The Electric Factory — Fifty Years Birthday Party

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On February 2, 1968 a converted tire warehouse ushered in a new era of concert entertainment. Under the marquee of The Electric Factory the doors opened for those who were aware of a new direction being taken in Rock & Roll music.

It was just a few months earlier that the music was being played on commercial radio for first time when I launched a new format playing exciting and talented new groups like The Jefferson Airplane, The Mothers of Invention, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Country Joe & The Fish, etc. Soon all these acts were performing at this new venue.

On that first night those of us who attended found a whole new “Psychedelic” environment in which to enjoy “our music”. The headline act that first night was The Chamber Brothers who did a lengthy version (as if the LP version wasn’t long enough) of “The Time has Come Today”. The club itself was one large open space with boxes up against the wall (see photo below) that looked more like stand up coffins than any seating arrangement heretofore ever seen. The idea was to stand in the box and lean back to view the concert. Some of the original boxes are still on display in the new version of the Electric Factory.

While much of the then-new Electric Factory was patterned after the San Francisco clubs complete with light shows, etc, it did win some points for originality- especially to those in Philadelphia who have never seen the likes of this kind of club before. The five people who started the club were simply trying to have a place that could house enough people that they could enjoy the music. It was all about the music more than anything.

All of the founding five who started the venture brought with them valuable experience that enabled the new club to succeed. The Spivak brothers owned bars. Herb Spivak had owned The Showboat Jazz Club. But it was Larry Magid (see photo below) who soon became the name most closely associated with The Electric Factory (and later Electric Factory Concerts). He had not only worked for one of the country’s most important booking agents in New York but also knew the music from being on the radio. He and I both worked at WDAS-FM together just before the club opened. It was Larry’s keen sense of what would work musically that enabled the club to take off.

Larry Magid relates in his book MY SOUL HAS BEEN PSYCHEDELICIZED ELECTRIC FACTORY (I’ve been PSYCHEDELICIZED came from a line in The Chamber’s song “The Time has Come Today”) how he had approached the owner of a club that was right down the street from The Electric Factory. The Trauma was the first club of its kind booking acts playing the new music in Philadelphia and it had been featuring some of the acts that were now demanding more money than the small Trauma could afford to pay. Larry tried to get the owner Manny Ruben to find and open a larger venue that could accommodate the growing audience. Manny had no interest. Soon after Larry was part of the Electric Factory team that did do exactly what he had in mind just a half block away. The Trauma couldn’t complete with the Factory and soon closed its doors.

Meanwhile The Electric Factory started providing many memories for those that grow up in that era. The Who performed “Tommy” in its entirety for the first time live at the Factory. Elton John was an unknown opening act that amazed the crowd. Rod Stewart sung his first song here while being the lead singer for Jeff Beck. The Allman Brothers slept in their bus behind the club when they performed. Jimi Hendrix wowed everyone with his wall of Marshall amps (it was rumored that most weren’t even plugged in but were there just for show). Neil Young used his photo on the couch in Larry’s office at the club on an LP (see it here). Chicago making their first east coast appearance. The antics of Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Inventions. Eric Clapton playing with not only Cream but Derek & The Dominos and Delany & Bonnie. The Grateful Dead so pumped to play that they were standing on the edge of the stage while the opening act was still playing. Janis Joplin yelling at her band for not playing better. Blues giants B B King and Muddy Waters showing everyone what real blues sounded like. The Band providing amazing harmonies. The Kinks and Mott the Hoople on the same bill. Alice Cooper scaring his audience. Traffic at their best. The Velvet Underground (Lou Reed tried to hit on my date) with their ground breaking sound. Vanilla Fudge, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Lothar & The Hand People (they slept on my apartment floor while in town) all on the same bill. A mind blowing experience when Santana played right after exploding at Woodstock. The Jefferson Airplane with Gracie Slick at her crazy best. The original Fleetwood Mac with Jeremy Spencer playing while did his best to hide from the audience, and Van Morrison closing the doors on the final night are just some of the highlights.

One of the things that was great about the billings at the old Electric Factory was the fact that they gave local bands a chance at exposure by having them open for big name acts. Some of these acts when on to fame and others at least got a record deal. The American Dream was the act that most often shared the stage with big headliners, but so did many others that deserved a better fate like: The Nazz, Sweet Stavin’ Chain, Woody’s Truck Stop, Edison Electric, Good News (with Michael Bacon of the Bacon Brothers), High Treason, Thunder & Roses, friends of the Family, Elizabeth, and Mandrake Memorial (former house band for the Trauma) also got a chance to show their stuff.

All too soon (some two years later) the Factory shared the same fate as The Trauma. The groups just became too popular to be booked at a smaller venue. That demand led to the birth of Electric factory Concerts who went onto promote some of the most historic concerts in the history of music. While those concerts at the Spectrum, JFK, etc. were great events, most of those assembled on February 2, 2018 at the Electric Factory 50th anniversary party at the new Electric Factory talked mostly about growing up with the closeness of the old Electric Factory. Many of us have known each other since then and this was a great “homecoming”. All of us have a lot to thank Larry Magid for besides the great party we all enjoyed so much.

See also Rock Venues That Are No Longer There.


 

EFC Larry

Larry Magid sporting his EFC sweater

 

 

EFC T Morgan Larry Magid

Flashback: T. Morgan talking with Larry Magid back in the day

 

 

EFC Larry Magid Herb Spivak

Larry Magid and Herb Spivak

 

 

EFC Pierre Robert David Uosikkinen Dallyn Pavey

Pierre Robert, David Uosikkinen of the Hooters and his wife Dallyn Pavey

 

 

EFC Happy Bday

Happy Birthday graphic

 

 

EFC 50 ballons

50th balloons and interior

 

 

EFC Nan

Nan Mancini, lead singer for a local group called Johnny’s Dance Band

 

 

EFC reopen poster

 Electric Factory reopening poster

 

 

EFC interior leading to restrooms

Interior leading to the bathrooms

 

 

EFC Jonathon

Jonathon Takoff, long time music writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and a part-time DJ at WMMR.

 

 

EFC boxes

 Boxes along wall

 

 

EFC Kenn Kweder9

Kenn Kweder of the local band Ken Kweder and his Secret Kids that played at some Electric Factory Concert events.

 

 

EFC cake

Electric Factory Birthday Cake

 

 

EFC Bob Beru Pierre Robert

Bob Beru of the band Beru Revue and Pierre Robert

 

 

EFC Logo

This is the symbol of Electric Factory Concerts. While it appears to be a likeness of Ben Franklin, it's actually taken from a photo of Albert Grossman who was a famous manager.  Among those he managed was Bob Dylan.

4 comments

  • Comment Link T. Morgan Friday, August 16, 2019 posted by T. Morgan

    Paul- Larry wrote a book about his years as head of the Electric Factory. Look in my archives for the story on the Atlantic City Pop Festival to see a picture of it and some other things that my be of interest to you. An archive of all the shows at the Electric Factory has been complied and is available the last time I checked online.

  • Comment Link Paul Breitenstine Wednesday, August 14, 2019 posted by Paul Breitenstine

    Does Larry Magid have an archive of all the shows played at Electric Factory & Flea Circus Venue? I remember going there for quite a few shows and could sure use a Memory Refresh of the shows I attended!

  • Comment Link Renee Roberts Tuesday, October 9, 2018 posted by Renee Roberts

    I too went there many times. Saw Elton John and didn't know who he was, but was so blown away by his performance. I don't remember him warming up for The Who, though. I passed out during Vanilla Fudge and was dragged out to the sidewalk. Remember Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth.

  • Comment Link christian focht Friday, September 28, 2018 posted by christian focht

    I was there every chance I got; clearly remember Big Brother BELTING out there tunes; the awesome Cream and Jimmy Hendrix among others.

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