By Steve Newton
The Allman Brothers’ At Fillmore East is widely recognized as one of the greatest live albums in rock history.
And you won’t get any arguments about that from me. The band was at its peak, guitarists Duane Allman and Dickey Betts trading the type of inspired licks that would make future ABB member Warren Haynes wear out his copy of the LP trying to learn them.
The double disc’s iconic black-and-white cover shot, by legendary photographer Jim Marshall, depicts the group hanging out in an alley in front of a stack of road cases, and Gregg Allman–standing in the middle with the light-coloured jacket on–looks like he’s laughing his ass off about something. The other five guys in the band appear to be enjoying the joke as well.
So what was it that got the Brothers all broken up at that exact moment? Did Butch Trucks rattle an impressively percussive fart off that drum case he was sitting on or something?
A few days ago I started reading Alan Paul‘s 2014 book on the band–One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band–and in Chapter 8 Betts describes what went down:
“We took that in Macon,” he recalls. “We were up at daylight out there to take the photo and we were all real grumpy. Jim Marshall, the photographer, wanted us out there then and we thought it was dumb–we figured it didn’t make a damn bit of difference what the cover was or what time we took it.
“This dude Duane knew came walking down the sidewalk and Duane jumped up and ran over and scored from this guy, then came back and sat down and we were all laughing, and that’s the photo captured on the cover. If you look at Duane’s hand, you can see him hiding something there. He had copped and sat down with a mischievous grin on his face.”
So there you go. Turns out it was an impromptu drug buy–rather than some well-timed flatulence–that caused the joyful expressions on the cover of one of rock’s most endearing albums.
For scads more interesting details about the history of the Allmans, I suggest you score yourself a copy of One Way Out. It benefits greatly from the recollections of not only the surviving band members, but the road crew as well–who were famously captured on the back cover of At Fillmore East, though not looking quite as delighted.