July 6, 1971. Fifty years ago today, The Allman Brothers Band released their classic album “At Fillmore East.” At that time it was considered one of the greatest live albums ever recorded.
The main piece of controversy to the album was the length of some of the songs. Record executives felt that tunes such as “You Don’t Love Me” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” wouldn’t hold listeners interests because their running time was nineteen and thirteen minutes. Even worse was their legendary song “Whipping Post.” First released on their debut studio album, it ran for a little more than five minutes. On “At Fillmore East”, they stretched it out to twenty-two minutes and forty seconds.
The Allmans fought back against the record executives because they felt these live performances captured what they were as a band more than their previous studio recordings.
After lackluster sales of their first two albums, this was the recording that put the band on the map. “At Fillmore East” was the record that led to a more than four decade career as a recording and performing band. Sadly, it wasn’t long after the release of the album that guitarist Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident and the Fillmore East closed down. This live album captures both the artist and the venue at their best.
But back to “Whipping Post”….fifty years ago, most of us baby boomers who were listening to and buying this album were in our late-teens to mid-twenties. We cherished long tunes with multiple solos, featuring the different instrumentalists from a band. Staying with a twenty-plus minute song took some work, but often it was well worth the time invested.
Fifty years later, I don’t have anywhere close to the attention span that I did back in 1971. I haven’t heard the live version of “Whipping Post” in many years. I’m more likely to listen “Statesboro Blues” and “Trouble No More”, both of which clock in at under five minutes. I’m not sure I can deal with a song that last more than a third of an hour. It’s time to find out…..
PHEW!!!! WOW!!! That’s a lot of music!!
I was hyped up for the first ten minutes. They lost me for a short time when the band slowed down the pace. Maybe they felt the audience needed a break because they knew the best was coming up. They wanted us to be all-in for that….and I was. For a five minute period, the guitars were soaring. I had my hands in the air and had a chill running through my chest. If this was the reaction you get listening to a YouTube video on a computer, you can only imagine what it felt to hear this band live, in their heyday.
So the answer to the question in the title is yes….even now the lengthy version of “Whipping Post” still rocks. It’s still a great song fifty years later. Maybe it’s not something you’d listen to every day, but there aren’t many songs in that category. And yes, the album “At Fillmore East” still sounds great. It still holds its spot as one of the best, if the not the greatest live album ever recorded.
Today, on its fiftieth anniversary, here’s to “At Fillmore East” and the Allman Brothers Band. May we tied to the whipping post for another fifty years.
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