Tuesday, 28 December 2010

2727 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA, Iceland Skating Rink September 13, 1968: Sky Blue/Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band

(the poster for the Sky Blue/CGSB show on September 13, 1968 at Berkeley's Iceland Skating Rink. Poster by Jeannie O'Hara. h/t Brian for the photo)

The 60s were a time of new possibilities and new ideas, particularly in Berkeley. However, not all those ideas worked out as intended. Bands were always looking for new places to play, in the hopes of expanding their audience and making a little money. The manager of the Berkeley band Sky Blue got the clever idea of putting on a rock concert at Berkeley's ice skating rink, Iceland. Friday night was date night there, to some extent, and it seemed like a good idea to make an event out of it. It was a good idea, perhaps, but it still didn't work out.

Iceland was Berkeley's first skating rink. In some parts of the country, ponds would freeze over in the Winter and skating was a regular part of the Winter, but in balmy Coastal California that never happened. Ice skating, then, was an exotic activity imported from a foreign land, practiced only by the specially initiated and the very curious. Nothing says "Berkeley" like "imported from a foreign land" and "specially initiated," so Berkeley's Iceland was opened in 1940.

Iceland was at 2727 Milvia, between Derby and Ward. It was a few blocks below Telegraph, and about six blocks West of the Jabberwock. It was in between residential and commercial neighborhoods, a good location for a skating rink, but it was also near where a lot of hippies lived as well. Skating rinks were a comparative rarity on the West Coast, so Iceland had a bit of history to it: the National Ice Skating Championships were held there in 1947, 1957 and 1966, so famous skaters like Dick Button and Peggy Fleming had competed there. By the 60s, the rink was owned by the Zamboni family (Frank Zamboni had invented the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine). No one had considered Iceland as a venue for rock concerts, however.

Allen Silverman and Sky Blue
Allen Silverman had been a songwriter in Los Angeles, with his partner Audie DeLong. De Long and Silverman had had some modest success, placing a song on a Stone Poneys album, among other things, but by 1968 they had moved to Berkeley. Silverman ended up living on Warring Street with the band Sky Blue, a group who was popular in Berkeley but had not yet managed to get any traction outside the city. Silverman became Sky Blue's manager and helped to arrange shows for them. The poster was created by the bass player's girlfriend.

The Iceland show was put on by "Buried Treasure Productions," but that was just Silverman and Sky Blue. The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band were a fellow Berkeley band, a little more successful than Sky Blue at this point, since they had been signed to Vanguard Records. It seemed like a very clever idea to put on a rock concert at the Ice rink, since a lot of hippies lived within walking distance, it was a chance for couples and groups to go out together, and it would have seemed like a fun thing to do while stoned.

Brian Voorheis of the CGSB reports that after all these years he remembers the gig well, since he's never played a concert for ice skating couples since then. The fact that the event was never repeated suggests that it was not a financial success. A couple of possible reasons come to mind:
  • West Coast people mostly don't know how to skate. If someone had invited me to a skating rock concert at Iceland (I lived in the area in the late 70s and 80s) I wouldn't have wanted to embarrass myself, so I wouldn't have gone. I can't have been the only person who thought that way
  • Even in the warm October of Northern California, it's cold inside an ice rink. Voorheis recalls that his then girlfriend wore a sun dress and nearly froze to death. She was probably a Californian, and most of us had never set foot in a skating rink, so as a result we wouldn't know to bring a jacket. His girlfriend probably didn't tell everyone the next day that she had a really great time, and she probably wasn't the only chilly Californian there
The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band released their album on Vanguard, and then led the recording of the Masked Marauders album, along with some members of Sky Blue, but CGSB ground to a halt in early 1970.

Sky Blue never released an album, although two members of the group (Vic Smith and Anna Rizzo) joined forces with Allen 'Slim Chance' Silverman to form the band Grootna, who did release an album, but they too did not grab the brass ring. Silverman, however, became successful as a manufacturer of guitar picks.

Iceland soldiered on for another 40 years, finally closing in 2007, as the aging structure and changing economics of Berkeley finally forced it's demise. It is remembered fondly by many skaters, but it's very brief history as a rock concert venue has gone unremarked until now.

Monday, 27 December 2010

UFO Leads Diggers to Be-In Site

Berkeley Barb: April 1967

The Digger Be-In, begun last weekend with modest success is still, in progress, and has taken-on a new twist.

Three nature-loving Diggers have staked a claim to an abandoned mine in Malakoff State Park and, according to park authorities, “are in no violation of the law”.

The trio, who have billed themselves as an advance party of a vanguard of thousands of disenchanted city hippies, has set up camp inside the cave and has been living among me trees for more than a week.

The choice of Malakoff Diggings as a Be-In site, one Digger head told a radio station, was the result of the trio's “encounter with a UFO earlier this month”.

The three were driving from Nevada City when they sighted the object.

The bright oval hovered over their car for a few moments then began cruising in the direction of the park. They followed and it very soon disappeared - over a nearby hill. When-the three reached the crest of the hill, they claimed, they found a burned out circle of grass about 200 feet in diameter, with glowing rocks on the ground nearby. The rocks were later analyzed at a UC lab as containing a high degree of radiation. They regard the incident as “a message” a Digger stated.

New tribes will be gathering at the Free Store, 901 Cole, next Wednesday from 7 to lOam, to join those already at the diggings.

The campsite, is located 160 miles north off Highway 99, about twenty .minutes out of Nevada City.

Diggers urge - that those equipped the leave as soon as possible.More information and road of maps of Mars can be obtained at the Free Store

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Fish For First Hip Fair

Happiness is a Porpoise Mouth. The First Annual Hippy Fair, and Dance-Festival will be held 8 pm Saturday evening in Hearst Gym on the Cal Campus, the sponsoring Pretentious Folk Front announces.

No problems are anticipated from university authorities despite the controversial nature of several of the featured attractions. The event will provide the campus community a chance to see what the hip artists are currently up to.

The Festival is a benefit for Country Joe and the Fish who have lost two weeks work because alcoholic club owners have cancelled their engagements. Fear of risking the Fish's performances was the reason given.

Selections will be screened from the group's in-progress film "How I Stopped the War", a documentary of their triumphant progress from Market Street to Pax Pisces during the recent Peace Demonstrations. Country Joe will perform.

The SF Mime Troupe, itself involved in socially provocative events lately, will bring their bodies east of the Bay for dancing and skits of social interest. Individual improvisers of choreography will also perform, as will the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Agit-Prop Truck Theatre.

Early in the evening Berkeley's own Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band will do some takes by arrangement with the Jabberwock. Several films will be shown, a former Fug will construct a six-foot gods-eye on stage, and the first campus showing of the paintings of the controversial Russian artist Gershon Ikovsky Gershovitz will be opened.

All hip, craftsmen, artists, and artisans are invited to display their work, bringing blankets or whatever showcase they feel suitable. If you are one of the above and wish to participate contact the Front Festival Committee at their temporary office phone 548-1513. Donations at the door, $2.

The Cleanliness & Godliness Skiffle Band in 1967

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Love and Peace Weekend - Part II

September 28-29, 1968 Live Oak Park, Berkeley
From the Berkeley Barb Issue 163:

Love and Peace Fest Bummed by Fuzz

Berkeley's Festival of Love and Peace last Sunday ended as an Exercise in Law and Order.
While hundreds of diverse people strolled through Live Oak Park gazing at sculpture, painting, photography and unnamed art forms, Carl Worth, director of the city's official art center, was spending much of his time on the phone, trying to keep the heat off.
Police arrived Sunday afternoon, gesturing a stack of complaints several inches thick. A call to City Manager William Hanley kept the festival open. When a group described by one observer as "members of the Geritol set" complained that they couldn't use the park, the test nevertheless went on.

Hanley's support was withdrawn Sunday at 10 p.m., the hour Berkeley's sound ordinance goes into force. Police arrived promptly to squelch the noise emanating from the Art Center's small in door theatre.
The noise was a Rock Mass being offered by the Free Church, sponsor of the weekend festival. According to people outside the building at the time, the sound of the band was far from loud, even near by.
Despite the efforts of Carl Worth and Free Church Reverend Dick York, the police insisted that the sound must cease. Hanley and Worth did succeed for two days in fending off those who objected to the display of "street culture" throughout the park and in its Art Center gallery.
Just before the 10 p.m. crack down Sunday, the Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company completed its ceremony-drama, the Quest for the Inner Eye of Truth. Costumes, gestures, music and words woven by the Floating Lotus led a procession of spectators into a spontaneous dance. That dancing mood, at a slower tempo, seemed to be reflected in the eyes of most of the thousands of people who wandered among the artworks during the two days. Many were heard to remark on the good quality of the work. Even the rock bands did not pack the people too tight together, but there always seemed to be a crowd.
Unlike many of the classic Be-Ins, at the Live Oak festival a weary body had room to lie on the grass without encountering stray feet.
Although many street people expressed bitterness that The Man ended the arts test on a harsh note, several are still working on a project to develop an Arts Center for the Telegraph Avenue community. They invite interested persons to attend a meeting for that purpose at the Berkeley City Hall on Friday, October 4, at 1:30 pm.

Love and Peace Weekend - Part I

September 28-29, 1968 Live Oak Park, Berkeley

From the Berkeley Barb Issue 163:

The Festival of Love and Peace happens this Saturday and Sunday, at Live Oak Park in Berkeley.
Artists in all media have been invited to exhibit their work, starting from noon on both days.
Pegboard panels will be provided for hanging paintings photographs, prints, posters, etc. Weavers, potters, leather and jewelry makers are also welcome.
Performances and happenings have been planned for both nights. Saturday from 6 to 10 pm local, poets/writers will give readings of their work. They include Charles Bordin, John Thomson, Hal Razavi. Richard Krech, J.Q.Adams, and John Oliver Simon.
Also scheduled for this program is a jazz concert by the New Jazz Improvizational Group, a light show by Environmental Dynamics, and films by Herb de Grasse.
Led by the Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company, people at park at 8 pm Sunday will experience The Quest for the Inner Eye of Truth. This processional will break through the physical restrictions normally placed by a theater setting.
The Quest will culminate at 9.30 at the park's theater in a Free Church Celebration planned as a liturgy.
Bands will play in the northwest corner of the park. On Saturday bands will be: Milkwood, Lazarus Hmmmm, Dancing Food and Entertainment, and the Crabs.
On Sunday groups playing include Sky Blue, the Purple Earthquake, Friend, and the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band.
The Gallery at the park will be filled with an environment of painting prints, wall hangings, etc. The garden behind the building will be devoted to sculpture. The Free Church is sponsoring the event. They suggest bringing a musical instrument and something to share. And also respect for the pounds. The park is being turned over to the people Berkeley for the weekend, it belongs to you anyway, so treat it with care.