Sunday, November 13, 2011

November 13, 1971: Doobie Brothers/Blue Mountain/The Beans, Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, CA

A poster for the Doobie Brothers concert at Pauley Ballroom on the UC Berkeley Campus on November 13, 1971. Admission was $1.00
There are little rock concerts on college campuses every night of the week, all over the country. Since rock bands best paydays usually come on weekends, even a poorly paying gig at on a weeknight is better than nothing. In any case, college students are always the biggest consumers of rock music, so if a band puts on a good show, not only will they make some new fans, they will be the kind of fans who tell their friends. So college shows are always worth it for a band, even if the event is pretty unassuming.

For audiences, its more hit or miss, and often tending toward the miss. There are always a million rock bands trying to make it, and most of them aren't that good. Sure, a lot of them aren't terrible, but that doesn't mean they are worth your time. Having an album means that someone at a record company liked them, so that's something, but it could also mean only that someone at the record company thought they could sell a lot of records, a different calculation indeed. However, everyone's got a story about a time a band played that no one had heard of, and later everyone who went could say, "oh, yeah, I don't need to see them at the Coliseum, I saw them for a buck back in college."

On November 13, 1971, the Doobie Brothers played the Pauley Ballroom on the University of California campus in Berkeley. The Ballroom is on the second floor of the Student Union building, and was often used for mundane things like class registration (back before computers) as well as the occasional concert. You could probably stuff 1000 people in there, if you tried, although the campus frowned on that. Nonetheless, student groups who wanted to put on a concert had access to Pauley Ballroom, so their economics were a little different than a regular promoter. That was probably how the Doobie Brothers came to play UC Berkeley on a Monday night.

The cover of The Doobie Brothers debut album on Warner Brothers, released June 1971
The Doobie Brothers
The Doobie Brothers had released their first album on Warner Brothers in June of 1971. This was still a year shy of their breakout "Listen To The Music" hit, from their second album. In 1971, The Doobie Brothers were being pitched as a kind of hard-rocking biker band. The album cover was photographed in an authentic biker bar where the Doobie Brothers used to be the "house band," a notorious Santa Cruz Mountains joint called The Chateau Liberte. The quartet was wearing leather and had the requisite long hair and surly looks that was supposed to give them an air of menace.

In fact, the Doobie Brothers were from San Jose, just South of San Francisco, long before it became Silicon Valley. It was a nice place to live, and the future Doobies were more suburban than biker. Three of the band members, guitarist Tom Johnston, bassist Dave Shogren and drummer John Hartmann, had formed a group to back former Moby Grape guitarist Skip Spence. Their sole attempt at a gig, at the Chateau Liberte in mid-1970, was undermined when the mercurial Spence did not show up. The trio continued to play, however, choosing the now-unfortunate name of Pud. "Pud," at the time, was local slang for marijuana. They added fingerpicking guitarist Pat Simmons, formerly of a local band called Scratch, and attracted attention from Warner Brothers. Warner Brothers was very interested but told the band they couldn't be called Pud. While discussing band names and passing a joint around, they had a burst of fellowship and realized they were all Doobie Brothers. Warners was fine with that.

Rock historian Greg Vick has done great work in uncovering much of the Doobies early tour history. After the debut Doobie Brothers album was released in June, the Doobie Brothers went on a national tour opening for Mother Earth and Long John Baldry from June until August. Their activities are somewhat obscure for the rest of the Fall. I don't know if they returned to regular shows at the Chateau Liberte or not. The mysterious enclave was famously underpublicized, since many of its patrons did not like to attract attention. It was very hard to get to (google 22700 Old Santa Cruz Highway, Los Gatos, CA), so there was no chance that anyone "dropped in" because they were just passing by. Nonetheless, the first sign of life after the Summer tour was this Monday night concert at Berkeley on November 13.

The student union building on the UC Berkeley campus, circa 2009. Pauley Ballroom is on the top floor, with the high windows and the red curtains. The Bear's Lair coffee shop is on the ground floor.
Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley
This photo from March 12, 2009 shows the ASUC Building at the back of Lower Sproul Plaza. Pauley Ballroom fills the rear (nearest to the camera) half of the second floor, with the 30-foot windows. The Bear's Lair coffee shop is in the basement. The ASUC Building was built in the mid-1960s, and its basic layout remains the same today as it was then. Pauley Ballroom is a 9000 square foot ballroom, used by the University of California for a variety of events (for internal pictures, see here; in a concert configuration, the shades would be drawn, and I'm not certain where the stage had been located). The university rates it as a capacity of 999, so probably a few more than that could be squeezed in.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, UC Berkeley had a lot of money for student organizations. If some students were ambitious enough, they could start a little organization and get some money to throw a party, show a movie or book a rock concert. My friends and I were still doing this to a small extent as late as the early 1980s, and that was when the University was starting to catch on. In the previous decade, it had been considerably easier. Campus facilities like Pauley Ballroom were cheap for students, but it was hard to find open dates. Also, the University limited the hours, usually to something like 8:30 to 11:00 pm. Also, students weren't allowed to turn a profit using campus facilities, so any excess had to be turned over to some charity. The Doobie Brothers Pauley show seems to benefit some Anti-Vietnam war organization, but it's important to note that the bands at the concert were almost certainly paid--the "benefit" part was just a university regulation. The trick for student organizers was to spend every penny you earned, if you could.

Many nightclubs were closed on Monday nights, and few bands worked. The Doobie Brothers had gotten their start in the South Bay, and were probably hardly known at all in Berkeley. Regardless of how much or how little they got paid for this show, there almost certainly weren't any other gigs for them on a Monday night, and it was a chance to make some new fans in Berkeley.  Tickets were likely only a $1.00 because the hall rental was probably effectively free and some sort of student organization (funded by UC) had kicked in a few hundred dollars seed money.

The Concert
Rock historian Greg Vick actually attended this show. According to him, the Doobie Brothers were much harder rocking than their first album would have suggested.  Producer Ted Templemann had taken the hard rocking band and focused on country-styled songs with three-part harmonies. Many FM radio listeners who may have dismissed them as CSNY clones would have been quite surprised to hear the music that made the bikers dance. Greg Vick can't have been the only person who was favorably impressed that Monday night in Berkeley.

Shortly after the Pauley show, The Doobie Brothers revised their lineup. Bassist Tiran Porter replaced Shogren, and they added a second drummer (Michael Hossack) as well. The band's second album, Toulouse Street, with "Listen To The Music." was released in June of 1972 was a monstrous hit, and the Doobie Brothers went big time. Their hard rocking sound served them well in concert, since if you were playing a sawdust covered nightclub or a huge hockey arena, double drummers and twin guitars got the point across a lot better than sweet harmonies. Back in Pauley in 1971, though, the Doobies were just another band with a debut album trying to make it.

Blue Mountain was another Bay Area band that was in that CSNY turf with electric guitars and harmonies. They weren't a bad group, really, but not that memorable. The Beans had just arrived from Phoenix, AZ, and the Pauley show was one of their first in the Bay Area. The Beans had been formed from two popular local groups in the Phoenix area, some of whose members joined forces and decided to move to San Francisco to make it.

Amazingly, The Beans really did make it, at least for a while. Greg Vick only saw their last number, a theatrical rock rendition of "There's No Business Like Show Business." Within 18 months, The Beans had gone fully San Francisco and became The Tubes, and for several years they had one of the most memorable live shows in rock history up until that time. Of course, the expense of the performance meant that they never made any money, and by the mid-1980s The Tubes had declined and broken up, but they too had their time in the sun.

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