TOMMY BOLIN & ENERGY LIVE AT TULAGI IN BOULDER, CO 1972 AND THE ROOFTOP BALLROOM IN SIOUX CITY DECEMBER 17 & 18, 1972
by Sal Serio and Bobby Berge
“Okay brothers and sisters, right now, direct from the Crippled Chicken in Abilene… no shit… please welcome out… ENERGY.”
And thus, years of mislabeled cassettes were set into motion like a freight train. Finally we can yank back the brake lever, and say, “Whoa there! That performance is from Tulagi in Boulder!” and leave the chicken crippled back there on the tracks. Bobby Berge tells the story very well:
“We are introduced by Marty Wolfe, who worked for Barry Fey and was a good friend of the band. We had just done a gig at some redneck bar in Abilene, Kansas, called The Crippled Chicken. It was a small dark dumpy bar and we set up our equipment on the floor, over in a corner of the dance floor. I remember looking out from the stage and could see our sound man, Cliff Yeager, playing pool with some of the local yokels. The next thing we know, there’s this big ruckus and we soon find out that Cliff just got in a fight with somebody. He ended up getting a huge wad of hair yanked from his head. Somehow we managed to get through the gig and got the hell out of there without any further incidents.”
So you see, the intro is just a goof… a sarcastic inside joke about a previous lame gig. But on this evening Energy was back in familiar territory at 1129 13th Street in Boulder, CO their old stomping ground Tulagi. Bobby recalls it fondly:
“Energy frequently played Tulagi’s on ‘The Hill’ (a small business district just across from the CU campus in Boulder). This particular evening was an excellent night for our music. Unfortunately, there may have been around a half dozen people in the audience. We had a blast anyway, as we usually did, playing our blend of heavy rock, funk, blues, and jazz. This is the period when we were really influenced by people like John McLaughlin, Tony Williams, Larry Young, Jeremy Steig, and Stanley Clarke, just to name a few.”
Can you imagine it?!! A half dozen people showing up when you have Bobby Berge, Stanley Sheldon, Tom Stephenson, Jeff Cook, and TOMMY BOLIN on the stage? But, then again, hindsight is 20/20, and it somehow makes more sense now to value and appreciate this group then it did in 1972. Energy is like a musical Tartus, time traveling with ease and leaping genres or catagorizations in a single bound. Even a traditional blues workout like “Rock Me Baby” gets it’s share of jazz and island calypso thanks to the rhythmic pulse of drummer Bobby Berge and guest conga player Bobby LaKind (of Doobie Brothers fame). Tommy’s fluid guitar exit is particularly jazzy, leading into a happy “Country Stomp” improvisation.
BOBBY BERGE: “Tommy and I had fun going into that short country jam, which we often did, along with other assorted ditties including movie/TV themes, or maybe an old Bebop jazz standard. Whatever popped into our heads.”
Berge had plenty of room to jam in the next portion of the set, where he did a hard hitting solo sandwiched between the instrumentals “Give Me Some” and “Ostinada.” Tommy’s guitar tech, Dave Brown, played the gong on the balls heavy “Give Me Some,” a fusenhanced prototype of the “stoner rock” movement. “Ostinada” was a favorite cover tune from the jazz fusion era.
Jeff Cook returns to the stage for the Free song “I’m A Mover,” a muscular cocksure strut featuring a transcendental organ solo by Tom Stephenson, and Bolin stepping up to center stage for the second and third solos. Tommy’s leads play by the four “S” rule: soulful, simple, sincere… and SWEET!
The last cut that survived the years from this Tulagi performance is the Jan Hammer composition “Down Stretch.” This song was originally on Jeremy Steig’s “Energy” album, which is where the band got it’s name. Word has it that Bolin actually bought the rights to the name from Steig, who also spent about six weeks in the band, but left because he didn’t like Denver, wasn’t making any money… and thought that Tommy played too loud!
The second half of this CD features Energy in Bolin’s hometown of Sioux City, Iowa, in December of 1972 at the Rooftop Ballroom. Bobby Berge related the following memories:
“The Rooftop Ballroom is where I first saw Tommy play with A Patch Of Blue around 1966 or ’67. His solo on Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual” really struck me. I remember thinking, ‘Hey, this kid is really good!’ The Energy gig at the Rooftop was another “Par Excellence” gig and was pretty much standard operating procedure for the band. We were all in great shape musically and very ‘practiced’ on our instruments. It all seemed to happen so naturally though, and playing behind the great Tommy Bolin made it all that much easier.”
AS IF after hearing the dynamic Tulagi set anyone would need any more convincing as to the incredible talent and creative forces of Energy, then this Rooftop Ballroom set will drive the point home once and for all. For those who have not heard this material yet, I’d suggest you put your seat belt on, because you’re in for a hell of a ride!
History tells us that Crazy Horse would ride into battle crying “Hoka Hey!,” which for him meant, “It is a good day to die” this was both a rallying cry to his tribe and a threat to his enemies… another translation of the Sioux Lakota dialect claims “Hoka Hey” more closely means “pay attention”… and the song “Hoka Hey” will most certainly get your attention.
The first thing that strikes this writer is the clarity of the recording. No one recalls how this tape was made, but it is unlikely that it was a soundboard recording. Yet, hear the clarity of the four separate instruments… all the subtleties of the cymbals, keyboard, bass… you can practically hear Bolin’s pick hitting the strings (later in the show you definitely can)! This is testimony to why the TBA Collector’s Series is a valid and indispensable resource for music fans: While these recordings may not have everything going for them in regard to pristine studio sound, they are still at such an extraordinary level, both in terms of sonic aural presentation, and in completely outrageous and telepathic performances, that they DEMAND to be heard. We here at the Bolin Archives are both delighted and proud to be able to make that a reality.
“Red Skies” is a real treat. General consensus is that this is the first recorded performance of Tommy Bolin singing a lead vocal live in concert. While Tommy’s singing is tentative to say the least, he still gives a glimpse into what the future will hold for his lovely voice after he got those coaching lessons from the Beach Boys! Of course Tommy preferred to speak with his guitar, and he clearly makes himself heard on this spectacular number, picking in a manner that recalls all of the greats of the psychedelic guitar era, yet again has the distinguishing feature of that Tommy Bolin sincerity.
For everyone in anticipation for Tommy to really let it wail, wait no longer. The last portion of this Rooftop recording has both a chunky echoplex enhanced guitar solo and an aggressive solo slide exhibition, with a smokey blues jam in between. Get ready to blast off into the stratosphere! Imagine what the local Iowans were thinking when they heard Tommy bring his far-out talent back home that night in late 1972… maybe they wished they’d never kicked him out of school!
BOBBY BERGE: “On this gig, I really hear John McLaughlin’s influence on Tommy, who plays some incredible stuff. I always liked to play off his riffs. Sometimes I would lead into a different rhythmic feel. Basically it would double sometimes, or split in half into a slow blues or reggae or maybe fast funk. I’m still impressed at our improvisations and ability to stretch out.”
“As an added note, lately I have been playing with the Blues Bastards at a bar called ‘No Place’ at 5th and Pearl in Sioux City. This used to be the ‘Jet Bar,’ where Tommy last jammed with his friends before heading down to Miami for the Jai Alai concert. Interestingly enough, just several doors down from ‘No Place’ is 409 1/2 Pearl Street, which is the old Rooftop Ballroom. The upstairs ballroom has been closed for quite some time and is currently used for storage.”
HEAR THE MUSIC ONE MORE TIME.
To visit Bobby Berge on the web click here.
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