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Johnny Cash at San Quentin: Ten newly released photos
12.03.2014
07:54 am

Topics:
Heroes
Music

Tags:
Johnny Cash
San Quentin


 
1968’s Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison is surely one of the greatest live albums of all time, but just about a year later, Cash recorded another stellar live album for an audience of prisoners, At San Quentin. I don’t think this is a terribly controversial opinion: for my money, San Quentin is the better of the two. Cash’s longtime guitarist Luther Perkins passed away in a tragic house fire in between the two recordings, and absent that familiar mooring, Cash’s sound feels wild, like the band’s ever teetering on the edge of coming unglued on San Quentin. With new guitarist Bob Wootten, Cash is energetic, loose, gnarly, and just much closer to primal rock than he’d been on the preceding LP. The version of “Wanted Man” on that album just goddamn flattens me every time I hear it, and it’s impossible to deny the classic status of “A Boy Named Sue.” But whichever prison album you prefer, this much is surely true: those two concerts probably saw the most raucous upswells of cheering and applause at the line “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” that Cash ever got out of any of his audiences.

That San Quentin performance was filmed by England’s Grenada television, and ten never before seen B&W still photos from the production have just been released by ITV. Prints are available for sale via Sonic Editions.
 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Murder By Guitar: San Francisco punk band Crime live at San Quentin prison, 1978
11.12.2014
07:21 am

Topics:
Crime
Punk

Tags:
Crime
San Quentin


A 2012 reproduction of Crime’s San Quentin flyer.
 
So if anyone has been looking for an index of how the world has changed since 1978, here’s one valuable piece of data. That Labor Day, the San Francisco punk band Crime played a show in San Quentin State Prison. The members of the band wore matching dark blue police uniforms, and as they played such originals as “Crime Wave,” “Piss on Your Dog” and “Rockabilly Drugstore,” inmates waved flyers that screamed “CRIME,” the band’s block-letter logo, above a drawing of a leather-clad dominatrix in a jail cell. I’m no expert, but I don’t think any festivities along these lines are planned for San Quentin this year. I bet they’re lucky if the warden lets them watch a rerun of The Voice.
 

 
How did this supremely unlikely event come to pass? Drummer Hank Rank told an interviewer from Amoeba Music a few years ago:

Contrary to popular perception, there were not many venues for early punk bands. Bill Graham publicly declared that he would never allow a punk band to play any of his venues, and many smaller clubs were scared by what they read about the goings-on at punk shows. That’s why we were open to the idea of Museums Without Walls that put art and music in unlikely places, so when we were contacted with the opportunity by Lynn Hershman (now Leeson), we jumped. We were the only punk band on the show that hot sunny day in the exercise yard at the Q, and neither the prisoners nor the guards knew what to make of us. The window of the cell where Sirhan Sirhan was in solitary was directly opposite where we played, and I’d like to think that our show was the worst punishment of his life.

 

 
Hank Rank and singer/guitarist Frankie Fix described the show in a contemporary interview with New York Rocker:

On Labor Day of this year, Crime entered San Quentin and performed for over 500 prisoners. “It was something we had wanted to do for a long time,” said Rank. “We knew we’d be playing for a crowd that was really into crime.”

As the prison gig approached, Crime almost got cold feet. “As it got closer,” said Rank, “things we were hearing got scarier. They said we couldn’t wear blue jeans or a work shirt ‘cause in the event of a riot, they wouldn’t want us to get shot, mistaken for prisoners. Then they told us about the no-hostage rule which is that if you’re taken hostage by a prisoner, they will not bargain for your life. If he says he’s going to kill you if they won’t let him out, they’ll say ‘Fine, kill this person. We don’t care. We’re not letting you out.’”

According to the band, the San Quentin gig was not their best. “It was in the daylight,” explained Fix, who rarely rises before 5 p.m.

“It was blazing heat,” said Rank, “and they had a little speaker for a PA. And imagine, you’re looking out there at a mass of 500 people and all I could see were crimes written on their faces: rape, murder, mutilation. All the disgusting side of humanity was sitting there looking at us.”

 

 
Gimme Something Better, an oral history of Bay Area punk, gives a few more details:

Hank Rank: There was sort of a demilitarized zone between the stage and the prisoners. There was a rope, and then the prisoners were all behind that. And they really divided right down the middle, blacks on one side and non-blacks on the other. When a black group would play, all of the non-blacks would stand up and move to the far side of the yard. When a non-black group would play, the exact opposite would happen. So when we hit the stage, they all got up and moved away [...] It was a tough crowd. They didn’t exactly get the music, and the guards up on the tower with their guns, looking down, shaking their heads. Nobody there knew what to make of us.

Joe Rees [of Target Video, who filmed the show]: Up on the walkway was a black female guard with a high-powered rifle. She had an afro, and it was bleached blond. You’d think that she was part of the show. Policemen performing the music. Inmates with their eyes hanging out. It was so bizarre.

Johnny Strike [singer/guitarist]: Frankie was so nervous, he was popping Valiums. By the time he hit the stage, I looked over at him and I was like, “Oh man. He’s totally out to lunch, he’s singing the wrong song.” Somehow we pulled it off.

Murder By Guitar 1976-1980, released last year, collects all of Crime’s original studio recordings. Superior Viaduct put the album out on vinyl and MP3 this summer.

According to at least one Crime discography, Target Video released the whole show on VHS, but YouTube only has this great clip of “Piss on Your Dog.”
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Johnny Cash performs ‘San Quentin’ at San Quentin State Prison
03.18.2011
08:35 am

Topics:
Heroes
History
Music

Tags:
Johnny Cash
San Quentin
Jim Marshall

image
 
Every picture tells a story and here is the story behind one of the most iconic rebel images of all, photographer Jim Marshall’s classic shot of Johnny Cash flippin’ the bird during his famous concert at San Quentin State Prison:

Some of Marshall’s most arresting photographs of Cash were taken at two California prisons, Folsom (1968) and San Quentin (1969). These were not Cash’s first performances for prison inmates—indeed, his song “Folsom Prison Blues” had been released more than a decade earlier, in 1955, as a 45 and 78 by Sun Records. But the trip to Folsom would be recorded for a live album, and Jim Marshall was invited along by Cash’s label, Columbia, to document the event.

On the SFAE website, Jim Marshall recalls the day, January 13, 1968, when Cash and his band, the Tennessee Three, with the great Carl Perkins on guitar, entered the prison (see the pensive portrait of Cash, above). “The granite walls in Folsom are about eight feet thick, and we had just gotten off the bus and gone through one giant gate into a holding area. Then we went through a second gate, and, when it clanked shut, John said, ‘Jim, there’s a feeling of permanence in that sound.’ After that, I started wondering when we were going to get out of there.”

The success of “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison,” with a Marshall close-up of Cash on its cover, sweat dripping down his face from the bottom of his sideburns, sent Cash to San Quentin a year later for another live album. That recording, which made it to No. 1 on both the country and pop charts in the U.S., is famous for its black-and-blue cover, with Cash’s head silhouetted from behind by a harsh spotlight.

The most famous image from the day, though, is unquestionably the candid shot of Cash taken during a rehearsal before the show. Again from the SFAE website, Marshall recalls the origins of what he believed was “probably the most ripped off photograph in the history of the world. There was a TV crew behind me and John was on the side of the stage. I said ‘John, let’s do a shot for the warden.’” Apparently, that’s all the prompting Cash needed to look straight into Marshall’s lens and flip him the bird.

Below, Johny Cash and the Tennessee Three perform “San Quentin” at California’s San Quentin State Prison in 1969. What an amazing moment.
 

 
Via Collector’s Weekly

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment