Krsna Culture in Music, Part 2
BY: JAHNAVA DEVI
May 11, 2012 CANADA (SUN)
In Part 1 of this series we began to explore the Hare Krsna influence in popular music, which flowed through the channels of Western counterculture. Today we'll look at a few of the artifacts to be found in the genre of concert posters, handbills, and programs which advertised the presence of the devotees at various musical events. Music lovers may be surprised to learn how many famous bands shared the stage with the Hare Krsnas through the late 1960's and 1970's. The maha-mantra has opened the stage for an amazing number of class acts in the history of rock and roll.
Like the Hollywood Festival mentioned in Part 1 of this series, the presence of the devotees was a highly desirable way of spiritualizing rock, acid and psychedelia music gatherings, and the Vaisnavas were always more than happy to accommodate, and the spread the Holy Name around.
East Meets West
We'll begin with what is arguably the most famous Hare Krsna rock poster of all time, "Krishna Consciousness Comes West - Mantra Rock Dance". This concert took place on January 29, 1967 at the Avalon Ballroom on Sutter at Van Ness in San Francisco. The show was a fundraiser for the San Francisco temple. The Avalon hall was donated for the fundraiser that night by The Family Dog, who ran the venue and promoted hundreds
of now legendary rock concerts there.
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The poster features a wonderful picture of Srila Prabhupada in an optical illusion sphere, sitting with his hand on his head. Srila Prabhupada was joined by the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and her Big Brother band, Moby Grape and Allen Ginsberg.
The "East-West" poster is listed in classic poster catalogs, and collectors pay top dollar for authentic original copies of both the poster and handbill. The poster measures 12-7/8" x 19-13/16" and is printed in two colors on plain white cover stock. The concert handbill measures 8-1/2" x 11", with wide margins. Typical auctions of the poster close in the $150 to $250 range, while the handbill sells in the $75 to $125 range.
Unfortunately, the marketplace is awash with fake copies of this poster. Bootleggers have gone to great lengths to print reproductions on old, weathered paper, and these copies get passed off on Ebay quite regularly.
Throughout 2004, numerous copies of the poster were auctioned off on Ebay by Psychedelic Solutions of Greenwich Village, NY. While their name is well known as one of the oldest New York venues for rock and psychedelia memorabilia, the Solutions folks also have a reputation for passing off likely looking repro's. When this large lot of posters began to hit Ebay, I phoned Psychedelic Solutions to inquire as to their source. They said a cache of about 40 original posters had been discovered down on the Peninsula, where a construction worker was getting ready to tear down a building. There was a footlocker, and in it were about 40 of these posters. They were unused and in good condition. Psychedelic Solutions bought the lot, and began auctioning them off. They claim to have authenticated that these were among the original posters printed by Blind Wheat Press, and that they had not been re-printed.
As a result of this sudden influx, the Ebay market quickly became flooded with more fakes, and we were sorry to see devotees among the unwitting buyers. Unfortunately, the Ebay system makes it difficult to contact members outside of a direct buy-sell relationship, so we couldn't offer a head's up.
A few years ago we were fortunate to acquire a near mint original of the poster, which was authenticated as having hung as a concert promo at the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. It was then held for nearly 40 years by the same person who acquired it from City Lights. The City Lights bookstore opened its doors in San Fran in 1953, and became the first all-paperback bookstore in the U.S. The storefront became a mecca for beatniks and free-thinkers. Needless to say, a great many of Srila Prabhupada's books found their way onto the shelves at City Lights, and many ISKCON event fliers graced their walls. Read more about the history of City Lights here.
This classic handbill advertised the "Pow Wow - A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In". It was held on a chilly but clear Saturday on January 14, 1967 (just two weeks before the famous East-West concert) at the Polo Grounds in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
This event was very important in the counterculture history because it is considered to have been the kick-off the Summer of Love. Numerous bands played at the venue, including the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Charlatans, Big Brother with Janis Joplin, and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
The handbill artist used single words to drop hints about who would be at the festival. On the right side, "Cymbals" foretold the coming of the Hare Krsnas to the Be-In. The devotees were joined by Allen Ginsburg, Timothy Leary, Dick Gregory, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and many others. As usual, the Hells Angels were on the scene, helping to organize traffic and (believe it or not) keep the peace. More than 20,000 people attended the Be-In, which was inspired by the Monterey Pop Festival.
The handbill above was one of two versions done for the event. No concert poster was done. There was an alternate design done by Michael Bowen, one of the show organizers, which featured American Indians. The Pow Wow handbill shown above measures 8 1/2" x 11", on paper.
A few months after the Human Be-In, Bay Area hipsters organized the Bedrock One event, which was held on March 5, 1967 at the California Hall in San Francisco. The event poster, drawn by Robert Crumb, is a counterculture classic.
Measuring about 8 ½" x 11" in black ink on orange paper, the handbill featured an eclectic line-up of talent, including the Steve Miller Band, the Radha Krishna Temple, Richard Brautigan and the Caped Crusaders, Dino Valenti, The Orkustra, the SF League for Sexual Freedom, lights by the Lysergic Power & Light Company, the SF Mime Troupe (post-Bill Graham), the Diggers, and other local notables. The live music sets were interspersed with poetry readings, harinama and religious ceremonies.
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A second design version was incorporated into a concert poster for Bedrock One. Created by artist L.B. Johnson, this dark brown poster measured approximately 13 5/8" x 19 5/8" and was printed on poster stock. Both are listed in the Art of Rock catalog.
Straight Edge Dance
The Straight Theater on 1748 Haight Street, San Francisco was the only Haight venue of its kind during the psychedelic era. The words on this handbill proclaim the mission of the Straight Dance Worship: Love and Hare Krishna, Hare Rama. The dancing figure is meant to be Krsna, although He has a distinctly Buddhist look. This handbill, drawn by the artist Dey, was the very first Dance Worship flyer, from the fall of 1967. It is printed on thin paper, and measures 8 1/2" x 11".
The Straight Theater has been called "a multimedia environmental theater of light" At the crossroads of Haight and Cole, bands like the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin & Big Brother, Country Joe, Santana and many other famous and infamous characters made history looking for the Aquarian Age. They were joined by the devotees, who delivered something far better than the Aquarian Age - Sri Krsna, Himself, via his pure devotee messenger, Srila Prabhupada. For more information visit TheStraight.com.
Transcendental Airport Chant
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This wonderful handbill was created by Allen Ginsberg and friends, encouraging everyone to meet Srila Prabhuapda at the Kennedy Airport in New York. The 8 ½" x 11" handbill says: "Chant Hare Krishna and dance in everlasting ecstasy & bliss. Bring flutes drums harps cymbals sitars washboards etc. Sunday April 9 , 4 pm Kennedy Airport United Airline Term. Area 3 Flight 22. Won't you come join us in the ocean of Krishna's divine love. Greet Swami Bhaktivedanta on his return from the San Francisco temple. Sponsored by Allen Ginsberg and Krishna Consciousness."
Holy Man Jam
Another of the many Family Dog/Great Highway events was a seven night gathering on October 3rd through 9th, 1969. The last three days of the event became known as the Holy Man Jam. On those nights, the stage was shared by rock bands, the Hare Krsnas ("Hare Krishna Chant"), Middle Eastern music, Transcendental Meditation, lecturers including Timothy Leary, Alan Watts, and Lazarus, along with Golden Toad, Steve Gaskin, Michael Lorimer, Master Choy, Malachi, Afterglow, Sufisam, Chiran Jeev, Osceola, Allan Noonan, Asoke Fakir, Jim Kimmel and Jud, John Adams and Magana Baptiste, San Francisco's Radical Lab, Sebastian Moon, Floating Bridge, It's A Beautiful Day, Phoenix, Tup Fisher, Dr. Warwick, Swami Satchidananda, Pir Vilayat, Schlomo Carlebach, and many others.
It is not known who the artist was for this particular Family Dog handbill. The Great Highway shows were not part of the normal Family Dog series. This rare original handbill measures approximately 5 1/8" x 8 1/4".
Below is a poster for the whole seven day venue, with the Holy Man Jam shown as a three-day event (on right). This poster was created by The Family Dog.
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This 1969 handbill shows a host of different concerts produced by Paul Acket in Rotterdam. Along with the Newport Jazz Festival that year, a host of individual concerts were billed, including a festival featuring Wilson Pickett and the Midnight Movers, Vigon and the Lemons, Break Out, The Who/"Tommy", Island Show met Jethro Tull, Joe Cocker, Spooky Tooth, Free, and Clouds, The Hollies, Consortium, London Blues met Ten Years After, Chicken Shack, and The Village, Radha Krishna Temple, and Roy Harper. This original, two-sided, black and white poster measures 8 1/2" X 13 1/2".
Yoga of Joy
The Family Dog tribe was associated with many great rock concerts and spiritual events that the Hare Krsnas participated in. Family Dog attracted some of the best artists on the West Coast, and their catalog of concert posters were always first class.
The "Yoga of Joy" event was held on June 27, 1971 at the friends and Relations Hall in San Francisco, which was formerly known as The Family Dog on the Great Highway. The event billing featured Allen Ginsberg, Shlomo Carlebach, Yogi Bhajan, Krishna, and others.
Like Ginsberg, Shlomo Carlebach, an Orthodox Jew, was very interested in Srila Prabhupada's teachings, and took part in numerous spiritual gatherings with the Hare Krsnas.
This hard to find, geometrically shaped poster is printed on heavy stock, and measures 17" high by 13" wide at bottom.
In part three of this series, we'll look at articles and advertisements from music and 'village' magazines for concerts featuring the Radha Krishna Temple devotees.