Category Archives: Music of the 60s

LA Free Press Festival Riot

LA Free Press Festival Riot

April 20, 1969

The LA Free Press’s Birthday Party

The second “festival” of 1969 was the LA Free Press Festival. I qualify the word festival because organizers planned only a one-day event and typically a festival was a multi-day event. Having said that, it is important to keep in mind that although it was only one day, there were a number of groups for whom this event was simply one of a series in Venice aimed at controlling what they saw as uncontrolled development of the area.


California was the birthplace of rock festivals whether they be called festivals, be-ins, fairs, or whatever. The 1967 Summer of Love had demonstrated the counter-culture’s positive and negative characteristics.


For the most part, the peaceful gatherings where youth enjoyed their music and other types of entertainment presented no issues to local governments. When the gatherings interfered with the everyday lives of other residents or when local law enforcement viewed (for any number of reasons) the youth’s behavior as immoral and illegal, conflict resulted.


Such were the circumstances that led to the LA Free Press celebrating its birthday with the LA Free Press Festival. Unfortunately, a well-intentioned event turned violent.


LA Free Press Festival Riot

The Los Angeles Free Press

LA Free Press Festival Riot

The LA Free Press–The Los Angeles Free Press–(also called “the Freep”)  was an underground newspaper of the 1960s, perhaps the first of that type.  Art Kunkin edited and published it weekly.


Unlike all the other festivals of 1969, the Free Press’s was to be both musical and political.


Venice had been an independent city until it merged with Los Angeles in 1926.  According to its site, “Venice has always been known as a hangout for the creative and the artistic. In the 1950s and 60s, Venice became a center for the Beat generation. There was an explosion of poetry and art.


Sounds like a good spot for a festival.


There is not much about who was scheduled to play. Country Joe and the Fish were there. In the book the place of music edited by Andrew Leyshot, David Matless, and George Revill, it reads, “In April 1969 Venice Beach hosted its first free concert, attempting to build upon the success of Be-Ins in the previous two years. In the mythology of L.A., the “Beach” was considered an ideal ecology of life for such revelry.”


LA Free Press Festival Riot

Incident

The times were one that the hum of confrontation between law enforcement and youth was a constant presence. Apparently a thrown bottle lighted the fuse that led to the incident. One of the lessons that Woodstock Ventures learned from this and other similar incidents was to avoid having an law enforcement presence on site.


LA Free Press Festival Riot

Tales of a Blue Meanie

Alan Cole from his book, Tales of a Blue Meanie, chapter 8, Riotous Behavior, described some background: Circus Saul [Blumenthal] and Fish Face [Sam] were radical capitalists – that’s what they called themselves, anyway. They hated LBJ, despised Richard Nixon even more and had pledged ten thousand dollars each to the newly formed organization “Businessmen For Peace.” They also vowed to stage various concerts up and down the state to raise awareness and funds for their cause.


LA Free Press Festival Riot

Confessions of an Unapologetic Hippie

Phil Polizatto wrote in Confessions of an Unapologetic Hippie


It was supposed to be a love-in/anti-war gathering. Right there on that expanse of beach between Pacific Ocean Park and where Venice proper started. The line up consisted of Spirit, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Taj Mahal, interspersed with anti-war speeches. For a change, we would be on the stage itself and not on scaffolds. Still, it was just more go-go dancing. And we’d be doing it for free just like all the other entertainers….


It was a wonderful day. Everyone was on a high. Spirit really got everyone on their feet. Dancing. Swaying. Gettin’ down! The speeches were empowering and solidified the crowd’s resolve against the war. They knew that the threat from the outside was now and forever a lie. They knew that the country had better start thinking in a new way. And they knew that these rallies were meant to attract the media and make people pay attention. They needed a venue where their opposition could be clearly seen and loudly heard. So they rose to the occasion and hooted and whistled and hollered at the top of their lungs in response to buzz words that echoed through the loudspeakers. But the crowd was there as much for the music as they were to make a statement. They were there to have a good time and have some fun.


A threatening police presence, a bottle perhaps thrown, and “Suddenly it was chaos. Clubs cracking skulls. Kids screaming and being trampled by both the cops and the crowd. Some people putting up a fight. Guys trying to rip the masks from the cops’ faces to get something to punch at. Feisty women kicking and biting their assailants. Kids trying to hang on to, but then violently bucked off, the bronco legs of police who were trying to pummel their dads. Lots of bleeding. Lots of pleading. “


LA Free Press Festival Riot

The Evening Outlook reported

LA Free Press Festival Riot

A local paper reported the next day that police moved in because of a planned orgy: “The plan was for people to form a huge circle around a couple on the beach who would have intercourse. Slowly, other couples would join in, [police Capt. Robert] Sillings said his reports revealed. One couple was arrested for lewd conduct after the girl danced topless while her partner fondled her, police said. The girl reportedly was told to put on her top several times and was arrested when she refused. Sillings said there were “numerous incidents” of girls peeling off their bathing suits. Six officers were injured by flying rocks and bottles and at least a dozen other people were hurt in fist fights and by broken glass. A dozen ambulances went to the scene during the day. The violence broke out late in the afternoon when officers attempted to arrest several individuals on suspicion of possession of marijuana and public intoxication.”


LA Free Press Festival Riot
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July 29 Music et al

July 29 Music et al

Suze Rotolos

July 29 Music et al

July 29, 1961: after seeing him play at a folk musc day at the Riverside Church. Suze Rotolos became an enthusiastic fan. The Rotolos family lived above the Cafe Society Downtown, a little theatre in Greenwich Village. She lived with her mother, Mary, a widow, and her sister Carla, Above the Rotolos, on the fourth floor, lived Miki Isaacson, whose living room was a permanent crash pad for folk singers, including Dylan, who was pleased to be staying near Suze. The two soon became an item.

                At about the time she met Dylan, Rotolo began working full time as a political activist in the office of the Congress of Racial Equality and the anti-nuclear group SANE. It was not until they met that Dylan’s writing began to address issues such as the civil rights movement and the threat of nuclear war.

                Unfortunately the love affair was doomed. Their breakup in 1964 yielded some of his greatest early love songs – Tomorrow Is A Long Time, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right and subsequent family squabbles with the Rotolos were documented in Ballad In Plain D, on Another Side Of Bob Dylan. (see Sept 14)

July 29 Music et al
 Help!

July 29 Music et al

July 29, 1965: The Beatles’ second film Help! had its royal première at the London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus, London. Ten thousand fans gathered outside to see the group arrive in a black Rolls-Royce. Inside the Pavilion they met Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, who had delayed their summer holiday for the event. (see Aug 6)

July 29 Music et al
Dylan’s motorcycle accident

July 29, 1966: Dylan was involved in a motorcycle accident. The seriousness of the accident is still unknown. Dylan’s biographers have written that the crash offered him the much-needed chance to escape from the pressures that had built up around him. Dylan confirmed this interpretation of the crash when he stated in his autobiography, “I had been in a motorcycle accident and I’d been hurt, but I recovered. Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race.” In the wake of his accident, Dylan withdrew from the public and, apart from a few select appearances, did not tour again for almost eight years. (2016 Toronto Star article)(see December 27, 1967)

July 29 Music et al

Beatles v Jesus

July 29, 1966: John Lennon’s March 4 interview with Maureen Cleave in which he says “We’re more popular than Jesus” appeared in American teen magazine, “Datebook.” Within days of publication, anti-Beatle sentiment builds up and American disc jockeys in the southern States encourages the destruction of Beatle records and memorabilia at bonfire rallies. Also enforced was a radio ban on Beatle records that was started by a Birmingham, Alabama D.J. The ban picked up momentum by other radio stations in the southern Bible belt. By August 6, thirty US radio stations have banned all Beatles records from airplay.

World reaction to John’s remarks:

  • South Africa: Piet Myer of the South African Broadcasting Corporation temporarily banned Beatles records from being played and noted that “The Beatles arrogance has passed the ultimate limit of decency. It is clowning no longer.”
  • Spain: three radio stations immediately bans the airing Beatle records.
  • Holland: one radio station banned the airing of Beatle records. (Beatles, see July 3- – Sept 2; see Lennon for expanded story )

July 29 – August 18, 1967: “Light My Fire” by the Doors #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

July 29 Music et al

The Road to Bethel

July 29, 1969: Woodstock Ventures served with papers to appear in court regarding impact of festival on local summer youth camps and local homeowners. An out-of-court settlement agreed to with camps. Judge George Cobb stated that he’d hand down his decision on August 14—the day before the festival was to begin.

                The abandoned Diamond Horseshoe hotel ready for workers to move in.  (see Road for expanded story)

July 29 Music et al
Cherry Garcia

July 29, 1987: Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream introduced their signature flavor, and first celebrity-themed flavor, “Cherry Garcia.” (Ben & Jerry story) (GD, see August 9, 1995; CM, see December 17, 1989)

July 29 Music et al
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July 25 Music et al

July 25 Music et al

Hard Day’s Night

July 25 Music et al

July 25 – October 30, 1964: A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack the Billboard #1 album. Their third of the year. All three albums will occupy a total of 30 weeks during 1964. (see Aug 1)

July 25 Music et al

Bob Dylan

July 25, 1965: Dylan played Newport Folk Festival. many in audience booed his performance for playing electric set with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Joan Baez and Donovan also played sets. (see Aug 28)

July 25 Music et al

Wild Thing

July 25 – August 12, 1966: “Wild Thing” by the Troggs #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was  written by New York City-born songwriter Chip Taylor and originally recorded by The Wild Ones in 1965

July 25 Music et al

Road to Bethel/Neil Young

July 25, 1969:  Neil Young joined “Crosby, Stills and Nash” for the first time at a concert at the Fillmore East in New York. According to an Ultimate Classic Rock article in order for Young to join, “a significant condition to be met as set by his manager Eliot Roberts. “He’d have to be a Y,” Roberts stated in the book, Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography. Initially the group balked at the thought, but the idea of Young’s involvement was too enticing and thus, CSNY was born.”

July 25 Music et al

Road to Bethel/workers

July 25 – 26 (?), 1969: screening process of police who wanted to work festival. Those approved told to report to site on August 14. (see Road for expanded story)

July 25 Music et al

Seattle Pop Festival

July 25 – 27, 1969:  The Doors were billed as the headliner for the third day. After The Doors played, Led Zeppelin came on. When the festival was first being put together,Led  Zeppelin was still gaining momentum. According to the sources, Led Zeppelin stole the show. It was the only time The Doors and Led Zeppelin were on the same bill. (see Seattle for expanded story)

July 25 Music et al

Midwest Rock Festival 

July 25 – 29, 1969: total attendance of about 45,000. The scheduled list of bands was even longer than the number that actually played – Jethro Tull, Jeff Beck and the Bob Seger System were scheduled on Sunday, but rain canceled many of that day’s performances. (see Midwest for expanded story)

July 25 Music et al

Roots of Rock

July 25, 1984: blues singer Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton died in Los Angeles of a heart attack at age 57.  (NYT obituary) (RoR, see January 23, 1986; see Thorton for more)


 

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