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.