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The new year saw Vanilla Fudge back in San Francisco headlining a bill at the Fillmore with the Steve Miller Band on Jan. 4th-6th, 1968. A week later the band sang You Keep Me Hangin' On on the Ed Sullivan television show (12 Jan.) in NYC. One week later, the band released their first "original" single: Where is My Mind (18 Jan.). The new song's lyrics seemed appropriate for opening a year which would see so many assassinations and tragedy's in America: "A passing breeze it looked at me as it would blow... I felt a fire kindling in my mind below... The evil spirits laughed as one had told his joke... Where is my Mind? Where is My Mind?" As if to soften the sombre themes of their first two singles, the B-side of the new single was The Look of Love. (pax)

Listen: on February 2nd, Vanilla Fudge released their most enigmatic work: The Beat Goes On LP. It was also produced by Shadow Morton and the band even recorded a promotional video to coincide with it's release for the overseas market. The West Coast musical establishment fell on the new LP like a band of avenging angels, outraged at the daring and startling originality exhibited from these East Coast upstarts and their producer. Who had ever thought of doing a Rock & Roll arrangement of Ludwig von Beethoven? Nobody on the West Coast - that's for sure. Frank Zappa was part of the west coast avant garde in those days... He made comedy records about boogers & sex with burps, grunts, and naughty double entendre's, while quoting Edgar Varese on his LP jackets.

On 30 March 1968, the West Coast avant garde Mothers of Invention joined the growing list of folks with an axe to grind. While opening for the Vanilla Fudge at the Westbury Music Festival, an anonymous fan called out to Frank Zappa, "Youse guys stink - bring on the Fudge!". Many years later Zappa would say that was one of the more acute and embittering moments of his musical career. It convinced him that American's were too culturally and intellectually backward to ever appreciate his own musical "genius". A few years later Frank wrote a song about the Vanilla Fudge which made him a whole lot of money and branded the Fudge as a "teen combo" of adolescent sexual deviants. The competition was fierce in those days and anything was fair game...

On June 2nd, ATCO reissued You Keep Me Hangin' On with the B-side original song, Come by Day, Come by Night. The reissued single made it all the way to number 6 on Billboard's charts, outperforming its debut release the previous year. With the single racing up the charts, two weeks later Vanilla Fudge released their 3rd LP and masterpiece: Renaissance. It was the final ATCO LP produced by Shadow Morton and it shouldered it's way into the mainstream besides Cream's Wheels of Fire, Hendrix's Axis: Bold As Love and the Doors' Waiting for the Sun LP's, all released in the same year.

The Fudge were still finding it difficult to breakout of the West Coast dominance that had a strangle hold on the music industry in those days. Besides releasing two new LP's and singles, they toured constantly across the US, Canada, and Europe. They also made several other appearances on television in 1968 including on the Beat Club and Wonderama TV shows. Starting on the 17th of August in Atlanta, Ga., Vanilla Fudge did a western tour as the opening act for Jimi Hendrix Experience. It was one of many attempts by the band to gain more exposure on the West Coast.

A whirlwind of concert dates for the Fudge/Hendrix tour followed: 1 Sept. they played at Red Rocks Park in Denver. On the 3rd the bands performed at the Balboa Stadium in San Diego. On September 4th they moved on to the Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, followed by a bill on the 5th in the Swing Auditorium at San Bernadino. The Fudge & Hendrix performed another concert at the Center Coliseum of Seattle on 6 September and the following day at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, Canada. The tour returned to the United States on the 9th and did a show at Portland's Memorial Coliseum in Oregon, followed by a brief layoff. On the 13th of September the tour returned to California to perform at the Oakland Coliseum followed on the 14th with a show in the Hollywood Bowl. The Fudge/Hendrix tour finally ground to a rolling halt at the Memorial Auditorium of Sacramento on the evening of September 15th. During the tour, ATCO released another Vanilla Fudge single, Take Me for A Little While. It was a remixed singles version of the LP track from their debut LP released the previous year. By September 18th the song had reached #38 on Billboard"s charts.

In the Fall of '68 the long rumors that the UK band, Cream, were breaking up proved true. In October they launched their "Farewell" American tour and the Fudge opened for them at several dates including the show at the State Fair of Texas Music Hall. Also in October, Vanilla Fudge shared another bill in Texas with Canned Heat at San Antonio.

On November 15th Vanilla Fudge's epic version of Donovan's Season of the Witch, hit the charts as a single. It was from their June LP, Renaissance. Both of the '68 LP's had sold well despite the increasing hostility of the Rock media toward the Fudge. The endless touring alone was responsible for their success. Renaissance made #20 in the nation while the The Beat Goes On did even better in Billboards charts at #17. It was only by constant touring that the Vanilla Fudge could expose America to the mysteries of Rock & Roll. The Americans who heard them live couldn't get enough of them, or that 'mystery' the Fudge was revealing to them on stage.

On 26 December 1968, the Jeff Beck Group was scheduled to open for the Fudge at the Denver Coliseum or Boston (I have two conflicting sources about the venue's location on that date). In either event, the Jeff Beck Group canceled and a new band called Led Zeppelin, who's debut LP was scheduled for release in the US by February 1969, replaced them. Earlier in the fall, the British band had toured Scandinavia calling themselves the "New Yardbirds". Over the next several months Vanilla Fudge and Led Zeppelin would do two tours across America...

The Fudge ended 1968 with a previously scheduled show apart from Led Zeppelin, at San Francisco's Fillmore West on New Years Eve. The bill also included Richie Havens, the Youngbloods and the Bay Area band, Cold Blood. For 7 bucks the hippie remnant of Haight & Ashbury could party from 9PM to 9AM at Bill Graham's Fillmore. The price included breakfast. The psychedelic era had reached the high water mark of it's short life and throughout 1969 it would ebb away with the flotsam of love, peace,and the hippie generation... Vanilla Fudge never returned to San Francisco before their reunion tour in 1987...(pax)



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