08-00-1970 Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica (Capacity: 3,000)
Lee Michaels has always been a favorite artist of mine, with his natural “blue-eyed soul” voice and Hammond organ mastery backed by a social conscience and bare-bones Rock-style – he had his shit together .
Lee Michaels’ “Carnival of Life”, kicks ass and is one of those LPs that connect you to a time and a place and a feeling – all good.
I was 17 in 1968 when it was released and was just experiencing the wondrous effects of marijuana and the album became an imprint of the beginning of a life-long journey of consciousness-raising, mind-expansion, awareness and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
I was part of a whole generation of teens who willingly took mind-altering drugs fearlessly and with excited curiosity and then once we understood the effects it became an infinite exploration of all the five senses – and some we never knew we had.
But the single most revealing and priceless gift that you experience is truth; inescapable truth. In the subtlest of cannabis inhalation to the purest LSD trip; the one experience that is universal is when the layers of your life are pulled back to reveal the “Real Me” and likewise for all that is around you; from your friends to your Government.
It’s a sobering experience and for many not one they wanted to face again.
Marijuana was nature’s gift for those who sought more than could ever be taught from a book, teacher or institution; it allows you to discover and understand important aspects of your life and what was really important through experience for yourself and by yourself..
At the same time it magically separates the fact from the fiction we’d been told – which naturally led to our Tribe’s motto to “Question Authority” and then the inevitable rebellion against the lies, untruths and manipulation by all those who wanted to keep us down and dumb – well, it didn’t work, thanks to marijuana our eyes were opened at an extremely crucial time in history – and we saw through it all – and the rest is history.
But even more importantly it insures that no matter what you do; “Everything’s Better With A Bag Of Weed!”
The opening to “Hello!” off Carnival just floored me the first time I heard it (still does, always will) with each massive organ whomp there is a jacked-up organ grind to bring the massive whomp down again. Loved it! And the whole rest of the LP just came at the exact right time – all of the tunes are excellent and for me transcendent.
Sadly, I never saw Lee Michaels before this concert but it was actually perfect timing as I was diggin’ his newest release “Barrel” and his attitude and delivery were right in groove with my sensibilities.
“Barrel” was an LP with a conscience, with Lee in righteous protest mode over the Vietnam war (“What Now America?”, “Thumbs”, When Johnny Comes Marching Home”), injustice and police brutality, (“Murder In My Heart (For The Judge”), “Mad Dog”), and a couple of bittersweet love songs, (“Didn’t Know What I Had”, “Day Of Change”) and the main love song, “Ummm My Lady” to balance-out the album. Excellent!
This concert was taped live for a documentary on Lee and featured songs from his current LP release, “Barrel”.
Inside the “Barrel” album were photos of Lee walking with his big cats, Cheetahs I think, on his wildlife compound in Northern California. I was envious; I love big cats!
A few months later I actually caught the TV documentary on Lee with the concert footage; (I can be seen in the sixth row center as the camera pans the audience) mixed in with him on his preserve/home with his big cats and about his wild(life).
I am very glad to have seen Lee live. He is a true example of an Unsung Rock Hero; a seminal artist that never received his due in regard to his influence, creativity and deserved place in Rock history.
The current whereabouts of Lee Michaels is clouded in mystery since he withdrew from the music scene over 20 years ago. There have been rumors of hearing loss and retreating to Hawaii and the current “best truth” is that he is/was the owner of a small franchise of “Killer Shrimp” restaurants in Southern California.
I pass by the one that borders Marina Del Rey and Venice on trips back and forth. The restaurant (“killer” logo by the way!) has now become a sense memory trigger of the days I listened and rocked to Lee’s music; which always brings a welcomed smile.
Lee pretty much sums up the times, from “Hello”:
Time is here my friends, Time for us to win,
Let us share a song, now it won’t be long,
‘Til we’re laughin’, ‘til we’re singin’, ‘til we’re shoutin’,
Oh what a great, great day, oh what a happy way!
Line-up: Lee Michaels (Hammond organ, keyboards, guitar, vocals), ‘Frosty’ (Bartholomew Eugene Smith-Frost) (drums), and unknown guitarist(?).
Setlist: Do You Know What I Mean?, Mad Dog, America, Uummmm My Lady, Day of Change, I Wonder, Stormy Monday, Who Could Want More, Didn’t Know What I Had, Oak Fire, Heighty Hi, Rock Me Baby
I’ve had a difficult time establishing this concert’s exact date. Barrel was released in July 1970 and a few days after its release Lee played the Fillmore West on the 23rd; so it is likely that he performed at the Santa Monica Civic soon afterward and that means that I probably saw him in August or September at the latest and surely before the end of the year.
I only use Google or Wiki to verify concert dates and venue capacity, sometimes set lists, but I cannot find verification of this concert other than I was there and it was filmed and I saw the mini-doc of Lee on TV.
I will re-insert this in its correct date within this chronological blog when verified. If you know, please contact me, thanks!
Strong recent rumors say that he plans to perform soon, possibly before the end of the year here in L.A. somewhere. If I get anything solid I will update this post immediately.