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Pete Atkin >> Words >> An annotated Uncle Seabird
(Message started by: Kevin Cryan on Today at 21:58)

Title: An annotated Uncle Seabird
Post by Kevin Cryan on Today at 21:58
        Uncle Seabird

(All the lyrics are in bold font)

Uncle Seabird was an action man

It was not uncommon for some of those who were at the forefront of the 1960s hippie movement to change their names. For instance, the American actress Barbara Hershey had her name changed Barbara Seagull from 1972 to 1974.  

He knew the scene before the scene began

The first cat to drop acid in the Haight

A (hip) cat: A cool person. (from jazz-era slang).

Acid (or LSD (http://www.nida.nih.gov/Infofacts/LSD.html)), a powerful hallucinogenic that alters your perception of the outside world, became a drug mich used by hippies during the 1960s.

The Haight area of San Francisco was focal point of  America’s West Coast 1960s hippie culture,

He understood the lyrics of The Weight

The Weight written by The Band’s Jaime “Robbie” Robertson. Judge for yourselves whether or not the lyrics of The Weight (http://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/band,-the/12299.html) are to be understood.

For more than half a decade, from 1968 through 1975, The Band (http://theband.hiof.no/history/index.html) was one of the most popular and influential rock groups in the world. Their work was thought highly of by critics, and to some extent their musical output was taken just as seriously as the music of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.

When Fillmore West was still a carousel

It is probable that the line should have read:

When Fillmore West was still The Carousel .

Bill Graham (http://www.answers.com/topic/bill-graham-promoter)’s original Fillmore was located on Geary and Fillmore in San Francisco. The Fillmore was a venue for poetry readings, live bands and dancing. Graham introduced many respected musicians like  Otis Rush (http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/Catalog.aspx?PerformingArtistID=5231&aid=2727276), Rahsaan Roland Kirk (http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/Catalog.aspx?PerformingArtistID=9955&aid=2727276), Otis Redding (http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/Catalog.aspx?PerformingArtistID=5229&aid=2727276) to new audiences.

He also brought in new groups like The Band (see above), The Grateful Dead and (http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/Catalog.aspx?PerformingArtistID=7413&aid=2727276)and Quicksilver Messenger Service (http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/Catalog.aspx?PerformingArtistID=5673&aid=2727276).

Eventually, Graham, sensing  that the immediate locality was in decline, decided  to move his activities to two new  venues, The Carousel Ballroom (the former El Patio ballroom),  which became Fillmore West, and the  Winterland.  

The original Fillmore closed on July 4th 1968 with a concert featuring Steppenwolf (http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/Catalog.aspx?PerformingArtistID=6733&aid=2727276),
Credence Clearwater Revival (http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/Catalog.aspx?PerformingArtistID=1451&aid=2727276) and It’s a Beautiful Day (http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/Catalog.aspx?PerformingArtistID=3073&aid=2727276).

Fillmore West opened July 16, 1968 with a concert featuring Big Brother and the Holding Company (http://www.bbhc.com/BigBrother.htm) and Sly and the Family Stone (http://www.slystonemusic.com/)

And the chick to know was Luria Cantrell

chick is an American slang term for young woman

Midnight Voices discussions many years back (with some contributions, I seem to recall,  for Mr Pete Atkin himself) established Clive probably had in mind Luria Castell, founder member of Family Dog.

Family Dog was a San Francisco group which, in the early sixties, experimented the  light-sound synchronisation developed by Bill Ham (http://www.billhamlights.com/reviewspe.htm) to create  psychedelic effects during concerts. Chet Helms was the one of the main members The Family Dog and his early partners were Luria, Ellen Harmon and Jack Toll.

Uncle Seabird tried hard to be nice

When Berry Gordy asked him for advice

Berry Gordy (http://www.history-of-rock.com/motown_records.htm) in 1959 started Tamla-Motown family of record labels in Detroit. The name Tamla-Motown was derived from the Debbie Reynolds hit film' Tammy' and the nickname Motor Town which was given to Detroit, home of Ford Motors in Detroit.

By welding a unique house style to music from the ghetto, Gordy came up with music a well-crafted music that appealed to mainstream audiences.

 Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird had the word

  Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird had the word
  Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird led the herd

When Uncle Seabird wrote for Rolling Stone

The magazine Rolling Stone (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_Stone) was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and Ralph J Gleason. In its early days the magazine’s natural audience came from the then thriving hippie counter-culture, and this even though it steered clear of the radical politics of the time.

A generation felt much less alone

His footloose odyssey went so far back

He recalled not having heard of Kerouac

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) was an novelist, writer, poet and artist, and leading figure of the Beat Generation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_Generation) that predated by a decade the hippies as the counter culture.

He represented youth in all its force

For evolution has to take its course

When the children queued to hear the Grateful Dead

(For Grateful Dead, see entry on  Fillmore West)

His wheelchair glittered somewhere up ahead

  Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird had the word

  Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird had the word

  Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird led the herd
When a snot-nosed little kid called Zimmerman

Robert Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan). Need we say more.

Was seeking a new surname that would scan

Uncle Seabird filled his lungs with hash

Hash (Hashish), another drug much used by 1960’s hippies,  consists of the THC-rich resinous material of the cannabis plant, which is collected, dried, and then compressed into a variety of forms, such as balls, cakes, or cookie-like sheets. Pieces are then broken off, placed in pipes and smoked.

And "Weberman" he muttered in a flash

A J Weberman was a 1960's radical who felt that by the early 1970's rock music had ceased to be a force for radical change in the U.S He founded an group called the Rock Liberation Front and made exhaustive efforts to get artists  to return to what he thought were their radical roots. John Lennon, when he was going through his “radical” period briefly joined the group. (This was around the when he wrote an open letter to Paul McCartney in Rolling Stone "Join the RLF before it comes for you!!")

Weberman may have been source of the term "Dylanology". His knowledge of Dylan trivia was so extensive that it was often said that he might have known more about Dylan than the man himself did. He almost certainly began what is now called "garbology" by openly declaring that a good way of  finding out details of the lives of people like Dylan was by going through what was found in their trash.

"There's a new group down a hole you ought to hear"

The Beatles were discovered in the Liverpool’s Cavern club.

Said the telephone in Brian Epstein's ear

Brian Epstein (http://www.nndb.com/people/550/000056382/) (1934-1967) is the man who discovered The Beatles and came up with the mop-top haircuts, the dress-code and the personae that was made the group such a success in the early days.

"But let's not haggle now about my fee

Tom Parker handles these affairs for me"

In 1955 “Colonel" Tom Parker (1909 -1997) (real name Andreas Cornelius van Kuijk) replaced  Bob Neal as  Elvis Presley’s manager and he remained in that poistion until Presley’s death in 1977.

Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird had the word

  Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird had the word

  Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird led the herd

The last and greatest festival of all

Was Uncle Seabird's acid test and ball

They say one row of people passed a joint

A joint is a marijuana cigarette

From Yasgur's Farm clear to Zabriskie Point

Max Yasgur's Farm, in upstate New York, was the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Festival.

Zabriskie Point (California) an elevated overlook  from which of the colourful, rolling landscape of ravines and mud hills at the edge of the Funeral Mountains can be seen.  It’s a few miles from Death Valley and is the landscape to which the young disillusioned protagonists of  Michelangelo Antonioni’s  1970 film Zabriskie Point (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066601/) gravitate.

Crosby Stills and Clapton, Young and Nash

David Crosby (http://stephenstills.com/) (1941-    ), Stephen Stills (http://stephenstills.com/),  Eric Clapton (http://www.whereseric.com/ecfaq/biography-ecs-life-career/clapton-biography-mother-father-grandparents-wife-children-son-daughter-addiction-.html) (1945-    ) Neil Young (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Young) (1945-    ) and Graham Nash (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Nash) (1942-    ).

Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, , Johnny Cash

Bob Dylan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Dylan) (1941-    ), Joni Mitchell, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joni_Mitchell) (1943-    ), Johnny Cash (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Cash) (1932 -2003)

They all backed Yoko Ono while she ... sang

Yoko Ono (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoko_Ono) (1932- ), after becoming the second wife of Beatle John Lennon, did, with some encouragement from her husband, but to the dismay of many Lennon admirers and music lovers in general, attempt to launch herself as a musician.

And Elvis Presley read from R D Laing

RonaldDavid Laing(1927-1989), a  psychiatrist and (bad) poet, was much admired in the sixties and early 70s because many of his views, which were probably little understood, were far from orthodox.

Laing’s Knots (http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=16848) (1970), a series of dialogues, which could be read as poems or plays, describing the “knots” and quandaries in various kinds of human relationships, is most likely the book that Clive had in mind when he wrote this line. This is kind of thing (http://www.oikos.org/knotsen1.htm) Persley might have read.

When Uncle Seabird wheeled onto the stage

He was crowding eighty-seven years of age

"We are stardust, we are ... [croak]" he cried

And the children yelled his name out as he died

  Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird had the word

  Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird had the word

  Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird led the herd

  Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird had the word

   Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird had the word

  Uncle Seabird,  Uncle Seabird led the herd

   Uncle Seabird


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: An annotated Uncle Seabird
Post by naomi on Today at 23:40
... and may I add: "We are stardust" is a line from the Joni Mitchell song "Woodstock", which is best known in the version by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Apologies if I overlooked a mention of this in the learned MV's annotations above, or if he considered it too well-known to warrant explanation.


Title: Re: An annotated Uncle Seabird
Post by Kevin Cryan on Today at 23:55
It (http://www.lyricsfreak.com/j/joni-mitchell/75381.html/) totally slipped my mind.


Title: Re: An annotated Uncle Seabird
Post by S J Birkill on 06.11.05 at 12:28
Thanks Kevin, another triumph!

It's now up on the Website, at

I took the liberty of adding brief notes on "We are stardust" and the Acid Tests.

Also I've now illustrated the The Man Who Walked Toward The Music annotation:


PS: I've also added a link to Clive's critique of Robbie Robertson's lyric writing:

Title: Re: An annotated Uncle Seabird
Post by Kevin Cryan on 07.11.05 at 09:48
Thanks for those enhancement, Steve.

I have to say that tracking down the elusive Luria Castell proved most interesting. She seems to have disappeared off the scene almost as quickly as she appeared on it. I have got a feeling that by the time she finally left Family Dog she was disillouioned with the whole scene that she may have exiled herself in either Mexico or Cuba.

In the course of my researches, I visited a site devoted to the poet, artist and  political activist   Roberto Kaffke (http://pages.sbcglobal.net/kenkaffkegoldengate/_wsn/page4.html)(1927-1983) and found a San Francisco Examiner (20 March 1964) clipping which had a photograph (http://pages.sbcglobal.net/kenkaffkegoldengate/_uimages/castell-kaffke.jpg) attached.  


Title: Re: An annotated Uncle Seabird
Post by Kevin Cryan on 07.11.05 at 21:59
I really could not leave it until I'd satisfied myself why Luria Castell dropped off the map

I have  done a little more digging, and I'm now persuaded that if she came to be thought of as "the chick to know", as Clive’s lyric has it, it was by the sheerest of flukes and probably more down to how Ralph J Gleason portrayed burgeoning rock-music scene in San Francisco than to any substantial contribution she made in her own right.

It appears that when Family Dog, as a nascent group, was seeking advice from Gleason about its plans first Longshoreman's Hall Dance programmed for on October 16, 1965 (http://www.classicposters.com/eposter/showVenue.do?id=32726), she contended, with what could in retrospect easily be interpreted as an uncanny prescience, that "San Francisco can be the American Liverpool".

Apparently Gleason was impressed enough with the Family Dog members who visited him be in the Longshoreman's on the night of they staged their first dance (http://www.gotarevolution.com/longshoremans.htm).

That very night he not only witnessed what he was very much  predisposed to conclude were the beginnings of an important era for the San Francisco popular music world, but he was, it is claimed, to meet, for the very first time, Jann Wenner, the man who, within two years of their meeting, would be his partner in the founding of Rolling Stone. Wenner, who introduced himself to Gleason, was then an unknown a 19-year old Berkley student who was writing a rock column for the independent student newspaper The Daily Californian.

I imagine that if Gleason kept Luria's name, and her apparently prophetic words, alive – and to some extent he did – it was probably because both had come at a time when Gleason's himself began to strongly sense that maybe San Francisco was actually morphing into the New Liverpool.



By the way, if I’d  dug just a little more deeply into what occurred at the Longshoreman’s 40 years ago, I would have discovered that The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, in his introduction to last month’s reprint of Charles Perry’s The Haight Ashbury: A History (http://www.wennerbooks.com/htm/haight.htm), mentions Acid Tests often enough to have nudged me into including a on them in my original notes on Uncle Seabird

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