Rock Concert Memories

In 1969 we gathered in the high school auditorium so the authorities could tell us what music not to listen to. The Doors were definitely out as was the Jefferson Airplane. “You know what pills they mean when they say, ‘One pill makes you larger.’ Don’t you?” The presenter saved his ire for the MC5 because of their radical politics. Interestingly, one of its members Fred “Sonic” Smith went on to marry Patti Smith. In any case, the presenter wasted his breath. My friends and I already had these albums.

The first concert I attended was by Mason Prophet in Naperville, Illinois. I soon moved to Indianapolis, got my first car, and could finally see all the bands I’d been listening to. I saw a lot of great bands – Santana, Jethro Tull, The Who (a little later), Yes, ELP, Johnny and Edgar Winter, and (guilty pleasure) Grand Funk Railroad. For some reason they always played a recording of Traffic’s “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” before the shows. To this day, I always think of checking out the girls in the audience whenever I hear that song. Frank Zappa stopped his concert to address the audience saying, “If you can vote or can influence somebody who can vote, please have your mayor build a better auditorium so we don’t have to play in this cow barn the next time we come to your city.”

The weirdest event in Indianapolis came when King Crimson was playing “21st Century Schizoid Man.” The power cut our right in the middle of the instrumental. The musicians looked at their instruments and eventually walked off stage. It turned out that the authorities cut off the concert so we could all go home before curfew. The audience got to their feet and booed. Eventually, the power came back on and the musicians picked up where they left off.

I have another good memory of Elvis Costello playing in Columbia, Maryland. He really loves to perform and did encore after encore. Someone told me it was his birthday that night. For the last song, he came out wearing a gorilla suit and played some 1950s cover song. It was the best.

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