Jim Murray - vocals, guitar; John Cipollina - vocals, guitar; Gary Duncan - vocals, guitar; David Frieberg - bass, vocals; Greg Elmore - drums
This run of five shows opening for Jefferson Airplane offers a fascinating glimpse into early Quicksilver Messenger Service. The band was still a quintet, with Jim Murray as primary lead vocalist. Although they had begun developing original songs, were still primarily playing cover material in concert. The repertoire veered toward electrified covers of contemporary folk and blues songs, with a heavy nod to Bo Diddley. The unique, intertwining lead guitar sound of Cipollina and Duncan was already becoming quite distinctive, and one can clearly hear why Quicksilver was being considered one of the most exciting bands in San Francisco at the time.
Because so much of their material from this era remains unreleased, these shows provide a wealth of songs that were previously unavailable commercially. Several classic songs that did appear on their first and second albums are heard here in embryonic form, however, still ripe with potential.
In all reality, these QMS sets help to capture a turning point not only in their contemporary music scene, but in the general culture as well. Artists were just beginning to embrace spontaneity and experimentation in their work, and these 1967 sets reveal the band taking their earliest steps in that direction. To help put these shows in context, the first QMS album was still a year away, and Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow LP had been released that same month, bringing the San Francisco music and dance hall scene into the national spotlight for the first time.
With the exception of another short but captivating flight on "Gold And Silver" and another take on Buffy Saint Marie's Codine," the third show of the run is comprised entirely of material that went unreleased in the band's lifetime. However, the set is book-ended by two songs that would continue to be highlights of the band's live repertoire for years to come. The set opening "Suzy Q" (unfortunately beginning well in progress on the master reel) and the set-closing "Smokestack Lightning" both would become vehicles for extended improvisation over the course of the next year. Even at this early stage, they are perfect material to display the dual lead guitar attack of Cipollina and Duncan.
Both "Dandelion" and "The Happy Song" are extreme rarities, never released and only performed for a brief time during this early stage in the band's history. Otherwise, "I Hear You Knockin'" and "You Don't Love Me" are repeated from the previous shows, again displaying the band's formidable blues roots. They were still defining their sound in early 1967, but by the end of the year, QMS would become one of the most exciting live bands in the country.
The band would also back their friend Dino Valenti on his set, which unfortunately was not included among these recordings.