Song of the Lorelei
the summer of 1978, Jefferson Starship headed to Europe for a
tour. The lineup at the time was Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Marty
Balin, David Freiberg, Peter Sears, Craig Chaquico and John Barbata.
The German leg of the tour turned out to be an experience none
of them will ever forget, for reasons that will be spelled out
of the band members had plenty to say about Germany '78. In fact,
they all considered this trip to be such a turning point in their
history that I considered using the event as a lead-in to the
book. The brief intro below is the original introductory chapter,
which didn't make it to the final book. Following that is the
complete, uncut story of Lorelei. The way I set up the chapter
initially, I spent the first part telling the story, and then
I let those who were there tell it in their own words. In addition
to the band members, the speakers include Jefferson Starship manager
Bill Thompson, Grace's husband Skip Johnson, group publicist Cynthia
Bowman (who was also Paul's girlfriend at the time), office manager
Jacky Kaukonen Sarti, Marty's father Joe Buchwald, Marty's girlfriend
Trish Robbins, and road manager Bill Laudner.
Jacky Kaukonen Sarti, a Lorelei Survivor,
with a Souvenir of the Ill-Fated Gig, 1999
by Jeff Tamarkin)
I do not
know what it means that
I am so sadly inclined,
There is an old tale and its scenes that
Will not depart from my mind.
In the German
folk tale of the Lorelei, a young, ravishing woman sits on the
cliffs above the Rhine, where she sings an unearthly tune, her
mellifluous words wafting into the air unendingly. Her haunting
voice beckons the startled sailors below, and her tantalizing
beauty causes them to lose sight of where exactly in the perilous
waters they are, sure doom for any seaman.
their screams and she sees them thrashing, their wooden ships
reduced to matchsticks. She is aware that she is the reason for
their terrible ordeal, she can imagine their disappointment. She
is even somewhat bothered by it all; she knows this is not a good
thing that is happening. Yet there she stays, at the edge.
it seems, has problems of her own; her heartbreak overwhelms her
living soul all of the time. Her life is not all magnificence
and sweet song. She is cursed, possessed. Demons reside within
her and they have no plan to depart any time soon.
She too has
lost a loved one, it seems, a sailor who abandoned her and took
to the sea, and now she searches for him, gazing at the horizon
for a sign. This is the real reason the Lorelei, though she feels
their pain, can not worry about all of those guys damning her
as they drown. She has more pressing concerns, to go on being
the grudging temptress with the voice of a goddess, driving people
mad, waiting in vain for her lover's return, or to just be done
with it all and hurl herself to those very same rocks below.
where this is all going. Her defeat will come soon. But it will
be on her own terms. In the end, the only one who can bring down
the Lorelei is the Lorelei herself.
Jefferson Starship, 1978
from left: John Barbata, David Freiberg, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner,
Pete Sears, Craig Chaquico, and Marty Balin)
was in Germany, and she was drunk. A recipe for trouble if there
ever was one, a lethal combination. Take her natural penchant
for shock value, fuel it with the one substance that never fails
to set her off, and plunk her down in Germany, all of whose residents,
Grace still believed some three decades after the second World
War, were responsible for the atrocities committed, and there
was no telling what might happen.
had a thing about Germany. Once Grace had written a song, "Never
Argue With A German If You're Tired or European Song." The
other party in the altercation in question could have been her
bandmate, Paul Kantner, the iron-willed former altar boy, whose
forebears were of German extraction and who was at the time her
lover, soon to be the father of her child. Or it could have been
Grace's German-built Mercedes, which, following a night of excessive
imbibing, she'd recently driven into a wall at over 100 miles
an hour, nearly wiping herself out in the process. The point was,
all things Deutsche brought out the worst in her.
Now here she
was, in Hamburg, Germany, the belly of the beast, the very nation
she had so often derided, drinking herself into a stupor and taking
the entire populace to task, reminding them of World War II and
poised to start the next.
Starship, the group that had evolved out of Jefferson Airplane
four years earlier, had been booked to perform two nights earlier
at the Loreley-Freilichtbüühne (Lorelei Amphitheater),
near St. Goarshausen, not far from the site of the legend's origin.
Lorelei Rock, it's called, and tourists come from all around to
see the place where the fair maiden once serenaded the sailors.
But on that
night, June 17th, 1978, there would be no rock echoing in Lorelei,
no siren wailing. As in the legend, there would be the cries of
screaming men, but theirs were screams of anger, not of pain and
fear. And there would be the terrifying sound of smashing, not
of sailing vessels below the cliff but rather of beer bottles
hurled onto the stage.
would be fire, a hellish conflagration taking with it the stage,
the band's equipment and everything else in its path, causing
the musicians to hide from the mob, and to escape under cover
men had come to see the siren, to bask in her radiance. But the
enchantress was nowhere to be found.
was back at the hotel, and she was in no condition to sing.
been an omen before the band had even left the United States.
One of their limousines had caught fire, giving them quite a fright,
adding to a feeling of dread that had already been mounting for
some time, a feeling that something monumentally creepy was about
to happen, soon.
arrived in Europe. Grace spent a good deal of her time in Amsterdam,
a couple of nights before Lorelei, drinking, but this was hardly
a news flash. More shocking would have been a report of Grace
Slick remaining sober for any considerable length of time.
concert went ahead without incident but Amsterdam is in Holland,
not Germany. Once they crossed that border, Grace was off and
By the time
they reached their hotel in Wiesbaden, which was to be the Starship's
base of operations while in the area for the Lorelei show, Grace
was in a pathetic state. But it wasn't the alcohol, she told her
husband, the Starship's lighting director, Skip Johnson, she really
was sick this time. Didn't know quite what was wrong with her,
maybe a stomach bug. Food poisoning, she thought.
matter, she wasn't getting out of bed and that was that.
like her at all, Skip thoughtalcohol usually placed Grace
at the center of the party, not shirking away from it. Something
wasn't right. Maybe it really was her stomach. He called in a
local doctor, who pronounced Grace too sick to perform.
that was his guess. But it was nothing to worry about, he informed
them. She could still sing.
neglected to mention, when he made his diagnosis, that he worked
for the concert's promoter.
it was, Skip told the others, they would have to cancel the concert
or play it without her. Grace wasn't moving.
was having none of that. Belly ache, drunk, come on; she'd always
been able to stand up on a stage and sing. He would get to the
bottom of this and haul her ass out to the venue. You didn't miss
a concert because your tummy hurt and you certainly didn't miss
one because you were too high. He'd seen Grace drunk before, many,
many times before, and he never knew her to be too far gone to
make the gig.
boozing since she was a kid, she'd been drunk for countless Airplane
gigs and recording sessions. She had always been able to perform
drunk and few outside of the band and crew were ever the wisershe
had a remarkable constitution, and her ability to function even
after having consumed enough liquor to put down a large mammal
was renowned within the band's circle.
And even on
the rare occasions when Grace was just too marinated to give it
her best, she'd always managed at least to entertain in her own
inimitable way, making abusive comments about the audience and
her fellow musicians, conjuring up long, rambling monologues apropos
of nothing, finding new and unusual ways to improvise onstage,
keeping the band on its collective toes.
that Grace get her act together and get ready for the show, and
stop this nonsense immediately.
But Skip was
standing fast. The doctor said that if she performed Grace could
be seriously hurt. She wasn't going anywhere.
to see her himself. He wanted to see a Grace Slick that was too
incapacitated to sing. He had known her for more than a dozen
years, he had lived with her, he still believed they were soulmates.
He knew her better than anyone, especially this lighting director
who had wedged his way into her life and now called himself Grace's
husband. And if there was one thing he knew about Grace Slick,
it was that she could sing under the most adverse of conditions.
not far away was a venue already filled with 10,000 people who
had come to hear Jefferson Starship. Jefferson Starship with Grace
Slick, not without her. A beautiful setting it was, too, on a
hillside near the towering cliffs leading down to the Rhine.
acts, progressive-rockers Brand X and the guitarist Leo Kottke,
had already done their sets. Kottke, in fact, had played an hour
and a half longer than he was scheduled to play, at the request
of the promoter, who was by now nervously pacing. Other American
bands had canceled before, and the crowd would not stand for it
if another one pulled out.
The fans continued
to wait for Jefferson Starship, but they were becoming increasingly
rowdy, and Skip Johnson was still saying that Grace Slick would
not perform. At the moment the band was scheduled to take the
stage, she was still in bed back in Wiesbaden.
don't you just go on without Grace?" Skip asked Paul.
the Rolling Stones go on without Mick Jagger?" Paul retorted.
and oranges," Skip said. "You don't need Grace. You
still have two other singers."
Paul was through
reasoning now. He'd heard enough. He had already graduated to
shouting and swearing and now he was ready for yet another method
him, throwing Skip Johnson down a short flight of stairs and grabbing
him by the throat, shocking even those who'd seen Kantner's Teutonic
temper at its most virulent.
the band's longtime manager, pounced, grabbing at the two men,
trying to break up the brawl. "What are you, crazy?!"
As Paul and
Skip went at it in the hotel hallway, tearing at each other, Grace
Slick managed to rise from bed. Opening the door to her roomshe
looked like a ghost, Thompson remembersshe stood there in
a blue robe, observing a struggle she couldn't believe was taking
place. Her longtime lover and her current husband were doing a
Popeye and Bluto number in front of her eyes.
would she side with? The one who had given her a daughter and
had stayed by her side for so long, or the one who had become
her new companion a couple of years ago, who had given her a new
outlook on life and gotten her through some difficult times.
my husband alone!" Grace shouted at Paul, as loudly as a
sick woman could.
at that moment, knew that Grace Slick would not be performing
that night. More than that, though, he knew that he'd lost her.
She had used the word husband.
At the amphitheater,
Bill Laudner, the Starship's road manager, was backstage. He had
gone ahead to the venue with a couple of the band members to try
to explain to the audience what was going on back at the hotel,
that Grace Slick was too ill to perform. First, Laudner and David
Freiberg, one of the band members, spoke to the audience, in English,
and they seemed to understand. But when the promoter followed
them to the stage, speaking in rapid-fire German, the mood turned.
They began shouting and booing and then Laudner heard glass.
was just one bottle, thrown from the audience and hitting the
concrete stage in a rain of broken glass. Then there was another,
and another. Those who didn't have bottles threw rocks. A Starship
crew member was hit and taken to a local hospital. Others, trying
to salvage the group's equipment, quickly gave up, deciding that
keeping their heads intact took precedence over dodging bottles
to save an amplifier.
Some of the
touring party hid in boxes until the carnage was finished, for
what seemed like hours later. Others, including Laudner, managed
to escape. Freiberg, a Jew, said there was no way he was hiding
in a box in Germany, and found a way out. Driving away from the
scene, Laudner looked back up the hill toward the concert site,
and saw the red glow of the fires that the outraged music fans
had started. He didn't know it yet, but the stage, and all of
the band's equipmenta million dollars' worth in allwas
providing the fuel.
In the '60s
and early '70s, Jefferson Airplane had been no stranger to inciting
riots, riling up the fans to oppose dancing restrictions, unfair
curfews, oppressive police presence, antiquated dope laws. Now
Jefferson Starship had incited a riot by skipping out on a gig;
they, the band, not the police, were the intended targetthe
left immediately for Hamburg, piled onto a bus being driven at
an agonizingly slow speed by a driver who couldn't stand Americans.
Grace and Skip weren't on it though. They flew ahead, Grace greeting
the others with a large smile when they met up. She was feeling
much better now, she told them all, ready to go back to work.
and the others charged with the responsibility of making things
happen, scrambled to borrow equipment. The band had left Wiesbaden
with nothing: their guitars, amps, everything was lost in the
fire or stolen. They borrowed from local musicians and music stores,
from sound companies and, somehow, by the time of the show, they'd
put together what they needed.
to the band to tell them the good news, Laudner took one look
at Grace and knew she was as drunk as he had ever seen her.
the Starship's publicist and Paul's new love, was dispatched to
Grace's room by Thompson to try to keep her under control. But
it was too late for that. Cynthia was close to Grace and Thompson
reasoned that Grace might listen to another woman, but when Cynthia
arrived at the room, she found a wild animal, throwing bottles,
refusing to get dressed, kicking and screaming, demanding that
more booze be brought up by room service, which had received explicit
instructions not to comply. Cynthia recalls Grace and her almost
coming to blows, potentially complementing the Kantner-Johnson
heavyweight fight of two days earlier.
at Hamburg's CCH on June 19th was one they all remember. "You
could just see all the life drain out of the group," Bowman
said. "It was just a horrible, empty, bad, dark night."
for broadcast on the German Rockpalast TV program, the show never
aired. One thing Germany's citizens did not need coming into their
homes was the sight of a drunken American rock singer taunting
the audience about World War II, calling them Nazis, sticking
her fingers up audience members' noses, repeatedly giving the
"Heil Hitler" salute.
She had done
this routine once before, in 1969 at New York's Fillmore East,
the SS uniform, slicked-down hair, Adolf mustache and all. That
the venue that time was operated by Holocaust survivor Bill Graham,
a friend and former manager of the band, must not have occurred
to Grace as she goose-stepped back and forth. Or maybe it had.
But this was
Hamburg, not New York. They took this sort of behavior as a personal
affront here. Grace had finally become not only an embarrassment
but a liability. The others in the band had put up with it for
years because she was Grace Slick, the one bonafide legend they
had in their ranks. But now here she was, not only insulting an
audience justifiably touchy about its past, but making it impossible
for the band to concentrate.
they were playing their solos, Grace groped and fondled Craig
Chaquico, the young guitarist who had joined the Starship at its
inception. And she was constantly needling Marty Balin, her vocal
partner, who'd harbored a resentment toward Grace ever since the
media began focusing on her rather than him when the Airplane
first broke out nationally during the Summer of Love more than
a decade before. Onstage they made love together, he had often
said, but Marty blamed Grace for getting all the attention she
did, attention he felt he should have shared equally with her.
He felt that she had stolen his band. He'd wearied of it all a
long time ago, and it hadn't been an easy decision for him to
join another band with Grace and Paul after leaving the Airplane.
watched Grace doing her look-at-me-I'm-drunk act and he experienced
deja vu all over again. But unlike the relative newcomers, Marty
knew how to handle her. When Grace moved close to him to sing
in harmony, Marty grabbed her tightly in a hammer lock, held her
by the hair and wouldn't let go. Grace, unable to move, smiled
as Marty kept her there. She was enjoying it. So was the band.
Freiberg says it was his favorite Marty moment throughout his
tenure in the band.
Still, a familiar
sadness came over Marty as he watched the fiasco taking place
around him. He thought back to Altamont in '69, where he'd been
beaten by a Hell's Angel after he jumped off the stage to try
to save another man. He thought back to the night in 1970 when
Janis Joplin died. The Airplane had a gig scheduled the next night
and went ahead with it. Marty couldn't.
show he withdrew. This was not the way he'd wanted it to be. Now
he felt that way again.
it was on to England, for the Knebworth festival. The band, from
all reports, put on a great show, Marty pulling out all the stops.
But this one they did play without Grace. Following her Lorelei
and Hamburg escapades, a decision had been made to send Grace
home, to give her a chance to dry out and consider whether she
still wanted to be a part of this band.
It was time for her to get out of the game. She was almost 40,
old age in her book. She would still make music, she decided,
but on her own, not with a band. She'd done the rock band thing
already, it was time for a change. After more than a dozen years,
first with Great Society, then the Airplane, then finally Jefferson
Starship, Grace Slick told the others she wasn't coming back.
later, she rejoined the band.
But not Marty.
Returning from Europe, Marty kept his thoughts to himself. He
remembered why he'd left the Airplane, why it had stopped being
fun for him, why it no longer had the meaning it once had. He
didn't explain it to the others; they'd already heard it too many
times. What good would it do to say it again?
On his way
to a rehearsal one day in San Francisco, Marty turned his car
around and drove to the beach instead.
Slick and Ex-husband Skip Johnson
Thompson and I had gone over in April, and we were looking at
places. We'd found in the early days that you're constantly lied
to, by promoters and by venues and by hotels, and so the only
real way to get an idea of what you're getting into with new venues
that you've never played before is to go there ahead of time.
at these European venues, and several of them were really beautiful.
The one in Berlin was fantastic, the one in Knebworth was out
in the countryside and had a castle, and the one at Lorelei is
a beautiful venue in itself. It's up on the top of a real windy
portion of the Rhine River and the cliffs in that area are about
600 feet high. On the top of the cliff, on this point sticking
out into the bend in the river, in a nice flat field, they have
an amphitheater built into the hillside. So the audience is looking
out over the stage and across the Rhine River.
We get over to Europe, and I'm diggin' it, man. Amsterdam and
all these wild places. Jet lag, what's jet lag? Let's party! Whoo-oo!
We took a train that went through Holland and along the Rhine
River. Grace had been drinking in Amsterdam. I knew that. The
hotel we stayed at in Wiesbaden, I later
found out, was one of Hitler's favorites.
Bowman: We were all pretty excited about that trip because
it was a big tour and we were gonna be playing in England at Knebworth.
We were thinking we were gonna have a lot of fun. We were staying
in some great hotels. We got to Lorelei and everything was great
and everyone was looking forward to the show and there were thousands
of United States military people there. Then word came down that
Grace wasn't gonna do the show.
The doctor told her she could hurt herself seriously if she even
got out of bed. And when people doubted that, that really set
off a trigger. [Grace was saying] "I'm sick here and you're
telling me how much money we're going to lose." I think that
really set her off.
To this day, I don't know if she was drunk or not. She says it
was food poisoning.
Bowman: Thompson was saying he didn't care if she was sick,
she had to play.
I think she got sick and then drunk. I'll give her the benefit
of the doubt.
I was sick and I couldn't go on. Paul said he wasn't going
to go without me. I don't know what Marty was doing because I
was in bed, but it would have been fine with Marty.
Marty said that he'd do it without Grace, but not without Paul
She says she was sick but she wasn't sick, she was drunk.
She wouldn't go on stage and Paul wouldn't go on without her.
Everybody in the band but Paul wanted to go on. Paul's attitude
was that if one band member can't make it, then we don't perform.
Whether it's Grace or him or Marty it didn't make any difference.
But Paul absolutely refused to go out and perform.
That's true, I'll cop to that. I didn't think we should play without
A lot of the people that came for the concert were U.S. soldiers.
They had traveled miles, it had rained all day and night.
Craig, Barbata and David went over with Bill Laudner in the afternoon,
to watch the other bands. I had Jeannette and our one-year-old
son Dylan in the hotel room so I elected to go in the later car,
the six o'clock car, with Grace and Paul and Marty and Bill Thompson.
So, at six o'clock I bounded the stairs ready to go. I knew something
was up so I went over to Grace's hotel room. Skip and Grace were
in the hotel room and there's Bill Thompson sitting there with
Paul and Marty, and a representative of the promoter. And they're
all arguing about whether we should play or not, without Grace,
because Grace iswell, nobody could quite determine what
was wrong with Grace. She didn't come out of the room.
There's friction between Paul and Skip, because Skip was saying
she's sick, just go on without her.
They didn't want to just believe me that she was sick, they wanted
to go in and quiz her. But, look, she's sick. That almost came
to blows in the hallway with me trying to keep mostly Paul out
of the room.
I went up to Grace's room to see if she was really sick or if
she was drunk or not. And Skip was protecting her, "No you
can't come in the room," so I just sort of picked him up
and threw him out the doorway. And went in and checked with Grace.
She seemed a little disparate, but I still couldn't tell.
Skip came out and said something, and Paul said, "You
fucking asshole, you're the reason this all happened." There
were like three stairs that went down, and he grabbed Skip and
threw him down the stairs, and he was jumping on top of him.
I could hear Skip and Paul right outside the door but I don't
know what else was going on.
She was screaming at them and they didn't like it so much. It
They're fighting, they're doing this big to-do. Big soap opera.
And I'm sitting there, just waiting. What are we going to do,
go on or what? The promoter is talking to Paul: "Paul if
you don't go on, these people are going to riot."
And I'll never forget these words. Paul said, "My people
will never riot."
We were trying to explain to Paul, which I knew from previous
experience playing in Germany, that they could riot. They could
go completely mad. The promoter's assistant was in
tears. She knows. She's on the phone communicating with the promoter,
freaking out. The opening band's finished, the audience is getting
jittery. Paul held out. He held out, I think, for good reasons.
He just felt that the band shouldn't go on without Grace. I mean,
obviously she's the lead singer of the band. It's an honorable
thing he was doing. But it was just a bad decision. In the States
it probably wouldn't have had the same result. But we felt that
in this situation it would be advisable to do something, to go
to the audience and say, "Look, Grace is extremely sick."
They might not be happy about it, but...
It would be like the Rolling Stones playing without Mick Jagger.
But they only have one singer.
That's a reasonable answer. I'm not justifying what I did. Sometimes
you just make decisions and that seemed to be the right decision
at the time. It wasn't made out of any malice or lack of forethought.
As soon as I knew it wasn't going to happen, I said to the promoter,
"Get me on the phone. I want to get a call to Barbata and
Craig." I called down there, I said, "Tell Barbata and
Craig and Freiberg to wait there. I'm going to come down right
away and we're going to do an instrumental version or something
and we'll get tomatoes thrown at us but not bricks."
I had gone there early with David Freiberg and John Barbata. All
our equipment was set up onstage and we were getting ready to
go out and play. And then we get this message that Grace is ill
and is not going to come to the show. So everybody backstage goes
nuts and says, "Oh, you can't cancel the show, there'll be
a riot!" Because, apparently, there'd been some history of
American bands being advertised and then not showing up.
I would always go out early because I would rather hang out with
the crew, with the real people, than hang out at the hotel and
pretend I'm a rock star. So I went with Laudner, and it was a
cool place, it was great, but all of a sudden I saw the promoter
going crazy. I saw this guy go from happy and color in his face
to ash white. I actually saw it, he just turned pale. And then
he hung up the phone, and I said, "What's going on?"
He said, "Grace
is not going to play! You guys must play, you must play."
He said, "You don't know German crowds. If you don't play,
they will go crazy!"
And so I said,
"Well, what am I supposed to do?"
And he said,
"Well you could play, couldn't you?"
John and I split before the announcement was made because
somebody said it was going to be bad. David stayed to tell everybody,
but what was translated was, "We're not going to play."
David didn't know what they were saying. He was trying to be the
nice guy. Back then we all believed that if you just did the right
thing, the right thing would happen.
David courageously went onstage with Bill Laudner and the
promoter. They told the promoter to tell the audience that they
could have their money back and that we'd come back and play later
on. Apparently, the promoter left the bit out about giving the
The audience started yelling and booing and sounding pretty upset
and he finished what he was saying and we walked off the stage.
Then I found out what had happened. The Atlanta Rhythm Section
and a whole bunch of other bands had been advertised before the
show. So whatever it was that the promoter said in German, then
the beer bottles started to fly. A beer bottle came up, immediately,
hit Paul Dowell, one of our roadies, smack in the head, and he
was off to the hospital. They wanted to take me and put me in
this bunker, built out of stone, with bars on the windows, and
he's trying to tell me that I should be locked inside of there
because you don't know what the crowds are going to do to you.
About a thousand bottles hit. And it was a concrete stage
so they all broke. The rain of bottles continued until everyone
had thrown their bottles. It was touch-and-go there. The bottles
were bouncing off the fabric structure behind the sound stack
where I was. And I thought, I'm either going to get beaned with
one of these things or I'm going to retreat. I retreated far enough
so the bottles wouldn't hit me, and the carnage went on for hours
There were 10,000 people in the audience, and because it was near
a military base, some of these people had come with the idea of
wanting to make some kind of political statement and start some
kind of a riot. So when we didn't play, when the announcement
was made, it was an excuse to let all hell break loose. And hell
did break loose. People somehow found gasoline and set the stage
It was just completely mad, it was nuts. Our guitar roadie managed
to salvage the guitars. He hid them in the bushes, and left them
there. He figured it was safe, because he didn't have any way
of getting them back. When he came back the next day they had
all just disappeared. The next day we went back and it looked
like a bomb had dropped, literally.
They threw the piano off the stage, which saved the piano, or
it would have been part of the bonfire. They couldn't lift it
back up on the stage. I just took my basses, put them in the trunk
of the rent-a-car, and just changed my coat and started walking
around, watching what was happening. Nobody paid any attention
to me. One of the sound guys picked up the mixing console and
walked stealthily off with it, made it look like he was stealing
it, and he
saved it that way.
They took all the equipment and they threw it over the cliff into
the Rhine. I cracked up. I just fell out laughing. I got up and
walked away, went to my room.
Somebody got up with an ax and started smashing the drum kit up
and then they poured gasoline over the drum set, burned everything.
It was a blazing inferno. The two big compressed air cylinders
holding up the lighting trusses exploded. It's amazing nobody
was killed. The fireman showed up and got bricks thrown at them
and just left. They just turned around and left. The police never
We got out different ways. Some of the guys walked out and some
hitchhiked and after it got dark, I got my rent-a-car and gathered
up the band members that I had with me, and I jammed 'em all in
my Mercedes and made the run through the back gate and mixed in
with a whole bunch of other vehicles trying to leave the area.
We looked up and the fires that the audience had built out of
a lot of the stuff that was onstage were glowing and fluttering
and flickering against their own smoke, and it looked really medieval.
And I thought, this is medieval. There's a castle right over there.
One of the roadies told me that a drunken GI was coming at one
of the cops and the cop pulled his gun out, it was going to be
another Altamont. He was going to shoot him. And the GI took his
stick and pushed his gun aside and said, "You don't have
to do that," and proceeded to beat him up with the stick.
Anyway, Craig and I jumped into a limo, we were going 145 miles
an hour getting out of there.
We went back to the hotel and everybody is sitting in the bar.
"What's going on up there?!" I said, "You should
We were staying in Wiesbaden and we couldn't get out of there.
They told us not to go to the railroad station because they were
waiting there to get us, and so they got a bus for us to leave.
But the promoter would not give us the bus and let us leave until
we paid him back all the money. So Thompson gave him back over
$100,000 in American money that we had gotten for the concert.
Then they let us out of there.
Bowman: We were basically smuggled out of that part of Germany
in the dark of night, into another part of Germany. There were
very plain buses, darked-out buses. They were really sneaking
First the promoter insisted that we had to get on this bus and
go see what we'd caused.
That was mainly for the purpose of Grace seeing it, but in
fact Grace and Skip had taken a plane to Hamburg.
So he drove us out there and there was nothing left. There were
these aluminum pillars that were cemented in to the stone stage,
melted. They were gone. All of the speakersthere was nothing
left but the rings, the magnets. They burned the whole PA system,
the lighting system which we were carrying with us. But every
instrument that I played made it through. Is that karma or what?
The whole band was shell-shocked. And the promoter is screaming
that it's the band's fault and threatening lawsuits.
This fucking bus that this guy got wouldn't go over 40 miles an
hour, so we're being passed by people that are going 140 miles
The bus driver hated us, and he drove deliberately slowly
and stopped to have something to eat and didn't tell us. We finally
went in because it was a long period of time and we were hungry
and he said, "Ach, we have to leave now." He'd already
finished eating. So we just sat down, at that point, and said
to hell with it, and we ate. He had to wait for us.
We got into Hamburg at like 3:30 in the morning. And then we had
to get up and do a press conference at 10.
We all go out and sit and Grace is real demure and nice, "Oh,
I was very sick and I had a stomach boo-boo." And they all
ask, "Well, will you be there tonight?" "Oh yeah,
everything will be fine, we had a good night."
The guys made a bunch of phone calls, our crew guys, and we all
were in touch with a number of people, trying to arrange to borrow
equipment, which ultimately successfully happened.
Grace arrived in Hamburg fresh as a daisy, happy. And then she
gets drunk. That's the unforgettable thing about that whole deal.
I was amazed when I came downstairs and walked through the dressing
room, just prior to the show, and I saw Grace. I knew as soon
as I saw her that she was drunk. I didn't have to ask her any
questions or anything. I just turned and walked away and thought,
well, I wonder how this is going to work?
I came walking in and I can see it on everybody's faces, "Here
we go again." Grace is on this lounge, slurring her words,
"Marty, I can't do it. I don't feel good, Marty, please."
I was like, "Grace, c'mon, get up. We've been through this
before. Let's go. Let's put on a show. You told everybody you'd
Bowman: She's locked up in her room and she won't come down.
Thompson sent me up there and I was dealing with a wild person.
I'd never seen her like this. She was just fucked up drunk. Grace
will tell you she's five-foot-seven, but she's not. She's a pretty
small person. I'm a pretty tall person. But dealing with her was
impossible. I was trying to get her to put her pants on and she
was throwing bottles around the room and screaming. She was kicking
me. I clearly remember being in the elevator and thinking, this
is it. This is gonna be it. And it was. It was horrible. She was
goose-stepping across the stage, sticking her finger up people's
noses, calling people Nazis. The crowd started to leave.
I dressed like a Nazi and went totally nuts. What happened was,
at the airport, they had one of those old-fashioned dresses, like
Heidi, little white sleeves and a bodice and big skirttypical
German-Swiss milkmaid kind of deal. So I bought this and I said
okay, I'll do this, because it ought to be funny with my personality
to dress like what the hell's going on.
So I start
getting ready to go on for the show, and I was drinking while
I was getting ready. And by the time I was ready I looked in the
mirror and said that's so not me, I'm not gonna do it, I'm gonna
go the other way and just be what I think they were during the
second World War. I'm still busy hanging out in the second World
War. I'm in Germany and I'm gonna get back at them for Dachau
or some dumb drunken decision. That's what that night was about,
dumb, drunken decisions. So they started walking out but they
kept coming back, like maybe she'll do something really hideous
and we will have missed it. A freak show.
David Freiberg: She didn't do her credibility any good
by getting fucked up in Hamburg. She was probably too drunk to
sing, I don't know. What it seemed like to the band was that she
was deliberately trying to fuck everything up.
It was insulting, considering all that we had gone through. All
this nightmare. For her to get out there and to go get drunkshe
couldn't even remember the words. It was dreadful.
I'm holding her up through all the songs and she's going, "How
many more?" Then she got into it and started yelling things
at these people. And at first everybody got up and just started
to walk away, leave this disgusting thing. But then a lot of people
came back and sat down and just watched her do her swan song.
That was a nightmare. I think she created punk rock that night.
That was pretty bizarre. Paul was crying after the show because
he knew it was over. I knew it was over.
Bowman: After the Hamburg show, we thought we were gonna be
crucified. It was unbelievable that she had done this twice. She
was in no shape to be working, she was really sick.
At that point, we were pretty sick of her and what she'd done.
The next thing I remember is being up on the rooftop bar and
hearing that Grace is going to go home. "Well, what are we
going to do next?"
going to go to Knebworth and play without her!"
We got back
to England. It felt so good. At the Hamburg Airport there were
all those soldiers with submachine guns and everything. When we
got back there, Pete and I went to the BBC and did a radio interview
and the first thing out of Pete's mouth is, "Oh, it's good
to be back on Allied soil."
We went on to Knebworth and played another gig, where they said
we were great, that I held the show, we blew them away.
Bowman: Marty was a prince. When push comes to shove, Marty
really comes through. She was gone and I think it was his turn
to really rally. And he did. It was a great show, but very sad
because everybody kind of knew that was that.
Kantner: That was a morphing end. It orchestrated itself.
Too much too soon. Too much everything. Spinning apart, like our
universe does after the Big Bang. There's a certain level of existence
that the spinning apart eventually spins so far apart that it
becomes a bunch of something else.