EXPERIENCE ROCK AND JAZZ-FUSION HISTORY!
AND ’70S CULTURE!
the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
3-23-1972 Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica (Capacity: 3,000)
(the Mahavishnu Orchestra were the supporting act for Emerson, Lake and Palmer at this concert)
Before and after I was a rack-jobber for a record and tape distributor in L.A.; I was a record store manager.
When my girlfriend and I and our three dogs decided (yes, they were in on the decision) to move back to L.A. from Mammoth; I was able to beat out hundreds of other applicants for a job at the notoriously-discounted and famously-known Crane’s Records in Inglewood; the Home of the Fabulous Forum!
Well, …actually at $1.00 an hour, ten hours a day from 10 AM until 8PM, Monday through Sunday (seven days a week) for three months straight – no one else wanted the job.
But I was a fiend, this was my door to the music biz and I wanted in – and after three months of record store boot camp, I was put in charge as manager of Crane’s Palos Verdes store located near the beach; got a raise to $4.00 an hour; hired an assistant manager and a couple clerks; and I was in my element!
A Record Store Manager back then was seen by some girl store groupies as close to a Rock Star as they’d ever get and that went for guy store groupies, they knew if you managed a record store you had to know your shit so I would be challenged or respectfully questioned daily, but that was cool ‘cuz I knew everything back then, all there was to know, and then some, I was good! How good? Just like in the Cusack movie High Fidelity, I had a customer come in once who said, “I don’t know the name of the song and I don’t know the name of the artist ..” I stopped him, motioned him to follow and then I pulled an LP from a bin and handed it to him. Looking at the LP he smiled, remembered and confirmed that it was the record he wanted, and said, “You’re good!”.
But best of all, being a Record Store Manager gave me a certain level of Rock Cred with whatever groups or people I met.
That store was my second home and I really customized the place; took the fixtures from a clothes store that closed next door and installed their slanted shingled “roof” over the length of the whole cash register area. The “roof” was supported by slender real tree trunk wood and with a wall of cassettes behind me I’d light up a Benson & Hedges 100 menthol (cigarettes were great props for dealing with the public – this being the phase that I smoked cigarettes – too cool, ya know?), look out across my domain and down all of the aisles as my subjects flipped through bins of records while Hendrix’ “In the West” was cranked or Neil Young’s “Harvest” or Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out” or T-Rex’ “Electric Warrior”, or Americas 1st LP – and those were just the most recent Warners/Reprise releases!!! Good times? No, great times!
Promo LPs and tapes from just about every label were available to me from day one. So I was always up on the latest releases and literally sampled everything from rock, pop, jazz, blues, soundtracks, comedy, show tunes, anything, everything; every day brought new releases. Plus my record collection began to grow as I was consuming more and more music and at the same time widening my musical horizons.
I started listening and getting into jazz; Mose Allison, Herbie Hancock, Modern Jazz Quartet, John Klemmer, Miles Davis, Alice Coltrane, Bobby Hutcherson, Dave Grusin (Three Days of the Condor soundtrack is one of my Top 30 Albums of All Time!), Herbie Mann (Live at the Village Gate – played this late night at the beach pad – perfectly groovy!), and many others In ’74 when the movie “Chinatown” came out it generated a wonderful appreciation for ‘30s jazz with big band orchestras like Bunny Berrigan’s.
Then one day in the store, I put on the Mahavishnu Orchestra “Inner Mounting Flame” LP. Whoa! What is this! Jimi Hendrix back from the dead continuing his evolvement into a jazz-fusion master!
No, it was John McLaughlin, recently with Miles Davis and now with Billy Cobham, Jan hammer, Rick laird and Jerry Grossman surging forth with spiritually intense jazz/rock!
Few LPs have had the ability to move me in the way these pieces do; at times extremely intense and unrelenting but at the same time powerfully graceful and transcending; all the while riding the Rock spirit harder than most “Rock” bands at the time.
I was thrilled to hear this completely new sound and quickly realized that this was new for everyone; no one had heard jazz or rock like this before!
This music, along with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock’s explorations were the beginnings of real “jazz fusion”; a term that has since been drained of its essence.
Like with most concerts, hearing and seeing pieces played live is a real treat. In this case, the LP just whets the appetite for what was to come.
The Mahavishnu Orchestra created music that came alive and engulfed you as each band, (in this case “orchestra”) member’s virtuosity surges forth.
The Santa Monica Civic still had its rows of bolted-to-the-floor seats which in this case actually served everyone best. I had my Bowie and Lee Michaels seats; about sixth row, center.
There was an excited reverence about this concert as surely all who attended were aware and eager to hear and experience the Mahavishnu Orchestra sound live. So sitting for this performance seemed right, actually on a bare floor in the Lotus position would be even more appropriate because this was definitely a headnodic bodysway concert, … no, wait, even better, an open field, at night with a bonfire and as they perform everyone can dance impulsively in the firelight to the music like some ritual to the Inner Mounting Flame! Yeah, that!
OK, so seats were good; you could groove your own way as this music takes you away.
It was an exhilarating performance and a highly entertaining experience.
And, yes, another historic concert.
Line-up: Original Mahavishnu Orchestra: John McLaughlin (devoted guitarist), Jan Hammer (keyboards), Jerry Goodman (electric violin), Ron Laird (bass) and Billy Cobham (drums).
Setlist: Cuts from their only LP; “The Inner Mounting Flame”.
Turn-On: Billy Cobham’s 1973 LP release, “Spectrum” has a stellar line up with fellow Mahavishnu Orchestra band member and future “Miami Vice” keyboardist, Jan Hammer; veteran studio musician Lee Sklar on Fender bass; and Tommy ”Zephyr” Bolin on guitar. Bolin has been recognized as at the height of his short but dazzling career and at the top of this game on this LP. Cobham is amazing – there’s some musician wizardry going on here by all!
Classic and highly accessible jazz/rock; leaning heavily on the rock, …no, on the jazz, …no on the rock, …