Saturday, June 18, 2011

John Sinclair

Ten for two. – Steve Gebhart’s 1971 Ten for Two: The John Sinclair Freedom Rally is a documentary record of the historic concert that took place, in December 1971, at Ann Arbor’s Crisler arena, organized by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, to protest the politically-motivated jailing of poet and activist "White Panther", John Sinclair. Ten years imprisonment for two joints? . Among the performers that night, Phil Ochs, Stevie Wonder, Archie Shepp (and Lennon himself, of course)... It’s, aside from anything else, an important, and revealing, time-capsule.

The footage begins in media res (after approximately fifteen seconds), , with the angry insistent J.Geils, before a sudden cut (at one minute- fifteen) to Allen on stage chanting, quite beautifully, with his harmonium, and with a single guitarist accompanist.

“O dear john Sinclair we pray you leave your jail house/ o dear John Sinclair we celebrate your liberty tonight/ o dear John Sinclair in your name we are having a paarty/fourteen thousand people here – with no fear..” - Allen sweetly improvises.

Ed Sanders follows, more harshly, “If John Sinclair were a thug, selling heroin to grade-school children and paying bribes to police and public officials, he’d be a free man today…If John Sinclair were..”

The rest of this tape consists of Bob Segar and his band performing Chuck Berry’s ”Oh Carol”, some somewhat incendiary rhetoric from Father James Groppi, music from the rock band, The Up, (uh?) Bobby Seale (escorted on to stage and surrounded by his retinue of Black Panthers), Phil Ochs (rare fooage of the late Phil Ochs singing “Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon”), anti-war activists Rennie Davis and David Dellinger, exhorting and inspiring the crowds, Archie Shepp on saxophone and Roswell Rudd on trombone (stunning free jazz improvisation),– then, (approximately twenty seven-and-a-half minutes in), a live phone-call from Sinclair himself - from jail – then, after that, Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen (now there’s a name from the past,!) singing “down to seeds and stems again” (sic), Elsie and Leni Sinclair (family members showing solidarity), Stevie Wonder, sending out a song to all the “undercover agents that might be out in the audience” (sic) - and Jerry Rubin (yep, Yippie spokesman, Jerry Rubin).

A second tape features David Peel and John and Yoko’s set that included “John Sinclair” and concluded the evening

Lennon’s “(Free) John Sinclair” later appeared on his Some Time In New York City album and can be heard here

Sinclair’s own pretty extraordinary past forty years (they freed him soon after the concert), as poet, blues scholar, radio d-j, legend, and marijuana activist, can be fruitfully explored here.

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