It’s not loaded

I always loved those long psychedelic jams, the real ones, back when the minds of players and fans were psychedelicized, to quote the Chambers Brothers. We were just on our way up Pacific Coast Highway a bit  ago when the hippie station on Sirius (“Deep Tracks”) played “Liberation” by the Chicago Transit Authority. They were a pretty good band then, when they had the long name, doing an updated Electric Flag thing, I guess, less blues and more charts. Certainly sold a of records, too. I was 12 and listening to AM radio then and I remember them well. Switched over to FM a bit later and there was more of them, lots more. That’s where I would have heard “Liberation”. I had no idea that a fifteen minute song back then meant the deejay was out back getting stoned, or maybe in the john, or getting laid. All I knew was long tracks were cool. Heavy. Art. Significant. We were all impressed by long tunes, or suites, or movements, whatever, back then. It gave rock music that classical music cachet. Though let’s be honest, what no doubt happened was the Chicago Transit Authority had recorded enough usable tracks for three sides of a double LP.  They needed another 15 minutes of music. Today you’d sit down and write another three or four tunes. But in 1969 every intelligent rock musician spent a lot of time out of his mind high listening to some totally gone John Coltrane. Trane doing a whole LP side of “My Favorite Things”. Trane and Pharoah Sanders doing that utterly mad 12 minutes of “The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” that open Meditations. Trane just blowing free form, idea after idea after idea. His quartet doing the same. A lot of raucous soloing. Elvin Jones, baby. Elvin Jones. You’d get way high, you’d listen, maybe ohm a little. Ohm. Trane screaming, Pharoah screeching, Elvin pounding, you om aum ohming. Made sense at the time. So if the producer said we need 15 more minutes for that fourth side you just looked at the band, say yeah baby, fire up a jay and make free form rock’n’roll. Everybody was doing it. The Sons of Champlain, the San Francisco scene’s own horn band at the time, called their fifteen minute fourth side “Freedom”. Freedom, Liberation, what’s the difference? (The difference was that Chicago Transit Authority sold a million copies and the Sons’  Loosen Up Naturally sold a couple thousand).  Both tunes are one of those demented aimless freak out jams that work only if the band never stops to think about it.  They could do that back then, not think about something. You could get really really into something but not worry about it.. Just let it flow, man. Music–hell, creativity itself–was just a thing that happened. Not like accidentally happened, but just happened. That whole Jackson Pollack thing.  Get the right mind vibe going down and let yourself go and man, look what happens. Free love happens. Free music. Free concerts. Free drugs. Freedom from barbers. Freedom from baths. From reality. That was 1969. The year opened up with Liberation and Freedom. Something in the air. Summer was Woodstock.  By December bikers are beating up hippies at Altamont. Oh fuck. It all goes to hell eventually, of course. They should have known that. Pollack led to an army of wanna be pollacks, throwing paint around, making a mess. Free form played by amateurs usually completely fails. Free drugs leads to heroin. Free love to the clap. Free verse to words in heaps. But for that magic window when it does work, it’s beautiful. And even though it’s that rarely listened to fourth side of a double album,  “Liberation” sure sounded beautiful that sunny wind-blown day driving up PCH.  Terry Kath does this insane guitar solo for I dunno how long, forever, it’s hysterical but hey it was 1969, they were some real musicians in that band, used to playing to midwestern dance halls full of kids absolutely out of their minds on some psychedelic or another and what the fuck, go for it Terry, just go for it. It’s not loaded, baby.

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