Between the years 1967-1971, Long Island's Stony Brook University somehow managed to entice some of rock (and folk's) biggest acts to come and play at their school gym. This despite the fact that Bill Graham had opened the Fillmore East in April 1968.
So how on earth did they manage this? What did Stony Brook have that Bill Graham didn't?
Long story short: The Stony Brook Students Activities Board - Sandy Pearlman, Howie Klein, Marybeth Olbrych. Through their efforts, the students of Stony Brook got to see some fantastic shows, the like of which they would never get to see again outside of a stadium or impersonal shed arena.
This page is intended to celebrate both the venue and the SAB. If you have any memories of Stony Brook and those incredible gigs in the gym, please send me your and I'll post it here....
The first contribution to this page is by Moyssi, who was the lighting director for all those wonderful gym shows (he later moved on to the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey, where he became resident stage lighting director from 1971 to 1986).
I was lucky enough to come across his great new website http://www.moyssi.com which features amongst other things a gallery of the great concert program covers he did for the Capitol Theatre. Check them out.
Anyway, I contacted Moyssi initially to specifically see if he had any info (dates/stubs/handbills etc) for any of the shows with SWU on the bill and got this great reply back:
Please note that my website is only a few days old [ as of 28 Oct 2006 ] and a work-in-progress. We intend to post a complete listing of all shows at the Capitol Theatre, Passaic 1971-1986 and--now that there is a Long Island Music Hall of Fame, there will be more opportunity to reacquaint with others of who happened to be here in the right place at the right time, musically speaking, at Stony Brook 1967-1971. As this period begins to flesh itself out, I plan to incorporate that experience into my website as well.
The long interview with Albert Bouchard was interesting because I had forgotten that Soft White Underbelly had morphed into Stalk Forest Group before Blue Oyster Cult, but I do recall that these guys played the college dorm lounges, lobbies, stairwells, telephone booths and frequently opened for everyone at the gym. Sandy Pearlman's doing, no doubt, but you would want to interview Howie Klein and Marybeth Olbrych for your piece.
I'd been in BOC's house because I was dating a very sexy blond bombshell at the time, so people didn't mind me coming along pretty much anywhere, but my friendship then was with Seth Dworken and George Geranios, who did sound while I did lights at Stony Brook. George moved on to Weissberg Sound (and maybe Phoenix Audio when Weissberg and Zasuly split) before doing sound for BOC. George may now be teaching at University of Texas.
George and I used to argue about sound because, blindfolded, I could always tell the difference between a MacIntosh and a Crown amp, and he got so boiled over by my belief that Advents were better than JBL Century 100s and that both were better than anything Bose made that he arranged to take over a hi-fi store for a night. We took the place apart and blindfolded each other and plugged everything into everything else and scored it all. If my memory isn't playing tricks, I won that one and learned so much about sound that I later got to flabbergast Zasuly:
Once, when doing lights for the New Riders at the Capitol Theatre (Passaic), I noticed that Michael Zasuly seemed distressed as he was "ringing out the room". When I asked what the problem was, he said that he didn't know but the sound was all wrong. Recalling that long night at Designatron in Stony Brook many years ago with George Geranios, who did sound for Blue Oyster Cult, I observed that one of the tweeters was out of phase. Michael's jaw dropped and he (nearly) shouted that "nobody could hear one speaker out of phase in a sound system this big." Without missing a beat, he turned to me and demanded: "House left or house right?" I responded "House left" and then he did what any pro would do: he directed his partner Don Smith to check the phase of all the speakers in the left stack. Sure enough, one tweeter was out of phase and that solved the problem. Sometimes it hurts to be this sensitive, but that is something that most of us square-peg-in-a-round-hole rock'n'rollers had in common.
An abridged version of that anecdote appears on http://www.moyssi.com/gallery05.htm
We did about 600 acts at Stony Brook 1967-1971. I saw the Blues Project show mentioned by Albert, but my first show as LD was the Chambers Brothers, and every major show thereafter. There are some personal tidbits about this period spread around my website, but I hope to recall more about this period when other folks prompt my memories with theirs.
My favorite fact is that we paid the Allman Brothers all of $300 for their first gig in our gym. It was a Thursday night with just ABB in 1970, followed by them opening for two shows with Mountain on Friday or Saturday. ABB did Stormy Monday, which Mountain also did as the headliner. After the early show, Leslie West wisely asked if he could open for ABB on the late show. What a friggin' wonderful show that turned out to be. They introduced Mountain Jam that night. (But I've done about 2,000 shows and mix up dates and bills and everybody's name, so take it for what it's worth.)
Many, most, maybe all of those shows were recorded with permission on an Ampex 300 or 301 from the sound mixer. Seth Dworkin was the mixer--a brainiac who went on to win a Grammy with the Grateful Dead and direct satellite operations for Wall Street Journal--kept all the original recordings (made on Scotch professional 1/4" tape supplied by me). He died of Crohn's disease summer a year ago, just after we got reacquainted and he verified that he still had all the tapes.
The Problem is that I can't figure out how to get in touch with the family and those tapes would need careful attention. I had a primary dub of the 1970 ABB/Mountain gig and ABB's archivist, Kirk West, told me it was the best FOH mixer recording he'd ever heard of the band. That was after they released the famous 1971 performance at Stony Brook that was recorded just weeks before the tragic motorcycle fatalities.
The Grateful Dead loved Stony Brook and always used our sound and lights.
I noticed that you have BOC playing the Athletic field at Stony Brook. The only big outdoor date that I recall was Jefferson Starship. Is it possible that BOC opened for them?
Btw, my big gripe with the LI Music Hall of Fame is that they inducted Stony Brook, but the award went to administration and faculty instead of the Student Activities Board. VERY VERY WRONG.
The administration in those days considered students to be a necessary evil and did little or nothing to support us. The SAB (Howie Klein, Marybeth Olbrych, Sandy Pearlman...) were true visionaries who figured out that we were a mile or two beyond Bill Graham's legal prohibition on bands that played the Fillmore, and they figured out how to beg, buy or steal lighting and sound equipment and how bring a paying audience in and to make money at it in a University environment.
That Airplane concert cost us $15,000 but the SAB made it a free concert in order to spend the profits that that non-profit had made. We even rented the gym (I'm imagining maybe $50,000/yr) from the cphys ed dept (Leslie Thompson was the chairman, I believe) so that he would have money for athletic programs that he couldn't get from the authorities. It was a great relationship, and the SAB there, then, deserves some righteous exposure for the magic that they and they alone made possible.
Stony Brook was then the 3rd largest talent buyer in the U.S. We had Traffic before Bill got them, probably as a warm-up for his NYC show but all those shows were great! In my memory--NOT corroborated by ABB--two of the Live at the Fillmore cuts were actually recorded at Stony Brook. The basis for my frisson is that we had a Simplex clock in the gym and that it emitted an hourly tone that was audible on the master tape.
Jim Morrison ate a microphone on the same day he fell off the front of the stage. And I mean ATE it. He had that thing stuck so far down his throat that the foam and the grill were entirely gone when he took it back out again.
George Geranios, who had just gotten back from Viet Nam, was so offended by some freak who wandered onto his stage during one show that he simply picked the guy up and threw him back into the audience.
We did Melanie's first big performance when she was a young teen so shy that she asked the audience if she could sit on the front of the stage so she would feel more comfortable. I am SO happy that I had a pair of Strong Trouper carbon arcs, otherwise she would have been in the dark all night.
Laura Nyro could have shattered like an ancient teacup. Van Morrison, even at Stony Brook, vibed out the audience during the opening act.
The Who. Miles Davis. Unbelievable performances. Thelonius Monk just walked around the stage for an hour while his band played.
Duane and Berry sometimes joined the lighting crew after their many shows at Stony Brook to express their thanks with a joint, just as Kenny Loggins did.
There are a million Stony Brook stories, so you've got to track down Marybeth and Howie and George. I assume you already know how to find Sandy Pearlman. I don't know where any of them are but I do know that Marybeth was originally from upstate NY--Amsterdam, maybe, and that she had a restaurant in NYC later on called Bahama Mama. It would be great to reacquaint with them.
I will try to track down your missing dates and lineups since I still live near Stony Brook, and the Hall of Fame. There is also a members-only Yahoo group for ex-employees of the Capitol Theatre, should you ever want to know more about 1971-1986.
Academy of Music. Gaelic Park Bar & Grill (10,000-person outdoor soccer field behind the bar). Gracie Slick and "Susie Sunshine" did a partial strip tease there when the crowd went nuts because of the rain and the band's refusal to play with wet electrical equipment.
Another memory about BOC--but it would need corroboration--is that they were very taken by laser lighting effects. Whether I was asked to design it or was simply participant in a conversation about that, I advised them against laser because those things are so dangerous--especially then when there was little knowledge and no controls. (As an engineering student I worked in Dr Stroke's laser lab when he figured out how to use lasers to recreate the information lost in an out-of-focus photo.) They got someone to build a pretty fantastic laser light show anyway but, I think, ended up single-handedly causing the Bureau of Radiation Control to prohibit that sort of thing. But then I have CRS or might have missed a boat and copped an attitude but no, really, I was having too much fun...