Notes from an account of my 44 years in America

by Phillip Frazer, who went to visit the USA for a couple of weeks and stayed longer

A frame from the roll I shot onstage at Janis Joplin's concert in San Jose July 12th 1970 --  © Phillip Frazer  

A frame from the roll I shot onstage at Janis Joplin's concert in San Jose July 12th 1970 -- © Phillip Frazer 

July 1st 1970. With a couple of hundred other journalists and editors I fly to San Francisco from Melbourne on the new Tullamarine airport’s inaugural flight. On landing I head out for the Fillmore West to hear Steve Winwood’s band Traffic. The music, the light show, the packed fans half-dancing half-stumbling is all familiar; could be Melbourne’s Thumpin’ Tum or any RSL club in the Sydney ‘burbs, except that every other person here has a joint which is inhaled then passed on to the right as the next arrives from the left.

July 3rd. I pass on the group trip to the Giants baseball game and head for the Rolling Stone offices on Third St. I’ve bought stories from Stone editor Jann Wenner, for Go-Set and Revolution, but this is my first meet-up with the guy and we talk lots. I offer to help install computerized typesetting – they’re still pulling repros from type set in hot metal.

July 5th. Breakfast at Jann and Janie Wenner’s house on Ord Ct. followed by a benefit for the UN featuring Boz Skaggs, Steve Miller, and the Hair cast. Jann flies to New York and I’m set up in their guest room. Next day, Janie and I see the bizarre new Ned Kelly film starring Mick Jagger with appearances by my Carlton mates Linzee Smith and John Hawkes.

July 12th. Drive to Los Angeles via Santa Clara County Fairgrounds where Janis Joplin’s doing songs from her upcoming Pearl album for 10,000 wild’n’crazy fans. With a stage-pass from Rolling Stone I get a full roll of pics on Tri-X film -- many of a raging Janis up close.

July 27th. In LA I interview the Beach Boys at Dennis Wilson’s house and Mike Love tells me they have a multi-million dollar plan to “socialize the rock ‘n’ roll business”. Lots of talk in this town about soft revolution, not much action. I meet Norma Whittaker, an English woman who does PR for Beach Boys and Country Joe McDonald. She’s also an activist in the UK new left. Tells me US filmmaker Saul Landau is filming a drama against the backdrop of Chile’s Presidential election, about revolution versus reform in Latin America. Country Joe plays a one-man Greek chorus in multiple scenes. Half the cast and crew are Chilean, half from the US and all share a rambling house in Santiago. I decide to fly there to watch and report.

July 29th. A PR woman at CBS in Hollywood has press material for me and I find her in a recording studio where J Joplin and band are finishing Pearl. Like on stage in San Jose, she’s drinking Jim Beam while the boys smoke dope.  “Who the fuck knew I had fans in Australee-a?” she yells. Her energy’s bursting her seams – it’s a force of creativity, or a cry for help.

August 9th. Santiago, Chile. The Popular Front has set up a stage spanning apartment buildings on each side of a main street and 100,000 workers and peasants have filled ten blocks listening to loud-speakers strung along the light poles. Our crew is on-stage where the warm-up act for Socialist candidate Salvador Allende is the poet Pablo Neruda. Deafening cheers for a people’s poet!

September 4th. After weeks of rallies, dodging troops and water canons, and discovering the sound guy has sabotaged all the sound recorded so far, today is election day. Posters cover every inch of public space and where there’s less than an inch they paint a 1, 2 or 3 signaling their choice of the rightist, centrist, or socialist candidate.

Evening comes and our house is jumpin’, everyone watching the count on tv, passing jugs of red wine. Allende and the rightist Alessandri trade the lead. Cheers or anguish greet each update. The phone rings constantly. Around midnight the Popular Front asks permission to hold a victory rally downtown -- the city says no. At 1:30am city police chief is suddenly on-screen -- permission for victory rally granted. The house erupts and we and half the city’s residents converge on the square where Allende reads a message congratulating Chileans for taking their country back from the bankers, miners and the US imperialists. It’s from Fidel Castro, and the massive crowd roars.

September 6th. I’m headed back to San Francisco and on to New York. Santiago airport swarms with men in suits wanting out of the country – academics and artists in corduroy and youths with backpacks and jeans arrive from all over Latin America, laughing with joy at the new world unfolding.

September 21st. I fly to London, knowing I will return to the USA soon because it’s where our futures are determined.

On October 4th 1970, Janis Joplin dies of an accidental heroin overdose at age 27.

On September 11th 1973, Chilean military units with US support stage a coup, tossing the bullet-riddled body of President Allende in an unmarked grave and executing the first of many thousands.


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