I was sixteen and seventeen years old in 1973
How many times have we all said it? "I wish I could go back and do it all over again knowing the things I know now."
But that's just it, we can't go back. Life only gives us one shot at lesson learning; we either blow it, or take what we learned and put it to use. Energy was high, and so was I. The vibes were pretty good in 1973. Though padded in reality, and laced with strangeness, it was a highly educational period. As a nation, we'd taken our first steps toward impeaching the president.Kung Fu was in its second season. Kwai Chang's hair was longer, but he was just as sagely as ever. Great music was coming out, newer and newer adventures in sound expanded my cultural library. Albums cost about $3.87 at Pay N' Save, a department store that still existed at Eastport Plaza. Two-record sets cost around $5.69 depending on who they were. Cut-Outs at 99 cents, or $1.99 were still the best way to go, but could only be purchased at record stores. That meant having to travel across town.
1973 at a glance:
- The Watergate hearings had begun
- Abortion was legalized.
- The Black September Terrorist Movement attacks Athens airport.
- The Watkins Glen Rock Festival (bigger than Woodstock BTW), happens.
- Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in the Houston Astrodome. It was close too, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
- Spiro T. Agnew resigns as Vice President. (thank God).
- The Endangered Species act is passed.
Though record album prices were about usual In 1973, prices were still going up as the dollar went down. The world was becoming a crazy place. The strangeness of the years only made me realize how quickly childhood things ended, and the innocence of the 60's was only a vapor compared to the heavy 70's. LSD 25 was circulating dabbed onto a "crosstop" (speed) for a high-level high, and my first taste of chocolate chip cookies laced with weed crunched like chocolate sand.
Most everyone smoked cigarettes including me--L & M's to be exact--and they were up to 35 cents a pack then. They had really beautiful outdoor scenes on the packs which I thought was different. A new and different brand of cigarettes came out called "Tramps." The packs were a beige color with a picture of Charlie Chaplin on the front. The cigarettes themselves--like L & M's--had white filters only with brown paper. Very odd, and very cool. A brand new AMC Javelin cost a whopping $2,900. Rent was close to a median $175 a month, and gas was up to 40 cents a gallon. Worst of all, Playboy on the rack cost $1.75! It was a good thing that the magazine was worth it, as 1973 was a great year for Playboy.
Emerson, Lake, & Palmer released their vinyl masterpiece "Brain Salad Surgery." This album was a miracle, I was fortunate enough to see them play it live at the Memorial Coliseum. Fleetwood Mac released "Mystery to Me" and the song "Hypnotized" was the best thing I'd heard in years. Though the EL&P concert was only $5, more and more top bands were coming to Portland. Concert prices stayed about the same, but there were so many more of them. I had abruptly come to the realization that I needed more money than I'd ever needed before. With that said, I now move on to the world of employment, and becoming what I'd so protested when I was a stupid kid: a capitalist.
This was an apartment building I lived in during 1973 and 74. I met a wonderful friend here named Dennis who was as wild as I was, yet a little older. There were so many adventures in his living room that were fun and sometimes precipitated by the presence of girls who'd had too much wine, too much weed, and too much independence. I learned a great deal about music I'd never heard before, and likewise, turned him on the world of Hawkwind. One evening, he was taking a bath after having dropped some purple haze acid. The song "Brainstorm" from Hawkwind's "Doremi Fasol Latido" album was playing and he just freaked out because he loved it so much. (More about Hawkwind here.)In turn, Dennis introduced me to Gentle Giant and I loved them. Dennis was also as huge a Stones fan as myself, and hipped me to a movie called "Performance" which featured Mick Jagger. Eventually, the film came to the midnight cinema, and we all got as loaded as we could possibly get, and went to see it. Two hours of dreamlike, hallucinatory visuals, with a decipherable enough story line had our eyes glued to the screen.
Come the summer of 1974, I remember plenty of outdoor concerts and day festivals where we used to go and hang with epic crowds. Sometimes they were promoted by beer companies, and these festivals featured a ton of local and out-of-state acts. Trying to capitlize on the Woodstock Festival craze, these outdoor fests were a lot of fun, and a great way to spend a day.
Being employed was an odd thing in the early 70's.
It meant a life change that was so rude and so radical that it distorted my entire world view. I wasn't accustomed to the idea of punching time clocks, nor was I much into getting up early, or dedicating an entire day to drudgery. I was never afraid of hard work; what I hated most was the fact that I had to dedicate the entire day (or night) to being stuck in one spot, to be away from my friends, and to have a completely different type of social life. Two months in hell began in the form of a job I'd gotten at a local publication called The Community Press. This was in the winter of 1973.
My job was to bind bundles of voter's pamphlets using a bindery machine, then bag them up in canvas duffel bags. After a pallet full was complete, I went with a group over the Post Office to load them onto box cars. This was the most grueling job I ever had. It was 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. I went from having no money to being so well-off it was unbelievable. After 8 hours it was time and a half. On Saturdays it was time and a half; On Sundays, it was double-time. The reason I was so rich was that I was too tired to spend it! I came home at dinner time every night and crashed almost without eating. This job went on only for two months, then returned to a normal 40-hour gig. Unfortunately, I burned out shortly before that.
Moving right along, I ended up working part-time on weekends, a swing shift position for the most boring and time-dragging job of all: watching plastic "picture-tainers" coming out of a machine. This was the day when photos, after being developed, came housed in these plastic cases. This company I worked for made these plastic cases. I was the only person on shift. They encouraged me to bring books, magazines, or whatever to help pass the time. The job: every 5 or 10 minutes, I had to get up, and fold the containers into a closing position while they were still warm, then stack them in boxes for shipment. Every couple of hours, the machines would need refills of plastic. The material was in boxes and just needed to be poured into the molding machine which melted it. That was my career. Ten minutes before my shift was over, I'd sweep the floors.
Okay, Let's say you take 5 Minute Man III ICBM's (inter-continental ballistic missiles) and one Trident II missile, aim them all at an unsuspecting auditorium audience, turn out the lights, push the button, and watch what happens. Interested? Mass destruction in 0.002 seconds at point of contact.
This is what happens the very moment The J. Geils Band hits the stage. Throw in some handy words too like power outage, energetic, wild, frenetic, unleashed, intensity, maximum stress and rock and roll. This all equals one of the greatest live rock and roll acts the world has ever seen. From Massachusetts comes 6 of the most driven performers that I have ever seen light up one stage. The intensity of The J. Geils Band is white-hot. Their brand of then R & B blues-rock and kick-ass boogie turns up the burners on high and boils on high for an evening of exceptional R & R. and if the audience doesn't know what to expect, they'll never forget the J. Geils Band.
J. Geils Band hit it big in 1980 with the song "Centerfold" which went to #1 and stayed there for six weeks on the Billboard top 100 hits. The song "Freeze Frame" went to #4. My first exposure to them came in 1973 with a hotter-than-nuclear live album called Full House Recorded live in Detroit--a place they consider to be their second home due to how well they're received there--is an album that is just hot. Lead singer and showman (I'll leave out "front man" because he's more of a show than anything) Peter Wolf can take over and mesmerize an audience. Lead guitarist J. Geils is more than qualified, however their wiz kid on the stage is harmonica player Magic Dick who takes this handy instrument to new levels of entertainment. If you can handle R & B-blues rock with some hard rock chording and vocal belting, check out Full House. You won't be sorry.In 1973, I saw The J. Geils Band play live at the Memorial Coliseum. The first act was Mahogany Rush. Then, the second band was The J. Geils Band. The headliner was Loggins and Messina, and I swear that after J. Geils Band left that stage, they got called back for an encore, and I never heard an audience go so crazy in my life since Bruce Springsteen. It was almost as if when Loggins and Messina hit the stage, everyone thought the concert was over. For me it was.
The Great Albums of 1973
"I've always been mad, I know I've been mad..."
That's how side one began; a distant heartbeat pulsing an awkward cadence in a background of cerebral sounds. Each audio loop was sequestered together and edited into an un-earthly array of psychological feedback. A typical Pink Floyd opening led to a soft crescendo of lap steel guitar and breathy vocals, all of which had the aural effect equivalent to a strong dosage of valium. This was the latest release from Pink Floyd known only to us then as "The Dark Side of the Moon" This album was a bit awkward to get accustomed to in the first listens, only because if featured saxophone and female singers, and it was a structured LP unlike any of their previous releases. However, it didn't take long before it became our anthem.
Also during this period, I was drawn to Carly Simon, but only because of the "No Secrets" album cover. Let's face it, the cover design had no more intent than to attract teenage guys into buying the record. If Carly wasn't an eye-popping creature, then I had never seen a woman before. The album though, was actually pretty good. I soon fell in love with the song "The Right Thing to Do," and realized what a great songwriter she was.
Another song titled "One Fine Morning," by a Canadian rock n' brass band called Lighthouse led me to the purchase of a double-live album from them titled simply Lighthouse Live The record to this day kicks some pretty serious butt. 1973 was my first introduction to the album Doremi Fasol Latido" by Hawkwind.
1973 was the year I discovered many diverse bands, and dove deeper into the headwaters of Prog Rock. Prog was now getting stronger and more sophisticated. Bands like Gentle Giant, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Yes, & Genesis, were turning out high-quality works. Yes were reaching their peak. Gentle Giant's first album showed me how sublime, surreal, and talented one band could be. The Mahavishnu Orchestra had me spellbound, and I went to see them 3 times in concert! I still maintain that they were one of the few that presented the tightest shows of all time. During this period, I was a longhair, a freak, a head; The Mahavishnu John McLaughlin looked exactly like a straight. Worse yet, he looked like a minister! He had short cropped hair. He wore all white. Seeing pictures of him made me not want to listen to the records. It wasn't until I first heard him play that the hook went in irrevocably deep. John Mclaughlin played guitar in an insane, lightning fast style. What a surprise he was. He taught me one very valuable lesson: what we see isn't always what we see.