Wednesday, December 16, 2009

150 Bleecker Street, New York, NY The Infinite Poster Company (1967)


The San Francisco underground rock scene that began at the Fillmore and The Avalon in 1966 had ramifications far beyond the scene itself. Like all underground phenomenons, its status as legend superseded its status as music. Many of the famous groups were legends before they had albums, and many of the albums were hardly hits, and with little or no FM radio can hardly have been widely heard. Yet young people all over the country had heard of the Fillmore and the Avalon, and it helped define 60s rock even for people who had never been there and hardly heard the music.

One of the reasons that the legend of the Fillmore spread so far was the ubiquity of the famous posters by Mouse and Kelly, Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso and the rest of the fine San Francisco artists. Just one of those posters on a dormitory wall in a cold winter might act as a beacon to the entire floor, as they gathered in the room to amuse themselves in appropriately 60s fashion. Seeing known and unknown bands on posters, with wild colors and weird found art, and the promise of light shows and strange occurrences made San Francisco a place of promise and mystery.

It is not widely known today by non-collectors that the San Francisco rock posters had a distribution well beyond telephone poles and store windows in The City. This ad (from the September 9, 1967 Village Voice) for a store called The Infinite Poster Company, on 150 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village (next door to the Cafe Au Go Go), includes the following offers
  • San Francicso Fillmore Auditorium (F Series 20 Different Posters 14 x 22 in full color [reg. $1.25] now 75 cents each
  • San Francisco Avalon Ballroom (T Series 20 Different Posters 14 x 20 in full color [reg $1.25], now 75 cents each
  • Cafe Au Go Go (60 cents)
  • L20 Mothers
  • L24 Blues Project
  • L30 Dave Van Ronk
  • L33 Gordon Lightfoot
  • L34 Grateful Dead
  • L38 Butterfield Blues Band


The store also sold numerous travel, auto racing and other posters. While the Avalon and Fillmore posters were reprints, and not originals, and thus worth less today from a collectable point of view, from the point of view of someone at SUNY Binghamton buying a poster for his dorm room, they would have looked just as good.

The history of the Filmore and Avalon posters is well known amongst those who collect and analyze such items. Ross has found the history of the Avalon reprints on-line, for those interested in the exact history.

The Cafe Au Go Go posters are less known, at least to me. The Grateful Dead poster is accessible on-line. Interestingly, the dates are actually wrong, as the poster has the band playing June 1-10, when in fact it was June 1-11. This has been discussed at length elsewhere, so it leaves open to speculation why the poster was incorrect. One possibility is that the Cafe Au Go Go posters listed in the ad were made up after the fact to commemorate famous groups that had played the Au Go Go. Certainly, given the numbering system in the ad, it shares nothing with the chronology of shows at the club (I have an exact and complete list). Also, the known poster has no information about show times, the club address or anything else, not typical of posters used to advertise real events.

This is just speculation on my part, but while this ad shows at the minimum that underground rock artifacts were already commodities, it may be that as early as 1967 venues were making up mementos of recently past events in order to have something to commodify.  Now, of course, commemorative posters are a common business, but I had no inkling that it may have started this early.

2 comments:

  1. A friend has that Cafe Au Go Go poster and I got a good look at it one day. I was surprised that it was on thick paper, almost card, and not on thin paper. I'm not sure why I thought it would be on thin paper - I certainly have no specific knowledge of cafe au go go posters. But that card stock definitely gave it a reprint look and feel.

    Lots of great ads in those VV's, eh? I like how you added some context to this one.

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