BG #74 Ticket Stub
From July 31st through August 5,1967, Bill Graham presented The Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead in concert at O'Keefe Centre in Toronto, Canada. The poster for this event bears the number 74 in the BG poster series. It is extremely hard to find and has been the stumbling block of many a BG poster collection.
The history surrounding this event has remained largely a mystery to the poster collecting community. We have been fortunate enough to have received these accounts from Fred and Steve Crawford, brothers from Toronto who actually attended the final evening of this historic concert series.
In July of 1967 I had just turned fifteen, I lived with my family in the suburbs of Toronto Canada. My parents were very conservative; my paternal grandfather was President of the Toronto Stock Exchange and our family was Catholic. Both my parents were anti hippie and strongly against drugs. My younger brother Steve and I both "turned" hippie that summer , although in retrospect I can see the change was gradual and cumulative. Most kids our age reacted the same way to the provocations of and disrespect shown by our parents. They were never very introspective and could not and would not accept our message of peace and love. Millions of us were physically forced to the barber, or thrown out of our homes, cursed and abused like mortal enemies.
In 1967 the shit had not really hit the fan and many parents were naive or in denial, not yet seeing the changes in their children. My parents were still somewhat pliable, although I led a very clandestine life (e.g. I used to change my clothes in the garage before school since my parents censored my wardrobe and tried forcing me to wear super straight clothes. I had to hide all ripped jeans and Indian stuff.). Steve and I were allies and we covered each other a lot with alibis and deception. Both of us were really caught up and influenced by the times; Viet Nam and the Haight-Ashbury were all over the news and America was both culturally paramount and politically reprehensible. The whole world was watching and kids our age were center stage and happening. We had power and we knew it. That whole summer was a watershed of change and exploration.
San Francisco was our Mecca and the bands were the messengers of radical social change around the world. The most important band in the world that summer was Jefferson Airplane. The Dead were considered a party band and had nowhere near the political significance of the Airplane. Interest in the Dead at that point was purely musical and they had not yet gathered their family of Deadheads. Jerry was an amiable bluegrass guy with no hard edges. The most interesting band member was Pigpen who had a strong following of fans, independent of the band. I was certainly one of them. He was an iconic hippie rebel biker dude and was considered by us to be the coolest anti hero of the Haight Ashbury scene. Pig was all attitude and when the band played he often stole the spotlight from Jerry.
The Airplane on the other hand were very hard core. Their peace and love was in your face and demanding. They scared the shit out of straights and their weapon was Grace. Grace, who every hetero boy in the world wanted to ball and be possessed by. The children loved Grace and the parents were frightened and repelled by her. Although people respected the boys for their musicianship, it was Grace's incredible voice that carried the material to our hearts. The band's lyrics were calls for civil disobedience and putting the brakes on the whole post Fifties socio-political mess we inherited. It is impossible to over emphasize Jefferson Airplane's position, and particularly Grace's, as spokesmen for us. I wonder if she realizes herself what a historical hero she is. We all took so much strength from this band; to stand up against the authority monsters who were bent on destroying our planet and our lives. White Rabbit was the defining song of my generation and it reverberated around the world.
When the news came that the Airplane were going to play O'Keefe Centre, a venue known for ballet and opera, we were amazed. No one really expected that they would bother with Toronto and our scene, much less choose the straightest venue in town. The ticket was Luke and The Apostles, a local Toronto band opening for The Grateful Dead, who were opening for Jefferson Airplane. The series was seven nights as well as seven matinees; my brother and I caught the last night of the gig and by that point it was the hottest ticket in town. The concerts had received raves in the local rock and mainstream press but my memories of the show itself revolve around Grace and the Airplane. They were clearly the headliners and their radical message of in your face peace and love brought home by Grace's clarion, siren voice had everyone in awe. The Dead in contrast were perceived as mild, party hippies with Jerry the laid back bluegrass dude with no hard edges. Grace was all hard edges tinged with serious love. The boys in the Airplane were excellent and genius writers and musicians but sorry, to us and most of the world, Grace was the band.
That last night, the Dead played what I realized later was a very short set. My feeling is that Toronto brought home to both bands who was huge and who wasn't. Grace was the catalyst for much of what happened that summer and whatever impact she has historically and culturally is too deep and complex to delve into lightly in this particular narrative. Torontonians were and are by nature very thoughtful and laid back, though not in a west coast way; Toronto heads were even more discriminating. We attended these concerts in a reverent and curious mood and both bands clearly got into our vibe.
As the Airplane were setting up following the Dead's last song there was an expectant energy in the crowd and emotions were running high. All at once the band started playing full tilt and the lightshow exploded into our heads. It was the most stunning and dramatic experience and the crowd freaked out. People were literally open mouthed and some in the audience were crying with joy. They played most of the album (Surrealistic Pillow) and each song was a masterpiece. Although security was very tight and there was no dancing in the aisles or standing on seats, something happened that last night. Whether the guards were glad the concerts were almost over and all these freaks would soon be gone or Grace had won them over, I can't say. But during the last twenty minutes of the show a number of fans, including myself, made our way to the edge of the stage where we got to enjoy the encores. (I believe they played three, though I can't remember which songs).
As the band said goodnight and the curtain came down I couldn't move ; I was transfixed and totally blissed out. I didn't want this experience to end and evidently neither did the bands. When most of the audience had left, Jerry reappeared on stage and announced that the bands were going to jam and inviting everyone to occupy the front seats. Before the curtain fell back down I jumped up on the stage and found myself alone with both bands. I was freaking, but I acted as cool as I thought they were and they didn't seem to mind my presence. In fact Grace made me feel at home and we started to talk about her impressions of Canada. Pigpen said hi and I asked them if they'd been to Montreal where the 1967 World Expo was held. Grace laughed and told me that they had been refused admittance because of Pigpen, who seemed a little annoyed by her candor. They gave me the feeling that they were a little paranoid about the Canadian authorities and seemed relieved to be leaving. Grace was drinking what appeared to be orange soda out of a paper cup and I doubt back then that it contained vodka. I clearly remember her lipstick mark on the edge of the cup; I found this very erotic. She was and is a beautiful women and seeing her up close is one of my fondest memories. Jerry was cool but I saw that Pigpen was a really sensitive and quiet guy who seemed very different from his public image. He seemed melancholy and withdrawn and I was saddened but not surprised by his untimely death.
As my brief but meaningful moment ended and the curtain rose, I moved to stage left and sat on the floor. The venue management would only allow us to stay for a couple of hours but we had a great time. On the way out that night I impulsively removed a promotional poster from the lobby wall; the guards saw me but didn't do anything., probably for reasons stated earlier. The next day I took a sticker off the dashboard of my mother's 62 Chevy that said " Fasten Seat Belts", a reminder to passengers to use these new safety devices. I stuck the sticker on the bottom of the poster to remind people to fasten their mental seat belts for Jefferson Airplane.
I went to many concerts after that and each one was an adventure, but I never had a backstage encounter like this one. I had no idea that my humble souvenir would someday be an important historical relic and I hope it will encourage study and discussion of this very important time in our history.
Between the Masonic Temple, (the "Rock Pile" in those days), Massey Hall and Maple Leaf Gardens I saw a lot of great shows... Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Freddie King, Buddy Rich,...but the Airplane-Dead concert was my first concert of a major band and possibly one of, if not the best I've ever had the good fortune to witness.
Fred was into the music like no one I've known. He always had or was listening to all the hottest and best albums. I couldn't keep up, it was amazing. Luke and the Apostles were an interesting act, as well as of course the Dead. Pigpen was one of my heroes and I painted a good likeness of him which I hung on my wall for quite awhile, especially after hearing, sadly, of his still youthful passing.The Grateful Dead, as I realized then and in retrospect, were the perfect folkish, rockish, countryish with psychedelic lyrics warm-up for the amazing Jefferson Airplane.
The '' Light Show by Headlights'' was the most dazzling exhibit of effects I've ever seen (only seconded by Pink Floyd). As soon as they were ready to go (after the Dead's set and intermission ) everything happened at once; the awesome lights and a moving stage that moved forward as if it was this huge momentum of light and sound right in your face! The oil and water effects were second to none and as I remember, the O'Keefe Centre (now the Hummingbird Centre) had good acoustics.
O'Keefe Centre that night was certainly an experience. Somehow, I had acquired 2 tickets for myself and a cousin who was a little older and kind of a greaser. (Fred and I had separate seats to the same concert.) ''White Rabbit'' was awesome and intense. ''3/5 of a mile in 10 seconds'' really cooked with Jorma and Paul's heavy, distortion-driven riffs (acid-rocked). I think it was pretty much near the end, but my goofy cousin wanted to go . So for some reason we left. (I wish I had stayed, especially after the story my brother told me after the show!)
After my brother acquired the poster from O'Keefe Centre we hung it proudly on our bedroom wall to remember the experience. After a couple of years, me being the more nostalgic one, (and also since my brother went to live in the U.S.A. for more than 25 years), I ended up with the poster. I took care of it for years. It still has a lot of sentimental value to me and always will. I am totally in awe of the fact that the poster is so rare and such an essential historical document, as well as very happily surprised. It would be nice to think it will stimulate disscussion and encourage study of the mystical as well as philosophical aspects of a very unique period in our history. Thank you Bill Graham.
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