Makin’ it to the Big Show

In that one night driving down the Sunset Strip with Rita B.’s parents I saw just how much action there was going on in Los Angeles.

New York City had once been the center of the music business. The n in 1956 they built the the 13-story Capitol Records building on Vine Street in the middle of Hollywood in 1956. The West Coast sound grew all around it like a flowering vine.

Hollywood not only was the movie capital of the world but when rock flowered it was  the music capital, too.

L.A. was about forty miles from the northern border of Orange County, and this made it easy for L.A.-based musicians to come down and play.

Two prime venues existed in the mid60s — The Anaheim Convention Center and the Melodyland Theater. I had some great moments at this place. It was on Harbor Boulevard, one of the main arteries through the heart of Orange County that will take you from Disneyland to Newport Beach.

 

 

Sadly it is now being used by a religious congration and all those great music vibe have been covered up by  . . . well, because I’m a good soul I won’t say it.

Melodyland is where I first saw the Buffalo Springfield and fell madly in love with Richie Furay. Richie has been washed by the lord, too. He’s a preacher who clings pridefully to the fact that he and wife Nancy are still married.

In my last post I spilled the beans that my friend Janice and I weren’t really in the know. We just kind of floated around hoping to get educated. One night at Melodyland we almost did.

(Now listening to “The Grateful Dead.”)

The Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead played the Melodyland Theater March 26, 1968. I would be 15 in a week.  Janice and I loved the jefferson Airplane. I had a super crush on Spencer Dryden. Though Jack and Jorma were the shit, as well.

We didn’t know much about the Dead at that point because the took their time with a record contract and so no corporate entity was promoting them, platering their faces all over TV, mags or billboards. They were cool enough to prefer it that way.

I think the Dead played first. There are bootlegs of this show out there. Check this.

If you look at the picture of Melodyland imagine that you walk through the doors. The stage is a large circle in the center of the building. There was a backstage area along the outside wall you see to the right.

Janice and I spent some time outside before the show started. We checked out all the hipsters and bopsters. Took a copy of the underground paper being handed out by a long-haired boy. There were plenty of super heads this night.

When we went inside we headed straight for the backstage area. Security was very weak. We slipped right past the old guard posted at the curtained doorway. He couldn’t tell who belonged and who didn’t. We probably all looked like freaks and weirdos to him.

There we were in the midst of some of the coolest rock folks. Backstage was a wild scene. There was someone in a gorilla costume (probably Grace) and someone in a Ghandi-style dhoti was parked in front of a mirror in full on yogini headstand.

Spencer and Jack were hanging out near the backstage entrance/exit to watch the Dead. Jack look great in his colored granny-style sunglasses. He was wearing a paisley shirt with long ribbons down the back.

The Dead finished and the Airplane went on. Janice and I decided to stay backstage and wander around in the catacomb of halls and dressing rooms. We came to a doorway and looked in. In this smoke-filled room were a bunch of older looking guys (hey, we were 14!). One of them called out to us.

“Come on in. Want some,” said the smiling curly-headed man as he waived a joint in the air in front of him.

We hesitated. Some of these guys had scary facial hair –beards and mustaches! 

Then I heard Janice say “No thanks. We’re straight.”

What? What did we just do? Shouldn’t we . . .?

We weren’t ready to make that move in a room full of grown ups.

Later I split from Jan and went out to the dark hall where the players walked out to the stage. There sitting across from me was the smiling, friendly guy from the smokey room. We watched and listened to the Airplane as they spun their beautiful harmonies and Jorma dropped his warped arpeggios into the air.

The smiling man was very cool and kind, I could tell. I liked him.

I can’t remember where the Mothers of Invention played but it was no doubt in Anaheim too. Disneyland was a massive anchor that drew a crazy amount of developers who built things all around it.

Frank Zappa’s first words that summer’s eve were “We decided to come down and do a show behing the Orange Curtain.”

His reference to the Iron Curtain was apt in that Orange County was a radical Republican stronghold.  But in the mid to late 60s things did sneak through that protective, white-washed picket fence mentality.

If things had gone just a little differently that night I’d have one great story to tell the future grand kids. Maybe I already do.

We’d keep going to concerts and checking out the action The Mothers, Jimi Hendrix, The Seeds, The Buffalo Springfield and the Yardbirds were all highlights. Then there was that week of concerts during spring break at the Anaheim Convention Center . Woah.

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