rehearsals. I was staying over there one day hanging out and everybody was gone and I put on some records and started singing through the PA. I just fell in love with the power of amplification. I was like, this is so awesome. I’m so loud and then when they got back I said, I’m going to be your singer.
Liz Keim (LK): When I found the club, I felt at home. I could be exactly who I was and still be part of it. I was freed. My name is Liz Keim and along with Karen Merchant, we created the film, In The Red. It’s a punk document of the late 1970s mostly filmed at The Mab. For the last 40 years, I’ve also been working at the Exploratorium. I’ve been the director of the Cinema Arts program and I’m one of the senior curators.
DDD: Oh, it was fabulous. There were people that came in for the first time to explore and they were still looking hippie. Then there were folks who had taken on the persona. Leather jacket, jeans, black pants, ripped t-shirts. You’d walk down the corridor and there were all these little crevices with people hanging out there.
LK: You’re a night creature, looking for that place to be that feels like home.
DDD: I was one of those creatures cuz you’re just kind of there and you’re watching.
LK: I went up to UC Davis to study art and that was a kind of isolating experience, when I came back into San Francisco I was looking for an intimacy in some ways. Looking for those smaller landscapes. I started filming. I prefer observing and critically assessing where I’m at and I was drawn to the experimental film genre so I wasn’t looking for something that followed a bell-curve narrative or you know was scripted outside of any experience I was living in. So for me it was just capturing a kind of way of being in San Francisco. There were all kinds of relationships that didn’t have to feel permanent where you didn’t have to have names, there was just something about a recognition.
DDD: There was just this excitement. There was the energy back to that word.
LK: It was about being in the mosh pit. It was about hanging on to someone I didn’t know just for counterbalance and it was fine because my counterbalance was as into me as a counterbalance as I was into him or her as a counterbalance. You didn’t have to talk. You know, in some ways we just talked through our bodies. Maybe The Mab was an analog experience for me.
DDD: I was at KSAN at that point and Lou Reed came in for an interview, he was playing at the Old Waldorf. And he brought this guy in with him and the DJ didn’t want to deal with him and said, well, show him around. So we are talking and I’m showing him around and I’m telling this guy about The Mab and what’s going on cuz Lou has his show and I said, Oh, I’ll take you there. You know, and this was Jim Carroll.
JS: Once we got in The Mabuhay, Dirk was really good to us. He had the sense of humor, he kind of got us. So somethings he would have us open for someone really inappropriate like the Jim Carroll Band or somebody like that just because he was being perverse about it. We opened for Jim Carroll twice. And the second time word was out that Patti Smith was in town playing the Old Waldorf and she is probably going to show up and jam. So the Mabuhay was double packed that night.
DDD: Patti Smith, Patti Smith, Patti Smith!
JS: After the set we were backstage and Dirk comes up and goes, Hey you know, Patti Smith is coming. We were like, Yeah yeah, we heard. Well she needs to borrow a guitar and we were like – No! Because we know she is going to break the guitar.
DDD: When Patti played The Mab, it was mesmerizing.
JS: Of course most of the players in the scene at the time would have run home and gotten a guitar just to give to her to smash. Dirk goes off and he comes back ten minutes later and goes, Please guys, please….really, just one guitar for Patti. And we were like, No – forget it! So the band was on and Patti did show up and it was really mobbed and all I could see of the band was the tops of their heads and then I just see the guitar overhead going smash, smash, smash and that was it. And it’s probably in a museum somewhere now.
DDD: It was awestruck. Like, wow! I mean, these are stupid words to come up with because it was just there and here’s this persona mixing this punk with poetry. It was like, yeah, this is it. This is just taking it to a whole different level. Because there were so many levels. There was the fun part, there was the political part, and here is the poetry – here is the art.
LK: Hanging outside was like the preamble or whatever. You got your sense of whether it was going to be crowded and what the energy was like. You didn’t just rush in. It was a lingering. The kind of slow meander and then you would hope to just squeeze in and get by admissions. And maybe having enough money for a beer.
ARCHIVE: PUNK TV SPECIAL, San Francisco Daytime Show “People Are Talking”
MB: Early on people would throw beer bottles at the stage and that was very dangerous. So they actually thought maybe we will put a screen up between the band and the audience but that didn’t sound like a good idea. So then he got the idea, Ah ha – I’m going to make 55 gallon drums of popcorn!
VV: All the super salty popcorn you could eat. I realize later the theory is that this makes you buy drinks.
JS: Free popcorn on the tables. It was really old popcorn and it wasn’t for eating – it was for throwing at the bands.
PH: There would be this big mess of popcorn and jumbled chairs and tables knocked over and it was kind of like a disaster zone.
DDD: I remember being in my house and all of a sudden just having this paradigm shift. The music was playing and all of a sudden, WHAP! Like – reality is not the same anymore.
MUSIC: The Ramones – Judy Is A Punk
DDD: All of a sudden something woke up inside of me. I didn’t even know what it was called at that time but it was like, Oh, something – something just changed here.
LK: Not having much money it was like how to get into these places without it. You could sometimes climb in through the front window at The Mab and one time someone came and grabbed me and said, Dirk wants to talk to you in his office. So he goes, You don’t think I see you sneaking in all of the time! You know, no more of that. But it didn’t stop you. It was part of the culture. We were there to just get it however we could.
WATCH: Louder Faster Shorter, by Mindy Bagdon
PH: The first show we played at The Mab, we had been asked two weeks before if we would play this show – an after party for The Nuns. Between when we heard about the gig and when we played it we went to LA and were visiting with friends of mine from Seattle, The Screamers. Tomato DePlenty and Tommy Gear. And I remember Tommy and Tomato saying to me, Oh you can’t do cover songs. You guys need to write your own songs. So we got back from LA and we had about a week to go and were like, alright let’s write some original songs. So we sat down and wrote “Car Crash”, “I Believe in Me”, “Teenage Rebel” – maybe six songs, original songs, in that week. Then when we got up to play our first time on a real stage in front of a real audience – for me anyway – and someone had written the setlist wrong and so the guitar player was playing a different song from the bass player and the drummer. And when the music started, I was like, Oh my god. Oh my god. I can’t do this. I don’t even know what song this is. It just sounds like a big mish mash. I can’t remember the lyrics and I was so confused and we stopped playing a few seconds later and was like what? What song are we playing? And then they figured it out and we started playing the same song and I was like, Alright, Okay. Here’s how it goes and I can actually do this. But for ten long seconds there I thought, Oh, it’s all gone out of my head. I can’t do this. This is a nightmare. So then we just piled through the set and some people who were there were like, that was really amazing. And we were like, Oh my god. That was such a car crash.
PH: January 14, 1978 we’d been invited to support the [Sex] Pistols. We got there and the place was absolutely sold out. Between five and six thousand people. The biggest show The Sex Pistols ever played and like ten times bigger than the biggest show we’d ever played. So when The Nuns were up there performing the stage got covered in things people were throwing, and spit, it was just pretty rough. So we walked out after they were done to take our place on stage and the first thing that happened to me was I slipped on the stage because there was so much spit. And I almost hit the ground but I kind of caught myself and made my way carefully to my microphone. There is a video of the whole night. And you can see how when we start we were a little frightened and shaky and scared. And then as are set progressed we just got more and more confident and got stronger til at the end we were feeling pretty awesome. It was crazy because there were so many people there and they were all mashed together. People were getting squeezed out of the audience like pimples. And passed overhead like they were passing out. You’d look out at the sea of faces and see someone you knew and make eye contact with them and a second later they would disappear into the crowd. So it was intense, especially for us. We were used to seeing a lot of our friends right up front singing along with us and this was like a huge number of people who had never seen punk before and were there for the spectacle. You know, the circus. A lot of people out there, it was a pretty intense experience. I think the throwing of things increased when the Sex Pistols got out there because Johnny Rotten egged them on. Someone threw a camera on stage. He was like, Oh, thank you. Like he was really egging them on to throw stuff. It started out terrifying for us and ended up feeling very good. There were rumors that Sid’s bass was not even plugged in for that set. And I guess I would have to go back and listen to it to see if I could tell, but I think the band was pretty used to making their way through the set without counting on him.
Janet Clyde (JC): I’m Janet Clyde. I am one of the owners of Vesuvio Cafe in North Beach. I moved here in 1978 when I was 21. I got my first job in San Francisco at The Mabuhay Gardens. I knew how to waitress, I knew how to cocktail, and so it was basically pick up a tray. Dirk right there, he would be at the front insulting people – What are you wearing, rat fur? He was just the funniest guy. Never took himself or anybody too seriously. And really good to the bands, like really good. You’d come in and it was this long, rectangular room with a low ceiling. Dark, cave like – really dark – barebones, tables and chairs, bar in the back. You’d walk in and in the front a stage that was only a few feet high. And there was a back seating area that was raised a little bit.
VV: After they removed all of the tables and chairs and seating and all that junk then a lot more people could fit in. Legally you could maybe cram in 200 people. The most crowded night I remember was some show with both Iggy, Blondie, and David Bowie were there in the audience. And somehow everyone found out about it and that was the most crowded I’ve ever seen The Mabuhay.
JC: We’d go in at 10. There would be no one there at 10 at night, nobody there. But by 11-11:30 it would be packed! And I saw 999, Lene Lovich – I mean, more people than I can count – SVT! It was so much fun, so much fun! Two people stand out – waiting on Bill Graham, who terrified me – and waiting on The Clash, who also terrified me! The Clash though, when Joe Strummer is asking you for a beer and you are just like, Okay, and giving you money and you are trying to think about how to make change for this. Like, my brain has just disappeared. It was amazing! He gave me a $50 bill for the beers. I gave him back like $150 in change. I just could not count – I could not think! And the manager, I will never forget, he just took the money out of Strummer’s hand, put the money back into my hand. And then like you would with a child, counted back the change. Like, how much are the beers? They are this…okay then…here’s $12, $13, $14, $15, $20, $30, $50, boom. I will never forget that, it was the funniest thing.
KP: Well, what happened was Dirksen started to do some gigs upstairs at the On Broadway. That was pretty successful for awhile.
DDD: This was when MTV was coming in, so there was a whole new chapter.
KP: When the big earthquake and the freeway collapsed, that really cut people off from coming there really quickly.
JC: I left The Mabuhay after a few years and time changed on Broadway and they moved the clubs off Broadway.
MB: Venues like  Gilman Street in Berkeley developed around that time.
JC: I don’t really know what it was like at the very end. I think it just got harder, it just got harder for them. And you know, the scene just changed. And so do we, so do we.
MB: If it wasn’t for Dirk, punk rock would have started in San Francisco at some point or other anyway, but Dirk really facilitated its rise. He understood what was happening, you know, and he knew how to let it be free.
LK: It felt intimate to me. I just remember being excited. And that’s a good place to be sometimes when you are that young. Longing and driven – wanting to be nowhere else – and then also just wanting to go crazy, in whatever way that was.
MB: In America when you get to a certain age you’re suddenly told by the urban environment, What are you doing there pogo-ing? You are 45 years old, you should be at the PTA meeting. You have to want to find out something about your life to go to these scenes. I have a Philippine friend and it turns out that “Mabuhay” means “welcome”. And it also means “good life”. So it’s funny in that context because that’s what really happened at The Mabuhay, you know. You were welcome – and it was a good life! When Dirk died, I called Bruce (Conner) and told him because the three of us were going to make a film about the totality of the punk scene in San Francisco. That died with both Bruce and Dirk dying. It was very sad for me. I have not recovered from that to this day because Bruce was a very creative artist and Dirk had every connection necessary in the world.D
KP: I think a lot of people and musicians and artists and everyone contributed. It was a community, even though it was a misfit community. Dirksen was like an entertainer really, definitely the emcee. He was the ringmaster. I had seen that they had named a street in North Beach after the Beat people, so I thought – Well, punk rock man. It was amazing that the punk rockers got a street named. It was right on Broadway and Rowland, like who is going to get that done with no money? I wanted it to be Dirk Dirksen Alley. Joel Selvin from the [San Francisco] Chronicle helped. It’s a historic plaque. It’s in the ground right in the alley so they can’t really ever take it out. It talks about Dirk and Ness and The Mabuhay Gardens. It says, Shut up you animals! He’d be thrilled.
August 25, 1937 – November 20, 2006
This bonus episode features my interview with two of Dave Brubeck’s sons, Dan and Chris Brubeck. Excellent musicians in their own right, the two shared intimate memories of growing up with their father and his legendary contributions to modern jazz.
In 1958, the Dave Brubeck Quartet embarked on a tour of Europe and Asia sponsored by the U.S. State Department. HEAR THE STORY.
This episode features interviews with Keith Hatschek, Program Director for Music Management and Music Industry Studies at the University of Pacific; and Mike Wurtz, Assistant Professor and Head of Special Collections and Archives at the Holt-Atherton Special Collections at the University of Pacific Library.
The archival recording of Dave Brubeck is from his interview with Monk Rowe from the Fillius Jazz Archive at Hamilton College.
Rock critic Joel Selvin on the origins of psychedelic rock in San Francisco–including Ken Kesey and his Acid Tests, the Trips Festival, and birth of bands such as the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Joel Selvin: In San Francisco in 1965, ’66, ’67, there was such an explosion of music, great rock bands – it was just impossible not to be swept up in it. As a copyboy at the [San Francisco] Chronicle, I could get my name on the guest list at The Fillmore. I think I was out like six nights a week watching bands. I’m Joel Selvin, born and raised in Berkeley, CA. At the age of 17, after having dropped out of high school, I went to work as a copyboy at the San Francisco Chronicle and I subsequently took a job there as the pop music critic, which I kept for 36 years. San Francisco was the center of the rock music universe – a truly amazing parade of musical talent. Not only local people, but from all around the world.
Well, the first thing was LSD. In 1964, Augustus Stanley Owsley, III became the first private party to synthesize the formula for LSD, which had been produced since the late 40s by a Swiss pharmaceutical company. Owsley set up business in Berkeley down on Virginia Street, Bear Research Laboratories, and produced – we don’t know? Could be the first two million units of LSD.
Obviously from that epicenter in Berkeley this whole psychedelic movement just sort of spread out. At The Fillmore in December of ’65, The Fillmore was in a black neighborhood, they had run R&B shows there for years. The Acid Tests came in, Ken Kesey and all those guys, had the same staff, right. So the old door guard is this old black guy named John Walker. And John Walker is sitting there and he is watching all this craziness go on. Can’t imagine what he is thinking. But the police come in – San Francisco police – they come in and want to see what is going on here. And they think it’s pretty weird too. And they go to Walker and they go – What the hell is going on here? He says – Don’t worry, they’s in love. Nobody was pushy, nobody was obnoxious. Everybody felt like being in this together was so special that we were automatically bonded and we were all friends immediately just because we were cool enough to be there. Everybody else that wasn’t there, they were missing it.
By 1966 when it was appearing on the cover of Life Magazine and this mind altering chemical, publicity had reached a point where everybody knew about it and those people who were inclined were gravitating toward using it. And this was the center of that. LSD had a tremendous effect on people who took it. And San Francisco bay area, they began to form a kind of community around people who took LSD and one of the first things they did was throw dances with bands. And these bands, who also took LSD, were not really playing old time rock n roll in the way that had been. It just didn’t make any sense. Instead of like, 2-3 little songs, verse chorus, verse chorus, bridge, verse chorus…they started playing instruments and jamming. The audience danced and everybody was on LSD.
The Avalon and The Fillmore in 1966 were pretty much LSD speakeasies. This was like the ground zero for the explosion. And it wasn’t just music, I mean, you can see its effect on organic farming, interest in yoga, the personal computer movement – all those guys were acidheads. Music is just one of the things that came out of that. It was a real prominent, it became the forefront of all of that countercultural movement.
First thing that happens to the LSD community, they wanted to have these public gatherings where they could engage in activity while having the LSD experience. The first of those were kind of informal affairs that were hosted by Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which had been a best seller. He’s been a volunteer at the Stanford Veterans Hospital where the CIA ran LSD experiments. And that is where he was introduced to it. His idea was to hold this happening. And it was a multimedia event that involved projections, films, noise, and a band. The band was this sort of local electric bluegrass band called The Warlocks. They were the house band. They would go to a house in San Jose, hand out flyers and I don’t know how many people…50, 100, not a big crowd. They had a bunch of these arounds. Of course, The Warlocks would become the Grateful Dead. At the Muir Beach acid test, they met Owsley. So then they had a steady supply of LSD.
Now the Trips Festival was kind of outgrowth of the acid tests. The acid tests had taken place all through the fall and winter ’65 and in early ’66, one of Kesey’s associates, a fellow named Stuart Brand who would go on to start the Whole Earth Catalog. He decided they should do a big three day affair and they rented out the Longshoreman’s hall, which has been the site of a couple of previous acid rock danced by the Family Dog. Really the very first one in October of ’65 with the Charlatans and the Airplane and Great Society.
And oddly enough, they hired to produce the Trips Festival, the square guy who had been the manager of the San Francisco mime troupe. And they’d been arrested for obscenity charges for doing a 15th century Italian play in the park. This was how it was in San Francisco in ’65. And so as part of a defense fund, they held some benefits and the guy discovered producing concerts and how easy it was and how much money you can make. And that would be Bill Graham. And Bill never took LSD. But they got him to produce this Trip’s Festival. And Jerry Garcia forever remembers the first time he met Bill Graham because the Grateful Dead had taken too much acid and they weren’t going to be able to play. They were all way too high. And in fact, Garcia’s guitar had been stepped on in the neck, had been broken off the body. They’re all getting ready to go home, give up and get their gear and not play. And Garcia goes up on stage and he sees this guy with a clipboard under his arm, frantically trying to put the guitar together. In his state high on LSD, Jerry’s just filled with this like sense of warmth and kindness of this man doing this futile impossible task and bending so hard to it. He just loved the guy right away. And that was Bill Graham.
There all kinds of great stories from that night. I mean, Kesey was a fugitive from the law at that point, he’d been arrested a couple times on marijuana charges and he was gone. But he came that night and he dressed in a spaceman suit outfit and he had a helmet on with a visor, had the visor up and he was letting people in for free through a side door. And Bill Graham just came rushing up panic – Like how can you do that? Slams the door shut. And he looks and sees this guy and he looks at him and says, Ken? And Kesey just plops his visor down and walks away. So that was the Trips Festival. It was a mess.
They had the typical garbage pail filled with the Koolaid. It looks to be like somewhere at 900 – 1,000 people, something like that, pretty good crowd, but not sold out and packed or anything. And definitely still like, kind of under the radar, only the people who would have been likely to attend any way, knew that this was taking place. It wasn’t like they were writing about it in the Chronicle or sending TV crews to cover it.
Chet Helms was the son of a preacher. And so he came to San Francisco with what I’ve always thought of as a missionary zeal. So instrumental in the flash point of starting everything. As a pot dealer, he would go around to all the hip boarding houses. He ran across one in Page street that had a ballroom in the basement and he started producing weekly jam sessions in that ballroom.
And pretty much the entire San Francisco scene flitted through those jam scenes – Big Brother and the Holding Company was founded there. They were kind of the house band. All the guys from Quicksilver played together for the first time at those jam sessions. The Dead were there. And that was just the very beginning. That was like one of the very first laboratories. where this germ could be worked on in a petri dish. Now Chester attended all the early events. He was just an avid enthusiast, like I said, a missionary. And at some point when the hippie commune that through the first really three acid rock dances called themselves The Family Dog decided not to do it anymore, Chester took over their name and found the Avalon ballroom.
And he’d thrown a couple of concerts in partnership with Bill Graham. But Bill was not a good partner and pretty quickly Chester was on his own again. And that’s when he opened the Avalon. The Avalon ran for two and a half years. It was the real hippie dance hall. Graham ran the Fillmore, which Janis Joplin famously said, was a place where sailors went to get laid. The Avalon was just a complete anarchistic mess and had wonderful shows, extraordinary lights, and everybody was on acid. Now The Fillmore was great. There was plenty of great music there. There’s plenty of great shows. There are plenty of plenty of people on acid, but that was definitely the establishment and the Avalon was definitely the commune.
Summer in San Francisco in ’67 was a hell on earth. Flower children had turned into street people. It was overcrowded. It was crime ridden. It was filthy. The drug scene had gone from psychedelic to narcotic. The people in the Haight were fighting with the cops by July. I mean, lobbing firebombs at the police. I’m not saying the police were exactly that kind or generous toward the hippies, but hippies to not throw firebombs – peace and love, remember. So the whole thing had completely degenerated. I mean, the music survived. And the fact is that the demand for the music grew so much out of that the bands were no longer part of the neighborhood and they were being paid sums of money. Their economics were drawing them out in San Francisco. And really a year before had been just us small scene in a few neighborhoods. And these bands had this very specific constituency and now they’ve become like item attraction, The Airplane, The Dead, Quicksilver, Big Brother, Country Joe. There were started working elsewhere and being part of this growing movement. And other bands took their places, you know, Santana. It’s A Beautiful day. Creedence Clearwater Revival. It’s not the San Francisco scene wasn’t truly creative and abundant and everything, as far as music goes, but socially, culturally, the Haight was over. The Summer of Love killed it. By the time of George Harrison, The Beatle, showed up in August and toured the flotsam and jetsam that lined the street. You know, he was so disgusted. He never took drugs again in his life.
In October, The Diggers who serve the community organizers around the Haight, they held am adhoc ceremony called the death of a hippie and they had a funeral march right down Haight street. And in March 68, the Grateful Dead moved out of the Haight to Marin Country and Sonoma. Man – it was over, not the music, you understand, not the culture, culture was just dispersed and it was like difficult to track the trace elements.
Long before there was Coachella, Outside Lands Festival, and the popular music gatherings of today, the Monterey Pop Festival was the first of its kind. Taking place in the fairgrounds of Monterey in the summer of 1967, the three-day festival brought to the stage the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and The Who. Their performances are now viewed as legendary markers in the history of rock and roll, but at the time, Jimi and Janis were newcomers to the rock scene. These debut appearances introduced them to the rest of the world and in doing so, they helped revolutionized the entire landscape of rock and roll music to come.
In this episode, Darice Murray-McKay, Jonathan King, and Rosalie Howarth recount their experiences as young teenagers attending the legendary music festival. Additional commentary is provided by famed music critic Joel Selvin.
Monterey Pop Festival Revisited
Joel Selvin: Monterey – it was a watershed moment where everything pivoted in three days. All of what pop music was on Friday was changed by Sunday night. All the groups that came in on top – The Association, Johnny Rivers, the Mamas & Papas – they were history on Monday. And everybody that came in unknown from London and San Francisco, they were the new stars. The ones the record companies wanted. That is what people wanted to hear. It was this huge swivel spot. The entire sound of popular music had changed in just that weekend. Nothing was ever the same since.
HOST: Welcome to The Echo Chamber, I’m your host Brandi Howell. It almost seems mythical now, what we hear about the Summer of 1967, of the music festival that took over the sleepy fairgrounds of Monterey, CA for those three days in June. The idea seems so commonplace now with the Coachella’s and Outside Lands of our day, but this was the first of its kind. An idea hatched up by John Phillips of the Mamas & Papas and their producer Lou Adler. Little did they know that their experiment would prove to be an unforgettable experience ushering in a new era of rock and roll for generations to come. My friend’s father was in the crowd that weekend and at the young age of 17, he said it changed his life. A strong statement of course, but no doubt it’s true. To have witnessed firsthand these moments that are now permanently etched in the lexicon of rock and roll, the memories and music still hold their strength and power for him and the others that were there. And so as we marked upon the 50th anniversary of Monterey Pop Festival, I began to talk to some of the others that were also there in the crowd. To listen to their stories and share their experiences of those three days in Monterey. And now on The Echo Chamber, we go back to Monterey Pop Festival. Here are their stories.
Jonathan King (JK): I have memories of the festival. I had just turned 17 at the time. One thing I wonder about is how many veterans of that day, if their memories are crystal clear? We are getting on in age. And how much of that has been influenced by the movie that came out, Monterey Pop? It’s just a fun idea for me, it’s like – Are people remembering what really happened, or are they remembering…but I, being the neurotic high school student, kept notes…
Darice Murray-McKay (DMM): My name is Darice Murray-McKay. We are in the San Francisco Public Library branch in the Haight and I have been working here since 2003. When I was five years old, my mother woke me up, grabbed me out of bed and put me in front of the black and white television set and said – Watch this! This is important. It was Elvis on the Steve Allen show. I was doomed. It’s almost hardwired DNA now, everything that was rock and roll. It was 1967, I was living in San Diego, CA. I was 16 years old. When the Monterey Pop Festival was announced, my best friend in high school and myself got tickets.
JK: I’m Jonathan King. I had just turned 17 when I went to the Monterey Pop Festival. I was a Los Angeles high school student just finishing the 11th grade. A rock and roll nut, but a loner, socially maladroit. I spent endless hours in my room worshipping rock and roll records. I was probably the only kid in my entire high school who had a subscription to Billboard so I could follow disc jockeys and charts and record releases. I really obsessed about it. So when the festival was announced, I said – I gotta go to this thing!
There were a couple of small problems. I had never been out of Los Angeles. I was 17 years old and had never been beyond the city limits. Extremely shy. Had no adult skills at all, so the notion of somehow transporting myself 300 miles to northern California, this mystical Oz, almost was beyond me. But I was bound and determined.
Rosalie Howarth (RH): When we got the word that this big rock festival was coming to the fairgrounds, that was really exciting news and we were all going to be there. We were going to meet all the people who were where it’s at. It was going to be totally out of site, like a be-in. I’m Rosalie Howarth and I’ve lived in Walnut Creek for 23 years, but I grew up in Monterey. I work for KFOG radio doing a show on Sundays called Acoustic Sunrise. When the time arrived, my girlfriend and I certainly couldn’t afford the $3 tickets, so we snuck into the fairgrounds and wondered around and found a place where we could see the stage if we climbed up the back of one of the horse corrals.
DMM: We told my parents that we were going to Monterey. My father said, “Oh, sure. We’ll drive you up.” They’d been our chauffeurs to shows before, to The Beatles, to the Yardbirds in Los Angeles. So they drove four teenage girls up to Monterey. We left very early in the morning on Thursday.
JK: My mother, way less determined. She first say, “No, are you insane?” Eventually I wore her down for the first time in my life by saying, “I’m going anyway!” She made me promise to get a hotel room and she made me promise to call every night. So a couple days before the festival, I started looking for a hotel room and what do you know, there was nothing in Monterey at all. I had no mental geography of the area so I pulled up a little map of California and noticed that Monterey was only a half of inch from some place called Santa Cruz. So I called and there was a hotel room. So my mom said, “Okay. Fine.”
DMM: It was interesting, four teenagers and two adults in a car. This was ’67 so we were driving a 1966 Caprice. We went up the coast, 12 hours – 15 hours straight. My father was a long distance truck driver so he doesn’t believe in overnights on trips. Drove up, spent Thursday night in the hotel.
JK: Got in the Greyhound bus on Friday morning, the first day of the festival and took a long ride out of Los Angeles for the first time in my life to mysterious places like Paso Robles and Salinas, my eyes were open wide. Got to Santa Cruz to claim my hotel room about 6pm, rushed to check in and get back to the Greyhound to take a bus to Monterey and see the Friday night show, but there were no buses. I was desolate! I was destroyed! The Animals were going to play that night and I had waited three years to see The Animals. They were one of my favorite bands. I wept copious tears. Finally, I went out to the freeway to try to hitch to Monterey. 17 years old, little Jewish boy from LA, this was all new and exciting. Could not get a ride for two hours. It was cold and miserable, so I trudged back to Santa Cruz in my hotel room and wept more copious tears and slept.
RH: The city just totally freaked out. There was an inundation of these long haired, red-eyed, young people with beards dragging their possessions along behind them. It must have looked like the zombie apocalypse to them.
DMM: Got dropped off to go to the concert Friday afternoon. We said we got to get their early. The first night we were way, way, way in the back. It was a large amount of people. Chairs were set up in the middle, and then there were the box seats. We were almost in the very, very last row at the back. The Friday night show went on into the dark. Eric Burden and The Animals, Johnny Rivers, Beverly, Lou Rawls, The Poppers, and The Association. It was just exciting.
And of course Simon and Garfunkel closed out the night. It was a highlight of the show, to hear them live, to hear that whole 15,000 people all humming along, all the way to the back row. It was very moving and it was a fitting ending.
DMM: The interesting part is what happened after we went Friday night. We got back to the hotel and I said, “Hey dad, mom – A lot of people are just staying at the fairgrounds. And they said – Yeah, see you Monday morning!” So four teenagers got up, went off to the show, and never came back ’til Monday afternoon. And they had no problem with that. None.
RH: I had parents who were of the school, as many were in those days, of benign neglect. Be home in time for dinner, that was the deal. So I told them where I was going and that I would be staying out late. I don’t remember how I got there. Everybody hitchhiked in those days, and I may have hitchhiked, though you know I didn’t tell my parents about it.
JK: Next day got up, finally caught a bus, made it to Monterey, walked miles to the fairgrounds. Finally get to the festival, sit down for the Saturday afternoon show which is sort of a blues and rock show. DMM: Basically, the San Francisco bands. It was a daylight show. Our tickets are a whole lot better. We are stage right about a third of the way back.
RH: And as luck would have it, the coral we had climbed up to the back roof of was right at the tip of one of the horse shoe arms. We were maybe 60 feet away from the stage.
DMM: We were all feeling really high because we had just been turned loose from the hotel and we knew we were going to stay at the fairgrounds and it was just really exciting. My best memory of that day – I was looking across the floor and I saw this gorgeous, gorgeous guy. He had hair down to the middle of his back. Beautiful. And he was just staring at the stage entranced by what was going on. I’m just like, I am in love! My lord, look at that. And the next time I saw him he was on stage playing lead guitar for Quicksilver Messenger Service and it was John Cipollina. For me, what encompasses Monterey is seeing John across the field so much enjoying someone else playing, and then as I said the next time I saw him he was onstage playing and I was a diehard Cipollina fan forever.
It was a band with a few guys and this one woman singer. She is wearing a little knit dress with little tiny pumps – little, little tiny pumps.
RH: It was gold, knit jersey tunic top that flared at the bottom. And then the same kind of gold, knit jersey pants, bell bottoms with real big legs at the bottom. And as she swirled and twirled it just swirled around in this golden, gauzy haze of energy. And then she would lean over and stomp her foot and everything would shake and shimmer.
JK: Big Brother came out and just ripped the place apart.
DMM: Everyone is just sitting there kind of politely and Janis opened her mouth – Ball and Chain.
RH: Ball and Chain was so intense, people were just literally screaming out loud.
JK: I was just transfixed. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
DMM: The whole place, the entire place, just went what – Oh, What?!? I think Janis knew that this was that big moment. She blew everyone away.
RH: It was absolutely riveting. Especially seeing these strong women up there, just belting it out. And fronting big boy rock bands. I mean, there were a lot of female vocalists. Women like Aretha and Tina Turner, but to see these women leading these loud rock bands equally in stature with men, fronting the band, not just being girl backup singers, was really a mindblower – literally, because that meant anything was possible for a young woman that loved music.
JK: They did this fantastic set, just blew my mind. So much so that after they finished their set I had my best seats of the festival at that point, they were about ten rows behind the VIP section. And I’m looking and Oh My God – there is the lead singer just standing behind the VIP section watching the band, swigging a bottle of whiskey. I got up and I went up to her, which for me to do came from somewhere really deep that I overcame my shyness and I just looked at her, I said – You were amazing! And Janis Joplin looked at me and said – Thanks, man. And I went back to my seat and melted. That’s a vivid, vivid memory.
DMM: Saturday night – Jefferson Airplane, Laura Nyro, Paul Butterfield, Moby Grape, The Byrds, Hugh Masekela and The Big Black, and then Otis Redding closed with Booker T. and the MGs and the Mar-Keys. Otis Redding had this high, high energy, R&B set that was centered on his voice. And it was the back-up.
JK: It was universal. You can’t resist the beat, you can’t resist the vocal-stylings. It was Booker T. and the MGs behind him so it was tight as it could be.
DMM: Horns, rhythm…
JK: Really a spectacular musical experience. There was no hold bar, no going…Oh, I’m viewing an African-American performing. It wasn’t even that.
DMM: It was getting us into black rhythm and blues music that we were not that aware of.
JK: It just rocked.
DMM: The Jefferson Airplane – Jorma and Jack, Grace, she was already a queen of rock and roll. Because the Airplane were on at night there was the backdrop so we could do these light shows. And they were just – they were ACID TRIPS. There were colors and shapes that would be like amebas and grow and get smaller and change color and move. It gave a whole another dimension. You are listening to the music, you are listening to the lyrics, you are looking at what the people are wearing on stage, and then the backdrop is pulling you in as a participant to the stage performance because you are part of this ameba color organism that everyone is part of at that moment.
JK: I never went back to the hotel that whole weekend. Saturday night the show ended about 1. People started streaming out of the venue either to go back to their tents or wherever they were living and I was without a place to go. There was no transport. There was no nothing. And I was kind of concerned about where I was going to sleep. It turned out that there was a home economics building on the festival grounds that had been taken over by the press, such as it was, the hippie press. They were all camped out in there. And I tried to get in. And they said, Well who are you affiliated with? And I said, Oh god, I showed them my high school newspaper press card. I was an associate editor on the Colonial Gazette. And they kind of looked at each other and went whatever, come on in. So suddenly I was in a warm gym of some sort. Big room. I found a blank space on the floor between two parties of hippies. Took off my jacket and used it as a pillow and laid down on the floor. These nice people took pity on my and tossed me a blanket. And so I slept on the floor. I very much remember waking up the next morning as people were getting breakfast and someone was playing KYA and it was the Jefferson Airplane playing “Somebody to Love”, which I had just seen the night before. I really felt – I have arrived! I am not a hippie, but I am hippie adjacent. This is really cool what is happening right now.
DMM: After staying there Saturday night and not sleeping really, crashing in a head shop booth, we went into something we had no idea what was going to be. Ravi Shankar, sitar music.
JK: Revolver had been out for almost a year so we all kind of new that the sitar was an instrument and he was a big avatar, but I don’t think anyone owned Ravi Shankar records at that point. After the festival, I bought every one I could find. I was absolutely hypnotized.
DMM: I’m a completist. There was no way I would go up there and miss something. I had no idea. You know, I had heard what a sitar was. But this whole new meditative approach, something that took you inside, interior, ethereal – this calm interlude in a weekend of rhythm and blues and Janis Joplin screaming her head off and taking the crowd down – the sounds coming out of that were something that we had never heard before. This was low, contemplated, meditation music. It really was an oasis in that weekend. This also was showing us the breadth of music out there that we had not been introduced to.
JK: You see that wonderful interplay between Alla Rakha and the tabla and Ravi Shankar, and you see the looks of wonder on the audiences’ face and then the standing ovation at the end. And that was really how it mounted. It just got more and more through the performance as people understood what artistry we were seeing. What incredible transmission of music in this unfamiliar genre and it reached everybody.
DMM: One of the really coolest things about Monterey was as a west coast teenager I was introduced to so many bands and so many types of music that I had not heard of before. Hugh Masekela, Otis Redding – I had never gone to a Motown or Stax show – Ravi Shankar, these are three highlights that I would never have ever seen in southern California. It was eye opening. And then we get to The Who! Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey – absolute forces of nature. John Entwistle is the only thing that held that band down to a level that they’d stay on stage. Keith Moon – the craziest, most wonderful drummer in the world – crazy! And Roger Daltrey was always out front playing to the women in the crowd. Always looking gorgeous. Always swinging and moving. Townsend was playing a guitar like nobody had ever heard anybody play a guitar. Windmilling, moving, and Entwhistle just standing there holding them down on stage so they didn’t all just erupt and leave. Which I had heard they had done at other shows! JK: People were polite and they appreciated it, but it wasn’t until My Generation and what happened afterwards that people were just stunned! I mean – a bomb went off in a drum kit and this guy had created feedback no one had ever heard and smashed his guitar and all of this stuff – and the place was just quiet for a second…until that final devolution, that final extreme act…which came as a surprise to most people. It also sounded amazing. It was turned up to 11 and the feedback and the crunching of the guitar – it’s chaos in your ears! And then the pyrotechnics! And the bomb that goes off – Townsend is gone, his guitar is broken and suddenly – BOOM – this drum kit explodes and people are running around like crazy. A big impression!
DMM: This was one of their biggest first appearances in the United States and they were hungry. They were hungry – they wanted to make their mark. And it was an amazing show. Unfortunately, they were upstaged as we all know. This unknown Black American with an afro walked out on stage.
RH: I do remember before going to the festival an older guy, one of the hippies, said – Oh my god! You gotta catch this one act, you gotta catch Jimi Hendrix. I said – Okay, Jim Hendrix, I’m remember. And he said – No, no, no. Jimi. And it’s Jimi with an ‘I’, J-I-M-I, you have to catch him. And it’s Hendrix with an “X”. Promise me you will see him. And that’s probably the reason I made sure that we found a way in that night.
JK: Ecstatic and electric and overwhelmingly loud and sexual and revolutionary – from the time he walked out on stage.
DMM: Incredibly flashy dresser. He is playing a guitar with a vest behind his back. So he’s got layer upon layer upon layer of clothes and then he’s doing acrobats on stage.
JK: You just sat there with your jaw open the whole time. Girls went crazy all around the stadium and the guys were just looking at it, a lot of guitar wannabe players going – Eh, maybe I will go into carpentry, auto mechanics is appealing!
DMM: This was like the Janis moment. Everyone in the crowd was just dumbfounded. This was his first appearance in the United States and he’d taken England and Europe by storm. No on in the States knew him. He came up with things that no one had ever thought of doing on a guitar. And once he did it everyone just stood in awe and said – You can do that?!? And so then Jimi realized that Pete being Pete destroys his guitar. Jimi made sure that there was no question whether or not he destroyed his guitar. He burned his guitar! It’s toward the end of his set. He’s blowing the audience away, but they are still kind of polite…not quiet, but not rushing the stage.
JK: He’s playing Wild Thing and it was cacophonous and he is pounding through the power chords and then there is a period of feedback. But then he put his guitar down on the stage. And we thought – That’s odd.
DMM: And everyone is watching him.
JK: He had something in his hand. It looked like he was pissing on the guitar, but it wasn’t – it was a bottle of lighter fluid.
DMM: And he starts spraying the lighter fluid across…
JK: Then he struck a match and it went up in flames. Lying there on stage there is a burning guitar with howling feedback. He sort of prayed to it a little bit, you could see his fingers wiggling over the fire. My reaction was – Well, that’s a topper! I wonder how Pete feels about that.
DMM: Everyone in the crowd is just – WHAT, HUH??? And then it’s just silence with them going – Oh, my god! Blew The Who off the stage. Put him at the forefront of the people who were well known, but beyond that it was just…I gave you everything. And here is the last little drop and here it is. And then the Mamas & Papas came on. I don’t know how they had the guts to even walk on to that stage. They closed it off with kind of…well, you know, you just saw the most amazing thing in the world and we can’t really reference it so we are going to do a couple of hits and close this out and then you can all trip for the rest of the night because we can’t compete.
RH: After Jimi’s performance, I scurried backwards down off the back of the arena and got the heck out of there. It was just too frightening and intense and that place could have gone up like a cinder, I’ll tell you. It was the perfect kind of music to just chill out to.
DMM: Kind of like the way Greensleeves is played at the end of Fillmore shows. Y’all know it’s over. We are giving you something really mellow and nice to walk out to that you can hum with. And then you go do whatever you are going to do. And that night was a party! Thousands of people, there was the Midway, there were parties in some of the other out buildings. People camping out from a commune in Santa Cruz, there were all kinds of side parties going on. We pretty much didn’t get any sleep that night. There was no sleeping in the booth, it was just party to party to party to music to whatever. And then the sun came up, it was about 9 o’clock in the morning and we decided we needed to get back to the hotel, which was pretty much within walking distance. So we all walked back to the hotel and my parents asked how it was. And we said – Wonderful, lovely. And they checked out of the hotel, we took showers, and got back in the car and drove back to San Diego.
RH: I had to scurry home. I was already very, very late and in fact, in those days there was a firm curfew of 10pm for anybody under 16. So I had already broken curfew.
JK: Memory of Monterey for me is inextricably intertwined with my own personal story. I can’t imagine that was true for everyone. For a lot of people it was probably a fun weekend in the middle of a fun summer. For me it came at a point in my life where I was just starting to develop. It took everything that I spent my time thinking about, which was rock and roll, and set it in front of me as a banquet. I got to have adventures, leave home, and it opened up really a whole new life for me of getting out and experiencing stuff which had just not been a part of my life. I was a shy, bashful kid. Sat at home with his radio a lot. Anyone can pontificate about how if effected the culture and musical industry and all of that, for me it was the absolute lynchpin of a new era in my life and I will always remember it that way.
DMM: So that was Monterey!
HOST: And now for a bit more history behind-the-scenes of the festival, we go back to Joel Selvin, San Francisco-based music critic and author of Monterey Pop Festival.
JS: Monterey Pop Festival was dreamed up by a guy named Alan Pariser who was one of the connoisseur pot dealers in Hollywood. He was the heir to the Sweetheart straw fortune. He was well-known to the hip rock community for his high grade cannabis. He dreamed it up and went to a guy named Ben Shapiro, who was an old-time Hollywood music business manager. Had a few clients like Ravi Shankar. And they booked the dates for the festival which was on the site of Monterey County Fairgrounds where the Monterey Jazz Festival was held every year since 1958. They went to John Phillips of the Mamas & Papas who were the top rock group in Los Angeles at the time to see if he wanted to go. And he liked the idea so much that he and his manager Lou Adler kind of hijacked it from Pariser and Shapiro. And when they took it over they turned it into this non-profit. Created a board of governors that included members of The Beatles and the Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel and created a whole sense of Monterey as being this impending event. In order for Monterey to represent the new rock scene in June of 1967 fully and completely, not only did they need the support of the London rock scene which they were getting through their contacts with The Stones and The Beatles and others, but they had to have the San Francisco rock bands. Now at that point most of the San Francisco bands had not really played outside of San Francisco. The Airplane, their second album had come out in February of 1967 and immediately White Rabbit was a hit record. In June of ’67, as the Pop Festival was starting to take place, the second single, Somebody to Love, just exploded. They were the most anticipated act of the weekend. But that was just tip of the iceberg and everybody knew that. There was this Fillmore and Avalon scene that was just in San Francisco. The was the only place you could see or hear it, but you’d heard about it. So Lou Adler and Phillips came up to San Francisco because they knew they needed the cooperation. And San Franciscans were hippies and they were very suspicious of the Los Angeles music business. They went to Ralph Gleason who was the respected columnist in the San Francisco Chronicle. Gleason started listening to them and said, you know this is a pretty good idea, you aught to do it. And with Gleason’s blessing, they were able to go to the other rock bands managers around San Francisco and acquire pretty much the full participation of the San Francisco scene. Coming out of Los Angeles, and of course the Mamas & Papas, they brought along Scott MacKenzie, Phillips old friend he had fashioned this song that was going to be a kind of commercial for the Monterey Pop Festival.
Welcome to The Echo Chamber, a new podcast that takes a closer at music and its effect on history and culture. The first season will feature stories from the Monterey Pop Festival, the Jazz Ambassador program of the Cold War, St. John Coltrane Church and more.
Stay tuned for the first episode, coming soon.
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