The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: Oakdale Theatre

Pulse: My Old Boy

by on Mar.06, 2013, under Music


My Old Boy is the B-side of a single from the Pulse album from 1969. The tune is interesting because it’s quite different from anything else on the album.

The album is heavily blues-rock oriented and most of the tracks are in the four-to-five minute range with some longer. But this track, which was written by our drummer Beau Segal and Harvey Thurott, a guitarist and friend who would become a member of the four-piece Pulse in 1970, shows another side of the band and is packed with just about everything you can fit into 2 minutes, 36 seconds.

I always believed the opening track of the album, Too Much Lovin’ was the single to pull from it. The A-side actually turned out to be a track I felt was even less commercial than either of these songs, my own Another Woman.

Beau may have been trying to write a single with My Old Boy. He failed miserably and instead created a whirlwind of a track that never lets up from its infectious opening rhythm guitar riff to the phased (old fashioned phasing) harmony vocals and relentless melody lines in the verses and bridge.

There’s some outstanding guitar playing by Peter Neri, although some of it is, if not buried, sitting in the background, and the arrangement overall is inspired with a lot of tight twists and turns.

I believe we played this tune live but not that often, and I’m pretty sure that live Peter used to alternate lines in the verse on the lead vocal with our singer Carl Donnell because of the breathless melody.

Mastered from vinyl. Listen for the crackles.


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Pulse: Thanks For Thinking Of Me …

by on Feb.18, 2013, under Music



Thanks For Thinking Of Me But It’s Alright is the closing track of Side 1 from the self-titled Pulse album from 1969. After it was written and we arranged it in late 1968, it was also almost always Pulse’s opening tune in concert.

The group Pulse was based in New Haven, Connecticut, more specifically Wallingford at Syncron Studios soon to become Trod Nossel, which is still operating, and managed and produced by Doc Cavalier. The first version of the band was a six-piece. We started rehearsing in January, 1968 and were together until almost mid-1970. There was a four-piece group for the remainder of 1970.

The personnel: Carl Donnell (Augusto), vocals, guitar; Peter Neri, lead guitar, vocals; Beau Segal, drums; Paul Rosano, bass, background vocals; Jeff Potter, harp, percussion; Rich Bednarzcyk, keyboards.

The album was recorded in 1968 and early 1969, this track as stated probably late ’68. It was written by our drummer Beau Segal. We were huge fans of the Butterfield Blues Band, one of our main influences at the time, and we had seen them a number of times at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York and the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston as well as the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford.

Beau has said he took the lead line from a Butterfield tune he heard live. I know the one. Actually he embellished it a bit. If you listen to a live version of the tune by Butter it doesn’t have the chromatic ascent or the closing phrase that bounces off a minor third. And in fact, it’s not a Butterfield composition.

Butter was covering a Little Walter tune. Everything’s Gonna To Be Alright (1959). Butter’s version changed several times over the years. The only studio track I’ve heard is from an early session on the Original Lost Elecktra Sessions, which pre-dates the first Butterfield Band album.

It didn’t start with Little Walter either. The line was used by Elmore James in his Dust My Blues from 1955 as his closing solo. There are probably other examples from that time frame.

If you dig deeper you’ll hear the line as a part of the vocal melody on the bridge of Robert Johnson’s Kind Hearted Woman Blues, and the line is the basis for the main melody in Johnson’s Sweet Home Chicago. Wonder where he heard it if he didn’t originate it himself.

This stuff is fascinating, the Blues tradition. It’s reminiscent of the folk tradition in which entire chord structures and melodies of existing tunes were continually updated with new lyrics, particularly in the ’50s and early ’60s.

Going forward, it pops up in a number of other unusual places. In 1970, Atco Records released Live Cream, which included a studio outtake Lawdy Mama. The original Cream version of this song was a shuffle and included the same lead line. The outtake on Live Cream sees the track changed to a straight rock feel with the line still used but stretched out a bit.

However, many of us have heard this line hundreds of times on a slightly different track. The group ditched the Lawdy Mama version of the song when Felix Pappalardi was brought in to produce and his wife, Gail Evans, wrote new lyrics creating the tune Strange Brew. I never recognized the similarity until I heard the shuffle version of Lawdy Mama by Cream on a grey market item.

Eric Clapton would use the line again to good effect in his outstanding version of Sweet Home Chicago on the Sessions For Robert J album (2004). And so it goes.

The Butterfield Band was and remains one of my favorite groups of all-time and is sorely underappreciated. Thanks For Thinking Of Me was our tip of the hat to them, one of our major influences.

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Concerts Vol. 14: Led Zeppelin

by on Dec.29, 2011, under Music


Led Zeppelin in Paris Smaller Size
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In early August, 1969, there was quite a buzz about Woodstock. I don’t believe anyone, even at that late date, anticipated how big it was going to be. At least not among my friends.

Most of us were not planning on a trip to upstate New York though. On Sunday the 17th during the festival weekend, a concert was scheduled at the original Oakdale Music Theatre, with its theatre-in-the-round stage, in Wallingford, Conn., that was not to be missed, Led Zeppelin.

We’d seen Cream there the previous summer and myriad other mid-to-late ’60s acts: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Lovin’ Spoonful, Ray Charles. Shows I didn’t get to see included The Who, The Doors and Chicago. One of my bands, The Bram Rigg Set opened for The Dave Clark Five in late summer, 1967. It was an almost-perfect venue to get an up-close look at performers. Seating was perhaps no more than about 2,000, the closest within about 15 to 20 feet of the musicians, sometimes even closer when they came to the edge of stage, which was only a few feet off the ground.

Zeppelin’s first album was released in early 1969 and it made quite an impact. Surprising really. Jimmy Page was well known and I’d seen him with the last version of The Yardbirds in 1967 at the Village Theater in New York. But Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, where did they come from? (continue reading…)

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Cream at the Psychedelic Supermarket, 1967 & more

by on Sep.29, 2010, under Music


Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton live at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, Boston, September, 1967.

Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton live at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Kenmore Square, Boston, September, 1967.

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…)

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Concerts Vol. 11: Traffic

by on Jan.30, 2010, under Music


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.

Steve Winwood in a photo taken in 1970, but the stage setup with his Hammond B-3 in the background is similar to the Boston Tea Party circa May 1968. Winwood is playing the Gibson Reverse Firebird he played at the Tea Party as well.

Steve Winwood in a photo taken in 1970, but the stage setup with his Hammond B-3 in the background is similar to the Boston Tea Party circa May 1968. Winwood is playing the Gibson Reverse Firebird he played at the Tea Party as well.

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.

The Boston Tea Party (2003). You can see the entrance just to the left of the corner of the building.

The Boston Tea Party (2003). You can see the entrance just to the left of the corner of the building.

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…)

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BonTaj traveling blues show

by on Aug.11, 2009, under Music


At one point Sunday night at the Oakdale Theatre, Bonnie Raitt said it’s taken 40 years to get Taj Mahal and her together for a tour. Too bad it took that long.

bontaj-rouletIt’s understandable of course. Both have had successful careers in their own right, particularly Raitt, whose career exploded in the late 1980s and early ’90s with not only chart success but also a plethora of somewhat unexpected Grammy Awards.

Well, they’re together now. And their third show of the one-month BonTaj Roulet Summer Tour was a blues explosion with each playing with their own bands, Taj joining Bonnie for a couple of acoustic numbers and then both bands playing together to seal the deal.

Taj came out first at the Wallingford, Connecticut venue and cruised through a bluesy 45 minutes with his swinging Phantom Blues Band, which includes Mike Finnigan, who has played with everyone from Dave Mason to Jimi Hendrix to Les Dudek, on keyboards, soulful guitar player Johnny Lee Schell, horn players Joe Sublett (sax) and Darrell Leonard (trumpet) and bass player Larry Fulcher. (continue reading…)

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Concerts Vol. 7: Jethro Tull

by on Jul.08, 2009, under Music


In 1969 and 1970 I saw Jethro Tull in concert three times. Looking back on the first show, the venue seems so unlikely given their later worldwide success. It was in a small club under a Pegnataro’s Supermarket just off the highway in downtown New Haven, Connecticut.

jethro-tull-stone-balloon-smallThe place was called The Stone Balloon and was fashioned directly after the Cafe Au Go Go in New York. It was a long, narrow room with a low ceiling. Tables and chairs took up most of the audience area in front of a small stage on the right-hand side wall toward the front half of the room. Unlike the Au Go Go it was brightly lit between sets. The Au Go Go was always like a cave.

They served no alcoholic beverages, just fruit drinks, soda and snacks, again much like the Au Go Go. Still, this club had an amazing array of talent pass through it in what I believe was perhaps about a year of being in business. We saw John Hammond, Taj Mahal and his band with Jesse Ed Davis as well as Tull, and others such as Neil Young & Crazy Horse passed through. (continue reading…)

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Elvis returns to the South

by on Jun.15, 2009, under Music


For his second venture recording in the American South this decade, Elvis Costello enlisted producer T-Bone Burnett, coming off his successful collaboration with Robert Plant and Alison Krause on Raising Sand, for an album with bluegrass musicians.

elvis-costell-secret-albumBut Secret, Profane & Sugarcane is hardly just a bluegrass album. Costello imbues his songs with rock, country blues and jazz sensibilities as well as folk themes built around four songs from an unfinished Hans Christian Anderson opera.

The playing is immaculate in a traditional bluegrass style, no drums, and the songs are vintage Costello, always interesting musically and lyrically stories easy to follow and ringing with truth, depth of emotion and at times a sly whimsy.

The album was recorded in a scant three days in Nashville and each track features the core band of Costello on acoustic guitar, T-Bone on most tracks with a Kay 161 electric, Dennis Crouch, double bass, Stuart Duncan, fiddle/banjo, Jerry Douglas, dobro, Mike Compton, mandolin and the harmony vocal of Jim Lauderdale, who often traces Costello closely throughout entire songs. Emmylou Harris joins them on one song, The Crooked Line. Jeff Taylor plays accordion on three tracks. (continue reading…)

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Concerts, Vol. 5: Farewell Cream

by on May.12, 2009, under Music


A little more than two months after seeing Cream at Yale’s Woolsey Hall in New Haven, the second time I had seen them live in about six months, the group was booked to play two shows — afternoon and evening — at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Connecticut on June 15. It was the next-to-last show of an exhausting five-month tour of the States that started in February and turned the group into mega-stars.

Eric Clapton plays a Gibson ES-335 during Cream's Farewell Tour, 1968.

Eric Clapton plays a Gibson ES-335 during Cream's Farewell Tour, 1968.

The Oakdale was a summer theatre in-the-round with a circular stage and a canvas roof. Where the theatre stood is now the lobby of the new Oakdale (now named the Chevrolet Theater, sacrilege!). It booked mostly summer stock, traveling Broadway musical companies and shows of that ilk along with traditional singers from Tony Bennett and Engelbert Humperdink to Ray Charles and many more. I even saw the figure skater Perry Fleming perform there once, when they flooded the stage area with ice. She was actually quite good.

But by 1966, it was also booking rock acts. Because of its size — it was quite small by today’s standards with a seating capacity of no more than about 2,000 if that — and intimacy, it was an outrageous place to see bands such as Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Doors and The Who, all of whom played there, among many others.

Because my friend and band mate in Pulse, Beau Segal, had an in there, we scored excellent seats in the front row for the evening show. I turned up for the afternoon concert as well, which didn’t appear to be sold out, and stood in the area between the theatre and dressing rooms, which was an open-air walkway. (continue reading…)

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Concerts Vol. 4: Heavy Cream

by on Apr.23, 2009, under Music


cream-woolsey-tix-light

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-another-portraitCream 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…)

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