Up the Downstair

Being a weeklie podcaste from Madison, Wisconsin featuring several remarkable curiosities therein occurring being a compendium of live music from divers artistes

The Vagaries of Collecting

March 25th, 2014

When looking for shows to add to my collection, I like to take time to look beyond simply getting recordings by a particular band or a particular band’s tour. This isn’t to say that I don’t go after certain bands as I’ve spent the last couple months grabbing every IQ, Fish, and Fish-era Marillion show I can get my hands on. But it’s also fun to look for shows that are notable is some way.

One sub-category is what I call “first-last”. So, for instance, I have sought out the last Black Sabbath concert with Ozzy (before the 90s reunion) and the first Sabbath concert with Ronnie James Dio. The last in this case was the Sabs’ performance at the Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque, New Mexico on 11 December 1978 while the first here is their gig at the Stadthalle in Aurich, Germany on 17 April 1980. Unfortunately neither of these shows is in general circulation if they were recorded at all.

While not every group has their final performance filmed by Martin Scorsese, finding last shows is much easier than first ones – at least for most of the bands that interest me. A band’s first gig ever was probably at a bar that no longer exists in front of a handful of people or in someone’s basement while last shows happen when these bands/artists are established. The attraction of first-last shows for me is part novelty but they are interesting because you can hear a band when they are just starting out – not too polished, hungry, and not signed to a major label – and then hear a band at the end and compare. How did they change over the years? Did they go out with a bang or a whimper?

Some notable last shows I’ve found are Jimi Hendrix’s final concert on 6 September 1970 at the Fehmarn Love And Peace Festival in Germany and Janis Joplin’s last public performance on 12 August 1970 at Harvard Stadium in Boston. (Or is that Cambridge?) There’s also the Sex Pistols last gig before they imploded which was on 14 January 1978 in San Francisco. The grunge era is fairly well-represented as the Smashing Pumpkins farewell at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago on 2 December 2000, a 4+ hour affair, was recorded as was Nirvana’s last concert on 1 March 1994 in Munich. Of more recent vintage is Dimebag Darrell’s final show on 8 December 2004 in Columbus, Ohio. It is the shortest bootleg I have coming in at about 1′20″. At about 20 seconds into Damageplan’s first song that night, a schizophrenic man named Nathan Gale ran onstage and shot him dead. You can hear the three shots Gale put into DD’s head and audience members screaming.

A last concert I don’t have and is in the hands of one person in the entire world is The Doors’ terminal show with Jim Morrison at The Warehouse in New Orleans on 12 December 1970. The performance was apparently recorded from the board but the tapes are thought to be in a vault owned by a former employee of The Warehouse named George Friedman. A documentary about the venue called A Warehouse on Tchoupitoulas was made and the segment devoted to The Doors’ last stand there is available on YouTube:

Another sub-category that I collect are shows that go wrong, have some notable event happen during the proceedings, or have fallen into legend for some reason. I suppose that every G.G. Allin show would fall under this category but I’m talking about artists and bands who don’t eat their own shit.

One famous incident in rock history was when Keith Moon passed out mid-show at The Who’s gig in San Francisco on 20 November 1973 and a teenager named Scott Halpin was brought onstage from out of the audience to play drums . This show was recorded. It’s neat to be able to hear it as opposed to just reading about this bit of rock history in a book by Dave Marsh. Another notable show is Jefferson Starship’s 19 June 1978 show in Hamburg where an inebriated Grace Slick called the audience Nazis, amongst other things. This blog post at The Hangar gives the scoop as well as some nice background on the band at the time:

Although recorded for broadcast on the German Rockpalast TV program, the show never aired. One thing Germany’s citizens did not need coming into their homes was the sight of a drunken American rock singer taunting the audience about World War II, calling them Nazis, sticking her fingers up audience members’ noses, repeatedly giving the “Heil Hitler” salute.

Onstage, as they were playing their solos, Grace groped and fondled Craig Chaquico, the young guitarist who had joined the Starship at its inception. And she was constantly needling Marty Balin, her vocal partner, who’d harbored a resentment toward Grace ever since the media began focusing on her rather than him when the Airplane first broke out nationally during the Summer of Love more than a decade before.

Although the video from this show has never been released, it is readily available on audio.

Another incident I became aware of only recently is when Eric Clapton gave an epic racist rant onstage. As near as I can tell, the date was 5 August 1976 and the concert was in Birmingham, UK. I grabbed his tirade from here which grabbed it from John Street’s book Rebel Rock: The Politics of Popular Music:

Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. Wogs I mean, I’m looking at you. Where are you? I’m sorry but some fucking wog…Arab grabbed my wife’s bum, you know? Surely got to be said, yeah this is what all the fucking foreigners and wogs over here are like, just disgusting, that’s just the truth, yeah. So where are you? Well wherever you all are, I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country. You fucking (indecipherable). I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country. Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. Enoch’s our man. I think Enoch’s right, I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking (indecipherable) don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck’s sake? We need to vote for Enoch Powell, he’s a great man, speaking truth. Vote for Enoch, he’s our man, he’s on our side, he’ll look after us. I want all of you here to vote for Enoch, support him, he’s on our side. Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!

Considering that a couple bits are indecipherable, this is a transcription but I haven’t been able to find a recording of this show.

Over on the prog side of things there’s Pink Floyd’s 6 July 1977 show in Montreal where Roger Waters spat on a fan. This incident would lead to the bass player’s realization that he had become completely distanced from his fans and, from there, he eventually wrote The Wall.

There are many other shows that fall into this rather broad category. Surely someone caught the likes of Jimi Hendrix or Amy Winehouse too drunk to play or sing. And at least one of Courtney Love’s meltdowns must have been committed to tape. Did anyone record Ozzy biting the head off that bat or Alice Cooper throwing a chicken into the audience only to have the dismembered parts thrown back at him?

Back in January I decided to begin collecting all shows by major progressive rock acts that were recorded here in Wisconsin or the Chicago area. (Don’t ask.) It would be a nearly impossible task if it weren’t for dedicated fans putting together tour histories and putting them on the Web. I noticed on a Gentle Giant site that the band played in Stevens Point, Wisconsin on 2 December 1977. Stevens Point was at that time a small city of around 23,000 people. How did Gentle Giant get booked there? Considering that they played Milwaukee the following night I thought at first that it was an error and they really performed here in Madison. But it would seem that they did, in fact, play up in Stevens Point. How very odd.

When I started looking into Rush’s shows around these parts I learned that there is only one single solitary show from the Caress of Steel tour in general circulation. The Fly By Night tour is better represented in bootlegs. I also noticed that every show in Wisconsin and the Chicago area beginning with the Grace Under Pressure tour up to the present day was readily available with the lone exception of their show last year in Milwaukee. (This is frustrating as I was at that show and try to get copies of shows I attended.) It’s odd because about half of the requisite shows from the Signals tour were floating around and then suddenly beginning in 1984 every one was to be had. It made me wonder if Sony came out with a fancy new portable recording device in 1983 or some such thing. Or did Rush’s become just that much more popular in 1984? I suppose there is a whole host of other possible explanations. It was just odd because, prior to 1984 you’d find a show here and there and then, starting with this one particular tour, every gig was recorded.

I also discovered that Pink Floyd began the North American leg of the Dark Side of the Moon tour right here in Madison on 4 March 1973. Indeed, many of the big prog groups played here. Hell, many popular groups outside of prog played here but finding recordings of any of these shows is difficult to say the least. The Who, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and The Doors all played here in the late 1960s yet I’ve never seen recordings of these shows available. It isn’t until 1970 that shows begin to appear, namely Hendrix’s gig at the Dane County Coliseum on 2 May. Curiously enough, there are three different recordings of this show which makes me think that earlier shows here were likely recorded as well.

Collecting shows from Madison can be frustrating. You’ll look at someone’s share and see the Minneapolis show and then Milwaukee and/or Chicago show with the Madison date missing. Or take a Madison band like Killdozer. I have found only one show from Madison. Similarly, when I look for Violent Femmes boots, I have never seen a single show from their hometown of Milwaukee. Recently up at Dime someone posted a mini-flood of Femmes concerts but they were all from Germany. (And I think half were FM broadcasts.) It’s just weird how Milwaukee recordings are so rare. Boots for regional bands that made it big such as Cheap Trick and The BoDeans are equally elusive.

Such are the vagaries of collecting.

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