The San Francisco Oracle was published during the height of the Haight-Ashbury during 1966-1968. Led by founder and editor Allen Cohen, it chronicled The Summer of Love through its rainbow-colored pages. Some of the finest writers and artists of a generation regularly graced the tabloid's magical pages, such as: Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Tim Leary, William Burroughs, Alan Watts, Michael McClure, Paul Krassner, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Stanley Mouse, Rick Griffin, and Alton Kelley, to mention only a few. The late Abbie Hoffman once described the Oracle as "The most beautiful newspaper ever seen on the streets of our planet. Old copies should be dug up and studied . . . They were the real McCoy."
On July 27, a benefit was held at The Great American Music Hall to help defray expenses incurred in the publishing of the facsimile edition of the San Francisco Oracle. Featured were Big Brother and the Holding Co., Dino Valenti and Ram Dass. The event was wonderfully MC'd by Tony Seldin, known as "the vagabond poet," accompanied by reed player Phil Deal. The occasion took on an air of a class reunion of the counterculture.
Musically, the event was the "real McCoy," and included the first San Francisco appearance in over ten years by Dino Valenti. Valenti, who had been sidelined after brain surgery, is best known for his association with Quicksilver Messenger Service for which he wrote and sang their biggest hits, "Fresh Air" and "What About Me?". Dino also wrote the '60s anthem "Get Together" which was made famous by The Youngbloods. Valenti, who accompanied himself on acoustic guitar was in exceptionally good form displaying his soulful vocals that have been missing on the SF music scene for the last decade. From the first strains of Dino's opening song, "Heartaches," many in the packed house recalled what was perhaps the best part of the legendary Quicksilver band. The singer-songwriter debuted a set of new songs that easily matched his previous triumphs like "Cry Baby," "Winners," "I Want To Fly," "Scarecrow," "If I Had," and "Somebody." Valenti, who was obviously moved by the thunderous ovation he received after each song, remarked: "I'm just so happy to be alive and to be having fun." Likewise for Big Brother and The Holding Company, who have been absent from the stage recently. Made up of founding members James Gurley and Sam Andrew on guitars, Peter Albin on bass, and Dave Getz on drums, the legendary band featured the out-of-this-world vocals of Michel Bastian. Bastian, who clearly had her job cut out for her, carried the set in her own unique, almost operatic style that added new life to old chestnuts and made classics of the new material performed. Included in Big Brother's high energy set were: "Combination Of The Two," "Catch Me Daddy," "Down On Me," "Summertime," "Ball And Chain," "Buried Alive In The Blues," and "Piece of My Heart."
Ram Dass, accompanied by former Oracle co-editor Stephen Levine, gave a lecture that touched on life and death, and old and new values in a talk that was peppered with humor. "I don't know who I am tonight," he mused. "I used to be one of Owsley's distributors," remarked Ram Dass who, as psychologist Richard Alpert implored with Timothy Leary to "Tune in, Turn on and Drop Out" in the '60s. Ram Dass is on The Seva Foundation Board of Directors and his latest book co-authored with Paul Gorman is How Can 1 Help (Alfred A. Knopf). Ram Dass spoke in humorous tones of the '60s, "We broke out of a reality lock, out of a monolithic vertical culture back then. We thought the world would change immediately. Tim Leary and I even had a chart that told when the conscience would change. Ten years to enlightenment, we thought. I guess we were naive." Maybe so, but from the experience of gathering with old friends and survivors, I'd say that we're not going into the '90s alone. And that is certainly reassuring.
...found and borrowed from Relix Magazine: Issue 16-05 -- September/October - 1989
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