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Mojo, October 1, 2006

Mojo Article Wolfgang's Vault Collage

Unknown Rock Archive Opened!


"People ask, what concerts do you like?" says Bill Sagan, owner of rock site and salesroom Wolfgang's Vault. "I say how can you not like The Doors, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin?!"

This month, Wolfgang's Vault relaunches its radio service, moving to four stations and offering full live concert downloads. The station will present the combined live music archives of the King Biscuit Flower Hour, country station Silver Eagle and the Bill Graham Archives. A random sampling of just one playlist offers the MOJO-friendly likes of: Aretha Franklin duetting with Ray Charles on Spirit In The Dark in 1971, Led Zep playing Babe I'm Gonna Leave You in 1969, or Jimi Hendrix doing Purple Haze in 1968.

Waiting in the wings of the Vault - comprising the archives of late US concert promoter Bill Graham - is an inventory of filmed concert appearances guaranteed to get even those who regard YouTube as mainstream entertainment salivating. Filmed from the stage and in full mixing desk sound quality, there are complete shows by the likes of Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin, Love, Santana, The Who and the Sex Pistols - the latter being their terminal appearance at the Winterland in San Francisco in 1978. Sagan suggests that a video service will be operational by 2007, adding, "We'd like to get it sooner, but we're only a small company."

You would imagine that putting out recordings would run into a plethora of legal issues. Not so, says Sagan. "We have the ability to take these recordings and broadcast them." he states. "We own the master recording, and in order to broadcast them, you don't have to negotiate it with anyone, you just pay the rate."

Self-confessed live music "nut" Sagan acquired Bill Graham's archive in 2003. Titled for Graham's birth name, Wolfgang Grajonca, the vault offers millions of items for sale, and is the extraordinary legacy of a man who stockpiled handbills, T-shirts, unsold tickets and posters, as well as audio and visual material, from his first year as a promoter in 1966 until his death in a helicopter crash in 1991. Today it's housed in San Francisco, stored at a constant 65 degrees. Though he's been offered $250,000 for the door of Winterland, Sagan says he will retain the integrity of Graham's personal collection. But the question remains: with little or no outlet for concert broadcasting at the time, why did Graham record so many of them?

"I think he knew that at one point he would have a gold mine in those archives,' says Sagan. "He just didn't live long enough to see it."

By Ian Harrison

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