Sunday, August 10, 2008

History of Rock Festivals part 5 & free Sabbath & Leonard Cohen

California Jam I & II

The first Cal Jam was held on 6th April 1974 at Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, Southern California.

Promoter Lenny Stogel felt the location for this 12 hour gig was ideal. Two highways bordered the speedway and it was within driving distance of L.A and San Diego. It also had parking for a massive 50,000 cars.

It had been hoped to get Led Zeppelin, The Band or The Stones to play but their fees were too high.

However, the headlining bands were still top calibre; ELP, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Also on the bill were boogie merchants Black Oak Arkansas, Seals and Croft, Rare Earth, The Eagles and Earth Wind and Fire.
Now that’s what I call a killer bill eh!

Stogel was sure that the way to make a festival a success was to keep everyone’s attention 100% of the time, so to that end he had a stage built on tracks and with hydraulic lifts so that one band’s great could be set up while one band played their set. Then within 15 minutes of a band leaving the stage, the next was ready to go.
On top of that skydivers, stunt men, skateboarders and other entertainers kept people amused.

ELP had a hell of a lot of gear by this time and had to have a special platform constructed for them – impressive really when you consider there were only 3 of them in the band. It was around this time that Carl Palmer had a 100% steel drum kit built which weighed something insane like a tonne and must have needed its own truck to be ferried around.

The gig pulled in 200,000 fans all paying $10 a ticket; the gross was one of the biggest in rock at that time. ABC filmed it for their In Concert series. It’s this footage that you will see on all manner of DVD’s of Purple and Sabbath in particular.

First on where Rare Earth who hit the stage 15 minutes early! Although it was still just 1974, it already felt a long way from the hippy fests of 5 years earlier.
Some felt it was brilliantly organized and executed, others saw it as the death of experimentation and creativity.

However, the music was at times superb. Purple’s set, with the newly installed David Coverdale on vocals and Glenn Hughes on bass played most of the new Burn album and Blackmore was on excellent form. They finished their set in mayhem with Blackmore throwing guitars into the crowd, sticking his guitar into one of ABC’s cameras, dousing his amps in petrol and blowing them up!! They left the site by helicopter fearing ABC might be a bit cross about all this and want the police to arrest them!

ELP closed the show. You’ll have seen the famous footage of Emerson playing a grand piano while spinning 50 foot up in the air! It’s an amazing site to say the least.

You can buy downloads of all bands sets from the superb web site.

Lenny Stogel later said, I didn’t want anything popping off unexpected. I wanted to be in total control….two hundred thousand kids is a big responsibility. I used to get a funny feeling in my stomach whenever I thought about it. I had to be in control – for the preservation of my sanity.’

Stogel was to die in 1979 in a DC-10 plane crash in Chicago.

The lure of the big bucks made Cal Jam II inevitable at some point. 18th March 1978 was the date for the gig at the same location. This time 250,000 turned up, it was also filmed and this time it was recorded for an album.

By now the old festival spirit of love, peace and grooviness was gone. This was all about everyone making big money from rock n roll.

The line up was FM radio friendly. Santana headlined supported by Dave Mason, Heart, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Mahogany Rush, Rubicon and Bob Welch. Some commented that this illustrated the so-called stagnation of rock in the late 70s. The performers had a choice of either being helicoptered in from The Beverly Hills hotel or chauffeured in lavish customized vans with paintings of the bands latest album spray-painted on the side. I’ve seen a photo of the Heart van – it looks awful – like a cheesy cartoon style painting you’d see at a fairground.

This was the era of rock star excess. Plates of M & M’s with the yellow ones removed and pinball machines backstage all of which must have been great fun for the musicians but a bit of a pain in the backside for those who had to service their needs.

If you want to watch the ABC shows and/or buy all the music played, go here to do that just that

The Cal Jams were undoubtedly a big success for the promoters and for the bands too and they are fondly remembered by many who attended. There’s no doubt some brilliant music was played. It was at such gigs were the modern notion of a well organized festival was born. It wasn’t a counter-culture happening that was so revolutionary a few years earlier but it was nonetheless a great place to get your rock nr oll rocks off and who amongst us can say that isn’t a very., very good thing!



This takes you from the beginnings of the band up till 1978. You get 11 excellent live performances including N.I.B; Snowblind & Never Say Die interspersed with comments from Tony & Geezer.
However, the stand out thing is the 1970 live version of War Pigs performed in Paris in an early version with slightly different lyrics. It is frankly astonishing; a spine-tingling moment of rock n roll with a manic Ozzy and Tony Iommi’s precise riffing both amazing. However, it’s the rhythm section that steals it – Bill’s drumming is the very definition of powerhouse, driving home the riff with Geezer restless and inventive. Later live shows features Vill on a massive kit but in 1970 he’s got a basic set up and yet is more powerful. It’s stunning stuff. Honestly. You have to see it if you’ve not already done so.
I’ve got 3 copies of this DVD to give away

Death Of A Ladies Man & Recent Songs

‘Death of a Ladies man’ was Leonard’s fifth album in 1977. Phil Spector get’s a co-credit on everything and his wall of sound is very much in evidence. This was a break with his classic, folk based style and featured the cream of LA session musos, The Section.

Recent Songs two years later was his next album and he’d changed his sound to a more jazz/eastern influences.

With Leonard touring and getting rave reviews these two albums are beautiful examples of the breadth and quality of some of his lesser known work.

I’ve got three pairs of these albums to give away.

Just email me with Sabbath or Cohen in the subject box for a chance to win these.

All previous draws have been made – if you won, you’ll have heard from me.

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