Imagine New Year’s Eve, 1967. In San Francisco. At the Winterland. And now imagine a line-up: headliners Jefferson Airplane, then in their prime; Big Brother and the Holding Company (yes, that’s Janis Joplin’s band); Quicksilver Messenger Service and Freedom Highway. Talk about memorable. Well, the poster for the show is as memorable as that show must have been. It’s all we have left of it. But be ready to pay for it.
New Year’s Eve, 1967, Preserved.
Artist Bonnie MacLean used to collect tickets and count money for the shows. The famous promotor Bill Graham took a liking to the way she lettered posters and bought her an easel and art supplies for Christmas, 1967, and then she made this poster. When she started on this poster, she was pregnant with her son. She aced it, clearly.
The poster that commemorates the annual New Year’s Eve show, which by tradition ran from 9 pm to 9 am, at which point whatever fans were left dancing at dawn were treated to breakfast, is on sale at the Wolfgang’s site for $1,341. And it’s condition is “poor”! Why is this 14″ by 21″ poster for the Winterland show so much? It’s more than just the art, which of course features not only the peace sign but the dove—which MacLean used to suggest her wishes for the new year—but it is also the provenance of the evening; after all, this is the end of 1967, the year of the Summer of Love, a number fixed in our head as, perhaps, the height of the Sixties scene.
The Flying Eyeball!
But for truly indelible images, consider that crazy flying eyeball affixed to the name of Jimi Hendrix. Rick Griffin’s absolutely psychedelic art for the February 1, 1968 show at the Fillmore has several values, depending on what run it is a part of. A 1st printing signed and numbered by Griffin is priced at $2,836, whereas the artist proof, also signed and numbered, is an impressive $4,249.
The image itself is one that makes associations; for any of us who grew up “digging” the Sixties, even if from a distance of twenty years, we recognize that Grateful Deadesque imagery (and it’s notable that those of us who grew up in the Eighties, especially, when we were all re-exposed to the Sixties, were to be so influenced that the music, what became the “Alternative” scene, would owe so much to that decade; so too with the art).
Condition is Everything
As a final example of Sixties art that is now a commodity of a sort, look at Victor Moscoso’s art for the January 6, 1967, Quicksilver Messenger Service show at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco.
A standard size at about 13″ by 19″, the condition “very good,” the 2nd printing, made on smooth stock and a rare reprint, commands a price of $3,692. Why? According to Wolfgang’s, this item falls into the category of “well-cared-for,” with minor issues, perhaps small pinholes of small creases, a bit of discoloration. All those things that, nevertheless, add character. Amazingly, the first edition, printed on vellum, is far less: only $615.
Note the Differences
Each of the three posters above is very different, but each has its character derivative of the feel of San Francisco in the late-Sixties. The lettering, the swirling colors, and the intense imagery are at once familiar to anyone who has ever looked at, say, a Grateful Dead album cover. Yes, these characteristics persevere in the culture, but the art itself, the piece you can hold in your hand, is becoming far rarer. We are, by now, fifty years—half a century!—from the end of the Sixties, from Golden Gate Park’s heyday and Woodstock’s glory.
The moment of time is relatively short, but its cultural import endures. The Nineties— Lollapalooza, the Seattle and Birmingham scenes, the sound of all that music that hearkened back to that era—owes a lot to the good ol’ hippies. And Bill Graham. And all the rock posters that endure today.
Get ready for GoCollect’s concert poster price guide