2 or 3
LINDA SEES BLACK SABBATH AT FILLMORE EAST (AND LIVES TO TELL THE TALE)
by Gary Hailey
Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
As much as any band, Black Sabbath defined
"heavy metal." MTV called them the greatest metal band in
history, and VH1 named them as the 2nd-greatest hard rock band ever
(after only Led Zeppelin). They've sold more than 100 million
Black Sabbath's second album, was released in the U.S. in January
1971, and eventually sold four million copies. It was panned
by critics at the time, but most modern-day reviewers have a
different opinion. One called it "one of the greatest and most
influential heavy metal albums of all time," a record which "defined
the sound and style of metal."
"War Pigs" is the first song on the album --
the title track and "Iron Man" are the other two cuts that everyone
At my high school reunion this summer, I
found out that one of my classmates -- let's just call her . . . oh,
I don't know . . . how about "Linda"? -- had seen Black Sabbath
perform at the Fillmore East in New York City in February 1971, at
the beginning of their first extended American tour.
As soon as I heard her story, I begged her
to write it all down and let me post it here. She graciously
agreed, and I'm very happy to present her account as my first guest
post ever. "Linda," take it away:
Stephens College is a small, private
women’s college in Columbia, Missouri,
that I attended briefly in 1970-1971. It was sometimes called “the
Vassar of the Midwest.” The most popular majors there in the early
1970s were Fashion, Theater and Dance.
was home to not only Stephens, but also Columbia College (another
women’s school) and the much larger University of Missouri. It was a
fairly typical college town. The main downtown street, Broadway, had
the usual banks and offices and one good-sized department store, but
there were also head shops, coffee houses and hippie clothing
Do you remember UFO jeans? Anyone? They were
wide bell-bottomed jeans that had a small American flag patch on the
back pocket, and were considered very cool in 1971 – at least in
Our favorite local restaurants were
Jack-in-the-Box (where else can you get the nutritious combination
of tacos and french fries, which was my usual order) and Cornbread’s
Café, a rather dingy but cool diner-type hangout favored by local
hippies and hippie wannabes. [Editor's note: Alas, neither
restaurant has survived.]
limited number of incoming freshmen at Stephens (I was one) were
accepted into a program where we all lived in the same dorm, Searcy
Hall, and all took the same five core classes, which were held in
classrooms in the dorm. (We were allowed to choose one elective, so
we weren’t stuck in the same building 24 hours a day.)
[Editor's note: Searcy Hall has attracted
quite a bit of attention since Stephens turned it into a
pet-friendly dormitory several years ago. Virtually all the
students who live there today have dogs, cats, or other pets sharing
One of our core classes was Humanities,
which included music appreciation. Our professor was a short, fussy
man who expected us to share his passion for classical music. One
early assignment was for us to bring in a favorite record for the
class to listen to and then critique. Big surprise -- we all brought
rock albums. We started with James Gang and Black Sabbath records .
. . and that was the end of the music appreciation part of the
class. The poor professor was so completely disheartened by our
choices that he quickly moved on to art appreciation.
was fairly progressive in some ways. Women’s liberation, a
relatively new concept in 1970, was not only tolerated but
However, vestiges of the 1950s remained.
Meals were served at small family-style tables in dining halls by
uniformed student waitresses. A dress code was strictly enforced --
e.g. no unhemmed or ragged jeans at dinner or at any meal on
Curfews were strictly enforced: we had to be
back in our dormitory by midnight on Sunday night, 11 p.m.
Monday through Thursday, and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. In loco
parentis was taken seriously, at least for freshman. And freshmen
were not allowed to have cars. Can you imagine telling your college
age student now that he or she can't take his or her car to
Each February, three unlucky professors
accompanied the girls of Searcy Hall on a five-day trip to New York
City. The ostensible purpose of the trip was cultural enrichment and
expansion of our educational horizons. To those of us who were born
and raised in small midwestern towns, the prospect of spending five
days in the big city was incredibly exciting. Most of us had never
been to a large city except in the company of our moms and dads.
my parents would sign the consent form at Christmas break, I had to
endure a number of lectures about the dangers inherent on the
streets of New York and how to avoid said dangers. Busses and
subways were to be avoided at all costs, and under no circumstances
was I to be out after dark unless accompanied by one of the
Yeah, right. I put on my serious face and
nodded in agreement, but inside I was saying to myself, “Oh man, I’m
finally going to get to do all the things I’ve read about and seen
on TV and
in the movies!”
were given a suggested packing list. Provocative clothing was
forbidden, presumably so we would not inflame the passions of the
males we might encounter in NYC and risk being subjected to all
sorts of depraved and lewd attacks (which would have exposed the
college to a possible lawsuit). And, of course, nothing that looked
too ratty or ragged (that is, hippie-ish) was allowed. We were,
after all, representing Stephens College and the proper young women
who attended it. So, naturally, we packed our shortest
mini-skirts, hotpants, bell-bottoms, platform boots and anything
else we thought would make us look less like hicks from the
heartland and more like hip, big-city chicks.
As I recall, we flew to New York City on
Braniff Airlines. They were known for their colorful planes and even
more colorful and avant-garde interiors and stewardess uniforms.
was a big deal then. Passengers were treated like royalty, with hot
meals served on real china. You even had a choice of entrees. And
this was just in coach, mind you. I can only imagine the grandeur
beyond the curtain that separated us from the first-class cabin.
We stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel, a 20-story
hotel with over 1000 rooms that still stands on Madison Avenue at
45th Street in the heart of Manhattan. The façade and lobby were
quite grand, but the rooms were actually a bit shabby and outdated.
(The hotel was extensively renovated in the mid-1990s.)
note: The Roosevelt was a big deal when it was in its heyday.
Guy Lombardo and his band first played "Auld Lang Syne" on New
Year's Eve in the hotel's Roosevelt Grill in 1927. Lawrence
Welk also performed at the Roosevelt for many years. In 1947,
the Roosevelt became the first hotel to have television sets in all
its guest rooms. Governor Tom Dewey used the Roosevelt as his
New York City residence, and listened to the 1948 election returns –
when he was upset by Harry Truman – from his room there. The
hotel has been used as a location in a number of movies (including The
French Connection) and television shows (including "Mad Men.")]
One of the first things my group of friends
and I did after unpacking was head downstairs to the piano bar for a
cocktail. The drinking age in New York at that time was 18, so that
was probably my first legal drink (except for the beer I ordered at
Nina's Green Parrot in Galena, Kansas, over Christmas vacation,
right after I turned 18). I ordered a martini, which I could
barely force down without gagging.
One of my more sophisticated friends
requested the piano player to play “Three
Coins in the Fountain.” I have
no idea if she actually wanted to hear that particular song or if
she had just heard the title in a movie and thought it would sound
worldly to ask for it. When I called my mother later that night, I
made the foolish mistake of telling her about our cocktail hour. I
had to endure another lecture, of course.
We did have required excursions and tours
while we were there. Our Philosophy professor, the only male on the
trip, accompanied us to Harlem. The Guggenheim Museum and New York
Stock Exchange were other must-sees.
group had the distinction of being escorted out of the viewing
platform overlooking the NYSE trading floor. If memory serves, a
cute young guy down on the floor waved to us. One of the girls
decided to take out her camera to get his picture, in spite of the
numerous and prominent "ABSOLUTELY NO PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED" signs all
around us. The moment the flash went off, the security guards
swarmed in. This was obviously a serious infraction, but I remember
a lot of giggling as we were being removed from the premises. I hope
we didn't ruin it for future Stephens' groups -- all the cute Wall
Street types were worth seeing!
Other museums and places of interest were
recommended by each of the professors, but we actually had quite a
bit of free time to explore the city on our own. We tried to
experience every big-city fantasy -- perhaps "cliché" is a better
word -- that we could think of.
had been wanting to get my shoulder-length, wavy hair cut for some
time. Stick-straight hair was in style then and mine refused to
cooperate. Almost all the big department stores back then had hair
salons (called "beauty shops" in those days), so I called the most
famous store I knew of, Saks Fifth Avenue, and made an appointment
at their flagship store, which was only a few blocks from the
My stylist was a gorgeous young French woman
named Gabrielle -- even her name had such cachet! She gave me the
perfect Jane-Fonda-in-“Klute” shag haircut. That haircut cost $25 of
Daddy’s hard-earned money, an outrageous sum at the time, but I
would have paid any amount (especially since it wasn’t really coming
out of my pocket).
INSERT ATTACHMENT 11 HERE --
Music was a huge part of teenage life then,
as it still is today -- just the technology has changed. We would
take our favorite albums (vinyl rules, baby!) and gather in
someone’s room, turn on the black light and listen to music for
hours. In retrospect, that could have had some bearing on my
lackluster academic performance the second semester, I suppose.
Most of us who hung out together had similar
taste in music. Bands I remember listening to the most were Three
Dog Night, Santana, Traffic, Quicksilver Messenger Service,
Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green-era) and a relatively new band called
Black Sabbath. In those pre-internet days, I knew very little about
Black Sabbath-- probably just what was on the record jacket. I just
knew that they were different; louder and more explosive than any
other of the bands we were listening to at the time.
I had read about legendary
music promoter Bill Graham opening
a music venue in New York in 1968. Graham had previously opened the
Fillmore West in San Francisco, which was a mecca for the
psychedelic bands of the 1960s. His Fillmore East was in an
old building in the East Village that had previously been a movie
theater, and it quickly came to be known as “the Church of Rock and
Fillmore was at the very top of my personal "must see" list for my
New York trip. I called to find out what bands were playing while we
were there. When the man said Black Sabbath would be there for two
nights (playing two shows each night), that was all I needed to
hear. I reserved tickets for myself and three other like-minded
friends for the early show (so as not to risk missing curfew and
room check at 1 a.m., just like we were back on campus) on the
second night, which was Saturday, February 20, 1971 – our last night
in New York before returning to Columbia.
The girls who went with me to the concert
were all from the Midwest. One was my roommate, Betty -- a pretty,
dark-haired girl from a small town in Oklahoma. She had the temper
of a cobra and the vocabulary of a sailor, but we got along
Betty's parents owned several dress shops,
so she had a closet full of the latest styles in clothing and shoes
that happened to be my size, too. It took me weeks to work up the
courage to ask to borrow something from her closet. (No one ever
really wanted to cross Betty.) She lectured me about how she
expected the item of clothing to be returned in exactly the same
condition as when I took it, but in the end, she let me wear it.
From then on, I had the luxury of basically an entire second
Another girl who went with me to the concert
was Lyn, also from Oklahoma and also a very attractive girl, a
former high school cheerleader with a sweet, bubbly personality. I
doubt that people who didn’t know her well would have ever guessed
she’d be remotely interested in going to a Black Sabbath concert.
(Of course, the same thing could have been said about me. As the old
saying goes, never judge a book by its cover.)
Details about the third girl have
disappeared in the mists of time. Sorry to say I don’t even remember
her name, only that she was from Iowa or Nebraska, I think, and
overheard me talking about the concert and asked if she could tag
an early dinner at a French restaurant, where we made the only
celebrity sighting of the trip -- Morey Amsterdam of “Dick Van Dyke
Show” fame -- we went back to the Roosevelt to change into our
midwestern version of hippie threads. The only coat I had brought
was hideously inappropriate, very dressy with fur cuffs and collar.
I begged a girl who had brought the plain gray maxi coat she had
purchased from an army surplus store to trade with me just for the
night. She graciously agreed, saving me from the embarrassment of
showing up at the concert looking like I was going to dinner at a
We caught a cab to the East Village and I’m
sure I provided the cabbie with at least an evening’s worth of
amusement when I asked him if he would be coming back to pick us up
after the concert.
purchased our tickets (around $5 each, I think) and walked in. One
of my friends (the beautiful but bitchy Betty, so everyone kept
their mouth shut) was habitually late for everything, so we left the
hotel later than we should have and we could already hear a band
playing when we got inside. The warm-up bands that night were Sir
Lord Baltimore (one of the first bands to lay claim to the moniker
“heavy metal”) and the J. Geils Band.
Although the Fillmore was only half full at
most, our seats were up in the nosebleed section. The guy at the box
office probably figured we wouldn’t know the difference, but we just
moved down to better seats that were empty.
There was already of thick haze of smoke in
the air when we arrived. Pot smokers were pretty common in a college
town like Columbia in 1971, but most people weren’t brazen enough to
flaunt it in public, so we were a little shocked (but, of course,
acted very blasé about it). I remember virtually nothing about the
band that was playing when we got there. Guess I had my eye on the
prize -- Black Sabbath!
Black Sabbath was introduced and took the stage. There was no
elaborate stage set; just the band (appropriately dressed mostly in
black) and their gear. Monstrous-looking amps! I wish I had written
down the set list, but I was completely transfixed by the music and
the light show and really just the whole experience of being there.
I know they played “Paranoid,” “Iron Man,” and “War Pigs.”
The last of those was a huge crowd-pleaser.
There were obviously a lot of anti-Vietnam War people there, judging
by the slogans I saw on some t-shirts. They would have been declared
obscene back home in Missouri, but evidently that kind of freedom of
expression was better tolerated in the East Village.
light show was really spectacular. (Probably even more so for those
who were partaking of the demon weed!) It
was billed as “Pig Light Show” on the Sabbath tour schedule and was
the house light show for the venue. All
different colors of lights and random images looked like they were
melting down the screen behind the band -- very psychedelic. Ozzy
did very little talking on stage -- just an occasional, mumbled
“thank you” is all I remember. Yes, he was already mumbling even
I never did tell my mother about this
particular adventure and don’t intend to. There are some things a
parent is just better off not knowing!
[Editor's note: I couldn't agree more.]
Thanks to "Linda" for sharing her story.
While she was watching Black Sabbath at Fillmore East
that Saturday night in 1971, I was probably sitting in my dorm room,
playing spades and watching "All in the Family" and "The Mary Tyler
Moore Show." You know, the usual Saturday night sausagefest.
So I'm very envious -- not only of her Black Sabbath experience,
but also of her close encounter with Morey Amsterdam and especially
her Klute-style haircut.
Click here to hear "War Pigs."
Click here to
view a video of Black Sabbath performing "War Pigs" in Paris in
1970, just a few months before "Linda" saw them perform in New York
Faith No More covered "War Pigs" on
their The Real Thing album, which was released in 1989. Click
here to view a video of Faith No More performing "War Pigs"
(Gary Hailey is a father, a lawyer, a
basketball referee, a biker, a voracious reader, and the author of
the wildly popular music blog, 2
or 3 lines. But not
necessarily in that order.)