Music

Tune Tuesday: The Ballad of Chevy Chase 1620s

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Chevy Chase Image One
Earl Percy Hunting in Chevy Chase
Author: John Frederick Tayler
Image Credit: All Posters & Wikimedia

Jumping into the 1620s…

[The English ballad], The Ballad of Chevy Chase, [tells] the story of a large hunting party upon a parcel of hunting land (or chase) in the Cheviot Hills (a range of rolling hills straddling the Anglo-Scottish border between Northumberland and the Scottish Borders), hence the term, Chevy Chase. The hunt is led by Percy, the English Earl of Northumberland. The Scottish Earl Douglas had forbidden this hunt and interpreted it as an invasion of Scotland. In response, he attacked, causing a bloody battle [where] only 110 people survived.

There are two extant ballads […], both of which narrate the same story. As ballads existed within oral tradition[s] before being written down, other versions of this once popular song also may have existed. Moreover, other ballads used its tune without necessarily referring to [this particular ballad].

This ballad was entered in the Stationers’ Register in 1624. The title is alternatively spelled Chevy Chace. The ballad is generally thought to describe the Battle of Otterburn. Some of the verses correspond to that battle but, not all. The Battle of Otterburn took place in 1388. At that [b]attle, Henry Percy (Hotspur) was captured, not killed. He was killed in 1403 in an uprising against Henry IV.

The Ballad
The death of Earl Douglas
Author: John Frederick Tayler
Image Credit: All Posters & Wikimedia

[A]nother possibility [was] border warfare between a Percy and a Douglas in 1435 or 1436. Henry Percy of Northumberland made a raid into Scotland with 4,000 men. He was met by William Douglas, Earl of Angus at Piperden. There were great losses on each side but, the Scots prevailed.

Over time, and the various evolutions of the ballad, events and personages have gotten confused.

Additional Reading & Sources:
The Naming of Chevy Chase (Chevy Chase Historical Society)
Chevy Chase (Contemplations From the Marianas Trench)
Battle of Chevy Chase (Douglas History UK)
The Battle of Chevy Chase (Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature)
Who or What is Chevy Chase? (The Straight Dope)
Battle of Otterburn (Wikipedia)
The Ballad of Chevy Chase (Wikipedia)

Lyrics

The Ballad of Chevy Chase (A Cappella)

The Battle of Otterburn Ballad

Song Sunday: Fade Into You

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ColdFront Magazine Mazzy Star Image
Photo Credit: ColdFront Magazine

“I think it’s strange you never knew…”

Sunday evening’s playlist submission is Fade Into You by alternative band Mazzy Star. Released April 12, 1994, it is the first track on the album So Tonight That I Might See. Written by Hope Sandoval and David Roback, it was a surprise hit, peaking at #44 on Billboard’s Hot 100, #19 on the Mainstream Top 40 chart, #3 on the Modern Rock Tracks (Alternative Songs, now) chart and #48 on the UK Singles chart. It was Mazzy Star‘s only single to make to make the Billboard Hot 100. It has been used, frequently, in movies, most notably Starship Troopers, Lord of War, Burlesque and Thank You For Your Service plus several TV shows.

I’d never heard of Mazzy Star or heard this song when it originally came out. I am late to the party finding this, just discovering them a few years ago. Sadly, David Roback passed away February 24, 2020, from cancer.

Mazzy Star Official (Facebook Page)

Lyrics

MTV Version

Monochrome Version

Music Monday: Now Is The Month of Maying 1595

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Thomas Morley Image One
Image Credit: All Poetry

Stepping backwards a bit, I stumbled across something prior to 1600…

Thomas Morley was an English composer, theorist, singer and organist of the Renaissance. He was one of the foremost members of the English Madrigal School. Living in London at the same time as Shakespeare, Morley was the most famous composer of secular music in Elizabethan England. [He] was active in church music as a singer, composer and organist at St Paul’s Cathedral [and] was involved in music publishing. [He] lived for a time in the same parish as Shakespeare and, a connection between the two has been long speculated but, never proven. In addition to his madrigals, [he] wrote instrumental music, including keyboard music […].

Now Is The Month of Maying is one of the most famous of the English ballets […]. It is based on the canzonet So Ben Mi Chi Ha Bon Tempo used by Orazio Vecchi […]. It was printed in […] Morley’s First Book of Ballets to Five Voyces [in] 1595. The song delights in bawdy double-entendre. It is, apparently, about spring dancing but, this is a metaphor for making love/sex. For example, a barley-break would have suggested outdoor sexual activity (rather like […] a roll in the hay). The use of such imagery and puns increased during the Renaissance.

It was also heard in 1964 on The Andy Griffith Show episode The Song Festers.

Now Is The Month of Maying Image Two
Image Credit: sheetmusicdirect.com & amazon.com

Lyrics:
Now is the month of maying,
When merry lads are playing,
Fa la la la la la la la la,
Fa la la, etc…
Each with his bonny lass
Upon the greeny grass.
Fa la la, etc…

The Spring, clad all in gladness,
Doth laugh at Winter’s sadness,
Fa la la, etc…
And to the bagpipe’s sound
The nymphs tread out their ground.
Fa la la, etc…

Fie then! Why sit we musing,
Youth’s sweet delight refusing?
Fa la la, etc…
Say, dainty nymphs, and speak,
Shall we play barley break?
Fa la la, etc…

Additional Reading & Sources:
Thomas Morley (Britannica)
Thomas Morley (Elizabethan-Era Site)
The Song Festers (IMDB)
Now Is The Month of Maying (Wikipedia)
Thomas Morley (Wikipedia)

Barney’s Voice Lessons

Song Saturday: Early Warning

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Baby Animals Early Warning UK Image One
Image Credit: eil.com

“Too young to know, too old to listen…”

Saturday evening’s playlist submission is Early Warning by Australian band Baby Animals. The second track from their debut album Baby Animals, it was released on April 21, 1991, as their debut single. Written by Suze DeMarchi, Dave Leslie and Eddie Parise, the song was nominated for Single of the Year and Song of the Year in 1992 by the Australian Recording Industry Association. The album was awarded Album of the Year at The Arias Awards.

I discovered this band when their third track Painless was released in the US in November 1991. Suze’s voice is stunning and powerful and, her band is as hard rocking as any from Downunder. I bought the CD and there’s not a bad song on it. It deserved Album of the Year. They broke up in 1996 but, reformed in 2007. They continue to perform and record.

Lyrics

Baby Animals Channel From 1992

MTV’s Video From 1991

Tune Tuesday: Flow, My Tears 1600

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Flow My Tears Dowland Image One
Image Credit: youtube.com

Four hundred, twenty years ago, Renaissance composer, lutenist and singer John Dowland (a contemporary of William Shakespeare) publishes his Second Book of Songs in London. There were 22 song titles in the book and the most well known of these is Flow, My Tears. Written as an aria and for a lute, its style and form is based on a pavane, a slow, couple-dance common in the 16th century. It’s original 1596 title was Lachrimae Pavane (literally “tears dance”) and Dowland added lyrics later.

This is Dowland’s most famous aria and he would, occasionally, sign his name as Jo. Dolandi de Lachrimae (literally, “John of the Tears“)

Lines 8 thru 10 are quoted in Philip K. Dick‘s book Flow, My Tears, the Policeman Said, a science fiction novel set in a dystopian future. The book’s title is a direct reference to Dowland’s piece.

Additional Reading & Sources:
John Dowland (Edition HH Music Publishers)
John Dowland Part I (Millenium of Music)
John Dowland Biography (Study Website)
Lachrimae: Continental Context (University of London Goldsmiths)
Flow, My Tears (Wikipedia)
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (Wikipedia)

Philip K Dick Book Image Two
Image Credit: Doubleday
Philip K. Dick 1974
First Edition Hardcover
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

Lyrics:
Flow, my tears, fall from your springs!
Exiled for ever, let me mourn;
Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.

Down vain lights, shine you no more!
No nights are dark enough for those
That in despair their last fortunes deplore.
Light doth but shame disclose.

Never may my woes be relieved,
Since pity is fled;
And tears and sighs and groans my weary days, my weary days
Of all joys have deprived.

From the highest spire of contentment
My fortune is thrown;
And fear and grief and pain for my deserts, for my deserts
Are my hopes, since hope is gone.

Hark! you shadows that in darkness dwell,
Learn to contemn light
Happy, happy they that in hell
Feel not the world’s despite.

Song Sunday: Desperate But Not Serious

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Adam Ant Image One
Image Credit: lettiemusic.wordpress.com

“If you don’t stop, you will go blind…”

Rolling down the Samsung playlist for a Sunday evening submission, we come to Adam Ant or, Stuart Leslie Goddard and Desperate But Not Serious. The fourth track from the album Friend or Foe, it was co-written by Goddard and Marco Pirroni and, released November 19, 1982, the third single from his solo debut. This is the album that brought us Goody Two Shoes that went to number #1 in Australia and the UK. Desperate didn’t fare as well peaking at #33 in the UK and #66 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

I bought the album as a cassette and nearly wore it out. This is what I term as eclectic music. It’s different, it’s catchy, Goddard has a crazy voice that he plays to the hilt and the writing is very coy and, tongue-in-cheek. He will be at The Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, April 28, 2021. I’ve been to that venue many times. I would love to see him there.

Lyrics

Music Monday: Greensleeves 1580

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Lady Greensleeves Dante Rossetti Image One
My Lady Greensleeves 1863
Artist: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Harvard Art Musems
Model: Mrs. W. J. Knewstub
Photographer: Maris Stella
Reverse Image
Image Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Moving forward to 1580…

Henry VIII

A widespread belief exists that the song Greensleeves was composed by none other than King Henry VIII following an early rejection of his love by his future wife Anne Boleyn. The lyrics of this song of unrequited love have been seen to relate to his courtship of Anne in the 1520s. Many of the verses of Greensleeves imply a rich and extravagant courtship […]. Henry VIII was a composer and musician of some merit […]. [C]ourt officials […] attribute to Henry many compositions which were not his and the consensus of expert opinion, today, is that Greensleeves was composed rather later in the Tudor era, during the reign of Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. [T]he piece is based on an Italian style of composition that did not reach England until after Henry’s death […].

Origins

A broadside ballad […] was registered at the London Stationer’s Company in September [of] 1580, by [a] Richard Jones, as A Newe Northern Dittye of ye Ladye Greene Sleves. Six more ballads followed in less than a year, one on the same day […]. Needless to say the rights to the song were in very hot dispute. It was in 1584 that Jones printed his final version of the melody and this is the one we know today. It was titled A New Courtly Sonnet of the Lady Green Sleeves […].

Lady Greensleeves Dante Rossetti Image Two
My Lady Greensleeves 1859
Image Credit: Rossetti Archive

Who was Lady Greensleeves

[W]hy would anyone be named for their green sleeves? Interpretations […] usually have a sexual connotation, most notably in the phrase “a green gown”, a reference to the grass stains on a woman’s dress from engaging in sexual intercourse outdoors. Was this lady a prostitute? [T]he song lyrics mention a “discourteous” rejection of the singer’s advances, suggesting to some that the lady in question was actually virtuous but, perhaps, was mistaken for a prostitute as a result of her green sleeves. [A]nother explanation is quite the opposite to promiscuity […]. [I]n heraldry, colour also had symbolisms and green indicated truth and fidelity […]. [A] knight may give a green armband to his true love to wear to show his devotion to her, giving rise to the familiar phrase “wearing your heart on your sleeve” meaning, to show your true feelings.

None of these theories, however, really seem to reflect the song’s true meaning, which clearly expresses an unrequited love by a rich man for a fair lady. All that we can confidently deduce, is that “Lady Greensleeves” is a nickname, not a title. Exactly who she was, remains a mystery.

Trivia Bits:
♦ In Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, the character Mistress Ford refers, twice, to “the tune of ‘Greensleeves'”.
♦ The tune was the basis for “Home in the Meadow,” a recurring song throughout the 1962 epic film How the West Was Won.
♦ A rendering of the tune, titled the “Lassie Theme”, was used extensively in the Lassie television show, especially the ending credits.

Everyone will remember this tune as What Child Is This? ~Vic

Sources & Additional Reading:
The Folk Song Greensleeves (Greensleeves Hubs)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Rossetti Archive)
Lyrics (Six Wives Website)
Greensleeves (Wikipedia)

Amy Nuttall

Song Sunday: Baba O’Riley

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The Who Image One
Photo Credit: youtube.com

“It’s only teenage wasteland…”

It’s another visit to my Samsung phone playlist.

A blending of two names, Meher Baba and Terry Riley (philosophical and musical mentors to Pete Townsend), Baba was introduced to the world in August 1971 and was the lead track on the album Who’s Next. Written by Townsend, it was originally intended for his Lifehouse rock opera, a future follow-up to Tommy. That never came to pass but, a Lifehouse Chronicles box set was released in 2000.

The song was never released as a single in the UK or the US but, was certified platinum in the UK, anyway. It was chosen as the main theme for the TV series CSI: NY. The album peaked at #1 in the UK and #4 in the US.

Sadly, Keith Moon passed away seven years later.

Lyrics

Song Saturday: Africa (Toto)

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Toto Africa Discogs Image
Image Credit: discogs.com

Changing things a bit. I’ve got Music Mondays and I’ve had Tune Tuesdays (I may return to that) that showcase music by release date, in five year increments (if I can). Early on, I listed number ones, only. There was also my jump into the 30-Day Song Challenge back in December 2018. Now, I’m stretching Saturday out a bit for some music, too…an idea I got from the Nostalgic Italian. I might even stretch it to Sunday, if I take a notion to. It just depends upon my mood. All blogs evolve and, I’m always looking for new and different things.

This is a song on my playlist on my phone. I have a lot of music on my phone…things that I love to hear when I go out for my afternoon and evening walks or, just sitting in my Adirondack chair, watching the sunset. ~Vic

This song came out in the US in October 1982 and is the tenth track from the album Toto IV. Written by David Paich and Jeff Porcaro, it made it to number one for one week in February 1983.

From Mix Online:

Paich recalls writing Africa on his living room piano.

“Over many years, I had been taken by the UNICEF ads with the pictures of Africa and the starving children. I had always wanted to do something to connect with that and bring more attention to the continent. I wanted to go there, too, so, I sort of invented a song that put me in Africa. I was hearing the melody in my head and, I sat down and played the music in about 10 minutes. And, then, the chorus came out. I sang the chorus out as you hear it. It was like God channeling it. I thought, ‘I’m talented but, I’m not that talented. Something just happened here!'”

Paich, then, proceeded to work on the lyrics for another six months. He brought the skeleton to drummer Jeff Porcaro with the idea of having percussion being an integral part of the composition.

“Jeff got out African sticks with bottle caps that his dad (Joe Porcaro) and Emil Richards (both percussionists) used on National Geographic films. He brought in a marimba and a wooden xylophone kind of thing. This was pre-synthesizer. We didn’t have samples back then. You’re hearing bass marimba, that other instrument and you’re hearing, probably, one of the first loops that was ever done.”

Sadly, Jeff Porcaro passed away nearly ten years later.

Lyrics

Music Monday: Spem In Alium 1570

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Thomas Tallis Image One
Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)
Portrait by Gerard van der Gucht
Engraving by Niccolò Haym
Image Credit: wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

Now, we are in the 1570s…

Spem in Alium is Latin for “hope in any other” or “hope in another”. A 40-part Renaissance Motet, it was composed in 1570 (thereabouts) by Thomas Tallis (Tallys). Written for eight choirs of five voices each, meaning there are 40 separate voices singing individual lines of music, it is considered to be Tallis’s greatest achievement and, possibly, one of the finest compositions of all time.

Information on where it was first performed is scarce. There appears to be some confusion regarding where it took place, as two locations…Nonsuch Palace, a royal Tudor palace in Surrey built by Henry VIII (not to be confused with Nonsuch Mansion) and Arundel House, a London townhouse originally for the Bishops of Bath & Wells…were both owned by Henry Fitzalan, the 12th/19th Earl of Arundel at one time. Most of what I have read leans towards Arundel House but, truly, I don’t think anyone really knows. It’s all a big guess. And, it is pure speculation as to why he wrote it. Some suggestions include a challenge due to an Italian composer doing same, Elizabeth’s 40th birthday or, perhaps for Mary as he was Catholic. Again, no one really knows.

The music, below, is soul stirring. ~Vic

Arundel House Image Three
Artist: Wenceslaus Hollar
Arundel House
Image Credit: wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

The text of the motet:

Spem in alium nunquam habui
Praeter in te, Deus Israel
Qui irasceris et propitius eris
et omnia peccata hominum
in tribulatione dimittis
Domine Deus
Creator caeli et terrae
respice humilitatem nostram

Nonsuch Palace Image Two
Artist: Georg Hoefnagel 1568
Watercolour of the south frontage of Nonsuch Palace
Image Credit: wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

 

English Translation:

I have never put my hope in any other
but in Thee, God of Israel
who canst show both wrath and graciousness,
and who absolves all the sins
of man in suffering
Lord God,
Creator of Heaven and Earth
Regard our humility

Additional Reading & Sources:
The Belle Jar (Blog Post)
Oxford Music Online
Spem in Alium History (PDF on Super Flumina Website)
How To Buy Spem In Alium (Classic FM Website)
Tallis and His Song of Forty Parts (Zenodo Website)

Music Monday: Staatskapelle Dresden 1548

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Semperorper Image One
Die Semperoper in Dresden bei Nacht
The Semper Opera in Dresden at Night
Photo Credit: Sese Ingolstadt
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

Leaving the 1520s and entering the 1540s…

Formally known as the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, the Staatskapelle Dresden is a Dresden-based German orchestra, one of the world’s oldest. Maurice, the Elector of Saxony (Prince Elector Moritz von Sachsen) founded it in 1548. Its precursor ensemble was Die Kurfürstlich-Sächsische und Königlich-Polnische Kapelle (The Electoral Saxon and Royal Polish Orchestra). The orchestra is the musical body of the Staatsoper Dresden (Dresden State Opera). The venue of the orchestra is the Semperoper.

Lovely music. ~Vic

Additional Reading & Sources
Staatskapelle-Dresden (Official Site)
Staatskapelle Dresden Tracks (Last FM Site)
Maurice of Saxony (Encyclopedia Britannica Site)
Chief Conductors (Wikipedia)

Eine Alpensinfonie – Richard Strauss – Staatskapelle Dresden – Fabio Luisi

Music Monday: My Lady Carey’s Dompe 1520s

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My Lady Carey's Dompe Image
Image Credit: youtube.com

Coming forward in time, I was reading around in the 1400s & 1500s (noticing some of the composers that died in the plague) and discovered another interesting little piece: My Lady Carey’s Dompe (a lament or dirge), a traditional English dance tune. Written for a harpsichord and, possibly, a lute, the composer remains unknown, though suggested attribution is Hugh Aston and, the specific date is questionable. It could be 1525 or, 1528 if the song was, indeed, composed for the death of William Carey, a courtier in the service of Henry VIII. Lady Carey could refer to his wife Mary Boleyn, a mistress to Henry and sister to Anne Boleyn but, could also refer to his mother, sisters or his sister-in-law.

In any case, the song is lovely and, catchy. Enjoy.

Sources
My Lady Carey’s Dompe
1520s in Music
Allmusic Write-Up
The Anne Boleyn Files
Sheet Music
British Library (Record of the Composition)
Internet Archive (History of Keyboard Composition)

“One of the earliest surviving keyboard pieces we have…”

Music Monday: Messe de Nostre Dame 1360s

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Kyrie da Missa Image One
The Kyrie
Image Credit: wikipedia.org &
wikimedia.org
Author: manuscrito sob a
supervisão do autor

I’m still digging around in the old stuff. I found this piece and thought it interesting.

From Wikipedia:

Messe de Nostre Dame (Mass of Our Lady) is a polyphonic mass composed before 1365 by French poet and composer Guillaume de Machaut […]. Widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of medieval music, and of all religious music, it is historically notable as the earliest complete setting of the Ordinary of the Mass attributable to a single composer […].

It’s Structure:

The Messe de Nostre Dame consists of 5 movements: the Kyrie (Eleison…”Lord, have mercy”), Gloria (in Excelsis Deo…”Glory to God in the highest”), Credo (Nicene Creed), Sanctus (“Holy”) and Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”), followed by the dismissal Ite, missa est (Mass Response: Deo Gratias or “Thanks be to God”). The tenor of the Kyrie is based on Vatican Kyrie IV, the Sanctus and Agnus correspond to Vatican Mass XVII and the Ite is on Sanctus VIII. The Gloria and Credo have no apparent chant basis, although they are stylistically related to one another. Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame is for four voices rather than the more common three. Machaut added a contratenor voice that moved in the same low range as the tenor, sometimes replacing it as the lowest voice.

The information is rather wonky and, not only have I never studied music theory, my education on Catholic Mass is limited to a short stint as a member in an Anglican church in Austin, TX, a decade ago. That being said, what I find fascinating about this composition is that Machaut combined each part into an artistic whole, the earliest known example of it unified. Previously, the items were performed non-consecutively and, separated by prayers and chants.

[Instrumental Version of The Kyrie by Guillaume de Machaut]

[Modern Take on Kyrie by Patrick Lenk]

And, just because I could, I’m ending with Mr. Mister.

Music Monday: Ancient Music & Thoughts

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I’ve been digging around, looking for something interesting. Back in September 2019, I posted about Billboard locking down/wiping out their online charts behind a paywall. I don’t know if this is a fluke or if they got a lot of blow-back for what they did but, the charts have reappeared (their Hot 100 era). Ok. Good. Time will tell if they stay. And, I hope they did get some blow-back. Assholes.

Seikilos Column Wiki Image One
Seikilos Column (marble stele/tombstone)
Photo Credit: National Museum of Denmark
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Now that I got that off my chest, on to other stuff.

Wikipedia has a timeline of musical events (Yeah. I know. Wikipedia is hardly a bastion of truth but, seems to be a bit less haphazard with music, plants, animals, cars and finding a U.S. town.) I stumbled across the Seikilos Epitaph, a short, little marble tombstone with poetry/lyrics/text, with musical notation, written in Greek. It is unusual and unique because it is the oldest, intact musical composition in the world. It was found in Tralles, Turkey, an ancient, Hellenistic town where Aydin exists, now. The lyrics:

Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἔστι[2] τὸ ζῆν
τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.

hóson zêis, phaínou
mēdèn hólōs sù lupoû
pròs olígon ésti tò zên
tò télos ho khrónos apaiteî.

While you live, shine
have no grief at all
life exists only for a short while
and time demands his due.

Wikipedia Inscription Image Two
Photo Credit: National Museum of Denmark
Lennart Larsen
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

The dedication was partially destroyed and could read:

Σεικίλος Εὐτέρ[πῃ]
Seikílos Eutér[pēi]
“Seikilos to Euterpe”, possibly his wife (also the name of the Muse of Music)

OR

Σεικίλος Εὐτέρ[που]
Seikílos Eutér[pou]
“Seikilos, son of Euterpes”

The inscription reads:

Εἰκὼν ἤ λίθος εἰμί. τίθησί με Σεικίλος ἔνθα μνήμης ἀθανάτου σῆμα πολυχρόνιον.
eikṑn ḗ líthos eimí. títhēsí me Seikílos éntha mnḗmēs athanátou sêma polukhrónion.
“I am a tombstone, an image. Seikilos placed me here as a long-lasting sign of deathless remembrance.”

The dating of the tombstone has proven elusive. The range is from the first century B.C to the first or second century A.D. based upon paleography.

Take a listen:

Here is another version, based upon the inscription being dedicated to a wife:
Song of Seikilos (Classic FM website)

Flashback Friday: Altamont Concert 1969

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Grace Slick Image Three
Grace Slick
Photo Credit: Bill Owens

[Note: I originally posted this, yesterday, just before midnight. In researching the data, I stumbled across Bill Owens, a photographer that was at Altamont. He was hired by the Associated Press to cover the concert. I emailed him, reference the two photos of his I posted. I hit ‘publish’ before I found his contact page and statement about photos for sale. In my haste to get this up while it was still Friday, I jumped the gun and quickly made the post private. I asked Bill what the price would be to use two of his pictures. As a photographer myself, I understand copyright issues but, I also recognize the gray area that many a blogger operate in, in the blogosphere….Fair Use (link on that, below). Anyway, this very kind gentleman has allowed my one-time use for this 50th anniversary post. He also provided me with a copy of an interview, conducted by Tony D’Souza in April 2019, covering his Altamont experience and other questions regarding his career. I will post an excerpt and attach the full interview, below. ~Vic]

Fifty years, ago, today, a free rock concert was held at the Altamont Speedway in Tracy, California. Described as “rock and roll’s all-time worst day, […], a day when everything went perfectly wrong“, the event saw violence and four deaths, the most notable being the stabbing of Meredith Hunter.

The concert featured (in order of appearance): Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, with the Rolling Stones taking the stage as the final act. The Grateful Dead were also scheduled to perform following CSNY but, declined to play shortly before their scheduled appearance due to the increasing violence at the venue.

Approximately 300,000 attended the concert, and some anticipated that it would be a “Woodstock [West Coast verson]”. Woodstock was held in Bethel, New York, in mid-August, less than four months earlier. Filmmakers Albert and David Maysles shot footage of the event and incorporated it into the 1970 documentary film titled Gimme Shelter.

[Source]

Naked Guy Image Two
The naked guy.
Photo Credit: Bill Owens

[It’s] not every day that a rock and roll band’s performance, let alone the Rolling Stones’, is accompanied by a knifing, stomping murder within a scream of the stage.

“The violence,” Keith Richard told the London Evening Standard, “just in front of the stage was incredible. Looking back, I don’t think it was a good idea to have [Hells] Angels there. But, we had them at the suggestion of the Grateful Dead. The trouble is, it’s a problem for us either way. If you don’t have them to work for you as stewards, they come, anyway and cause trouble. But, to be fair, out of the whole 300 Angels working as stewards, the vast majority did what they were supposed to do, which was to regulate the crowds as much as possible without causing any trouble. But, there were about ten or twenty who were completely out of their minds…trying to drive their motorcycles through the middle of the crowds.”

The Maysles Brothers, the film company which had shot the whole Stones’ tour, complete with its violent climax at Altamont, had gotten some remarkable footage of Hunter’s killing.

[Source]

Robert Hiatt, a medical resident at the Public Health Hospital in San Francisco, was the first doctor to reach 18-year-old Meredith Hunter after the fatal wounds. He was behind the stage and responded to Jagger’s call from the stage for a doctor. When Hiatt got to the scene, people were trying to get Hunter up on the stage, apparently in the hope that the Stones would stop playing and help could get through quicker.

The Stones & The Hells Angels Image
Stones on stage with Hells Angels.
Photo Credit: allthatsinteresting.com

Three others […] died (two in a hit-and-run accident, another by drowning) and, countless more were injured and wounded during the course of this daylong “free” concert. It was such a bad trip that it was almost perfect. All it lacked was mass rioting and the murder of one or more musicians.

All these things happened, and worse. Altamont was the product of diabolical egotism, hype, ineptitude, money manipulation and, at base, a fundamental lack of concern for humanity.

[Source]

Interview with Bill Owens:
bill@billowens.com
Bill Owens: Altamont 1969 (Amazon)
50 Years After Altamont: The End of the 60s (The New York Times April 15, 2019)

Bill Owens took iconic photos of the Hells Angels beating concertgoers with pool cue sticks at the Rolling Stones’ performance during the Altamont Speedway Free Festival four months after Woodstock on December 6, 1969. Altamont, which included violence almost all day and one stabbing death, is considered by historians as the end of the Summer of Love and the overall 1960’s youth ethos. This series of photos include panoramas of the massive, unruly crowd, Grace Slick and Carlos Santana on stage with the press of humanity so close in, they’re clearly performing under duress.

Of that day, Owens has written: “I got a call from a friend, she said the Associated Press wanted to hire me for a day to cover a rock and roll concert. I road my motorcycle to the event. I had two Nikons, three lenses, thirteen rolls of film, a sandwich, and a jar of water.”

Owens was so fearful of retribution by the Hells Angels that he published the photos under pseudonyms. Some of the negatives were later stolen…Owens believes by the Angels. He continues to have conflicted feelings about Altamont. He had no interest in violence and took no pride in photographing it.

In 1972, Owens released a book of black and white photography called Suburbia, also, now, an American icon. Irascible, stubborn, funny, grouchy, ornery and deeply rooted in small town life, Owens is built like a middleweight puncher and wears his hair as though he was a Marine. Indeed, Owens was never a hippie but, a clean-cut newspaper photographer, husband and father, who joined the Peace Corps to serve his country and “do good.” Turning 80 this September, Owens has also had noted careers as a craft beer brewer and pub owner, a magazine publisher many times over and, is now a distiller. His books include Suburbia, Working, Leisure and many others. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim and two NEAs. His work is collected in leading museums the world over, including the Smithsonian. Recent coverage of Owens includes an April retrospective in the New York Times (link above) of his Altamont photos for the event’s impending 50th anniversary. The photos are available for viewing at Owens’ website (link above and below).

I first met Owens at the defunct Rostel Gallery in remote and far northern Dunsmuir, CA, in late August or early September of 2008 (I remember because my daughter had just been born and the event was the first outing of her life), where they were showing images from Suburbia. These are images of people embarking on a new, modern way of life that they look excited by, but also confused, as though technology and the modish styles of the time were costumes they were still getting comfortable in. Owens’ photograph of a young suburban boy wearing cowboy boots, carrying a toy rifle and riding a Big Wheel, “Ritchie,” has always haunted me, though I couldn’t say precisely why.

Continue reading the interview HERE (PDF)

Set List
Death of Meredith Hunter
Reactions
Let It Bleed (Rolling Stone Magazine January 21, 1970)
Rock & Roll’s Worst Day (Rolling Stone Magazine February 7, 1970)
Altamont Rock Festival: ’60s Abruptly End (Livermore History March/April 2010)
Altamont Rock Festival of 1969: The Aftermath (Livermore History January/February 2011)
Biggest Rock Concert Ends (The Bulletin December 8, 1969)
Bill Owens Site (Associated Press Photographer at Altamont)
Ruling On Fair Use (American Photography May 3, 2019)