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40 Years Ago The Fillmore East Closed

You know you’re getting older when....wait. Don't answer that.

How is it i can remember the loud, clean, piercing tone of Albert King’s Flying V, the mania that followed a J Geils performance and the southern style and majesty of the original Allman Brothers Band, but have to look for my car keys if they are not in their designated morning place?  Ok...that’s rhetorical. Don’t answer that either.

What you can think about and let me know – if you ever experienced the joy of attending the Fillmore – East or West.  For me, the former was my first ever non-classical concert 40 years ago this summer.  I saw all three acts in the order I described for a ticket prices of about $8.00.  You can’t even buy a yeasty libation at a concert for that anymore. More importantly, imagine the perfect sound environment too – like listening to your fave band in someone’s living room.  That’s how great the acoustics were at the Fillmore East--as it was converted from a former movie palace when architects cared as much about sound as the did visual.

And in a way it was a living room. Concert impressario Bill Graham’s living room.  I was too young to fully appreciate his promotion strategy at the time.  BG desired to expose any given audience to a wide range of music on any night.  Witness the acts I saw.  A blues artist who later became one of the all time greats in the genre--the biggest influence on another legend--Stevie Ray Vaughn.  J Geils and company were still purists in R&B and the Allman’s had come into their own with what soon would be regarded the greatest live band album of all time.

In those days there was none of the idiocy/hype now known as VIP packages.  In BG’s eyes, every concert goer was important.  The talent poured their hearts out and the audience responded in kind.  And there wasn’t any subsidizing of millionaires--another way to categorize the current insane prices for concert tickets.

That was my first hand experience with the Fillmore.  Another and no less important was hearing Mountain on the actual closing night in a different capacity.  That performance eventually became an albumn and a sonically amemic CD. Call it Act of God.  The Croude’s special access to an original tape recorded on that night, also 40 years ago this weekend. Classic performances for this week’s show--not simply for nostalgia--but because they’re great!

In our present clime there are some who care about presenting music as it should be but they’re too few and far between.  Levon Helm of The Band Comes to mind.  Check out what he did with the Black Crowes (Cabin Fever) at his upstate NY home/studio. On DVD, it reminds me of what BG instituted a generation ago.

The  closing of the Fillmore East was less than 2 years after Woodstock.  A number of aspects of American life were changing.  Some for the better.  Some for the worse. The world was a better place back then with BG’s personal philosophy of concert promotions.  I for one will miss it.

The irony of what we now experience in a concert arena is a social prophecy come to pass: read BG’s letter to The Village Voice in 1971.

Follow the host on Twitter: wcvegeorgemaida  and every Friday on WCVE Facebook.  Listen to The Electric Croude every late Saturday at midnight EDT on WCVE Public Radio,  also simul streaming online.

Follow co-host Hermie the Wistful Cricket when he’s not hitchhiking on a Fizzie.