MORGAN’S MEDIA BLACKOUT #678.380!
I was recently waxing wroth with an
old colleague of mine about how inane “Top Ten” lists are—whereupon I naturally got to thinking about making
a “Top Ten” list of my own; namely, a chronological accounting of the ten greatest shows I’ve even witnessed.
Of course, objectivity
isn’t what it used to be, so you’ll have to excuse me if my selections seem somewhat biased. I’ve seen who
knows how many hundreds upon hundreds of concerts during my lifetime, but these are the ones that seem to have stuck in my
cranial craw more than any others.
And if it seems that I haven’t seen anything of note since the late ’70s, well, that’s
because rock ’n’ roll isn’t what it used to be, either. Actually, truth be told, it’s been downhill
all the way after I attended my first rock concert. That’s what happens when you start at the top; there’s nowhere
else to go but down.
The Beatles – Maple Leaf Gardens (1964) :: To quote their bass
player, who also happens to be their biggest fan: “It’s the bloody Beatles. Shut up!”
– O’Keefe Centre (1968) :: At the absolute peak of his stand up career, and with I Spy still
riding high in the television ratings, Cos toured to support his new album To Russell My Brother, With Whom I Slept.
Which he proceeded to perform in its entirety, along with a selection of pre-recorded favorites. I’d had the new album
at home for a week prior to the show, but I kept it factory sealed for my protection to ensure that the first time I’d
hear it would be live. Needless to say, it was worth the wait.
Bob Hope – O’Keefe Centre
(1968) :: Not just merely Bob Hope, mind you, but The Bob Hope Show wherein Old Ski Nose cracked wise not only during
a topical opening monologue but while introducing a number of ancillary acts, none of whose names I can remember. Then again,
I can’t remember who was on the same bill as The Beatles, either.
Johnny Cash – Maple Leaf
Gardens (1969) :: Not just merely Johnny Cash, mind you, but The Johnny Cash Show, which means The Man In Black
plus June Carter plus Carl Perkins plus the Tennessee Three plus the Statler Brothers.
Now who wouldn’t remember a lineup like that? If you want to know what it was like, watch Johnny Cash At San Quentin,
which was filmed nine months earlier the same year, the only difference being that, thanks to an absence of armed guards,
the Gardens crowd was rowdier.
Jefferson Airplane – O’Keefe Centre (1970) :: This performance
during the Volunteers tour was made memorable for a number of reasons, not the least of which was due to the fact
that Grace Slick’s dress kept coming undone, which caused her to make several impassioned pleas as to whether anyone
in the audience had a safety pin. Luckily, no one did.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Maple
Leaf Gardens (1970) :: I actually timed this one on my watch and, from start to finish, it lasted a seriously svelte
40 minutes long, during which CCR performed pretty much every single song in their catalog that you’d want to hear,
including two extended throwdowns on “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Susie Q,” each of which
must have hit close to the extravagantly long five minute mark. When all your songs clock in at two and a half minutes apiece
or less, you can afford to stretch your legs like that and still get off stage in record time.
Grand Funk Railroad
– Maple Leaf Gardens (1970) :: If you have to ask, you’ll never understand.
– O’Keefe Centre (1971) :: Wherein I managed to catch up with The Master Of Space And Time fresh from
the Mad Dogs tour but just on the cusp of his arena packing potential. Everybody in the band gets to share in the holy rolling
spotlight save for bassist Carl Radle who, in a move that made Bill Wyman look like an extrovert by comparison, insisted on
standing at the back of the stage right behind the raised lid of Leon’s grand piano.
– Maple Leaf Gardens (1972) :: It’s the bloody Rolling Stones. It’s the Exile On Main St
tour. Shut up!
Bob Dylan & The Band – Maple Leaf Gardens (1974) :: After his
motorcycle accident, many of us thought we’d never get to see him; now we can’t get rid of him. Resplendent in
a grey suit with matching long scarf, Bob’s biggest audience ovation of the night came when he yelled: “But even
the President of the United Sates must have to stand naked!” Then again, Richard Nixon mailed me an autographed photo
so if you’re wondering if I was one of those cheering, it wasn’t me, babe.
– Maple Leaf Gardens (1975) :: So the guy on stage runs into a movie screen, becomes part of the
movie, and then runs out of the movie screen and back onto the stage again? That’s good enough
Lou Reed – Massey Hall (1975) :: A year earlier he showed up in dyed blond hair and
black nail polish on the pandering Sally Can’t Dance tour. A year later he was back to the basics on the no
nonsense Coney Island Baby tour. When the audience, who is looking for the cartoon character they’d seen the
year before, gets what they didn’t want, things slowly edge to an explosive confrontation.
– Maple Leaf Gardens (1976) :: Whadda joker this guy is. First he plays a loop of Kraftwerk’s
Radio-Aktivität album for an hour over the PA system while the plebes are taking their
seats. Then, for the opening act, he dims the lights and screens Salvador Dali’s silent 1929 surrealist film Un
Chien Andalou to an unsuspecting audience of twenty thousand, almost all of whom are blissfully unaware of the eyeball-slitting
scene they’re about to behold. Knowing what’s coming, I close my eyes and patiently wait for the audience’s
audible reaction—which was a beaut. Everything after that was a bonus.
Bob Marley & The
Wailers – Convocation Hall (1976) :: Hey, it’s Bob on the Rastaman Vibration tour so,
as you can very well imagine, the show is pretty much everything that you’d want it to be—and if you don’t
believe me, you can listen to the show online and hear the aural evidence for yourself. That said, the real entertainment
came when the dreadlocked matinee crowd refused to leave and the dreadlocked audience for the evening show—which, in
classic payola promoter fashion had been seriously oversold—arrives.
The Who – Maple Leaf Gardens
(1976) :: It’s the bloody Who. It’s their last-ever performance in front of a paying audience with Keith Moon.
Pete smashes his guitar. Shut up!
Perry Como – O’Keefe Centre (1977) :: If you
have to ask, you’ll never understand.
James Brown – The Music Hall (1980) :: Strangely
believe it, back in 1980, nobody knew who JB was anymore. This was before his “Living In America” comeback when
his most recent albums were non-sellers like The Original Disco Man. So when he came to town to play a midnight show
in a derelict part of town in a rundown former movie theatre, photographer Tom Robe and myself had to go. By the
time Mr. Brown hit the stage, it was well past one in the morning. Even so, it wasn’t until a few songs into the set
that my friend and I realized we were literally the only two white guys in a standing room only crowd of hundreds. Every so
often, a black brother in his Superfly threads would turn around, give these two long haired whities in their denim jackets
the once over, silently nod his approval, and turn back to watch the show. I never felt safer in my life.
Be seeing you!