Rant ‘N’ Roll: In The Beginning…

The Aquarian Weekly started in 1969. I walked through its doors in 1974 with a beautiful Asian girl named Luna to ask its owner if I could write about rock ‘n’ roll. Never having taken any journalism courses, and with but one published feature (a Cranford Chronicle piece about a band called Thulcandra, whom I wrote would be a household name), I got my first assignment: to review The Ike & Tina Turner Soul Revue.

It was New Year’s Eve and I took my new bride (now my ex-wife) to a building on Second Avenue in Manhattan that had been a school for rabbis. Before that it had been The Fillmore East and I had been there stoned out of my mind for so many great shows. Once, tripping on blotter acid, after enjoying Linda Ronstadt and the Woody Herman Big Band, Pink Floyd freaked me out so much I went running into the street screaming and didn’t stop running until I wandered into the nearby jazz club Slug’s where I stood against the wall panting and sweating, letting the soothing sound of some crazy man on saxophone with only the whites of his eyes showing calm me down. It’s a wonder they didn’t kick me out but that’s how I was introduced to Pharoah Sanders, who had just left John Coltrane’s band.

Mesmerized by the bells and whistles and the sax I came back to my senses, lit a cigarette and thought I was in heaven. Then they kicked me out. I calmly walked back to the Fillmore and made my way upstairs to the cheap seats where my friends were in a deep groove.

The song that had freaked me out so much was “Careful With That Ax, Eugene” off the 1969 Ummagumma album. It hadn’t yet been released and I had no idea that the long mellifluous Richard Wright keyboard solo would explode into a big scream. Prior to that, they had played a song where Wright used a stick shift on his organ to send the sound somehow to different parts of the hall. This included what sounded like giant footsteps on the roof of the Fillmore, which caused half the audience looking up as if a huge alien had landed on the roof.

Another time in that hall had been a first-date with a girl from West Orange named Amy. We went to see the Allman Brothers Band and they played all night. No, really, they played all night. We walked out onto Second Avenue dazed and confused, into a blazing sunshine, and I still had to drive her home to her waiting father who sent her upstairs and told me he didn’t want me ever seeing his daughter again. I tried to explain to him that there was this instrumental called “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” where lead guitarist Duane Allman soloed for what seemed like an hour and that was only one song but he wasn’t listening. Then he went to hit me but I split fast, before he could land the punch. Now, she’s a sex therapist, and we recently reconnected on Facebook after over 40 years.

So the first sentence I ever wrote for this newspaper, in the issue dated January 15, 1975, was “Once upon a time there was an area known as The East Village which boasted various head shops, boutiques, hair stylists, record shops and throngs of ‘weekend hippies’ from New Jersey spending their huge allowances in such spots as The Electric Circus…”

Yeah, The Electric Circus! I remember that place. I saw Sly & The Family Stone there once when Jimi Hendrix came in between sets with a gorgeous blonde on his arm in a see-through top to jam with the band on its second set.

I got a million stories from those days. And I hope to tell ‘em every week right here.

Mike Greenblatt would like to make this column interactive. Send him an email at mg2645@ptd.net and your comments, questions, complaints and complements will be part of this column.