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Tonight, March 17, was the 40th anniversary of my FIRST rock concert: Black Sabbath Yes Wild Turkey March 17, 1972 @ Swing Auditorium, San Bernadino, California. This was the concert that lit the fuse, that began my expanding thirst for live rock n roll. There are primarily two modes of experiencing music: 1. Via a recording through a stereo or some music playing device; and 2. A live performance, either given by yourself or some other musicians. Each method has its benefits. A recording is usually the benefit of optimum acoustic conditions and pristine clarity of sound. Mistakes can be fixed in the studio through mixing or recording another take. In concert, the sound is subject to the whims of the equipment and the acoustical limitations of the venue. The sound is generally louder and rawer than what you hear on a recording, even a recording of a live show. But what you may lose in sonic perfection, you gain in the knowledge that the musicians are making music right before you at that very moment in time. A concert, by its very nature, is more spontaneous and visceral than a recording...even with bands that don't deviate much from their studio records in concert. There are some who prefer listening to music via recordings than in concert. Others prefer the live concert experience to records. Some like both equally. Up until 40 years ago tonight, I hadn't had a chance to form an opinion one way or another. I've ruminated a couple times before how my early passion for music, and rock n roll in particular, was inculcated, largely through my father. There was no question I loved music, was even a sort of music geek. And after seeing the films "Woodstock" and "Monterey Pop", and hearing albums such as "Get Your Ya Yas Out" and "Live at Leeds", I started to get the yearning to see a concert...especially Led Zeppelin, who by 1971 had become my favourite band. My parents decided that I was too young to subject my ears to a rock concert, decreeing I would have to wait until I was 10 years old. Which wouldn't happen until 1972. All thru 1970 and 1971, bands came to Southern California to play concerts, including Led Zeppelin, and I would have to sit in my room and suffer not being able to go, and wishing 1972 would hurry up and get here. Fortune, in a way, smiled on me though, for my dad divorced my stepmother soon after Christmas 1971. At this time in 1972, we were living in Tustin, California, which is in Orange County. My father had me for the weekend of March 17-19, Friday thru Sunday night. He picked me up after school that Friday and said he had a surprise for me. Now, one quirk about my dad's music tastes is that he loved those early prog bands: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, King Crimson. He didn't like the 50s rock n roll he heard growing up, preferring jazz and classical. He didn't even like the Beatles until "Sgt. Pepper's". Rolling Stones, Dylan, Cream, Hendrix, the Band, CCR, Joni Mitchell, The Who...those are the bands I grew up hearing. But he didn't like Led Zeppelin. No matter how I tried...he just couldn't get past his dislike of Robert's singing style. And this is a guy who liked Alice Cooper!?! Anyway, back to the prog. By 1972, thanks to my dad, I had learned to like some prog myself. I didn't much care for ELP's "Tarkus" but I did like the first album and parts of "Pictures at an Exhibition". An embarrassing moment of my life happened in junior high. Our home room teacher would allow us to listen to music on Fridays and when it was my turn to bring a record of my choosing to class, I brought the first "Emerson, Lake & Palmer" album. We didn't make it to the second side as everyone seemed to hate it and complained until it was replaced by Elton John's "Don't Shoot the Piano Player". I never lived that day down...I was a weirdo in the eyes of my classmates after that. But enough of ELP...the two prog albums I probably listened to most in 71-72 were King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King" and Yes " Fragile". So when my dad picked me up from school on St. Patrick's Day in 1972 and told me the surprise he had for me was that he was taking me to see my first concert, I almost cried on the spot. In fact, I probably got so emotional that it took a while before it registered with me what bands we were going to see...Black Sabbath and Yes. Two bands I liked...not as much as Zeppelin or the Stones, but certainly more than Deep Purple and Grand Funk Railroad. Then on Sunday afternoon, we were going to the King Crimson show at the Santa Monica Civic. The catch was that I wasn't to tell my stepmom about going to the shows, as since I wasn't officially 10 yet, he wasn't sure she would approve of me going. I assured him I could keep a secret. The Black Sabbath/Yes tour had already played the LA Forum a couple days prior to the March 17 date...but it being a school night and being that the Forum was farther away from Orange County than San Berdu, the Swing Auditorium show was just more convenient, even if it lacked the glamour and cachet of a Forum gig. The Swing Auditorium was a fading, ugly barn of a building with wooden benches around the floor area and a weird tinsel ceiling. It was on the same locale as the National Orange Show Center and, while not as large as the Forum or even Long Beach Arena, it held about 8,000 or so...maybe up to 10,000. The Swing was razed in 1981 after a plane crashed into it. The sound wasn't great, but it was better than some other venues I experienced that year...it was probably most similar to the Hollywood Palladium's sound, perhaps slightly better. My dad provided me with earplugs to wear and I put them in as we finally made it into the Swing. It definitely was a trip being amongst a crowd that size for the first time...10,000 isn't as large as a Forum crowd but it's still a lot of people in an enclosed space. All breathing on you it sometimes seemed. Oh, and let's just say Black Sabbath drew some interesting fans, particularly in the Inland Empire, which is far different than LA or Hollywood. Since there were tickets still being advertised in the paper in the days leading up to the show, I don't think the concert was sold out. But it was still a good-sized crowd. In fact, it was probably good for box office when they added Yes to the bill...as popular as Yes had become, there was probably a sizeable segment who came just for Yes. The first band was Wild Turkey and I had no clue who they were...only finding out later that it was an offshoot of sorts from Jethro Tull. The original bass player from Tull, Glenn Cornick(the dude who always seemed to wear a headband) left in 1971 to form Wild Turkey. Cannot say I remember much about the band one way or another. Never got one of their albums and their music didn't strike me as being out of the ordinary. I suppose they were a passable hard rock band with a tinge of Tull about them. I bet if I dig thru my archives I'll discover they were the opening act for several concerts I saw in the 70s. Here's an interesting interview with Glenn Cornick about Jethro Tull and Wild Turkey: http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2011/12/glenn-cornick-interview-about-jethro.html?m=1 There was probably the usual impatience of the crowd wanting to see Yes or Black Sabbath, but I don't remember anything too violent. I know me and my dad were anxious for them to finish so Yes could take the stage. Yes was definitely the band he came for...he was only tolerating Black Sabbath for my sake. At this time in 1972, Yes was exploding..."Fragile" had been out for a few months and the FM rock stations were playing "Roundabout" constantly, along with the earlier "Your Move/I've Seen All Good People". But the song I really loved most from "Fragile" was "Heart of the Sunrise". I could have done without some of the things like "Cans and Brahms", but "Heart of the Sunrise" was great enough for me to overlook the flaws of the album. Plus, there was "Mood for a Day". Now, to me, the classic Yes line-up will always be the Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford era. The group that recorded "Fragile" and "Close to the Edge". So I consider myself lucky that I got to see the last tour with this line-up. Bill Bruford would soon leave Yes for King Crimson. Since Yes was second on the bill, they couldn't do their whole show, but at least I got to hear them do "Heart of the Sunrise"(all hail the mighty mellotron!) and "I've Seen All Good People". Not to mention their famous "Firebird Suite" intro music, which pleased me and my dad immensely, both of us being Stravinsky fans. Yes didn't move around much or put on a "show" per se, but then, as this was my first concert I didn't have much to compare them to, haha. As far as I knew, all bands played like that. But what Yes lacked in showmanship they more than made up for with musicianship. Even with the less than pristine acoustics, you could sense the band's musical prowess. The whole enormity of being at my first rock concert was such that the entire night was a blur rushing by...so much that I don't remember anything that was said or much in the way of song details for the most part. Just that it was louder than anything I had heard or felt in my life...even with the earplugs...but that it also gave me this warm glowing feeling inside. Watching a band play and hearing the music they were playing immediately come forth from the speakers in a massive tidal wave of sound was thrilling beyond words. And it was about to get LOUDER! For after Yes and a bit of a wait while they changed the stage setup, it was time for the headliners, Black Sabbath to take the stage. Touring behind "Masters of Reality", my favourite Black Sabbath album, this was a lean and mean Black Sabbath. My dad wasn't liking it so much, but I was in headbanging heaven. Obviously not as diverse or as much finesse as Yes, the music of Black Sabbath was all brute force and power riffs and crushing volume. Bones and things rattled in your body as you felt the bass vibrations. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lq1tmbnAkn4&feature=youtube_gdata_player Again, I couldn't tell you much about the setlist other than there were a few from "Masters...". Oh, and with the exception of Ozzy(who came off as odd more than scary, despite what the Bible-thumpers said), the band barely moved around...just like Yes. It seemed odd as well watching Tony Iommi playing guitar left-handed. You are so used to seeing a guitar pointed a certain way that it kind of jars your senses when coming across a lefty. What really jarred the senses though, was the way a guitar sounds live in concert coming through the amplifiers and PA stacks. The hum and buzz and the harmonic overtones...it really knocked me for a loop. I might have let out a few cheers and claps, but I think for most of the set...hell, for most of the night I was just silently taking the whole experience in and not let it overwhelm me. Even with snacks and a bathroom break, my stamina was fading about the time of the drum solo. I barely made it to the end of the concert. But make it I, and my dad, did. My first rock concert was under my belt. My ears were ringing, my head was pounding, my body felt like it had been punched by every one of Bill Ward's hit of the drum. Yet I felt so alive, so giddy. If this is what a concert did to you, I wanted more. Of course, more was about to come...as a couple days later we were going to the King Crimson concert. Anyway, that was my first concert. Now it is your turn...what was your first concert?