First off, I’m the new kid here at The Store. Chopper invited me in, which could be the biggest mistake of his life. Come to think of it, knowing Chopper as I do that’s not likely. The mistake of inviting me here would be small potatoes compared to some of his historic screw-ups. Just kiddin’ Chop. Sort of.
Anyway, as some of you may know I maintained a couple of websites for a while, one a rock music site and the other a sports site. I ultimately became bored as I’m prone to do and let them die a slow and painful death. Still, Chopper liked some of my stuff and had me over to the General Store. So here I am. Below you’ll find my first entry, just some random musings about my life experiences at Rock Shows. I hope you enjoy them, but if not, I’ll repeat the first words Chopper ever growled to me back in 1978: “Screw you too, whoever you are.” I’ll let him explain that one. Here we go . . .
Yeah, I’ve been around awhile. I’m 55. Don’t let my boyish charm and girlish figure fool you, though – it’s true. I’ve been around long enough to have witnessed some pretty extraordinary things in the Rock ‘n’ Roll world. I’ve had a life that has included several serendipitous encounters as well as a few interesting happenings at Rock ‘n’ Roll Shows. You know, those “in the right place at the right time” deals if you will. And now, my attempt to share a few of these hopefully interesting anecdotes.
I’ll get to the really memorable experiences in a bit, so bear with me. Settle in, for this is a l-o-n-g post. First, some quick thoughts. I’ve attended well over 300 concerts in my life, and I’ve been fortunate enough to witness The Eagles “Hotel California” tour, Brian Wilson’s “Pet Sounds ” tour, Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive” tour, Elton John’s “Yellow Brick Road” tour, and the recent Eric Clapton/Robert Cray tour that completely blew me away (mostly long blues numbers). In the early 80’s I saw R.E.M. with my buddy Goose at a gym in Springfield, OH that was attended by maybe 150 people tops. Michael Stipe was so shy he sang with his back to the audience or behind the drum kit most of the night. They didn’t have enough original material so they covered songs like “Born to Run”. In retrospect, an unbelievable night.
I’ve seen Paul McCartney several times, but the night 16 of us rented a suite at The Schott was the best. I’ve seen Springsteen, Bob Dylan (opening act – The Alarm!!!), and Jimmy Buffett several times. Trust me, even if you’re not a Parrothead it’s an experience every music fan needs to have at least once. Green Day was a great show, and the fact that My Chemical Romance kicked things off just made it all the better. I went to an REO Speedwagon show at the Fairgrounds Coliseum in C-Bus once circa 1976 and they had two opening acts – The Babys and . . . wait for it . . . The New York Dolls. The Dolls opened, and little did I know what this soon-to be legendary punk band would later become. All I saw was a bunch of dudes with a lot of make-up, 6-inch high heels and spiked collars around their necks. REO looked like The Backstreet Boys by comparison.
If you’re a friend you’ve heard about James Taylor and the night he “lost” his jacket at Blossum. Fun night right there, especially since we didn’t get arrested. Hell, I went to the Electric Light Orchestra tour with all the lasers and the giant spaceship. It’s a pretty surreal experience to have a good buzz going and then look up and see these huge laser-made butterflies and moths flying over your head. Around 1977 a buddy asked me at the last second to go see a guy at what is now The Newport in Columbus. I’d never heard of the guy but, what the hell, the ticket was free. Suffice it to say Warren Zevon was pretty good. There’s probably a million people who make this claim, but I had tickets to see Lynyrd Skynyrd in late 1977 while living on the Ohio State campus. I’ll never forget when my roommate woke me up with the news about the plane crash. Being a poor college student I returned my ticket and got the $12.50 back. What a dumbass.
Some of the best shows I’ve ever seen were in small venues. Former Replacement Paul Westerberg rocked The Newport like a madman. A friend of mine said it was the first time he ever felt like he was watching a real rock star. Steve Forbert at a bar in Newport, KY was special, as were the Eels at The Odeon in Cleveland (twice). They Might Be Giants always put on a hell of a show, and watching legendary grunge rockers Mudhoney at tiny Café Bourbon Street in Columbus in early June was an extraordinary experience. Hell,my son Kip and I went to see the reunited Blink-182 just last Sunday and they were ungodly good. GREAT show even though we got soaked to the bone walking in.
Alright, enough rambling. Sorry if I’ve bored the life out of you. Hopefully you’re still with me though, because I’ve saved the best for last.
At some point a bit before The Who tragedy at Riverfront Coliseum (my dates are a tad fuzzy – my Dad refers to the late 70’s as “my hazy period.”) I saw Led Zeppelin there. The whole festival seating/general admission thing was obviously in place, and it was pretty ugly. We got there real early, around 2:00 PM in order to get in line. The coliseum’s policy at the time was to open just 4 doors at around 6:30 PM (again, hazy) for the 8:00 show. We were right up front, and a little after 5:00 PM things began to get ugly. Remember, 4 doors for 12,000 people. Idiocy. People in the back began pressing forward and those of us in front were getting crushed against the doors. Guys were begging the security inside to open up, but they weren’t listening. A police chopper suddenly appeared and began hovering about 30-feet up, and a guy with a bullhorn was telling people to back up. Nobody was having it, and at one point I remember a beer bottle being thrown at the chopper and shattering off its side. By this time I was seriously in fear of not making it out of there. My arms were pressed against my sides so tightly that I couldn’t raise them. Occasionally my feet would rise off the ground and I’d have to completely go wherever the crowd took me. Scary stuff for sure. The worst part was when the crowd would start to lean and you feared getting crushed. It was hard to breath and several people passed out but obviously didn’t fall down. Surreal as hell. Finally, an ignorant security guard did a dumb but ultimately good thing – he cracked a door open, ostensibly to tell somebody when the gates would open. At that point the door was ripped open and the crowd poured in. Glass was flying everywhere, and as I was being pushed through a guard reached out and ripped a flask from my neck, nearly slashing my throat. No tickets were taken and chaos ensued. After I got away from the rushing crowd, I sought out a cop and yelled, “If these people don’t start opening more doors somebody’s going to get killed here!” A prophetic statement, unfortunately. When the news came down months later that 11-people were killed at The Who show, I wasn’t surprised. I knew exactly what had taken place.
Oh, and by the way, I scored a front row spot. Hey, it was Zep.
In the late 70’s I went to see The Beach Boys, again at Riverfront Coliseum in The Natti. It marked the return of Brian Wilson, quite a big deal at the time. Anyway, we were once again right down front. From the get-go Mike Love was paying special attention to my date, at one point getting down on one knee and singing a song right to her face. I don’t remember the song, probably because I was too busy watching the security dude and figuring my odds of getting a shot at Love’s nose. Eventually Love actually sent a guy down to ask if she was interested. She said no and he never came close to us the rest of the show. Bizarre experience.
Back when the band Kansas was huge, I caught them down at Rupp Arena (or was it Freedom Hall?). Rick Derringer opened up and dazzled the crowd with his guitar work, then the J. Geils Band did about an hour of stuff from their “Monkey Island” record. Good stuff. After Geils finished we waited patiently for Kansas to appear. And waited. And waited. For an hour and a half we waited. Finally, just when a riot was about to break out, there they were. It was plainly obvious from the start they were stoned out of their minds. Or drunk. Whatever it was, they were definitely shit-faced beyond words. Stumbling and tripping about, slurring and/or forgetting lyrics, just tanked. The crowd started throwing things, and with me being down front again I caught a few projectiles to the back of the melon. After about 10-minutes of this mayhem they staggered off stage, never to be seen again. They performed approximately 3 and a half songs. Just when the crowd was about to burn the place down, Derringer re-appeared. Just him, no band anywhere. He went to the front of the stage and just started playing. The crowd slowly started to get into it. He ripped through about 20 songs ranging from Purple Haze to My Generation, then left to a rousing ovation. Just great, great stuff. I’ll never heard “Carry On My Wayward Son” since without thinking of that night. And to this day, Derringer is a God to me.
Finally, one last story. May I have a show of hands from those still awake? OK, good. Back around 1980 Aerosmith was on a bit of a downward spiral. Something about drug addictions and whatnot. Anyway, it was after “Dream On” but before the album “Permanent Vacation” marked their return to prominence. A friend of mine was a regional roadie, one of those guys who doesn’t travel with the bands but works a certain area where he helps set up shows and the like. Well, he had backstage passes to Aerosmith and asked if I wanted one. Well, yeah. I watched the show (not so good actually – something about drug addictions and whatnot) then headed backstage for the festivities. I don’t really know how to explain it other than saying it’s exactly what you’d expect it to be. Lots of girls, drugs, alcohol, and things I didn’t recognize and haven’t seen since. Rock and Roll decadence at its highest form. Back in those days I blended right in. My hair was as long as theirs and I looked like a taller Charley Manson, minus the God complex and murderous intentions. I worked my way over to Steven Tyler and struck up a conversation, probably saying something witty and insightful like “nice show” which incidentally would have been a complete lie. He looked at me through glazed-over eyes and offered me a beer (for the record, it was a Stroh’s). One thing led to another and I ended up on a couch sitting between Tyler and Joe Perry. There once existed a picture of me, between those two, all three of us holding up a beer for the camera with half-crazed smiles on our faces. Later, in one of the dumbest moves of my life, I gave the picture to a girl I was dating. She displayed it proudly on here apartment wall. Sadly, when we had an ugly break-up, she hit me where it hurt most. She burned the picture. For years I waited for her to show up and say she had really kept the picture, then hand it to me with a smile. Never happened, but there’s still hope, right? Right? Shit.
So there you have it, some highlights from my life attending live shows. You now know that Kansas blows, Rick Derringer is cool, Mike Love is a tool, I’m lucky to be alive, and I’m a fool for getting reimbursed for that Skynyrd ticket and giving away the greatest picture I’d ever had taken. Not that I still think about it . . . every day . . . several times.
True stories all. Later.