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Godzilla in the Attic

  04/23/10 16:35, by , Categories: Music News, BFMN Exclusive, Ed Lapple, Bands , Tags: allman brothers, bill graham, godzilla, grateful dead, janis joplin, jefferson airplane, john brand, san francisco light works, santana

Wow, I just had an encounter with Godzilla. He’s in my attic. I realize that this will probably drift, Lord knows, maybe 270 degrees from this column’s normal, rather erratic, course but I am compelled to share this adventure with someone and, tag, you’re it!

Perhaps you’ve seen a television show on SYFY called “Warehouse 13.” It features a big government warehouse filled with spooky items; sort of an “X-Files” meets “Moonlighting.” Well, this is my life. I have a spooky warehouse filled with my collection of electronic junk.

Now, I must confess to you that I lied in this article’s title. You guessed it; there is no attic. Oh, Godzilla is real all right, and he is full-on psychedelic, but there is no attic. The warehouse does have a 16-foot-high ceiling, however, so as this large body of mine is slowly swaying atop an extension ladder, trying not to bump into the fire sprinklers, you might excuse my reference to an “attic.”

Godzilla and goosebumps await your click…

You have to get a picture of this warehouse firmly in your mind. It is my repository of electronic toys from the recording, broadcasting and motion picture industry’s last one hundred years. It contains items from a century of media production. Here’s a smattering:

8 Edison Dictaphones, the earliest from 1912







A pair of wire audio recorders




40 electrical transcriptions (glass records), master recordings from the “Dick Haymes AutoLite Battery Show” radio program 1944-47














F. G. Back Video Analyzer 1949, I only know of three of these



Studio Master Recordings of the music for the show “The Outer Limits”





The shower stall from the television series “M*A*S*H”

Allen Heath Burnell Monitor Mixer from the Rolling Stones 1978 tour







There are also 1″, ¾", and ½” VTRs, several thousand hours of tapes and films, a 16mm print of “Reefer Madness” and a print of Bela Lugosi’s “Murder by Television.” It goes on and on and on, but I was not aware of Godzilla. I should explain here that I am not typing a tale about that oversized lizard that terrified Raymond Burr.

This story centers around a man who is a genuine, total, rock and roll legend who was referred to, by his competitors, as Godzilla.

In the pedestrian world, his name was Mr. Bill Graham and he was the impresario who promoted over a thousand concerts. Think the Fillmore, East and West here. Think Winterland.

He was instrumental in starting the careers of The Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Country Joe & the Fish, Janis Joplin, Santana, The Allman Brothers and it goes on and on. I cannot afford to go into Mr. Graham’s history here. I am paid by the word to write this column and I am only allowed a certain amount of words. If I exceed that limit, they start charging me by the word and if I really started to describe Graham’s career I would probably have to file bankruptcy long before I reached the eulogy. I suggest that you Google him.

I first learned of Bill’s secret name of Godzilla when I was co-promoting a Deep Purple concert at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds back in, I think it was ‘73. We were advertising on KOME radio in San Jose. (I loved their slogan, “This is KOME radio 98.5, put a little come in you ear.") While delivering some giveaway tickets to the station, one of the jocks remarked, “Do you guys know what you are doing? You’re going up against Godzilla.” Bill Graham was doing a concert that same night and sane promoters didn’t attempt to promote while he was feeding.

Well, sanity has never been one of my virtues and anyway, we were committed, or should have been. Fortunately, that little glow-in-the-dark crucifix on my dashboard must have worked because we sold out (so did Bill), and as 5,500 rock fans exited, I accompanied Purple’s manager to the limo with a shopping bag containing thousands in cash. But that’s not today’s story, the Purple story is located in a map case on the floor behind the piano. Godzilla’s story was sixteen feet above me, in a dusty cardboard box that, when opened, spewed forth the psychedelic colors that changed a generation.

I’m in my office typing now, “Stormy Monday Blues” is playing on iTunes, the triple flat screens are the only source of illumination and my feet hurt from half an hour of standing atop the ladder, unperturbed to a possible “Humpty Dumpty” moment, and impervious to the growing pain in my feet.

One of Bill’s prime concert trailblazing modifications was a psychedelic light show, which was normally provided by the San Francisco Light Works. Those gliding, swirling oil and water colors have been immortalized as representative of the San Francisco scene in the sixties. Prior to that, bands stood in front of drab curtains. Flash forward to today’s elaborate stage graphics presentations and the images are virtually without limits. The genesis of this staging was Bill Graham, the Fillmore Auditorium and San Francisco Light Works.

Several years ago I was a buyer at an auction of a lighting company in San Francisco. Among the numerous slide projectors, tape recorders, lenses and cameras that I purchased, I also bought the contents of their attic. In the midst of those contents was a cardboard box, the kind that is used to hold old files. That box made its way to the heights of my warehouse and tonight I opened that box for the first time. Inside was a treasure trove of rock and roll’s psychedelic history.

There were Fillmore handbills, numerous 8″x10″ spiral patterned slides, contracts for services, equipment rental bills, colored inks and oils and, possibly the most touching, a hand-written instruction sheet from John Brand, the innovator behind San Francisco Light Works, on how to produce their signature lighting effects. How much oil to add to the water and when to swirl it so that the colors would blend at just the right time. That’s right folks, no CGI was involved here; just water, oil, ink, slides and projectors, plus the touch of human hands.

I’m surprised that I did not topple from the ladder as I realized that I held in my hands a map of the heart and soul of Godzilla’s many-colored coat. The story of these light show pioneers has never been told on a wide basis. I’m going to contact History Channel and see if they might be interested in a documentary on this. It’s all here, right in this cardboard box.

I feel like I have just touched a little magic and I couldn’t think of anyone I would rather share that experience with than my friends right here. I hope that you got just a few of the goosebumps that I did from this. Thanks for reading.



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Comment from:

Wow, that’s seriously cool!

04/26/10 @ 18:53
Comment from: Splatter Day Saint
Splatter Day Saint

Wow, what a great find, Bill Graham is one of my heroes, and his autobiography has been a “bible” of mine since i started promoting. Very interesting stuff brother!

05/25/10 @ 10:54
Comment from: Christine Drago  
Christine Drago

FYI: John Brand did not write those instructions, I did. I was his partner and wife from 1968-1973. Contact me if you are actually interested in light show technology or history.

07/26/10 @ 22:00
Comment from: KL

I have current contact information on JB if you’re interested. He was my employer and boss for many years. I probably packed up the box you bought at the auction. And yes, hauling all the projectors, oils, slides, etc., up to the balconies of Winterland and other venues was backbreaking. After the concerts were over there was hours of teardown, but it was worth it… ahhh, the stories John can tell. LOL

08/05/10 @ 15:31
Comment from: John Brand  
John Brand

Hi, I am the real John Brand of San Francisco Light Works. The auction that you mentioned was the sell off of the assets of my AV company Brand Presentation Service which I had sold a couple of years earlier. The San Francisco Light Works equipment had been stored at BPS but heroic un-named persons spirited away that stuff just before the auction so it would not be lost. It all remains intact in an undisclosed location in Southern California. The box that you got was missed in the evacuation.

What was not mentioned in your article was that Oliver Stone hired us to do the light show effects for his movie “The Doors". Bill Graham recommended us to him. If you have a HD TV you can read our name in the credits at the end of the film. It’s pretty small type. It was great fun to do the film, though. Val Kilmer actually did his own on camera singing.

I am living in New Zealand now and still bore younger people with my tales of psychedelica.

08/06/10 @ 22:37

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