Some blistering guitar work in this linked video by Mike Bloomfield with the Electric Flag at the Monterey Pop Festival. The Flag, alas, were one of the acts that didn’t make it into the movie, which is a shame as Bloomfield was at the top of his game. But then the Electric Flag not making director Pennebaker’s final cut was really just another in the long line of missteps and misfortunes, mostly self-inflicted, that has left Mike Bloomfield perhaps the most forgotten guitar hero of them all. Indeed so forgotten that it’s startling to hear him speak in this clip from the Newport Folk Festival (about 3:20 in, just past Son House) because unlike his now legendary sixties guitar hero brethren, almost none of us has ever heard him speak. So dig his rap, the rushes of words, fragments of sentences, full of beatnik speak and musician jive and sounding incredibly like Jimi Hendrix, actually, whose voice we all have memorized. It must have been the way serious young players talked in the joints and road houses and cafes on the circuit in the early-mid sixties, where both Mike Bloomfield and Jimi learned their trade. And though some of you, perhaps even most of you, might not recognize Mike Bloomfield by name, you definitely know his sound–that’s him on Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone, indeed all over Highway 61 Revisited, and that was him raising hell with Dylan at Newport. The second half of the sixties was an amazing period for Mike Bloomfield–Dylan, Paul Butterfield (East-West was one of the rock’n’roll game changers back then), The Electric Flag, Super Session–but he disappeared up his arm in the seventies and ceased to be entirely before the eighties even got started. A long time comin’ is a long time gone.
Watching the end of Jimi Hendrix at Monterey and amid the smoking wreckage Mitch Mitchell rockets his sticks into the stunned stoned freaked and tripping crowd and every time I see it and (and I’ve seen it a hundred times) I think that I would have given anything to have been in that crowd and caught one of those sticks, it would still be my most treasured possession, that stick, even now, that half a century before had rolled across those toms with absolute abandon and bounced with loose wristed splats off the snare and set the cymbals roiling and splashing and crashing with Jimi’s every move and sound and look and thought. Airborne for only a second or two, the sticks disappear into offstage darkness, first the one, then the other and Mitch, laughing, steps out of view. I turn off the TV right then, before the interviews begin and reduce the music to history, and I wonder again about those sticks.
Speaking of Boomers, we watched the Big TNT Show at our neighbor’s pad last night. Never seen it before. My faves were Bo Diddley (who I saw open for the Clash a zillion years ago), The Lovin’ Spoonful (who were incredibly loose and high and actually fucked up and had to start over again, giggling, it was beautiful), Donovan, and Roger Miller, tho’ it was nearly all great, and judging from his conducting chops, David McCallum didn’t have a musical bone in his body.
I sprained my pinkie sleeping yesterday (my lamest injury ever, a big man with a sprained pinkie) which could give me the excuse to watch Monterey Pop, Don’t Look Back, Gimme Shelter, Woodstock and A Film About Jimi Hendrix in one long pseudo acid trip on TCM today. Some of the same acts as the Big TNT Show, though much, much higher. Tina Turner was in the Big TNT Show (with a big bruise on her arm), but I remember seeing her in Gimme Shelter at the Wilshire Theatre when I was sixteen and thinking I wanted a girlfriend just like that, or even a school teacher.
I had no idea I used my pinkie to hit the tab key until just now.
Watched Woodstock last night on TCM. Hadn’t realized it’d been so long since I’d last seen it…I hadn’t even seen this Director’s cut yet. All those crazy 18 years old running through the mud are 65 now. Anyway, forgot how beautifully shot that flick was, amazed they pulled it off. You wonder what became of all the interviewees. And if everyone hawking their wares in the drug super market scene wound up in prison. If the Porto-San man’s kid got back from the DMZ ok. Or who wound up with Pete Townshend’s guitar. Just what that glop was the Hog Farm was feeding everybody? And whatever happened to those intricately beautiful hash pipes all the serious freaks seemed to have back then. It’s a long flick, endless, and you have time to wonder about these things. And about how everyone got home. And the psychedelics no one talks about anymore, like DMT, and how mesc was short for mescaline. And how fit everyone was back then. Trim and beautiful. I can’t imagine camera crews spending so much time on skinny dippers at a festival today. There’s a lot of beautifully shot scenes in the flick. There’s one night time scene and someone is on stage, a folkie, alone–maybe Joan Baez–and the shadows through behind on the stage are gorgeous and one of the camera men, no doubt stoned, focused on it for a luxurious several seconds, and it still fills my mind’s eye 24 hours later.
Amazing how different the mood is from Gimme Shelter–another extraordinary concert film–which was only four or five months later. Or from the Isle of Wight flick, less than a year later. Or from Monterey Pop, a mere two years before. Or from the contemporaneous Wattstax, which seemed a world away. And how vastly different it was from Jazz on a Summer’s Day, shot eleven years earlier, or The Decline of Western Civilization, ten years away. That’s a twenty year span, packed full of cultural revolution. Things seemed to move so fast then. They seem so slow now. If not slow, perhaps it’s just that the old never really goes away anymore. It always hangs around. Digitalization makes the dead seem completely alive. Long dead movie stars seem to walk and talk still. People love the Beatles like they never went away, or Miles Davis like he walks among us. Old releases are repackaged and released as if brand new. The long dead comment on new events–I just saw Kurt Cobain predicting Donald Trump; a lie, but that seemed not to matter–and we seem to live our lives shifting between eras as if we were there for all of them. But we weren’t. We only are where we are, and once were where we once were. And I can’t figure out it it’s good or bad that we can conceptually shift between eras like that–imagine how the tripping freaks at Woodstock would have loved the idea–but I do think the long dead should remain dead, the long broken up remain broken up, and we should live in the now, but that’s just me. I mean I love Hendrix and Coltrane and Monk and the Jefferson Airplane, but not they are still here. Meanwhile I’m watching hippies cavort half a century ago, and Jimi Hendrix frozen forever at 27 and the YouTube I’ve been listening to in the background flits through the jazz decades as if time itself was completely irrelevant. Time free like whatever that Albert Ayler thing just was, before this ancient Louis Armstrong thing or the brand new Ben Wendel thing I heard before. A hundred years of music randomly thrown together. Each video sets a mood, each brings out a feeling. Each make me feel like I am elsewhere, and this computer is a pad a paper and these letters my cramped, impenetrable scrawl that no one will ever see.