Movie: What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?

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Quad Linda

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BS&T Documentary to be released soon at theaters and soundtrack on CD & MP3. One of my favorite bands and one I'm complete on and have seen several times live. Waiting for David Clayton-Thomas to reschedule 2020 concert which was canceled due to Covid. We bought tix.

Story I had heard about tour behind Iron Curtain was that DCT had been threatened with deportation by Nixon administration. OR, you can do our goodwill tour and DCT won't be shipped back to his native Canada.

Variety exclusive:

https://variety.com/2023/film/news/blood-sweat-tears-documentary-abramorama-release-date-1235514835/
AMC Theaters premiering 3/24/23:

https://www.amctheatres.com/movies/what-the-hell-happened-to-blood-sweat-tears-72773
Soundtrack CD & MP 3 drops 4/21/23. Available for pre-order on Amazon.com
PRE-ORDERED!
 
Chicago came along with better albums and more hit songs and beat them to the punch every time. That is pretty much what happened.
Both of them are among my favorite bands, Although they are horn bands, they are very different animals. BS&T is evenly split between covers and originals. Vast majority of Chicago's songs aren't covers. I'm complete on both bands, including 16 CD Chicago at Carnegie and BS&T 4 SACD box Bloodlines. Bought all the Quads back then and rebought them on BD, DVD-A/V & SACD by both bands.

Guercio had agreed to produce BS&T (2), in consideration for signing his band Chicago (Transit Authority.) Thanks, Clive Davis.
 
Chicago came along with better albums and more hit songs and beat them to the punch every time. That is pretty much what happened.
Yeah, BS&T got a bestseller for Christmas 68, but when CTA came out that May, my loyalties shifted to the Terry Kath rock guitar sound.

My thoughts in the off-topic Quadio thread six years ago.
Rather than repeating myself, which I seem to do more all the time as I age.

Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago

Finally was able to see this last night when it played on CNN.
Quite a trip down memory lane, well worth a look.
Candid discussions of Terry Kath's tragic demise, Danny Seraphine's firing...
Happy that Danny participated in the interviews, as opposed to Cetera and Guercio.

Enjoyed Joe Mantegna's story how his band got emergency calls to replace them mid-gig when club owners fired them for doing original material and refusing to play covers.

A few good stories about the excesses of the Caribou Ranch days.
Young guys with whirlwind success and too much money...
Reminded how Guercio took 51%, leaving the seven members to divide the remaining 49.

Surreal to see the old clips as Cetera porked out, then became a buff gym rat with that god-awful headband.
Confirmed they did nothing of interest to me after the time frame of the Quadio box.
Apples and oranges.
They did, however, share a producer in James William Guercio (who worked on recording BS&T and CTA simultaneously.)
Horn bands never completely fell out of favor in the midwest, Guercio produced hit records by The Buckinghams in '67.

Both recorded for Columbia, which in those years had the most money and by far the biggest publicity organization.
So, the two bands got lumped together.

BS&T played mostly covers, where Chicago was all originals.
(Except for Winwood's "I'm A Man" on CTA. Co-incidentally, Traffic's "Smiling Phases" was on BS&T.)

BS&T started out as an Al Kooper vanity super-group project using New York studio cats.
After one record, they kicked out their founder and recruited Canadian David Clayton-Thomas to sing.

I happened to visit the Bay area in August '68 and saw a poster for BS&T at the Fillmore West.
Age 14, I talked my cousin into taking me to see (I thought) my hero (from the Super Session record) Al Kooper with his band.

They were the warm-up for Eric Burdon & The New Animals, and to my shock and horror, when they took the stage, no Al.
(In those pre-internet days, music news traveled slowly.)

Clayton-Thomas turned me off a bit in those shaggy hippie days.
He had greasy slicked-back hair and a bit of a paunch, looked more like a truck driver than my image of a rock star.
His vocal style and stage presence had a rather Vegas lounge vibe that was out of sync with the time and place.

I remember some of the musicians reading off music stands, never seen at a rock concert.
They played most of the material from the self-titled second album. (Not yet released.)
I was impressed with their chops, they had some good tunes, Clayton-Thomas' voice grew on me after I got used to it.
But after an hour, I was more than ready for Burdon's hippie phase material and a good psychedelic light show.

Their album went on to go quad platinum and win a Grammy, and got huge airplay on commercial AM radio.
I was lucky enough to see them as unknowns.

***

The double Chicago Transit Authority album didn't come out until six months or so later, in the summer of '69. (Think Woodstock)
As mentioned in the posts above, they had a harder sound, three accomplished vocalists, one of whom was also a killer guitarist.

Chicago came up together as a midwest covers "show band" (the real version of the jokey Blues Brothers) who could play soul music and hard rock with equal skill and enthusiasm.
(The horn players simply picked up percussion instruments and turned Terry Kath loose. "I'm A Man", whew!)

I've always thought Peter Cetera didn't get enough credit for his killer bass guitar work on those early records, with Seraphine on drums they were a kick-ass rhythm section.

The first record didn't have AM friendly hit singles, but was more suited to the "underground" FM format.
As noted above (and in the recent documentary), they had an "anti-establishment" political vibe in tune with the times.
Most apparent on the anti-war material on CTA, but also "When All The Laughter Dies in Sorrow" on III and "Dialog" on V.
I was struck looking through the Quadio album covers by the recurrent theme of being chased by the cops.

I saw Chicago in concert in '71, after III came out.
I remember them as the more impressive live act of the two.


A couple of other great horn bands I recall from those days:
  • Sons of Champlin - from the Bay Area. Bill Champlin went on to play in Chicago for, like, 30 years.
  • Chase - Bill Chase died in 1974 in a small plane crash, not far from where Buddy Holly went down

Below are my program from the 1971 Chicago tour (with Quadio covers) and my flyer for the BS&T Fillmore West show.
Great memories.


Poster from the show I saw age 14 where they opened for Eric Burdon & The Animals four months before the album was released.

1678228702030.png
 
Chicago came along with better albums and more hit songs and beat them to the punch every time. That is pretty much what happened.
See, now in this era now it would not have mattered so much. But in 1969 or 1970-71 dollars you really had to decide if you were going to get the new double Chicago album (loaded with posters and custom inserts) or the new BS&T, you could not afford both that month. It just was not doable with All Things Must Pass and the Woodstock (etc. etc.) tripple albums on your wish list as well. Hell it took me until April of 1970 to get Abbey Road in my little collection. It came out the previous fall.
 
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Ultimate Classic Rock article on movie, includes trailer:
Steve Katz (BS&T guitarist): "We were blackmailed!"

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/what-the-hell-happened-to-blood-sweat-and-tears/
I hadn't read the earlier promos carefully and didn't realize the director was the same guy who did Who Is Harry Nilsson?, Chasing Trane, and The US vs. John Lennon--all great documentaries. Now I'm really eager to see it.

And the article's final paragraph has interesting news:
Subsequent streaming options are currently in negotiation, according to Scheinfeld. A soundtrack featuring 10 tour recordings was discovered at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Margaret Herrick Library and will follow on April 21 along with a digital-only version of Colomby's score.​
 
Review from this week's New Yorker:
(fair use for educational and research purposes by a subscriber)

Published in the print edition of the March 27, 2023, issue, with the headline “Unintended Consequences.”
By Anthony Lane

Two ways to win the Cold War. Option one: a first strike, annihilating the Communist bloc’s arsenal of nuclear weapons before they can be launched in retaliation. Option two, no less fraught with risk: send nine white guys, including four horn players and a singer with a penchant for leather pants, to perform Grammy-winning rock and roll behind the Iron Curtain. It is this second course of action that was pursued in 1970, and that is investigated in a knotty new documentary, “What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?”

Nobody would have asked that question in 1969, when “Blood, Sweat & Tears,” the second album by the group of the same name, was enthroned for weeks at the top of the charts. It’s a witches’ brew, kicking off with a riff on Erik Satie and marked by salvos of brass and mid-song shifts in tempo, but the director of the documentary, John Scheinfeld, doesn’t dive very deep into the music. Although he has made films about John Coltrane, John Lennon, and Harry Nilsson, what grips him here, understandably, is the particular summer when Blood, Sweat & Tears went on tour to Yugoslavia, Romania, and Poland. It was a revelation, and a fall from grace.

Why did they go? Blackmail, of a sort. The lead vocalist, a Canadian named David Clayton-Thomas, had a voice of tremendous rasp and rumble. He sounded like a volcano making conversation. He was also in danger of losing his green card, and, to avoid that fate, the band’s manager struck a dark deal with the U.S. State Department,
which wanted American performers who could spread the word, or the groove, behind enemy lines. So the band was dispatched to hot spots such as Zagreb (where the audience was sullenly unresponsive) and Warsaw (the opposite). Scariest of all was Bucharest, where the concert was officially deemed “too successful,” where cops with German shepherds were on hand to quash the crowd’s delight, where one enthusiast was taken away and beaten for requesting an autograph, and where “people don’t enjoy the privilege of spontaneous outburst,” as Clayton-Thomas reported, back in L.A. He added, “It’s given us all a new appreciation of various freedoms that we took for granted.”

That was true, but it was an unforgivable truth—anathema to those in the counterculture for whom America held a monopoly on repression. Blood, Sweat & Tears were reviled in the press as a “fascist rock band” in the making, and as “pig-collaborators” by Abbie Hoffman, who never had the pleasure of protesting in Bucharest. More than it knows, this movie is an engaging, and sometimes enraging, exposé of chronic insularity. (I suggest viewing it as an ironic footnote, or a bonus track, to “The Free World,” a consummate study of the period by my colleague Louis Menand.) One of the group’s biggest hits, “And When I Die,” contains the line “All I ask of living is to have no chains on me.” Look closely at the footage of the Romanian fans, at a gig, and you will see a pair of hands raised high in celebration. They are joined together by a chain.
 
"Blood, Sweat & Tears were reviled in the press as a “fascist rock band” in the making, and as “pig-collaborators” by Abbie Hoffman" What press said this? Some street papers in San Fran or NY? The only negative press I ever read or heard about B,S&T was that they were not "Rock" enough compared to Chicago or the other horn bands. They were a "Pop band your parents can dig, too". Their strong contemporary (for the times) Jazz influence made them appealing to young and older listeners.
Abbie Hoffman - no one took anything he said seriously. He was a yippie/hippie for the sake of being a "revolutionist". I was at the age he was trying to mobilize and we all knew he was only in it for himself. Zero credibility. The only thing Hoffman is remembered for is getting whacked off the Woodstock stage by Pete Townshend.
I'm looking forward to the film and soundtrack. Thanks for the info, Linda.
 
"Blood, Sweat & Tears were reviled in the press as a “fascist rock band” in the making, and as “pig-collaborators” by Abbie Hoffman" What press said this? Some street papers in San Fran or NY? The only negative press I ever read or heard about B,S&T was that they were not "Rock" enough compared to Chicago or the other horn bands. They were a "Pop band your parents can dig, too". Their strong contemporary (for the times) Jazz influence made them appealing to young and older listeners.
Abbie Hoffman - no one took anything he said seriously. He was a yippie/hippie for the sake of being a "revolutionist". I was at the age he was trying to mobilize and we all knew he was only in it for himself. Zero credibility. The only thing Hoffman is remembered for is getting whacked off the Woodstock stage by Pete Townshend.
I'm looking forward to the film and soundtrack. Thanks for the info, Linda.
Agreed. Abbie Hoffman was never a spokesman for anyone I associated with.

I have the AF SACD, and although I can’t say they’re my favorite band, I like most of their music - enough to seek out that SACD.
 
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Yeah, BS&T got a bestseller for Christmas 68, but when CTA came out that May, my loyalties shifted to the Terry Kath rock guitar sound.

My thoughts in the off-topic Quadio thread six years ago.
Rather than repeating myself, which I seem to do more all the time as I age.





Poster from the show I saw age 14 where they opened for Eric Burdon & The Animals four months before the album was released.

View attachment 89432
Poster done by Lee Conklin, still an active poster maker, his most famous the first Santana album.
 
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