Ralph J. Gleason – “A Report on San Francisco” (1966)

May 10, 2009 at 10:52 am (Music, Reviews & Articles)

Esteemed jazz critic and future Rolling Stone co-founder Ralph J. Gleason wrote this article for the San Francisco Chronicle in Dec. 1966 about the emerging SF rock scene then taking place, which would explode in the following year…  

Something went on last week at the Fillmore Auditorium which dramatizes the difference between the avant garde of the New Generation (the “Love” generation, if you will) and its elders.

The Fillmore Auditorium gave a party for its patrons. Thanksgiving Eve, over a

thousand regular patrons and friends and rock bands and their friends gathered at the Fillmore to enjoy an elegant catered dinner, soft drinks and music. Free.

Couples who had been coming to the hall regularly (“I know almost all their faces,” Graham says) were given tickets and the bands were asked to invite their friends.

The result was something absolutely unique in my experience in the world of entertainment.

The bands – the Wildflower, the Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Grateful Dead – all played beautifully, and the light show was the best I’ve seen at the Fillmore.

Midway in the evening, Graham went on staged and asked for a few minutes’ indulgence and then introduced all the Fillmore employees, from the hat check girls to the cops. The latter came on stage in what the World War I novels used to call “mufti” and the audience applauded them.

Please not that. They applauded the police at the Fillmore Auditorium.

The lines going past the tables of free food lasted until midnight and, like all the other evenings I’ve spent at the Fillmore, there was no tension, no trouble and not even the arguments you get at a football game.

The reasons are many and complicated but they rest in the fact that a different set of assumptions is the basis for attitudes.

“It’s such a beautiful thing I can’t believe it,” a long-haired girl said, and her bearded, suede-shirted escort added “It’s just too much.”

Actions speak louder than words and Bill Graham speaks loud. But this action speaks the loudest of all. Where else can you imagine it taking place? A free day at Candlestick Park? A free football game at U.C.? A free night at the Cinema Guild or the Golden Gate? A free night at Bimbo’s or the Venetian Room? The opera?

There’s something fundamental changing here. A Los Angeles promoter is going to open a dance hall with “total environment” and “psychedistic dancers” i.e.:, go-go girls. There will be many such attempts to exploit and/or capitalize on the New Youth, but I predict they won’t work. 

This is a generation which is providing the Diggers at Ashbury and Oak and at Civic Center Park in Berkeley every afternoon with their free food. This is the generation which is making distillery stock a lasting proposition for long range investment and this is the generation which says it believes in love and acts on it.

The cops can clean the Sunset Strip by force and Tom Cahill’s blue-nosed bluecoats may bust bookstores but this thing can’t be stopped. In the war between the generations, the kids are right and they will win. Meanwhile, I suppose, it can’t really hurt to have cops reading poetry. It might even help them. And in the City That Knows How, it’s interesting to see who it is who really knows how.    

Ralph J. Gleason

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