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Great Rock Concerts of the 60's
I attended my first concert in 1964 at the age of sixteen. It was in Seattle but for the life of me I don’t remember who I saw play. There have been so many over the years, especially during the 60s, and some just fade into that hidden place in my mind to be later recalled when I’m in a rest home. Someone will be feeding me strained peas and I will suddenly blurt out, “I remember in ’64 when I saw_____ play.”
Since I have seen my share of big-name groups play over the years I thought I would dazzle you with the ones that remain “special” for one reason or another. I have listed the Top Five in my lifetime that I have seen in person; only one was not a group but he gave such an incredible performance that he will forever appear on any list I make.
I have always loved music; when I was a child my family had a recording device that made vinyl LPs and I remember standing around the machine singing with my family and making records. I was raised on the big band songs and although I never liked Elvis I was still thrilled by the vitality he brought to music. Then along came The Beatles and my love for music rose to a whole new level.
I spent many an evening during the Sixties and Seventies attending concerts. Many of the legends of Rock came through the Seattle area; of course, they hadn’t reached legendary status at that time but their talents were readily apparent even at the early stage of their career.
Enough of the foreplay; let us now turn our attention to the Top Five Concerts You Should Have Attended.
Born To Be Wild
July 26, 1968 at the Eagles Auditorium in Seattle. By that time music had been turned inside out and upside down and very little could have surprised me; Steppenwolf did their best, however, to do so. Their music was so raw, so brutal, so LOUD, that I remember leaving the auditorium that night wondering if I had just witnessed something incredible or if I had been assaulted and I should report it to the police. It was not so much their stage presence because in truth few bands during the Sixties had any showmanship; bands at that time usually came out, grabbed their instruments, ran through their set and called it a night. Steppenwolf followed that format perfectly but their music….God, their music! It literally left you gasping for breath and checking your body for bruises and cuts. In the span of five years we had gone from the Chad and Jeremy with music so saccharine you wanted to upchuck to Steppenwolf with music so abrasive you longed for saccharine but knew you could never return to it again.
#4 Monterrey Pop Festival
June 16-18, 1967 Monterrey, California. My buddy and I drove down Highway 101 in his VW van to be a part of the first “nationally-promoted” outdoor rock concert. We had no idea what we were expecting but we had a sense that it would be unforgettable. After all, this was the first American performance by Jimi Hendrix, the first by The Who; the Jefferson Airplane had just scored with two huge hits and they were headlining. Joplin was there, Redding was there as well as Country Joe and the Fish and the Mamas and the Papas. These were giants in the industry in a setting so laid-back as to seem like a neighborhood barbeque. I was awestruck, dumbstruck and in hero-worship mode as I ate my hotdogs and watched these immortals walk among the 55,000 in attendance, talking music, laughing, playing impromptu sets to the gatherings whenever they were asked. It was a revelation for me and reminded me that music is supposed to be fun and shared with all. I never attended Woodstock but this was as close to that iconic rock heaven as it was humanly possible to be and if this was the second best rock festival then number one must have been a hell of a show.
#3 The Fillmore
1968 The Fillmore, San Francisco. My college roommate, who was from San Francisco, invited me down to his home for a few weeks and surprised me by telling me that he had somehow arranged for the two of us to work as stage hands at The Fillmore, that legendary venue that hosted some of the truly greats in Rock during the Sixties. While working those two weeks I watched up close and personal as The Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Country Joe and the Fish, and others played to adoring crowds. I handed a guitar to Hendrix before his set and he said, “thanks, dude!” At that age, during those times, that was about as cool as it got for this boy. For me it was like having the Fifties run head first into the brick wall called The Sixties. For a Catholic kid from a middle-income family in Tacoma, Washington, to rub shoulders with those performers, in that smoke-filled auditorium, drugs everywhere….well….I don’t think I need to describe it any further. Anyone who has an appreciation of music and culture and change will understand what I was feeling at that time. It was a complete psychic alteration for me and all that had seemed important to me prior to those two weeks paled in comparison by the time I returned to Tacoma. Above all I came away realizing that musicians of that stature are still just people; incredibly talented people but still, in the end, just members of the human race.
#2 Garth Brooks
I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. No, this was not during the 60's, but it was one of the great concerts I have ever seen, and hey, this is my article, so I can include it if I want. :)
July 17, 1998 Seattle, Washington. I know, you are all wondering right now what in the hell is wrong with this picture? I parade out the legends of Rock N Roll and then throw a ringer at you, someone so removed from the others on my list as to seem ridiculous. However, let me tell you straight out and with no feeling of shame at all, that hands down Brooks gave the greatest performance I have ever seen. For two-and-a-half hours he was poetry in motion, running around the stage, flying above the crowd, falling to the ground, all the while singing with a voice seemingly unaffected by the physical exertion. He talked, he laughed, he cried and God did he ever sing. There is a reason this man leads the pack in all-time record sales; when he is performing he is one with the crowd. He appears to be the guy next door, the neighborhood class-clown who in a five minute span could help an old lady cross the street and then fire off a cherry bomb at the neighbor’s cat. Few performers have the ability to make it appear that they are singing a song solely for your pleasure, that they know what you want to hear and each song is dedicated to you alone. This was an artist at the top of his game giving the performance of a lifetime and I thank the gods of music I was there to see it.
#1 the Beatles
August 25, 1966 Seattle, Washington. OMG! Let me say it again: OMG! I had adored The Beatles; truth be known I think I still do. I remember the tickets cost $12 and my buddies and I camped out to get the tickets because there was no way in hell we were going to miss this concert. We left Tacoma early because we just wanted to soak it all up for as long as we could. We arrived at the Seattle Coliseum early and sat and watched as girls cried and screamed and passed out and that was before the concert started. I remember the preliminary acts were Bobby Hebb and The Ronettes; can you even imagine what it must have been like for those two prelims to play before The Beatles? Talk about feeling insignificant. They could have given the greatest performance ever; hell, they could have walked on water, and nobody would have noticed or cared. We were all there for one reason only and the sooner Hebb and The Ronettes got off the stage the sooner we could see what we came to see. Finally the moment arrived and to say the scene was bedlam would be the understatement of a lifetime. You simply could not hear most of the music; the screaming was so loud that it assaulted your ears. And do you know what? Nobody cared! The Beatles only played a ten-song set that lasted a half hour and nobody felt cheated. It was the most exciting and exhilarating experience that I have ever witnessed. You should have been there!
It's Been One Hell of a Ride
So that’s it, my top five. The last concert I attended was in 2000 or 2001 when I saw one of my music idols, Dan Fogelberg, play towards the end of his career at St. Michelle Winery. He had lost his voice by then but the thrill of seeing one of the great lyricists and composers play his tunes still gave me a thrill reminiscent of the old days. That’s what music does by the way; it grabs us by the short hairs and doesn’t let go for a lifetime. Music burrows into your bloodstream and homesteads in your gray matter and will appear at times to change your heartbeat. It elicits laughs and tears and resurrects fond or crushing memories and all the while leaves you wishing for just one more song. I wish for all of you that someday you can look back and remember concerts like those I just listed