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.
- The Endangered Species act is passed.
I was seventeen and eighteen 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. I was a longhair that wanted to be a Doobie Brother; I was an artist always without a model; I was the unsung and unstrung guitarist that never hit the high note, but it was all great!
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.
Meanwhile, old things were just as great; The Allman Brothers Band Live at Fillmore East" was one of the hottest LP's in my collection. Deep Purple was as on top of their game as ever with "Made in Japan". Though released in '72, I didn't get my copy until 1973.
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 marijuana 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. This was a great place to live, and the neighborhood was very old. We were within walking distance to Laurelhurst Park, Music Millenium, The Laurelhurst Theater was right on the corner, and a Chinese Restaurant was on the other corner. The building was just off of 26th and Ankeny Street, one block off of Burnside. A couple blocks down was a Nicky Cruz Outreach For Youth center.
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 I can't keep up with all of them. I learned a great deal about music I'd never heard before, and likewise, turned him on the world of Hawkwind. (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 Fifth Avenue Cinema with a midnight showing. Two hours of dreamlike, hallucinatory visuals, with a decipherable enough story line weaved a very bizarre tale. We 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.
The Girl Next Door
Out of all the crushes and worshiping from afar I'd done with actresses, models and Playboy centerfolds, my first real life crazy crush came from the girl next door. She was the "kid sister" of a woman and a guy who moved in next door to us. They were all very cool people, and I loved hanging out with them. The girl's name was Sherry. She was 17, I was about to turn 18. She fit the perfect 70's girl mold: long brown hair parted in the middle, glasses, and all the appropriate clothing from clogs to bell bottoms. Mostly she wore levis, tank tops and rubber thongs on her feet. She also wore a leather thong on her wrist, and occasional chokers. That was the great summer when The Doobie Brothers, Alice Cooper and Black Oak Arkansas were part of her favorite record collection. Sherry loved "Billion Dollar Babies" from Alice Cooper and Black Oak Arkansas' "Raunch and Roll" which soon became a favorite of mine as well. She was in love with Jim Dandy whereas I could barely tolerate him. The one song that really hit me right was Steely Dan's "Do it Again" That song alone basically epitomizes the summer of 1973. I never listened to Steely Dan before, so it was Sherry's influence that got me into this record.
The Number was 666
The taboo and terrifying number of 666-the mark of The Beast was the title and subject matter of a rather obscure LP from the Greek band Aphrodite's Child. Most notably, the bands keyboard player and composer would become the now world-famous composer Vangelis. One girl was afraid to listen to it, and we'd have to coax her into it. But it was just an album, and it was quite an interesting one too. Some of it was very good. Two songs "The Four Horsemen" and "Aegian Sea" were superior tracks on this two-record set that focuses on The Book of Revelation. How closely it follows the book is another story, but it made for a remarkable LP, one that I've yet to see the likes of.
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 March and April of 1973.
I was making pretty good money to start at $ 3.50 and hour. 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. 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, the job ended 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 Steeleye Span. 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.