If it wasn’t for the worldwide web, the particulars of a festival-style rock concert I attended in 1970 would be forever lost to memory. Before searching out the concert, I remembered only three things: it was held in San Jose, Calif., in an outdoor sports stadium; that The Ike and Tina Turner Revue headlined the show; and that the show was general admission. Though I had arrived early and had “front row” seats, I could not remember any of the other bands on the bill.
I remembered that Ike and Tina headlined because they played last and absolutely brought down the house. The recollection of their barn-burner set led me to the Revue’s touring record, which revealed that the show I attended had been called the All-College Music Festival, held on May 16, 1970, at San Jose State University’s Spartan Field—now named CEFCU (Citizens First Equity Credit Union) Stadium.
Once I had identified the concert and its lineup, I knew that the likely reason I’d purchased a ticket and made the trek down from Oakland was because Canned Heat and Albert King were on the bill. I knew about Ike and Tina, had probably seen them in performances on The Ed Sullivan Show, but in retrospect would have considered them a female-fronted soul band, definitely not my scene. I had certainly not purchased any of their records.
Canned Heat would have been the big draw. I had interviewed them as a high school journalist on the heels of the release of their Billboard Top 100 hit (#16) “On the Road Again,” the blues-and-boogie band’s first chart appearance. By the time of the 1970 festival, they would have charted again at #11 with “Going Up the Country.” It is likely that Canned Heat closed their show or might have encored with the former. It would have looked and sounded something like this:
Though I lived just over the Bay Bridge in Oakland, San Francisco’s psychedelic “hippie-rock” was never my thing. That fact did not stop me from witnessing by proximity countless performances by bands like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Shows had eclectic line-ups during the Bill Graham era, and it was typical to see disparate acts like Grand Funk Railroad and Santana on the same bill. Country Joe’s big hit, “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag,” had struck my developing conservative mind as disrespectful to the troops fighting in Vietnam. (Ed Sullivan Show executives canceled the band’s upcoming appearance and banned them for life after hearing the song at a concert.)
My personal taste at the close of the ’60s ran to the evolution of the British Invasion artists–the Beatles had officially broken up in April and only six months prior the Rolling Stones had suffered through Altamont–hard rock and the blues.
There was one Fish song I liked, 1967’s “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine.” Guitarist Barry Melton’s guitar licks put “Lorraine” over on tinny AM radio speakers. The track just made it onto the Billboard Singles Chart, peaking at #98.
By the time Albert King’s Live Wire Blues Power was released in 1968, his 1967 album (and hit single) Born Under a Bad Sign had already become the cornerstone of a blues resurgence sweeping popular music. The live follow-up LP, recorded at the Fillmore East, drove home what millions of rock and blues fans already knew: that King’s searing blues riffs and phrasing were absolutely amazing.
After Live Wire reached #40 on Billboard’s Hot 100 album chart, “Blues Power” became a staple of his shows, and surely would have been played as the sun went down in San Jose.
It is probable I figured that the festival had reached its apex with Albert King’s set. I vaguely remember roaming around the stadium at that point, taking it all in, and then, out of curiosity, working my way back down front. Ike and Tina Turner were not on my rock-obsessed radar.
That would change when the Revue hit the stage. I realized immediately what had been absent from the previous performances: women. The skirts Tina and the Ikettes wore were more than mini, or less, shall we say. The music was over-the-top hot as well.
This of course occurred before Tina Turner’s damning revelations about Ike’s abusive behavior during their marriage, accusations that Ike conditionally denied. All that was known at the time of the All-College Festival was that Ike ran a tight ship, commandingly from stage right, laying down some soulfully blistering guitar work while the women sang their hearts out and performed provocative gyrations. Tina Turner was on fire. In retrospect, one ruminates over the spousal duress she was under.
The Revue earned every second of their headliner status over the course of the next ninety minutes. The band’s searing cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” was not officially released until early 1971, but they had debuted the song on the Sullivan show in January 1970, which means it would definitely have been included on the All-College set list.
Also likely played that night were the ribald Rolling Stones anthem “Honky Tonk Women” and Beatle hit “Come Together,” both included on the just-released album Come Together that the Revue was touring in support of.
The Sullivan clip provides a good representation of what went down that night. Though Ed does a good job of retaining his professional comportment, it is clear that he was very happy with his show-openers at the end.