Tag Archives: Wolfgang’s Vault

Objects of Interest

I regularly receive emails from Wolfgang’s Vault, promoting the latest items that it wants me to purchase. Wolfgang’s, if you’re not familiar with it, is the archival trove and then some of concert promoter Wolfgang Grajonca, better known as Bill Graham, he of the Fillmore fame. It is a vast compendium of photos, vinyl, books, merch, and posters from the venues (e.g., The Filmore, Winterland, Avalon Ballroom) at which Graham staged what can now only be considered legendary shows, even though back in the ‘60s they were considered, well, shows.

The posters are the most wonderful objects. Graphic artists including Wes Wilson, Lee Conklin and Rick Griffin created a visual vocabulary on the posters they designed. In addition to the full-size posters, these works of art—yes, commercial art, but be that as it may, they were artists, not just layout jockeys—were printed as 5 x 7-inch postcards, which increased the opportunity for ownership.

In addition to the wildly imaginative lettering and graphics that these objects embody, there is another fascinating aspect to them, which are the performers they promote. As the setting was San Francisco, it is not at all surprising that The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane loom large. Often, the two bands were on the same bill.

But what is in some ways more interesting than the art is the selection of performers on a given night. The Who and Cannonball Adderly. Jimi Hendrix and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Led Zeppelin and Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity (in my humble estimation one of the best groups of the last half of the 20th century that never got its due). The Yardbirds and The Doors. Pink Floyd and Procol Harum. These and many other shows are the stuff that audio dreams are made of, the sorts of events that give rise to “If only. . . .”

As I grew up in Detroit, there was the Grande Ballroom and similar handbills created, many penned by Gary Grimshaw, many including the MC5, which was something of the house band but one that would often get top billing, except in cases like playing second to Cream and Jefferson Airplane. Again, shows that only the imagination can capture.

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The Question of Spending During a Pandemic

This week I received another offer. This time, it wasn’t for a tote bag. Rather, it was a picture, an 11 x 14-inch print. It was clearly one hell of a deal in that there on the page was $433 and directly beneath it “Only $39.”

A couple of points about that. First of all, who comes up with a price like $433 for something, in this case a photographic print. Obviously the print as object doesn’t cost $433, as there is a piece of paper, 5.5 inches wider than a piece of what has historically been known as “typewriter paper,” and some glossy ink on it. Now the photo as subject and as execution certainly might have some value, but again, given that this is a proposal that was widely emailed out to who knows how many people, it is not as though there is some sort of exclusivity to it, unless you think that ordering a McDonald’s without pickles makes it somehow different than the billions sold. Then there is the question of going from $433 to $39. That is a $394 difference. Or approximately a 90% discount. What can you buy that has a 90% discount? It all seems rather bizarre, and all the more so when you know that if you buy the photo for $39 you get (actually this should be in the past tense because by the time you see this the “deal” will have expired) something that the purveyor says is worth $39, so your effective cost is $0, which is a whole lot less than $433 or even $39.

The picture is that of The Who, taken in 1971 at the Oval Cricket Ground, Kensington, London. There’s Roger with his hands above his head in the foreground, with the Ox slightly behind him to the left, presumably moving nothing but his fingers. Between them in the background is Keith, holding a pair of drumsticks crossed above his head. And to Roger’s right and several feet behind him is Pete in flight. It is an oddly static black-and-white photo, and as it is shot from stage left across the stage rather than from the front of the stage, there isn’t a particularly good sense of the musicians at that particular moment.

Which leads me to wonder about who is going to be interested in that picture of The Who, whether it is for $433, $39 or $0. I suspect that it might be people in my generation (no allusion there) who might want it, but then I wonder. I had the opportunity to see The Who—yes, the real The Who, in that it had that lineup, which is the only authentic one in my estimation, though I will accept the post-Moon Kenney Jones band as somewhat legit—and have an interest in music (or so it seems) yet that photo would hold no value for me. Perhaps had I been at that show on September 18 , which was in support of the people of Bangladesh, I would have been interested in the picture, but having learned that the lineup also included The Faces, I might be a bit more interested in a photo of that, though that is unlikely, too. Presumably some fans would be interested.

Continue reading The Question of Spending During a Pandemic

More of Wolfgang’s Vault to be Opened for Downloads

Wolfgang's VaultBillboard reports that Wolfgang’s Vault is opening its entire concert catalog for downloads. Prices will run $7.98 and $8.98 for MP3s and $11.98 and $12.98 for FLAC (lossless) recordings. That seems reasonable.

But wait. Is this really news? They already offer 375 titles for download (out of 2,906 total), including sets by the Kinks, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Fleetwood Mac, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Santana, the Grateful Dead, and other big names in classic rock. Billboard says they’ll “add more than 1,000 titles from 919 artists” on November 3 with more to follow. “The objective is that just about everything we stream we’ll be able to download,” says Vault CEO Bill Sagan. “By Christmas or slightly after Christmas we’ll be closer to three-quarters.”

So it’s not really the entire concert catalog. Holdouts include Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, the Who and Dire Straits. But still. The additions will include “more than 160 Grateful Dead concerts as well as titles from artists such as Santana, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, Journey, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jethro Tull, Chicago, Miles Davis, Dolly Parton, Merle Travis and many others.” So this is definitely a cool development even if Billboard‘s headline is inaccurate.

I’m streaming a 1966 Muddy Waters show right now, and it’s definitely badass.

Stream Free Live Classic Rock

Wolfgang’s Concert Vault – This is pretty cool. You can stream tons of live shows recorded at Bill Graham’s venues like the Fillmore East and Winterland between 1965 and the late 1980s. There’s the classic rock you’d expect (Janis, CSNY, Hendrix, Zeppelin), but also a ton of quirky 80s shit too (Cure, Devo, Echo, Crue!).

You’ve got to register with an email address, but after that it’s free and totally legal.

According to the L.A. Times, “Clear Channel Communications Inc. [sold] Graham’s archives, which had changed hands several times after the promoter’s death,” to the current owner for “about $6 million.”

Downloads are apparently coming soon: “Graham obtained releases to record the bands but separate deals must be cut before he can release the concerts as paid downloads.”

Via the rope.