About six months after writing a series of pieces in 2009 on Cream concerts I’ve been to, I was contacted by Ken Melville. Ken was in the band Catharsis in Boston in September, 1967 and opened for Cream for their one-week run of concerts at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, just a stone’s throw from Fenway Park.
I went to see Cream on a Sunday, the first night of the engagement, which was supposed to last two weeks but only survived the one. A detailed description of the concert, a particularly memorable one, is available here.
I do recall an opening act, but don’t remember much about the band. To my amazement, Ken sent me some photos from that week after leaving a comment on one of the posts. Taken by his girlfriend with a Kodak instamatic, as I recall, the photos above and on the following page show the band on stage and in the dressing room with Ken and some of his friends.
It’s all quite remarkable really that more than 40 years later, we’re viewing photos from that week.
Also on the page, you will see two shots from their June, 1968 date at the original Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. A piece on the two shows at Oakdale and the last concert I saw of Cream during this stretch in the fall of 1968 at the New Haven Arena during the Farewell Tour is available here.
It took a jury of people to identify the Oakdale shots, which I’ve come across through an astute friend on the Internet. A fellow who worked at Oakdale and another similar summer tent theater in Rhode Island identified it by the lighting grid you see above Clapton’s head. Also the shot with Jack Bruce sitting on the edge of the orchestra pit includes Rich Bednarczyk in the foreground of the pit, surfer blond hair, who played keyboards for my band Pulse.
There is also a piece on this site describing the April, 1968 concert at Woolsey Hall at Yale in New Haven here.
If you’re an avid Cream fan, it’s likely you’ve already come across these. The only place I’ve seen them is in a few of Ken’s posts to a music forum. The subject, of all things, started out as a discussion of whether Clapton used a Gibson ES-335 on the classic cut Crossroads from Wheels Of Fire. I don’t think that was ever resolved but some of the discussion is interesting and, of course, Ken’s photos are the highlight.
All quite heady. Click on continue reading for the other shots. (continue reading…)
Winter and spring of 1968 in Boston was a particularly memorable and remarkable time for me as far as the music to which I was exposed.
My group Pulse opened for the Lovin’ Spoonful at the Back Bay Theatre; I saw Michael Bloomfield’s Electric Flag at the Psychedelic Supermarket, where I had earlier first seen Cream; I caught The Paul Butterfield Band, first at Back Bay and later at the Supermarket with Elvin Bishop assuming the lead guitar role for the first time; I became a convert of sorts after seeing The Doors in concert at Back Bay; and I met Taj Mahal in the apartment I was staying in on Commonwealth Avenue, of all places.
Cream played at Back Bay as well, although I actually caught them near my hometown in New Haven at Yale’s Woolsey Hall. And in early May of that year, I got a chance to see another of my favorite artists and groups, Steve Winwood and Traffic at the original Boston Tea Party.
The Tea Party was formerly a synagogue on Berkeley Street at the corner of Appleton and I remember taking the subway near Bolyston and Mass Ave. to get there. I was by myself for this concert. At the time, I was enrolled at Berklee School of Music, majoring in performance on double basse and I had moved to a small apartment right around the corner from the school, where I lived on my own.
When in Boston during the week that spring it was a pretty solitude existence of going to classes and practicing and studying. On the weekends, I would come back to New Haven, Wallingford in particular, to rehearse at Syncron Studios or play one or two gigs with Pulse.
I knew the original Traffic foursome had been reduced to three as Dave Mason had left Winwood, drummer Jim Capaldi and flutist/sax player Chris Wood for what at the time were described as musical differences. There was probably some truth to that because Mason’s contributions to the English version of the first Traffic album, Mr. Fantasy, were largely pop confections, including a semi-British hit in Hole In My Shoe. Although there were apparently some personality conflicts as well.
A couple of Mason’s tunes survived on the American release, originally titled Heaven Is In Your Mind but quickly changed to Mr. Fantasy. But most of that first record, released in the U.S. earlier in the year, was a wonderful mix of blues, soul, rock, pop and what would later be called world music.
Traffic was a literal melting pot of contemporary music and the group had one of the great singer/keyboardists in Winwood, who sounded a little like Ray Charles, one of his influences, with a soulful voice well beyond his years. (continue reading…)
Earlier this summer, I saw Taj Mahal in concert with Bonnie Raitt on the impressive Bon Taj Roulet tour, the third time I’ve seen Taj.
The second time was in the spring of 1969 at the improbable club in New Haven, the Stone Balloon, fashioned after Greenwich’s Village’s Cafe Au Go Go.
As mentioned in a post on Jethro Tull, who had played the club in February, ’69, the Balloon wasn’t open long, less than a year, but booked a plethora of rising stars from Tull to Taj to Neil Young. Quite a venue situated under a Pegnataro’s Supermarket with a back entrance from the super’s parking lot.
Taj had released two albums by this time, his self-titled debut and the classic Natch’l Blues, which was released the previous summer. He was touring with his original band that included the incomparable Jesse Ed Davis on lead guitar, Chuck Blackwell on drums and bassist Gary Gilmore.
The Stone Balloon was tiny. We went to see them on a Saturday night, some weeks after the Tull show, and Taj and his band were in fine form playing a mix of tunes from the first two albums. They were not as loud as Tull (not that I didn’t like Ian Anderson & Co.), instead perfectly suited to the room size and Davis was mesmerizing.
Of course, Taj wasn’t too shabby either. He had a beautiful take on modern country blues with his unique and refreshing originals mixed with classics like Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Corrina and You Don’t Miss Your Water (‘Til Your Well Runs Dry). (continue reading…)
In the spring of 1968 I was studying at Berklee School of Music in Boston and going back to Connecticut on weekends to rehearse and play out on the club circuit with Pulse.
I lived on upper Commonwealth Avenue, not far from the dorm I had lived in when I was at Boston University, with two female roommates: Julie and Betty. They had a small two-room apartment. When you entered there was a living room to the right, a bedroom to the left and a small kitchen and bath in the center of the apartment.
Although Love Me Two Times by The Doors was a song I liked and that Pulse had covered in some of its early gigs in the beginning of 1968, I was not really a Doors fan. Our singer, Carl Donnell (Augusto) was though and he convinced us to put the interesting take on a blues shuffle tune in our set.
Carl recently told me how Peter Neri and I came to him with a Cream album and turned him on to the English blues-rock group, but was disheartened when he brought the first Doors album to a rehersal and we were pretty much indifferent to it. That raised a laugh. (continue reading…)
A few weeks before leaving for Boston University, and later Berklee School of Music, in August, 1967, and after the Bram Rigg Set had broken up, my good friend Beau Segal and I drove down to New York to see the Yardbirds. Beau was the one who found out about the show and it was his treat, sending me off to school in style.
Jeff Beck had left the Yardbirds and now Jimmy Page was the sole guitar player in the group. We had loved the single issued earlier in the year, Little Games, and most of the subsequent album release by the same name, although the U.S. release is a bit of a hodge-podge and left out some key tracks that appeared on the U.K. album. The double CD release of the early ’90s and then a later reissue rectified all this by including just about everything from that period.
But I couldn’t get enough of the shuffle feel of the single with Page’s mesmerizing rhythm guitar part and biting lead in the middle section. Later the next year, my group Pulse came up with a song with a similar feel that Beau wrote. I still have his original lyric sheet. It has no title on it but we used to refer to it as If You Love Me Today, and we played it in the second incarnation of Pulse, which was a four-piece with Harvey Thurott on second guitar.
The Yardbirds were playing at the Village Theater in New York on August 25, about six months later it would become Fillmore East. We didn’t know then that it was actually a rather momentous occasion because this was the show at which Page would get the inspiration, to put it politely, for one of Led Zeppelin’s signature tunes from their first album, Dazed And Confused. (continue reading…)
In Concerts Vol. 3, I wrote about the single concert performance that was probably the best out of hundreds I’ve attended and certainly the most influential: Cream at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston, September, 1967.
That wouldn’t be the only time I would see this amazing trio. I was lucky enough to see them three more times in a little more than a year. The second opportunity came in April, 1968. I was still going to school in Boston at Berklee School of Music and coming home on weekends to rehearse and/or play the Connecticut club scene with Pulse.
Cream was scheduled to play at Boston’s Back Bay Theatre in April, but they were also going to play near my hometown in New Haven at Yale’s Woolsey Hall on April 10th and I decided to come home for that, mainly because I had a new girlfriend who was still in school in New Haven. This would be our first big concert date. That made sense.
The intact ticket above is from that date. I didn’t hold on to many tickets or stubs from that period, but I kept this one tucked away in an old wallet. I’m glad I did. The reason it’s intact is that the Yale students didn’t take or rip any tickets, they just looked at them. Thank you, Yalies.
After playing for a week of a scheduled two-week engagement in Boston in September, 1967, Cream cut short its stay there over money problems with the owner of the Psychedelic Supermarket, not to mention they disliked Boston because of the discrimination and derogatory comments on the streets they endured, and moved on to play New York at several venues, including the Cafe Au Go Go and Village Theatre (later Fillmore East).
They also played two shows in Michigan, the second at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in a much booted performance with fairly decent sound, a pretty good example of what they sounded like that fall. From there, they toured Europe fairly extensively, leading up to the release of their second album, Disraeli Gears (November, U.K., December, U.S.), the record that really started to break them as a big act. (continue reading…)
To recap part 2: At the end of the summer of 1967, two popular New Haven-based bands broke up at the prodding of manager/producer Doc Cavalier, who owned Syncron Studios (later Trod Nossel) in Wallingford. Three members from the Shags and three from the Bram Rigg Set joined to form The Pulse (the actual original name was The Pulse of Burritt Bradley). But after a failed single released on ATCO, the bubblegum confection Can-Can Girl, the group broke up after about six months. Pulse, a blues-rock outfit emerged with now four members from Bram Rigg Set, one lone survivor of the Shags and a new addition.
In January, 1968, Pulse started rehearsing in earnest to play some live dates and start recording its first album. The first gig was to be at a small club in Watertown, the Shack. We used to rehearse in what was called the Shed in back of Syncron Studios. The rehearsal room was an unfinished concrete-floored area no larger than a two-car garage with 2×4 framing exposed on the first floor of what looked like an old barn. This was perhaps the most dangerous place I’ve ever rehearsed, yet we carried on in the Shed for 2-plus years as Pulse.
The danger lay in the ceiling, which was probably less than a foot above everyone’s heads. In fact, there was no ceiling, instead it was the foil side of insolation tucked in between the framing. So, if you happened to lift the neck of your guitar a little too high as when you were taking if off and your hands were touching the strings, you were in for a maximum jolt of electricity, the kind that tenses your entire body. I’ve had a few of those in my days, several from the Shed and it is as you may know no fun and rather scary. Still, we persevered.
Soon after forming, we added a sixth member, Jeff Potter, who played a mean blues harp and also added percussion with a conga drum and eventually occasional keyboards. Ray Zeiner, the keyboard player from the Wildweeds, had recommended him. Jeff and Ray lived next door to each other right down on the Connecticut River up near Hartford. Those houses are no longer there since the area flooded every so often. The Weeds had recently come into the fold with Doc (via their terrific single No Good To Cry) and Jeff had grown up and gone to Windsor High with Al Anderson and other members of the band.
Jeff added an element we needed and loved. The band was influenced by the great blues-rock groups of the times and in ’67-’68 that meant Paul Butterfield, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and others. So the lineup was Carl Donnell (Augusto), lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Peter Neri, lead guitar and vocals, Rich Bednarzck, keyboards, Paul Rosano, bass, Beau Segal, drums and Jeff.
We set out putting together two sets worth of material that included some unusual covers and what few original tunes we had at the time. We chose cover material that was not the usual fare for local bands in the same vein as the Bram Rigg Set, which always played songs no one else touched. This was largely influenced by Beau and when Bram Rigg was together lead singer Bobby Schlosser. (continue reading…)