Almost killed / Locked Up Abroad. Escape From Mexico…A Country I Love, Part 1 Of 3…

Almost killed / Locked Up Abroad. Escape From Mexico…A Country I Love, Part 1 Of 3…

Today Up On Christmachine Audio Reference Music Server :

DISCLAIMER: DO NOT SHOCK YOUR SELF WITH ELECTRICITY OR DO WHAT I DID AT HOME, YOU COULD BE KILLED. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. I UNDERSTAND ELECTRIC CURRENT PROPERTIES AND WAS TAKING MEASURED RISK. AGAIN DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. I KNOW IT’S BIZARRE THAT I EVEN HAVE TO WRITE THIS. RAWR !!!

It was another beautiful day in San Diego California. Every day is beautiful in San Diego, 4563rtwell that’s not completely true, but for most of the year the weather is fabulous.  One of the things that people from Southern California like to do is go south of the border into Mexico / Baja California.  I have a great fondness for Mexico always have and I always will.  The people, the food, the culture…what’s not to like.  Some people say that Baja California does not give you the full Mexican experience, and I agree with that.  Comparing Mexico City to Tijuana is a whole different ballgame for sure.  For us though, to walk over the border was a fun escape to another world.   Today also would be one of those days where I would come close to death but who would have thought.  I have been to Mexico many times, before and after this incident…and I will always continue to go.  This day though would be one I will never forget.

So on that morning we walked to downtown San Diego to the West Broadway Train Depot, and caught the next trolley for the short ride to San Ysidro.  San Ysidro is the end of the Trolley line and also adjacent to the US / Mexico border.  When we got off the train everyone would just head en mass to the maze of stairwells and tunnels that take you into Tijuana.  Sometimes we would go farther south to other towns like Ensenada where you could get a hotel and all you’re food for the day  for 20-30 dollars US.  In fact we knew a 76687juTurnCRPfew Americans who would live in places like Ensenada and come over the border to San Diego every day for work.  The reason being that you could live so much cheaper there than in the US.  Anyway walking over the border was an easy experience at the time, as immigration did not check our passports leaving the US, only when coming back from Mexico into the US.  So no hassles at all…smooth like butter.

So after traversing the maze of tunnels we would come out to a large open square made of granite stone and instantly on the other side of the square we are bombarded with people holding signs to try and get you into there stores selling everything from pharmaceuticals to souvenirs to alcohol “For Cheap”.  All the seasoned visitors know that this is not the place to but any cheap goods, they get cheaper the farther you get into Mexico and everything is up for negotiation.  You walk away after a bit of interest and they will drop the price often down 75% or to what you are offering.  With that said there are a lot of counterfeit goods, just as there are on the streets of New York City.  You have to know what to look for in quality so you don’t get taken.  Most of you already know this though I’m sure.

After you get through the square, you come to a taxi area that looks like some scene reminiscent of Mumbai, India.  Hundreds of cabs and their drivers all vying for your business.  Since it’s a short walk to Downtown Tijuana, there is no need to take a cab.  Next comes the walk over the footbridge which is a bit sad because there are young children selling things like packs of gum and pulling on your arm as if you did not notice them.  Their mothers sit in the crevices of the footbridge watching that there children are persistent. It’s not overwhelming but it gives you a real indication that you are in a whole different world in terms of poverty.  The footbridge goes over a large dry aqueduct (like the type you see in movies in LA) and is the real demarcation between the US and Mexico.

After walking down the street southward we come to “The Arch” that welcomes you into Tijuana proper.  This is where we come to the main drag which is a left turn into the bustling city, reminiscent of Downtown Istanbul with with a Spaghetti Western flair.  This is the main marketplace and you can find just about anything here, again everyone vying for your business and aimed toward the college students or people trying to avoid the official drinking age in the US.  Loud music is blaring from the different clubs and bars 24 hours a day…it just never seems to end, kind of like a more lawless version of Las Vegas.

As we stroll we look at all the goods for sale and stop if we find something interesting, but our real aim is the food.  Rule #1 always drink sealed bottled water and stay away from anything that contains ice. Bottled beverages are always the way to go, that are kept cold.  Avoid ice sold at the street vendors in anything from drinks to shaved ice…I have broken that rule before and did not get sick, but I have seen too many people that have so take it as you wish.

We then arrive at our favorite hole in the wall taco stand.  We know it’s great because it is packed as always and the cooks make your food right in front of you either at the bar or in the several booths inside.  The food moves quicker than they can sell it, it does not have a chance to sit out in the open for more than a few moments.  There is another station where a woman is cooking fresh corn and flour tortilla floutas.  The smell is glorious.  So as we walk in we grab either a bottled water or a Mexican Fanta made with real cane sugar, in those old style soda bottles with a cap that needs a bottle opener (Or the lighter trick).  There is a bottle opener conveniently on the wall right by the cooler.  We order the carne asada and carnitas tacos with everything, and tell the waitress to please keep them coming.  They come quick and fit perfect in the hand. Topped with melted cheese, red onion, cilantro, and lots of fresh squeezed lime juice. There are two large self serve 45635lkCRPsalsa’s on each table one with salsa verde and the other a roja salsa caliente…do you like it hot or hotter, hmmm choices, choices.  Latino music plays in the loud and there are three people just randomly dancing in the small ailes.It is then one realizes that they are immersed in a fabulous culture.  It’s heaven Jerry, just heaven!

So after wolfing down as many tacos as possible we ask for la billete and it comes in at just under 20 dollars US.  Where can four people eat all the endless fresh taco’s made right in front of you, with water and sodas for under 20 bucks in the US?  So after we pay our bill, we head out to wander the streets in search of the unique sights, sounds, and aromas of this amazing country.  Sure some of it is a bit camp and touristy, but the deeper you look…the more you find things that you do not need but must have.

As we walk down the boulevard  we came to familiar bar, another hole in the wall where there is someone outside trying to convince us into drinking alcohol there.   He obviously gets a commission to get takers down for cheap drinks.  So as my three friends were into getting some beers at some point. The bids start at 1 dollar US per beer and we haggle down to 50 cents US, and then comes the kicker as always…”The Walkaway”.   We notion we’re not interested and as we start to walk away he yells out’ “Let’s make a deal!”  As we were piqued with interest, a disheveled looking fella walks out of the bar to us.  He is carrying a car battery on his chest slung over his neck and arms with leather straps.  Protruding out at length from the car battery’s terminals are two long wires attached to a makeshift connection on the other end to two metal handlebars sawed off and connected, one for each wire.  He says to us in broken English, ” If one of you can hold these, one each hand…past red line”, as he points to a dial and voltage meter that has a red line pasted on it…”, then beers 25 cent, if not 75 cent.

Well we all looked at each other to gauge a response, I lit up inside, he did not realize that he had come up against a shark for this type of challenge.  Everyone was like no way, forget that…crazy talk! So I asked my mates if they want, I will do it.  I wasn’t even going to be having beers.  As I said though I had an angle and one caveat, free sodas for me…and they agreed.  As soon as we agreed he handed me the handles one for each hand as he began to chuckle and he referred to us now as, “Mis amigos y amigas favoritas”, I had a chuckle as well.  It was showtime and my friends were all pleading with me not to do it.  I insisted as I said just trust me on this.

So before I took the Pepsi Challenge for 25 cent beers and free sodas, I ask for your patience for a moment as I explain and digress from the matter at hand.  Winding back several years earlier, I have a DJ set up always in my flat.  My place always has long wires leading to power sources around my space. I would spin vinyl, and as I still do just mix and beat match continuously for hours and hours.  I spin everything from Electronic, Dinosaur Rock, Rap, Pop, Metal, Classical, and Alternative as well as all things in between.  Right below my old skool wood and fuzz super heavy DJ Coffin, I have a five foot high JBL Bass Rig on wheels for my setup to rest on.  The wheels allow my complete setup to move around the house as needed. Down by the wood floor I always have a small matrix of power cords just under the bass rig.  One day when I was spinning my bare feet happened to land on the wires and I got a good shock as I had not noticed one of them split. I did notice shortly before that there was some strange noises in the mix as if there was a grounding issue but it came on so gradually, I did not notice till I got shocked.  Something happened though I kind of liked  the way it felt.

I know some will find this crazy and bat shit but I noticed when I got shocked, the hair would stand up on the back of my neck and I would get goose bumps all over.  So like an idiot I did it again and again, until I was standing continuously on the damaged wire.  I was not worried about shorting my equipment as the wires fed into a power conditioner that just trips if there is a surge.  Yes, rationalization I know, but it felt really good. Over a short period of time I got used to the strength of the voltage and any fear which I initially had faded away.  I continued doing it for a few days off and on, and at some point when I moved my rig I swapped out the damaged wire for a new one.  I eventually forgot about this experience, until one day at a family cookout someone mentioned how they got 65768uiCRPshocked and without missing a beat I told everyone what happened to me.  The looks I got were epic, it’s as if everyone was looking at a ghost.  Until someone broke the silence with some consternation and a laugh…I had never thought to much about it.  My family begged me not to do that anymore, but it was still met with some measured laughs.

So here we are at the moment of truth, the man at the bar hands me the two handlebar terminals one in each hand, asks me if I’m, ready.  Go for it I egged.  He started out with a low voltage turning the dial to 25% of the way to the scratched red line.  It then occurred to me that if by mistake he turned it up all the way I could be dead. Putting that out of mind, I just began to meditate a bit and see if I could ride it out.  He then went to 50% and I was still fine.  I could feel the electricity coursing down my arm and into my head and belly but it was still fine.  Then he went to 75% and I had to clench my teeth and I could feel my muscles all over contracting.  My arms began to quiver as I gripped the handles but could barely feel them any more, I thought I was going to drop them.  Then as everyone on the street was gathering around watching what I was doing, with my mates worried as all heck. They did not look comfortable even though I was doing the heavy lifting and the crowd was cheering me on.  Then the man said he was going to red line it and I had to hold for ten seconds, he looked convinced I was going to fail.  He slowly raised to the red line in the center and the crowd began to count…Uno, Dos, Tres, Quatro….it was as if time stood still.  My teeth began to rattle. cinco, seis, siete…I was definitely at the end of my line, just hoping the handles would not drop, as I said I could no longer feel them but I knew they were hot somehow.  Ochooooooooo, Nueeeeeevvveee, Diezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, once I realized we were at 10 he began to lower the voltage. I had done it.  Everyone was 343456hjCRPcheering, it was pretty wild.  So we went inside the bar and my friends got their 25 cent beers. I was the man of the hour, exhausted, and the fun had not even begun.

We hung around for a few hours while the friends got their drink on. Then we realized there was about one hour till sunset, and decided to walk around the city, even going off the beaten path, which i would later come to realize paradoxically that our luck had run out and fully kicked into gear at the same exact time.  So we get back to the beginning of the main drag and we noticed there was another road with vendors that veered of the main road going downhill but it was heading North West, kind of in the direction back towards the border. We decided to wander on down this road as we entered painters light, my favorite time of the day.  I noticed the first vendor was a woman who owned a statue store and the front was open like a garage filled with lots of statues mostly religious in nature but there was other things as well.  They seemed to be made of cheap plaster but they were still pretty cool.  On the cobblestone street in front of us where statues both painted and unpainted, many I noticed where oddly balanced on the top of round stones, and as the wind was picking up they would wobble a bit back and forth. In the moment, I did not think too much of it as we all just were browsing.

Doc3

Photo Courtesy Of Doc!

Next thing I know, I hear a small crash behind me about fifteen feet back, It then dawned that one of the unpainted statues had fallen over and smashed on the street.  We all looked at each other confused and thinking why the hell are these statues set up on round rocks and I felt bad for the woman…next thing we know she starts yelling at me that I owed her, “150 dollar cash”.  I tried to reason with her, it was then all of us knew we were being set up.  It was quite clear as I had not even come close to that statue.  As she began to yell at me in Spanish, which I understood she was yelling at other vendors to come stop me…I said let’s go this is getting crazy.  As we were walking away I could see a group of men forming at the top of the street pointing me out and beginning to head down the street after me.  Shit was going downhill fast and I could tell they figuratively wanted my head on a platter as they began to scream “Policia, policia!!!”

I had heard of shit like this before and there was no way I was taking the fall for something I did not do.  I had also heard of people being thrown in a Mexican jail for stuff like this and it would take a cash bribe to get out.  I then looked at my mates and I said quickly and quietly, “I’ll meet you guys at the border, just take the main road back.”  I continued “I’m heading for the border on my own, and then we can take this up with customs officials.”  It was my only hope as they we’re coming after me.  I bolted down a side street and once I did It looked like I had entered a demolition zone, a back street full of rubble, smashed bricks, stray dogs, feral cats, and trash…something that you might see off the beaten path in Beirut.  I was scared shitless, and it was then my “Jason Statham caught up in a Liam Neeson Movie” persona kicked in. Adrenaline full on!  The street ran parallel to the main road back to the border but it was still a dozen blocks back to the crossing.  I dodged and dived around all kinds of obstacles, climbing over fences…it looked like construction was going on as well but there was literally not one person in sight.  Ever hear of a back alley in a different country, with no people on it the likes of which someone encounters in a bad dream.  Well I had found it.

The gang that were chasing me cut over to that road as well but as I said it was full of obstacles so they were slowed down as well.  I thought to myself, although they were coming they were not fast or gaining on me, so as long as i kept up my pace I would make it too the border before them.  After a few blocks I ducked below a damaged wall as I waited a few moments, looking around the corner to the road we originated on and as I predicted my mates walked by and I cut back to them thinking maybe they had given up.  So I walked up to them again and they looked worried.  I told them if they pop up again I would take off (again) and meet them at the border as originally planned.  Just as i finished saying that I looked back up the road and they where running, yelling, and now I noticed several of them were carrying guns and waving them in the air.  After seeing that I took off again cutting back towards the same road I had been quickly navigating through those obstacles. Now I knew for sure this was definitely not going to end till we at least got to the border.  So I soldiered on not knowing if I was going to get out alive.

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Photo Courtesy Of Doc!

Slowly but surely I made my way back towards the border. Next thing you know it sounded like firecrackers going off, however when I noticed puffs of dust coming from the sides of the cement walls and the dirt being kicked up, I then realized, holy shit they’re shooting at me.  I just kept going with all that  I had in the tank as i continued to hear the sound of bullets going by just like something you would see in the movies.  This can’t be real I thought, I’m going to fucking die here.  So I don’t know if anyone has ever had something like this happen to them before, but I can bet even if you have not, you can imagine what it would be like.  Not pleasant…I did not have time to think, I was going on pure instinct at this point.  Ducking and diving, surging and backing off for a moment to mark my path, it still seemed they were not gaining on me.  I was sure as hell they were still coming though.  Luckily the shooting was sporadic and jagged (not constant), and I took advantage of that fact.  Not only that they seemed to be bad shots because they were not even getting close. Who knows, they were probably just trying to get me to stop not actually hit me…I could not be sure.

I realized next as I came around a bend that I was only about three blocks from the foot bridge…I had a bad feeling that this was where they were going to cut me off and catch me.  I had to stay positive and I can assure  you it was not easy.  I could not see the gang behind me anymore but I could here them yelling.  I made a break back to the main road and when i got to the footbridge I ran faster than I ever have in my life and made it to the main square at the border.  I wanted to make my way over to the main stairways to the tunnels and bridges that led over the border to immigration.  One great thing that I realized was the square was filled with people, so I stopped running to not stand out…hoping that I would blend in.  I still did walk very fast though.  When I got to the walkways I stopped to get my bearings and wait for my friends…a few minutes later the mates come around into the square and I yell and wave to them.  As they made their way over to me, there was a small moment of hope that this could be over.  We, for a moment (prematurely) hug and talk about what just happened. That moment did not last long.

About a minute later the gang came crowding into the square, and this time they had the freaking police with them…communicating on radios as if they were calling out an APB.  I could not believe it…this was insane.  Again (for the third time) I said to my mates, “I have to go”…yes, they were stunned. So I bolted up the stairs and ran through the tunnels as fast as I could and eventually I came to the straightway where I could see the the US Immigration turn styles but was gutted because their was a frickin’ line.  I could imagine the Mexican Police grabbing me before making it through and claiming jurisdiction.  So I took a deep breath, opened my passport, and just kept calm in the line about ten deep.  Surprisingly the que went quite fast as there were a few lines open at the same time.  I finally got to the customs official and he asked me a few questions.  I had to weigh instantaneously in my mind saying anything about what had just happened versus just getting back into the country.  I could not hear the angry mob anymore and just went for it.  I answered the questions truthfully and he let me pass.

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Photo Courtesy Of Doc!

When I got outside of the border crossing station in San Ysidro,  I walked over to the trolley platform to wait for my group to catch up with me. I was elated, I could not believe I had made it.  After about ten minutes they arrived and we all hugged it out.  What a mess…so much could have gone terribly wrong and yet being back in my home country…I was overcome with the feeling of safety.  It was finally over.  I can tell you this, it was the topic of conversation amongst our friends and family for a while.

Since then I have safely gone into Mexico both the Baja Peninsula and the Mexican mainland and would never encourage someone not to go.  It was just the luck of the draw on that day in that moment.  I can also say I have been in other life defining situations in the US as well as other places in the world.  So I’m not singling out Mexico…as I’ve said it is still one of my favorite places in the world.  The Mexican people are a wonderful and  hospitable culture.  I just happened upon an anomaly.  It’s fun to be on TV but I can say without hesitance that I would not trade my freedom and safety for a go at an episode of National Geographic “Locked Up Abroad”, and by the way do you think getting shocked for 25 cent beers and free cokes is really worth it? I do.

 

Thanks for reading and for all your kind words. Your patience with my insubordination is greatly appreciated. Thanks for all your support!!!

More Interesting Articles and Reviews to come.

Cheers and Bless Bless!

 

CM ☕

 

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Wulf Wolodia Grajonca…Why I And Anyone Who Enjoys Music In Any Form, Has Unkowingly Been Influenced By Him…Bill Graham Presents! [Essential Reading Post #3, well #4 As Well]

Today Up On Christmachine Audio Reference Music Server :

Photo: Courtesy of Doc Keyaza...Thanks Brother!

Photo: Courtesy of Doc Keyaza…Thanks Brother!

As all of you know, having visited this website, that we cater to all music in any form. That whether or not you like a specific “genre” (I hate that word) is irrelevant. What we stress here is the beauty of the art as a whole, and don’t be surprised if at some point a particular type of music that did not catch you before, one day you may just have a “Oh yeah…I get it now moment”.

I have been telling you about my influences, from the “kid” who lent me records when  I was young, to David Mancuso who helped me to understand the complexities of sound in a way that when others tried to explain I would get lost, and now I come to the person who shaped my life more than any other person (besides my family – that’s different) even though I never even met him.

When I got to an age where I was just learning what I wanted to do in my life, I was loving things, giving almost anything a chance to see what the world had to offer in terms of skill. I had been in bands at a young age and played the guitar and bass but I was a vocalist. So I wanted to do something in music but I did not know what. I was practical in the sense that I knew that it was such a slim chance of becoming a professional touring musician in a successful band. Because of this insight, I thought well if that is not going to work out what could I do that that would allow me to live and be part of the art and the music lifestyle.

Still being under age I did not have many options because I still could not enter clubs unless they were all ages shows. So I just let things play out a bit and knew something would work out because I surrounded myself with people who wanted to be in all areas of the music industry. It was at this time that I had heard about an amazing book about a famous promoter who pretty much invented the idea of putting together live shows and planning tours for acts that caught his ear. This man unbeknownst to many has his blood, sweat, and tears in every show that we have ever seen and will ever see in our lifetimes.

At this point you cannot get hung up on genres or bands that he associated himself with because if it was not for him the art of putting on a live show would never have developed the same way. He was not the star but he made everyone else into stars, and not just the bands but the audience…they were the real stars. Sound familiar, his idea bastardized … “Selfie” anyone! Not only was he the originator but when he tragically passed the music industry in terms of the fairness, value for your hard earned dollar, and quality of live music pretty much went in the shitter. As we all know there were a lot of other factors that began to destroy the music industry and even at the end he began to lose the way because big corporations stepped in and they were too powerful, it was the way of the world as we know it today as bands could not sell music so musicians had to shift their revenue streams from product to touring.

So to get back to the book, I began to read and on a bender, finished all 555 pages in two days. It was then I was clear on what I wanted to do with my life. I went and filled out applications for jobs working at any club I could. I was large enough in stature I thought I could work as a bouncer, that’s what I applied for. I was given the runaround from different clubs for different reasons, mostly because it was a brother and sisterhood that you needed to have connections to get in. I had connections that I could have tried but I wanted to make it on my own. So eventually I got a call to start at the bottom bussing and cleaning tables at a small club which was part of a whole network of clubs in a major city. It was my in…I was still under age and I was willing to do anything to make it happen.

It was a dirty and thankless job for very low pay and I had bills to pay like for an apartment in the city. I supplemented in other ways hustling on the streets which taught me to be streetwise….I had guns held to my head several times, stabbed, jumped, robbed, beaten, all of it but it did not intimidate me from reaching my goal of working in the music industry. I had to carry a gun unenthusiastically ( I would never own a gun now) but at the time the stand off at the OK Corral  was normal. I thrived on chaos, it was in my nature as an undiagnosed ADHD patient. I also found that I was a very good diplomat and was always finding myself successful diffusing heated confrontations between others.

So I cleaned the clubs and just got used to the rubber interiors of the venues that had the smell of piss and bearing grease. It became second nature and soon found myself moving up the ladder to security, lights, sound production, booking, promotions etc… for both gay and straight nights. I was straight but began to appreciate the tolerance for all lifestyles ( I have my parents to thank for that really). Gay people really knew how to have a good time and I liked to have a good time, good fit. Working the door I got to become friends with all the bikers and street gangs…it got to the point where I would be comfortable telling people after a pat down that they had to  leave their guns outside and I would prompt them to hide them in the alley or in their vehicles. They would smile and gratefully oblige, I had their respect because I respected them.

Things really got going  when I started to run full nights of talent at many of the clubs in my area…my job was doing everything in the club to keep things going for the night whether that meant security or cleaning up puke…I did it all. Nothing was below me. Then came the passes to get in anywhere I wanted, I was following the blueprint laid out in that amazing book that I had read….it worked to the T. Then came the big-time working for all the bands that you know now who were not all famous at the time, from personal artist security to stage crew. I pretty much worked for every band that came to the city for “one off’s” as we call them or two or three shows if necessary.

The final major stage was going on tour internationally with bands for a number of gigs as I was part of a rotating road crew that would jump from tour to tour…my only failure was to lock in with the right band at the right time when they hit the big time and stay on as permanent crew. That was the ultimate goal but it was not in the cards. I cannot complain because even though I was not getting rich, I was living the dream. Every night was a gig either working or attending and I could walk in any door I wanted for free. It was an amazing time, as I said before I have lived many lifetimes in the half that I have already lived. It even led to a more calm stint of working on the pro tennis tour at the grand slam major tennis tournaments in Europe.

So all this happened because of a book about a life lived. I admired how my mentor, my hero was so in control of every aspect of the venue down to the invention of simply handing out apples as people entered the Fillmore West in San Francisco. He would walk around and ask the attendees if everything was good and if their was anything he could do for them. Not just the bands, the people in the crowd as he was one of us. Of course he was so intent on getting his way that he drove all the bands crazy…but they loved him for it. It was the 1960’s and everything was new, everything was on the table, there were no rules. He made the rules…bribing the bands, police, and local neighbors upset from the noise late at night. He was Bill. He was Bill Graham, originally Wulf Wolodia Grajonca a German Jew, who had to change his name because no one could pronounce his real name. He barely escaped the Holocaust and he lost family members as a result of the war.

So now I’ve told you how he shaped my life…and I implore you if you are a fan of music to read his book: Bill Graham Presents – My Life Inside Rock And Out. It does not matter 155899314_bill-graham-presents-my-life-inside-rock-and-out-by-whether you only listen to Death Metal or EDM…this book lays out how live shows came to popularity as well as perfected by this one man. It was a horrible day when I found out that he had died in a Helicopter crash on October 25, 1991. I was devastated but it was right in the middle of realizing my life’s passion. In memory of him I had to keep going, and going stronger as a result.

To give you a piece of his life story in short I think it best to post a short synopsis of his life published by the Bill Graham foundation as they can cover it all in short better than me.

Taken from The Bill Graham Memorial Foundation Website: http://www.billgrahamfoundation.org/bio.html

“Who was Bill Graham”

“Bill Graham howled. He talked. He shouted. He harangued. He laughed. He threatened. He barked. He sang (a little!)…Bill was one of the great mavericks who redefined what freedom really meant in the U.S.A.” – Pete Townshend”

“Creative and combative, charming and charismatic, Bill Graham was a child of history whose entire life was shaped by his family background. The son of Russian Jews who had emigrated to Germany in search of a better life, he was born Wolfgang Grajonca in Berlin on January 8th, 1931. Two days later, his father, who worked as a civil engineer, died of a blood infection after having been injured in an industrial accident. To support her five daughters and newborn son, Bill’s mother began selling artificial flowers, costume jewelry, and women’s skirts in various markets in the city.

After Krystillnacht, “The Night of Breaking Glass” on November 8th, 1938 when Nazi storm troopers and German citizens destroyed seventy five hundred Jewish shops as well as more than two hundred synagogues, Bill’s mother placed him and his sister Tolla in a kinderheim or children’s home to protect them. Eight years old, Bill stood with a crowd of people who shouted “Sieg Heil!” as Adolph Hitler passed by in a car.

Along with his sister, Bill was then sent to a chateau in France where they both lived until Paris fell to the Nazis in 1941. Fleeing the oncoming German troops, a worker from the International Red Cross led sixty-four children from the chateau. Moving constantly with very little to eat, Bill and his sister rode on buses and trains, walked for hours, and slept at night by the side of the road in the rain. Weakened by malnutrition, thirteen year old Tolla soon developed pneumonia.

In Lyon, the International Red Cross Worker told Bill, who was then ten years old, that his sister had to stay behind in the hospital but would join them again once she recovered. Bill never saw Tolla again and she most likely died in the hospital. From Lyon, Bill and the other children walked to Marseilles. They all spent two months in a convent in Madrid before moving to Lisbon where they were put on an ocean liner that docked in Casablanca and Dakar before taking nineteen days to cross the Atlantic as it dodged German U-boats. Sleeping on deck, Bill survived on cookies and oranges.

Suffering from malnutrition and rickets, Bill arrived in New York on September 24th, 1941. Nearly eleven years old, he weighed fifty-five pounds. His only possessions were his yarmulke, a prayer book, and some photographs of his parents and sisters. Of the sixty-four children who had set off from the chateau in France three months earlier, eleven made it to America.

Although Bill would not learn of her fate until after World War II had ended, his mother had already been gassed to death on a train while being transported to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp to which his sister Ester was then also sent. Fluent in German and French but unable to speak or understand a word of English, Bill was placed in an army barracks in upstate New York. Each weekend, couples who had been offered forty-eight dollars a month by the Jewish Foster Home Bureau to take in refugee children came to select who they wanted to take home with them.

In what he would later describe as the most painful experience of his life, Bill carefully cleaned himself up each weekend and then stood beside his tightly made bed as people he did not know judged him in a language he could not understand. The last of the eleven children with whom he had come to America to be selected, Bill spent nine weeks waiting before finally being chosen by a couple from The Bronx whose own son happened to be studying French at The Bronx High School of Science.

Although he soon mastered English with the help of his foster brother, Bill initially spoke with a thick German accent and so found himself fighting each day with schoolmates who thought he was Nazi. Becoming the ultimate New York City street kid, he sold baseball cards, played craps in the schoolyard, and worked as a delivery boy to pay his own keep. In classic immigrant fashion, he learned about America by going to the movies where the actor John Garfield became his great hero.

After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School, Bill attended Brooklyn College. He spent his nights dancing the mambo at the Palladium on Fifty-Third Street and Broadway in Manhattan where, as a mirror ball revolved above the dance the floor, Latin band leaders like Machito, Tito Puente, and Tito Rodriguez played songs that went on for fifteen or twenty minutes as everyone danced in what Bill would later call “the eye of this wonderful storm.” When he won the Wednesday Night Dance contest at the Palladium some years later, Bill considered it one of his greatest accomplishments.

Eighteen years old but not yet an American citizen, Bill was drafted to fight in the Korean War. Because no one could pronounce “Grajonca” correctly, he had changed it to “Graham” by selecting his new last name from the phone book. Constitutionally unable to deal with authority of any kind, Bill hated the Army. As a forward observer in the 7th Infantry Division whose job it was to go out at night to pinpoint the enemy’s location, he was awarded the Bronze Star for valor and a Purple Heart and promoted to corporal only to be busted back down to private for refusing an order he believed would result in his certain death. After his foster mother died, he was granted a hardship discharge.

Having first worked as kitchen boy in the Catskill Mountains during the summer when he was fifteen years old, Bill became a bus boy and then a waiter at Grossinger’s and the Concord Hotel, the top of the line resorts in what was then known as “The Jewish Alps.” While running a lucrative nightly craps and poker game for gambling-obsessed guests at The Concord, Bill put his own job on the line by unionizing the dining room staff at the hotel.

Returning to the city, he worked as a waiter and a cab driver while living in Greenwich Village. With no real idea what he wanted to do with his life, Bill repeatedly hitchhiked and drove to California and back again before deciding to become an actor. After studying with Uta Hagen and Lee Strassberg, he was cast in a variety of small roles but soon drifted back out to California where he became the business manager for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the cutting edge radical theatre company run by R.G. “Ronny” Davis in which Peter Coyote began his acting career.

After the Mime Troupe was busted for giving what authorities termed an “obscene” performance in Lafayette Park, Bill put on an appeal party on November 6th, 1965 to raise funds for their legal defense at which Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Sandy Bull, The Fugs, John Handy, Allen Ginsberg, and The Jefferson Airplane appeared. During what he would later call “by far the most significant evening of my life in the theater,” Bill watched in amazement as people who did not know one another walked into the party and began dancing with one another.

Having finally found something he was good at from which he could also earn a living, Bill put on a second benefit for the Mime Troupe at the Fillmore Auditorium but then parted ways with the theater group. After attending the Trips Festival at Longshoreman’s Hall where he had a memorable confrontation with Ken Kesey and began a lifelong friendship with Jerry Garcia by trying to put his shattered guitar back together so he could perform with The Grateful Dead, Bill began producing and promoting shows with Chet Helms of the Family Dog collective at the Fillmore. Their partnership did not last long and Bill began an epic series of battles to be allowed to continue presenting music for white kids in a black neighborhood.

At the Fillmore, Bill fought with the cop on the beat. He fought with the rabbi in the synagogue next door. With the backing of Charles Sullivan, the black entrepreneur whose dance permit he had been using to put on shows, Bill fought with the city council. All the while, he was putting on shows that featured Lenny Bruce opening for The Mothers of Invention, plays by LeRoi Jones (with The Byrds as headliners) and Michael McClure, and a reading by Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky and Lawrence Ferlinghetti at a Jefferson Airplane show. With a mirror ball revolving over the dance floor and the music playing at the Fillmore, Bill recreated the magic he had first experienced as teenager while dancing the mambo in the Palladium in Manhattan.

Asking the young white musicians who were creating the psychedelic sound who they wanted to see at the Fillmore, Bill began booking black artists who had never before played for white audiences. When Otis Redding performed for the first time at the Fillmore, Janis Joplin arrived at three in the afternoon to make certain she would be down front to see him. With The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Moby Grape, Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Butterfield Blues Band, and The Jefferson Airplane headlining, Bill brought great black artists like Freddie King, Albert King, B.B. King, Junior Wells, Lightning Hopkins, The Staple Singers, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, and Muddy Waters to a brand new audience.

Bill brought The Doors and Jimi Hendrix to San Francisco for the first time. He also began booking English bands who had never before performed on the west coast. After The Who played for the first time in San Francisco for two nights at the Fillmore, they did their groundbreaking set at the Monterey Pop Festival. When Bill put on Cream for an unheard-of six nights, the group was forced to begin extending their songs because they did not have enough material to fill two sets and their extraordinary performances broke the band in America.

Right from the start, Bill saw the rock concert as theater and provided his musicians with the best sound and lights available. To advertise his shows, he had psychedelic artists like Wes Wilson, Rick Griffin, and Mouse and Kelley create landmark posters that have since become collectible art. Riding all over the city at night on his scooter, Bill put up the posters. He also created the first independent ticket distribution system by inveigling local head shops to sell tickets for him.

Completely hands-on, Bill booked the shows, took tickets at the front door, cleaned the bathrooms between sets, and put a barrel of apples by the entrance to the ballroom with a sign that read “Take One, or Two.” Working alongside his wife Bonnie Maclean, who did some of the earliest show posters, Bill made the Fillmore a safe haven where kids could experience the music they loved without getting busted. The Fillmore was Bill’s house. So long as you paid for a ticket, Bill treated you like an honored guest. And even when they drove him crazy, he treated his musicians like artists.

Bringing it all back home, Bill then expanded his operations by taking over a rundown former movie theatre on Second Avenue in New York City. The Fillmore East opened on March 18th, 1968 with Big Brother and the Holding Company supported by Albert King and Tim Buckley and soon became the premier venue for rock in the world. If a new band played a great set at Fillmore East on Friday night, the entire music business knew it by the next morning. In San Francisco, Bill began putting on shows in Winterland, a five thousand seat ice skating arena that was then the largest venue in which rock concerts had ever been regularly presented.

Moving into management, Bill guided the career of The Jefferson Airplane. With producer David Rubinson, Bill created two record labels, San Francisco Records and Wolfgang Records. He also founded FM Productions, which soon became the leading technical tour support company in rock. After discovering Carlos Santana, Bill engineered his meteoric rise to success by insisting the Santana Blues Band perform at the Woodstock Festival, an event put on in large part by those who had learned their craft from Bill at Fillmore East.

Now a media celebrity, Bill commuted between New York and San Francisco on a weekly basis. Completely consumed by his work, he saw his newborn son David for the first time when his photograph was shown on stage at Fillmore East. In New York City, Bill also collaborated with his idol, impresario Sol Hurok, to present rock for the first time at the Metropolitan Opera House. Burnt out by the stress of his never ending work schedule and the increasingly outrageous demands of superstar acts, Bill decided to close the Fillmores in 1971.

His retirement did not last long. Doing more shows than ever  before at a variety of venues, Bill presented the Rolling Stones for two shows at Winterland as well as in Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, and Tucson on their 1972 tour of America, thereby beginning his association with “the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band.” A year later, Bill put on the first in what became a hugely popular series of one-day outdoor festivals known as “Day On The Green” at which Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and The Grateful Dead and The Who (on a single bill) played before more than fifty thousand people at Oakland Stadium.

In 1974, Bill produced landmark arena rock tours by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, George Harrison, and Bob Dylan.  A year later, Bill helped create the incredibly lucrative rock merchandising industry by funding Winterland Productions, the first purveyor of t-shirts for which musicians received royalties. When Bill learned a budget cut was about to put an end to all extracurricular activities in San Francisco public schools, he persuaded the city to let him put on a benefit he called SNACK – an acronym for “San Francisco Needs Athletics, Culture, and Kicks.”

On March 23rd, 1975, fifty thousand people filled Kezar Stadium to watch The Grateful Dead, Graham Central Station, Bob Dylan and the Band, Jefferson Starship, Tower of Power, the Doobie Brothers, Santana, Mimi Farina, and Neil Young perform. Featured speakers at the event included Marlon Brando, Joan Baez, and Willie Mays. The concert raised enough money to fund after-school programs in San Francisco schools for another year.

Although Bill had been doing benefits ever since he had first opened the Fillmore, SNACK was the first big rock benefit concert in history. By using the drawing power of artists who were willing to contribute their services for a worthy cause, Bill had discovered a way to use rock “to solve a social problem.” His willingness to invest his time and energy in projects from which neither he nor his company earned any money would in time make him the go-to guy in rock for anyone with a worthy cause.

In 1976, Bill put on The Last Waltz, the farewell concert by The Band and a
superstar supporting cast that was filmed by Martin Scorcese. With his marriage having long since ended in divorce, Bill began a long-term relationship with Marcia Sult who in 1977 gave birth to their son Alex in Hawaii. In 1981, Bill planned and managed the Rolling Stones massive stadium tour of America. The tour was a huge success and Bill then shepherded the Stones on their European tour the following year.

While managing artists like Carlos Santana, Van Morrison, Eddie Money, the Neville Brothers, Joe Satriani, and Blues Traveler, Bill returned to his first love and appeared as an actor in his good friend Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, The Cotton Club, and Gardens of Stone. He also played the well-known Mafia boss, Charles “Lucky” Luciano in Bugsy, Barry Levinson’s film starring Warren Beatty

In 1985 after Bill had sponsored a rally in Union Square in San Francisco to protest President Ronald Reagan’s plan to visit a cemetery in Bitburg, Germany where members of the Waffen SS had been buried, the offices of Bill Graham Presents were firebombed and burned to the ground. A Holocaust survivor who had proudly lined the walls of his office with priceless rock memorabilia, Bill lost many of his most prized personal possessions in the blaze. Although those who set the fire were never caught, Bill and his company were soon back in business again.

After Bob Geldof came up with the idea of putting on a “Global Jukebox” with artists in both the U.S. and England performing on television all over the world to raise money to fight the devastating famine in Ethiopia, Bill produced the American Live Aid concert at the one hundred thousand seat John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. The event, which raised more than forty-five million dollars to fight hunger in Africa, also proved that, as Bill would later say, rock had become “the international means of communication,” the single language everyone all over the world now understood. For his work on Live Aid, Bill was given MTV’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Devoting his time and energy to charity projects no one else could have undertaken, Bill put together a six city “Conspiracy of Hope” tour in the summer of 1986 to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Amnesty International, the human rights organization dedicated to stopping violence against women, fighting to free prisoners of conscience, opposing torture, and defending refugees and migrants throughout the world. Featuring U2, The Police, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, Bryan Adams, the Neville Brothers, and Joan Baez, the tour raised $2.5 million for Amnesty USA and brought the organization a hundred and fifty thousand new members. The tour ended with a day-long concert at Giants Stadium in New York attended by sixty thousand people that was broadcast live by MTV.

After presenting the first live stadium rock concert featuring American artists in Russia, Bill put together the “Human Rights Now!” tour in 1988 to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Featuring Yossou N’Dour, Tracy Chapman, Peter Gabriel, Sting, and Bruce Springsteen, the tour began in England and continued with concerts in Europe, Costa Rica, Canada, the United States, Japan, India, Zimbabwe, the Ivory Coast, Brazil, and Argentina. The sheer logistics of moving so many musicians around the world in “the greatest ever rock-music extravaganza” were staggering but the tour brought Amnesty’s message of hope to people in third world where the organization had long been struggling to achieve its goals.

Despite his obsession to use rock as a force to raise consciousness throughout the world, Bill was still running a company with more than a hundred employees and he suffered a crippling personal breakdown when the Rolling Stones chose someone else to run their 1989 Steel Wheels Tour.  As only he could, Bill managed to resurrect himself again and organized a twelve hour rock telethon that raised two million dollars for the victims of the massive earthquake that had struck the Bay Area in October, 1989. A year later, he brought sixty thousand people together in the Oakland Coliseum to welcome South Africa’s president, Nelson Mandela.

On Friday, October 25th, 1991, Bill was flying home from a Huey Lewis and the News show in the East Bay with his companion Melissa Gold when the helicopter piloted by his long time associate Steve “Killer” Kahn was caught in a sudden storm. Striking a power line, it exploded, killing all those on board. Sixty years old, Bill died as he had lived, doing what he loved best.

What may have been as many as half a million people filled the Polo Field in Golden Gate Park on November 3rd, 1991 at a free concert in Bill’s memory entitled “Laughter, Love, and Music.” Aaron Neville, Jackson Browne, Joe Satriani, Carlos Santana, Los Lobos, Robin Williams, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, John Fogerty, and The Grateful Dead performed. Joan Baez and Kris Kristofferson closed the show by singing “Amazing Grace.” Three months later, Bill was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

A one-of-a-kind human being who always seemed larger than life, Bill Graham was in the business of making people happy and never stopped trying to create what for him was the magical moment when the performer and the crowd came together and the music became a vehicle that took everyone to a higher plane. As much as anyone who ever lived, Bill Graham loved the music. He loved the money and the madness, much of which he helped bring to a business that since his passing has become increasingly corporate and impersonal.

For more than a quarter of a century, Bill Graham was the heart, the guts, the soul, and the conscience of rock. To the very end of his life, he continued to identify himself with those who had no real power in the world. Difficult as he could sometimes be, Bill always wanted to help. That the Bill Graham Foundation continues to do good works in his name is not just entirely fitting. As Bill might have said, it is also right.”

So there you have it…The Life, The Legend, My mentor who I never met. Just Bill.

Thanks for reading and again for all your support!

 

— L.D.: Christ Machine @Christ_Machine

More Reading & Viewing:

http://www.billgrahamfoundation.org/bio.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Graham_%28promoter%29

http://www.thrasherswheat.org/rns/graham.html

http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/memorabilia/support/about/bill-graham.html

http://www.wes-wilson.com/bill-graham-presents.html

http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/series/bill-graham-presents-series/poster-art.html

https://encrypted.google.com/search?q=bill+graham+presents+posters&sa=X&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&ei=uQVrU6TgGuONygGl8oGAAQ&ved=0CEgQsAQ&biw=1277&bih=603

Bless Bless!

Braindamage Inc.

 

CM ☕

 

Please do not reproduce this article either all or in part without the expressed written permission of the author who can be reached via the “Contact” section in the header menu. You may link to the article if you wish, all that we ask is that you give credit to the respective author…”Christmachine” wherever you post a link. Thank you.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Christmachine. All Rights Reserved.

©2014 – 2020 Christmachine

 

Show off the Portable Rig and Driveline Specs & other DAP’s [Pono, Ibasso, Fiio, HiFiMan]…Updated 04/17/14 today with text, scroll down or w/ direct link…

IMG_5579crpShow off the Portable Rig and Driveline Specs & other DAP’s [Pono, Ibasso, Fiio, HiFiMan]…[Direct Link]

http://www.christmachine.com/christmachine/show-off-the-portable-rig-and-driveline-specs/

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This is an Open Source Friendly Site

Enjoy and thanks for your support!

CM

 

 

Please do not reproduce this article either all or in part without the expressed written permission of the author who can be reached via the “Contact” section in the header menu. You may link to the article if you wish, all that we ask is that you give credit to the respective author…”Christmachine” wherever you post a link. Thank you.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Christmachine. All Rights Reserved.

©2014 – 2020 Christmachine

Show off the Portable Rig and Driveline Specs…

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Astel And Kern AK100 -Self Mod., ALO Audio International HP Amp, ALO Audio Green line cable.

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Audeze LCD2 Bamboo rev. 2G [Balanced XLR] Headphones

VinylTransfer(Needledrop) / Reel To Reel Transfer/ HD TRAcks/ CD to FLAC/ALAC/ WAV/.mp3(320kbps) -> AK100 Self Mod 24/192 Capable Audio Reference Server (Stock WM8740 DAC) w/ 22Ohm Output Stage Bypass, hard-wired from output stage FET’sdirect to pins of HP output jack via Cardas copper litz solid core wire @ > 1-ohm of impedance (32GB Onboard FLASH + 2 x 128GB San Disk Micro SDXC-10 Cards) -> ALO Audio SXC 22 mini to mini 3 Wire Silver Plated Copper -> ALO Audio International Headphone Amp w/ 24bit96kHz DAC w/ Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC Chip  -> ALO Audio Green Line (balanced universal mini XLR) w/classic copper sends and silver-plated copper returns -> ALO Audio Green Line RSA 4 pin Balanced XLR -> Audeze LCD2 Bamboo rev. 2G w/mini XLR Metal Reinforced Male Input Connects.

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This is an Open Source Friendly Site

I’ve had this rig for more than a year now and I have not even had to use a “hard reset” even once…not one hiccup, just drag and drop files (Hi-rez or 16Bit/44.1kHz) on to the SD cards either directly via USB to player or put the Sandisk SDXC cards into the included adapter for computer card readers and dump many GB of data  very quickly. For a few months I even used manipulated code firmware for the AK100, which was hacked by this kind developer from Russia on one of the forums because it added a gapless feature, better GUI (General User Interface), and more volume via the internal amp (it even sounded clearer)…this guy did it months sooner than Astel & Kern.

Now the official AK100 firmware has all of these features. Again another glaring example where the “underground” / “open source” movement forces a large company to get there act together and put out the options for the player that they want. That is not a dig at Astel and Kern as it sounds, I think they were releasing updates slowly to make sure there were not major problems on a large scale with their code. Astel & Kern is a great DAP maker, expensive but great. With all that said I would not advise anyone to instal unofficial firmware if they do not know what they are doing because you could brick your unit. This actually happened to some AK100 users on Head-fi and they could have had their warranties voided by Astel and Kern but A & K were nice enough to fix the units for free…now that’s customer service.

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The Famous Wolfson WM8740 DAC Chip.

One last thing these and other DAP units are known to not be noobie user friendly in the sense that you have to have a little technical know how to get everything up and running (for ex. different formatting of the memory cards and “Hard and Soft Resets”) and if you hit a snag go social to fix a hangup. This is what the “Pono Ecosystem” is trying to eliminate a more seamless user experience and a tight GUI. Further if your a coming from the Apple Ecosystem these units are not as playlist friendly as the Ipod / Iphone / android/ Windows and Itunes and this is a deal-breaker for many…just like “gapless” is essential to me if you listen to albums like Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon” or any album with no breaks between songs. Some of the other players that one can consider in this category that work well but all have their ups and downs are models like the X3/X5 from Fiio, the Ibasso DX series, and the HiFiMan HM-901. Finally be aware that if you have power hungry or high impedance “cans”  you may need to strap a small headphone amp to your portable player in order to fully power the headphones correctly. Happy listening!tagdits

Respect!

CM

 

Please do not reproduce this article either all or in part without the expressed written permission of the author who can be reached via the “Contact” section in the header menu. You may link to the article if you wish, all that we ask is that you give credit to the respective author…”Christmachine” wherever you post a link. Thank you.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Christmachine. All Rights Reserved.

©2014 – 2020 Christmachine