The short answer is: Yes, Bill Graham is pretty much everything you thought he was. Good and bad. But certainly, music-wise, always good.

25 May 2022 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News

Bill Graham, Unleashed | May 29, 2009 | Mike Hale | New York Times

THERE is a famous exchange early in the documentary “Fillmore: The Last Days” in which Mike Wilhelm, a veteran of the 1960s San Francisco rock scene, tries to persuade Bill Graham to put his new band on the bill at the Fillmore West.

The conversation does not go well. Before long Graham is marching Mr. Wilhelm out of the office and yelling, “I’ll take your teeth out of your mouth and shove ’em through your nose.”

The Album

It’s the blustering, abusive side of Graham, the promoter who ruled live music in the Bay Area from the late ’60s to his death in 1991, but it’s also a sign of his honesty: he had invited the cameras to be there.

The movie, released in 1972 as “The Last Days of the Fillmore,” is part concert film, documenting the final week of shows at the Fillmore West in July 1971.

The other part, interspersed with the music, is an approved biography of Graham, who talks about his life and conducts an endless round of entertainingly profane telephone negotiations for the valedictory concerts.

People who lived in the Bay Area in the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s and cared about live music will have their own strong opinions of Graham, which the film, brought back into print on DVD this week by Rhino, won’t change.

But they’ll likely be enchanted by the time-capsule snippets of bands like Hot Tuna and Quicksilver Messenger Service and captured moments like Jerry Garcia noodling on the steel guitar while the Grateful Dead sets up.

Most striking is the air of nostalgia that has set in just a few years after the Summer of Love. For Graham the magic of the San Francisco experiment is resolutely past tense: “The key to those years for me was that everybody won and nobody lost.”

CD track listing

Disc 1

  1. Introduction (Walker) – 2:12
  2. “Hello Friends” (Mauritz) – Lamb – 3:16
  3. So Fine” (Otis) – Elvin Bishop Group – 3:58
  4. “Party till the Cows Come Home” (Bishop) – Elvin Bishop Group – 3:07
  5. “Pana” (Zarate, Garcia) – Malo – 8:01
  6. “Poppa Can Play” (Champlin) – Sons of Champlin – 4:57
  7. “White Bird” (LaFlamme) – It’s a Beautiful Day – 9:02
  8. “Fresh Air” (Valenti) – Quicksilver Messenger Service – 4:44
  9. “Mojo” (Valenti) – Quicksilver Messenger Service – 4:56
  10. Introduction (Graham) – 0:59
  11. “Back on the Streets Again” (Emilio Castillo, Stephen Kupka) – Tower of Power – 6:33
  12. “Baby’s Callin’ Me Home” (Scaggs) – Boz Scaggs – 8:54
  13. “I Just Want to Make Love to You” (Dixon) – Cold Blood – 6:18
  14. “Passion Flower” (Lynn Hughes) – Stoneground – 3:53
  15. “Henry” (Dawson) – New Riders of the Purple Sage – 4:06

Disc 2

  1. “Casey Jones” (Garcia, Hunter) – Grateful Dead – 5:58
  2. “Johnny B. Goode” (Berry) – Grateful Dead – 3:57
  3. Introduction (Graham) – 0:51
  4. “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” (Rev. Davis) – Hot Tuna – 7:42
  5. “Incident at Neshabur” (Gianquinto, Santana) – Santana – 5:37
  6. “In a Silent Way” (Zawinul, Davis) – Santana – 7:50
  7. “We Gonna Rock” (Mahal, Scaggs, Bishop) – Various artists – 6:45
  8. “Long and Tall” (Mahal, Scaggs, Bishop) – Various artists – 12:24
  9. Goodbye/”Greensleeves” (Graham/Traditional) – 3:32
  10. Words with Bill Graham (16:59)

Personnel

Bands

Fillmore: The Last Days Review (All Music) (album)

by Lindsay Planer

When the venerable San Francisco rock & roll mecca the Fillmore West packed it in on the Forth of July 1971 an era in pop music history had also passed.

Dancehall keeper Bill “Uncle Bobo” Graham — under whose meticulous supervision the venue flourished — held a wake and hand-picked a select few locals to give the Fillmore its last musical rights. Fillmore: The Last Days — containing highlights recorded during the final week of performances — was issued as the soundtrack to a likewise-titled feature-length 1972 documentary.

The original three-LP box set also included a bonus 7″ record containing over a quarter-hour’s worth of “Words With Bill Graham.”

The deluxe packaging was endowed with an original “closing week” poster as well as a used ticket from one of the hundreds of legendary shows held in the Fillmore between November 6, 1965, and July 4, 1971.

Plus, as if that weren’t enough, there was a commemorative liner notes booklet, which among with other things included a complete list of every show held at the venue.

The discs feature a who’s who of rock music circa 1971, most — if not all — of whom began their collective journey’s in the Bay Area music scene at the time. 

The Grateful Dead (“Casey Jones” and “Johnny B. Goode”), Quicksilver Messenger Service (“Fresh Air” and ” “Mojo”), as well as Santana (“Incident at Neshabur” and “In a Silent Way”) all make strong showings as do some of the lesser-known artists such as Malo (“Pana”) or Lamb (“Hello Friends”). Fillmore: The Last Days includes some amazing performances from It’s a Beautiful Day (“White Bird”) as well as the stunningly powerful “Baby’s Calling Me Home” by Boz Scaggs — no doubt an homage to his stint with the Steve Miller Blues Band — plus a definitive version of “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burnin'” from Hot Tuna — who are the only representatives from the Jefferson Airplane, perhaps the one San Francisco band who is most conspicuously absent from the proceedings.

The “Words With Bill Graham” interview allows Graham to personally express his thanks to the people who made the Fillmore such a success and to give some insight into the changing dynamics (read: money and drugs) that so radically altered his ability to adequately provide both artist and attendee with the same high-quality performance and venue for a reasonable price.