Flaskaland
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
 
Where the elite meet

This article on Carmina Burana reminded me of Sandy Bull. I'm glad to have had the good fortune to have listened to musicians like Sandy Bull early on because he helped teach me about music. Sandy's first album had already won a treasured spot close to my record player and I probably was still waiting for his second to be released when I first heard the Beatles. I didn't even know where Sandy Bull came from, except that he was known to play around Boston, but before I'd even heard them I'd been told the Beatles were a big hit in Germany (which made me suspicious of their quick prominence here). And that they were a hit band in England, which had previously exported only Mr. Akerbilk to these shores (and that was the only other English music act I could think of at the time, and "bilk" had a negative connotation, you know). I knew the Beatles were getting lots of airplay on AM radio which aside from a few little interesting regional pockets here and there was the province of squareballs whose taste in music was by the mid-'60s getting so bad it was hard to tell the records they played from the farm reports they read. But I was willing to give the Beatles a try.

There was no real disappointment as I listened that Beatles' album, aside from that sense of regret of having not spent more time with it in the listening booth, I having talked myself into believing I might get more from it listening at my leisure at home. My first feeling was a twinge of buyer's remorse of having flushed away those 3 hard-earned dollars on what turned out to be a clunker. Musically, I noticed one of them was borrowing one of Little Richard's best known vocalizations ("adapting, and making it his own"), but I was already accustomed to that sort of thing. I was having no reponse, and I felt nothing too much about their music. Until I became slightly embarrassed for them once I heard "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean".

As an accident of geo-chronicity that generational cohorts can't help but mention one to the other, because such things give a generation something in common to talk about, my husband saw the Beatles live, in performance at the Cow Palace.

Now that may make your heart flutter, as the Cow Palace -- just as a venue name -- likely conjures up images of regal residence to which only the most gentile or refined receive invitation ... or the name may prompt thoughts of noble blue bloods, descendents of some lofty pedigree with lineage traceable to Hereford, Jersey, or Guernsey forebears, perhaps bejeweled with tasteful strands of pearls, resting upon the mohair chesterfields while sipping rose hip tea from translucent porcelain cups.

The Cow Palace was not like that when my husband saw the Beatles in what turned out to be an historic occasion ... their final public appearance onstage as a band ... or anywhere together ... ever ... again. He describes the Cow Palace that time as being more ... "like a zoo". With some form of wire fencing (he first thinks chicken wire, but admits it may have been chainlink) strung like a cage in front of the stage. And much hysteria and general pandemonium coming from the audience drowning out the group onstage. So he really didn't enjoy the concert but admits he really didn't hear a single note that was played, either.

I wasn't crazy about the Beatles at first but I admit they improved quite a lot over the next few years. I remember the evening when the Beatles made the leap from being broadcast everywhere all the time on AM radio and TV, plus being mentioned always in newspapers and magazines, to even being broadcast on underground FM radio in San Francisco. It felt like a needless intrusion, as there was plenty of the Beatles everywhere else and these precious broadcast hours and the public listening could likely be better served from exposure to other music not so easily heard. But David Crosby phoned in his account of meeting the Beatles in Europe and while he knew he looked like a hippy wild man with fringed leather jacket, boots, and long hair, he reported that the Beatles had "big old mustaches" (which he pronounced "moose-taches"), too. Then the KMPX dj played the new album that Crosby had already heard in London through studio headphones, as if to say it was okay now to be commercially successful and still be broadcast on underground radio, as if such a form of acceptance would have mattered a whit to them. Of course, Crosby was publicizing his own new group in the process, too, as just the magnitude of the Beatles couldn't help but rub off on them.

The Beatles are one group where the people who were introduced to them later on genuinely got to hear the absolute best from them, but they really didn't need that broadcast time on one underground FM station. This is about the same as them getting fawned over by every shop keeper or restauranteur and receiving special favors everywhere they went. They'd already had enough special treatment to last them a lifetime, so spread it around to someone else once in awhile.

 




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