Featured Book – In Search Of Captain Beefheart Pt. 12 – Disappointments


There were a lot of high points and brilliant gigs. There were a lot of alright gigs too. But it wasn’t all brilliant.

Some of the disappointments really stand out.

I loved the West Coast sound and one of my favourite bands was Country Joe and the Fish. Their first album ‘Electric music for the body and mind’ was one of the outstanding albums. Barry Melton had a distinctive guitar sound and I rated Joe’s voice as the best in the business. The songs were straight out of sixties freakdom. We were in the same tribe.

They didn’t get to England much so I was delighted in 1969 that they were coming. I got my tickets for the Royal Albert Hall. We got the cheap ones and were up in the Gods. The concert started well when Country Joe invited us all down to the main section because it was only half full. We rushed down. The RAH is lousy for sound and that didn’t help. However, it was going quite well. I was really in to West Coast Acid Rock sound. Then for some inexplicable reason, Country Joe came out with this stuff about Country music being big in England. As far as I was concerned country music was about as straight, redneck as you could get. Then he launched into a couple of country songs including ‘I’ve got a tiger by the tail’. We were bemused. Was it a piss-take? It seemed it wasn’t a piss-take and that rather sullied the rest of the evening for me. I was looking for some Freak Acid music. I think I’d be a bit more sanguine about it now. But I left feeling a bit let down by my heroes.

Another of my West Coast Acid Rock heroes was Jefferson Airplane and I got to see them twice but each time I found the sound a bit thin and ragged. In hindsight, I suppose that was probably due to the crappy sound systems back then. You couldn’t really expect a great deal from an outdoor concert. Yet Hendrix, Cream and Taste had managed it.

A similar thing happened with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. I went to this festival in Bath in 1969 particularly to see Frank and came away hugely disappointed. The band didn’t seem to have any life in them and went through their set like well rehearsed clockwork.

I also saw Johnny Winter at the Bath festival. I’d been looking forward to it as Johnny was a guitar virtuoso but I found his playing intricate and a bit boring.

Another disappointment was Davey Graham. I finally got to see him in this hall in 1970. The chairs were all laid out in lines. Davey came on and sat on his chair and played. The only words spoken were the name of each song. There was no emotion or enthusiasm. He played the numbers faultlessly and it was like watching a robot. I told Roy Harper about this later, he used to be a good friend of Davey’s, indeed they’d talked about becoming a duo, and he was bemused. He’d remembered Davey as an animated, lively player.

I believe I’ve talked about Jimi Hendrix’s rather lacklustre last farewell concert and the flat New Traffic elsewhere.

So I suppose the biggest disappointment of all has to be reserved for Blind Faith. I went to the free concert in Hyde Park with huge expectations. Cream were amazing live and remain one of the most exciting bands I have seen. Traffic were another favourite. I’d loved them on record and live. Rick Grech I considered to be immense and a huge factor in the Family sound. To bring all those elements together in one super-band sounded perfect. I could not wait to hear their hard driving Rock sound. Except that what we got was a dreary uninspiring wash-out. What a letdown.

It seems to me that the main reasons for these disappointments are twofold: Firstly – the expectations were so high that they were impossible to meet and Secondly – the sound systems back then did not do justice to the performance. If you were too far away or in the wrong place it sounded thin, distorted and crap.

I have heard recordings of many of the concerts I did not rate at the time and have found that a number of them sounded quite alright – so it was just me then!


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