1968...

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Ralph

I only know of the existence of this gig due to a mention in an article by Robert Somma in the 18-25 Sept 1968 edition of the New York Free Press - it said the following in a caption under a photo:

They (The Soft White Underbelly) played once at the Coach House in Stony Brook in a low-ceilinged room, one of whose walls bore an advertisement for "The Soft White Underbelly: a classic rock quintet."

Ralph

I was able to date this show thanks to Les Braunstein's info that the Group Image hired the venue on the Sunday before the show.

Quick Gig Facts
Richard Kostelanetz

Soft White Underbelly: February 2, 1968. Yiddish Anderson Theater.

"In spite of their marvelous name, this is a rather undistinguished group that appeared not to know what to do with themselves most of the concert.

A tall pretty fellow, in an antique costume, placed himself on the the stage where the lead singer belongs, but he hardly sang - in one piece playing saxophone instead.

The group's leader appeared to be a pint-sized guy, dressed in a cossack shirt, who is enormously adept on guitar. Either they were missing something that evening, or I was."

from "The Fillmore East - Recollections of Rock Theater" by Richard Kostelanetz, and Raeanne Rubenstein (Photographer)

Howie Klein

"Stony Brook's Underbelly Hits The Big Time"

Opening of the Anderson-Crawdaddy Theater: Country Joe and the Fish, Jim Kweskin Jug Band, and our own boys, the already awesome Soft White Underbelly. Country Joe and the Fish alone would have packed the place twice. But the A-C Theater presented a second act, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, which sold out at Town Hall recently, and a fantastic up and coming second group with whom we at Stony Brook are all acquainted with, the Soft White Underbelly.

The Soft White Underbelly opened the show. The audience was pleasantly surprised. The Underbelly received moderate applause and only a few catcalls from Kweskin fans, the same few people who walked out when Country Joe came on.

The Underbelly is unquestionably one of the strongest instrumental groups to play in New York since the Cream whom they have surpassed in technical virtuosity. Their major flaw was a weak vocal showing, which improved in the second show. "You" was superb. Jeff and Albert did amazingly well with their voices.

Albert's drumming and Don's lead guitar were out of sight. "Hangin' Round", a song about draft boards, had some of the clearest, most integrated organ of the night. "Green" is a beautiful folksy piece. It was followed by a tight hard rock number, "All Night Gas Station", which introduced Jeff on a tastefully used saxophone.

They do what few rock bands can do: add a saxophone in a non-raucous manner. "Alan's Song" was the weakest piece. "Rain is Falling", a soul song, was fantastic, enlivened by Don's unsurpassed guitar rushes.

The Jim Kweskin Jug Band, the best of that type of music around, was tumultously received. As a second act, it was one of the biggest successes around. As usual, the breaks between the numbers were an integral part of the show.

The band generated a warm friendly feeling and the crowd, geared to rock, ate them up. "Gwabe, Gwabe," an African folk song and "Kicking the Gong Around" were excellent, but without a doubt the two best Kweskin numbers were "Never Swat a Fly," and "I'm a Woman."

In both, Marie's vocals were fabulous, but in the latter the electric violin solo was one of the best things done by any jug band.

The stage work accompanying the change from Kweskin to Country Joe was the most professional that I've ever seen. The sparkling clear and radiant introduction was followed by Barry Melton's voice and guitar dominating the song "Love." The harp in "Masked Marauder" was perfect and the organ was just incredible.

"Thursday," by Chicken and Dave, is filled with perfect examples of the Meltzerian tongue categorizations. When Country Joe announced satirically that he was dedicating "Superbird" to President Johnson, he brought the house down.

After "Acid Commercial," they went back to some more political rock, dedicating "I-feel-like-I'm-fixin-to- die" to Che Guevera. With Barry on kazoo and everybody in a real good time music spirit, the song was better Jug band music than Kweskin's stuff.

"Death Sound Blues" is the best American rock has to offer in the way of harmonious instrumental virtuosity. The next song could be called psychedelic soul because of the James Brown influence.

Applause to "Not So Sweet," and "Thought Dream" was unrestrained. They knew what they were doing, and one sort of got the feeling that the whole thing was a show.

from "The Statesman" (9 Feb 1968) by Howie Klein

Ralph

Howie's line "Their major flaw was a weak vocal showing, which improved in the second show" not only high-lighted the need for a frontman in the form of Les Braunstein, it also indicated that there were two shows from The Underbelly - and, presumably, everyone else too.

Ralph

The Tea Smoking Party took place, but SWU apparently "weren't able to show up" (see second clipping above)...

Quick Gig Facts
Ralph

I only know of this gig thanks to the following mention in the Wednesday, April 24 1966 edition of the Integrator (the Clarkson College in-house magazine)...

Concert Sunday
Students for an Open Society will sponsor what they call a "multi-band super-concert" this Sunday, April 28, at 12:30 in the Clarkson Arena. The title of the concert is "Blues Bag World War III".

Groups appearing at the concert will be The Soft White Underbelly, The Beautiful People, The Mason-Frederick Line, The Jug Band, The Group, and Fran McKendree and Company.

Robby Barkan

When I was a student at Stony Brook University in the fall of 1967 young Sandy Pearlman started bringing the boys around to the college. At first they would jam in the dorm lounges. One Saturday night in November 1967 a Hendrix-Cream copy band named Alice was playing in one of these lounges. The boys and Sandy were hanging out listening.

Alice lent them their instruments and let them sit in. They had no singer then. They jammed like you and I breathe - every waking moment it seemed. SWU let me sing a Doors song "My Eyes Have Seen You" during that set, which they expanded into a long jam after the second verse. I stood right next to Donald and Andy Winters, their original bassist, who was quite good. Donald was all over his guitar, as the saying goes. He flew. The room tripped out with them playing in it. The boys were tight and fast and rocked hard even then. This was 1967. Pearlman knew exactly what he had.

They began opening for every rock concert at Stony Brook. One of their best performances was at the Grateful Dead concert in the gym. After their set the Dead were rigging up. Bob Weir set his Gibson SG against his amp. When he walked away the guitar fell over and the sound of the neck cracking filled the gym. Weir was upset to say the least. Donald also played an SG so guess whose guitar Weir used that night? Mr. Roeser at his kindest.

The boys lived in a house on Lake Avenue in Saint James, the next town over from Stony Brook. I hung out with them a couple of times. The walls of the rooms were painted black. They practiced in a spare room. One bedroom had a fabulous mural of Jim Morrison and the Doors, artist unknown to me. Jim was depicted as a strutting lion.

I asked them if they needed songs--I had started writing some of my own. No, they said, they had plenty. I asked them if they needed a singer. No, they'd found one--probably Les. One thing I remember is the boys were always kind, even in rejection. Polite and kind. They got the success they deserved.

Summer of 1968. I was asked to join guitarist Eddie Schrager's band as bassist and singer. Eddie borrowed the SWU's amps when came time for our Stony Brook gym concert. I remember driving to their house in Great Neck with Eddie in my '60 Chevy to pick them up--three Fender Twins. The boys were still asleep but for one, who let us into the basement studio to fetch the amps.

That's all I can remember about the boys for now. These are sweet memories indeed--happy to share them with you...

Ralph

I did wonder which of the Stony Brook Dead shows was it that SWU played on... The Dead played there three times:

  1. June 1967: this would have been too early for SWU to be on the bill
  2. 4 May 4 1968 - The Grateful Dead/Incredible String Band
  3. 30-31 Oct 1970 (2 shows) - Dead/New Riders of Purple Sage

Anyway, I now know that it was this gig - thanks to Jane Alcorn, who also provided the above ticket - that it was definitely the 1968 gig with The Incredible String Band as she noted the fact in her scrapbook.

It's annoying that SWU never got billing on these gigs - not even the reviews in the college magazine mention them...

Buck Dharma

I don't have much recollection about the Dead show, you might ask Albert, he may have a better memory for it.

I don't remember loaning my SG to Bob Weir, although I certainly would have. Most likely it was the '68 show. I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't have billing on either of those shows.

Albert Bouchard

During our week of playing at the Scene - there's a Beatles book, I think it's called "Off the Record" or something - it came out 2004 or so and it is a day-by-day chronology of the Beatles from pre-Hamburg to their breakup...

June 18th 1968, Ringo goes to the Scene with Jimi Hendrix and Hendrix jams with Jeremy Steig and Ringo declines to play drums, OK?... And that was my drums that he declined to play on... I said it'd be a great honour for you to use my drums... but he said "No no thank you very much"...

I wanted to see Ringo with Hendrix, that would've been awesome, right? And after everybody left right - Teddy Slater the house manager of the Scene came over to me and said "You know why Ringo didn't want to play your piece of shit drums? Because they're just crap!! You need some new drums"... and that was June 18, 1968..."

Ralph

That date seems be suspect - DC, who does the superb Streets You Crossed blog kindly provided me with the following info:

I contacted my fellow rock venues blogger Corry from Rock Prosopography 101, and here's what he told me:

We are fortunate that crack researcher Mark Skobac shares his research with me, for no reason that I can tell except that he's a super nice guy. He does most of his research at the New York Public Library, so he's not affected by Google's gaps. His list for The Scene shows the following

June 1968

1-2 Gary Burton and Larry Coryell
4-8-Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Mose Alison
9-12-Mose Allison, Steppenwolf, Kenny Rankin
13-15-Mose Allison, Kenny Rankin
16-21-Jeff Beck Group w/Kenny Rankin, Earth Opera
22-30-Earth Opera

Nothing about the Soft White Underbelly, unfortunately. However, the tiny ads in the Village Voice just had "highlights" of coming attractions, as you well know, rather than a detailed listing.

This seems to imply that Kenny Rankin opened a few days for the Beck Group, and Earth Opera moved in for two weeks. June 16-21 (the Beck residency) was Sunday through Friday.

If there was a "transitional" day between Kenny Rankin and Earth Opera, Tuesday June 18 would make the most sense.

So - it's not impossible, of course, but Albert described it as a week-long residency and that doesn't seem to correspond with the above.

It'd be very useful to check the reference in that Beatles book that Albert describes - I've asked him but he says he no longer has access to it...

Anyone out there got a copy?

Stop Press: an anonymous online contributer to the Streets You Crossed blog added this info:

Concerning Ringo's visit to the Scene club, from what I have researched, it was probably June 16, from the account given by Mal Evans, Beatles' equipment manager and inner circle member who travelled with Ringo and George at the time. He remembered "went to see Jimi Hendrix and a flute player - Eric Clapton showed up, all back to the Drake Hotel"...

That's intriguing - the 16th was a Sunday - if that marked a midway point in SWU's residency, as Albert says, and if that June list of Scene gigs above is correct, then SWU would seem to have played some dates on the "Mose Allison, Kenny Rankin" bill and some on the "Jeff Beck Group w/Kenny Rankin, Earth Opera" one.

Yet I'm pretty sure Albert would have recalled playing with Jeff Beck... I obviously need to try and find out more info...

Albert Bouchard

I am as confused as ever on the date of that event. It seems Jeff Beck was playing on the night I thought it was and I no longer have the Beatles Day by Day book. Maybe I can score another copy.

Steven Piparskeggr Robinson

One of my mom's uncles lived in Syosset and worked at Republic Aircraft on Long Island... we were visiting in late July 1968.

My cousin Mike got saddled "baby sitting" me, was 11 at the time. He had plans for the evening, so he took me along to see SWU.

I remember there was music, but mostly the girls who liked him buying me Coca Colas all night because I was cute and they thought it real nice of him to bring me along.

I remember it was Soft White Underbelly, as the name struck me... had finished a unit on WW 2 in summer school about Winston Churchill and his obsession with the "soft underbelly" of Europe.

Counting that, have seen the band 20 times over the years, never been disappointed.

Regarding the venue - I emailed my cousin (he lives in Florida now)... his memories of the time are hazy (as was the air in the bar), but "The Mug" is a place he recalls going to quite frequently.

Ralph

Thanks - I just looked it up and it appears there was a "The Mug" in Glen Head which is just a little west of Syosset, so that seems to tie in.

OK, I'll put the venue down as "The Mug" for now - until I hear anything different...

Ralph

This is the date I've worked out for this showcase gig for Elektra's Jac Holzman...

Ralph

I only know of the existence of this gig due to a mention in the 18-25 Sept 1968 edition of the New York Free Press - it said the following in a caption under a photo:

The Soft White Underbelly, one of the lead groups at the Free Press in the Park Sunday, September 8th (photo courtesy of Crawdaddy's).

Ralph

The advert above appeared in both the East Village Other (Friday 27 Sept 1968) and The New York Free Press (Thursday 26 Sept - 2 Oct 1968 issue).

"Wednesdays" clearly refers to some sort of mini-residency, but I currently don't know when it started or ended. The ad doesn't give a starting date, so that makes me think that the residency had already started when the ad appeared.

The next Wednesday after the ad was the 2nd October, so that's why I've appended that date to this gig entry but logic would say that they probably also played on the 9th, and maybe the 16th also. Not the 23rd October, as the SWU were playing in the Stony Brook gym on that date -see next gig entry...

If you're doing a weekly residency, then you might assume that the minimum sort of time period would be a month-long engagement. If we know that the last Wednesday they could play is the 16th, and we factor in that that they probably had already started before the gig on the 2nd Oct, then it's possible to make an initial tentative guess for this Hotel Diplomat residency: 25 Sept - 16 Oct 1968.

If YOU have a better guess, please let me know...

Ralph

Going purely on the adverts from The Statesman above, this series of gigs seems to have undergone some form of mutation.

The first ad published on page 5 in the 18 October issue has this info:

Three Days Concerts [each night 7pm Gym]:

Tue 23 Oct: (should obviously be 22nd)
Procul Harum
The Chrills (obviously should be "Churls")

Wed 23 Oct:
Blood Sweat & Tears
Rhinoceros, (Moby Grape?)

Thu 24 Oct:
Ten Years After
Soft White Underbelly

So - that's three gigs on consecutive days - but some of the info is clearly wrong/mis-labelled.

Anyway, the second ad that came out 3 days later on page 7 of the 21 Oct edition of The Statesman had this info (now with no mention of the "Three Days Concerts" - presumably it was now "The Two Days Concerts"):

Tue 22 Oct: [9pm Gym]
Procul Harum
Moby Grape
The Chrills (again, obviously should be "Churls")

Wed 23 Oct: [7pm Gym]
Blood Sweat & Tears
Ten Years After
Rhinoceros
Soft White Underbelly

So, that now looks like they'd taken 3 gigs and "squashed them" into two, putting Moby Grape onto the Procul Harum bill on the Tuesday and jamming 10 Years After and the Underbelly into the Wednesday Blood Sweat & Tears show.

An article in 29th October issue of The Statesman confirmed it was definitely two days of concerts, and not three.

Stop Press:
Stony Brook radio station, WUSB fm, held a fund-raising Radiothon on 12 Nov 2016 and decided to play 12 hours featuring various Stony Brook gym concerts from their archive.

Almost unbelievably, one of those concerts was a 48-minute recording of the Soft White Underbelly's performance for this very gig.

WUSB went to a lot of trouble to locate and prepare the tapes for this gig for our benefit, so let's show them some support - the Radiothon might be over, but we can still go to the pledge page on the wusb.fm website, and donate a few dollars to help them carry on their important work.

They still have tapes of a lot of fascinating gig line-ups buried in their archives, so we all need to step up and help provide the means for them to liberate them - after all, what good is music if no one gets to hear it...?

So if you like this broadcast and appreciate its significance, as well as the efforts that went into creating it, please pledge - you know it makes sense...

Ralph

I initially had a problem with this date because the first ad for the 23rd Oct gig (above) says SWU supported Ten Years After on the 24th Oct, but the second ad provided the correction, so I'm now reasonably happy SWU supported Todd Rundgren's Nazz on this date.

Ralph

I initially thought the date for this gig was the 28th November as a result of an account given by Eric Bloom detailing how he came to bring down his PA gear for SWU to use for this gig. However, I've now amended that to the 29th November as a result of the following info.

Jim Freyler

The show I saw at the Electric Circus with SWU was on Friday, Nov. 29, 1968 (day after Thanksgiving) and that the other group on that night was Grafetti.

Bands at the Electric Circus back then usually played multiple dates, so it is entirely possible that SWU was also there on the 28th (if the EC was open on Thanksgiving night ?). It's a good bet that they also appeared over that weekend, especially on the Saturday.

I am however 100% certain about the Nov. 29 date. I think that Grafetti opened and SWU was the underbill for that date.

My notes indicate only that I rated both groups very highly, but after all these years I don't remember any details about them other than that. I do remember being impressed with them and it was only years later that I realized who they were.

Hope this helps in some way !

Ralph

I only came across news of this gig by accident on a website called Muswell Hill Music ("the place to find the music, songs and recordings of Waqidi Falicoff and friends"). Here's the section that caught my eye:

Shortly after going back to Stony Brook University in 1965, Waqidi hooked up with a fellow student, Bill Laletin, to form a duo, at times called "Bill & Willie" (by the music reviewer for the university paper, The Statesman, Jim Frankel) and finally "Abelard & Dr. Jones".

They performed primarily at the university. They also performed on an ABC documentary on university life as well as performing as a trio with a girl student at the university (who left to get married).

Waqidi also performed with others at the university including, a fellow student, Jeff Kagel, the now famous Kirtan singer, Krishna Das.

Mostly Bill and Waqidi stayed in the folk music genre (Bill still has a list of the songs in their repertoire).

However, on at least one occasion the two went electric with several other student performers to perform more in the folk rock style that was popular at the time (such as Jessie Collin Young's "Get Together" and the early Bee Gee's "New York Mining Disaster").

In one concert the extended group opened for the rock group "The Soft White Underbelly" (later to become the Blue Oyster Cult).

The common connection between the two groups were the students, Sandy Pearlman (he later became the manager for the BOC) and Richard Meltzer (famous for his early work "The Aesthetics of Rock" and other works - see Richard Meltzer's wiki page) as they both were involved with booking the acts for the concerts.

In addition, these two, like Waqidi, were philosophy majors and in many of the same classes and knew each other.

I had certainly not heard anything about this gig before, so I contacted Waqidi to see if he had any more details, and perhaps maybe a date...

I was also intrigued by seeing the mention of Jeff Kagel (Krishna Das), who once tried out as vocalist for SWU and I wondered could he have had any part of this gig at all?

Waqidi Falicoff

After consulting with my friend Bill Laletin, who I played with at the time (and am still friends with), here's what I can piece together about this gig:

  1. We can confirm that we definitely opened for Soft White Underbelly, and we played under the name "Abelard & Dr. Jones" (as we'd dropped the earlier name of "Bill & Willie" by that time). The gig would have been arranged through the Student Activities Board, which I believe would have involved the approval of Sandy Pearlman.
     
  2. The event took place most likely in 1968. I believe I was playing my Les Paul Junior electric guitar, which I rarely played (played exclusively acoustic guitars during my years at University) and which I sold in 1969 to get money ($50-$100) for gas money to travel across US. I did not have that guitar for very long so my guess is that concert was in late 1968 or possibly early 1969.

    Bill remembers that he switched over to a rock band with electric guitars in 1969. Prior to that he played acoustic guitar. We had parted ways by that time and by late 1969 I was the lead guitarist for Hamilton Camp (based in California). So that probably eliminates that the concert was in 1969.
     
  3. We are very sure it was in the Gym as all our previous venues were small ones in the dorms. We both remember this was a much larger venue (with dancing during SWU's performance).
     
  4. I do remember that the song we performed with the "extended group" of performers during that concert was Jessie Collin Young's "Get Together", and we performed the song at the end of the concert with all the guys from SWU. Bill suggest this makes sense as this song would have been one that everyone would have known. (Bill and I were in the folk music field and had little in common with the music of SWU.)

Aside from playing as a trio in 1965 (with a girl singer who left to get married) Bill and I performed exclusively as a duo (he had other gigs without me at times).

I jammed with Jeff Kagel but unless he was on the stage in that concert with SWU (which is unlikely), he never performed with both Bill and I in a paid gig. Krishna Das may have other recollections.

I was a Philosophy major at the same time as Pearlman and Meltzer and we attended quite a few classes together.

I remember Meltzer brought into class a comic book where he added "things" onto the pages. It supposedly had deep meaning. I was not very impressed.

Pearlman was an excellent debater in the class but his technique included citing facts that no one could corroborate at the moment. No Internet.

One of these Philosophy courses was in the field of Aesthetics (most likely with Prof. Donald Goodman or less likely Sydney Gleber) and is where I believe Meltzer started his work on the philosophical overtones of rock lyrics "The Aesthetics of Rock".

My work was on the Aesthetics of Architecture, much less memorable. I later ended up as an academic in the field of Architecture for a few years.

I remember Meltzer commenting on writing an article for Crawdaddy in 1967.

I was also the fellow who put the note on Richard Meltzer's Wikipedia page about him bringing a tape recorder to class: "One of his actions involved sending a tape recorder to class with his comments for the day on tape. Fellow student Sandy Pearlman was responsible for pushing the button."

We got away with a lot in those days!

I remember one class in Philosophy (taught by a Prof. Geoffrey Brogan from Oxford) where the grades of most students were based on the quality of a single question they had to present to Prof. Brogan on the last day of class.

I and a few others were exempt (automatic A's) as the Professor said we already proved our worth in class participation. I don't think Brogan lasted very long at Stony Brook.

He even "stole" away the girlfriend of my friend and fellow student, Gary Sloane.

That was what it was like in the '60s...

By the way my friend Jay Rosenberg (and who I wrote and published songs with in 1960s) ran against Sandy Pearlman for school president in the year Sandy won.

Jay and I just recently rekindled our song writing collaboration with the song "Heaven Release Her" which is in tribute to a 15 year old girl who was killed in Chicago in 2013.

One thing I just remembered is that I picked up a guitar riff from a guitarist with SWU during that concert. And I can even play it now. Funny how things stick with you. It is based on a C7 chord in the 5th position...

Ralph

As a result of Waqidi's information, I'll place this gig round about here in late 1968, and hopefully, at some time in the future, I might come across further information that might help me date it more accurately...

Ralph

The gig was cancelled because Bill Graham fell out with the MC5 as a consequence of a mini-riot at the MC5's Fillmore East gig on the 26th December. Read about the background to the trouble here:

and an account by Wayne Kramer here:

Note that the poster above has been censored by Elektra - it should have said "Get Down for Sixty Nine"...

Albert Bouchard

"I know that we went to the Bill Graham show and we met the MC5 backstage and as I recall, there was some problem, a riot or something that happened at the gig and it was not cool... so I remember that we were down to play with them and we met them because they were our label-mates, so that's where I met the MC5 at that Bill Graham gig which was like a week before or something right?"