He’d gone to see saxophonists John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders the year before at a place on Dexter called the Drome Lounge, and their wail was like nothing he’d ever experienced before: magnificent, powerful, polyrhythmic, polytonal, polychromatic, emotional, form-shattering … the purest music he’d ever experienced before or since.
And when the word went out that Coltrane had died on a Monday in July - or gotten so heavy he’d fallen off the planet, as some wags would have it - it was only fitting to call for a memorial party. A dozen or so fans worshipfully played records and made music through Saturday night at the cramped apartment on Chicago Boulevard where he lived with his wife. Around daybreak came the sound of cars speeding away from Lord knew what, and being reckless guys, they went to check out the commotion and soon found themselves at the epicenter of the brewing Detroit rebellion of 1967. It was a revelation:
“The people who were rioting in the street, they moved like one mind. It was almost like a hive of insects moves. It was like a wave; it just moved, but that whole episode put me in a frame of mind of thinking about our position here as a - quote - subculture, and how to deal with that. And since music was always an interest of mine and seeing how our music defined itself and our relationship to the greater environment as well … ”
The issues all seemed intertwined.