Please forgive me for wanting to express my reaction to this video.
Carlos mentioned he wants to change the "vibe" in the Bay Area. I would like him to be specific, as in what "vibe" that he thinks exists and what vibe he wants to change it to. Could someone else take a stab at this and maybe have an answer?
I haven't been back to the Bay Area since 1986 and left because I felt "the vibe" was getting too stale.
I was born in the SF Bay Area, went to highschool there in the early, mid 1970's and as a young adult full time musician from the 70's to the mid 80's.
I know very well the vibe Santana brought to the Bay Area in the late 1960's. Just like much of the "heavy" rock going on, Santana was associated with drugs, partying, rowdiness, and rebellion from tradition. What made Santana different from the rest was that they were also the biggest and baddest badge of honor for the Chicano Power movement. That was a big thing in the early 70's Bay Area. I a young bass player in my early teens starting out. The music of Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Doors, Santana etc, was all exciting to me. I was caught up in the whole lifestyle and mindset. Much of this was fun and enchanting, but not very healthy and not real good odds for musical success, but maybe better than most areas around the country at that time.
During this time period, I became good enough on bass to where I was jamming at parties and going all over the Bay Area to where the action was, usually in the San Mateo area or up north to South San Francisco, or across the bridge to Oakland. A couple times I remember some of the Escavedo family sitting in on percussion. I was just a teenager and it wasn't that my bass playing was anything special, I just happened to be lucky and be at the right place at the right time and got invited by the right people, meaning I was in with the well respected cosmic muffins. Woo hooo.
These parties were exciting, sometimes too rowdy and way, way too much drug and alcohol abuse going on. The Cheech and Chong comedy stereo typing of being too stoned wasn't too far off from reality. (Dave? Dave's not here, man) Mix that in with Chicano Power and that was the Santana vibe.
Fast forward to late 1972. Heroin, PCP and gang violence was taking over and infecting the scene I was into, so I bowed out. I still enjoyed the music and the image, but the social party network became too depressing for me to want to be around.
Then like magic, I discovered that Santana was bringing another new vibe to the SF Bay Area. This was different than anything else in the rock market. He was promoting something that was actually healthy for the mind, body and soul. Santana turned spiritual, cut his hair, wore all white and seemed to change his whole persona, from a Chicano bad ass to a spiritual advocate. I didn't know what to make of, but I knew many around me were rejecting these jazz sounds and the heavenly massages coming from the reborn Carlos. What happened to the sex and drugs, man?
This change of image wasn't easy for me to accept with one of my heroes and I was probably mostly upset that he cut his hair and replaced a few band members into something I hardly recognized. I was wondering too, that why would Carlos abandon his fan base of rowdy drugies and go spiritual extreme instead. Nobody in my circle it seemed wanted to follow along with him. I thought he was throwing his career away, and for what? In my heart though, I knew that a change someway, somehow was much needed to help discourage the downward spiral of hard drugs and violence. The Haight Ashbury message of Love and Peace had turned evil. What a shock, eh?
So I go to see Santana live in San Francisco and check out his new "vibe". Well his new vibe immediately kicked me right in the butt and had a major impact on my life. When he spoke to the crowd of rowdies, dopers, gang members, and hecklers, I felt like he was throwing himself to the wolves. His words were soothing, focused, inspirational, hopeful, sincere, intelligent, full of integrity and very, very heavenly. It was THE TRUTH which is the greatest weapon against evil. I felt myself being overcome with beauty is such a dark place. God is with us! There was nothing angry or political in his words, and this was even still during the Viet Nam war period!
I had so much admiration for him to have the guts, the courage and conviction to try and reach the majority of his old fan base that did not like what Carlos had become. He wasn't a bad ass Chicano anymore, he was a peaceful guy that had risen above racial barriers! To me, he was a spiritual bad ass looking out for everybody. It was like he was a symbol of everything pure and truthful, and that in itself was the greatest weapon against the presence of evil. It was like, "Comon evil demons, bring it on!" No fear because I speak the truth!
Carlos had sacrificed a great deal and I felt like I was witnessing something Biblical. Carlos reached ME and I was one those that didn't really feel like being reached, at least before I bought the ticket.
After the Live Santana experience, I immediately quit listening to Black Oak Arkansans , Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath etc, and replaced the records on my turn table with Caravanserai, Welcome, Mahavishnu, Coltrane records, Miles Davis, Airto, Flora Purim, Larry Young etc. I still kept the Hendrix music going because I felt like I had a new awareness of what Jimi was all about. Fortunately for me, this was about ten years before the cancer of MTV would take over. MTV even spoiled a few of my heroes that I thought would have been untouchable in the world of pretentiousness and corporate corruption.
Soon after my 1st live Santana encounter, I cut my hair shorter, avoided drugs (not always successful), parties, avoided my old friends using drugs, and my old hangouts with the associated bad behaviors.
I replaced my social life with staying home and practicing bass, even on weekends, reading books on eastern religions, and focusing on bettering myself. Once I had made some progress, I hoped to share this gift with others. Over the next couple of years, I improved more on the bass than any other time period in my life. Even before turning 18, I was playing music professionally an average of 5 nights a week and was allowed to attend a "continuation" highschool to accommodate my work schedule.
Yes, I can thank Carlos for inspiring me and being such a great role model when I really needed one. On a spiritual level, I truly loved the man.
That brings me to recent years and now. Regretfully, I don't see Carlos as that same guy anymore that once got through to me. In this video from the OP, I see the same "vibe" that I've seen from Carlos for the last several years now. I see arrogance, sarcasm and pretentiousness that I would not have thought were qualities that the Carlos of the 70's could posses. I can't express to you enough how much he turns me off to listen to him speak now and watch his body language. For one example, when he stretches out and exaggerates the "C" in the word "nice", it's like nails on a chalk board to me. What is THAT all about? Can he even talk publicly anymore without sounding like a victim of injustice? I really don't get it. What changed him to want to open the secular floodgates that he once opposed? Is this the "vibe" he talks about? I'm so glad that Carlos didn't come off this way when I was a teenager. He wouldn't have meant squat to me other than being a good guitar player. Who knows what direction I might have taken and others as well.
So now the fans of the great Santana period of the 1970's get a crumb thrown our way called Shape Shifter. This sounds like an appeasement album with little of the exceptional direction that used to come from his heart and soul as a sacrifice to God. The quality of the Shape Shifter album doesn't really surprise me however, because his best work doesn't come from an obligation to fans or forced collaboration with managers and band members. It comes from above and within.
A true masterpiece flows naturally with sincere enthusiasm and that's something you just can't switch gears on a dime after years of being around toxic energy, people and surrounding that has now become Santana. This has nothing to do with age, but everything to do with sacrifice to God and personal conviction. That in itself is the reward and should be rejuvenating.
So my question again is:
What "new vibe" is Carlos now talking about that he wants to change in the SF Bay Area? I hope it is different that the one he presents.
Thanks for reading and God bless you.
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