Pulling the plug on the Fillmore

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The Fillmore East and a vintage car with fins.

In a total bummer, man, for live-music fans, the July 1, 1971, issue of The Villager reported that Bill Graham was shutting down his renowned Fillmore East. The article’s punctuation-challenged headline, “Graham Closes Fillmore East, He Blames Corporations ” made it clear how the rock impresario felt about things.

A Yiddish theater transformed into a popular rock venue, the Fillmore, at 105 Second Ave., had become a mecca for East Village nightlife since its opening in 1968.

But, according to Graham, the emergence on the rock scene of “corporation officers and stockholders who happen to have long hair and play guitars” led him to leave the business. The article noted that he was also closing down the Fillmore West in San Francisco.

“The whole rock scene is becoming too big a business,” he said, bemoaning the disappearance of what he called “real musicians.”

As reported by The Villager, hordes of long-haired youths frequently lined the sidewalk outside the theater to hear their idols for free, thanks to the place’s giant sound system — which could handle 20 mikes and 26 speakers.

However, the article noted, “Confrontation between Graham and the Hippie East Village community became more and more frequent as ticket prices rose to offset demands of music corporations.

In its three-year life, the famed Second Ave. music venue hosted performances by rock, jazz and folk stars, including the likes of Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, the Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band.

Lorenzo Ligato

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