Friday, January 25, 2013

Where in the Mission was this taken?

In 1970, San Francisco rock and roll band The Grateful Dead released an album called "Workingman's Dead."  It did moderately well, eventually reaching #27 on the Billboard album chart and was certified gorld (i.e., 500,000 copies sold) a few years later, in 1974.  Even if you don't especially like the Grateful Dead, the album is essentially harmless, a pleasant collection of stoner country-rock that makes a perfect accompaniment to a Sunday morning making brunch after smoking a couple of bowls.

The cover photo of the band was taken somewhere in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Here's how Blair Jackson, Jerry Garcia's biographer and a longtime writer about the Dead, described the shot:

Artist Alton Kelley says that the title and concept for the cover was his: "I wanted to make it look real utilitarian," he said. "We took the picture with a little Brownie. You couldn't get that funky a photograph with a good camera. We went out intentionally with an old camera to do it. They stood on that old street corner somewhere in the Mission District [of San Francisco]. And they were bitching and griping about having to stand out in the street looking like that, getting their picture taken. That's why it came out so well! Billy got so pissed off he just went back and sat in a doorway. We were at a bus stop and he was actually going to get on the next bus!"

Yesterday, whoever the shadowy, mysterious figure is who runs the indispensable SF_Historian Twitter account wondered if anyone could help him locate where the shot was taken.

No one's figured it out yet, although some good additional information has come to light, like this photo from the same session:

What are those things over on the left?  They look like gas storage tanks to me.  Pastmapper suggests that the tanks will be found in this 1968 aerial photo of the Mission.  Feel free to put on a loupe and scan away, my marginally employed friends!

Some people have suggested that the corner doorway looks like the Homestead at 19th and Folsom, but I'm not convinced.  The rest of the wall looking down 19th doesn't look like it, and that Victorian house doesn't match.

We should also point out that this guy is so into this problem he bought a Muni map from the 60's and then followed all the routes on Street View looking for it because of the bus stop part of the anecdote above.  So far, no luck.

So what do you think, guys?  Recognize the spot?  Any ideas?  Anyone want to go out today and make an exhaustive survey of every corner-facing doorway in the Mission?

POSTSCRIPT:  Of course, the real question here is WHY.  Why do we want to find out where this picture was taken?  Well, it would be interesting to know, as a historical (or "an historical," if you're from New York) curiosity.  But I really want to find it so I can get 6 friends together and recreate it exactly, IF YOU MUST KNOW.


Stephen said...

Something else from the hopper:

These purport to be some other, portrait photos, from a (if not "the") Workingman's Dead photoshoot:

They don't have a lot of extra-portrait material, but for this photo of Lesh:

I don't know where that is. Mission and Army? And again, they weren't necessarily taken in the same place.

I checked to see if "Mouse Studios" was a place, but it appears to be the name of the art direction company.

Ultimately, there's been so much construction in the Mission, that there's a good chance it's unrecognizable now.

Tamagosan said...

I may have avoided the endless and wondrous timesink that is this history nerdiness, but now I have Uncle John's Band in my head. THANKS A LOT.

Post an update and/or your recreated photo (!!!) so the lazier history nerds among us can enjoy! Too bad you don't have a more Deadhead reader base or I'm sure this question would be solved stat.

TK said...

S -

We were looking at that pic yesterday. I thought it was Mission & Army too; Tom seemed to think it might be Market & Van Ness.

But I think you might be right; the original location may be long gone.

T -

Sorry bout that! If we ever recreate the photo, it will certainly be posted. Hippie beards are easily recreated by hipster beards!

subframe said...

Something about that second picture (the slight grade perhaps?) says 'Cesar Chavez / Army, just east of 280', but that area certainly doesn't look like that now.

Jenny Pocket said...

Q. How many Deadheads does it take to change a light bulb?

A. None. They just let it burn out and then follow it around for a while.

Anonymous said...


The good news: Pastmapper found the location!

The bad news: the building's no longer there.

The better news: it's now the site of the Speakeasy Brewery! (seriously).

It was called Beanie's Place. Sanborn map.

You can still see the outlines of the fuel oil tanks across the street.

Stephen said...

I was agonizing about my Mission ID failings, only to learn it wasn't the Mission at all.

Stoney said...

Part of me was really hoping to recreate the photo, but I don't think it will work in front of Speakeasy. Another part of me is glad I don't have to put on one of those cougar-at-a-music-festival cowboy hats.

Blue 59 said...

I had emailed Mouse around 2007 asking him for the Workingman's location.
He quickly and kindly replied that it was at the Beanery, across from the rendering plant.
(Not the exact quote, but that's how I remember it.)
I kept thinking about Barney's Beanery in Los Angeles; and the rendering plant search was fruitless.
So it certainly is good to have this one rolled up tight.

David Harper said...

Here is the location as determined by others...It is the corner of Evans and Keith, near Hunter's Point...Notice the storage tanks on the aerial photograph right across the street...

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