It’s a Beautiful Day – interview with David LaFlamme

1There was never another band like It’s a Beautiful Day.  Even amidst the manic fervor of mid-late sixties San Francisco, with the Airplane, Quicksilver, the Dead and so forth equally firing on every cylinder imaginable (plus a few more that had yet to be dreamed), the Band Whose Name Was Slightly Too Long For A T-shirt astounded everyone who came within ear’s length of them.

Which, sadly, was not nearly enough.  Initially chained to a manager who strangely believed Seattle was a far more suitable environment for his charges, it was 1968 before IABD truly made their musical mark on their hometown, and 1969 before they got their first album out.  By which time, of course, most of their peers were on their third or fourth.

Timing, however, matters only at the time.  Listening to IABD today is to immerse yourself into everything that was truly crucial about the era in which they were born.  Their self-titled debut certainly stands alongside any other album of the era, while the 1968 Live at the Fillmore set (paired with a great documentary DVD) captures a truly breathtaking live performance.

Time moved faster in those days.  By summer 1969, IABD were poised to step onto the Woodstock stage, with Bill Graham putting two bands forward to promoter Michael Lang – IABD and Santana.  According to legend, Lang liked them both so much that he finally tossed a coin to decide.  Santana won, but IABD kept moving regardless – a sensational second album, Marrying Maiden, and two more before they folded – Choice Quality Stuff/Anytime (1971)  and It’s a Beautiful Day… Today (1973).

They’re still going strong today, too, and writer and violinist David LaFlamme is justifiably proud when he points out, “We have recently sold out, three years in a row, at Fur Peace Ranch annual music festival and the Eugene OR. Art, Wine, Food music Festival headlining for 10,000 people.”

But if you’ve never actually heard them yourself, just dig out Deep Purple’s “Child in Time.”  That’s what they call it, anyway, and they added some lyrics to prove it.  But to the rest of us, it’s “Bombay Calling,” a mainstay of writer and violinist David LaFlamme’s repertoire from before he even formed the band, a point that Ian Gillan happily acknowledges.

“Ah, ‘Child In Time’. That was written such a long time ago. There are two sides to that song – the musical side and the lyrical side. On the musical side, there used to be this song ‘Bombay Calling’ by a band called It’s A Beautiful Day. It was fresh and original, when Jon was one day playing it on his keyboard. It sounded good, and we thought we’d play around with it, change it a bit and do something new keeping that as a base…..”  (Read the full interview here

Incredibly, however, the royalty departments of the world have never credited IABD with their contributions to the song, so when Goldmine sat down with David LaFlamme recently, that seemed a good place to start….

DL: “Bombay Calling.”  I first started working on the song with the Orkrustra, in 1965.It was a riff I picked up in a jam session; I added my own ideas to it and developed into the piece you hear today.

GM: Did you ever pursue the Deep Purple issue?

DL: Years ago, when “Child In Time” was brought to my attention, I discussed it with my attorney (publisher) and I was advised it would be very difficult to make a strong case… being an instrumental piece, with the changes they added (vocals), so I left it at that.

2GM: The original IABD – such a short but amazing career.  Could you talk us through what you remember as the highlights of the band’s lifetime (as opposed to the ones that the history books focus on).

DL: There are so many exciting performances it’s hard to list them all. Perhaps the shows we did as an opening act with the Who – they were introducing their new musical Tommy.  Also, some of the shows we did in Europe – the Holland Pop Festival, Bath, the Royal Albert Hall in 1970, with the new band lineup, keyboardist Fred Webb, Tom Fowler on Bass, Billy Gregory guitar, Val & Patti of course.   Some years ago, I put out a CD called Creed of Love, that was recorded at the Fillmore in 1970, and it’s perhaps the best IABD live recording we ever made.

GM: Obvious question… what do you think was responsible for that absolutely incredible explosion of bands and talent that came out of SF in 1966-67?  And which bands, now-famous or otherwise, did you most enjoy at the time?

DL: Not only was there an amazing amount of young talent in and around San Francisco in the 60’s, but musicians from all over the country came to [town], such as Boz Scaggs, Elvin Bishop, Steve Miller, and many more. My own personal favorites were the Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Quicksilver, and many of the old blues players that I had never seen in person, but had listened to for years.

GM: Is there much of an IABD archive that remains to be released?  So many of your late 60s contemporaries seem to have released multiple live sets in recent years, but IABD are very poorly represented.  We need more! 

DL: Most of what we have as far as archives [are concerned] is on Wolfgang’s Vault & most of the recordings are not that good.  That’s why I have tried to be very selective in the release of any of the old recordings, if it does not reach my standards. The best of the archives recordings are on film, such as the latest recording of “White Bird,” in the Will Smith movie called Focus.

GM: Of all the albums, Choice Quality Stuff often feels overlooked, yet it’s just as good as the first two.  Do you have any theories?

DL: Thanks for the compliment.  It was certainly over shadowed by the success of the first IABD album. I tried to make all the albums different from one another, which isn’t always the best road to success. In hindsight, I could have done another album using material similar to the first album,and called it IABD 2, and would have been very successful, rather then doing more variety and including many of the songs written by band members and others. But those were the times…

 

2 thoughts on “It’s a Beautiful Day – interview with David LaFlamme

  1. Dave – thank you for highlighting one of our favorite bands and Choice Quality Stuff. There are great live versions of “Grand Camel Suite” and “Creed of Love” from that album included on the 2000 live CD “Workin’ the Gold Mine” along with a newer song “Pick Up Sticks,” which I love.

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