OAKLAND — It all comes back.
They are the survivors. The others at Monterey, you will recall, included Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Janis with Big Brother, Cass with the Mamas and the Papas. And the Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Moby Grape and Simon and Garfunkel.
The others at Woodstock included the Airplane, Canned Heat, Sly and the Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis with her new band, Crosby/Stills/Nash/Young making their debut and Ten Years After. And Abbie Hoffman, who injected some politics into Woodstock until Peter Townshend bumped him off the stage with his guitar. And, oh yes, Paul Butterfield, who’d also been at Monterey and who later surfaced with Paul Butterfield’s Better Days and a song called “It All Comes Back.”
The Who and the Dead may have survived, and they may be two of the more stable rock bands around, but it was apparent that at promoter Bill Graham’s last two Days on the Green, October 9th and 10th, the audiences have changed. On the average, concertgoers are less concerned with rock history than with rock, now. They did not expect an event, and they did not get one. While many of the Who-maniacs and the Dead Heads of the past few years remain, many more have grown up.
The Dead and the Who, as they have for over a decade each, simply did their jobs. And, as at Monterey and Woodstock, they did them separately, in their own respective fashions – native funk and flash. They weren’t mechanical, by any means, but they were also not new, by any means. Just rock, now.
When Jerry Garcia told Bill Graham he’d always wanted to play with the Who, Graham happily relayed the message to Who manager Bill Curbishley. For months, Graham had been trying to convince both the Dead and the Who to headline one of his Oakland Stadium shows, and when the Who agreed to play with the Dead, Graham had a seemingly unbeatable package.
The Who, according to bassist John Entwistle, were a “bit apprehensive” about the pairing: “We wondered how much of their audience we were going to get.” But just before going onstage Sunday, Peter Townshend praised the crowd. “I like playing here,” he said. “The vibe is even. I think the Grateful Dead relax people a lot.” And Bob Weir reported that the Dead were satisfied with their “warmup” role, even in their own backyard. “We’ve never put any energy into our visual presentation. These guys are more exciting.”
That was the case, at least on Saturday, as the Dead played two 90-minute laid-back sets while the Who stuck to the same high-energy, hits-studded show they’d put on at Winterland Auditorium in March, replete with Daltrey’s microphone launches and Townshend’s windmill guitar chops and marionette-like moves.
But on Sunday, the Dead came out rocking, with a virtually new program. Added were such tunes as “The Other One,” “Deal” and a 25-minute version of “Dancin’ in the Streets.” And a shirtless Jerry Garcia kept right on dancing – in the center-field bleachers – through the first part of the Who’s two-hour set, which ended with a surprise: an encore, “Shakin’ All Over” segued into “Johnny B. Goode.”
Afterward, Entwistle explained the extra songs: “Bill Graham promised us four sets of Fillmore posters.”
Graham announced the concert September 3rd in grandiose style. He hired eight planes to carry trailers around the Bay Area, and another for Los Angeles. He took out full-page ads in Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times. In all, he beat the drums to the tune of $40,000, 30% more than he invested in advertising any of the other shows.
Still, neither show sold out. Just under 51,000 people showed up Saturday, another 43,000 on Sunday.
So what went wrong? Graham, who claimed he did “okay” financially – “a million-dollar gate . . . is nothing to sneeze at” – gave his explanation: “A lot of fans, if they were 17, 18 then, are 27, 28 today. I think that many of them will still buy their records but won’t go to a stadium concert. When we put the Who into Winterland [capacity: 5400], we had 43,000 pieces of mail requesting two tickets. Whenever we do the Dead for four or five shows, that sells out.”
Bill Curbishley agreed, but added: “When I talk to other managers like [Irving] Azoff of the Eagles, ‘What did you do at so and so?,’ all through the summer people have been losing seats. And I think there is gonna be a change. Most managers are going to play auditoriums next year. I think we’re going to go back to them.
“I mean, the whole Woodstock thing is gone.”
This story is from the November 18th, 1976 issue of Rolling Stone.