San Francisco Sound

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The San Francisco Sound refers to rock music performed live and recorded by San Francisco-based rock groups of the mid-1960s to early 1970s. It was associated with the counterculture community in San Francisco during these years.[1] According to journalist Ed Vulliamy, "A core of Haight Ashbury bands played with each other, for each other, for free and at Chet Helms's Avalon Ballroom and Bill Graham's Fillmore."[2] The jazz critic and columnist Ralph J. Gleason admired the city's new music scene, and according to an announcer for a TV show that Gleason hosted: "In his syndicated newspaper column, Mr. Gleason has been the foremost interpreter of the sounds coming out of what he calls 'the Liverpool of the United States.' Mr. Gleason believes the San Francisco rock groups are making a serious contribution to musical history."[3] Gleason became one of the founders of the U.S. national rock-scene fan journal Rolling Stone.

Stylistic dimensions[edit]

The new sound, which melded many musical influences, was perhaps heralded in the live performances of the Jefferson Airplane (from 1965 on), who put out an LP record earlier than nearly all the other new bands (September 1966).[4] The bohemian predecessor of the hippie culture in San Francisco was the "Beat Generation" style of coffee houses and bars, whose clientele appreciated literature, jazz, and folk music, modern dance, and traditional crafts and arts like pottery and painting. The entire tone of the new subculture was different. According to biography author Robert Greenfield, "Jon McIntire [manager of the Grateful Dead from the late sixties to the mid-eighties] points out that the great contribution of the hippie culture was this projection of joy. The beatnik thing was black, cynical, and cold."[5] The new music was loud and community-connected: bands sometimes presented free concerts in Golden Gate Park and "happenings" at the city's several psychedelic clubs and ballrooms. The many bands that formed signalled a shift from one subculture to the next.

Monterey, California is about 120 road miles south of San Francisco. At the June 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Bay Area groups (Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Big Brother and The Holding Company) performed from the same stage as established and fast-rising musical groups and well-known individual artists from the U.S., England, and even India. Soon after, Ralph J. Gleason and Jann Wenner, based in San Francisco, established Rolling Stone magazine (first issue's date: November 1967).

Each San Francisco band had its characteristic sound, but enough commonalities existed that there was a regional identity. By 1967, fresh and adventurous improvisation during live performance (which many heard as being epitomized by the Grateful Dead) was one characteristic of the San Francisco Sound. A louder, more prominent role for the electric bass—typically with a melodic or semi-melodic approach, and using a plush, pervasive tone—was another feature.[6] This questing bass quality has been wryly characterized as a "roving" (rather than the conventional "stay-at-home") style. In jazz it had been exuberantly pioneered by numerous musicians—and such bassists as Charles Mingus, Scott LaFaro, and Steve Swallow had taken it into very exploratory places. A musician who was a leading example of this, Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane (and the offshoot Hot Tuna) pioneered this playing, best shown on the album Bless Its Pointed Little Head. Phil Lesh, bassist with the Grateful Dead, furthered this sound. Lesh had developed his style on the foundation of having studied classical, brass-band, jazz, and modernist music on the violin and later the trumpet.[7]

Exploration of chordal progressions previously uncommon in rock & roll, and a freer and more powerful use of all instruments (drums and other percussion, electric guitars, keyboards, as well as the bass) went along with this "psychedelic-era" music. Brasses and reeds, such as trumpets and saxophones were rarely used, unlike in contemporary R&B and soul bands and some of the white bands from the U.S. East Coast (e.g., Blood, Sweat & Tears or Chicago). Sly & the Family Stone, a San Francisco-based group that got its start in the late 1960s, was an exception, being a racially integrated hippie band with a hefty influence from soul music, hence making use of brass instrumentation.

This was the period when "rock" was differentiating itself from "rock & roll," partly due to the upshot of the British Invasion.[8] In San Francisco, musical influences came in from not only London and Liverpool, but also the bi-coastal American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, the Chicago electric blues scene, the soul music scenes in Detroit, Memphis, and Muscle Shoals, jazz styles of various eras and regions, and more.

The lyrical content of the San Francisco Sound was both emotional (which carried over from early rock & roll) and intelligent, reflecting the influence of such pioneering contemporary lyricists as Bob Dylan and John Lennon. Lyrics were deliberately, and often skillfully, poetic. In this respect for poetry, the San-Francisco-Sound writers were no doubt also influenced by the Beat Generation poets of the San Francisco Renaissance of a decade before (and, incidentally, Beat writers like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder had already served to influence people like Dylan). The quest for convivial good times, for love, empathy, brotherhood, and solidarity, for increased wisdom, for harmony with nature, and for personal and collective fulfillment was represented in lyrics.

The journalist Ed Vulliamy wrote: "The Summer of Love had an empress, and her name was Janis Joplin."[9] Women, in a few cases, enjoyed an equal status with men as stars in the San Francisco rock scene—but these few instances signaled a shift that has continued in the U.S. music scene. Both Grace Slick (singing with Jefferson Airplane) and Joplin (singing initially with Big Brother & the Holding Company) gained a substantial following locally and, before long, across the country.[10]

Typically, a San Francisco band's live performance included at least a few musical jams, displaying a spirit similar to jazz. On these numbers, the musicians (together with the psychedelic light shows, at indoor concerts) took the audience along on an exciting journey. Perfect examples of these include "Bear Melt" by Jefferson Airplane, released on the Bless Its Pointed Little Head album, and "That's It For The Other One" by The Grateful Dead on Dick's Picks Volume 4.

Because San Francisco had an especially vibrant and attractive countercultural scene in the latter half of the 1960s, musicians from elsewhere (along with the famous hip multitude) came there. Some stayed and became part of the scene. An example would be the Sir Douglas Quintet, whose music took on more of the character of the San Francisco Sound, while yet retaining some of its original Texas flavor. Another example is offered by Mother Earth, fronted by female lead singer Tracy Nelson, who relocated to the Bay Area from Nashville.

The San Francisco Sound was widely influential during its early years and since.

Music on AM and FM Radio[edit]

The San Francisco bands' music was everything that AM-radio pop music wasn't. Their performances contrasted with the "standard three-minute track" that had become a cliché of the pop-music industry, due to the requirements of AM radio, to the sound capacity of the 45 RPM record, and to the limited potentials of many pop songs and song treatments. The San Francisco bands would often show their improvisatory zest by playing a given song or instrumental for as long as five to thirty minutes (and sometimes for longer). In early 1967, Tom Donahue–a veteran disc jockey, rock concert producer, songwriter, and music-act manager–was inspired to revive a moribund radio station, KMPX, and inaugurate the first FM-radiorock station, in San Francisco, in order to showcase this type of music.[11] Another departure: show hosts felt free to play two or more tracks from a good record album. Thus began the era of "album oriented radio" (AOR).

Notable artists[edit]

Main artists[edit]

Joy of Cooking-San francisco

Other Bay Area artists[edit]

Other city artists associated with The San Francisco Sound[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Reasoner, Harry & Wallace, Warren 1967. ""The Hippie Temptation" (segment) CBS News report on Haight-Ashbury". Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  2. ^ Vulliamy, Ed "Love and Haight". The Guardian / The Observer. 20 May 2007. Retrieved from Web October 1, 2013
  3. ^ Gleason, Ralph J. et al. "April 8, 1967: Ralph Gleason TV Interview". Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  4. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 41 – The Acid Test: Psychedelics and a sub-culture emerge in San Francisco" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 
  5. ^ Greenfield, Robert. "The Burden of Being Jerry" (interview). Retrieved 2013-09-11. 
  6. ^ Melhuish, Martin & Hall, Mark (1999) Wired for Sound: A Guitar Odyssey. Kingston Ontario: Quarry Press.
  7. ^ Jackson, Blair (1999). Garcia: An American Life. Penguin Books. p. 74. ISBN 0-14-029199-7. 
  8. ^ n.a. 2010 "Rock and Roll". Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.
  9. ^ Vulliamy, Ed "Love and Haight". The Guardian / The Observer. 20 May 2007. Retrieved from Web October 1, 2013
  10. ^ Bove, Tony & Donahue, Raechel et al. n.d. ""Haight-Ashbury in the Sixties" documentary (part 1)". Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  11. ^ Bove, Tony & Donahue, Raechel et al. n.d. ""Haight-Ashbury in the Sixties" documentary (part 1)". Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  12. ^ Resurrection, Aum, Fillmore Records F30002, 1969

External links[edit]