Tape Talk - Portapak

Vid’s Part Two, Portapak

During the mid-70’s “portable” video equipment was still primitive, fragile, and cumbersome, not to mention, really hard to work with in low-light concert environments (example: MFP video from May ’78). The Sony Portapak was probably the best known and most reliable, although even that usually needed two people to operate, plus maybe someone else to hold the mic if it wasn’t mounted on top of the camera, all that being pretty tough to do in a dark, crowded concert space. Here’s pics of some groovy 70’s peeps with their gear, notice that of course in these promo shots, it’s so easy for one person to do the job…

TH performed for free at U.C. Berkeley twice in 1978, both times outdoors on Lower Sproul Plaza in front of Zellerbach Hall. Amazingly, both shows were video-taped. The earlier show on September 18th was on a beautiful clear day, while TH were working their way down the West Coast, and two days after the well-known Boarding House concert broadcast over KSAN.

As of 2014, two songs from the show have surfaced, with Warning Sign appearing on Chronology. This show is often mislabeled as “April 18th” (in David Gans book and numerous other places), however TH were in the Bahamas with Eno recording MSABAF at that time. Pulled Up is the other song to have surfaced so far.

Here’s an almost complete performance from Syracuse in the first week of November, 1978. The intrepid tapers managed to record the entire show except the end of the main set (probably missing: New Feeling, Pulled Up, and Psycho Killer). It’s a fantastic document of a hard-working band that toured for nine solid months that year.

On Sunday November 19th, 1978 TH played a free outdoor show at UCLA in front of about 3500 people, after having done a sold-out indoor show two days earlier. This is the gig shown on the Chronology DVD cover photo.

Incidentally, some Super-8 film (not video) of the show has surfaced. While the footage is silent, the filmmaker edited various parts together and used studio audio of Warning Sign, and has created a wonderful montage. There are clips of several songs, Jerry is seen playing slide guitar (on The Big Country) and keyboard on another song. The audio of this historic gig has now entered into circulation.

About a week later on November 27th, TH were back for the second free gig on UC Berkeley’s Lower Sproul Plaza. This time, the weather was obviously cooler and the skies greyer. This show is ID’ed by spotting the gear truck backed up to the stage behind Tina (in her chic 70's sweater), which was not the case on September 18th.

The only video that’s surfaced is this partial clip of The Big Country, it was likely the show opener. Hopefully the remainder of this tape is buried somewhere in UC’s archives and could circulate someday…

The Chronology DVD contains TH’s 1979 segment broadcast on BBC’s “South Bank Show” in December of that year. Along with the interview segments and studio jamming, film clips of Psycho Killer and Life During Wartime from the Mudd Club concert of August 13th are shown. Luckily, the complete audio of this concert circulates.

Representing the 1979 Fear of Music tour, we have another wonderful almost-complete concert, this one from September 15th at the ‘Dillo in Austin (TH played there six times between ’78 and ’80.) The tape appears to contain the entire main set, but is missing the encores (probably Life During Wartime and Take Me To The River). The tapers did a nice job with it; and it’s the only known crowd-taped video from 1979.

Lastly, there’s some nice pro-shot video from the Pavilion at Hemel Hempstead on December 3rd, 1979. Several songs were shown on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test program in early 1980, featuring Life During Wartime. Here’s Air and Cities from the concert, this segment appeared on VH1. Unfortunately, studio audio tracks were dubbed over the live concert sound, but the clip does give a nice glimpse of what the tour looked like.

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