It’s the the early morning hours of April 6, 1974. Although it is still dark outside, the anticipation of morning hangs in the air like an unsung promise. The stillness outside my bedroom window, and the desire to leave the house without my parents waking up, cause my friend and I to dress without talking. Our hands tremble with excitement as we button up our well worn Levis 501 jeans. We want to chatter incessantly but we hold back. It is something of a miracle that we have permission to attend the concert, the festival of festivals, the California Jam. At 16 (my friend was still 15) my parents did not want me driving the near 100 miles from the Conejo Valley to the Ontario Motor Speedway. With the hope that I wouldn’t find a ride, they said I could go, I just could not drive. What they did not bargain for was the rapidity with which my friend and I were able to find two male classmates who were more than willing to give us a lift.
Within a minute of hitting the freeway, one of our two stony boys lit up a doobie. Yeah mom and dad. This is so much safer. But good call.
We thought we would get there when the gates opened, however, being young and naïve, we had not anticipated the effect of such a crowd descending. The freeway as we neared the event became a gridlock. Young people on both shoulders of the freeway were parking their cars. A stream of pedestrians flowed through the lanes of cars towards a common destination, like pilgrims headed towards the Mecca of all that is holy in the halls of rock and roll.
My friend and I thought this was the coolest thing. EVER.
Park the car. Let’s walk. We were ready to join our brethren.
Despite his long blond hair, despite all the buds he had inhaled on the long drive, our driver was destined to be a practical man.
No way. They’ll tow my car.
There are hundreds of cars parked on the freeway. They can’t tow them all.
I’m not parking on the freeway.
Our practical young man patiently took the extra hour to inch through the gridlock, exit the freeway, and drive AWAY from the concert to find parking.
After walking what must have been two to three miles, we finally hit the destination. The gates had been open for awhile and thousands were already inside.
Although the bands were not scheduled onstage for another couple of hours, music was being pumped through the speaker system. Clear, loud, reverberating through my body and syncing my organic rhythm with that of everyone and everything else. As we walked through the gates and onto the grounds The Who was being blasted.
Don’t raise your eyes.
It’s Only Teenage Wasteland
Sally, take my hand
Travel south crossland
Put out the fire
And don't look past my shoulder
The exodus is here
The happy ones are near
Let's get together
Before we get much older
It's only teenage wasteland
oh yeahTeenage wasteland
They're all wasted
The four of us just stood there taking it all in while the song played. It was perfect.
The two boys who brought us there wanted to set up camp at the back of the crowd. Practical boy “didn’t want to fight the crowds.” He wanted to “chill” where he was. He also had the buds, which I think he thought was enough of a draw to get us to hang in one place all day.
We would have none of it. We wanted to be in the center of this living, breathing, blood pumping organism of a rock crowd.
We were on the move the whole time, two teenage girls with long golden hair parted down the middle. Jeans and tanks. The day blazed with heat and passed out bodies were lifted and passed overhead to the medics. But we slipped through the crowds and saw every band from a different, usually better vantage point.
The line-up was Rare Wind; Earth, Wind, and Fire; The Eagles; Seals and Croft; Black Oak Arkansas; Black Sabbath; Deep Purple; and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Interesting now, don’t you think.
BLACK OAK ARKANSAS: JIM DANDY
If you only watch one video, this is must see.
BLACK SABBATH: CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE
Ozzy looks so young. We were fairly, relatively, close to the stage for this one.
DEEP PURPLE: YOU FOOL NO ONE
Of the three headliners, at that time, this was the band I was most excited to see in concert.
EMERSON, LAKE, AND PALMER: KEITH EMERSON'S FLYING PIANO
I'd like to say I saw this, but my friend and I were working our way back to find our ride.
I now think it was a miracle of miracles that we found our ride boys after the concert. But they were just where we had left them, ten or twelve hours before.
As we pulled onto the freeway, hundreds of others were discovering that their cars had, indeed, been towed.
Despite the plethora of music that we heard played live that day, it is the song Teenage Wasteland that reminds me of the event. Whenever I hear it, I transcend to my 16 year old self, looking across the expanse of the Ontario Motor Speedway and thinking, Perfect. This song must have been written just for this moment.
And even though The Who wasn't at The California Jam, I'm thowing this into the mix, well, just because I can. Close your eyes. Imagine early morning Southerm California. An entire racetrack milling with teens and young adults. The pungent aroma of buds wafting through the air along with the last of the early morning dew. Your heart and every cell of your body beating along with the rhythm of it all.
For more Song Spins, head on over to Sprite's Keeper.
Wow that was great! I felt like I was walking around with you! I wish it was Summer!!!
OMG, could you imagine being handed a gallon jug these days, passing it back and expecting water to come back to you? That's awesome. What a great time you had!
I didn't get to go to this concert because I lived in Seattle but I remember it. I also remember those 70s concerts. So much different than today. Great post.
That was such a cool post, Pseudo. I let my kid go to a local show last night. Even though I had tons of reservations and concerns, I said yes, because I know the music is important enough to him to not be a dumbass. But I'm glad shows aren't like this any longer - I would hate to worry about him in that context. lol (I know, I will soon enough).
The saddest part is that this could NEVER happen today - too many egos, too many managers wanting their share, too many advertisers wanting to sponsor this or sponsor that, but not if another brand is there, etc.
Musical Red Tape - grrr.
I'm afraid I miss the attraction to most of the line up. I was a child of the '80s after all. But the Eagles - oh the Eagles! To see them live would be so wonderful.
I wonder if every generation feels regret of the loss of a way of life?
Despite that, I am so saddened to the degree that marketing and advertising have permeated every nook and crany of our lives these days. EM brings up a point on that front.
What a blast! Such memories and you tell it so well. Makes me want to go to an outdoor concert!
WHAT A GREAT line up for a concert!!! LUCKY!
Good thing he listened and didnt park on the freeway!
That was cool!
Was/is Keith Emerson the weirdest dude in all of rock? I saw ELP about 10 years ago and he did this whole weird thing with his electric piano at the end of the song, "Great Gates of Kiev". Very strange indeed.
Cool video of Black Sabbath!
PS my word verification is: "mentall". That's for Keith and Ozzy!
i felt like i was right there with you. i love how songs are sometimes catalysts that whisk us back to defining points. what a great memory for you it sounds like an awesome lineup. i was only 7 then : )
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer were pretty out there, especially Keith Emerson. Waht got me when I looked these videos up is how young they all look. I guess I looked young the to compared to now.
WV= Mooddat What weird mood was dat back in the '70s?
Ontario Motor Speedway! What a great memory - and so much picture of the times.
I almost couldn't read this because it makes me so nervous thinking about my own kids at something like this! But you turned out just fine.
Good times, good times. I would enjoy hearing all those bands again today. The Who was my first arena concert and one I'll always remember.
Super cool man! Taking me wayyyy back.
Far out man!
Reminded me a little of that movie, Detroit Rock City.
How lucky were you to have seen all those awesome bands live??? I can just picture the long blond hair parted down the middle too. I like this!
That was great! Thanks for taking us back with you. You are such a great writer, I felt like I was right there with you.
What a great time the '70s were, huh? I went to several outdoor concerts like that, as well. Texas was a pretty progressive state way back then. Home of Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaugh, Willie Nelson and Carlos Santana, after all! BTW, don't forget Sx3 today...we could use your singular sense of style!
Great post, PHST. I loved the hair and...mini skirt from Jim Dandy. Oh my. And how do I get a hold of some white pants, knee high boots and star belt buckle?
Captain - I was so wondering when someone would comment on the attire of Ruby Starr and/or the lead singer. Priceless.
I love this post! So well written and the videos are perfect for the mood. Thank you for the trip! And I didn't even have to pack for it!
Thanks for stopping by on my SITS day last week...I feel so loved and overwhelmed with all the comments! Sorry it's taken me so long to respond back!
What a great post!
Haha, leave it to the STONER to be the practical one! [shakes head]
Love the scene you set here, and (unrelated) love the new palm tree pic for your avatar!
Serious. Serious. Serious concert ENVY.
I love a good performance!!!
Awesome post! I loved the passing out the jugs--fill em up and share em with your friends! That would never, ever happen today! Such a simpler time is so many weird ways.
And the outfits and hair! fantastic.
btw, I tagged you (blame movie!)
I love it and I felt like I was there too! What a great lineup, I'm so glad you got to go. I had strict parents so the part about you staying calm/quiet since you weren't sure how you were actually getting to go reminded me of my parents.
We're going to see The Eagles this week, I'm stoked.
OMG...you saw the Eagles live?! If i had to pick one group that was my favourite from back them it would be them. Deeply envious right now. California was definitely a hotbed of great concerts...one of my clients told me that he went to see the Doors with his older sister whne he was about 12 or 13..
Fabulous post! Thanks for sharing...
The Eagles were just up and coming then. Middle of the pack at the concert. How's that? ANd Ozzy? He was so young.
I did like you said and watched Black Oak Arkansas. Oh. My. God. That hair! Those outfits! Weren't the 70s grand?
I know! The shirt for a dress made her look like she just got out of bed after sex and put on the guy's shirt. Maybe she did ; -)
What an amazing day for you! The closest I ever came to a concert like that was when I took my daughter and her friend to the Lilith Fair in Hershey, PA on July 31, 1999 for Gina's 16th birthday present. We saw Dixie Chicks (that's who I wanted to see!), Cheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan,The Pretenders, and Me'shell Ndegeocello. There were a few lesser known bands playing too that Gina had heard of but not me, since I was 44 instead of 16.
It was near 100 degrees that day and very little shade. The girls had a great time and I've never seen so many lesbians in one place before! LOL!
That was a great rock concert (have it on dvd). Hope you did enjoy it.
I hope you're writing a book, woman....
That was fantatic. Scoot over, Braja. I want to hear more.
I did not know it was on DVD, but I was delighted to find the YouTube videos. After 34 years, the memories were a bit dusty, but these videos brought the memmories back to life full force.
Braja- I consider that quite the compliment, so thank-you. I am working on a book,but with not near the speed you have in getting things done.
Awesome memory. Thanks for letting us walk down your lane.
So cool! I'll hold a lighter for you at the Eagles concert I'm going to in a couple of days.
You are great with your descriptives. I could visualize the entire scene. And I loved the refill the water jug and share with your friends. Classic!
Just mentioning those bands and that music brings back so many memories for me. Really well done.
Your writing has me speechless in admiration. Wonderfully evocative.
Pseudo, I do believe your a woman after my own heart...
Impressive spin! Well crafted!
Clearly you didn't smoke at all that day or how would you have remembered all of this so clearly!
Amazing post! A great story that comes with it's own great soundtrack. Loved, "Yeah mom and dad. This is so much safer. But good call" and "As we pulled onto the freeway, hundreds of others were discovering that their cars had, indeed, been towed." Too funny! :)
It makes me want to be a west coaster....although, I suppose, a west coaster of the 70's rather than today.
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