Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Memories of Rock Music ... Opus Two

To carry on the rock music theme from my previous column, the following reminiscence is the flip side of the coin. (To view Opus One, see the June 6, 2010 entry). Without any doubt, this qualifies as my worst rock concert experience, hands down. I've yet to receive the apology I still think The Rolling Stones and their management owe me.

It was, I believe, the year 1969, and The Rolling Stones were appearing on a Saturday night at the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles. The L.A. Kings hockey game, originally scheduled for that same evening, was moved back earlier to a 1 p.m. start. In theory, that would give the staff a couple of hours to make the change from a hockey rink configuration to that of a stage show.

Tickets for the concert sold so quickly that the promoters couldn't avoid succumbing to the demand for more. (I'm sure the profit incentive had nothing to do with it. Riiight). So, less than a week before the event, a second Stones concert was added. The building was therefore going to be used for three separate events within a 12-hour period; hockey at 1 p.m., first Stones concert at 7 and the newly added Stones concert at 11.

I managed to get ahold of a couple of tickets for the 11 p.m. show, and scored a date with a young lady I knew from the college I attended. Although I was in the early stages of getting to know her, she was someone I liked quite a lot. We arrived in Inglewood around 10 p.m., an hour before the second show was due to get underway.

Parking was a nightmare. I wound up paying a local homeowner $10.00 to leave my car in his driveway. (This was an outrageous sum to pay for parking in those days. I believe the tickets to the concert were under $8.00 each for seats halfway up). For the record, the temporary car-park was better than a mile away from the venue, so we had to hoof it from there. My dainty young date was less than pleased. She was wearing shoes not meant for a lot of walking, and groused about it all the way. It made me feel kinda lousy.

When we finally arrived at the venue, there were thousands upon thousands of people milling around in front of the building and in the adjacent parking lot. As it turned out, the first Stones concert didn't actually get underway until 10:30 ... half-an-hour before the later one was scheduled to begin! All of the opening acts were name performers. (I recall them as being James Taylor, Electric Light Orchestra and The Ike and Tina Turner Revue). I later heard that they weren't too agreeable about cutting their performances short.

The unforeseen late start meant that everybody that had arrived for the 11 p.m. show had nowhere to go. What with thousands of people forced to wait outside for hours feeling more and more antsy and irritable, drinking, toking and partaking in other consumables quickly became the preferred method of time management. Here and there, the odd fight started. Inglewood police and the Forum security boys tried to calm things down, but only succeeded in making matters worse. Several of the more violent and obstinate individuals were arrested. For a time, it appeared a riot was in the offing.

At 2 a.m., the doors finally opened and the first show crowd came out. Certain still-impatient and irritated members of the by-now stumbling drunk/stoned second-show-mob began jeering and throwing objects at them. A few more fights broke out.

My date and I finally got seated and chit-chatted until 4 a.m., when the show began. And at that very moment, she casually informed me that she hoped it wouldn't run too long, for she didn't want to be late getting to the airport. This came as an unexpected news flash to me. Until then, she had said nothing. Now, I found out she had a ticket to catch an early morning flight to Phoenix. Assuming the show ended around 7 a.m., she'd have to rush like hell to make her 8 a.m. flight. What with my car being more than a mile away, I felt even worse as I empathized with her plight.

When I inquired, she casually mentioned that she was heading to Arizona to visit HER BOYFRIEND, who apparently had a temporary job there. Now, THERE was a bit of information I really wanted to hear.

For me, that was the last straw. In a tone that probably displayed more hurt and anger than I intended, I told her that if the show wasn't over in time, I'd give her the money and she could call a cab. It may not have been terribly gallant of me, but by then I was angry and didn't give a damn.

She sulked and refused to say anything more to me for the rest of that night/morning. Boo hoo.

The crowning moment came when the guy sitting next to me doubled over and impolitely vomited on the floor, with a portion of his dinner splashing onto my shoes. Thinking back, that was probably the highlight of the night.

I'm not sure, but I suspect the above explains why I occasionally wake up in a cold sweat with a strong desire to scream long and loud while frantically flailing and wiping away at my feet.

Oh, wait ... one last thing. My erstwhile date had indeed departed to go to the airport early on in the Stones' set. As I had promised, I stayed and went back to my car when the show was over, a little after 7 a.m. When I arrived at the house where my car was parked, I saw something that almost made me cry. There were some three or four cars also parked there, locking me in until their owners arrived. Had to wait for almost an hour before I could get the hell out.

It was at that time when I began to feel my concert-going days were nearing the end. Funny, I've yet to repeat anything close to this when attending a symphony concert every now and again...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Memories of Rock Music ... Opus One

Hello again to all wandering eyeballs. Delighted you decided to drop by (or ended up here through a grievous computer error)...

Not long ago, I was over at a favorite hangout, AKA the Wrestling Classics Message Board
While scanning the topics, I chanced upon an active discussion taking place: who do you think is the greatest live performer in music history? That broad expanse was immediately narrowed down to the best onstage musician (or band) over the past 40 years. (After all, despite the claim of "having seen and heard him myself!" from one mischief-maker, how can we really know that Mozart wasn't the hands-down winner?)

Bruce Springsteen, James Brown, Michael Jackson and Queen were among the names most frequently mentioned. And since it was the middle-of-the-night and I was done working on another project, I decided to jump in and offer my $.02. So, for better or worse, the following is the response I posted. I'd like to think it brings back fond memories for some and gives a moderately sharp image for those too young to have "been there."

I appreciate your e-mail messages, so don't feel too shy to send along your thoughts about this column.

Thanks for taking the time to read!

= Richard =

I saw Jimi Hendrix perform on five different occasions (maybe six). Arguments can be made that he could be sloppy as hell if he didn't especially feel creative during any given performance. But when he was on and improvising with inspiration...

The single most amazing Hendrix show that I attended took place around 1968 at Bill Graham's Filmore in San Francisco. The energy throughout the place, even before Jimi took the stage, was unlike any I'd known before. Basically, it was an overexcited, upbeat, happy and stoned crowd. Somehow, it felt more "pure" than other concerts I'd attended.

Halfway through his set and between songs, Hendrix took ahold of the mic stand and said something like, "Hope you don't mind if a friend of mine comes out to join us."

The great guitarist Jeff Beck (don't know if he remains so nowadays) came out stage left, waving once or twice at the stunned but ecstatic audience; and along with the band, launched into Jimi's "Stone Free." Watching, we saw how the musicians were actually feeding off the crowd's passions and giving it right back. Before long, the two guitar legends began exchanging licks back and forth, both frequently smiling and sometimes laughing as they each made an effort to top the other while staying true to the song itself.

And don't kid yourself ... while a lot of them were loud and joyfully delirious, certain passages were somewhat muted and not at all frenetic. What this meant was that our anticipation of what was just over the horizon built back up. (Wrestling Psychology 101). Hendrix and Beck threw the lead to one another more and more frequently, each playing his part one notch louder than what had preceded him. (This goes to 11!)

And finally, when the drums and bass slammed their way back in simultaneously with the guitars hitting a chord that was both ringing and pure, the crowd couldn't help but explode. The music became utterly deafening as it continued soaring higher and higher, proving that drugs alone still couldn't take you to THIS place. Even though "Stone Free" continued on a little while longer, we'd reached the apex.

Possibly as much due to a circulating shared substance, at that moment I felt lightheaded as a flash of colors went off in my head. Never again have I felt that same thing. It was nothing but a real live genuine Jimi Hendrix Experience.

As I said, I've no idea how long that version of the song lasted, but it didn't matter. We bystanders were overwhelmed with what we were witnessing.

Should Alzheimer's come along one day to claim my brain, I'm betting I'll still remember that concert...