Quicksilver Messenger Service are widely regarded as one of the 1960's San Francisco acid rock scene’s lost opportunities. Although they were among the first to convene, they were sidetracked by the imprisonment of founder Dino Valente on drug charges and didn’t get around to releasing their self-titled debut album until 1968.
That said, they’ve acquired a dedicated following thanks to the
signature work of guitarists John Cippolina (much-admired by such
players as Ghost member and Boris associate Michio Kurihara, among
others) and Gary Duncan.
Fortunately for their devotees, soundman and acid guru Owsley
Stanley recorded many of their shows, allowing fans to check out their
sound prior to their official (and some say best) album ‘Happy Trails’
The recordings on ‘Live At The Summer Of Love’ predate their debut’s
May 1968 release (in the case of the latest of the three shows, by only
a month) and come from the Fillmore Auditorium and the Carousel
Ballroom (to be purchased and renamed the Fillmore West by Billy Graham
just a few months later).
The two-disc set kicks of with QMS’s trademark workout of Bo
Diddley’s ‘Mona’, which gets stretched out past the eight-minute mark,
and starts off with an introduction promising a few numbers from their
oft-incarcerated leader Dino Valenti and a following set from Jefferson
Airplane. Then it jumps ahead in time to a ‘Walkin’ Blues’ taken from a
later Carousel show before romping through a varied set of heavily
reconfigured and distended blues tunes (such as the Willie Dixon penned
Howlin’ Wolf tune ‘Back Door Man’, ‘ Smiley Lewis’ evergreen ‘I Hear You
Knocking’ and ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’). They also play several of their
own compositions, such as their instrumental mainstay ‘Gold and Silver’,
‘Dino’s Song’ and some folk tunes - the San Francisco staple ‘Codeine’
and Ann Bredon’s ‘I’m Gonna Leave You’, given later life by Joan Baez
and later given its most histrionic treatment by Led Zeppelin on their
1969 debut, the trad murder ballad ‘Duncan and Brady’ and folkie
Hamilton Camp’s classic ‘Pride Of Man’. There’s also at least one
obscurity to tantalize the QMS fan (not that they will need much more
encouragement to pick up the set), in ‘Year Of The Outrage’.
There’s more of the same on the second CD, with Cippolina and
Duncan’s guitars twining and turning through another Bo Diddley stomper,
‘Who Do You Love?’ Rufus Thomas’ ‘All Night Worker’, Ben E. King’s
‘Stand By Me’ ‘Drivin’ Wheel (It’s Been Too Long)’ and ‘You Don’t Love
Me’ among others.
While not the first place to stop for those unfamiliar with
Quicksilver Messenger Service, ‘Live At The Summer Love’ is an excellent
introduction to the group’s live output and a good window into their
Live At The Summer Of Love