It was steaming hot that particular weekend in July of ’73, the time of The Summer Jam at Watkins Glen. A ticket to this one day jam, with The Allman Brothers, The Band, and The Grateful Dead, cost $10, half the price of admission charged for Woodstock, which covered three days. The Jam’s promoters and the town of Watkins Glen remembered Woodstock, especially the problems of crowd control. Some new friends and I grabbed a few rides, joined a caravan, and ultimately walked past miles of traffic jam, which stretched out forever. In terms of numbers, we were 600,000 strong and surpassed the Woodstock figures by 100,000. Many of us did not buy tickets, but it didn’t matter. We would get through the gate, somehow, despite rumors about security guards turning away those without tickets. Campers arrived earlier in the week and made things easier by knocking over the fence designed to keep out freeloaders. We simply walked along with hundreds of others, and eventually put down our blankets to claim the space.
I didn’t get to Woodstock, but a year before the Jam, I did make it to the Festival of Hope, a three day mega-concert for charity held at Roosevelt Raceway in Long Island. I was allowed to go because it was close to home. Dozens of rock, pop and soul acts were crammed into this one weekend festival. I went specifically for Jefferson Airplane. The Festival was the biggest thing that happened in Long Island during the summer of ‘72. News crews in helicopters flew over Roosevelt Raceway to document that hundreds of thousands came to party. It was a blast and I didn’t worry about a thing. A different story with Watkins Glen, though, I made the journey without telling anyone and I was a long way from home.
The first hours of the jam were sublime. Everyone soaked up great music blasting from colossal speakers. We were also soaking up the sun. It was bloody hot. My group was too far from the stage where hoses kept things cool. I drank up everything in sight until I realized that it was time to seek relief at one of the portable stations placed somewhere on the grounds. I made a mental note of my friends’ proximity to the stage, unaware that I wouldn’t be seeing them again until the next morning. I don’t remember which band played first, nor if I missed Duane Allman, who had died in a motorcycle accident in ’71. The bands played on, but I wasn’t able to camp out and enjoy the experience. When I found a spot, the person next to it claimed it for a friend. There was no space for me; no community to join. Day turned to night and the temperature dropped. I was lost. No choice but to head to the security tent for a rescue. Not quite saved, but, I did fend off the advances of a scruffy security guard. I was on my guard. At the next sunrise, I ambled around without a clue on how I was going to make my way home. Thousands of people were heading out. Against the odds, I spotted my so called friends. They had forgotten to look for me and were leaving the grounds. Lucky day for me. I caught up with them and trekked back home.
Copyright © September 30, 2007
I had my first writing experience in 10th grade, a quasi-internship at WLIR-FM, a local rock radio station in Long Island,. WLIR and WBAB were the foundations of rock radio on the island. WLIR was the cool station. They played new music from the UK and songs you would never hear anywhere else. New York City radio had the major backing, but had to bend to corporate will. There was too much interference with the playlists. The radio jocks on WLIR played whatever they wanted. They were were cool souls, very accessible. I had phone conversations with most and held my own. I started hanging around the station. Opportunity knocked, and when they were looking for a few people to write public service announcements, I stepped up Scripting PSA’s is not as glamorous as you might think. I was shown to a closet sized space with a drab metal desk, given a stopwatch, and a bunch of news releases. It was my job to write PSA’s in 15, 30, 45, and 60 second increments. Anyone passing by in the hall would have smiled at my industrious efforts. I would recite the damn scripts repeatedly until the timings matched, depending on that stopwatch like a wanderer in the desert depends on her canteen. My status was kicked to the stratosphere when one of jocks read one of my scripts. I was almost famous, untouchable to the girls who used to shove me around the school halls. I liked that, almost as much as I liked being involved in the rock world. Soon, I joined the staff of the school newspaper and never looked back.
Copyright © September 28, 2007
My story begins years back, one Sunday evening in February. Most of my mom’s side of the family are in the house. We bustle about, like 73 million other souls across the USA, waiting for the Beatles to do their thing on the Ed Sullivan show. It’s a very big deal. I was a couple of years away from the double digits, the youngest in the house, and the one who was the most excited about what was coming down the pike. Mom likes when Ed announces VIP audience members and makes them stand up and smile for the camera. Dad likes Topo Gigo, that cute little puppet mouse. I like the musical acts.
The hysteria begins seconds after Sullivan begins his intro of the Fab Four. Miraculously, the screams from those lucky girls in the tv studio audience are contained and we all hear the songs. The universe slowed down, the stars alligned, and my world was changed forever.
“Meet The Beatles” was the first album I ever bought with my own money. My mom patiently tolerated my emerging musical tastes; dad never did.. He believed his musical icons crushed my icons to dust and ridiculed most of my world during his lifetime. No gems from the girl groups, the Beatles, the Stones, the Brit invasion, the Beach Boys, the California sound, and the rest, pleased the man. A minor tragedy rectified only by gift he gave me, a strong appreciation of other types of music. His collection included lps from Dolly Parton, “Man of La Mancha”, “HMS Pinafore”, and precious 78s containing the classics. I scoffed at the time, but am forever grateful to his insistence that I listen.