Matt’s post about being a fan called to mind the first rock concerts I went to as a teenager. I purchased my first record—a 45—when I was in sixth grade (“Grazing in the Grass” by the Friends of Distinction) and my first album shortly thereafter (by Blood Sweat & Tears). But it wasn’t until I was in high school that I went to a concert on my own. I remember going with my family to see Judy Collins at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Fall, Ohio, about 30 miles outside Cleveland. I must have been fourteen or fifteen, and this was a pretty tame affair: lawn seating, blankets, and white wine (for the adults).
My next concert was much different, and marked my first real outing as a rock fan.
The big event was something called “The World Series of Rock”—one of several all-day concerts held in the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium in the 1970s. Torn down in 1996, the Stadium was a cavernous structure that held over 80,000 people and served as home for the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns.
For the management of the Indians and the Browns, the World Series of Rock must have been a questionable proposition, regardless of the revenue opportunities, since the concert brought thousands of people on to the field and chewed up the turf. But for concertgoers—at least for me, a sixteen year old—it was a kind of delirious mayhem.
The first World Series of Rock concerts took place in the summer of 1974, and I attended two of them. The first included the Beach Boys, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Walsh, and REO Speedwagon. The second featured Santana, the Band, Jesse Colin Young, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
The crowds that attended these concerts were huge and rowdy (drugs and alcohol had their effect), and I remember feeling exhilarated—and a little fearful—when I ventured onto the infield and was engulfed by a mob of people. It turns out my apprehensions had some merit since several people ended up getting seriously hurt when they jumped or fell from the second deck of the stadium.
There is nothing like a live concert to drive home the sensory pleasures of rock ‘n roll. It’s a full body experience, especially if you are an adolescent male. I remember hearing Lyrnyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” for the first time (in the smoking lounge of my high school) and thinking of it as some kind of revelation (just short of “Stairway to Heaven”). Seeing/hearing it performed live at the Cleveland Stadium—with dual guitar solos—did not disappoint.
The fact that I saw this concert with thousands of other people raises a question that Matt suggests in his post. Can you be a music fan by yourself? Or does being a fan necessarily mean being part of a larger collective?