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According to the originalcafeaugogo.com site:
Earth Opera was a famous Boston psychedelic rock group featuring virtuoso folk and bluegrass performers such as Peter Rown and David Grisman.
The Soft White Underbelly were a Long Island rock group, who ultimately evolved into the famous Blue Oyster Cult.
The sequence of ads above help explain the date range I've given to SWU's support slot for these shows.
The first ad gives the NRBQ residency at Steve Paul's Scene club as "Jan 27 through Feb 2" (Monday - Sunday), although it gives no information about any other bands on the bill.
The second ad doesn't actually give the date range of the residency, instead it merely says "Tonight Thru Sunday" - but gives the additional information that Hal Waters would be the opening act, with Soft White Underbelly going on before NRBQ.
I initially thought that this meant SWU were present for the full run of shows, although the ad didn't really say so. I suppose it all rested on what date "Tonight" referred to - and I didn't have a date for the clipping to offer me any clues, unfortunately...
However, the third ad is much more helpful in that it separates the two bands and shows that SWU only came in for the last three shows ("Jan 31 - Feb 2").
By the way - these clippings all come from one of the most engrossing blogs I've ever seen called "It's all the Streets you Crossed", dedicated to documenting NYC's rock'n'roll heritage.
I only saw SWU play live maybe twice. My friend Josie, who worked in Publicity at Elektra really liked Les and we all became friends.
I do remember Josie and I went to see them live at a club in Brooklyn called Dynamite. Les soon left to pursue other opportunities or something like that.
It was a few years later that I realized the rest of the band became BOC.
The Band gig was Soft White Underbelly opening in the gym on May 3, 1969. It was kind of funny, because I was going to a concert with a guy I really didn't know... a BLIND DATE in fact. I was pretty young, just 15 and he was going to Stony Brook. We had talked on the phone and he told me he was premed, and spoke about how he liked all kinds of music, and spoke of classical music too. When he invited me to see the band, he was so low key about it, I thought he meant the school band, like a recital or something. The only other concert I had been to was the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1966.
So, here I was dressed all nice and pretty in a DRESS with cutesy tights and cutesy dress shoes, all lovely and ready for some kind of classical evening. It turned out the band he was referring to was THE Band...as in Bob Dylan, The Weight, Big Pink, and Stage Fright. The rest of the audience looked NORMAL, like jeans, shirts, etc, and here I was like Barbie, all dressed up. Oh well, in spite of the Fashion Crisis, I enjoyed myself immensely anyway.
SWU was great, powerful and I can't remember what they played at all. And the Band was fantastic. I had been listening to FM radio, so I knew a lot of their stuff... just never realized who they were. I still love them.
One side note to SWU: a few years ago, I had some minor orthopedic surgery done. The doctors in there had WNEW on (they used to be the most pioneering rock station in the NY market; then a talk station; now they don't know what they are) in the operating room. As the anesthesiologist was telling me to count backwards, "Don't Fear the Reaper" was coming on....great timing, eh?
As far as Stony Brook show are concerned, I saw quite a few of them, and heard even more on the evenings when I couldn't go. I lived about 1 mile from campus, and I can remember sitting outside and listening to the music bounce across the golf course... it was very loud and very clear. I remember listening to the Who, and quite a few other bands as well. I think I know that house on Lake avenue that was referenced in Robbie Barkan's SWU/Grateful Dead review, although I wasn't there till about 1970 or maybe 71.
I remember concerts in the Gym that cost 50 cents to get into if you were a student. I saw the Moody Blues with Timothy Leary, Odetta, Richie Havens, the Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Bad Brains who opened for Peter Tosh, Bob Dylan, Janis Ian, Aztec TwoStep, and a whole bunch more that I can't recall immediately.
I lived in the area from early 1969 till 1993, and also volunteered at the radio station you mentioned, WUSB from 1981-1993, so I got to see a lot more as years went on. It's a pretty magical place, and some great memories for me.
"Band And Underbelly Fit Opposite Ends Of Spectrum"
Spring Weekend and damn if it didn't want to rain again. Therefore: lots of people without tickets, and no time to "hang the horns" (set up the sound system properly).
Needless to say, two hours were taken mid-concert to set the sound system anyway, and for the first time since I've been here, the extra-superspecial expensive sound equipment was utilized properly. To those of you at the first show: my condolences; The Band was fantastic the second show.
The concert was a game of errors, but somehow those who stayed for both concerts (an exercise in fortitude) came out ahead. The Band and The Soft White Underbelly stand at opposite ends of every spectrum I can think of. The Band are cool, long-time musicians (country, not electric, I fear); the Underbelly are young aspirants to fame.
The Underbelly have an, as yet, unreleased album on Elektra Records, and The Band have an outstanding hit in their Columbia album, Big Pink. The Band are big and clear, smooth and good listening. The Underbelly are small and cluttered, choppy and much too loud.
The Band have the power in their restraint on volume, and clear, sharp bluegrass-arranged harmonies. The vocals are meaningless in the work of the Underbelly and the arrangements are hokey and unfulfilling.
I may be proved wrong with respect to record sales or with respect to their upcoming album but I fear that, in their present motif, the Underbelly will forever be a "second group." Perhaps it is like Les, the unaudible and Morrison imitative vocalist for the Underbelly said in "Stony Brook."
Something has changed, but not just with Stony Brook. The Underbelly, too, has changed and they are no longer the great sit-and-listen band they used to be. Perhaps this is good; there's no money here in Stony Brook. As much hype as they get from Elektra, however, they will not make super-group status for a long time. The Underbelly's forte is the last section of their second set, playing to a small group of people in a friendly atmosphere. For perhaps the last time, the Underbelly were with their audience.
Humanistically, the Underbelly are superior to The Band whose private life is almost as sheltered as that of their mentor Bob Dylan. The Band is out in the world, and I hope experience makes them less likely to lay clinkers like the one the organist Garth Hudson put down in the intro to 'Wheels of Fire."
The new material they played was fine, but certainly not great country or rock; just good. The guitarist is basically an acoustical guitarist and luckily didn't try to do anything beyond himself or too loud. The drummer sings better than he plays drums or mandolin (same, too, about the bass). Together, however, they put down a smooth and full sound more than the elements of the band simply added together.
It would be unfair to judge in terms of the size of audience for the second (best) show. Most people had come to see The Band and then left because of the late hour caused by the bummer sound system. The Underbelly were perfect for the hundred or so devotees left after The Band split.
When faced with a choice of what to play after the concert, the Big Pink Band album seemed the obvious and smooth choice. You just can't get enough of their prophetic country prose (Dylanesque). I had plenty of the Underbelly to last for a long time.
from "The Statesman" (6 May 1969) by Arthur Bromberg
Despite the Statesman (Stony Brook college magazine) review of this gig above saying that SWU were billed as "The Underbelly" for this show, Jane Alcorn's ticket above clearly shows they played this gig as "Soft White Underbelly"...
What I remember of that show was The Band did a long sound check and weren't happy with the sound, and they held the admittance of the audience for an hour or so while they fiddled with it. I can't remember now if they did two shows.
Don't remember much about our performance.
This was my first gig. Richard Meltzer came along tripping on acid, which was very entertaining to us.
There were 2 bands playing, SWU and a society band playing standards (Lester Lanin I believe). I can't recall how many sets we did, maybe only 2.
I couldn't tell you what we played but it must have been material from the SWU (Stalk-Forrest) albums, i.e. Bonomo's Turkish Taffy, etc.
The origin of this show: The 16 yr. old came to the band house in Great Neck with a friend to hear some tapes. She had been pointed at SWU by Elektra Records. She was looking for an up-and-coming band to play her party.
I was the only one home that day and played her some tapes of the pre-production of the SWU album. I can't recall who negotiated the deal, but the girl liked the tapes and the gig was booked.
At that time, I wasn't the singer. A couple of months later was the actual gig and by then I had replaced Les.
The "review" above by Lucian Truscott from The Village Voice was not very complimentary towards SWU, whilst the second clipping is Robert Christgau's short rebuttal of that review:
Lucian Truscott's putdown of the Soft White Underbelly a few weeks ago was unwarranted. One of the few acceptable New York bands, the Underbelly needs a singer but has good material and a great lead guitarist.
Robert Christgau Village Voice, 31 July 1969
I don't know of any gigs in September 1969 - do you?
Reportedly, some "moods" were played in Kelly Quad cafeteria in the fall of 1969 under the name "Stalk Forrest Group".
Now here's the thing - check out the ad below for the 17 December mood - this indicates that they were still playing under the Soft White Underbelly name at that time.
This is of interest because the story has always been that the band changed their name to "Stalk Forrest Group" pretty soon after the poor reviews they received after the Fillmore East gig.
If that's true, how come they were still SWU on the 17th December?
So, the question remains - when exactly did the name change occur? At the moment, all I can say for sure is that they played the 3rd July 1970 show as "Stalk Forrest Group" so I think we're looking sometime between Jan-June 1970 for that...
My first Soft White Underbelly show was at Stony Brook University (Kelly Quad Cafeteria) - as a part of the 'Mood' series.
I am pretty sure it was October - but not 100% sure. Always recalled it as such. I remember being totally knocked out by Donald's guitar playing - that I remember well!
I was a student at SB '69-73... I've been a faculty member there now for several decades. I do remember the triple BOC/Mahavisnu/Byrds gig at the gym - and the SFG gig outdoors on the fields in May '70 I think - I was and still am pals with sandy p too..