They say that if you can remember the circumstances of this period of hippie history then you weren't really there, but I was one of the subjects of this film and I'll do my best to recall a few things about the project. It was a post-Woodstock attempt by SF underground radio visionary Tom Donahue, some some cigar and/or pot smokin' execs at Warner Pictures and an award winning French documentary director, Francois Reichenbach, to create a traveling mini-Woodstock festival (peace, love, drugs, sex, yoga, more drugs, more sex and lots of rock and roll) that would showcase recording artists that were signed to Warner Bros. Records at the time. The organizers assembled an appropriate entourage of colorful counter culture characters from Haight Ashbury, Los Angeles, Boulder and New York. They fabricated twelve huge tie-died teepees, loaded them up on a tractor trailer, decorated a small fleet of old school buses with hippie art and slogans, and set out across the country with a portable concert stage, an industrial strength electrical generator, a full blown concert lighting rig and the Grateful Dead's sound system and crew. No script. Lots of "petty cash". Lots of psychedelics. Lots of jammin', skinnydipping, and of course lots of "free love." What a ride! All of which was captured on film by Reichenbach and his documentary team (who were all more than happy to get in on the free love action).
The footage was cut together in Paris by award winning French editor Gerard Patris and presented to the American execs. who thought it was much too "poetic", and promptly confiscated the footage (amist much yelling and arm waving) and brought in Martin Scorsese, who had been involved with the Woodstock documentary, to totally recut the film with a more commercial bent. Scorsese's cut focused primarily on the music and some political activism that flared up here and there, but the film, as released, missed the heart of the experience and the magic that happened every day of the Caravan's journey.
I was sad to learn recently that Milan Melvin, one of the Caravan's ringleaders, passed away in 2000. I heard Francois Reichenbach is also no longer with us. I would love to compare notes with any other survivors of the The Medicine Ball Caravan.
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