“Come dance with me across my sparkling nerves”: Lenore Kandel and other Digger poets at the Band’s ‘Last Waltz’ (San Francisco, 1976)

Readings by:

Emmett Grogan

Sweet William (Fritsch)

Lenore Kandel

Michael McClure (see below)

Diane di Prima

Freewheelin Frank Reynolds [see below)

(Note: Poets Robert Duncan and Lawrence Ferlinghetti also read)

The Band’s Perfect Goodbye

A Behind-the-Scenes Report by Emmett Grogan

(Oui Magazine)

On December 6, 1969, I attended a concert at a race track in Livermore, near Altamont, California. Three hundred thousand people gathered on the grounds to see and hear rock performers on a crowded stage. Several cameramen were positioned at various angles to record the event as part of a documentary on The Rolling Stones’ concert tour of America. One of the cameramen got lucky. His lens was focused on the right place at the right time. The scene he recorded — the murder of an audience member by Hell’s Angels “security men” — became the dramatic highlight of the documentary Gimme Shelter. Like the photographing of this scene, the Altamont concert itself had happened by accident. And most of it went wrong. Nothing was planned. Everything was winged, improvised on the spot. Like life. Like death.

Six years passed before I went to another concert in the San Francisco Bay area, and this was an orchestrated event in which nothing was left to be played by ear, not even the music. The Band’s Last Waltz was as calculated as a pension. Every aspect of the production was carefully charted, as were the planets governing the stars. Nothing was overlooked or given space to simply happen. The planning was meticulous, the affair thoroughly cased, like a Willie Sutton bank job.

The Last Waltz was not only a hit, it was a major-league home run with the bases loaded. A grand slam. The Los Angeles Times called it “the most prestigious collection of rock stars ever assembled for a single show.” An elegant rambling moved Eric Clapton to remark, “Don’t think there will be anything like it ever again. Ever.” He’s right. There won’t be another gathering quite like it. In the year of Nadia Comăneci, the timing was perfect. According to a professional astrologist, the day was excessively rare. The sort of day you wait for years to happen. The kind of day that won’t happen for perhaps another decade.

Continue reading ““Come dance with me across my sparkling nerves”: Lenore Kandel and other Digger poets at the Band’s ‘Last Waltz’ (San Francisco, 1976)”

“TEAR GAS” by Michael McClure

From the introduction by Floating Bear editor Diane di Prima to the 1973 cloth edition collection of Floating Bear: A Newsletter published by Laurence McGilvery, as reprinted in the Beat Down to Your Soul anthology (ed. Ann Charters):

“‘Tear Gas’ by Michael McClure in Number 37 [March-July 1969] came my way in a kind of interesting way. There was an issue of The Realist, Paul Krassner’s magazine out of New York, that was devoted completely to the Diggers [No. 81/August 1968], and distributed free in San Francisco. And then there was a lot of leftover material that didn’t get into it, most of it unsigned. This leftover stuff was sent to my house in San Francisco by Emmett Grogan, so that Ron Thelin could get hold of it. Ron was one of the editors of the Oracle, but the Oracle had folded by then, and Ron wasn’t doing anything with the manuscript, so he left it with me. I found the piece by Michael, and stuck it in the last Bear…

“I edited Number 37 in San Francisco and deliberately aimed for a West Coast feeling. A whole bunch of the last issue, Number 37. was stamped ‘free’ and left at the Third Eye bookstore on Haight Street because I thought the people of the City of San Francisco should have it. I also left a handful at Cody’s and Moe’s in Berkeley. It was definitely a West Coast issue. The whole free city thing was going strong then, the Diggers and so on, and we wanted to have plenty of copies for everyone.”

Here is “Tear Gas” by Michael McClure, via the Floating Bear archive: