Rock & Roll Rewind: Humble Pie, King Crimson and Alexis Korner
c d kaplan is a lifelong rock & roller. He’s got stories. Lots of ‘em. Here’s another.
Starting in ’70, the year I finished school, somehow passed the bar, and got a real adult job, I also attended my first rock festival.
Where I heard the whole panoply of music being made in rock’s most experimental era.
Bands I didn’t know that intrigued me.
So, having the means, I started going to every concert in town whether I knew the music of the groups on the bill or not. Most of the time I heard something that resonated.
If not, there was always the scene.
King Crimson topped the bill at one of those at the Convention Center (before it was renamed Louisville Gardens) in the very early 70s.
At least that’s how I initially remembered the show and submitted this essay. Until my knowing and alert editor at the station — thank you, Mel Fisher — wondered if it wasn’t the show where the headliner was actually Humble Pie, featuring Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton? She sent me a photo of the concert poster.
Of course, I now believe it to be. Because I indeed saw that group several times during that era.
The irony of course is that their big hit was “I Don’t Need No Doctor.”
Which obviously does not apply to me these days.
I’m pretty sure I’d never heard a note of any of their tunes until that evening, though I knew of them, I was never inclined to venture into that territory. Probably because of the off-putting nature of the cover of “Court of the Crimson King.”
Plus, none of my friends listened to them, and I was never turned onto the band at a party.
Turned out, they were a fascinating ensemble to listen to. Jazzy. Proggy. Operatic.
Yet I didn’t feel the inclination to buy any of their albums. Walking out, I couldn’t tell you the title of any song they played.
(The rest of that story some of you may recall. When I started doing my weekly shtick on air with then WFPL PD and DJ Dan Reed, he used “20th Century Schizoid Man” as my theme music. Cute. Eventually we changed it to the equally appropriate “Purple Haze.”)
I was however intrigued ahead of time by the opener to the show.
Alexis Korner, who is rightfully considered one of the founders of British rock. More importantly, a blues aficionado of the highest order, many of whose band mates through the 60s helped foster the blues explosion in America.
Among the stalwarts who passed through his band were Charlie Watts, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Brian Jones, Eric Burdon, Long John Baldry, and John McLaughlin. Like I said, the dude was influential.
Which is not stated to be dismissive of other significant blues influencers stateside, the truly important Greenwich Village folk scene, the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, and Lomaxs, father and son.
At the time Korner, whom I knew only by reputation, was touring as a duo with a Dane, Peter Thorup, Very Scandinavian looking fellow, he. But sang like he grew up picking cotton outside Clarksdale.
They did a bunch of blues standards.
Among them, “Hellhound on My Trail,” which I only later learned was the work of iconic Robert Johnson.
A specific of the show I do recall is that between songs, a guy in the audience walked up to the foot of the stage, and chatted with Korner, making a request. Which the performer found as charming as it was unusual in its manner.
This wasn’t some drunk fellow bellowing out “Whipping Post” from the back of the crowd.
I cherish having heard this British music icon, truly enjoyed his set. I never purchased a Korner album either.
Yet I would have gone to hear both acts again.
Back in the day, it’s what I did. If it’s Tuesday, hey, let’s rock.