You know a city has a deep-rooted love and appreciation for music when it goes to the extent of converting the bottom floor of a concrete parking garage into a makeshift venue. This was the primary reason for Boston club owner and music promoter George Papadopoulos to open the Psychedelic Supermarket in 1967. Another important reason was that Papadopoulos had a debut act for the club, a band called Cream. It seems Cream was scheduled to play the Crosstown Bus, but the Bus had been abruptly closed, leaving the band with a date but without a venue. Papadopoulos, who also owned The Unicorn on Boylston Street, seized the opportunity. He found the parking garage located at 590 Commonwealth Avenue and began the process of converting the basement of the garage into a performance space. The Supermarket was a no frills, concrete walled space with the acoustical quality of, well, a concrete walled space. That being said, it was a place to play and many notable artists of that thriving scene in Boston in the late 1960’s did just that.
The Tom Swift Electrical Band was the house band at the Psychedelic Supermarket and opened for most of the notable acts at the venue. Some of the legends that found their way through a back alley and into the garage are of course Cream, Chuck Berry, The Grateful Dead, and The Mothers of Invention. Big Brother and the Holding Company, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Billy Squier, and Country Joe and the Fish all can be validated as having played gigs at the Supermarket. Another notable performance was New England’s own Orpheus, who played there to a huge crowd that overflowed outside of the club in the summer of 1969. The show being simulcast on WBZ and hosted by Boston radio legend Dick Summer.
Like many venues of that era, the Psychedelic Supermarket and Papadopoulos enjoyed their fair share of controversy. There are the familiar stories of bands not being paid for multiple night stands at the club and instead being told that the exposure was their payday. Inflating ticket prices as shows were about to sell out was another claim. That being said, club owners, promoters, and managers of the day seized countless liberties with artists- the stories of that are famous and can be recounted by nearly every band.
Because the Supermarket was put together as it was, and where it was, there is not a great deal of posters or solid documentation of exactly who played the place; and the performance dates as to when the shows occurred. What we do know is that by all accounts between 1967 and 1969 many of the most iconic artists in music performed within the Supermarket’s concrete walls in the Fenway.
The site became a movie theatre and eventually was completely torn down and replaced with Boston University’s Metcalf Science Center that stands at the location today.
(by Mark Turner)