Since the advent of recording and broadcast technology over the past century-plus, most Americans’ lives, particularly the years of their youth, have had a soundtrack.
Particular pieces of music instantly trigger memories of awkward introduction to romance, moments of achievement or capers from which one’s group of buddies emerged unscathed, despite the employment of questionable judgment.
My 40th high school reunion (the last class to graduate from Columbus High School, let the record show) takes place this summer.
The early 1970s were an interesting time musically. A number of developments begun in the tumultuous days of the previous decade were beginning to gel.
Veterans of the previous era were passing the torch to a new crop of tunesmiths, and much of what was offered reflected this sharing of the stage, both figuratively and literally.
I had the great fortune to witness some of this firsthand. Herewith, in reverse order, are the four best concerts I saw during the Nixon years. They all took place in Indianapolis.
- Bread at Clowes Hall, spring 1972: Known mainly for the deftly wrought soft-rock ballads their leader, David Gates, composed, this quartet of veteran L.A. studio players brought an impressive curriculum vitae to the enterprise.
Gates had produced and written hits for the likes of Glenn Yarbrough, The Monkees, Merle Haggard and Elvis Presley. Larry Knechtel was part of that pool of first-call session men known as The Wrecking Crew, and in that capacity played on countless records over the years.
That night, they delivered a tight set that stuck close to the recorded arrangements while demonstrating their capacity to rock.
- All-day festival at Bush Stadium, September 1972: The “progressive” FM station WNAP put on this eclectic lineup that included Danny O’Keefe, Foghat, Argent, It’s a Beautiful Day and rock’s first guitar deity, Chuck Berry.
A middle-period (between their blues-purist incarnation and the arena-rock version) lineup of Fleetwood Mac that included Bob Welch was supposed to headline, but had problems of a pharmaceutical nature, according to emcee Chris Connor. The old Indians venue on West 16th Street already was kind of raggedy around the edges, but that added to the funkiness of the entire proceedings.
- The Byrds at the State Fair Coliseum, February 1970: Roger McGuinn was the only original member by then. Chris Hillman and David Crosby were long gone, but the great Clarence White’s pioneering country-rock twang was pointing the way to a decade of developments.
- Michael Bloomfield at the Rivoli Theater, spring 1973: Bloomfield was my first guitar hero, and his sensibility still informs my own playing style. He was the first hotshot white blues guitarist.
Raised in an upscale Jewish suburb on Chicago’s north side, when he was bar mitzvah age his family’s maid took him to southside clubs such as Teresa’s and Pepper’s Lounge to hear the likes of Muddy Waters. His lines on such Dylan classics as “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Highway 61 Revisited” brought him to national attention.
While much was made of other historic performances at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, at the time, it was Bloomfield’s Electric Flag that blew away the crowd.
The Rivoli was an old-school movie palace on East 10th Street. By the early ’70s, it was presenting concerts and showing porn flicks. My girlfriend and I arrived early and got front-row seats. The Blue Jew did not disappoint. Unassuming in T-shirt and jeans, he squeezed the notes out of his Stratocaster as if each one were going to be the last statement he’d ever get to make on the human condition.
Barney Quick is one of The Republic’s community columnists. All opinions expressed are those of the writer. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.