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Too Old to Rock n’ Roll, Too Young to Die

February 9th, 2009 · 10 Comments

jethro tull 

I have to say, growing up as a teen in the 70′s was a blast. The clothes were fun (especially on the girls), the mood was easier, stereos were amazing, muscle-powered objects d’art, the drive-in theaters were laboratories for some pretty intense summer magic. Needless to say, I miss those times.

It was also still an incredible time for rock music and going to concerts. You could see your favorite band for about six bucks and buy the shirt for five more. My first concert, while technically not rock, is still one of my favorites– maybe because it was my first. I was 16 and and my buddies and I went to go see Neil Diamond at the University of Utah. The show went for 3 1/2 hours with NO warm-up bands– just Diamond! We were 7th row, center, on the floor. Great concert.

My second did involve a real rock band and the concert turned out to be legendary: The KISS Destroyer Tour. To make sure we got good seats, we went downtown the night before and checked into a motel (yet something else you could do back then– bunch of 16-year old punks getting a motel room). To kill time, we went to the Centre theater to see Alice Cooper’s “Welcome to My Nightmare” midnight movie. It was there we met a Charlie Manson lookalike who claimed he was Satan and showed us his death certificate, then asked if he could crash with us that night. Dumb kids that we were, we couldn’t think of a single excuse to say no, so that night Satan was sleeping on the shagpile floor of our motel room. We got up really early the next morning (I don’t think any of us actually slept – we left Charlie on the floor, still asleep) and sat in line outside the Salt Palace for 4 hours ’til the box office opened. In the end it was all worth it. Turned out to be an awesome concert.

Waiting in line for tickets was one of the absolute necessary steps to having a totally magnificent concert experience. My favorite time was in 1977 when I took my sleeping bag and cooler full of booze, OJ, crackers and cheese the night before to get tickets for the Emerson, Lake & Palmer Works tour. I spread my camp out on the Salt Palace sidewalk (I was something like fifth in line) and made a bunch of friends that night. Scored some amazing tickets, and for years that concert was my #1 all-time favorite.

I’m proud to say most of my rock show experiences were great, but there was that one… well, it could have been an outright disaster if something miraculous hadn’t happened that staved off catastrophe– and I’ll get to that.

It was in 1977 and the headliner was Seals & Crofts. With such hits as “Summer Breeze” and “We May Never Pass This Way Again,” it had all the promise of being a superlative date concert. I asked Nancy McBride– a girl I liked a lot at the time– to go with me, and since this would be her first concert experience, I knew it was gonna be a magical evening. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. The two guys came out on stage with stools and just sat there, putting out a placid, acoustic performance. Nancy cheered exuberantly after each song, but I was majorly let down. If I wanted to see this kind of herbal tea crap, I’d have gone to Geppetto’s and wolfed down pizza to it. About four songs into their set, the crowd started yelling for the warm-up guy to come back out– now he had us eating out of his hand! Someone we vaguely knew, had one hit on the radio called “Piano Man.” You know– Billy Joel. Saved the whole. Damn. Night.

The concert experience started morphing shortly thereafter into something not quite as cool. Ticket prices started going up (I knew it was the beginning of the end when Jethro Tull was going for 13 bucks a pop in ’78); and then it didn’t matter what time you showed up at the box office, you’d get a random number and that’s what order you were up. It really blew when you got there at midnight, first in line, and then were given a number like 37. That was soon replaced with ticket services and, well, gone were the heady rock n’ roll days.

The last really great concert I went to was in November 2007– the Who at the Hollywood Bowl. The usual bunch was sitting around me, but we’re all gray now and not as rowdy (not for lack of trying). Townsend and Daltrey were amazing, Ringo’s son, Zack Starkey, replaced Keith Moon, pot wafted in the night air with the stars overhead. It wasn’t quite like 1976, but it would do for this old kid.

My next concert comes up in two weeks– the Celtic punk band, Dropkick Murphys, at the Hollywood Palladium.

We’re bringing ear plugs.

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10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Karron // Feb 9, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Ah those were the days. I left home in 1971 and got married. We lived in Marin County, right across the golden gate bridge – spent a lot of time in San Francisco and did a lot of dumb things. I was 16, my husband was 19.

    My first concert was in some dinky venue with some unknown bad, but it was fun. Smoke filled, booze laden, but fun.

    When we were in New Zealand, CCR and Little River Band put on a GREAT concert. Everyone was pretty old, like us. But there were more than a few younger kids dancing to the music too.

    The best concert, bar none, that I have ever been to was in Hong Kong. We saw Elton John, for three hours, just him and his piano. No backup, no band, just him. It was SUPERLATIVE!

    I can’t stand most of the music my 14 year old loves. I guess that is typical. She isn’t allowed to go to concerts without us, and we draw straws on who has to take her. Last time my husband lost and had to go listen to some band that made his ears ring for a week. Ear plugs are a great idea, I think I will invest.

  • 2 cheryl // Feb 9, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    My cousin’s wife’s dad follows The Who everywhere. I think he’s seen them play in almost every country. He’s kind of obsessed –but not weirdly. He totally has the money for this hobby of his –and he takes family with him.
    Okay, it’s totally weird.

    My concert experiences will be completely lame to you, no doubt! I have seen:
    Garth Brooks, Barenaked Ladies (twice), Martina McBride, Josh Groban, and…I think that’s it. I know, it’s not ROCK, but they were all pretty awesome. Oh, wait! I totally took my younger cousins to see the American Idol Concert Tour when Jordan Sparks won –it was lamer than lame.

    My favorite so far was Josh Groban –we got 10th row seats and I was thinking, “how nice I get to see him live.” Then I heard him start singing and I screamed like a little girl. Who knew I was as excited as I was? Best part –he sings better live than he does on recordings.

    Yeah, I’m a sucker for a good baritone.

  • 3 David // Feb 9, 2009 at 10:19 pm


    I saw Elton twice– once in 1989 in the Pacific Amphitheater, and the second time at Dodger Stadium with Eric Clapton! Good stuff!


    Love the Barenaked Ladies (“alternative girlfriend!”). I briefly got into them about the same time as Blues Traveler. You want to talk lame? My wife’s rep took us to a Pat Metheny concert and I fell asleep! Modern jazz–gnagghh!!

  • 4 Karron // Feb 10, 2009 at 1:51 am

    ewww ick, modern jazz. . . to me that sounds like an orchestra warming up. shudder.

  • 5 Floyd the Wonderdog // Feb 10, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Mid-70′s ZZ Top used to come to our county fairgrounds. Back before they hit it big.

  • 6 David // Feb 10, 2009 at 3:05 pm


    I remember right about that same time a guy in my high school had a band called Roadwork, and his big deal was they opened for ZZ Top when they came to Salt Lake.

  • 7 larryco_ // Feb 10, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    You’re never too o..o..old to rock and roll..oll..oll when you’re too young to die.

  • 8 David // Feb 11, 2009 at 2:48 am


    *sigh*… That was an excellent album, huh. I’m gonna pull it out tonight.

  • 9 Aldo // Feb 13, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Rev JD,

    I still have slides of us at the Tull concert!

  • 10 David // Feb 13, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Aldo! Chill a Cella!

    Somewhere I’ve still got those slides, too. AND I’ve still got my Olympus OM-1 (used 400 ASA film pushed to 800 for that concert). …*sigh*… Try and walk into a venue with that setup anymore.

    I also remember how old I thought Ian Anderson was getting in 1978– HA! They still tour!!

    How ’bout you, ol’ bean? Gone to any concerts lately?

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