Monday, July 7, 2014

Revolution: Volunteers

Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock: Volunteers
[purchase] the album

I recently read an eye-opening article that relates to my “revolution” choice. The link came my way via “Longreads”, which I access thru Flipboard. The “long” article chronicles a free outdoor music festival that pre-dates both the seminal Monterey International Pop Festival in ’67 and Woodstock in '69. The festival was called the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival and it took place in ’67, about a week before the Monterey festival that launched Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding, among others.

Here’s a link to the article itself, but for those who prefer to miss out on this article of great historical import, a summary: SF radio station KFRC, in an effort to increase ratings, sets up a free show the week before Monterey. Partly because it is a last minute effort, but partly because few of those involved have yet to get a taste of mammon, the whole thing comes off as one big love-in. Without a backstage area, the bands end up hanging with the audience ... and more. Less than one week later at Monterey, the whole thing has turned commercial – despite the smell of “revolution” in the air.

The point behind all this is not so much the logistics, but rather that which was in the air from ’67 on, and more than one band called it for what is was: a revolution. In France, the students were in the streets; in the US, students were in the streets and in front of the courthouses, in the UK, the Beatles were in the studio with “Revolution”. The revolution extended to the privacy of the bedroom and up-ended social mores. Yada yada yada. You know the rest.

The article plausibly claims that Magic Mountain was the spark that lead to Woodstock. Certainly, it was a major event in the history of many of the bands: some went from local to national on the basis of their performance (or maybe simply their participation in) this weekend. If nothing else, the tech crew that pulled off Magic Mountain learned and morphed into the team that also put Woodstock together.

Among the bands that appeared at Magic Mountain, Monterey and 2 years later at Woodstock, was Jefferson Airplane. In many ways, without getting as deeply political as CSNY (Chicago, and again Chicago), the Airplane managed to give the impression of standing for revolution. Was it Grace Slick’s style/appearance? Was it Jorma Kaukonen or Paul Kantnor, Marty Balin or even Nicky Hopkins or the combination of all of the above and the confluence of time,  the stars and the moon?

In any event, the link above will lead you to part of the Airplane’s 100 minute set on the 2nd day of Woodstock back in 1969. The question I might ask is if the hippie  ”revolution” actually happened? Does it count as a revolution today? It sure has taken a long time to make only a little progress (didn’t David Crosby sing “seems to be a long time ...” in reference to the changes?)
In Volunteers, the Airplane sing:

Hey now it's time for you and me
got a revolution got to revolution
Come on now we're marching to the sea
got a revolution got to revolution
The flipside of the record is equally revolutionary: We Can be Together, and so I link to that as well.
In We Can Be Together, they sing:

We are forces of chaos and anarchy
Everything they say we are we are
And we are very
Proud of ourselves
Up against the wall
Up against the wall fred (motherfucker)
Tear down the walls


Whew! Seems to me you would be hard pressed to get away with this these days!

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