November 2012

What was the connection of Blue Cheer with Pinnacle Rock Concerts?

I learned some very interesting facts today about the connection of 1960s psychedelic rock band Blue Cheer with Pinnacle Rock Concerts. Pinnacle Rock Concerts (or Pinnacle Productions) put on many shows at the Shrine Auditorium and adjacent Exhibition Hall in Los Angeles California in the 60s.  It looks like they were most influential in exposing Blue Cheer to the public.

Blue Cheer with Pinnacle and JImi Hendrix
1st Pinnacle Rock Concert

As a matter of fact, Blue Cheer (Dickie Peterson, Paul Whaley and Leigh Stephens) did the first Pinnacle Concert at the Shrine Auditorium along with Jimi Hendrix and The Electric Flag.

From what I see, Pinnacle Productions promoted many bands that would otherwise may not have been seen or heard of. Actually, I was doing some research on artist John Van Hamersveld and discovered he was one of the founding partners of Pinnacle Rock Concerts. You may not know the name immediately, but you know his art. He did the Endless Summer movie poster and The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour album cover.  Both, very iconic.

Van Hamersveld knew Allen “Gut” Turk, Blue Cheer’s manager. He was working on an album Blue Cheer with Pinnacle Rock Concerts 1st Albumcover design and asked Van Hamersveld to photograph the band. That was Blue Cheer’s first album (Vincebus Eruptum).  It was a huge success and the award winning cover is still recognizable and an iconic image from the 60s. So for the first time I’m seeing a San Francisco based band playing in Los Angeles on a lot. it seems.

The combination of Blue Cheer with Pinnacle Rock Concerts at the Shrine Stadium were obviously very popular. 4,000 strong they would storm the gates.  I’m not from California and am just discovering these Pinnacle Production concerts. Of course, I had heard about the famous Shrine Auditorium, but didn’t realize they promoted rock concerts in the 1960s.

Strangely, there were not a lot of rock art posters being done in Los Angeles. It looks like Van Hamersveld did most or allot of the posters for the Pinnacle Rock Concerts (an obvious choice) and shrine Auditorium promotions. But, they are arguably some of the best of the genre.

The Blue Cheer band was very, VERY loud (maybe the loudest) and possibly abrasive/abusive onstage.  More than once getting into tussles with other bands on the same bill, like the Grateful Dead and the Jeff Beck Group. Nonetheless, they are attributed to being the godfathers of metal music or the beginings of  heavy rock. At the time it was just very original and experimental music they were doing.

What was the connection of Blue Cheer with Pinnacle Rock Concerts? (I believe) they were destined to be partners. Gut Turk, Van Hamersveld and the other managers saw them (Blue Cheer) as innovators and way ahead of their time.

As you might imagine from this post, yes I was a fan back in the day and I would say, still am today. It was some of the most animal, raw, unbridled and original rock ‘n roll I had ever heard. Liberating.

Also, the relationship of Blue Cheer with Pinnacle is relevant to this blog.  Because it is believed to have been born from the collaboration of an album cover design no less.

“Vincebus Eruptum” (pronounced ‘win-kay-bus’) is Latin for “Conquering Attack” or “Conquering Explosion.” It’s the best translation I could find.  Dickie Peterson (however) defined it as”control of chaos” or “controlled chaos” on a Blue Cheer appearance of the Steve Allen Show.

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Whose a Better Guy Than Wavy Gravy?

The answer to the question is… not many!  If you’ve seen the movie “Saint Misbehavin’: the Wavy Gravy Movie”– you know what I mean.  Wavy Gravy (Hugh Romney) is an activist and defender of peace, basic human needs and humanitarian causes. He spread the word around the world in a group called The Hog Farm  dressed as a juggler, a clown in a caravan of psychedelic painted buses in the 1960s.

Wavy Gravy
Wavy Gravy

As a matter of fact he wrote the song called “Basic Human Needs” (the existence of certain universal needs that must be satisfied if people are to prevent or resolve destructive conflicts – International Journal Of Peace).  Wavy Gravy was always an apostle of peace and love and still is to this day. He also works very hard at it.  Wavy says, “some people tell me I’m a saint, I tell them I am a saint misbehavin’”.

Hugh Romney (Wavy Gravy) was born in East Greenbush, New York and grew up in Princeton New Jersey. He would take walks with Albert Einstein, be roommates with Bob Dylan (while writing A Hard Rains Gonna Fall) and become a beat poet in Greenwich Village. He became the poetry director at the Gaslight Café (New York City) and was instrumental in introducing jazz and poetry there. He was so popular he began opening up for acts such as John Coletrane, Thelonious Monk, Peter, Paul, and Mary plus many others.

At some point Wavy becomes part of an improvisational group from San Francisco called “The Committee”. He and his wife Bonnie Jean are living outside of Los Angeles in 1965 when a neighbor (recovering from a stroke) offered a mountaintop spread rent-free in exchange for slopping the hogs.  Thus was born The Hog Farm commune and will be Wavy Gravy’s headquarters for everything else to come. There would be many humanitarian bus tours, tours with Ken Kesey & the Merry Pranksters, also an MC and member of the support crew “The Please Force” at Woodstock along with The Hog Farm.

All in all, the movie covers his life and work pretty thoroughly (including iconic friends and colleagues from the 1960s). I came away feeling that this was a very good man and serious about making the world a more happy, safe  and peaceful place to be in. It is also a history lesson about how the 60s really did change the world and we feel it still today.

The scope of his goodness is much more than can be covered in this post.  If you’ve never heard of  Wavy Gravy or are interested in learning more, it will be well worth your time to see what’s behind this cosmic clown and all that he’s done. Pretty fascinating.

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How did the Griffin Moscoso Collaborations come about?

There were many Griffin Moscoso collaborations.  Victor Moscoso ran into Rick Griffin for the first time in the Spring of 1967.  He saw what looked like “Jesus Christ with a portfolio in his lap” at The Family Dog offices where he was picking up a check that day.   Their first meeting was magical.

Griffin Moscoso Collaborations
1st Griffin Moscoso Collaborations

Griffin had come over to Moscoso’s house with a layout of lettering around an oval shape.  he needed collaboration on what would go inside the oval and how to finish the piece.  Moscoso traced and used Griffins face in the oval shape, but his features are made of butterflies, peacocks and stars.

Interesting footnote here: Rick Griffin’s lettering on this poster was a gag. It says absolutely nothing!  Most poster art lettering was intentionally made hard to read (thru creative graphic effects) in order to keep the viewers attention.  This was a main stay of Griffin Moscoso collaborations as well as other psychedelic poster artists.  You know, the harder to read…the better!  So, as a spoof Griffin did the poster you could never read – because there was nothing to read!  That was the poster for a Chuck Berry Concert at The Fillmore West Ballroom

griffin moscoso collaborations - iron butterfly
Iron Butterfly

According to Moscoso, he and Rick Griffin worked on six posters together and they were all good.  (I do not doubt that with the caliber of talent here).  They would do them all at the same time and the same place.  Many Griffin Moscoso collaborations would consist of  what they called “jams”.  This was taken from “jam sessions” where musicians trade licks with other musicians.  This seems to have been a very rewarding and fun partnership.  “Neither Rick nor I ever did anything that we didn’t want to do” – VM.

They often would be able to solve each others problems.  Working with complicated graphic processes with the printer (at least to this author), one of them would come up with something perfect to  complete the others creation.  “Not only is it a perfect solution, but it’s a surprise, because it’s coming from another mind.” says Moscoso.

I say it again, the Griffin Moscoso collaborations were phenominal. they carried this union  on into their work at Zap Comix.  But, I want to explore some of the creative process on their individual posters and also their work at Zap Comix…maybe in another post on underground cartoonist R. Crumb.






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