Random Rock Trivia (9/16)

Wherein I relate odd bits of trivia I’ve either stumbled on or couldn’t fit into my posts. (But found too interesting not to share.)

—-You know about Woodstock and perhaps even the anti-Woodstock, Altamont. But have you ever heard of the  woefully misnamed ‘Celebration of Life’ festival in tiny middle-of-nowhere McCrea, Louisiana? A better name for it might have been the Satan’s Descent Into Hell Festival.

According to an article, “the organizer promised acts such as the Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, BB King, Ike and Tina Turner, and Sly and the Family Stone. The only well-known musicians who actually performed were Chuck Berry, Stephen Stills, WAR, John Sebastian, and Delaney and Bonnie.” Many acts were either never really booked or refused to play.

In late June of 1971, sixty-thousand people showed up for what was supposed to be an eight-day festival. But lack of shelter, legal problems and oppressive heat turned this concert into somewhat of a disaster. The bands played at night but festival goers “spent their days in misery seeking food, drugs, and shelter on the treeless, mosquito-infested grounds.” (As to why they didn’t just say the hell with it and go home, I can’t say.)

The heat and humidity were so devastating that people sought relief in the swift-moving Atchafalaya river in which four people drowned. There is actually a documentary about this fiasco which, if you’re so inclined, you can watch for two bucks. (Failing that, Google it and you’ll actually find some interesting “I Was There” stories.) For the record, the festival shut down after its third day and the promoter disappeared.

—-In February of 1964, the then-unknown Jimi Hendrix was looking for a band to play with. The Isley Brothers needed a guitarist and so hired him. On February 9, 1964, they all sat down to watch The Beatles first appearance on Ed Sullivan’s show. On February 10, 1964, Sam Phillips – discoverer of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins –  sold his Sun Studios. So, one era ends, another begins.

—-In the 1979 No Nukes movie, Tom Petty is interviewed. Since he went on before Springsteen, he was told that if it sounds like people are booing they are actually yelling “Bruce.” Said Petty, “What’s the difference?”

—Speaking of festivals, many concertgoers at Woodstock were daunted by the idea of working their way through the masses to see the show. Some were more resourceful than others. In his book about Woodstock, Michael Lang tells the story of three guys, two dressed in the standard Sixties denim outfit, the other one dressed more by chance in what one might call rock star finery. So, easily mistaken for a rock star and his roadies.

Stumbling on the area where helicopters were taking bands to the show, they figured what the hell, got on one of the copters and flew over to the site. They got to the venue and when a couple of hippie-types ran up to them, they were sure they were going to get caught.

Instead these guys came up and – thinking they had to be with some band or another – said, “Do you need anything?” and showed them around the backstage area, where the food tables were, etc. So, lesson learned. Dress and act the part and you can get away with some shit.

—Dick Rowe of Decca Records is the guy who chose not to sign the Beatles and supposedly told Brian Epstein that guitar groups were “on their way out.” Later, seeking a band to sign, he went to the Crawdaddy Club, saw the Rolling Stones and signed them. On George Harrison’s recommendation.

—–In May of 1985, after Mick Jones had left the band and long after they had become worldwide stars, The Clash went on a busking tour of England. For 2 1/2 weeks, armed only with acoustic guitars, The Clash “popped up under railway bridges and in subways to entertain [fans] with Monkees(!), Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, and Cramps songs.”

“We survived by our wits,” Paul Simenon says. “I remember we were in Leeds, it was 2 a.m., and it was outside this black club, and people were coming out and really digging us.” The group slept on fans’ floors and in cheap B&B’s. They survived on money thrown into their hats. Joe Strummer described it as “the best tour we ever did.”

Sources: The Road to Woodstock: From the Man Behind the Legendary Festival. Michael Lang with Holly George-Warren; Passion Is A Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash,  Pat Gilbert.



11 thoughts on “Random Rock Trivia (9/16)

  1. Thanks. I love this trivia stuff so I like to share it. I’ve had that Springsteen/Petty story in my head for years. Always thought it was funny. Bruce no longer has opening acts.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll check out your review. It’s all rarities and stuff, yeah? Steel Mill and all that pre-E Street stuff? The book is, of course, number one on my XMAS list. Last year it was Elvis Costello’s autobio.


  2. Some random comments:

    People went to Louisiana for a rock festival in the early 70’s and expected to have a good time. Really??

    Would LOVE to see a video of Jimi Hendrix playing with the Isley Brothers.

    I agree with Tom Petty – no difference. 🙂

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the two guys at Woodstock disguised as a rock musician and a roadie were part of my group. Let’s just say my guys were very resourceful. :-0

    Yeah, George Harrison! My first Beatles love.

    Okay, now I am a HUGE Clash fan! These guys were just real Pioneers!

    Loved the post. It was fun!


  3. -As to Louisiana, don’t forget a lot of these people were locals. So it was just a quick trip for them. But it was a hellhole.

    -I can’t find a video of Hendrix w/Isleys. But there are some songs on YouTube. This video – with some other long-forgotten guys – shows Hendrix playing (on left) in that era. He was very much an R&B guy and that’s where he learned all his “behind the head” tricks, etc.

    When you read about The Clash, you realize how genuinely close to their fans they were. In fact it was more, I think, that they never lost sight of where they came from. So they were letting fans into their dressing room well into their stardom days. (And not just – or even necessarily – groupies.)

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    1. They did indeed. Needless to say, it becomes challenging when you start making money. But within the constraints of that, they tried to stay close to the fans. When they released ‘Sandinista,’ – a triple album – they kept the album price low by cutting their own royalties. Who does that?

      And while they were all into it, Mick Jones was a little more into the rock star trip. Joe Strummer was the beating heart of this. He was their Woody Guthrie if you know what I mean.

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