Miscellaneous Rumbles

Marty Balin

26

the early JS tour would have been spring of 1975, between Dragonfly and Red Octopus with the Dragonfly band (Paul/Grace/Freiberg/Chaquico/Creach/Sears/Barbata/no Marty). i saw that tour in Chicago and it was staggeringly good, MUCH better than i'd expected since as far as the Airplane went i was always a Jorma/Jack guy. i'm pretty sure it was spring because it was warm enough out that i didn't need a jacket. i could look it up if it's really important.

but enough about that, let me brag on Marty for a minute or 2. one thing i'm glad was brought out in the articles about Marty was just how much of a early adopter, entrepeneur, and business visionary he was. he opened the Matrix club in San Francisco in 1965, back when Bill Graham was still staging Mime Troupe guerrilla theater in the parks. Marty knew that to develop the Airplane he'd need a venue to nurture them, and IIRC they played the Matrix like 300 times. the Matrix also served as a valuable small club alternative to the ballrooms; famously, the Matrix hosted the Velvet Underground for a series which was audience-taped by Robert Quine a decade before the Voidoids and eventually issued as an official VU release. but i digress...

Marty was not to be taken lightly. not only did he get knocked cold at Altamont, but when he came to and the Angel who'd coldcocked him--a lovely fellow called "Animal" who can be seen in the Gimme Shelter film onstage wearing what appears to be a coyote carcass on his head--tried to apologise, Marty told him "fork you" and Animal punched him out a second time. that same cussedness and drive made it very bitter when he was gradually frozen out of the Airplane by the Paul/Grace and Jorma/Jack cliques...by 10/4/70 he was saying "i need a new band" during a live show at the Winterland, and by the next April he was out, citing his estrangement from the others' coke-fuelled demeanor. when he came back for Red Octopus he came to settle scores, infamously ordering Grace to sing straight harmony parts instead of her trademark skirling improvisations. the dynamic probably didn't help Grace's alcohol issues, and winning didn't seem to make Marty any happier. i reckon he must have felt vindicated when he had two hit singles off his first solo album.

Marty was a complicated picture...he could be heart-rendingly sensitive or utterly boorish, inspirational or overbearing. but my god, he could sing. my favorite Marty moment:

it's simple, really. no Marty, no Airplane. no Airplane = no international exposure for the SF Sound, probably no Bill Graham and thus a very very different live music industry. no SF sound, no me, or a very bored me playing in a generic blues or soul band. that shit helped make a place in the world for me. thanks, Marty. and as Jorma said, "now, we are three..."

27

you've got to check this clip of the Airplane at Woodstock. backstory: they'd been waiting around to play from about 6 the preceding evening till taking the stage at sunrise following an interminable technical-problems delay in and around the Grateful Dead's set. O.M.F.G. do they look high. Casady looks like he's about to float away, and Nicky Hopkins appears ready to die at any moment. Marty looking butch as always, and Grace looking like she forgot to put in her contact lenses (which actually happened at Altamont!).

28

Proteus: I concur with your comments about Blows Against the Empire, not to mention I learned from you some new information. Slick's voice on Sunrise with the feedback cracks the album wide open. Side 2 is a masterpiece.

29

Macphisto: I saw that same first tour at William and Mary(I think). It was great and Chaquico was phenom. I saw them again at William and Mary(Red Octopus) and a third time in Hampton. Yes, the music had migrated from the original Starship sound to pop. Sigh.

30

I just played the first side of "Dragonfly", with it ending with "Caroline".

"Caroline" with Paul being a superior, complimentary composer for his friend, ...great stuff.

After that...

"Miracles"...Marty had enough confidence to do it all on his own, again...

31

Sunrise on YouTube. NSFW (or possibly conservative Christian sensibilities...if you're offended by G-D used in its literal sense).

I post it not for the religion or politics, or even for Grace (whose unusual self-harmonies are a study), but for the skillful feedback symphony which accompanies it.

And it's just the brief intro to the suite which occupies side 2, bearing no unifying name but consisting of: "Sunrise", "Hijack", "Home", "Have You Seen the Stars Tonite?", "XM", and "Starship." (I like side one, far as that goes - typical of the direction Airplane would fly after 1970 - but side two has the voodoo for me.)

If you're interested, but haven't heard it or remember it only vaguely, here's Side 2, cued up, though you might have to endure commercials. (No charge for the ambience of the period-correct vinyl crackles.)

All-star cast, too: besides Kantner and Slick, you get Jerry Garcia, David Crosby, Peter Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Harvey Brooks, Joey Covington, Bill Kreutzmann, Graham Nash, Mickey Hart, David Freiberg, and a Phil Sawyer (presumably responsible for rocket sci-fi noises).


I keep apologizing for talkinbout this material in a thread originally devoted to the one member who was least likely to be involved in such shenanigans - but hey - without Marty, these hippie miscreants wouldn't have achieved the early market success that earned them the latitude to experiment in this way.

In a roundabout way, we can blame it all on Marty.

– Proteus

He's uncredited, but it sounds an awful lot like Marty singing background vocals on A Child is Coming on the end of side 1. He's got a wrting credit on the album song too.

32

He's uncredited, but it sounds an awful lot like Marty singing background vocals on A Child is Coming on the end of side 1. He's got a wrting credit on the album song too.

– Kap'n

the first part, or the coda? the coda ("it's getting better...") is Paul, Grace, and David Crosby.

33

the first part, or the coda? the coda ("it's getting better...") is Paul, Grace, and David Crosby.

– macphisto

Coda - the response vocal about 14:20. It could be Crosby, but it's always struck me as Marty, especially past 14:50.

34

i also want to drag my yellow highlighter over Jerry Garcia's playing on Blows and the other Paul-and-Grace projects, which is my favorite studio Jerry ever, especially the lovely burbling solos on "Starship" and the steely menace of "When I Was A Boy I Watched The Wolves." there's a carefree grace to his playing here that he never had room for while serving as the eye of the Dead's hurricane.

35

i also want to drag my yellow highlighter over Jerry Garcia's playing on Blows and the other Paul-and-Grace projects, which is my favorite studio Jerry ever, especially the lovely burbling solos on "Starship" and the steely menace of "When I Was A Boy I Watched The Wolves." there's a carefree grace to his playing here that he never had room for while serving as the eye of the Dead's hurricane.

– macphisto

Well said, Mac!


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