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My First Rock Concert

"Say, what was the first rock concert you went to?"  Hmmm...let me think about that for a minute or, wait!  I remember now!  It happened on a beautiful summer day on August 13, 1967.  I had just returned stateside after living in France for 3 years and a friend of mine who lived in D.C. came up with some tickets for this show.  The concert was one of those package tour deals which were so popular back in the Sixties (anybody out there miss those types of tours?  I do!)  The performers were The Blues Magoos, The Who and Herman's Hermits.

While overseas, I had become a rabid Who fan; most probably due to the musical equipment destruction that they engineered at the end of their shows, which, to a 16 year old kid like myself, was exactly what I was looking for.  I guess you could blame that on raging hormones.  I couldn't believe that I was going to see my musical heroes live in person!

The venue for my first concert was DAR Constitution Hall in Washington D.C.; a showplace that was owned and operated by the ultra-conservative group, The Daughters of the American Revolution.  As I walked into the hall, the elderly ushers seemed to take great pleasure in shaking their heads and frowning as they took tickets from all the kids coming into the show.  One immediately sensed that the joint was totally uncool.  

I'm reminded of a great story from 1967 that involved the Monkees and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.  After Hendrix wowed crowds at the Monterey Pop Festival, Mickey Dolenz asked Hendrix to be an opening act on their upcoming tour.  Chas Chandler, former bassist of THe Animals who had transitioned into a career as Jimi's manager, knew they had to strike while the iron was hot.  Hendrix had raised eyebrows at Monterey and his first album was beginning to crawl up the charts.  Chandler knew that The Monkees tour was their best shot at some high visibility press.  As the tour got underway, Hendrix was unprepared for the reaction he got from the young Monkee fans.  As Hendrix played his opening set, the teenybopper horde screamed out the names of the various Monkees.  During Jimi's set, each venue on the tour was filled with the high pitched screams of jacked up prepubescent girls:  "Davy!!"..."Mickey!!"..."Mike!!"  "Peter!!"  All of this teenage hoopdeedoo frustrated Hendrix to no end.  Finally, at a show at Forest Hills Stadium in New York, Hendrix stormed offstage after giving the audience the finger.  Chandler asked to be let out of of the remaining tour dates.  Dick Clark, the organizer of the tour, was happy to comply with Chandler's request.  The next part of the story is a good example of how the rock press worked back then.  Lillian Roxon, a renowned music critic of the times, created a phoney baloney press release that explained Hendrix's departure from The Monkees tour.  Roxon's press release stated that the Daughters of the American Revolution felt that Hendrix''s performance was "too erotic" and that the Jimi Hendrix Experience was "corrupting the morals of America's youth." The press release went on to reveal that the DAR had demanded that Hendrix be dropped from the tour.  Roxon's press release was picked up by all of the wire services and no one bothered to question it.  In a way, it preserved Hendrix's hip reputation and enhanced his "outlaw" image which stimulated album sales.

Pictured above is a snippet from Roxon's infamous press release.


As the lights went down in the hall, the first band to take the stage was The Blues Magoos.  I had bought this band's 1966 hit single, "(We Ain't Got) Notihing Yet"  and later their eclectic Electric Comic Book album.  I was curious to see what sort of show these guys would put on.  About the only thing I can remember about their set was that somewhere in the middle of one of the songs all of the lights in the hall went out and suddenly the Blues Magoos suits (pictured above) began blinking on and off like a bunch Christmas trees.  The crowd hooped and hollored as the band jumped around the stage like a bunch of fireflies.  While I enjoyed most of the Blues Magoos' set, I was sitting there waiting for the Who to take the stage.

During the brief intermission that followed the Blues Magoos, I suddenly recognized Pete Townshend and Keith Moon moving their equipment around on stage,  I was surprised that the band was setting up itheir own gear.  Townshend was rapidly swinging his Rickenbacker guitar around as it was a tennis racquet, gauging its weight and viability for destruction.  After he put the guitar down, he gave his guitar amp a couple of kicks.  Keith Moon gave the floor toms of his infamous Pictures of Lily drum set a few cursory thumps and then accidentally knocked over three cymbals.  He and Townshend had a good laugh over that.  Then they left the stage to get ready for their performance.
Moon's Pictures of Lily drum kit (pictured below) 
was designed to help promote (what else) the Who's latest single, Pictures of Lily.

Saxophonist  Danny Ray, who played in The Sheiks (a popular Long Island band that worked the same club circuit as I did in my Freelance Vandals days), remembers the first time Moonie's Pictures of Lily drum kit was ever used at a Who concert.  It took place at The Malibu Beach Club (a joint that's located right here in Long Island at Lido Beach).  You can read all about that HERE.

Once again the lights went down and the crowd came alive as The Who took the stage.  They opened with "Substitute" which was quickly followed by their latest single, "Pictures of Lily" (a pop tune about masturbation) and the Eddie Cochran classic, "Summertime Blues."  As I recall, the sound was excellent which during this era was something out of the ordinary.  Much like the Blues Magoos, The Who seemed to be working quickly.  On a package tour show like this one, the opening acts usually only got 15 to 25 minutes for a set with no encores allowed.
As a live band, The Who was everything I had hoped they'd be.  They seemed to be moving in perpetual motion; Daltrey strutted around the stage swinging his microphone cable like a cowboy lariat, Townshend executed a non-stop series of crisp windmill guitar chord moves and Moon attacked his drums like a viking pillaging a nunnery.  

Only John Entwistle courageously rooted himself to the stage.  The sound of his fluid bass runs seemed to achor the band.  Sitting there, mouth agape, I imagined that if Entwistle hadn't played this particular role in the band then the entire group would have taken flight and crashed through the ceiling of DAR Constitution Hall!  The band forged on with "Happy Jack" and a popular Entwistle ditty, "Boris The Spider".  At this point, I took notice that the majority of the crowd was not digging the band as much as I was.  Most of the teenybopper girls seemed to be patiently waiting for their heartthrob Herman to hit the stage.  This frustrated me to no end because when you love a band with all your heart then you want everybody else in the world to feel the same way as you do.  I remember muttering to myself, "These idiots know nothing!"  As The Who's set was winding down, they became even more frenetic in their onstage movements.  I think they sensed the crowd's desire to see Herman's smiling mug and so they unconsciously decided to beat the crowd into submission.

After a galloping version of "I Can't Explain", the finale of The Who's set arrived as the band crashed into their closing number, "My Generation."  
Smoke bombs suddenly began to go off and many of the Herman girls shrieked.  The elderly ushers were running up and down the aisles, trying to calm down all the anxious boo hoo babies.  I couldn't stand such ignorance so I actually jumped up out of my seat and shouted, "It's all part of the show you fools!" 
Here's some footage from the Monterey Pop Festival
that pretty much captures how the Who ended their set
on that fateful day that I saw them at DAR Constitution Hall back in 1967


Towards the end of "My Generation," The Who settled into playing a drone-like heavy riff as a large cloud of smoke drifted across the center of the hall, The stage lights were flashing on and off in rapid succession.  Suddenly, The Who's onstage movements intensified.  Daltrey began to hammer one of Moon's cymbals with his vocal microphone, producing a hissing sound of epic proportions.  Townshend tossed his guitar about 6 feet up in the air.  It landed on the stage with a heavy thud and howled with feedback.   Mmmmweeeeeeeee!  
From behind the amplifiers, more smoke bombs erupted one after another.  Biff!  Bang!  Boom!  Not to be outdone, Keith Moon kicked his entire drum set over.  He then began picking up his floor toms  and flinging them about the stage with demented glee.  Entwistle simply rolled his eyes as the carnage raged on around him.  The teenybopper Herman girls sat there with frozen expressions of "Mommy Help Me!" etched upon their ashen faces.  For me, this was heaven incarnate.  This was exactly what I had been hoping to experience; a showcase of pure rock & roll energy that would leave me breathless.  Then, as quickly as it began, The Who's set was over.  As Townshend and Moon slowly walked off of the stage, smirks on their faces, they stared into the crowd.  To me, it looked as if they were saying, "See if your lovable Herman can top that!"

The last intermission of the afternoon was a bit longer as Herman's Hermits waited for the smoke to clear.  I can imagine that following The Who was a daunting proposition.  Pictured above is the smiling visage of one Herman Noone, the lead singer of the Hermits.  Herman's Hermits was a tried and true sixties pop band who put out some great top 40  hit singles.  Looking back at this band today, they strike me as one of the cogs in the pop music scene that existed back in the day and still continues to exist.  Every generation desires a cuddly teen idol of sorts, usually one that's not too dangerous.  Riding the wave of sentiment for all things related to the British Invasion, Herman Noone had captured the highly coveted pre-teen demographic.  Shortly after his brief run on the charts and in the hearts of the pre-teen crowd, Herman would be supplanted by the likes of Davy Jones (of the Monkees), Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy and, as the years rolled on, countless others.  The modern day teen idol logarithm has changed a lot since the sixties with the popularity of such specious characters as Justin Beiber.

When Herman's Hermits took the stage, a torrent of squeeky girlie screams filled the hall.  "Aheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  It's him!  It's him!  Herman!  Oh Herman!"  It took awhile before the band could actually start playing.  Every time the screams died down, Herman would step up to the microphone to greet the crowd and the screams would erupt once again.  This happened about five times.  This nonsense had me rolling my eyes and making a sour face as I sat there wondering exactly what the members of The Who were doing backstage.  "Hey, maybe they're writing some cool new songs!"  At the time, I was blissfully unaware of some of the preferred post-gig antics of rock musicians.  Finally, Herman managed to say "Good Evening!" and the band broke into "A Must To Avoid".  This was followed by a non-stop flow of several well known uptempo songs "Silhouettes", "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat" and "No Milk Today".  There was a slight lull in the energy level while the band played the first ballad of their set, "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter".  "Listen People", another ballad, was next.  I watched as the girls sighed and slumped back in their seats.  It was almost as if someone was letting the air out of a car tire.

The crowd's mood in Constitution Hall began rising once again as the Hermits played their latest single, "This Door Swings Both Ways." While the band banged out the song, the loud hysterical cries of the girls in the audience sounded a lot like a large jumbo jet landing on a field of broken beer bottles.  I really couldn't hear the music at all so I contented myself with just watching the pre-teen monkeyshines.  Many years later, I realized that this sort of hoop-dee-doo was probably just a notch below the madness that must have taken place on the early tours by The Beatles so, in a small way, I had actually witnessed some genuine 1960's pop craziness.  
Herman's Hermits closed their set with a fast paced version of their first US hit single, "I'm Into Something Good".  The wailing and gnashing of teeth among the teenyboppers reached new heights of ecstasy as the band quickly returned for an encore of "I'm Henry the VIII, I Am".  When Herman chirped, "And every one was an 'Enery!"  The entire crowd answered, "Enery!!"  By the time that part of the song came around for  a second time, my too-cool-for-the-room attitude had evaporated and I found myself singing along with everyone else.  As the song ended iwith a series of cymbal crashes and Herman bowing to each section of the hall, the lights came up immediately.  The elderly ushers were rushing about and escorting some of the more overwrought teens to the exits.  That was my very first rock concert experience.  It was a pretty good one, if I do say so myself.  Little did I know that I would return to this very same concert venue in March of 1975 to see Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band just before the release of Springsteen's groundbreaking album, Born To Run.  Much like my very first concert, that Springsteen show also changed my life in many ways.

In order to capture visual proof that I had actually seen The Who in concert, I had decided to bring along my brand new Kodak Instamatic Camera.  Being a 16 year old rube, I didn't quite realize that I wasn't going to get any decent shots of the bands due to the fact that my seat was in the nosebleed section of the hall.  During the show, I happily snapped picture after picture.  Later, after mailing the film off to a photography shop to get the photos developed (a person had to do that back then, y'know!), I was shocked to see 30 photos of a white doily which was perched on the head of a pre-teen girl who was seated directly in front of me during the show.  "What the?!!"  Life can be that way sometimes...


This post first appeared on Rock & Roll Is A State Of Mind, please read the originial post: here

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My First Rock Concert


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