Preparing my monthly “works-in-progress” box for Crawdaddy, I consulted the usual trades searching for one-liners. It seemed that the latest new Hammond discovery was about to come out with his first album, so I wrote for an upcoming issue: “Solo Jorma Kaukonen, acoustic, produced by Jack Casady….debut album of the heralded Bruce Springstein….live Stones-Stevie Wonder….James Taylor’s One Man Dog.”
Hey, if he was another Dylan signed by John Hammond he had to be Jewish, right? A few days later, in early December 1972, I got a phone call at the office from a brash, fast-talking fellow who claimed to be Bruce’s manager (and song publisher). The manager’s name was Mike Appel, and even before his client’s first big gig or album he was declaring him the surefire hottest act of the decade. He wasn’t afraid to drop the name of Dylan – plus Keats, Wordsworth, Byron and, maybe, Shakespeare. Right. And he also had a bridge he wanted to sell me. On the other hand: I was probably one of the few people in the biz who knew who this kid was, and remembered the Hammond connection. So I kept listening as he shouted in my ear.
What was he offering? Press party? Test pressing? Payola? Well, no. It seemed that Bruce was no longer a solo act. He now had a band and they were about to perform their first show, a publicity event (I guessed) disguised as a do-gooder appearance: behind the walls of fabled Sing Sing Prison up in Ossining, N.Y. Sort of an East Coast version of Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison – minus a star at the center. Well, I’d always wanted to see the inside of a heavy duty prison (as a guest) and the gig was set for two days later on my birthday. So I said yes to the Sing Sing along.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Shortly after signing his contract with Columbia Records, Bruce played a brief gig at fabled Max's Kansas City in New York, acoustic, as he had not yet fully formed what would become the E Street Band (he had signed as a solo act). In the above video you get the first two numbers he played. And below, from the forthcoming companion volume to my new Incompleat History of Rock 'n Roll web series -- watch the trailer here, which includes more on "discovering" Springsteen back then:
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Just posted first episode of the "Incompleat" series, following up on the popular trailer. And it's timely too, in this Super Bowl week, as it focuses on New Orleans music, most notably, the Fat Man himself. More exclusive excerpts and text here in the weeks ahead!
Thanks for watching the first episode (and if you missed it, scroll down a bit). Here's another excerpt from my forthcoming book, describing my "covering" the famously canceled Powder Ridge rock festival in July 1970 in Connecticut for Zygote magazine, where I served as an editor.
It was to be held at the Powder Ridge ski area in
, which the ads said formed “a natural amphitheater.” Even after day one, a Friday, got called off, due to an injunction secured by local residents in Middlefield – the year after Woodstock saw the vast majority of fests killed this way – Lenny told me to go anyway, since thousands were already showing up and some musicians were vowing to arrive to show solidarity with the huddled masses. The New York Times was covering the festival daily as a big local story. Would ticket-holders get stiffed? So off I went on Saturday morning. Connecticut
Ignoring signs posted on roads leading the site reading “Festival Prohibited—Turn Back,” I arrived to find the parking wasn’t too bad. Scattered across the slopes, looking down at a stage at the bottom, were 20,000 or more people, with the ratio of drug pushers to users about 3:2. (It would take more than an injunction to keep dealers away from longhaired rock fans.) Sellers of acid and mescaline posted signs next to tents advertising their wares—or was it “bewares”? The price of a buck for a tab was hard to pass up. I didn’t see, but heard about, a barrel where everyone was encouraged to toss extra tabs, or god knows what, into a punch that you could then drink. Also: all utilities had been shut off and the food service abandoned.
The schedule for day two, besides Van, included the Allman Brothers, Joe Cocker, Little Richard, Jethro Tull, surely the largest collections of weirdoes to ever perform on a single day in the great state of
. No announcements came from the stage so rumors were all we had. I roamed around, taking notes, spotting a nude couple here and there, some serious bad tripping in the woods, and the general order, and odor, of despair. It seemed to feature the “brown acid” from Connecticut without the music or good vibes. Woodstock
Finally, in late afternoon, I felt I’d done my duty and beat a hasty retreat after finding my car not blocked in. The next day on the radio they reported that one artist did show – folk singer Melanie, who arrived after dark and performed her hit “Candles in the Rain” as hundreds held up candles. She plugged into the only electrical generator near the stage – a Mr. Softee truck. Sweet, but you couldn’t have paid me to stay for that (even if Zygote wasn’t paying me).
Comedian Lewis Black would later recount his drug-soaked days at Powder Ridge after walking off his post as a parking attendant there. He claimed that a Black Panther leader gave a fiery speech just as a thunderstorm broke out, causing many to blame the Panther and freak out even more. It would go down in history as the most famous canceled rock fest. Well, that was something anyway. In any event, my career as a rock journalist could only go up from there.