Quicksilver Messenger Service this week. One of the milestone bands of the San Francisco Sound which dominated the West Coast in the mid-late 1960s. With John Cipollina on lead guitar, QMS pioneered a distinctive sound that became something of a prototype for other bands to emulate over the years.
And of course, we took them for granted.
It was only natural. Quicksilver was one of those bands who frequently played the circuit between the Bay Area and L.A. on any given weekend. The Fillmore one week, the Shrine Expo Hall the next week, usually opening or second in a three band lineup that was often headlined by the likes of Traffic, or The Move or The Moody Blues or The Jeff Beck Group – Quicksilver was the perfect compliment. But it was always Cipollina who made it different. He was a consummate artist; a musicians musician.
Years later, when I was interviewing the Welsh group, Man, their leader Deke Leonard expressed without reservation that the one person he wanted to work with, beyond everybody else was John Cipollina. His reputation extended far across the Atlantic. And when Quicksilver called it quits, it was John Cipollina who found a whole new audience and fans were were familiar with him and the impression Quicksilver Messenger Service made back in 1968 in Europe.
We saw them all the time and we took them for granted – we assumed everybody felt the same way. And even though Quicksilver Messenger Service had one hit, Fresh Air, which came out in 1970, their reputation was firmly in place four years earlier. And maybe they are regarded now as the sort of quintessential “Summer of Love” band, they were a lot more than that.
The last time I saw John Cipollina it was in a screening room in L.A. for a film he was working on. True to form, he was chain smoking Lucky Strike non-filters and engulfing the small room in a cloud of blue smoke. He was concentrating on the music and making sure everything worked. The consummate musician and always the explorer. Sadly, he died a short time later from Emphysema, which many speculated the Luckies had something to do with.
This concert, recorded around the time of the release of their self-titled debut album on Capitol, captures that early spirit the band had and I remembered so fondly. Fortunately, the sound is excellent coming by way of a soundboard and in stereo, it gives a very accurate picture of what one of the most popular and admired bands from the Bay Area were all about and why 1968 was one of the important years in Rock history.
I ain’t lyin’.
Crank it up and enjoy.
Update for July 1, 2019 – Hearing the sad news of the passing of founding member Gary Duncan, who left us on June 29th, I thought I would run this concert again as a tribute and an appreciation to one of the true pioneers of The San Francisco Sound and one of the cornerstones of 60s Rock. Farewell Gary, you’re always with us.