Music has always been a huge part of my life. I remember listening to 45’s on a record player in my bedroom as a kid. I had to be all of three or four; it was definitely before I went to school. I’d put music on and ride my rocking horse! I remember listening to ‘Charlie Brown’ by the Coasters (“Why’s everybody always picking on me?”). From there I progressed to one of the original, “boy” bands, the Osmond Brothers. Thank God I graduated to Neil Diamond not long after that.
My mother listened to Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and Tennessee Ernie Ford, but I didn’t get into country music until I was much older. My older brother was listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. I remember him listening endlessly to ‘Iron Man’ by Black Sabbath. That song was released in 1971. I also remember him listening to rock music on an FM radio station in his room every night, and if he was in a good mood, he’d let his kid sister listen, too.
Music was a constant at our house. What’s that cheesy slogan? Cotton is the fabric of our lives? Well, music is the fabric of mine.
Although I listened to music all the time growing up, we really didn’t see any of it live. My mother didn’t care for crowds and socializing wasn’t really her thing. We didn’t do concerts in the park or music at festivals. My family preferred their music on the radio or the record player.
One day my cousin and I decided to try our first live concert. I couldn’t recall exactly how old we were, but an online search shows the concert tour we were interested in took place in 1975. I was 16 and my cousin was 15. What my (naive) parents were thinking at the time, I have no idea.
At 16, I was quiet and shy and not at all worldly. In plain words, I had no fucking clue.
As big fans of Rod Stewart, we decided to go see his tour with the Faces (his band) when he played the Rochester War Memorial (now the Blue Cross Arena). Blue Oyster Cult was the opening act.
My parents drove us downtown and turned around and went home. Innocently, we walked into the arena, excited to see our first show. We’d seen all kinds of concerts on television. They looked like a lot of fun.
We had seats right down on the floor. We were only a few rows back from the stage. We were so excited. We took our seats, and people began to settle in around us.
Everything was going great until the lights went down for the start of the show. A tremendous rumble almost like thunder began. The seats were hooked together in groups of twos or threes. Unfortunately, mine was not fastened to my cousin’s. The man on my other side leaned towards me and yelled, “Pick up your seat and run!”
Terrified, I asked what was happening. The rumbling roar was the people in the nosebleed seats rushing down towards the stage. They were going to run in and stand in front of us. Not knowing what else to do, I did as he told me. I almost lost my cousin in the rush, but she managed to stay close to me.
No longer comfortable or relaxed, we looked up in real fear and confusion as Blue Oyster Cult took the stage. They opened with their big hit, ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’. To this day, I think they’re singing ‘don’t fear the reefer’ because as soon as the music began, that thick, sickening, sweet smell filled the air.
Up to that point, I’d lived a pretty sheltered life. I was as straight-laced as they came. I’m 59 today. I fess up. I’ve never tried weed. I had the opportunity. My brother offered it to me, at his house, just the two of us there. I was too scared to try it. He smoked it all the time. I wasn’t interested. I’m still not. I’ve smoked cigarettes. I never had the desire to try pot.
My cousin and I looked at each other. The scary crowd, the loud music we didn’t like, the grass in the air… This wasn’t what we’d signed up for. We got the hell out of Dodge!
We walked back down the street to the White Tower restaurant. (This was well before cell phones). We called my parents who had just gotten home and made them come back and pick us up! So much for our first concert.
I can look back and laugh at this disaster now, but we were in tears when it happened. Of course, I’ve since been to many concerts, and I’ve seen and done things that would have shocked my 16 year old self.
Thank God we had the nerve to try again. We opted for something very close to a “boy” band the next go-round. We went to see Gilbert O’Sullivan at a smaller venue, and we had a great time. Then we waited several years and grew up a whole hell of a lot more before we tried anything riskier. We never did see Rod Stewart (or God forbid, Blue Oyster Cult!). I still fear the reefer.
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