NUDGE: First Rock Concert

Thursday night I went to Great American Ballpark in downtown Cincinnati with Diamondqueen, That Poor Man, and the Hooligans. It was a big event: A concert by Sir Paul McCartney.

Sitting there high in the stadium, looking down on the ball field, I had to take my own magical memory tour to another August evening 45 years ago. Then, I was attending my first-ever rock concert—the Beatles at Crosley Field.

The concert was supposed to have taken place on a Saturday evening, August 20. However, major rain hit Crosley shortly before the concert was supposed to begin. My girlfriend Sue and I, admitted with WSAI prize tickets my aunt had won but my father had purchased from her, were sitting out in the bleachers with the other “winners.” Eventually they let us into the main part of the ball park, but I think we were pretty well drenched by then. We waited and waited for the concert to start, then someone (maybe one of the ‘SAI “Good Guys”) came onstage and gave us the news: If the Beatles took the stage with all that water lying around, they could be electrocuted. The concert was being postponed until the following afternoon.

Through various impromptu plan switches, with my parents unable to take us down to Crosley or pick us up because of previous plans, we wound up riding downtown in Sue’s brother’s Firebird. Yes, we saw the Beatles. First we sat through The Cyrkle, The Ronettes, Bobby Hebb, and The Remains. Finally the Beatles took the stage. The on-air disc jockeys had warned that the Beatles’ set list wouldn’t include some of the more exciting hits of that summer, “Yellow Submarine” and “Eleanor Rigby.” In fact, the songs they were presenting were rather “old” by 1966 standards, when hits from the previous spring were considered ancient. But it was THE BEATLES, and everyone screamed just the same. I was glad I had gone. I never dreamed it was one of the last concerts The Beatles would ever do before a live audience.

Now, a lifetime later, I was waiting in the newest Cincinnati ballpark to see Paul McCartney take the stage. Twelve-year-old J.Hooligan sat beside me, the same age I was when I ventured into Crosley Field with Sue for that first concert. Sir Paul played three songs I’d heard live on August 21, 1966: “Day Tripper,” “Yesterday,” and “Paperback Writer.” When I was 12 I never even imagined having a sister—Diamondqueen didn’t come along for almost 3-1/2 years—let alone watching one of the Beatles at a concert with her kids. I know I never foresaw Paul McCartney still playing all those years later. How the hell does he still look so young and fit when I look so old and matronly? Truth be told, he probably doesn’t see it that way. From where I sat in Great American Ballpark, though, he seemed to have stepped out of a time machine, still singing great songs and thrilling fans.

PROMPT: Write about your first rock concert. How old were you? Who was playing and where? Did you attend with your parents’ blessing or did you sneak out? What were your fellow fans like? What kind of misadventures did you have?  Were you in the throes of a wild teenage crush on the performer(s) or were you there as a serious fan of the music?

You don’t have to have been a teenager or even a young adult when you attended your first rock concert. It wasn’t exactly “rock,” but my mother’s first experience was attending a Gordon Lightfoot concert at the fieldhouse at Xavier University. She was 42. I was 19, but I was accompanying her. The point is, unless you’ve never attended any kind of rock concert, your first could have taken place just about any time in your life. Then again, if you’ve never attended a rock concert, write about that. Are you curious? Do you feel you’ve missed anything? Who would you see (or have gone to see) if you had the chance?

By the way, Sir Paul’s concert this past Thursday was S.Hooligan’s first rock concert. She’s eight, and she wasn’t impressed. In fact, she told me just how bored she was; and when Diamondqueen was playing Beatles and McCartney music in the van on the way home, she announced, “I don’t want to ever hear any of those songs AGAIN!”

J.Hooligan, even at 12, has already seen other concerts. He attended a performance of Tom Jones when he was five, fondling a $20 bill his mother had given him as a bribe for going along and behaving himself. And he went with Diamondqueen and me to a concert by a Freddie Mercury impersonator a couple of years ago, which was surprisingly good and had all the bells and whistles from the standpoint of music, staging, and fan enthusiasm. So J. is an old hand.

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