Monday, January 31, 2022

All You Ever Wanted to Know About Scotch Tape and Then Some

Scotch Tape in 1950s packaging.  It became a household and office staple.

Indulge me.  Close your eyes and try to remember a time when you really did need string to tie up those brown paper packages.  When yards of satin ribbon and six thumbs were needed to keep the colored tissue paper prettily surrounding a gift box.  When the ripped pages of your favorite book were doomed to be forever sundered.  When that torn $5 bill could not be mended and spent.  When there was nothing to hold your eye lid and nose in peculiar positions to frighten your baby siblings.

Yes, those were dark, dark times before the invention that rescued us all.  In keeping with this blog’s occasional mission of reminding us of the inventions that really and truly changed our lives, I give you Scotch Tape!

Actually, tape of any kind in the modern sense hasn’t been around very long.  The first marriage of some kind of gum, glue, or adhesive to some sort of material or fabric is credited to English physician Horace Day in 1845.  He devised strips of fabric coated with a rubber gum for use in surgical bandages.  The idea was slow to catch on because no one had yet thought to put the stuff on reels.  It had to be kept laid out flat.

A small advance occurred in 1921 when a Johnson & Johnson cotton buyer put a cotton pad on short strips of adhesive cloth like Dr. Day’s and backed them with crisp crinoline. The adhesive face protected by easy-to-peel-off waxed paper—and the Band-Aid was born.

But still no tape on a roll.  That was the creation of a young engineer, Richard Gurley Drew in 1925.

Engineer Richard Gurly Drew was the break-through inovator in adhesive tapes for Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., now 3M.

Drew had first worked for Johnson & Johnson, so was familiar with adhesive.  But he had shifted his allegiance to the Minneapolis Mining & Manufacturing Co.  They were predominately operators of sand and gravel pits.  But in addition to the usual customers for building material, the company had created a profitable niche for itself marketing their inexpensive raw material as industrial abrasives including various kinds of grinding and polishing wheels, and new products like sandpaper that affixed their grit to a disposable backing.  Within this limited field they were innovative and employed bright young men like Drew who helped develop a new product that could be used wet or dry and was intended for preparing auto bodies for painting.

One day Drew was sent to a local body shop along with a salesman, a common double duty of engineers in those days. He observed that painters in the shop had a hard time keeping down sheets of paper intended to keep the spray paint from running where it wasn’t wanted.  An idea was born.

Drew's revolutionary masking tape at work in an auto body shop to prepare for painting.

Back in the lab, drawing on his experience with adhesives, Drew devised a paper tape on a rollmasking tape, ever after the painter’s friend.  Of course, it took a little perfecting.  He took samples to one shop, which found the adhesive insufficient to keep a seal. The exasperated owner told Drew to “Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!”  Drew not only improved the product, but he also sold this employer on the idea of using Scotch as a brand name for the tape, indicating that it was a thrifty choice.

Drew was soon given the go-ahead to explore other possibilities.  High on his list was developing a tape for use in sealing industrial packaging.  After considerable experimentation, he developed a pressure adhesive tape on transparent cellophane.  After sending samples of a Chicago industrial baker to seal the ends of their wax paper bread wrapping, the enthusiastic customer wired back, “You’ve got a product.  Get it into production!”

And they did.  Scotch Brand Cellulose Tape was introduced for sale on January 30, 1930.

The original Scotch Tape introduced in 1930 was designed for sealing commercial and industrial packaging.

The development of automated heat sealing process on packaging lines soon rendered the original use largely obsolete.  But another 3M engineer, John A Borden, invented something in 1932 that made the product indispensable to thrifty homes and offices who need to mend rather than replace torn and tattered items—a dispenser with a built-in cutter blade.

World War II era magazine ads reminded women what convenience they were missing and helped build explosive post-war demand.

After the concept of adhesive backed tape on rolls was established. 3M and other companies came up with continued innovations—cloth backed electrical tape in the early ‘30’ and a rubber (now vinyl) version in 1954 and fix-everything Duct Tape in 1942.  The introduction of Scotch Brand Magic Transparent Tape in 1961 largely, but not entirely, replaced the original product. The new tape did not yellow or crack with age like cellophane, had a matte finish that did not reflect light so that it could even be used for affixing things to pages for offset press reproduction, and could even be written on with a ball point pen.

The desk dispenser joined the stapler and a cup of pencils and ball point pens as an essential in offices of the '60's and beyond.  It persists today even on allegedly paperless computer desks.

Scotch Tape took 3M to a whole new level as a company.  It eventually introduced many other new forms of tape for specialized applications and expanded into businesses from office supplies (Post-It Notes) to audio and video tape, to fabric treatments (Scotchgard) and many other products.

And as we can see, our lives were changed as well.  I say damn fine work, Richard Gurley Drew!  

Sunday, January 30, 2022

That Nice Beatle Got Mad and Wrote a Song

Paul McCartney had left the Fab Four and started Wings in early 1972, but everyone still thought of him as that Nice Beatle.

Affable Paul McCartney was always the nice Beatle, the one with the boyish smile and easy disposition.  Not much into politics or causes.  That was John’s thing.  One of the most gifted and prolific song writers of all time, he specialized in catchy melodies and memorable hooks.  His lyrics were simple and straightforward.  The deep stuff, well, that was mostly John, too.  As he would put it in the song for his new band Wings, “Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs.  And what’s wrong with that?”

But on January 30, 1972 Paul got mad.  Really mad.  Mad enough to write a song.

That morning he heard shocking news from Belfast, Northern Island.  Members of a unit of elite paratroopers had opened fire on unarmed and peaceful demonstration against detention without trial.  13 were killed outright and dozens wounded.

Authorities had decided to allow the march within Catholic Derry but to prevent it from entering Guildhall Square.  The First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (1 Para) was sent to the scene with specific orders to block the march at that point with force, if necessary.

Leaders decided not to challenge the troops, diverting the main march to Free Derry Corner, where they were assured they would be safe from attack.  A small number of local youths, however, broke from the main march and continued to Guildhall Square, pelting an Army Barracks with stones and taunting troops. Water cannon, tear gas, and rubber bullets were deployed, but two rioters were shot and wounded by live ammunition.

At 4 PM, responding to unfounded rumors of an IRA sniper, the Paras were ordered to enter the Bogside district where the peaceful marchers were still assembled. An order was given to fire live rounds.  17 year old Jackie Duddy was shot next to a Roman Catholic Priest as both fled from the troops.  Orders were given to continue to pursue demonstrators at the edge of Free Derry Square. 

An image that shocked the world and enraged Paul McCartney--a Priest waved a bloody handkerchief as a white flag while onlookers try to rush a mortally wounded young man to safety under the fire of elite British Paratroopers.

Troops opened up with indiscriminate fire and continued to shoot even after receiving direct orders to stop.  Twelve more, all unarmed, were killed while fleeing or while attempting to aid those who had fallen.  At least one was shot and killed while waving a white handkerchief and going to the aid of a fallen boy.  Another was shot and injured then executed by a close range shot to the head as he pleaded that he had lost feeling in his legs.  14 others were shot, one of whom, shot at some distance from the main action and not even involved, died months later.  Two demonstrators were run over and seriously maimed by armored personnel carriers. No British soldier was wounded by gunfire or reported any injuries.

Bloody Sunday, as it came to be known changed everything.  Any chance at peaceful change through non-violent protest was out the windowRadicalized youth flocked to the militant Provisional IRA (Provos) who stepped up their own military campaign against the Army.

Of course, that day McCartney didn’t know all the details.  But he did know that many young men, a lot of them with shaggy dark hair, shod in Beatle boots, and wearing thin coats styled after the now passé—in BritainMod look that the Fab Four had popularized, could have been him.

Like so many Liverpudlians, McCartney was of Irish descent.  His mother was an Irish Catholic, his father a lapsed Protestant.  While baptized Catholic, he was sent to secular schools, not parochial ones, and brought up in a household in which religion played a minor role.  But he knew that no matter how deep his family’s roots in England might be, he would always be a bog hopper to many.

After watching BBC coverage of the event, an angry, passionate McCartney set down and in less than two hours banged out the lyrics and picked out a tune on the piano.  His wife, Linda, was by his side.  He would share writing credit for the song with her.  It was the same arrangement he had with his former writing partner, John Lennon.  And just as some Lennon and McCartney songs were totally his own work, so was the song he called Give Ireland Back to the Irish.

Wings at the recording session--Henry McCullough, Denny Laine, McCartney, Linda McCartney, and Denny Seiwell.  It was Irish guitarist McCollough's first recording session with the band.  After the song was released his brother was beaten in Belfast by a Protestant para-military gang in retribution.

That night he called his mates in his new band Wings to meet him at Island Studios in London’s Notting Hill on February 1, in just two days.  For Irish guitarist Henry McCullough it was his first recording session with the band.  With his usual meticulous attention to detail, McCartney arranged to have a crew on hand to film and document the band as it learned and rehearsed the song.  In a little more than two hours, two tracks were laid downvocal and an instrumental version of the song.

McCartney was adamant about rushing the record to release as a single.  When word of his plans reached the ears of executives at his record label, all hell broke loose.  McCartney would later recall:

From our point of view it was the first time people questioned what we were doing in Ireland. It was so shocking. I wrote Give Ireland Back to the Irish, we recorded it and I was promptly phoned by the Chairman of EMI [Wings’ record label], Sir Joseph Lockwood, explaining that they wouldn’t release it. He thought it was too inflammatory. I told him that I felt strongly about it and they had to release it. He said, “Well it’ll be banned”, and of course it was. I knew Give Ireland Back to the Irish wasn’t an easy route, but it just seemed to me to be the time. All of us in Wings felt the same about it. But Henry McCullough’s brother who lived in Northern Ireland was beaten up because of it. The thugs found out that Henry was in Wings.

Lockwood, of course, could not afford to alienate his label’s biggest asset.  The records were pressed and shipped, complete with provocative shamrocks adorning the yellow label.  The single was released with the vocal version on the A side and the instrumental on the B on February 25 in the United Kingdom and Ireland and three days later in the US

Paul shared credit with his wife Linda who was with him during the intense writing session, but the melody and lyrics were all his.  To make the single, which was rushed to release over the anguished objection of his EMI label, even more provocative, McCartney had the platter festooned with defiant shamrocks.

As predicted it was banned.  Every effort was made to suppress any knowledge of it. It was banned by the BBC, Radio Luxembourg, and the Independent Television Authority. On the BBC Radio 1 hit parade show Pick of the Pops, Alan Freeman had to refer to it as “a record by the group Wings.” McCartney and Wings were denounced in thundering newspaper editorials and in the House of Commons.  McCartney, the former darling of the press, was suddenly a pariah, at least among the Tory establishment and many “patriotic” ordinary Britons.

McCartney told friends, “I’ll never be a knight now.”  He was eventually knighted by Queen Elizabeth more than two decades later in 1995 after many lesser pop musicians were elevated ahead of him.  Even then there was a minor furor among Tories at the honor.

All four Beatles had been on the Queen's List for the Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1965.  Iconoclast John Lennon returned his medal to the Queen with a cheeky note.  McCartney became the first to win full knighthood in 1995 after other pop stars had been honored.  John was already dead.  George Harrison was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) but turned down the honor feeling snubbed after Paul's knighthood.  Ringo Starr was finally dubbed in 2018.

Despite the bans, folks in Britain could hear the song on broadcasts from the Irish Republic and the Continent.  And, as always, the lure of the banned drew thousands to record shops to snap up the discs.  Despite the ban Give Ireland Back to the Irish climbed to # 16 on the UK Singles Chart, and # 21 in the US Billboard Hot 100.  Quite naturally it soared to the top of the Irish charts and sat there for a while.

Did McCartney’s uncharacteristic protest change anything?  Who knows?  But in fact, public opinion in Britain slowly changed, even though the bloody IRA bombing campaign that followed which hardened many hearts against the Irish.  When the facts about Bloody Sunday slowly emerged, the consensus was that it was not only a tragedy, but an unmitigated disaster.  It took decades but eventually the Accords guaranteeing minority Catholic rights and the disarmament of both the IRA and Protestant paramilitaries resulted in a sometimes still uneasy peace in a war weary nation.  The Army was withdrawn

Anyway, here is what Paul McCartney wrote that day in his righteous anger.

Give Ireland Back to the Irish

Give Ireland back to the Irish
Don’t make them have to take it away
Give Ireland back to the Irish
Make Ireland Irish today

Great Britain you are tremendous
And nobody knows like me
But really what are you doin’
In the land across the sea

Tell me how would you like it
If on your way to work
You were stopped by Irish soldiers
Would you lie down do nothing
Would you give in, or go berserk

Give Ireland back to the Irish
Don’t make them have to take it away
Give Ireland back to the Irish
Make Ireland Irish today

Great Britain and all the people
Say that all people must be free
Meanwhile back in Ireland
There’s a man who looks like me

And he dreams of god and country
And he’s feeling really bad
And he’s sitting in a prison
Should he lie down do nothing
Should give in or go mad

Give Ireland back to the Irish
Don’t make them have to take it away
Give Ireland back to the Irish
Make Ireland Irish today

Give Ireland back to the Irish
Don’t make them have to take it away
Give Ireland back to the Irish
Make Ireland Irish today.


—Paul McCartney


Saturday, January 29, 2022

Too Mean to Die—Old Hickory’s Defiant Brush With Assassination

Mad Brit Richard Lawrence's pistol misfired when he took point blank aim at Andrew Jackson on the steps of the Capitol. 

You have to feel a little sorry for Richard Lawrence.  He was in the right place at the right time, skulking around the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 30, 1835.  A funeral service for a member of Congress was breaking up.  All the dignitaries of the government including the Chief Executive himself were in attendance and would have to pass within feet of him.  He carried in each side pocket of his coat one cocked and loaded single shot derringer flintlock pistol.  He had a plan.  What could possibly go wrong?

Lawrence was a 35 year old Englishman who had been hearing voices in his head for a very long time.  Some believe he may have been the victim of lead in the paint he used in his work. Back home those voices had told him that he was the son and the heir of Richard III and that somehow the American President had kept him from the Throne.  He believed what those voices told him with such certainty that he decided to cross the ocean and come to the United States to have his revenge.  Along the way he decided he was also King of the U.S. and that Andrew Jackson was a usurper.

Suddenly the doors of the Capitol flew open and the mourners, led by the President himself emerged.  Lawrence hid himself behind a pillar.  As Jackson neared, he drew his pistol and stepped in front of the President firing at his chest at point blank range.

Jackson's larger than life image began with his Revolutionary War capture by the British as a boy and the saber slash across his cheek for defying an officer's demand that he clean his boots.

We interrupt the narrative at this point to review a little bit about the victim of the assault.  Andrew Jackson was no stranger to violence. During the American Revolution acting as a courier for irregular troops in North Carolina at the age of 13 or 14, Jackson was captured by the Red Coats.  When he defiantly refused the order of a British officer to shine his boots, his cheek was slashed open by a saber.

As a young man he took leave of his widowed mother keeping in mind a single piece of advice which he would follow to the letter the rest of his life, “Never sue for libel in a Court of Law.”  By that she meant that in affairs of honor the manly thing was confronting the offender personally and if possible, kill him.

In the raw new territory of Tennessee Jackson read and began practicing law.  He also developed a reputation of being quick to anger and as a common tavern brawler.  As he rose in the society of Nashville, he assumed the manners and character of a gentleman.  Which meant he abandoned wrestling in the mud, eye gouging, and trying to bite his enemy’s ear off.  Instead, he subscribed to the Code Duello.  Over the years he was in several affairs of honor and was both shot and did the shooting.

Jackson shot and killed Charles Dickenson in an 1806 duel after his opponent wasted his shot.  Dickenson had accused Jackson's wife Rachel of bigamy.

In one case he challenged a man who publicly asserted—truthfully—that his beloved wife Rachel was at least an inadvertent bigamist for marrying him before a divorce to her first husband was final.  On the field of honor his enemy purposefully wasted his shot.  In most cases the other party would do the same and both could leave the field with honor.  But Jackson took slow and steady aim at the defenseless man and shot him dead through the heart.

In 1813 a feud between Jackson, by then General of the Tennessee Militia and a former friend and subordinate officer Col. Thomas Hart Benton and his brother Jesse erupted into a wild street fight.  As Jackson closed to kill Thomas with a brace of pistols, Jesse snuck up behind him and shot him at point blank range in the side.  A ruckus between partisans of both sides ensued.  The Benton brothers fled town and Tennessee, although Thomas would later reconcile with the old General and become a political ally as a Senator from Missouri.  Jackson nearly bled to death and lost partial use of his left arm.  Jesse’s ball remained lodged in his body and caused him almost constant pain for the rest of his life.

Jackson suffered a near fatal wound in a wild street brawl with Thomas Hart Benton and his brother Jesse.  Thomas latter reconciled with the General, became a staunch political supporter, and was a powerful Senator from Missouri.

Then, of course, there was Jackson’s well documented heroics and adventures as an officer against Native American tribes in the Red Stick War against the Creeks, at the legendary defense of New Orleans against the British, and finally marching through Florida in defiance of orders putting the nation at risk of a new war with Spain.

Back at the Capitol steps, when Lawrence fired a loud pop was heard and a cloud of black powder smoke briefly engulfed the two men.  But for some reason it was just a misfire, and the ball never left the barrel.

As the smoke cleared the enraged 67 year old President lurched for Lawrence and began beating him with his heavy gold-headed cane.  Lawrence stumbled.  He had trouble getting his second pistol out of his pocket while fending off blows.  When he did get it out, the second gun also misfired.  Jackson continued raining blows on the now prostrate man until witnesses physically dragged him away.

Jackson was unscathed, although he didn’t realize he had not actually been shot until he got back to the Executive Mansion and discovered nothing more than powder burns on his clothing.

Lawrence was taken to jail unconscious.  When he recovered he was examined by a doctor who declared that he was suffering from “morbid delusions.”

Later that spring Lawrence was put on trial.  The prosecutor was Francis Scott Key, better known as the writer of the Star Spangled Banner. Lawrence was found not guilty by reason of insanity, one of the first such verdicts in American history.  He lived his life out in various mental institutions until his death in 1861.

Jackson suspected that his bitter enemies over blocking the renewal of the Second Bank of the United States Charter were behind the assassination attempt.

Jackson didn’t believe it for a second.  He was sure that Lawrence was a hireling of his political enemies in the emerging Whig Party or perhaps of the bankers irate over his blocking the renewal of the Charter of the Second Bank of the United States.  Vice President Martin Van Buren agreed.  Ever after he carried a brace of pistols to the Capitol to fulfill his Constitutional duties of President of the Senate.

Many historians have examined the matter, and none have found any connection between Lawrence and Jackson’s many enemies.  That did not prevent the spread of the first of the conspiracy theories which seem to arise naturally from all assassinations and attempts.

The Smithsonian Institution tested both of Lawrence's flintlock derringer pistols similar to this one, and both fired perfectly.

Lawrence’s pistols ended up in the Smithsonian Institution.  Around the centennial of the attack, researchers there tested both guns to try to find out why they had misfired.  Both fired perfectly on the first attempt to shoot them.  The scientists placed the odds of both functional pistols misfiring at 1 in 250,000.  Jackson was a lucky man.

Even luckier that he did not live in the 21st Century when his assailant might have a Glock with an extended clip.  No gold headed cane would protect him from that.

Hippies, Hare Krishna, and the Haight —The Mantra-Rock Dance of 1967

                                           Harvey Cohen designed this psychedelic poster for the Mantra-Rock Dance in San Francisco.

There were a lot of threads to the youth culture being woven on the streets of San Francisco—the older, now established Beats finding new followers for their expressions of alienation, spiritual quest, and rebellion through art and poetry; a ramped-up music scene revolving around a bunch of local bands inventing a new American rock & roll sound; a quasi-anarchic radicalism spreading from the Anti-Vietnam War movement and near-by college campuses; the introduction of cheap, free, and then legal LSD and other hallucinogens plus wide spread availability of Mexican marijuana; the sexual revolution made possible by the pill; a flood of teenage runaways and throwaways living on the streets often engaging in virtual or real prostitution to survive; the large Hells Angels motor cycle club with their sometimes violent culture; and a community of spiritual seekers drawn to a range of mostly Eastern Religions and cults.

All these threads seemed to come together on January 29, 1967 for an event at the Avalon Ballroom called The Mantra-Rock Dance.  In retrospect it is remembered as “the ultimate high” and as “the major spiritual event of the San Francisco hippie era.”  It was one intense, cathartic night that participants thought opened a door to a new future. 

It started simply enough as just another local benefit.  All sorts of local San Francisco organizations and causes raised money and awareness with benefit concerts held at various halls and venues, often ballrooms built to accommodate big bands.  Local rock bands had been building followings for years starting out at benefit shows.  Some had gone on to play at Bill Grahams Fillmore West for cash money, had signed recording contracts with major labels, and were now national acts verging on super stardom.  But these same big acts still lived in the community and feeling connected to it.  Even the biggest could be lured back to a benefit show for a good cause in front of the fans that first boosted their careers.

Swami Prabhupada  with American devotees.

So it was not without hope that Mukunda Goswami, the former Michael Grant and a Reed College graduate and jazz musician, decided to have a concert to raise funds and publicize the new International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) West Coast Center and Temple in the heart of the Haight-Ashbury counter cultural community.

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, usually referred to as simply Prabhupada, was a guru in a school of Vaishnavite Hinduism which was one of the many strains of the traditional Indian religion and which took the Bhagavata Purana as a central scripture and veneration of the god Krishna.  He was pious, scholarly, and respected by Western religious scholars like Harvey Cox.  He took it as his mission to bring this traditional form of Hinduism to the West, founding ISKCON and his first temple in New York City in 1965.

Swami Prabhupada in turban and dark robes at the 1893 Parliament of World Religions in Chicago introduced Americans to Yoga and and sparked a new interest in Eastern religious practice.

Prabhupada took advantage of rising interest in Eastern religions fostered by both the Beat movement and liberal theologians.  Interest in Hinduism in this country dates to Ralph Waldo Emerson who studied early translations of the Bhagavad Gita and adapted from it many of the more mystical aspects of his Transcendentalism including his central idea of an Over soul. 

In 1893 Swami Vivekananda created a sensation at the World Parliament of Religions held in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition in Chicago introducing yoga to this country.  His books became best sellers and the practice of yoga spread across the country, especially in enclaves of the highly educated.  Yoga was widely practiced by many of the Beats.  But it was viewed largely as a system of meditation and most religious content from Hinduism and Buddhism had been stripped away.  By the 1960s many were ready to dig deeper into the roots of meditative spiritual practices, the Hindu Vedas or holy books and ritual practices.

Prabhupada’s New York temple catered to that interest and was quickly successful.  Within two years the Swami had trained a core group of American-born followers who he initiated as disciples.  From this group he selected Mukunda Das to lead a team with half a dozen others to establish the San Francisco temple in late 1966.

Hare Krishna devotees paraded, drummed, chanted, and danced in the streets attracting attention.

The group quickly attracted attention and followers with their yellow robes, shaved heads, street dancing and chanting, classes at the center, and free feeds for the community of brown rice and vegetables.   To gain more followers and to raise money to support the Temple Mukunda Das and his team quickly decided to tap into the local tradition of rock benefits and to invite Prabhupada for his first West Coast visit to participate in the event.

The idea was controversial among the Swami’s New York followers.  The movement demanded abstention from drugs and alcohol and chastity or monogamous marriage among disciples.  The San Francisco scene was already notorious for its drug and free sex lifestyle.  Poet Allen Ginsberg, who had adopted Hare Krishna chanting in his own spiritual practice and who was friendly with Prabhupada although not an acolyte, convinced the guru that there was a spiritual hunger that he could fill.  Many, like Ginsberg himself, would adopt at least some of the practices leaving the lifestyle restrictions to full-fledged initiates.  The Swami agreed to attend on that basis and Ginsberg signed on to introduce him in California and participate in public chanting.

With that in place Mukunda Das and his team turned to lining up talent.  Through connections they quickly signed up two of the top San Francisco bands—The Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company with its lead singer Janis Joplin.  Both bands agreed to perform for the Musician’s Union minimum of $250.  Team member Malati Dasi happened to hear Moby Grape, a relatively obscure band just establishing themselves, and added them to the program—which would catapult them to fame and a record deal.

Hippy impresario Chet Helms managed Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin and his Family Dog collective managed the Avalon Ballroom as well as doing legendary light shows for concerts.  He was indispensable in pulling the Mantra-Rock Dance together.

The Fillmore was considered as a venue, but Bill Graham, an old school Humanist and secular Jew, was skeptical of the new group.  Instead, organizers turned to the Avalon Ballroom managed by Family Dog impresario and manager of Big Brother and the Holding Company Chet Helms.  Helms was supportive, if somewhat skeptical that the event would draw a crowd.  He also agreed to provide the state of the art light show for the event.

Artist Harvey Cohen, one of the first ISKCON followers, designed a in the style of Stanly Mouse which featured Prabhupada seemingly floating in a purple bubble and an invitation to “bring cushions, drums, bells, cymbals.”  The posters were soon dotting the Haight and were up at Bay Area college campuses.

Ten days before the program Beat poet Allen Ginsberg welcomed Swami Prabhupada at the San Francisco Airport.

More than ten days before the event on January 17 Prabhupada arrived at the San Francisco Airport and was greeted by Ginsberg and more than fifty dancing and chanting acolytes and hippies.  The Swami settled down to teaching at the temple and to giving occasional interviews.  His presence in the city helped build excitement, especially after the San Francisco Chronicle published a lengthy interview in which he was pointedly asked if all of those drug crazed hippies were welcome to his temple and he replied, “Hippies or anyone—I make no distinctions. Everyone is welcome.”

The week before the show, Prabhupada and the program were given an enthusiastic full page treatment in The Oracle, the city’s underground newspaper in an article headed The New Science.

Despite the growing hoopla both the organizers and Helms worried about attendance on a Sunday night.  Even in any-thing-goes San Francisco Sunday was not a usual night out.

But thousands showed up the evening of the 29th ready to plunk down the $2.50 admission at the door.  Despite warnings not to bring drugs, marihuana hung heavily in the air.  Acid guru Timothy Leary and his pal Owsley Stanley III, the manufacture of famously high quality, powerful LSD were there and ss was Owsley’s custom he brought hundreds of hits with him and freely distributed them.  Leary would later be up on the stage with Ginsberg and the Swami.

3000 people filled the auditorium to its capacity and hundreds waited outside.  Despite the crowding and the disappointment of those who could not get in, the mood of the night was uniformly mellow.  Prabhupada’s biographer Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami later described the scene:

Almost everyone who came wore bright or unusual costumes: tribal robes, Mexican ponchos, Indian kurtas, “God’s-eyes,” feathers, and beads. Some hippies brought their own flutes, lutes, gourds, drums, rattles, horns, and guitars. The Hell’s Angels, dirty-haired, wearing jeans, boots, and denim jackets and accompanied by their women, made their entrance, carrying chains, smoking cigarettes, and displaying their regalia of German helmets, emblazoned emblems, and so on—everything but their motorcycles, which they had parked outside.

The crowd was fed Prasadsanctified food—including orange slices as Helms’s light show was projected on walls accompanied by pictures of Prabhupada and Hindu deities.  The program began with a parade of disciples chanting Hare Krishna to an Indian raga.  Moby Grape opened the music program.

Around 10 pm Prabhupada entered the auditorium from the rear.  “He looked like a Vedic sage, exalted and otherworldly. As he advanced towards the stage, the crowd parted and made way for him, like the surfer riding a wave. He glided onto the stage, sat down and began playing the kartals [ritual finger cymbals],” his biographer recalled. 

Ginsberg welcomed the Swami to the stage in a rambling introduction that included a recommendation that chanting was a good way to come down from LSD and “stabilize their consciousness upon reentry.”  Prabhupada gave a short speech of welcome then Ginsberg led the crowed in the Hare Krishna chant.  After several minutes Prabhupada arose and began dancing to the chant.  Others joined him on stage, including the members of all of the bands many of whom played along with their instruments.  The crowd joined in elated dancing and with their own drums and bells.

The Grateful Dead closed the Dance jamming until 4 am to a crowd fueled by Mexican pot, Owsley acid, and religious euphoria.

Afterward Joplin and then the Dead played on into the early morning hours.

Reactions to the event were ecstatic.  $2,000 was raise, but more importantly so was community consciousness.  Attendance at the temple swelled.  Publicity from the event helped propel Prabhupada into the national spotlight and he soon embarked on long speaking tours and established many other temples.

Mukunda Das and other members of the San Francisco team were sent to London to establish a temple there and established a famous relationship with George Harrison who embraced Krishna worship for the rest of his life and not only created his own devotional music—My Sweet Lordbut produced an album of temple chanting that became a charted hit in England and Europe.

By the early ‘70s the Hare Krishnas, as they were popularly called, were a familiar sight on the streets of many American cities, and especially at airports where they engaged in chanting, ritual begging, and the sale of flowers.  There was also a backlash.  ISKCON was accused of operating as cult and brainwashing its young acolytes to keep them isolated at temples and rural communes or ashrams.  This took the characteristics of a social panic as parents hired so-called deprogrammers to essentially kidnap their children, hold them against their will, and subject them to intensive “therapy” that was itself a form a brainwashing all with the usual approval and acquiescence of law enforcement.

Ted Patrick became a media celebrity for "deprograming" members of the Hare Krishna movement and other "cults."  He was cheered on by much of the mainstream media but every thing began to unravel as failed deprogramed individual began to return to their orders and exposed often brutal kidnappings.  A string of lawsuits against Patrick, other deprogrammers, and parents who had paid for and participated took the wind out of the sails of supposed crusade.  

Eventually religious scholars came to the defense of the Hare Krishnas as a genuine religious movement with deep ties to traditional Indian Hinduism and the organization lowered its public profile somewhat. 

The movement grew and spread, despite the controversies.  It was also one of the few Western seeds of Eastern religions that retained, and even grew significantly, a presence in its home country. 

By the time that Prabhupada died in 1977 at the age of 81 he left behind 108 temples across the globe, plus numerous farm communes, and study institutes.  His publishing house, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust was and remains the world’s largest publisher of ancient Hindu religious texts as well as modern commentaries and has translated key texts into dozens of languages.   Despite internal squabbles over leadership succession that continue to this day, the movement has continued to grow and counted over 400 temples worldwide in 2012 plus many home centers serving small clusters in places remote from temples. 

As for the dreams of the San Francisco Hippies for a new beginning, well, that is another story.