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The Electric Flag onstage at the Fillmore Auditorium, August 29, 1967. From left, Barry Goldberg (hidden), Nick Gravenites, Michael Bloomfield, Buddy Miles (behind drums), Harvey Brooks, unknown and Peter Strazza. Photo courtesy of Richard Lewis

 

An American Music Band
Michael Bloomfield's Electric Flag

 

By David Dann

 

At the end of February 1967, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band returned to Boston for the second time in just over a month. The band had been on the road constantly since returning from its first tour abroad, a 30-day whirlwind tour of 28 different venues in England and Scotland in November. Since their arrival back in the states, the Butterfield Band had played New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and numerous places in between. Now they were back in Boston.

They were scheduled to play three colleges in one day – a chilly Saturday, February 25. The shows were to begin at noon with an appearance at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and the guys had to unload the van and set up the equipment first. Butterfield’s star guitarist, Michael Bloomfield, lost it.

In a state of agitation, the exhausted Bloomfield had been suffering from insomnia for weeks. His was a hyperactive personality under the best of circumstances, and now the band’s non-stop gigging had thrown his system into disarray. He could no longer stand the demands of performing night after night.

He decided he had to quit the band that day.

The band that had brought electric, Chicago-style blues to folk and rock audiences, inspired pop musicians to learn to play their instruments, introduced audiences to the concept of extended, intelligent instrumentals that were listened to, and jump-started the soon-to-be world famous San Francisco music scene, was suddenly without its featured soloist.

And Michael Bloomfield was suddenly without a gig.

Bloomfield retreated to his Christopher Street apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village to rest up and think things over.

It wasn’t long before he began to think he should have his own band.

 

Forgotten Flag

Ask a pop music fan to name a rock group with horns and you’ll likely hear the band Chicago mentioned. If your interlocutor has been around awhile, Blood, Sweat & Tears might come up, or maybe Tower of Power.

But that’s likely to be as far as it goes.

Few today recall that there was another rock/horn band – a band that started it all. Or, if they do recall, they don’t recall much about it.

The Electric Flag deserves a better fate.

The creation of Mike Bloomfield, America’s first electric guitar hero, the Electric Flag was a ground-breaker in a numerous ways. In addition to being pop music’s first rock band to include a horn section, it pioneered the use of electronic instruments, blended a variety of musical genres, experimented with sound sampling and was one of the early racially-mixed pop bands. It also had the dubious distinction of being rock’s first “supergroup.”

Because the Flag has been largely ignored by critics since its dissolution in 1968, its story has never really been told in detail. A rock ’n roll rags-to-riches-to-rags tale, the history of Michael Bloomfield’s experiment in American music makes for interesting reading. But it also foreshadows the growth of American pop music away from the narrow confines of its segregated genres and toward an open confluence of styles and cultures. For that reason alone, music lovers – especially American music lovers – should know about the Electric Flag.

 

An idea

In March, pop singer Mitch Ryder was in New York working on his next album.

Barry Goldberg, then playing keyboards for Ryder in the studio, knew Michael Bloomfield from their days in Chicago. He also knew Bloomfield was in New York with time on his hands, doing occasional sessions as a sideman for Richie Havens, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, James Cotton and others. So he arranged for Michael Bloomfield to play guitar on Ryder’s session.

Mitch had had a string of hits in 1965 and ’66 with “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” “Devil with a Blue Dress” and “Jenny Take a Ride.” But now he was trying to move beyond those high energy soul-rock recordings done with his group, the Detroit Wheels, and he wanted a really good guitarist to for his first solo effort. Michael was acknowledged as the best guitarist around, and Goldberg obliged Ryder by bringing his friend to the date.

It was after this session, while in Goldberg’s room at the Albert Hotel, that Bloomfield told Barry he wanted to start his own band, a band with horns like those that recorded for Stax and Atlantic. He especially wanted a band that would play American music. All kinds of American music.

While he had been on tour with the Butterfield Band in England, Bloomfield said, he had heard Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jeff Beck and other English musicians play American blues. They played it well, and they were becoming known in the States. The blues, it seemed, had to cross the Atlantic to reach a wider audience in its home country.

In fact, nearly all of the music coming from Britain in 1966 was deeply rooted in American culture. The Rolling Stones, having taken their name from the Muddy Waters tune, fashioned a string of Top 40 hits out of American blues and soul forms. Pop bands like the Beatles and the Who aped Chuck Berry and Little Richard. British bands had dominated American music charts since their 1964 “invasion.”

Michael Bloomfield felt it was time that the disparate styles of American music – R&B, country, bluegrass, folk and especially electric blues – be played by an American band, a band with horns like those of B.B. King or James Brown. A band with a soulful sound like the session players at Stax Records were famous for. And Bloomfield wanted to show the music world how it could be done.

He would create an American music band.

 

The band

It didn’t take much to get Goldberg to sign on to the project. He and Bloomfield went looking for other band members.

Bassist Harvey Brooks, who had played with Bloomfield on Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” sessions in the summer of 1965, agreed to join the new group despite his growing and very successful studio career. Brooks knew of a drummer named Buddy Miles through a connection with disc jockey and impresario Murray the K. He recommended Miles to Bloomfield and Goldberg and, though they had been considering Billy Mundi of the Mothers of Invention for their rhythm section, they were intrigued by the prospect that Miles presented.

As Michael told it, the 19-year-old Buddy was to have been the drummer for Mitch Ryder’s solo recording session. Because he couldn’t read music, however, he had been replaced with Bernard Purdie. Bloomfield and Goldberg didn’t encounter him until March 26 when they went to Murray the K’s Easter Show in New York, an extravaganza that featured Mitch Ryder among others.

Murray Kaufman, a New York radio host who had billed himself as the “fifth Beatle” in the early ’60s, was a producer of marathon rock ’n’ roll shows that featured bands like Cream, the Who, Otis Redding, James Brown and many others. Though something of a cultural anachronism by 1967, Kaufman still played an important role in introducing new acts to wider audiences with his epic productions. He inadvertently performed that function for Bloomfield and Goldberg that Sunday.

As luck would have it, Wilson Pickett’s group was part of Murray’s Easter Show and Miles was Pickett’s drummer. Buddy’s massive sound so impressed the two Chicagoans that they took him back to the Albert Hotel, the story goes, and fed him Oreo cookies and stories of pretty San Francisco girls until he agreed to leave Pickett and join their new group. Bloomfield was elated to discover that Miles was also an excellent singer.

Mitch Ryder was asked to be the band’s main vocalist but he declined, preferring to remain with the Detroit Wheels. Nick Gravenites, another friend from Chicago who was living in San Francisco, was Bloomfield’s next choice, and he readily accepted.

For the horn section, Bloomfield initially hired two excellent players.

Peter Strazza joined the band on tenor saxophone. He was a friend of Barry’s from the keyboardist’s days in Chicago. The two had played together in the Windy City when Strazza had come west from Connecticut with a band called Robbie & the Troubadours.

Trumpeter Marcus Doubleday was recommended by jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. From Seattle, Doubleday had done session work with the Drifters, Jan and Dean, and Bobby Vinton and had a fine classical tone. He was known as something of a jazz player and was a capable improviser.

The band would be a septet to start.

 

City by the Bay

Michael decided to base the new band on the West Coast. He had spent quite a bit of time playing at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium with Butterfield and knew that the city had a vibrant and happening music scene. It also had a relaxed, tolerant attitude toward nearly everything, including drugs. Because Nick Gravenites was already there, Michael asked him to find a house for the band. Michael sent his wife, Susan, out to the Bay Area from Chicago to help with the search.

In short order they found a place on Wellesley Court in Mill Valley, just across the bay from San Francisco. Bloomfield’s manager, Albert Grossman, agreed to provide the funds for the rental and for the group’s daily necessities.

The band members made their way to Mill Valley during the first weeks of April 1967. Barry was deathly afraid of flying and drove all the way from New York with Peter Strazza.

The musicians initially joined Michael and Susan in the house on Wellesley Court, where a number of Bengal musicians working with Grossman were also briefly quartered. Within a few weeks, however, Bloomfield had individual houses for his men. The band members – all seven of them – were probably in place in Mill Valley by mid-April and by the end of the month were beginning to woodshed on various R&B and soul tunes while developing the band’s sound. They also set to work on a new tune by Nick Gravenites called “Groovin’ Is Easy.”

 

Hollywood calls

In late April, though, an unusual opportunity arose. Actor Peter Fonda was looking around San Francisco for a band to replace Gram Parsons' International Submarine Band on the soundtrack for a film he was doing in Los Angeles with Jack Nicholson and Roger Corman. Titled “The Trip,” the movie – about the new drug LSD – was typical of Corman’s quick, cheaply-made features concerning lurid subjects. Fonda, however, was taking the picture seriously as an artistic endeavor and wanted the soundtrack to embody the true counterculture experience.

He may have encountered the nascent Electric Flag jamming in some capacity at a local venue at the end of April. They had no official name yet, and they had no repertory, but the group must have seemed like an exciting alternative to Gram Parsons’ band. The ISB’s sound had been deemed too staid by Corman for the movie’s controversial topic. Parsons’ close friend, actor Brandon de Wilde, had a small, uncredited part in the movie; it was he who had originally suggested the ISB to Corman. Ironically, it may have been Parsons himself who introduced Fonda to the Flag, for the band had been rehearsing at Gram’s Laurel Canyon home in April.

Through Albert Grossman, Fonda arranged for the band to provide the music for the soundtrack to “The Trip.”

 

Experimenting in the studio

Bloomfield threw himself into the project with relish. He had been inspired by the work of producers Phil Spector and Bob Crewe and he knew what groups like the Beach Boys and the Beatles had done in the studio. He was eager to experiment.

Michael moved the band temporarily to Los Angeles and began work on the soundtrack recording in late April or early May, probably at United Artists’ studios on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. The UA facility was one that was frequently used for soundtracks and was outfitted with excellent equipment. “The Trip” soundtrack was to be issued on Mike Curb’s Sidewalk label, a Capitol Records subsidiary.

Peter Fonda arranged for the Flag to camp out in a huge, Spanish castle-like house in the Hollywood Hills. The rambling structure, located just a stone’s throw from another castle domicile that had once belonged to actor Bela Lugosi, was nearly empty. Each band member was set up in his own suite of rooms; Barry Goldberg wound up in the basement, quarters they called “the dungeon.”

Much was going on in Los Angeles in the spring of 1967. Other visitors to the City of Angels included Andy Warhol and members of his Factory retinue. They were in the city for a series of performances and openings, and they were also beginning work on a film called “Imitation of Christ.” One of its players was to be a Warhol superstar, the German actress and model Nico.

Nico was spending some time with friends on the Sunset Strip, and somehow hooked up with the Electric Flag. She may have known Michael from his days in New York with the Butterfield band when Warhol parties were de rigueur for all up-and-coming stars. However Nico made the connection, one morning Barry Goldberg awoke to find her standing at the foot of his bed in the dungeon.

For the time that the band was in Los Angeles recording the soundtrack, Nico insisted on driving their van back and forth from the castle to the studio. Her exotic presence must have made the project seem even more surreal than it already was.

Corman’s movie had been shot in Los Angeles over a seventeen-day period, beginning probably in mid-March 1967 and finishing up in early April. By the time Bloomfield and crew began working on the film’s score, parts of the movie had been edited and were available for screenings for the musicians. By the end of May, Corman himself had moved on to other things and had largely left it to Fonda and Nicholson to complete the project.

Paul Beaver, a former jazz organist, was at that time working as a sound effects man for the Hollywood movie studios and was very interested in electronic music. Bloomfield learned about him – probably through Corman’s people – and hired him to play on the soundtrack. In the spring of 1967, Beaver acquired one of the very first synthesizers built by Robert Moog and Michael decided to use it extensively in the music for the film.

It’s likely that Bloomfield, Barry Goldberg and Harvey Brooks were the first to lay down tracks in the studio with Beaver. They worked up a number of improvised, impressionistic pieces that used the Moog as a fully realized instrument. Beaver didn’t just create movie sound effects – he contributed musical elements, raising the Moog from an electronic novelty to a full-fledged member of the band.

Recording sessions for “The Trip” reportedly lasted 10 days.

 

The Flag’s first release

The studio sessions for “The Trip” must have been completed sometime in mid-May 1967. Michael Bloomfield did the soundtrack’s mixing and production at Capitol through the last weeks of that month, and probably finished up in June.

The movie was released in early August, opening in New York on August 8, and received mixed reviews. Peter Fonda gave a number of controversial interviews following its opening in which he touted the revelations afforded by acid trips as an alternative to conventional therapy. Those provocative statements, and scenes of brief nudity and love-making, would eventually get “The Trip” banned by the National Catholic Office of Motion Pictures.

But Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper had forged an artistic relationship that would lead to the counterculture hit “Easy Rider” several years later. That film would blend music and narrative in ground-breaking ways. And the three actors had been in the studio much of the time while the Flag was recording “The Trip,” no doubt being influenced in their pop music tastes by the forceful personality of Michael Bloomfield.

The Flag’s music dominated “The Trip” – it was in nearly every scene. Roger Corman was quite pleased with the result and felt the soundtrack helped viewers interpret the on-screen action to a much greater degree than most film scores do. He later said that the rapid cutting technique used in the psychedelic portions of the film provided the composer with a particularly difficult challenge. And Michael Bloomfield was the composer of nearly all the film’s music.

The Sidewalk Records soundtrack appeared soon after the film’s debut. Though it received only modest promotion and little critical notice, it did catch the attention of some reviewers. One columnist declared it to be “an album of many moods and many emotions” and added that “the shaking impact of the movie lies in the music.”

The recording was also something of a musical landmark. “The Trip” was one of the first records (perhaps the first) to feature the Moog synthesizer. Within a year there would be dozens of synthesizer albums by everyone from the Monkees and Beatle George Harrison to the esoteric music of groups like the United States of America and San Francisco’s Fifty Foot Hose, culminating in the huge commercial success of Wendy Carlos’s “Switched-On Bach.” Paul Beaver would go on to become a busy session player, and he and fellow electronic musician Bernie Krause would create a number of major-label recordings of their own. But it was “The Trip” that pioneered the new technology.

The record was also one of the most adventurous for pop music in 1967, sampling freely from jazz, rock, blues and classical idioms, and doing so with wit and intelligence. It very much favored the eclectic approach toward American musical forms that Bloomfield wanted the new band to embody. That Michael could create such unusual and wide-ranging pieces said much for his appreciation and knowledge of those forms, and displayed his characteristic fearlessness when it came to experimentation.

 “The Trip” would stand as the Electric Flag’s only full-length recording for more than half a year. The band members would struggle from July 1967 through March of the following year to finish their first Columbia album, and during that time would be performing constantly, mostly around the Bay area and in Los Angeles, but also on the road in New York, Boston, Detroit and other cities. It would not be until April 1968 that the Flag would have another album on the market.

 

Debuting at Monterey

Soon after “The Trip” sessions were completed, Bloomfield’s band played their first official gig – at a historic three-day music industry showcase.

Oddly enough, The Electric Flag’s public debut would come not at the Fillmore Auditorium or some other manageable San Francisco rock venue. Hoping to create a buzz for the new band, Albert Grossman arranged for their premiere performance to occur at the first great ’60s counterculture extravaganza – the Monterey Pop Festival.

Organized by Lou Adler and John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, a group managed by Adler, the festival had been on the drawing board since March 1967 when producers Alan Pariser and Ben Shapiro originally proposed the idea. By June, Pariser and Shapiro were out and the event had evolved into a major showcase for new rock talent, with record industry executives hoping to discover emerging stars and vying to sign promising acts. The roster for the three-day event favored West Coast and progressive rock bands, and while there would be plenty of excitement on the main stage, the real action would take place backstage as musicians made contacts and record companies hawked contracts.

Bloomfield and company had almost no time to prepare for what was clearly going to be a very important gig. Grossman had arranged for Clive Davis of Columbia and Jerry Wexler from Atlantic to see the Flag perform, and it was expected that two of the country’s major record labels would then haggle over the right to sign the group. The terms of the resulting contract with the winning company were expected to be very lucrative for the members of the band and for Albert Grossman. The Electric Flag would need to put on a great performance.

But first, they needed a name. Billed awkwardly as “The American Music Band” in the film credits for “The Trip,” the band came upon its distinctive sobriquet by chance. Gravenite’s Chicago friend, Ron Polte, had a novelty American flag on a pole that flapped in the breeze provided by an electric fan in its base. It may have been filched from an American Legion hall (as Bloomfield claimed in one interview) or purchased from the brothers of a fraternal organization (as Bloomfield claimed in another), but whatever its provenance the flag served as the inspiration for the group’s official moniker. Polte, who at the time was the manager of the San Francisco group Quicksilver Messenger Service, gave it to the band. At many of the Flag’s gigs, it would be placed atop Barry Goldberg’s Leslie speaker cabinet and would be switched on at an appropriately dramatic moment during a performance.

The flag wasn’t used at Monterey, though. And the band’s name nearly wasn’t used either. The group was billed simply as “The Mike Bloomfield Thing” in the festival’s program. Apparently the band’s official name was decided upon only days before its Monterey appearance.

The material the Flag would perform was decided upon right before the gig, too. Because almost all their time together had been spent working on the pieces for “The Trip,” the band had to scramble to assemble enough tunes to make up a convincing set. They had already been practicing Gravenites’ “Groovin’ Is Easy” and Bloomfield came up with an arrangement of an old Sticks McGhee tune called “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee,” but the majority of the tunes would have to be blues and soul music covers. Buddy Miles must have had an extensive repertory of tunes from his time with Wilson Pickett and likely contributed one or two R&B numbers. Nappy Brown’s “(The Night Time Is) The Right Time,” a minor hit for Ray Charles, may have been one that Miles suggested. He sang lead on that tune while Nick did the Marjorie Hendricks part. The other pieces included an original soul ballad written by Bloomfield. Called “Over-Lovin’ You,” the song would become the B-side of the Flag’s initial single release.

 

A not-so-groovy set

The weekend of the Monterey Pop Festival saw the small beach town inundated with hippies, pseudo-hippies, musicians, hangers-on and gawkers of all sorts. By Saturday, June 17, the first full day of the festival, it was conservatively estimated that as many as 55,000 people were in attendance. There had never been such a large crowd for a single concert before.

The members of the Electric Flag reportedly arrived a few days before the opening of the festival. Producer Lou Adler got them accommodations in a local motel, and they filled the time by hobnobbing and rehearsing their set – in Buddy Miles’ room. Norman Dayron, who accompanied the band to Monterey, recalled that Michael often didn’t plug in during these much-needed run-throughs – the band simply watched his hands and knew when to come in.

Filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, hired to create a feature-length documentary of the Monterey Pop Festival, also arrived early. He befriended Bloomfield and the other Flag members and spent the days leading up to the event hanging out with them.

The Electric Flag was scheduled to close the Saturday afternoon series of performances, a program that was touted as a concert of blues. The show began with Canned Heat; they were followed by Country Joe and the Fish, Al Kooper (a last minute addition) with Elvin Bishop and Harvey Brooks sitting in, Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, the new Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Quicksilver Messenger Service and finally the Steve Miller Blues Band. It was late afternoon before the Electric Flag took the stage, and anticipation was high. The band had grown exceedingly nervous.

Michael, Barry Goldberg and Harvey Brooks had spent a good portion of the afternoon in a small room backstage chatting with Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. The famous and soon-to-be-famous were everywhere. Otis Redding was making the rounds. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were there, the Byrds were hanging out and Mama Cass was everywhere. Friends and musicians from the San Francisco scene made it seem like old home week. Many were tripping, and everyone was passing joints. The atmosphere was indeed very groovy.

At one point, Bloomfield went out front to check out his old employer’s new band – ironically, a blues band with horns. Paul Butterfield’s performance was exemplary, and the addition of horns meshed well with the group’s Chicago blues sound. Michael was shaken. Former Chicago resident Steve Miller also played a solid set. Michael began to wonder if the Flag would cut it.

The afternoon had been warm, and the combination of the heat, the long wait and the friendly competition took a toll on the band’s confidence. The musicians who made up the Electric Flag were used to thinking of themselves as superior players. Peter Strazza and Marcus Doubleday were as comfortable playing jazz as they were rock, blues, soul and R&B. Barry Goldberg was a veteran of the Chicago blues scene and had been leader of the Goldberg/Miller Blues Band with Steve Miller. He had recorded hit tunes with Mitch Ryder. Harvey Brooks was a New York session bassist who had played on some of Bob Dylan’s most important recordings. Buddy Miles was hugely talented, ambitious and consumed with the desire to be the center of attention. And they were all in a band with Mike Bloomfield, America’s finest guitarist.

But now they were under-rehearsed, tired and unsure whether they could meet the audience’s expectations or, for that matter, their own.

By many accounts, they didn’t. And by many accounts, it didn’t matter.

Chet Helms, the San Francisco promoter whose Family Dog concerts at the Avalon Ballroom rivaled Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium shows, had been emceeing throughout the afternoon. But now he gave over introduction duties to festival producer John Phillips.

“You’re going to hear a man whom I think is one of the two or three best guitar players in the world,” said Phillips. “And you are going to hear some people that he thinks are one of the best bands in the world. And I do too. You’re going to hear an awful lot of it, and it’s called the Electric Flag.”

The band appeared on stage and Michael grabbed a mic. The excitement and tension of the moment – and probably not a little backstage indulging – rendered him somewhat less than articulate.

“We’re really nervous, but we love you all, man! ’Cause this is very groovy, man – Monterey is very groovy, man. This is something, man! This is our generation, man. All you people, we’re all together, man! It’s groovy and dig yourselves, ’cause it’s really groovy.”

With that the Electric Flag charged into its first number. Bloomfield later painfully recalled that his first solo note was a clunker after his pick caught in his Les Paul’s strings. But the audience was charged up after a long afternoon of blues-rock and all the hype surrounding the Flag, and they were in no mood to be disappointed. They cheered at everything the band did.

And the Flag did give it their all. Buddy Miles beat his drums like a man possessed. He sang with such wild abandon that his processed hair stood straight up, making him look like a human exclamation point. Critic Robert Christgau reported that Bloomfield was so excited “he looked as if he were about to blow up like a balloon.” Harvey Brooks wore a Cheshire cat grin throughout the set while Nick Gravenites bobbed and rocked, looking like he might swallow his microphone. Only the horn players appeared cool and unmoved by the electricity of the moment.

Of the tunes the band played, only “Groovin’ Is Easy,” “Night Time Is the Right Time,” “You Don’t Realize” and the closer, “Wine,” are known.

 

Monterey’s aftermath

In forty-five minutes it was all over. Seconds after the final chorus of “Wine” crashed to a halt, the huge crowd was on its feet calling for more. The band quickly left the stage, all smiles and waves. They were clearly relieved.

The Flag had played everything they had prepared and had nothing in reserve for an encore. So only reluctantly did they return to the stage for one final number (one reviewer noted that the normally ebullient Buddy Miles had to be pushed from the wings). Reports are that the band, at a loss, simply repeated one of the tunes it had done during its set.

The audience loved them. Other musicians, watching from the wings, loved them. David Crosby announced later during the Byrds’ set, “Man, if you didn’t hear Mike Bloomfield’s group, man, you are out of it, so far out of it.” Even the critics begrudgingly loved them.

But Michael Bloomfield was deeply disturbed. He knew what the Electric Flag was capable of, and he knew that in their brief set at Monterey they had fallen short of that standard. He saw for the first time in his career that over-heated publicity could obscure mediocre artistry. The hype surrounding the Flag’s appearance became what the performance was about – the band’s actual playing ran a distant second. And appended to all the hoopla was the name Michael Bloomfield.

It must have been embarrassing to the man who considered himself one of America’s best guitar players.

But that didn’t matter. Not to Albert Grossman. Not to record executives Clive Davis and Jerry Wexler. Not even to Barry Goldberg, who later told author Ed Ward in “Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero” that he felt Mike was unduly hard on the band’s performance.

“I would say it was an average set for us. It was definitely better than most of the bands that were there …” And the evidence indicates he was right. Judging from D.A. Pennebaker’s footage, the Flag was tight, balanced and very exciting. And many of the other better known bands that took the stage that weekend exhibited inferior musicianship and turned in uneven performances – the Byrds were a prime example.

But a nagging realization had begun to grow in Michael Bloomfield’s consciousness for the first time: celebrity can trump artistry. And apparently he was now a celebrity.

Oddly, that celebrity didn’t carry over onto the silver screen. D.A. Pennebaker had filmed the Flag’s set along with most of the other performances at Monterey for the feature-length movie that Adler and Phillips had hired him to create. Pennebaker was aware of the hype surrounding Bloomfield and company in the days leading up to the festival and he fully intended to include some of the Flag’s performance in his finished movie. Difficult negotiations with manager Albert Grossman may have played a part in the band’s conspicuous absence from Pennebaker’s ground-breaking documentary, but there were other circumstances involved. It was months after the festival, during raw footage screening sessions at Max’s Kansas City in New York City, that Pennebaker decided to cut the Electric Flag from the film entirely.

As he tells it, he was projecting rushes of performances by the Flag and the Butterfield Band on the screen when author and personality Truman Capote wandered in.

“Oh, don’t they look tacky!” said Truman, grimacing at Bloomfield’s crew on the screen.

“Truman,” Pennebaker replied, “You don’t know anything about music.”

“I may not know music,” said the caustic Capote, “But I know tacky!”

Soon thereafter, the Flag’s portion of “Monterey Pop” lay on the cutting room floor.

Continued on page 2

Page 1Page 2 Page 3 Electric Flag on CD Next Printable version

© 2008 David Dann

Michael Bloomfield Discography & Performance History

1958-1965

1966-1967

1968-1969

1970-1974

1975-1978

1979-1981

Sources

Printable version


A selection of remembrances of Michael Bloomfield from contributors to this site


A detailed look at the studio and live versions of the Butterfield Blues Band's "East-West"


An interview with producer Norman Dayron by Ralph Heibutzki


A check list of currently available recordings by Michael Bloomfield


© 2008 David Dann

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