Formerly of the Flock

The stars of yesteryear live on: they grow up, get married, have kids, get jobs. Fred Glickstein is now the librarian at Winnetka’s Hadely School for the Blind, which provides free correspondence courses worldwide. “It’s braille by mail,” he cracks. He lives on the North Shore, just a few miles from where he grew up and went to high school in Rogers Park.

Twenty-three years ago he had a different life-style: he flew around the world first-class, stayed in the best hotels. He was the singer and guitarist for the Flock, a jazz-rock-classical septet that formed in Chicago in the late 60s. The group started out like many other Chicago rock bands of the era. “We were a top-40 cover group,” syas Glickstein. “We played the WLS sock hops with Dick Biondi, the Wild Goose and the teen clubs, all that.” After a few mildly successful pop singles on local Destination Records (which along with its sister label, U.S.A., also recorded the Buckinghams and the Cryin’ Shames), they added violinist Jerry Goodman, then a horn section, and became one of the first art-rock groups, in both sound–long violin and horn jams winding out of conventional pop or blues beginnings–and attitude: “We were completely anticommercial,” Glickstein says. “We just wanted to make our music the way we wanted to.” They were adopted by Aaron Russo, impresario of the Kinetic Playground, who importuned the likes of Clive Davis and Ahmet Ertegun to come out and hear them play.

By this time, the Flock was drawing attention across the country as a potential next big thing. (Most notably, both Billboard and the New York Times raved about a Fillmore East show–at the expense of the headliners, Ten Years After.) Signed to Columbia by Davis (they’re not mentioned in his memoirs), the group made their major label debut in 1969. The Flock is relatively far out, for the time: It’s a Beautiful Day-ish violin on one cut, fusion-y grind on another, most adorned with Glickstein’s fairly advanced guitar playing and his tres bluesy vocals. After a rather too-indulgent opening cut, “Introduction,” there’s a passable inversion of Ray Davies’s “Tired of Waiting,” followed by bits of 60s head philosophy and a 12-minute final jam, “The Truth,” the highlight of the band’s live shows. (“Jimi Hendrix came back after a show and told me he liked my guitar playing,” says Glickstein.) Produced, in a flight of fancy, by noted Columbia Masterworks producer John McClure, the record did OK, hovering in Billboard’s top 50 for a couple of weeks. But the follow-up, Dinosaur Swarms, died. “You think the first one’s weird, you should hear the second one,” says Glickstein. Goodman took off to join the Mahavishnu Orchestra; other members got married; after a 1975 comeback album produced by Felix Pappalardi went nowhere, the Flock broke up.

Though Winnetka is a million miles away from that world, the Flock still crosses Glickstein’s path occasionally. Goodman came through town a couple of months ago, touring with the Dixie Dregs. And Sony, which now owns Columbia Records, has rereleased the band’s first album on CD in Germany. (You can probably find it around town in import bins.) Glickstein says there are plans to do the same in the U.S. early next year; maybe he’ll see some money from it. The FLock received a nice advance for their first album, but the company never recouped it, and that was a s close as they got to rock ‘n’ roll riches. From time to time, however, Glickstein still gets a teeny-weeny check for radio play, much of it from overseas. “You figure at one-pont-five cents per play, five dollars is a lot of radio plays 20 years on,” he says.

Merry Christmas, Damn It

Here’s a couple of heartwarming holiday stories: The first is about Jam Productions’ anuual Christmas Is for Kids auction. Over the course of the year, Jam culls autographed items from artists on tour; in December they auction them off and give the proceeds to local shelters. This year’s auction offers dozens of posters, instruments, clothing, and miscellaneous paraphernalia donated by everyone from Metallica to Michael Crawford, David Byrne to Spinal Tap; it’s Saturday at 7 at the Park West, and eight bucks gets you in.

The secind story also invloves Jam and the Park West. For Chicago’s refreshingly small music-industry elite, the Christmas party not to be missed is the annual Ticketmaster bash. (This, friends, is where that $2.50-per-ticket service charge goes.) Traditionally that party has been held at the swanky Park West, which is owned by Jam. This year however, Ticketmaster’s national offices cut a deal with the Hard Rock Cafe: all Ticketmaster satellite operations would henceforth hold their holiday soirees at the local Hard Rock.

So Ticketmaster Chicago dumped the Park West for a cheesy tourist trap. (I want to say something about Jam’s being caught between a Hard Rock and a soft place, but I can’t get it right.) Jam’s response, in the words of one observer, was to have a “conniption fit.” And to throw a holiday party of its own–Jam’s first ever.

It was held at the Park West, of course. At the same date and time as the Ticketmaster affair.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Sundlof.