Jim Murray - vocals, guitar; John Cipollina - vocals, guitar; Gary Duncan - vocals, guitar; David Frieberg - bass, vocals; Greg Elmore - drums; Guest: Nick Gravenites - vocals on "Walkin Blues" and "Year Of The Outrage"
This run of five shows opening for Jefferson Airplane offers a fascinating glimpse into early Quicksilver Messenger Service. The band was still a quintet, with Jim Murray as primary lead vocalist. Although they had begun developing original songs, were still primarily playing cover material in concert. The repertoire veered toward electrified covers of contemporary folk and blues songs, with a heavy nod to Bo Diddley. The unique, intertwining lead guitar sound of Cipollina and Duncan was already becoming quite distinctive, and one can clearly hear why Quicksilver was being considered one of the most exciting bands in San Francisco at the time.
Because so much of their material from this era remains unreleased, these shows provide a wealth of songs that were previously unavailable commercially. Several classic songs that did appear on their first and second albums are heard here in embryonic form, however, still ripe with potential.
In all reality, these QMS sets help to capture a turning point not only in their contemporary music scene, but in the general culture as well. Artists were just beginning to embrace spontaneity and experimentation in their work, and these 1967 sets reveal the band taking their earliest steps in that direction. To help put these shows in context, the first QMS album was still a year away, and Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow LP had been released that same month, bringing the San Francisco music and dance hall scene into the national spotlight for the first time.
This final Quicksilver Messenger Service set of the run primarily consists of songs the band had performed during the previous four shows, with two notable exceptions. On this show, Electric Flag vocalist and songwriter, Nick Gravenites, sits in with the group on two numbers. Gravenites would work extensively with the band, both as a producer and as a source of material, and eventually join the band for their 1969 Shady Grove album; hearing him sit in at this early juncture is like a fascinating glimpse into the future.
The set kicks off with Willie Cobbs "You Don't Love Me," followed by "All Night Worker." The infectious instrumental "Gold And Silver" is next, still in its embryonic form. For the second time during this run, the rarity "Hey Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut" surfaces, just prior to Gravenites' arrival onstage.
Gravenites then joins the crew, and his gritty vocal greatly enhances a take on "Walkin' Blues." The band, on this number, sounds (not surprisingly) like Thunder and Lightning, a band Gravenites and Cipollina would form nearly two decades later. Played here in its one and only known documented performance, again featuring Gravenites on vocals, "Year Of The Outrage" is a true obscurity. The lyrics are certainly of their time, with Gravenites growling out a litany of circumstances that were beginning to outrage the establishment in regards to the counterculture youth and vice versa while the band vamps along.
Following this rarity, the emcee calls for a round of applause for the band and they in turn encourage applause for "Nick the Greek" and state that they'll play his songs anytime, aptly expressing their thanks and admiration.
The band closes their portion of the show with the bluesy "I Hear You Knockin'" before backing their friend Dino Valenti on his set, which fortunately was partially recorded.
This set is remarkable not only for the fine performances but also for the fact that two future members of the band are heard here years before the fact. Gravenites and Valenti would each have a profound impact on the groups sound in the years to come, and here reveal the remarkable collaborative potency they always shared with one of San Fran's most quintessential bands.