1972 at a glance:
- The Volkswagen Beetle is a top seller.
- Radical activist Angela Davis is released from Jail. (The Rolling Stones wrote "Sweet Black Angel" in her honor.)
- "Bloody Sunday" the British Army kills 14 civilians in Northern Ireland.
- Average income was $11k.
- Savoy Brown releases "Hellbound Train".
- Pink Floyd comes to Portland's Memorial Coliseum. Ticket Price: $4.50.
- Gas: 55 cents a gallon, cigarettes: 35 cents a pack.
- "Deliverance" hits the theaters.
I was sixteen and seventeen years old in 1972.
It was an interesting year. I had a few "firsts" that set me back some: first time failing in school and first time experimenting with drugs out of the safe "weed" network.
I was not a child of the streets; I came from a basic working class home. However, North Portland was a different culture altogether. It was a diverse mix of the angry, the angrier, the weird, the weirder,and mellow folks who populated the neighborhood. It was an education--the wrong kind of education--and it was real.
1972 was a major turning point in my life. "Acid" became a new thing though I only did it a couple of times. I quickly learned that psychedelics were the most "trippy" of all and had earned their reputation as having serious hallucinogenic properties. My first acid trips began with 3 varieties of acid that were circling the area at the time: "Window Pane", "Purple Haze", and "White Lightning." I couldn't tell you the differences between any of them as they all were a literal "trip." However, "Window Pane" was the strongest. "White Lightning" was a close runner-up, but it didn't last as long. White Lightning had an unusual effect on me: it made me the strongest, and most fearless individual in the world. "Window Pane" went all-night-long for about 8-10 hours. The Window Pane that came to us was in the form of a clear plastic strip that dissolved, hence the name "Window Pane." Acid, no matter what grade, usually cost around $2-5 a tab.
School's Out For Summer!
I bought the album "School's Out" by Alice Cooper and was surprised when pulling the record from the cover: It came wrapped in a pair of girl's panties. This was a magnicent summer, listening to the insanity of Cheech and Chong and bending my mind around The Doors. I never knew what a treasure I had as Cooper's "School's Out" issue was almost immediately re-called then re-issued, sans-panties, in a standard paper sleeve. The album itself was rock solid featuring a very fun tune called "Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets", which was a take off from "West Side Story".
When The Music's Over ...When The Music Was Over
There were very few people in my rock n' roll world that impacted me as much as Jim Morrison. There is really no way to describe the effect he had on me, and I can't quite put his mystique into words. I guess to attempt it, I'd have to say that he was an iconic loner; He didn't mean to be a media sensation, he just was. Jim knew no rules or boundaries, and pushed the envelope constantly. He was the Lizard King. Two of my favorite songs were "The End" and "When the Music's Over".
The release of "L.A. Woman" was amazing. This was one of their finest LP's. We all have special memories, but I can't even begin to describe the memories the song "L.A. Woman" brings back to me. His untimely death in July of 1971 (very near my birthday) was quite a blow. For some reason, his presence seemed to invade my soul, and my brain was stuck in Doors mode for probably all of 1971.
The Concert for Bangladesh
Intentional or not, George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh turned him into a media sensation. I was able to afford this album in early January of 1972. The entire concept of this whole thing was amazing, and I always figured if any Beatle was to do something on this scale, it would have been John. That it was George, only made it better, as George was always my favorite of the Fab Four. Naturally, the group is loaded with quality musicians and top names in the biz, including Ringo, Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Badfinger guitarists Joey Molland and Pete Ham, and Billy Preston to name but a few.
Troubles at home and troubles in school
led me to associations with friends vastly outside of my age group. These guys were respectable, but they shared one distinguishing commodity: they were all in their early to mid 20's when I was 16. This was in the fall and winter; by summer, I would turn 17. I was a bit more mature for my age then, very introspective and inquiring about new things. The guys I hung with actually thought I was older. When I had my 17th birthday, they were stunned. At first I thought it was all an act on their part, trying to beef up my confidence, but I came to find out that they literally thought I was about 19 or 20.
Then came my problems in school. The summer of 1972 stole whatever remained of my childhood. I was suffering from extreme separation issues; I couldn't relate to the classroom, or people my age anymore. I received my first D grades in art which eventually turned into F's. I was getting D's and F's in everything except for English.
I had a literal beauty for an English teacher
She was only 24. To say that she was smokin' is like saying Texas has a few acres. She dressed and styled herself like a "plain jane", and most of the guys probably didn't give her a second thought, but I saw much deeper into her. My eyes could lift the "Jane" veil and see the beauty beneath. We had to keep a daily journal, and turn it in at the end of class. I was writing love letters to her in the form of poetic prose comprised of several rock group lyrics. Prog Rock wasn't as mainstream as it should have been then, and the best bands were still relatively unknown by the general music-listening public. Among these lyric sets included portions from "Epitaph" by King Crimson, "Heart of the Sunrise" by Yes, and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" by Pink Floyd. Each morning when I got my journal back, there would be a giant "Very good!" circled in red pen. It wasn't until I borrowed more King Crimson lyrics from "I Talk to the Wind" that I got a note saying: "Is this original?". I had to confess "no." I finally wrote one last romantic piece which was a bit more personally directed, using the lyrics from "Love" by John Lennon. On my journal page the next day was a pen note from her that read: "...you need to focus more on your journal thoughts ( blah-blah-blah)...not write so personal...(blah-blah-blah)...and write more original material."
Smokin' hot English teacher notwithstanding, I dropped out of high school early in my junior year. I did get my GED which is a good thing, but the structure of school was no longer working for me. I'd already lived a lot on my own, worked a job, and lived a life belonging to an adult. I no longer felt a connection with school.
TV, Take a Bow: "The Glass House" 1972
The ABC Movie of the week featured an eye-opening-assault-to-the-senses film about a typical stay in prison. "The Glass House" shocked an unsuspecting, and perhaps ignorant America about what goes on in an average day in prison. The first scene depicting male rape was as hard-hitting as anything I can recall, and I realized that this country had graduated to the big leagues as far as television was concerned. At the film's helm is an upstanding college professor (Alan Alda) who is sentenced to a one-year stint for manslaughter. He soon befriends a good looking kid who's doing a few years for peddling grass. The kid becomes the movie's official victim. "The Glass House" still packs a punch today, and every actor is credible. Vic Morrow is in his usual top form as king of the hill convict Hugo slocum. The most menacing convict in the film has the shortest part as the character of "Bibleback" played to the hilt by the magnificent Luke Askew. There are no slackers in this movie; everyone earned their pay.
My Favorite Albums in 1972
Music was so incredible in 1972, and many bands were coming into their prime. "Hellbound Train" by Savoy Brown was fantastic. It was the most foot-stomping blues/boogie/rock LP I'd heard yet. "Who's Next" by The Who had broken new territory as far as I was concerned as each song seemed like an individual hit single. "Fragile" by Yes was my first foray into Yesland--and Deanland--thanks to magnificent cover artist Roger Dean who, single-handedly, became the only album cover artist to become as important as the band he was painting for. The African group Osibisa also featured Roger Dean covers, and the music was great. Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Trilogy" was good, but it wasn't nearly as strong as some of their earlier works. A great get-down album would have to be "A Nod is as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse" by The Faces. The hit "Stay With Me" is timeless, and they also did a fun cover of "Memphis". I was finally able to afford "The Concert for Bangladesh" by George Harrison & Friends and the record was highly influential to me for discovering more diverse acts. This was my introduction to the great Leon Russell.
Uriah Heep's "Demons and Wizards" was pretty hot, as was the new wild release from Mr. Bizarro himself, Alice Cooper. The LP "School's Out" came wrapped in a pair of paper panties. Black Sabbath seemed to be merging on mediocrity, especially with the release of "Vol. 4". Then, along came Deep Purple to pull the rug out from under the world with their incredibly fantastic release of "Machine Head" . This album was hotter than hell, and each song seemed to be a hit of its own. The Dutch band Focus were a heavy metal flash in the pan, but the song "Hocus Pocus" was a rock classic.
"Eat a Peach" by The Allman Brothers Band was wonderful featuring the epic 2-sided 1-song jam called "Mountain Jam", a rock variation of Donovan's "First There is a Mountain." Every stoner in our area had in his or her collection, Harry Nilsson's "Son of Schmilsson". This album was one of the most-played records of all in my neighborhood. It was right up there with The Doors! A young, crazy Irish guitarist named Rory Gallagher lit up my world with a dynamite live 3-man act. The album was called simply "Live in Europe". Rory was amazing. Pink Floyd continued to amaze with "Obscured by Clouds", though it didn't register as strong on my radar. Texas masters Bloodrock gave us their double-live set modestly called "Bloodrock Live". The album still impresses people today.
Pink Floyd comes to Portland 1972
The Concert Set:
- "One of These Days"
- "Careful With That Axe, Eugene"
- "Eclipsed" (Introduced on stage as "Eclipsed". The entire Dark Side of The Moon set 6 months before its release)
- "Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun"
It was on a Thursday evening, a school night for me. But there would be no going to school after this concert. The next day was spent trying to figure out just what had happened. Something remarkable, truly life changing had taken place. Pink Floyd was not only a show, but a major sociological event. I would not come to understand its importance until many years later. The concert cost $4.50. I went with three of my best friends. Pink Floyd in 1972 were still fairly underground-or so we thought. Nobody really knew who they truly were yet-or so we thought. The concert was sold out, and multitudes of desperate beggars were willing to pay way over the top for a ticket.
This was something that we all found surprising. Nobody really knew about Pink Floyd except for us. Then, there was the city of Portland, Oregon, sold out to the Max to see them.
There was no introduction. A few colored lights came on, and the floyd took the stage performing "One of These Days." It was great! We were finally watching our heroes on stage. Immediately after the song-which seemed a robust beginning, all of the house lights went out with the exception of a soft purple glow. This was freaky. Smoke and mist began to envelope the stage-freakier yet. A soft orange glow began to rise on a tower from behind. The sphere was very wide, and very large. It was like a planet or something. We couldn't make sense out of what was happening. Still, weirdness was going on. Towers like the ones at baseball stadiums rose, adorned with hundreds of lights. Just then, the Floyd began to vaporize, appearing out of the mist like apparitions. A soft, Roger Waters voice muttered the title of their next song into the microphone "This is called 'Echoes'." And the rest, as they say, is history.
At one point during the performance of "Echoes", the stage disappeared! Yes, believe it or not, in 1972, the Floyd had a stage behind what appeared to be the actual stage that worked like an elevator. Again, fog and smoke enveloped the stage and when it cleared again, Pink Floyd was no longer there. The music continued, but the band was gone, as was all of their equipment! At this point, it seemed that anything goes with this band. We could hear "Echoes" playing, drums, keyboards, guitar and bass, but there was no band, and no equipment. As the song finally wound down to an end, the stage was once again enveloped by smoke until all lights went down and the audience was left alone in the darkness.
"Careful with that Axe, Eugene" began as a moody pulse, then built to a blustery climax with the giant red planet exploding as Waters blasted his death screams into the the microphone. The flash momentarily blinded the entire audience. Smoke and sparks and debris were falling from the ceiling. The lights were bright, Waters was screaming his head off, Gilmour was going nuts on guitar, and Pink Floyd made their live mark on Portland forever. Later, they played a song that they introduced as "Eclipsed" that was in fact, the entire "Dark Side of the Moon". I remember that the entire performance of this one "song" took almost an hour. This was indeed, a fantastic show.