The blog of author Dennis Cooper

The Light Show (1965 – 1971)

‘Liquid light shows surfaced on both sides of the Atlantic around 1966 and were an integral part of the Progressive music scene well into the seventies. Shows could be as simple as a single operator and two or three modified slides or overhead projectors and a couple of color wheels or as complex as shows with ten or more operators, 70 plus projectors (including liquid slide, liquid overhead, movie and still image models plus a vast array of highly advanced (for the time) special effects equipment).

‘The style and content of each show were unique but the object of most was to create a tapestry of multimedia live event visual amplification elements that were seamlessly interwoven, in a constant state of flux and above all, reflected the music the show was attempting to depict in emotional visual terms.

‘While the shows on both sides of the Atlantic had much in common they differed in two important ways. First, the American shows tended to be larger, with seven operators and over thirty projectors not being exceptional. In contrast, the shows in England seldom had more than three operators and ten or so projectors. Second, American shows were generally built around the overhead projector with the liquids in large clock cover glasses.

‘Shows in England and Europe, in contrast, used modified 2″ sq. slide projectors which had their dichroic heat filters (one or both) removed and employed two layers of slide cover glasses with two liquids (oil and water based, in the early days) between each layer. Alternatively different coloured water based dyes were used in each layer, which slowly boiled producing pulsing vapour bubbles when exposed to the heat of the projector lamp with the heat filters removed. Consequently, randomly pulsing and moving blobs of colour were projected on the screen creating the light show.

‘Before the projected layers totally dried out a new slide would be switched in the projector slide holder, meanwhile the old glass would be removed, cleaned and refurbished with new dyes and the projection process would continue. The surface tension of the liquids largely retained the mixtures between the glass slides, but the process was nevertheless very messy indeed and operators had their hands almost permanently stained by the dyes.’ — collaged

 

Light Sound Dimension
Elias Romero
Joshua Light Show
Brotherhood of Light
Ray Andersen’s Carnival of Light
The Heavy Water Light Show
Mark Boyle’s Sensual Laboratory
Glenn McKay’s Headlights
The Pig Light Show
The Single Wing Turquoise Bird
Little Princess No. 109
Glen McKay’s Headlights
Tony Martin
ACIDICA Lightshow
Mike Leonard
Gustav Metzger

 

Practitioners
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Light Sound Dimension (LSD) was possibly the first psychedelic lightshow and was operated by Bill Ham. Ham pioneered kinetic lighting and actually used this technique at the Red Dog Saloon back in 1965. It was also at the Red Dog Saloon where Chet Helms first met Bill and asked him to produce lightshows at the Avalon Ballroom.’

 

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Elias Romero light shows featured Elias Romero and Ray Andersen (who was also the manager of The Matrix at the time). Although he never went on to work the ballrooms, Romero was a long-time “light artist” with his own distinct approach utilising a unique, all-liquid show. Famous shows include 9 March 1966 Big Brother and the Holding Company show at the Firehouse, 3763 Sacramento Street, San Francisco.’


Stepping stones (1968)

 

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The Joshua Light Show (also known as Joe’s Lights and Sensefex) located in New York was founded by a filmmaker called Joshua White. The show was the ‘house lightshow’ at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East for almost its entire existence. Formed from a lighting company called Sensefex which had been started by Joshua White, Thomas Shoesmith and Bill Shwarzbach, they moved to the Fillmore and became the Joshua Lightshow. Cecily Jaffe (at that time Cecily Hoyt) had now joined the team. Later they changed their name to Joes Lights having parted company with Joshua White.’


Liquid Loops (1969)


liquid light clip from the archives


Light Show 1969

 

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Brotherhood of Light (SF) was formed in 1968 as a collective group of lighting and multimedia specialists. Brian Eppes, Brother Ed Langdon, Marcus Maximist and Bob Pullum gathered for the purpose of visually enhancing and augmenting the psychedelic music of the day. Unlike standard stage lighting, which was generally static and non-interactive, Brotherhood of Light utilized liquid dyes, overhead projectors, color wheels, slide projection and 16mm film to produce not just a light show, but a live multi-sensory musical experience. The show performed at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom and Fillmore West with such classic acts as The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Traffic, Ike and Tina Turner, B.B. King, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Santana, the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band. On a typical night in 1970 you could see, The Byrds, Fleetwood Mac and John Hammond with Brotherhood of Light providing visuals for all three bands or on a night later that year, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and Van Morrison. They also performed at the Grateful Dead New Year’s Eve shows at Winterland.’


“My Time in the Light” The early years of the Brotherhood of Light light show.

 

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Ray Andersen created the light show visuals for The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave (sometimes referred to as “The Carnival of Light Rave”), a 1967 art festival organised by BEV as a showcase for electronic music and light shows. It was held at the Roundhouse Theatre in Chalk Farm, north London. Posters for the event promised “music composed by Paul McCartney and Unit Delta Plus”. The latter was an electronic music group whose members included composers Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and synthesizer pioneer Peter Zinovieff. In preparation for the event, Edwards took McCartney to meet Zinovieff at the latter’s house in Putney in south-west London. There, Zinovieff played them an experimental composition “at such intense decibel frequencies”, according to Edwards, “that many parts of my anatomy (including internal organs) began to perform an involuntary dance. I can only describe it as ‘ecstatic twitching’.” There are no known visual records of the event.’

 

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The Heavy Water Light Show (Mary Ann Mayer, Joan Chase and John Hardham, SF), did shows and album covers for Santana, the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead before moving into planetariums in the 1970s. The cover of the LP Santana III is an image (or set of images) from their show. Their work is characterized by extensive use of photographs and film sequences in addition to psychedelic oil effects.’


Recreation (1978)

 

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Mark Boyle’s Sensual Laboratory. United Kingdom. Personnel:Mark Boyle, Joan Hills, Des Bonner, Cameron Hills. Born in Glasgow in 1934, Mark was already producing art in many forms such as paintings, installations and sculptures and had many exhibitions in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London prior to getting involved with light shows. In 1966, Mark Boyle’s, the Son et Lumière for Earth, Air, Fire and Water ran at the Cochrane Theatre, London, closely followed by the Son et Lumière for Insects, Reptiles and Water Creatures and the Son et Lumière for Bodily Fluids and Functions. These events were ground breaking in respect of projected lighting and consisted of chemical and physical reactions projected onto a screen whilst being surrounded by various taped sounds.

‘Elements of this lightshow evolved and performances were made at the legendary UFO Club in London’s Tottenham Court Road. Later that year he formed the Sensual Laboratory with Joan Hills, who would later become his wife. In 1967 the first of many collaborations started with The Soft Machine, with shows at the Edinburgh Festival and in the Netherlands and France. Also in 1967 Liquid Light Environments ran at the UFO throughout the year. During 1967 Mark invented and patented a machine with a light sensitive screen that could do three colour separation on anything that was projected onto it and turn it into sounds, i.e. one colour would create one type of sound and another colour would create a totally different sound. Concerts with The Soft Machine followed in the Netherlands and again in France as well as work on the Structure of Dreams at the Arts Lab, London.

‘In 1968, the Sensual Laboratory toured in the US and Canada with Soft Machine and Jimi Hendrix as well as staging a controversial production at London’s Roundhouse ‘Bodily Fluids and Functions. This consisted of a couple copulating on stage whilst being wired up to ECG and EEG which were projected from closed circuit TV onto a huge screen. With heartbeats and brainwaves on display, every second of the experience was shared by the audience. Also in 1968 was the Liquid Light Environment produced for the opening of the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) in London.’


UFO 1967: Soft Machine


UFO 1967

 

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Glenn McKay’s Headlights performed many shows with Jefferson Airplane, as well as with the Grateful Dead, and later staged shows at the Whitney Museum in New York in 1968 and in 1999 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.’


Recreation (2006)

 

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The Pig Light Show (Saint Elmo’s Fire) started by Marc L. Rubinstein in 1965 as Saint Elmo’s Fire. The name was changed after (in his own words) “a strange episode having to do with a Mothers of Invention concert at the Garrick Theatre in the Village”, which resulted in Marc being given the local nickname “Pig”, and the light show was known as Pig’s Light Show.’


Wear Your Love Like Heaven (Digital recreation)


Creeque Alley (Digital recreation)


Green Tambourine (Digital recreation)

 

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The Single Wing Turquoise Bird lightshow troupe worked in Los Angeles and Venice, California. Famous for their wide screen lightshows at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles in 1967 and 1968, and later for their series of evocative multimedia performances at various venues, most notably in the Cumberland Mountain Film Company studio in the loft above the Fox Venice Theatre, 1970 – 1975. They did lightshows for The Chambers Brothers, Velvet Underground, Grateful Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Pacific Gas & Electric, Steve Miller Band, Taj Mahal, Dr. John, Sons of Champlin, BB King, The Yardbirds, Pinnacle, Traffic, and Quicksilver Messenger Service.’


Journey of Light (1968)


from James Bridges’s ‘The Baby Maker’ (1969)

 

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Jerry Abrams Headlights began with Jerry Abrams, Glen McKay and Marilyn Ashman and they ran the lights at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. McKay was influenced by what he had seen from Tony Martin at the Acid Tests back in 1966. Later they toured Europe with The Doors before working exlusively for Jefferson Airplane. After the Toronto Pop Festival Jerry and Glen parted company but both refused to give up the Headlights name, hence Glen McKay’s Headlights and Jerry Abrams Headlights. Joshua White was also present at the Toronto Pop Festival doing Stage Lighting and what followed was Glen McKay going to New York for a month to show Joshua White the ropes. Following this The Joshua Light Show became the in house Light Show at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East.’


Jefferson Airplane – Fat Angel (1969)

 

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Little Princess 109 became the house light show for Bill Graham Presents in 1968. Little Princess 109 worked at Fillmore West and Winterland continuously from December 1968 until Fillmore West closed in July 1971. According to the records of the Bill Graham Presents archives, they worked for Graham longer than any other light show, and performed more nights of light than any show for the entire Fillmore/Fillmore West/Winterland period.’


Light Show Recreation Event Promo (2016)

 

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Tony Martin began providing a visual component to avant-garde electronic music performances of the San Francisco Tape Music Center, and later mounted the first Fillmore West lightshow, Electric Circus, NYC design and perform-1967-70.’


A compendium of light projection methods of the period 1963-1971.

 

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Acidica Light Show Personnel: John Andrews, Mac Moody, Nick Stratton, Bill Pick, Paul Twist, Tom Bradley. Became the biggest UK Light Show on the Free Festival scene in the late 1960s and early 1970’s working with bands like Zorch, Tim Blake, Steve Hillage.’

 

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Mike Leonard worked closely with Pink Floyd in the mid-1960s when they were known as Leonard’s Lodgers (they lived in Leonard’s home) and later The Pink Floyd Sound. Working with colored cellophane and glass attached to rotating wheels and various prisms and lenses through which light was projected, Leonard managed to create lysergic effects that complimented Floyd’s psychedelic sound. While similar lighting experiments were soon to start taking place in San Francisco and New York, Leonard operated within his own orbit and by the time light shows had become a standard part of many a bands’ stage show Leonard was no longer in the business.’


Light Fantastic (1968)


Pink Floyd – Instrumental Improvisation (Tomorrow’s World)

 

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Gustav Metzger conceived of what he called ‘auto-destructive art’ in 1959, whereby works made using machine-manufactured substances would automatically degrade, foregrounding the question of the reliability of these substances and society’s preoccupation with destruction. The colourful, psychedelic patterns produced by light displays such as Metzger’s became icons of London’s cultural scene in the 1960s, as musicians in particular sought to create total sensory environments for the appreciation of their work. Metzger’s own liquid crystal projections found wider fame in 1966 when they were displayed during a performance of the bands Cream, The Move and The Who at the Roundhouse in London.’


Liquid Crystal Environment (1965)

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** Ian, Hi, Ian. Great, I’ll read that excitedly today. Everyone, The writer Ian Townsend, who goes by simple ‘Ian’ around here, has interviewed author Alex Beaumais about his first and super enticing sounding novel ‘Dox’ right here, and please join me in digging the spoils. Thanks, man! ** BLCKDGRD, HI and welcome, BLCKDGRD. ‘Toxicon and Arachne’ was my favorite 2020 poetry book too! High five! How are you? ** Dominik, Tumescent Tuesday, D!!!! New Scab shard. Ooh, it looks really good. I’ll down it when I finish this. Everyone, Plus … there’s a new leak from Dominick’s almighty SCAB in the form of an exciting looking piece of prose called ‘True Fuck’ from the mysterious author Unity. Must read, I venture. Unity has the awesomest bio note. That’s funny, if I’d tried to guess what HardKitten’s real name was, I think Ash would have been the first one to roll off my tongue. Ha ha, it’s true one could conquer the world if we were all Billie Eilish’s dad clones. Although I must confess that I have no idea what her dad looks like, so I don’t know if that’s a good or bad fate. Love using his infinite powers of persuasion to get Elon Musk to build him a supersonic rocket in which he travels to a liveable planet where everyone but him looks like Vincent Kartheiser circa his role as Connor on ‘Angel’ and has a thing for older men who share genetic code with Billie Eilish, G. ** Misanthrope, Anapolis, military school, and whatever else. Including cicadas. Nice. None of them in Paris, I don’t believe. We have lots of bats though. I think you taking Gus to the vet is an entirely sane and logical thing to do, and I hope it’s nothing serious. ** Sypha, Yep, New Juche is a keeper. Snuggly sure is good at ferreting out curious French writers that even a curious French lit worshipper like me has never heard of in my life. Which is, of course, saintly of them. ** Daniel, Daniel! And, yes, indeed! Happiest day to you! ** David Ehrenstein, I’m not a big Francis Bacon fan, and I always think I should be, but I’m just not. Hm. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, buddy. ‘Flet’ is wonderful, or I think so. I don’t know Jenni Fagan’s work. Huh, I’ll investigate. Yeah, take it easy until easy is old hat. Sounds like you’ve got your time well sorted out. ** T, Hi, T. It was kind of frothy if rain counts. We start our movie going, etc, tomorrow! Oh, ugh, on that film programming. That seems tonally and instinctually off. I’ve only checked the programs of the big movie theatres so far, and it’s a big unremitting pile of blah. But the little art theatres should have some stuff. Otherwise, mm, I might just have to go see ‘Mortal Kombat’, which looks to be the best or even only non-snoozy option, if that tells you anything. You spent your free day very, very well. I think sitting in a cafe with friends is about as exciting as I can hope for tomorrow over here. Yes, ‘100 Boyfriends’ was in a recent ‘Books I read & loved’ post here not long ago. Big fun, right? No, your comment had a beauty and sparkle to it that I fully and unreservedly appreciate. Maybe my commentary will start to pop again (if it ever did) by Thursday. ** Jack Skelley, Jack not that Scully guy who landed that plane on that river. Yes, that/our Trinie. I published her first book with my little House on the Bowery imprint — ‘Wide Eyed’ — also wondrous. It’s true, a great Ed piece. And new FoKA! Hold on … Everyone, Yet more things to do today when you tire of Light Shows. First, a superb piece by the excellent writer Sabrina Tarasoff on the late, great Ed Smith’s book ‘Punk Rock Is Cool for the End of the World’ here, and, secondly, an excerpt from Mr. Jack Skelley’s legendary novel ‘Fear of Kathy Acker’ entitled ‘But That Really Didn’t Happen’ here. Boon upon boon, folks! Thanks for the great food, maestro. ** Shane Christmass, Hi, Shane. ‘Zipper Mouth’ is o.o.p. and hard to track down, but it’s super great. You good, man? ** Steve Erickson, I have no idea what he looks like, ha ha. Very best of luck with the tapering. Everyone, And … and … you can also read Steve Erickson’t review of St. Vincent’s new LP precisely here. ** Scott McClanahan, Hi, Scott! A great, great pleasure to have you here, man. And my honor on the inclusion. What are you working on? Anything in the pipe from you to us? Hugs and respect! ** Brian, Hi, Brian. Thanks, yeah, it was/is good batch of books. It’s always a good idea to turn off at least 75% of your critical faculties when watching disaster movies and using the remaining 25% to assess/enjoy how well said film reworks the tried and true formula. Then they’re like very long eyeball roller coasters. Sounds like you’re in the ‘fun’ part of your finals week now, no? I hope your papers blow the powers that be away. Far away. Great, do let us/me know how we can access that podcast when the time comes. Sweet! My plans are mostly just to get out and start doing everything the new Paris allows: cafes, restaurants, friends, galleries, a museum or so. Upswinging wildly is guaranteed. ** Okay. Today I give you a little history of the psychedelic Light Show that’s hopefully fit for those few of you oldies who were drugged and privy at the time and the majority of you who will likely find their attempts to blow minds a bit antique. See you tomorrow.

9 Comments

  1. Shane Christmass

    Hi Dennis

    Yeah real good. Real good. Just reading and writing. BTW heading to the post office tomorrow so will send you one of these: https://selffuck.bigcartel.com/product/latex-texas-by-shane-jesse-christmass

    Sold out apparently but Evan gave me a few copies.

    You like the band Soft Machine? I mean every album was a completely different line-up and ever album is pretty different to the last. I like every iteration.

    Check out this track they did in 1978: https://youtu.be/3IFdnMXeidQ

    BTW I just found an ebook version of ‘Zipper Mouth’

  2. Misanthrope

    Dennis, I feel like all of these are happening in my body at all times.

    Yeah, the Naval Academy is in Annapolis. That’s where my friend’s husband works. He’s been in the Navy for 20+ years. They live in Navy housing.

    We get a bat flying around here every once in a while. “It’ll get in your hair!” Hahaha.

    Gus’ thing is a kind of wart that’s the result of age. He’s an “old man.” It’s similar to the skin that toughens on the bottom of your feet. She referred me to two vets in Northern VA. I was like, um…but then she said she could do it—clip it off—but would have to do some research to make sure she does it right, as she’s not that experienced with rodents. Blood flow, nerves, et al.

    She also said to leave it if it’s not bothering him, but it is. He hardly comes out of his cubby anymore, and when David’s touched it, he’s screeched. Plus, he claws at it. She’s gonna call me when she’s ready. In the meantime, she gave me some anti-inflammatory stuff for him.

    $145 for that visit yesterday, and the surgery is gonna be around $200. For a $5 hamster. Sheesh.

  3. Bill

    I’m sure you’re not surprised I like a lot of these old light shows. I do get nervous about whether my own pieces look too much like them.

    Hope you enjoy the reopening. The Roxie, which hosted your PGL screenings, is opening its doors this week. A bunch of screenings are already sold out, sigh. I guess there are lots of old people in this town (like me) who would jump at a 35mm print of Eraserhead. I hope to get to the new DC punk documentary while there are still tickets.

    Just came across this very intriguing item:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RjdB8tWMgY

    Bill

  4. Dominik

    Hi!!

    Thank you so much for the SCAB shoutout! Unity does have an awesome bio and, I think, an awesome way with freaky thoughts crammed into words, too.

    Right? HardKitten looks like an Ash. Or Ash himself. And even though Ash is my boymuse, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if you somehow knew exactly how he looked and sounded, etc. We tend to meet in that space where the boymuses live.

    I had to google him yesterday, too. Can’t say if it’s a good or a bad fate. Probably not the worst that could happen. Hahaha, I know it’d make it a tiny bit less fun for your love, but I hope he finds it in himself to take me with him — a planet full of “Angel”-era Vincent Kartheisers sounds divine. Love believing that “you are what you eat,” so he sits around all day, being a muffin, Od.

  5. T

    Hi Dennis!

    I guess in my anticipation of the reopening of cinemas etc I failed to consider that we’d have to wait for the rush of awful pandemic art to blow out… Oh well… Anyway today, I spent the time whilst I was waiting for rice and custard buns to boil/steam for my dinner amidst all the colours and fluids and their gentle pulsating. I think I enjoyed looking at the images and videos of the machinery and their names (Sensual Laboratory particularly charming) more than the actual projections, but it was all pretty agreeable!

    Hard agree that ‘100 Boyfriends’ was massive fun, and also that my day yesterday was probably the best-spent in several months. Did you get up to anything on your semi-reopening day that would similarly put a landmark on your vista? Here I slept the sleep of the dead until mid-morning, then went to the hardware store to buy wire cutters before realising I’d forgot my wallet, so that was irritating. Sat in the park for an hour reading, scribbling down some notes and watching people go by/road rage/yell at each other though, it wasn’t all wasted. The air is very thick and humid here and I think we’re due a storm approximately when the blog will be refreshed tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to a simultaneous refreshing of atmospheres. And I forgot to say yesterday that I was also very excited to hear rumours of a Sion Sono day in the comments, since he’s one of my favourite directors.

    I think the rice is done now, so I’ll sign off now, xT

  6. Jack Skelley

    Yes! Dude, we did this!! I think we even used my glass plate ware. Love it. Thanx for relaying the plugs…Also, remember The Plugz?

  7. David Ehrenstein

    Big Light in Sky frightens minority groups in Sector R — AND THERE’SHAMBURGER ALL OVER THE HIGHWAY IN MYSTIC CONNECTICUT

    I’m surpisedyou don’t qiite cotto to Bacon as his images of abjection would appear to be your cup of meat. A fortiori I’m sorry you never met him. You woud have gotten on like a house on fire.

    Here’s the latest from The Liberal Redneck

  8. Gus Cali Girls

    Hi Dennis,
    So happy to hear you enjoyed the Cali Girls wormhole, I’m working on and hoping to put out some more music soon! I’ve been good though, writing a few pieces of short fiction as well that I’m feeling good about – one thinking about Yung Lean’s breakdown in a hotel and the other about being a dog for Jordan Wolfson. I also started working at a cinema, so that’s taking up a lot of time too. I’m super glad that you have dates for the amusement parks reopening, hopefully that is a real bit light starting to crack at the end of the tunnel. Extra excited for you as well that you’ll be much freer from today ! Sending all my best as always, Gus

  9. Jenni Olson

    Hey Dennis — Just a quick note to say Thank You for this. Always so amazed at the depth and breadth of your research! Hope you’re well. All the best, Jenni Olson

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