IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY
Columbia CS 9768, 1969
David LaFlamme arrived in California in 1962. He was twenty-one years old; he had been playing violin since he was five. During the Sixties he picked up all manner of musical influences: he played jazz with John Handy, he jammed with the band that would eventually become Big Brother and the Holding Company, and he was one of Dan Hicks' very first Hot Licks. Some time during all this activity, he fronted a band called Orkustra, which at one time also included the legendary Bobby Beausoleil; their one and only album is apparently lost to history.
In 1967, Matthew Katz signed up what remained of Orkustra; the new group was christened "It's A Beautiful Day", and they made a trek to Seattle in November to appear at a recycled Twenties ballroom that was newly devoted to, and named for, the San Francisco Sound, a name later adopted by Katz for his record label. Their debut LP, issued by Columbia, was a startling amalgam of folk and psychedelia, driven by David LaFlamme's electrified five-string violin playing off Hal Wagenet's guitar, and anchored by David's wife Linda, who provided sterling keyboard work. "White Bird", the first track, established itself at once as an FM-radio staple, although as a single (Columbia 4-44928) it never bubbled above #118 in Billboard. Other tracks got airplay as well, notably the raveup "Wasted Union Blues" and the atmospheric instrumental "Bombay Calling"; "Hot Summer Day", which intertwined vocals by David LaFlamme and Pattie Santos, is reminiscent of the early, non-political Jefferson Airplane. The set ends with the tumultuous "Time Is", a LaFlamme setting of a 1904 poem by Henry Jackson Van Dyke.
A revamped IABD Linda had split from the band and from David issued a second LP in 1970 (Marrying Maiden, with a cameo appearance by Jerry Garcia and a song dedicated to the legendary Don "Sugarcane" Harris), but by then things were already starting to unravel. The LaFlammes' divorce and seemingly endless personnel changes took their toll on IABD, until you practically couldn't tell who was in the band anymore, a situation no doubt noticed by Matthew Katz, who claimed that he owned the rights to the name "It's A Beautiful Day". Litigation ensued. Litigation, in fact, continues to this day; in 1993, Columbia's Legacy label was scheduled to release a two-CD IABD compilation (on C2K 53038; don't ask them when it's going to show up), presumably comprising tracks from all six IABD albums, produced by reissue ace Bob Irwin with David LaFlamme consulting, but Sony and Matthew Katz couldn't come to any agreement. As of this writing, they still haven't; Katz has also apparently been upset with Napster. Presently Katz sells It's a Beautiful Day (SFS 11790) and Marrying Maiden (SFS 04800) through his San Francisco Sound label; in the United Kingdom, Sony has issued both those LPs on a single CD (Columbia/Rewind 489449-2), which seems to drift in and out of print, and the German TRC label has reportedly issued both albums separately (TRC 001 is the first). David LaFlamme redid "White Bird" for the Amherst label in the late Seventies and released two albums; more recently, he and the current Mrs LaFlamme have been touring, and in the spring of 2000, one of his violins turned up at auction. Hal Wagenet has wound up in politics; in 2004 he served as chair of the Board of Supervisors of Mendocino County, California. And if your classic-rock radio station is anything like mine, you're still hearing the original "White Bird", all six minutes and six seconds of it, in all its California glory, and remembering a beautiful day of your own.
Further exploration: DavidLaFlamme.com has surfaced under the direction of Webmaster (and occasional LaFlamme sideman) Toby Gray. There is a mailing list called White-Bird, operated by JW Anderson, whose Rock Garden features an IABD fan site. Jeff Webb is keeping a log of what's happening with the band, the the Katz-LaFlamme litigation, and other developments. (See, for instance, It Crawled from the Vault #55.) In short, there's no shortage of IABD stuff out there: you just have to keep an eye open. (Unless, of course, you're the Girl With No Eyes.)
Produced by David LaFlamme
Last updated 28 August 2012
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Copyright © 1999-2012 by Charles G. Hill
Artwork by Globe Propaganda, copyright © 1969 by Columbia Records
Thanks to Craig Morrison, Jeff Webb, Nora Bennett, Michael Serwe, Gary Hudson, and Toby Gray.