At Fillmore East

The Allman Brothers Band

album cover

An Essential Live Rock Document

The Allman Brothers Band was just beginning to generate national attention when it pulled into Manhattan's Fillmore East auditorium for its first headlining stand in March 1971. All four shows from the run, including a final one that was delayed for hours because of a bomb scare (and didn't end until around 6 A.M.), were recorded. Producer Tom Dowd took the tapes, trimmed down some solos and completely edited others, and delivered At Fillmore East, the album that transformed this fast-rising curiosity from Macon, Georgia, into one of the truly great American rock bands of all time.

There were lots of wonderful live acts in rock circa 1971. But the thrashing first choruses of "Statesboro Blues" and "Trouble No More" suggest that this one is different. It's a rock band built on a jazz notion: that the journey can be more interesting than the simple attention-grabbing refrain. Loose and free-floating solos involve the entire band, including the drum tandem of Butch Trucks and Jaimoe (Jai Johanny Johanson). Everything develops organically and everyone's united in search of the kind of collective musical ecstasy that's usually found on John Coltrane records.

The long-haul truckers of rock, the Allmans establish a groove and keep it cranking. They're happy as long as the boogie is scooting along and nobody's stopping them from doing eighty-five miles an hour down the freeway. Dowd once described the Allmans' twin-lead-guitar attack—Duane Allman playing slide and Dicky Betts on six-string—as "frightening," and this album shows you why. When one finishes his climb to the mountaintop, the other begins, taking "Whipping Post" and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" to new frenzied plateaus. Just when that settles down, along comes organist (and vocalist) Gregg Allman, working out on a hot-sounding Hammond B3 to extend the marathon a bit further. (Check out his romp through the eight-minute "Stormy Monday.")

Fillmore East, now expanded with additional performances, established the Allmans among the rock elite, but, almost immediately, the band hit hard times: In October 1971, fourteen days after the album went gold, Duane was killed on his motorcycle. The band picked up again, and its next release, Eat a Peach (so named because it was a peach truck that killed Duane), included an entire album of live music from the Fillmore date as well as sedate, beautifully contemplative studio material.

Since then, the group, led by Gregg Allman, has shown remarkable resilience: No matter who's on stage, the band seems to recapture at will the greasy-boogie locomotion of the Fillmore recordings. That's no small feat, given that At Fillmore East remains one of the best live albums in rock history. Ornery and loud, it's perfect driving music for the road that goes on forever.

Genre: Rock
Released: 1971, Mercury
Key Tracks: "Midnight Rider," "Whipping Post," "Statesboro Blues"
Catalog Choice: Eat a Peach. Gregg Allman: Laid Back
Next Stop: Lynyrd Skynyrd: One More from the Road
Book Pages: 16–17

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Comments:

#1 from Dan McDermond, Philly, PA - 09/17/2008 3:36

Nice review of the ABB’S “At Fillmore East”

However, one comment. The follow up album, “Eat A Peach” was NOT named because Duane hit a peach truck. It wasn’t even a peach truck. It was a utility truck of sorts.

Anyway, “Eat A Peach” was so named from a Duane quote about what he’s doing for the revolution (‘71 mind you), his response, “I’m hitting a lick for peace - and every time I’m in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace.”

Quote shortened and there was the album title.

Hope that helps.

#2 from Chip Schofield, Bryn Mawr, PA - 11/11/2008 1:51

I have the 2-disc set called “The Fillmore Concerts” but started looking for this version since you note “Midnight Rider” as a key track. The version you find with the “buy” link at amazon doesn’t have it either (it links to the original single disc version), but this one does.

#3 from host - 11/28/2008 12:31

“The Fillmore Concerts” its really nice version album. Great music. Everyone can enjoy the music.

#4 from George - 10/12/2009 4:01

As an “emo activist I think you would be curious to know how old rock music stands in my preferences list. I personally enjoy it but I would class it in a top three, the the very first on my list is “All we know is Falling”, a 2006 Paramore album...

#5 from MuratCan - 10/17/2009 2:10

However, one comment. The follow up album, “Eat A Peach” was NOT named because Duane hit a peach truck. It wasn’t even a peach truck. It was a utility truck of sorts.

#6 from Stephen Lamade, East Northport, NY 17731 - 02/01/2010 2:02

Hey Tom,

Like your book and website a lot.  It’s gotten me to start building ipod playlists based on each page…

Wikipedia claims that Duane hit a flat bed lumber truck.  Furthermore, the album was changed from “What we grow in Georgia” to “Eat a Peach” because he claimed in an interview that he “eats a peach for freedom” whenever in Georgia to protest the Vietnam War. Go to the Wiki page and check it out - I’ve no idea if it’s true or not, but it makes for interesting reading.  If true, then I’m wondering if Duane might not have been ironically referencing T.S. Eliot’s “dare I eat a Peach” line from The Wasteland.

Best,

Steve

#7 from Bob - 02/22/2010 2:13

I like The Allman Brothers Band a lot. Well, in fact this love to them came from my Dad. He always listened to them when I was a kid. Recently I found several albums at rapidshare SE http://rapidpedia.com . You can’ imagine haw happy was my Dad.

#8 from Dan Barnett, Chicago - 05/05/2010 5:56

A remarkable group, their music is still relevant. As happens with many, we heard it from his father. But as a child we did not quite understand what they sing, and only becoming older to appreciate their work. On YouTube you can find rare video recording, if you want to keep them on your computer, then I recommend the software from here - http://qwertyload.com

#9 from Mike Smith - 05/22/2010 12:21

You’ve probably noticed that there are at least two other versions of the ABB March 1971 gigs at the Fillmore East. So how is this one different? First, be aware that there are NO previously unreleased tracks (including the fact that there are no alternate versions, taken from different shows).

This version contains the entire original AT FILLMORE EAST album from July 1971 (still available in a one-disc edition). Specifically, I mean these are the EXACT same performances (and mix, I believe) featured on the original. Of course, this new set adds the extra Fillmore material that was later released on EAT A PEACH, DUANE ALLMAN AN ANTHOLOGY 1 & 2, and the DREAMS box set. Again, these are all the exact same versions of these songs.

At first glance, the new “Deluxe Edition” looks similar to 1992’s THE FILLMORE CONCERTS, with the notable addition of “Midnight Rider,” taken from ANTHOLOGY 2. However, THE FILLMORE CONCERTS contains several alternate versions of songs, and is completely remixed (controversial among fans, but provides an interesting comparison). These alternate versions are not available elsewhere, though this may be an issue only for fanatics like myself. THE FILLMORE CONCERTS also had the benefit of original producer Tom Dowd, who recently died.

I have a few problems with the new “Deluxe Edition.” First, the edits are shoddy. In some places, attempts are made to mix the songs together without the fade-outs between songs. In other places, the fade-outs are intact. I can’t figure out this inconsistency. It seems like laziness to me, as if they just crammed together the existing mixes of the songs. Additionally, Dave Thompson’s essay doesn’t offer any new information, and seems rather short and lightweight. It’s hard to not see the “Deluxe Edition” as some sort of cash-cow for the record company.

What are the pros? The photographs are fantastic. The prints of the front and back album cover are the best I have seen. Again, most of these photos can be seen elsewhere, but the prints are excellent. Aside from the price, I like that this gives an ABB neophyte the opportunity to hear all the songs together. After all, the performances left of the original LP are some of the finest of their career.

This new “Deluxe Version” of AT FILLMORE EAST is great for new fans and will be my recommendation when asked which Allman Brothers album to purchase first. For hardcore fans who have this material already, I think you will be let down overall auto insurance quotes. Those fans should pick up THE FILLMORE CONCERTS for a fresher perspective on these recordings. With five Fillmore shows on tape in the vaults, what the record company should have done was release each show, fully intact, perhaps in a box set. That would truly be a deluxe edition, but it would require much more work than was put into THIS set. So it gets knocked down to four stars for that reason.

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#11 from peter55, New York, USA - 08/26/2010 6:19

I am so satisfied that I have found this your post because I have been searching for some information about the Fillmore east almost two hours. You helped me a lot indeed and reading this your article I have found many new and useful information about this subject. Well, I will definitely bookmark your website and wait for other useful and informative posts like this one.

#12 from Eric, MA - 07/16/2012 4:49

Most everybody (except you I guess) knows that the peach truck story is an urban legend.  Also, “Trouble no more” is not on the original Fillmore album at least.  Otherwise I agree with your review.  I saw them once and got the overwhelming feeling of one powerful animal roaring from the stage, with Duane as benevolent ringmaster.  I think I was tripping.

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