What’s the one gig you wish you’d been to?
I love this question. It tells you a lot about a person’s musical taste and is often a lot more revealing than getting them to list their favorite band or favorite album.
There are a couple of pretty standard answers as well. Led Zeppelin at the L.A. Forum, Woodstock, The Stones at Madison Square Garden in ’69, Live Aid, The Beatles at the Cavern, the Beatles in Hamburg, the Beatles at Shea Stadium… everyone wishes they’d seen the Beatles basically.
My answer? The California Jam 1974.
Cal Jam doesn’t get the same love as festivals like Monterey Pop or Woodstock. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t have the late ‘60s countercultural cred, happening a full five years after the summer of love reached its peak. Maybe it’s because it was staged to be filmed for television (as part of ABC’s legendary “In Concert” series).
Why do I love California Jam so much? It is because it established the record for the largest concert sound system ever assembled? Was it because it featured the first ever appearance of the Good Year blimp at a music festival?
Earth, Wind and Fire
Seals and Crofts
Black Oak Arkansas
Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Just look at that line-up! If that isn’t an all killer, no filler line-up, I don’t know what is. Eight great acts, all playing at the top of their game; for that "$10 in advance or $15 at the gate" ticket price, you got your money’s worth.
I’d quite happily have spent all day in the California sun (an abnormally warm day for April by all accounts) taking all of that in. But there’s one particular Cal Jam performance I’d have been front and centre for…
I’ve spoken about my love of the Purps – especially the Mark III Purps – in this column before. And the Cal Jam might just be their finest hour. The band was on fire that day – quite literally when amishap with a pyrotechnic effect caused one of Ritchie Blackmore's amplifiers to explode – and gave what is quite possibly a career best performance. I’ve watched the ABC Concert broadcast so many times and I’ve worn out VHSs and DVDs in the process. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a masterclass in hard rock performance. Watching it recorded is exhilarating enough, and I can only imagine what it must have been like in the flesh.
So that’s my pick. But what is yours? If you could have been to any one gig, what would it have been? More importantly, why do you wish you’d been there? Doesn’t matter if they’re legendary shows or local band gigs – we want to know about them. As always, share your stories in the comments!
The Allmans’ recorded output went practically unnoticed. However, their reputation as a live act grew, thanks in no small part to their relentless touring schedule. In 1970 alone, the band played over 300 shows, honing their chops and building an underground following. Given the band’s prowess as a live act, talk inevitably turned to capturing the band in concert for a future release. As Duane Allman told DJ Ed Shane that year: "You know, we get kind of frustrated doing the [studio] records, and I think, consequently, our next album will be ... a live recording, to get some of that natural fire on it."
“If you want to be a rock star or just be famous, then run down the street naked, you'll make the news or something. But if you want music to be your livelihood, then play, play, play and play! And eventually you'll get to where you want to be.”
“I'm not a rock star. Sure I am, to a certain extent because of the situation, but when kids ask me how it feels to be a rock star, I say leave me alone, I'm not a rock star. I'm not in it for the fame, I'm in it because I like to play.”
The revolutionary impact of his playing reverberated pretty much from the get-go. Legend has it that when Van Halen supported Black Sabbath at London’s Hammersmith in 1978, half of the crowd vanished after Eddie and co. finished their set; decamping to nearby pubs to try and make sense of what they’d just witnessed. In the face of the literal Eruption that Edward brought to the stage, the lumbering, power chord chug of Iron Man was positively Jurassic.