Off Topic Messages

Bill Graham Vaults

Wed Dec 14, 2005 8:32 pm

A very cool development. Graham was not just known as Rock's greatest concert promoter, but he also was known for recording much of what was played at his venues. There were rumors that a lot of his audio & video archives were destroyed in a fire (there was a fire, but it didn't hit the music), but many knew that those were just rumors. Now the truth is known and it is potentially a great thing for music fans (unfortunately he never promoted Elvis).

Pipe Dream
Music Stash Recalls When Rock Was Young

By ETHAN SMITH
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
December 13, 2005; Page B1

Two and a half years ago, a Minneapolis entrepreneur named Bill Sagan
spent more than $5 million to buy a treasure trove of rock 'n' roll
memorabilia: millions of T-shirts, posters, handbills, photographs,
concert tickets and other items from the archives of Bill Graham
Presents, the legendary San Francisco rock promoter that virtually
invented the modern concert business in the mid 1960s.

But what neither Mr. Sagan nor the seller, Clear Channel Communications
Inc., realized at the time was that the archives contained an even more
valuable bonus: more than 5,000 live audio and video recordings made
between 1966 and 1999, featuring artists varying from the Doors to
Nirvana. The recordings were made at rock concerts that the late Mr.
Graham ran or promoted. They were uncataloged and collecting dust when
Mr. Sagan acquired the archive.

Today, the 55-year-old Mr. Sagan controls what may be the most
important collection of rock memorabilia and recordings ever assembled
in one business. Called Wolfgang's Vault -- from Mr. Graham's given
name, Wolfgang Grajonca -- the company has a staff of 14, projected
sales this year of $3 million, and nearly 20 million separate items in
its San Francisco warehouse.

Having set up a business selling vintage rock T-shirts and concert
posters on the Web, Mr. Sagan is only now turning his attention to the
audio and video assets, where he faces a tremendous challenge. He is in
the early stages of complex negotiations with artists, their
representatives and record labels over the rights to sell the
recordings on discs and as downloads. In the meantime, Mr. Sagan plans
to begin "streaming" some of these recordings as Internet radio feeds
on his company's Web site, which involves little more than paying
royalties to organizations that represent songwriters.

The performances, many of which are professionally recorded and
extremely high quality, amount to a sweeping, unheard history of rock
during its seminal years and beyond. The archives include performances
by artists including Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, the Who, Tom
Petty, Stevie Wonder, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Emmylou Harris, Aretha
Franklin and Tracy Chapman, all of whom played shows put on by Mr.
Graham. The are videotapes of early performances by Crosby Stills Nash
& Young and from 1978, the Sex Pistols' last show for nearly 20 years,
before their reunion in 1996.

Though some of the recordings have leaked as bootlegs over the years,
they contain some revealing moments that may surprise fans. For
example, a recording taken from Led Zeppelin's first U.S. tour, in 1969
-- when the band was opening for Country Joe & the Fish -- finds lead
singer Robert Plant displaying little of the rock-god swagger that
would eventually become his trademark. Instead, he makes nervous small
talk to the audience as guitarist Jimmy Page changes a broken string.

"I don't know if [Mr. Sagan] really knew exactly how much rich material
he had," says Bill Thompson, the longtime manager of Jefferson Airplane
and Jefferson Starship, which played Bill Graham events frequently
during the heyday of the San Francisco rock scene in the late 1960s and
early 1970s. "This is a goldmine."

Mr. Graham's company mounted more than 35,000 concerts world-wide
between its inception in 1966 and its sale, earlier this decade, to
Clear Channel, which bought up a number of regional concert promoters
during that era. Mr. Sagan bought the archive from Clear Channel, which
had little interest in sifting through the thousands of items that were
jammed into the company's warehouse.

Mr. Sagan and his staff spent their first six months in business doing
nothing but organizing and cataloging the vast collection, much of
which had been thrown haphazardly in cardboard boxes, and some of
which had been damaged in a warehouse fire.

Today, on WolfgangsVault.com, shoppers can find individual tickets to
the Yardbirds' July 25, 1967, show at the Fillmore West for $51 each (a
$48 markup over the face value). Prints of photographer Joe Sia's
blurred shot of a police officer arresting Jim Morrison on stage in New
Haven, Conn., go for $550 to $750. Even the Rat Pack gets the
collectible treatment: A black faux-tuxedo T-shirt commemorating a 1988
concert starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., costs
$82.

But the music and video recordings are the most intriguing and
commercially promising. Mr. Graham's company made the recordings
partly for posterity's sake, and, in some cases, for a more base motive:
adjacent to the Fillmore West was a restaurant owned by Mr. Graham.
Rather than lose customers when concerts started next door, Mr. Graham
installed a closed-circuit video system that let diners watch the show
live -- and also captured it on videotape.

When, or even if, the general public will ever hear or see many of
these recordings is unclear, however.

The recordings were made legally; Mr. Sagan has a filing cabinet filled
with documentation to prove it. But selling them will require various
permissions and revenue-sharing deals -- not only with the artists
themselves, but often, too, with whatever record label they were signed
to at the time of the show, or its corporate successor. In the case of
dead performers, permission is required from their families or other
heirs.

Mr. Sagan's employees have already digitized more than 1,000 audio
recordings and sent them to engineers to have the sound quality cleaned
up. Now they are in the process of seeking clearances to release the
music. Mr. Sagan says he is in active discussions with two major record
labels, and believes he is close to a deal for at least some music with
one of them, although he declines to name either.

"Is it easy?" he asks. "No. But in some cases they're excited as hell
they might be able to make some money of old bands."

Even with clearances, much of the material in the archives is simply
not up to snuff for commercial release. "I don't think a large
percentage of it will end up on CD, or in any monetized form," says
Gavin Haag, who oversees the company's music-licensing efforts. For
instance, he adds, there may never be an appetite for dozens of
separate concerts by acts like Eddie Money.

Mr. Thompson, the Jefferson Airplane manager, says he is in "early
discussions" with Wolfgang's Vault and Sony BMG Music Entertainment to
sell the dozens of live recordings made of his clients at Mr. Graham's
various venues. Sony BMG, a joint venture of Sony Corp. and Bertelsmann

AG, controls the rights to distribute the band's recordings. Sony BMG
and Wolfgang's Vault declined to comment on the continuing licensing
negotiations.

Re: Bill Graham Vaults

Thu Dec 15, 2005 12:58 am

midnightx wrote:A very cool development.

For any fan, this is terrific news indeed. For people who hate hippies, long hair, drugs or open minds, not so good.

midnightx wrote:... (unfortunately he never promoted Elvis).

Graham did have something to do with the Nov'70 SF gig -- there's a great story about geting Presley to add his autograph to the Cow Palace's celebrity wall. Graham may have also been involved in Elvis' return visits to SF in '72 and '76, but whether they archived any of these is questinable.

DJC

Thu Dec 15, 2005 1:42 am

Graham did have something to do with the Nov'70 SF gig -- there's a great story about geting Presley to add his autograph to the Cow Palace's celebrity wall. Graham may have also been involved in Elvis' return visits to SF in '72 and '76, but whether they archived any of these is questinable.


That is very interesting. Graham was known to record most if not all performances he promoted to some degree. However, if he was just 'involved' and not the primary company involved, no recordings may have happened. Only time will tell if an Elvis show is part of the legendary Graham archive.

Fri Dec 16, 2005 12:36 pm

This is splendid news indeed! Thanks for posting this midnightx! :smt041


Sincerely MB280E

Re: Bill Graham Vaults

Fri Dec 16, 2005 12:41 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote: geting questinable.


This is not like you, Doc. Have you been sneaking into the medicine cabinet at the free clinic again?

Fri Dec 16, 2005 4:26 pm

Very good news indeed! I hope they find some lost Grateful Dead recordings in there.

Keith Richards, Jr.

Fri Dec 16, 2005 6:28 pm

All people should be deadset against drug use.

Only delusional losers think it's...okay, man. Do it. Take it.




Society doesn't need drug-users.

Fri Dec 16, 2005 6:52 pm

Graceland Gardener wrote:All people should be deadset against drug use.

Only delusional losers think it's...okay, man. Do it. Take it.




Society doesn't need drug-users.


Does that include alcohol? One of the most freely available and accepted drugs, also the cause of more social ill's than cannabis for example.

Geoff

Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:41 pm

I'm hoping some of the Stax soul artists performances were recorded- like Otis Redding, and Booker T & The MGs. Maybe also Howlin Wolf's appearance at the fillmore? Plus any new Zep stuff is welcome.

Fri Dec 16, 2005 11:37 pm

All people should be deadset against drug use.


What does this have to do with the Bill Graham vault?

I'm hoping some of the Stax soul artists performances were recorded- like Otis Redding, and Booker T & The MGs. Maybe also Howlin Wolf's appearance at the fillmore? Plus any new Zep stuff is welcome.


Plus the Albert King gigs at the Fillmore. There is so much potential for some amazing releases. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Fri Dec 16, 2005 11:42 pm

Graceland Gardener wrote:Society doesn't need drug-users.


Agreed. Elvis should have been locked up for life when he smoked that first joint in the '50s. Our society sure didn't need filthy drug users like Elvis, Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Ramones, Scott Walker, Tim Hardin, Neil Young and Marvin Gaye.

Keith Richards, Jr.