The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963 on iTunes

Given the Beatles’ reluctance to issue much previously unreleased material, late 2013 saw two major surprises. One was Live at the BBC Vol. 2, which made a double CD’s worth of 1963-64 BBC performances officially available for the first time. The other, also containing a double CD or so of early Beatles material that hadn’t hit the market before, flew almost under the radar. Only obtainable through iTunes downloads, these 59 (actually 58 – more on that in a minute) tracks were dryly titled Bootleg Recordings 1963, mixing several dozen BBC cuts with studio outtakes and a couple demos. All dating from 1963, these tracks went on sale for $40 on December 17, 2013, and could also be purchased individually.

Available only on iTunes, Bootleg Recordings 1963 has 58 previously unreleased Beatles recordings from that year.

Available only on iTunes, Bootleg Recordings 1963 has 58 previously unreleased Beatles recordings from that year.

It was no coincidence that the release arrived just two weeks before the end of the year. December 31, 2013 would have marked the last day on which the group’s unreleased recordings from 1963 would have been protected by copyright in the European Union. By issuing them for official sale—via however low-profile a channel—the Beatles and EMI were now able to claim copyright for all of the recordings on Bootleg Recordings 1963 for the next 70 years (until 2084). Otherwise the cuts ran the risk of going into public domain, to be issued willy-nilly by whomever wished, with no legal consequences.

A mercenary strategy? You bet, but the Beatles, for once, weren’t first. On December 27, 2012, Sony Music issued a four-CD set of 86 Bob Dylan outtakes and live performances from the year 1962, just five days before they  would have entered the public domain. A six-LP Sony set doing the same thing for unissued 1963 Dylan recordings followed in November 2013. As just 100 copies of the CD and LP sets were issued (and then only in Europe), it was pretty clear these were solely intended for this purpose. At least Sony made no bones about what it was doing, titling the compilation of 1962 material The Copyright Extension Collection Vol. I. Naturally this was instantly bootlegged, especially as it contained some material that hadn’t even made it into bootleggers’ hands.

And in late 2013, Brian Wilson & the Beach Boys’ iTunes release The Big Beat 1963—consisting of 22 unreleased cuts from 1963 that Wilson had a hand in writing, performing, and/or producing (only three by the Beach Boys themselves)—was issued for the same reason. Naturally this was promptly bootlegged too, though most Beatles/Dylan/Beach Boys fans remain unaware that iTunes also put out compilations of hitherto unreleased Motown recordings from 1962 and 1963 to beat the same deadlines. The Beatles’ Bootleg Recordings 1963, however, is likely to sell by far the most copies of any of these nick-of-time anthologies, though it too was instantly bootlegged, usually selling for about one-fourth the official price—and with no apparent loss in packaging (which was virtually nonexistent via iTunes anyway) or sound quality.

Only available from iTunes, The Big Beat 1963 has rarities in which Brian Wilson was involved as songwriter, producer, and/or singer, though just three of these are credited to the Beach Boys.

Only available from iTunes, The Big Beat 1963 has rarities in which Brian Wilson was involved as songwriter, producer, and/or singer, though just three of these are credited to the Beach Boys.

What of Bootleg Recordings 1963’s actual contents, however? Well, it’s a pretty good selection of some of the better items from that year that hadn’t been sold over the counter. More than two-thirds of them were from BBC sessions, including some of the very best renditions that hadn’t appeared on the two Live at the BBC compilations, like the June 24 “Roll Over Beethoven” with the twice-as-long guitar solo; the insanely energetic “Long Tall Sally” from April 1; the second version of “I Got to Find My Baby” (one of the most obscure songs they covered on the radio, based on Chuck Berry’s version); the earliest (January 22) BBC performance of “Some Other Guy,” one of the most popular items in their early live repertoire; and the September 3 “I Saw Her Standing There” with a zany, zesty shouted “eins, zwei, drei, vier!” intro. The complete January 22 “Love Me Do” for Saturday Club appears for the first time anywhere, officially or unofficially, though the only other such “new” item was the studio version of “Money” without George Martin’s piano overdubs.

There are also some of the better Please Please Me outtakes (all of them just slightly different versions of songs that made the LP), most in stereo, rather than the mono on previously circulating bootlegs; some of the unissued takes of “From Me to You,” “Thank You Girl,” and “One After 909” from the session for their third single; and take 21 of “Hold Me Tight” (the only With the Beatles outtake, unless you count the undubbed “Money”). And there are the two drumless demos of unissued Lennon-McCartney compositions, “Bad to Me” (given to fellow Brian Epstein clients Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, and done with great charm here despite the sparse arrangement and low fidelity) and “I’m in Love” (given to Liverpool band the Fourmost, also managed by Epstein).

But as a big difference between this and the Live at the BBC comps, there doesn’t seem to be much if any difference in sound quality between the iTunes downloads and the tracks that have circulated on bootlegs, stereo Please Please Me outtakes aside. In fact, the June 1 “Too Much Monkey Business” sounds distinctly worse in its iTunes incarnation, though the January 22 “Some Other Guy” sounds better, if you’re keeping score.

The two-CD Live at the BBC Vol. 2 was, unlike Bootleg Recordings 1963, widely available through standard retail outlets.

The two-CD Live at the BBC Vol. 2 is, unlike Bootleg Recordings 1963, widely available through standard retail outlets.

Does Bootleg Recordings 1963 wrap up everything worth hearing from this stellar year, or even all of the best worth hearing? Hardly. Every fan will have his or her own special favorites, of course, and none would have picked the exact same recordings selected for iTunes. Nonetheless, the omission of even one of the several outtakes of “Don’t Bother Me” in circulation was inexplicable. And while the selection of just a few studio alternates from the Please Please Me and “From Me to You”/“Thank You Girl” sessions was perhaps understandable given the general listener doesn’t want to hear the same song done over and over more than three or four times, the more complete series of run-throughs on bootlegs gives scholars a much fuller sense of how the material was perfected at Abbey Road.

And for a release by the most famous act of all time through such a well-known, profitable organization, there were an inexcusable number of errors that crept onto the minimal packaging. No less than four of the tracks were misidentified as hailing from the January 22 session for Saturday Club. Embarrassingly (one would hope, at least), one BBC performance of “She Loves You” was used twice—although quite a few Beatles researchers have made the same mistake, assuming that the September 10 and September 24 broadcasts of Pop Go the Beatles used different versions (though each used the same one, recorded on September 3). And of course, there was nothing in the way of informed liner notes, the threadbare annotation consisting of nothing more than take numbers and BBC radio program titles and broadcast dates. Even many bootlegs have done better in that respect—sometimes much, much better.

Naturally, Bootleg Recordings 1963 isn’t meant for completists, or likely for typical readers of The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film. It’s meant for the general public, who want more Beatles but not all Beatles. For that audience, it’s made some good material widely available to listeners who will never acquire it by unofficial means, or even remain unaware of how to do so. Will it stamp out hunger for, let alone distribution of, all the other recordings from 1963 not given official blessing? Of course not. If anything, it might make some fans aware of just how much more is out there—as will any future iTunes volumes as the 50-year copyright expiration comes up for material recorded in 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969.

Ball Four and the Beatles

The relationship between rock music and baseball is an odd and not especially fruitful one. There haven’t been any guys who excelled at both making records and major league ball, though more players have cut records than you might guess. A great many hip rock fans are big baseball fans; not many, if any, big leaguers are into hip rock. Page through the back issues of Chin Music, the fine and unfortunately defunct fanzine that interviewed ballplayers about rock (and indie bands about baseball), for the amusing evidence.

Ball Four, the Sgt. Pepper of baseball books.

Ball Four, the Sgt. Pepper of baseball books.

Spring training just having sprung, I had the urge to look back at what the diary I once called “the Sgt. Pepper” of baseball books had to say about the matter. Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, still the finest first-person account of playing major league (and, for a bit, minor league) ball over an entire season, doesn’t for the most part deal with music. His nearly day-by-day log of the 1969 season talks about baseball a lot, of course, but also almost everything else, from sex and politics to Howdy Doody. In those infrequent passages where music plays a part, it says as much about his marginal role on his teams as it does about his taste.

As a liberal, caustically funny guy not afraid to speak his mind, Bouton didn’t fit into the mainstream of clubhouse culture, to understate it. That wasn’t such a problem when he was a 20-game winner and World Series hero, but it became more of an issue when he was a relief pitcher with the expansion Seattle Pilots, fighting for the last place on the roster. Pragmatically realizing (especially with a family to support) that every little bit helps, he did his bit to try to be “one of the guys,” even if he couldn’t quite pull it off. Here’s part of his entry from May 26, a month after he’d been recalled from a brief banishment to the minors:

I’m trying to so hard to be one of the boys I’m even listening to country music. And enjoying it. The back of the bus is the country-music enclave, and most of the players are part of it. So far, though, we’ve not been able to swing over city boys like Tommy Davis, Tommy Harper and John Kennedy. I think we’ll get them in the end, though. Maybe with a bull fiddle.

Bouton was a city boy himself, however, having grown up in the New York area and Chicago. Maybe he would have been more comfortable in other parts of the bus:

The middle of the bus is dominated by Tommy Davis and his groovy tape machine, and the quiet guys sit in front, guys like Gus Gil and Freddy (Poor Devil) Velazquez. Mike Marshall also sits in front looking for somebody to play chess with him. I’ve played with him a few times…

That reference to a tape machine’s interesting. These days, if someone doesn’t like another player’s music, I imagine it’s not much of an issue. My guess is most music on player buses is heard through iPods, allowing each listener to vanish into his own world as much as they do on a typical mass transit journey.

Like Jim Bouton, Tommy Davis would play most of 1969 with the Seattle Pilots, but end the season with the Houston Astros.

Like Jim Bouton, Tommy Davis would play most of 1969 with the Seattle Pilots, but end the season with the Houston Astros.

What kind of tape player would Davis (a former National League batting champion who’d gotten a key hit against Bouton in a 1-0 1963 World Series game the pitcher lost) have been using? Cassette machines were on the market by the late 1960s, but they were pretty clunky and not noted for high-quality musical use in their early days. There would have been a limited selection of commercially available cassette tapes, and making cassettes from vinyl releases was likewise far less widespread than it would be just a few years later. Maybe he was even lugging around a reel-to-reel player? One assumes, though, he played whatever he was hauling onboard loud, if the machine “dominated” by middle of the bus.

Country music merits another paragraph on August 13:

The country western music got a big workout in the clubhouse after the win. There are four or five different tape players around and they make quite a racket. One of the favorites is “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog.” Gene Brabender knows all the words to that one. Another is, “Happy Birthday, Joe Beam.” It starts out, “They’re hanging Joe Beam today…” Seems that Joe Beam killed eleven guys before he was twelve and they said he was an “unruly boy.” And right at the end, when they hang him, they break out into “Happy Birthday, Joe Beam.” Breaks us up.

The players might  have heard “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog” from Johnny Cash’s 1968 hit concert LP At Folsom Prison. He performed both songs at that legendary concert. Bouton got the title of one song wrong, though: it’s “Joe Bean” Johnny sings about, not Joe Beam. (I’ll have to check the most recent edition of Ball Four to see if anyone ever caught that.) As “Joe Bean” only made it onto the expanded CD reissue of At Folsom Prison, the Pilots must have known it from its appearance on Johnny’s 1966 LP Everybody Loves a Nut, which also included a previous version of “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog,” as it happens.

It’s a little strange, incidentally, that Bouton doesn’t cite Cash as the singer. At Folsom Prison was a very popular album, and not just among country audiences, reaching #13 on the pop charts. As Jim wrote his August 13 entry, Cash’s follow-up At San Quentin was on its way to #1, where it would reside for four consecutive weeks starting August 23. Johnny had also started his popular network variety show in June 1969, and Bouton should have been able to catch at least a few of those Saturday night broadcasts, as not all Saturday major league games were played at night.

Johnny Cash's hit 1968 concert LP At Folsom Prison was a big hit in the Seattle Pilots' clubhouse.

Johnny Cash’s 1968 concert LP At Folsom Prison was likely a big hit in the Seattle Pilots’ clubhouse.

A couple weeks after that August 13 entry, Bouton was traded from the Seattle Pilots to the Houston Astros, where Jim quickly befriended young pitcher Larry Dierker, on his way to a 20-win season (his only one, as it turned out). Larry had rather more contemporary musical tastes than Bouton’s Seattle teammates. In the midst of shutting out the San Francisco Giants on September 5, Jim wrote, “Between innings of this great ballgame he pitched, Dierker sat on the bench and sang ‘Rocky Raccoon.’”

“Rocky Raccoon,” of course, came off the Beatles’ White Album, as popular a release as there was in the late 1960s, even though it had been out for almost a year by that time. Perhaps with Dierker’s encouragement—finding out Bouton was writing a book, he started feeding the older reliever possible quotes just days after Jim joined the Astros—the author asserts what were probably his true musical tastes more confidently on September 19:

Larry Dierker and I much prefer the Beatles to country-western music. As a protest against the amount of country-western we have to listen to, we have composed what we consider a typical song of the genre. It took us about two innings.

There follows the 22-line tune they wrote. I won’t reproduce the whole thing here (who knows, it might even be copyrighted), but it begins “I want my baby back again, she done left town with my best friend.” References to waiting by the phone, a broken heart, a murder, a faithless sweetheart, hitting the bottle, a prison cell, “Billy Joe,” and the concluding resolution “but with the Lord I’ll carry on” make it clear Bouton and Dierker had absorbed the principal clichés of the genre.

Larry Dierker, Beatles fan.

Larry Dierker, Beatles fan.

Dierker, incidentally, is portrayed as quite a fun-loving free spirit in the book, as is another Astros teammate, third baseman Doug Rader. Both, oddly, became managers in subsequent decades, Dierker even piloting the Astros, whom he guided to a four Central Division titles in five years between 1997-2001. Wonder if he was playing The White Album in the clubhouse after key victories then.

It’s not clear if any of their fellow Astros were also Beatles fans, but one wonders if Jim and Larry managed to hear Abbey Road before the season ended. The LP was released on September 26, only a week or so before Houston played its last game of the year. The Astros, only a couple games off the Western Division lead when Bouton joined them in late August, had fallen out of contention; Dierker had already won his twentieth game (saved by Bouton); and there wasn’t really much else to distract them as they got ready for the off-season. If so, they could have sung “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” the next day, when Bouton got hammered in Cincinnati, giving up two runs, two hits, and two walks while retiring only one batter.

Jim Bouton, author (with editor Leonard Shecter) of baseball's greatest literary hit.

Jim Bouton, author (with editor Leonard Shecter) of Ball Four, baseball’s greatest literary hit.

Syd Barrett: Unforgotten Hero. Or Is That “Sid Barret”?

I don’t just write books about rock music – I belong to a rock music book club that talks about them. Books about rock music in general, I mean, not my books specifically. I’m not that much of a glutton for Maoist self-criticism.

At our last meeting, we discussed Rob Chapman’s fine Syd Barrett bio A Very Irregular Head (Julian Palacios’s Dark Globe is also recommended). That prompted me to dig out, if only for decoration at the back room of a bar where we hold our meetings, this Syd bootleg I bought back in 1983. Note how it manages to misspell both his first and last names:

Credited to "Sid Barrett," the Unforgotten Hero bootleg collected rare radio broadcasts and studio tracks from Syd Barrett's time in Pink Floyd.

Credited to “Sid Barrett,” the Unforgotten Hero bootleg collected rare radio broadcasts and studio tracks from Syd Barrett’s time in Pink Floyd.

Great photo, though, of Pink Floyd in their pinkest psychedelic finery, probably just before Syd started his long downward spiral into true madness. And most of these BBC sessions, outtakes (including the legendary self-descriptive “Vegetable Man”), and rarities still haven’t come out as I type this more than 30 years later, though some have circulated in better sound quality on other bootlegs.

Looking at this album in turn got me thinking about the hole-in-the-wall specialist store where I bought the LP back in 1983, just after moving to San Francisco at the age of 21. I had no job, few prospects, and little in the way of disposable cash. Naturally much of it went to record-buying, especially as San Francisco stores had far greater goodies in the way of off-the-beaten-track imports, rarities, and illegalities than the city I’d moved from on the opposite coast.

Back then, you didn’t go on the Internet to find local record stores (let alone buy and listen to music on the computer). You, or at least I, went through the phone book. That’s where I found the listing for a tiny shop in the Outer Sunset district about a mile from the ocean, far afield from the neighborhoods that held virtually every other hip record store of note. The store was more or less as advertised, holding little except bootlegs, though of course that wasn’t the word used in the Yellow Pages.

Even by the standards of High Fidelity record emporiums, this was an eccentric outlet. Few were the occasions when anyone else was in the store save me and the owner, who never spoke to me save to mumble hello and goodbye. Never did he express the slightest interest in what I was buying or recommend anything that might interest me, though surely there couldn’t have been many other 21-year-olds making their way out to this mostly residential neighborhood in search of Beach Boys, Beatles, Stones, and Who outtakes. He obviously knew his stock, yet never played it in the shop; in fact, all he played was the radio, which was always tuned to either a football game or noxious adult contemporary station. It was almost as though he was purposely trying to drive his target audience out of the store with aural ambience that couldn’t have been more different than what he was actually selling in the racks.

Already so crowded with miscellaneous boxes and piles that surely would have had the space declared a fire hazard had the authorities bothered, each of my successive, sporadic visits saw the piles grow, seemingly unattended, like an updated version of Mrs. Havisham’s estate in Great Expectations. Eventually they all but obscured the window that let in what little sunlight the space admitted. I stopped going in the late 1980s, but it remained open, in theory at least, for years afterward, though no one (owner included) ever seemed to be there, and the pile of boxes grew so high that it eventually became impossible to even identify as a record store from the sidewalk.

But back in 1983-84, in its (relative) heyday, it was the best game in town for (relatively) affordable bootlegs of items that were positive manna from heaven for a ‘60s-starved fan like me. For $10 or $15, I was picking up listenable-to-hi-fi unreleased gems I hadn’t even suspected existed. Had my parents known I was spending my time and money like this when my bank account wasn’t even in the four digits, they no doubt would have flown across the country to stage an intervention or some such thing. But at the time, those records were more important than eating well – and they did, in time, prove invaluable acquisitions for my subsequent career as a rock music historian, more or less paying back the investment.

Anyway – what other goodies do I remember picking up at this rather unsavory establishment? Well, how could you not buy this LP of Rolling Stones rarities (still bearing its handwritten “$10—Excellent quality” label in my back room) after it leapt out at you from the bin without warning:

The Out of Time bootleg, credited to "Nanker Phelge," showed the Rolling Stones in drag in 1966.

The Out of Time bootleg, credited to “Nanker Phelge.”

That’s the Stones, of course, from the legendary session where they dressed up as women—far more daring and controversial in 1966 than today—to promote the “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow.” Note how the cover’s clever enough not to even identify it as a Rolling Stones product, trusting those hip enough to be lurking in stores like these can tell just from the photo, in-jokingly billing the band as “Nanker Phelge” (the pseudonym the Stones used for early collective compositions, as again anyone hip enough to finger this LP would already know). Note too how the “Monroe” record label apes the lettering used for “London” on the group’s US releases on the London label – repeated, for good measure, on the inner LP label of the actual disc.

The actual contents were, as the liner notes stated in mock Andrew Oldham-ese, “a collection of all the wonderful studio tracks that have never appeared on a U.S. Nanker Phelge elpee. So there you are.” Yeah, okay, most of these are easily available on CD (or the computer, if you’re not willing to “pay” for it by standard means) nowadays, though they’ll cost you a lot more than $10 for each and every last track. Back then, though, you could not find most of this anywhere, or would have to pay a lot more than I could afford, even given my lax budgeting for necessities.

The back cover of the Out of TIme bootleg had Andrew Oldham-esque liner notes, as well as a picture of a very young Keith Richards.

The back cover of the Out of TIme bootleg had Andrew Oldham-esque liner notes, as well as a picture of a very young Keith Richards.

Early B-sides “I Want to Be Loved” and “Stoned,” for instance? Second UK single “I Wanna Be Your Man,” even though it was a British hit? The long version of “2120 South Michigan Avenue,” only available on a German LP? All prime early Stones, and all only findable by haunting enough import bins and record conventions to jack the bill into the three figures (in 1983 money). A killer record, one that you’d play over and over again if you were a Stones fanatic, even digging the tracks that were lousy in most other contexts for their sheer oddity value, like the Italian version of “As Tears Go By” (“Con Le Mie Lacime”). Well, okay, it’s hard to enjoy “Wild Colonial Boy” (the folk song Mick Jagger sings in the dull 1970 movie Ned Kelly) under any circumstances, but at least they had the decency to make it the last (and hence easiest to skip) track.

Another great find at the store-we-shall-not-name was the Beach Boys’ Smile, or at least an approximation of what the album might have sounded like. Keep in mind that this was when relatively little had been heard from those 1966-67 sessions for the most legendary unreleased LP of all time. Too, what had been written about it was fragmentary, contradictory, and itself rather hard to track down even if you were obsessive about it. We had no idea there’d be a Smile box set decades down the line, including most of the LP below and much more:

This 1983 edition of the Smile bootleg had liner notes attributed to James Watt, the infamous Secretary of the Interior who refused to allow the Beach Boys to play on the National Mall in Washington DC on July 4, 1983. The liner notes were dated on July 4, 1983, "to boot."

This 1983 edition of the Smile bootleg had liner notes attributed to James Watt, the infamous Secretary of the Interior who refused to allow the Beach Boys to play on the National Mall in Washington DC on July 4, 1983. The liner notes were dated on July 4, 1983, “to boot.”

But back then—you know, back in the days when we waded through miles of chest-high snow drifts to reach our one-room schoolhouses—finding this album was like getting the key to a secret vault that few knew existed, let alone knew how to find. Even as the owner of the music from the Smile box today, I still find the official reconstruction of the record rather too slick and slightly ill-fitting, if only because I got so used to playing this bootleg over and over again as the best facsimile of the “real” version. Turns out they made some mistakes with that album, too, even including a Miles Davis track that the bootleggers thought had been recorded by the Beach Boys and/or Brian Wilson. At least they had the gumption to admit their mistake in the “new improved” (though actually quite similar) Smile bootleg that followed just a couple years or so later, with a frank, irreverent wit wholly missing from the liner notes to almost any official album you could name:

The "new improved" 1985 version of the Beach Boys' Smile bootleg, with liner notes by "Nancy Reagan."

The “new improved” 1985 version of the Beach Boys’ Smile bootleg, with liner notes by “Nancy Reagan.”

I got a couple great bootlegs of pre-Tommy Who boots at this pint-sized warehouse  as well. Here’s another sleeve you’d never see on an official release back then. Come to think of it, you wouldn’t see it now, either:

A bootleg of Who rarities from the mid-to-late-1960s.

A bootleg of Who rarities from the mid-to-late-1960s.

And again, a handwritten label stating simply, “$10—Excellent Quality.” The proprietor must have scrawled a lot of those.

But again, truth in advertising, including outtakes from their 1964 session for a single billed to the High Numbers, mid-‘60s BBC broadcasts, a Coke commercial, a Pete Townshend demo of “It’s Not True,” the weird lumbering instrumental version of “Hall of the Mountain King”…yeah, I guess most of this has come out on CD somewhere or other by now too, though probably in different, more sterile mixes. But I wasn’t especially inclined to wait a dozen or more years back in 1983. I wanted instant gratification, and this album, unmentionable by name in family circles, delivered the goods by the fistful.

What happened to that hole-in-the-wall, bootleg-mostly shop near the sea? I haven’t been out there to check in years. As previously noted, theoretically it was certainly still in operation in the 1990s and maybe beyond, though friends who used to live a few doors away could never recall seeing anyone actually enter the premises. Probably all of the music it sold is only a click away on your computer now, much of it having even gained official release.

At the time, however, that store was the best game in town if you wanted those goodies, even if it meant a long ride on the streetcar. And then a longer walk to the other side of Golden Gate Park to hit the vinyl stores in the Inner Richmond, back when saving 50-cent bus fares were as much a necessity as hearing that Smile bootleg. I don’t remember lugging those LPs on those hour-long trudges too fondly. But I remember that store kind of fondly now, even if those precious LPs it sold back in the day hold no collector value today except, maybe, for that odder-than-odd artwork. Which graced the back cover of that Pink Floyd boot as well:

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Syd Barrett: Unforgotten Hero.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Socially responsible investing – SRI for short – has grown enormously in the 21st century, but still has a way to go before it’s a mainstream financial strategy. Yet as one indication of how far it’s come, there are now movements within the movement. It seems kind of gauche to call something like this a “trend,” but certainly the fastest-growing sector of SRI seems to be fossil fuel divestment. That’s divesting from companies that produce fossil fuels, but also, just as crucially, investing in companies that support sustainable, green technology and energy use.

Green America's Guide to Fossil Divestment.

Green America’s Guide to Fossil Divestment.

Such is the interest that Green America, the organization that does more than any other in the US to promote socially responsible consumerism, has recently produced a Guide to Fossil Fuel Divestment (and Clean-Energy Reinvesting). It’s downloadable as a free PDF from http://www.greenamerica.org/fossilfree. This page also lists a few of the mutual funds that are “fossil-free,” including Pax World Global Environmental Markets Fund — a division of the very first American SRI mutual fund, founded in 1971 in opposition to militarism and the Vietnam War.

The term Fossil Fuel Divestment, of course, is more than a little reminiscent of another idealistic movement that many thought had little chance of success when it launched decades ago. “The fossil fuel divestment movement is the apartheid of this generation,” proclaimed Natural Investments planner Michael Kramer in the January/February issue of Green America. “The more people who clamor for divestment, the more likely that elected officials will listen.”

In another similarity with the apartheid movement, some of the bolder colleges and universities are helping to lead the way by making fossil-free divestment commitments. Nine such institutions have done so, according to http://gofossilfree.org/commitments, and fellow San Franciscans will be proud to see San Francisco State University on the list. Numerous cities have made such commitments too (see same site for list), though it seems it’s catching on quickest on the West Coast, where Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Eugene, and Santa Monica are among the participants. The Bay Area’s heavily represented here too, with San Francisco, Berkeley, and Richmond (not far north of Berkeley) also doing their part.

Gofossilfree.org has plenty of other resources for those interesting in learning more, including information about starting local campaigns. Also check out this Go Fossil Free article in the March 16, 2014 San Jose Mercury News.

Prescott College, in Arizona, is one of the growing number of colleges and universities committing to fossil fuel divestment.

Prescott College, in Arizona, is one of the growing number of colleges and universities committing to fossil fuel divestment.

Biking to Point Bonita Lighthouse from San Francisco

Pick up almost any issue of a weekly Bay Area paper, and you’d wonder why anyone wants to live in San Francisco. Astronomical rents! Techies taking over the Mission neighborhood! City College on the brink of closure, threatening to dump 90,000 students on the streets! Metered parking on Sunday afternoons, as if it wasn’t already hard enough the rest of the week!

So why do we—meaning underemployed, middle-aged hipsters—continue to doggedly stick to our overpriced apartments? Well, how many other vibrant cities can you live in where you can bike less than an hour from town and see this:

The Marin Headlands, as seen looking north from the Point Bonita Lighthouse.

The Marin Headlands, as seen looking north from the Point Bonita Lighthouse.

From Golden Gate Park, it is indeed just less than an hour to this stunning view. Even many longtime biker-residents, however, remain unaware that Point Bonita Lighthouse is  eminently reachable without much strain—on one of the two routes from town, anyway.

For the tougher of the pair, ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and go west (left) when you reach the Marin side. Your reward for an admittedly long, steep climb to the summit of Hawk Hill is this:

The Marin Headlands, after you survive the steep 15-minute uphill ride the starts from the west side of the Golden Gate bridge.

The Marin Headlands, after you survive the steep 15-minute uphill ride the starts from the west side of the Golden Gate bridge.

And from the same vantage point, when you look back at the city, you’re greeted with not just one but two of San Francisco’s greatest gateways:

The Golden Gate Bridge, in the foreground; the Bay Bridge, in the background.

The Golden Gate Bridge, in the foreground; the Bay Bridge, in the background.

It’s not far from the summit to the Point Bonita Lighthouse, but the steep (18% at its outset) downhill grade admittedly isn’t for the faint-hearted. If you’re up for the rollercoaster-like dip, make sure your brakes are in good shape. And, as tempting as it might be to look at the stunning coastal views to your left as you descend, keep your eyes on the one-way (in the downhill direction, fortunately) road, at least until it levels out a bit after the first mile or so. As pretty as that cliffside is, you don’t want to tumble over it.

As a somewhat easier option, go east (right) instead of west when you cross the bridge, go a couple hundred yards or so downhill, and make the first left to go through the tunnel. It’s still a bit of a white-knuckle ride, as the  one-way tunnel traffic goes in different directions depending on the lights, and  cars might be coming toward you. There are bike lanes on both sides of the road, however, and once you emerge, you get a couple miles or so of rural-esque scenery.

There’s one steep hill just before the lighthouse, though—not as steep (and not nearly as long) as the coastal route, but still enough to knock the breath out of you. You can lock up at a small bike rack at the trailhead to Point Bonita Lighthouse.

It’s warm drought time in San Francisco this winter, but as dire as the water situation is, that’s given bikers some stunning warm, clear days to take advantage of the unseasonable weather. On one such 70-degree Monday a few weeks ago, however, I was surprised by this view as I reached the trailhead:

Looking back to San Francisco from the trailhead to the Point Bonita lighthouse, February 24.

Looking back to San Francisco from the trailhead to the Point Bonita Lighthouse, February 24.

Turns out there was a big fire midday in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco, not far north of Candlestick Park.

From the trailhead it’s a short, beautiful stroll to the lighthouse. While the trailhead’s open all the time, however, the end bit that goes to the lighthouse itself (automated since the early 1980s) is only open 12:30-3:30 Sat-Mon. Park rangers give a brief talk about the lighthouse’s history, and there are small displays at the foot of the structure. The bridge to the lighthouse isn’t for the queasy, swaying noticeably if a dozen or two visitors troop over at the same time:

The bridge to Point Bonita Lighthouse.

The bridge to Point Bonita Lighthouse.

For more information about the Point Bonita Lighthouse, go to http://www.nps.gov/goga/pobo.htm. For more information about biking in San Francisco and the Bay Area, start with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, at http://www.sfbike.org.

Author Richie Unterberger's views on vintage rock music; San Francisco Bay Area biking and hiking; socially responsible living; and baseball.