The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hot Fuckin Tuna

Assorted Valley Tuna Shit



Back around 1968, if you were to have asked serious rock fans who the best three guitar players were, you would probably hear most suggest Jimi Hendrix (many would still say that today) Eric Clapton (a bigger star today than he was then) and probably a third name far less well known today, Jorma Kaukonen of the Jefferson Airplane.

In their heyday Jefferson Airplane was dominated by its three prolific singer songwriters, Grace Slick, Marty Balin and Paul Kantner, who mostly overshadowed the extraordinarily creative and complex lead guitar playing of Kaukonen and the band's bass player Jack Cassady. But if you listen to the Airplane today, the 60's "Up Against the Wall" credo of the Slick/Balin/Kantner axis often sounds dated, while Kaukonen and Cassady's wonderful guitar playing has passed the test of time beautifully. Kaukonen and Cassady quit the Airplane in disgust when the Airplane morphed into the commercial hit-machine Starship, voluntarily exiling themselves to their side project Hot Tuna, whom Rolling Stone magazine once called "America's longest lived cult band."

Hot Tuna never had any hit records and never wanted any. Kaukonen rejected the record industry's star-making machinery, touring and recording only when he felt like it and strictly on his own terms. So while tragedy transformed Hendrix into a permanent icon, forever frozen at his peak by death; and Clapton aggressively pursued and obtained mainstream megastardom, Kaukonen remained on the fringes of the music industry. Yet Hot Tuna won a hard-earned reputation as one of the ultimate guitar bands, despite never being widely recognized by the general public. Kaukonen always had a following here in the Valley however, performing at places like the Iron Horse and the old Quonset Hut on Rte. 9. Hot Tuna played in Springfield several times, most memorably at the Civic Center with Bob Weir and at the Paramount (now Hippodrome) with Taj Mahal.

But no one as good as Jorma Kaukonen could remain underground forever, and in fact a Jorma revival is now underway, led by a new generation delighted to rediscover what an older generation forgot. Now all of Jorma's old solo albums, most of which have never been available on CD, are finally being re-released in order to blow the minds of modern listeners.

The latest re-release is 1974's QUAH, which was Jorma's first solo effort following the crash of the Jefferson Airplane. It is one the few records Jorma made without Jack Cassady, featuring instead the late San Francisco folk legend Tom Hobson. It also includes wonderfully erzatz album cover art by Jorma's late wife, psychedelic poster artist Margareta.

The oddness of the album cover art matches the eclectic music of the record itself. The opening song "Genesis" is as fine an acoustic love ballad you could want and it's worth buying the CD for that song alone.

But there is so, so much more. The rest of the record is an amazing blend of styles and sounds ranging from the primal blues of Rev. Gary Davis covers to stoner songs like "Flying Clouds" and "Hamar Promenade," to the outright daffy guitar showpiece "Sweet Hawaiian Sunshine." There are also previously unreleased songs from the original recording sessions, including an instrumental that later appeared with lyrics on Hot Tuna's The Phosphorescent Rat and a deeply weird but profound cowboy tune called "Barrier." There is even an unintentionally corny hidden track that I'll let you discover for yourself.

No date for the following photos of Hot Tuna, but I do know that they were taken at the Music Inn in Lenox in the mid-70's. I kid you not, but the show was so loud that the surrounding farmers complained in the paper that the next day their cows wouldn't give milk. Guess cows don't like Hot Tuna. I admit it was a show that probably damaged my hearing, but if so it was worth it. I don't think I've ever had as much fun at a concert since.




Here's an old review of a concert I went to where Hot Tuna was the back-up band for the Allman Brothers.



Damn, I was hoping to produce for you a big ol’ concert review, but frankly I’m not much prepared to write it. The truth is I really didn’t act much like a music reviewer at this concert. I talked to people, walked around and at times just plain ignored what was happening on stage. Therefore the best I can do is offer you these handful of observations, and I hope you can get something out of that.

I’m no expert on these things, but security in the parking lot seemed tighter than it needed to be.

I thought there might be a lot of drunken yahoos running around, but the vibe was more Grateful Dead than Molly Hatchet.

Shame on the people who lingered outside and missed Hot Tuna.

Hot Tuna’s Mike Falzarano is a good vocalist, but personally I prefer that all songs be sung by Jorma.

The Meadows is a great place to see shows, even if you have lawn seats. God bless the giant overhead TV screen. Sound quality was also excellent.

Unfortunately, the person running the TV seemed not to know what to show in relation to what was happening on stage. Sometimes the camera was on drummers during a guitar solo or similar mismatch of image and sound.

Hate to say it, but the absence of Dicky Betts was not as profoundly felt as you might have expected.

When did the Allman Brothers get so psychedelic? That was not their original image. A band for bikers maybe, or for good ol’ boys for sure, but flower power acid heads? No, that's something new, a transparent attempt to cash in on the void left by the demise of the Dead. Still, the Allman Brothers is such a great band, I forgive them for whatever they've had to do commercially to survive. Besides, their light show was as trippy as anything the Dead used to do, so even though the Allman’s may be guilty of copying a trend, they are not lowering their standards.

"Whipping Post" was an obvious and perfect encore.

Therefore, let me close by simply saying that a good time appeared to be had by all.



Below is a ticket stub from a very, very loud show in Springfield, Massachusetts. I actually feared afterwards that I had damaged my hearing, but it returned to normal within a few days.



Did you know there is a plant called Hot Tuna?



Houttuynia is a plant that tastes nothing like hot tuna; the botanical name merely resembles the words "hot tuna." It's a lot easier to remember and say than houttuynia.

Although hot tuna doesn't taste like hot tuna, it is, in fact, edible. The plant is native from Japan down to Java, and across Asia to Nepal, and people in those regions eat the boiled leaves or use them as flavoring. Some people find the flavor to be citrus-y; to others, it is more reminiscent of cheap perfume laced with diesel fuel.

Some cautions must be exercised in planting hot tuna. The plant can be invasive. It spreads vigorously by underground suckers, and although growing only about a half a foot high, it can climb over and engulf a dwarf shrub. Also, hot tuna's wild colors would not be welcome everywhere -- it's not a visually sedate plant.

With these two cautions in mind, you might want to give hot tuna a try, mostly for its looks and maybe even to eat.


Here's the musical Hot Tuna.



Tragic

Have you seen Brendan Fraser lately?



Undressed for Success

Mugshot of a woman arrested this week in Springfield for drug dealing.



Signs

Somebody got obscene with this crosswalk sign in Northampton.



MassBike had a table set up this morning at the Hamp Farmer's Market.



I'm stunned by the closing of the Aurora Borealis store in downtown Hamp.



Thus the Obama Depression claims another victim. Rolando's in downtown Amherst has been closed for some time.



But I notice that inside it still has this poster hanging up of what I assume is an imaginary farm.



Actually I may have known a few dealers who worked on that farm. Of course still open is the nearby Pub, which boasts of being open since 1968.



Despite the 60's pedigree, The Pub has always had the reputation of being a rowdy fratboy bar. Here signs of peace in several languages hang beneath the gay pride flag at Amherst's Unitarian Church.



At Amherst's Newbury Comix a poster advertizes the new Dinosaur Jr. CD in the band's hometown.



Haymarket Scenes

A Cape Cod Grateful Dead shirt in Northampton's Haymarket Cafe yesterday.



Michael on the Haymarket tip jar.



True love.

6 comments:

Fishy said...

I LOVE HOT TUNA!

Anonymous said...

Regarding The Allman Brothers: I disagree, the Allmans were always, from the beginning, full bore psychedelic hippie freaks. Their derivatives, (Lynard Skynard, et al) may have been red necks, and Dickie Betts may have been a bit more country-flavored than many of his contemporaries, but the Allmans were always a freak band…..

Anonymous said...

hot tuna,the best band to have been completely ignored by classic rock radio.And what kind of dick disses the allmans? Along with van morrison they are one of the few bands i could listen to all day and not be bothered to "change the station".

Tommy said...

Hey I love the Allman's too, I just don't consider them psychedelic.

Anonymous said...

Bit of a quibble or FYI but, even though he didn't play on Quah, Jack Casady was the producer...

Anonymous said...

tom: loved reading your blog. i was also at the springfield tuna show and it was so loud up fron that i actually had to move back - something that i have never had to do at any other concert. also, i have a recording of the allman bros show you saw and would be happy to send it to you. email me if interested: pontil@aol.com

best regards,
doug