1969: A Blast from the Past

“Well it’s 1969 OK all across the USA
It’s another year for me and you
                                      Another year with nothing to do”  — 1969, The Stooges

I was 7 going on 8 in 1969.  But my brother was ten years older — and Detroit was a prime location to explore rock as it turned psychedelic, then progressive, still with plenty of punk attitude.  Our cousin from Lansing was about the same age as my brother — so they did a fair amount of concertgoing together.

The other day, out of the blue I got a letter from our cousin, reproduced below with my random thoughts interspersed:

Dear Cousin Rick,

I’m sending along a copy of the program from the festival I attended in the south of England summer of 1969.  I thought you might it interesting.

plumpton festival program(Hmmm … The 9th National Jazz and Blues Festival.  Waitaminute: Pink Floyd?  King Crimson?  Peter Hammill performing solo before the first Van Der Graaf Generator album? Yes?  The Who?  Keith Emerson with The Nice?  Not to mention Soft Machine and Pentangle?  And he was there? Doggone straight I find it interesting.  Please continue, cousin!)

I’d seen both The Who and The Nice at the Grande Ballroom in the spring before.  The Who played the entire Tommy opera both times.  The Nice as I remember had some kind of revolving organ at the Grande.  At the Plumpton fest they closed the show on Sunday backed by a large orchestra.  At the final song the stage opened and a regiment of bagpipers marched off the stage and into the crowd.  Those were heady times.

isle of wight 1969There’s also a copy of the Isle of Wight festival flier which I missed as it was the weekend which we were heading home.  Such fond memories.

(Bob Dylan & The Band?  The Moody Blues?  More from King Crimson, The Who and Pentangle?  Stop torturing me, cousin!!!  Actually, no — please continue as I wrestle with envy and wish Doctor Who’s TARDIS was real.)

The day we arrived in London the Rolling Stones played in Hyde Park celebrating the life of Brian Jones who had just passed.  Couldn’t quite get there but almost.  (Another King Crimson show!!)

I’d like to hear more about your music blogging/reviews.    P.S.  We didn’t arrive at the fest until Saturday so we missed all the Friday acts.  Booo!

Fortunately, the sounds of the Plumpton Festival aren’t completely lost in the mists of time; I plan to direct my cousin to Soft Machine’s and Pink Floyd’s sets online, and send him a copy of King Crimson’s set.

detroit rr revival 1969And talking with my brother later, I heard the story of how he and my cousin somehow got permission to go to the 1969 Detroit Rock’n’Roll Revival (with the MC5, Chuck Berry, Dr. John, The “Psychedelic” Stooges and many more acts) the night before my sister’s wedding.  Maybe I should rethink missing Yes’ 50th Anniversary Tour when it hits Grand Rapids.  Not to mention Wayne Kramer’s MC50 Kick Out the Jams 50th Anniversary Tour and Soft Machine’s world tour coming to Progtoberfest IV

— Rick Krueger

soundstreamsunday: “Hunting Song” by Pentangle

pentangle-gfhggThe embrace of Arthurian legend and Tolkien-esque fantasy by British musicians in the 1960s and 70s — fueled undoubtedly by mixing the sounds of the folk revival with psychedelics and horrified revulsion at an overly industrialized and de-personalized world — worked to create some truly exotic hybrids in a scene that had also been profoundly influenced by American blues music and the sheer power of electric instrumentation.  But whether it was Donovan or Led Zeppelin or Uriah Heep taking on the Roundtable and Middle Earth, there tended to hang over this music a hippie haze that could just as easily turn towards the naively dumb as the innovative. (Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge” sequence is funny because it’s so spot-on, and as a Zep and Rainbow fan I laugh, and squirm, whenever I see it.)  Leave it to Pentangle to get it right.  As Bert Jansch introduces “Hunting Song” as a “13th-century rock and roll song” on this stellar performance from the band’s 1970 BBC special, his is a voice of wry authority.  A key figure in the development of acoustic guitar playing in the 1960s, and a songwriter who found inspiration in the dark power of traditional music, Jansch was a musician who masterfully summed the denominators of blues and jazz and folk music early in his career, and until his death in 2011 was a guitarist’s guitar player.  While Pentangle could not be said to be Jansch’s band, as it also included a cast of equals including guitarist John Renbourn, bassist Danny Thompson, drummer Terry Cox and vocalist Jacqui McShee, they built on the ground Jansch cleared in the mid 1960s along with Martin Carthy and John Fahey.  Their music is jazz medieval, folk improv, well-suited to covering one genre’s songs with another’s genre’s music.  “Hunting Song,” originally recorded in the studio for 1969’s Basket of Light, adapts, from the Arthurian take on Tristan and Isolde, the story of Morgan Le Fay’s magic drinking horn, which revealed faithlessness in those who were incapable of drinking from it.  The narrator’s role in the story isn’t entirely clear, and the broken narrative itself is, in a moment of genius, written as if the band found it on a shard of manuscript.  There is a hunt, a horn, a betrayal.  The sources are uncertain, our interpretations our own.  Here we see a rare moment of electric guitar work from Renbourn, and Thompson, as always central to the Pentangle sound, hunched over his upright bass, working with Cox to both support and lead the tune.  Although Jacqui McShee didn’t possess the vocal firepower of Maddy Prior or Sandy Denny, she matched them in finesse, and beautifully floats over Jansch’s rougher, Dylanesque delivery. As a crossroads of jazz, progressive, and traditional music, this is one of British folk-rock’s great moments.

soundstreamsunday playlist and archive