It was the summer of 1967. As a fifteen year old growing up in upstate New York, I was too young and too far removed to be much affected by the hippie movement taking place. Boy Scouts and baseball had lost their allure - through the magic of TV, transistor radios and a 45 record player I now had rock and roll.
Some of the "cooler" guys at school were forming bands. I talked with my friend Mike Ingalsbe and we decided we should do that, too. Didn't look too hard - if the Rolling Stones could do it, we surely could. Mike could sing and our friend Johnny Butto had a guitar, a Gibson Firebird. His cousin Ricky had a nice set of Ludwig drums, just like Ringo. Guess I would have to be the bass player.
After enough pestering, my mother decided I could buy a bass. When we got to the music store, she suggested I might be happier playing a "regular" guitar. I was all for that if she would buy me the Fender Mustang that was hanging there. Too much money. I ended up with an inexpensive off-brand white bass guitar, a Sekova.
A few weeks later we were practicing at Ricky's house. Probably after listening to us for a short time his parents decided we might want to play some baseball outside. Stuffed with Fritos and soda, off we went. Passing through the garage, I heard a song on the radio that really caught my ear - "Happy Jack." "That bass is really loud," I thought, "and those drums sure are different." There is just something about this song I like, more so than anything else I had ever heard.
Fast forward - summer is almost over. I'm at our summer home on Lake Sunnyside with my three younger brothers. Mom and dad are at work. Mike Ingalsbe calls. "Want to go to a concert?" I'd never been to a real concert before. "It's in Rochester. Herman's Hermits and also the Who". Hey, I like Herman's Hermits. "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" and all that. And the Who. They did "Happy Jack." I also heard they smash things up. Heard they smashed a car on stage or something. Sounds good.
I call my mother. Tell her Mrs. Ingalsbe is going to drive. Be back the same night. She says OK.
August 30 arrives and we're off to Rochester. It's a lot farther than I think. It's a lot farther than Mrs. Ingalsbe thinks, too. We get into a driving rainstorm and Mrs. Ingalsbe pulls over to the side of the New York Thruway. Can't blame her, she is an old lady. Probably all of 35.
Finally arrive in Rochester, kind of a rundown town, a bigger version of my own Glens Falls. Gloomy, gray and wet. We find the War Memorial Auditorium. There is a casket company nearby. Maybe this isn't such a great idea. Maybe I wish I was home with my brothers, eating popcorn or something.
We go in and find our seats. I'm sitting next to Andy Rogers, another guy that had joined our band. We had auditioned him and since he was better than the rest of us combined, we let him join. He is a genius. Started college at like 15 or something. Built his own amplifier, a Heathkit. I like when he kicks it, makes a really neat crashing sound. He's also got a few screws loose. He's at my house and throws his Fender Mustang down my cellar stairs. How can he do that to a beautiful guitar? I like the idea, though.
Sitting in the same row are John McDonnell, Chris O'Hanlon and other members of their band, the Loners. These guys really know how to play.
Up near the ceiling of the auditorium there is a walkway and a guy with a flashlight. A bomb, maybe? These were funny times.
The first band comes on - the Blues Magoos. I had liked their single "We Ain't Got Nothing Yet." I must have liked them as I ended up buying their album later ("Electric Lollipop") and I didn't have much money for albums back then, only singles. The guitarist has a coat on with colored panels that light up.
They now start setting up for the next band, the Who. They are nailing the drummer's bass drums to the floor! And is that a BUSHEL of drum sticks? Some guy comes running on the stage, wearing a cape and acting like Batman, who was very popular at the time. This guy is crazy! The band comes on. Of course, I have to check out the bass player. Looks like he has a Fender Bassman or Showman amp and he's playing a white Fender bass with a chrome pick guard. When the light hits it just right it's blinding. And the guitar player, does his guitar have two necks? My eyes aren't that good and I just can't tell. I do recall "Happy Jack" being played and also "Barbara Ann?" Definitely "My Generation." I remark to Andy that it is a Count Five song. He looks at me like I'm crazy. If I'd checked their album a little more closely I would have seen that "My Generation" and "Out in the Street" were credited to a guy named Townsend.
I remember smoke and destruction. A few months later, when my brothers and I were watching the Smothers Brothers they announced that the Who were going to be on. I told my brothers to watch, you're really going to like this. They did.
I slightly remember Herman's Hermits. They did Mrs. Brown and the guitarist played it on his guitar, rather than a banjo.
After the show, Mrs. Ingalsbe picked us up and we started the drive back. Mike was teaching me how to sing "Happy Jack." "Lap, lap, lap." We realized we would never make it home at a reasonable hour and had to stay at a motel.
The Who. I can barely remember what I had this morning for breakfast but some of the memories of that show and others stay with me. Tough to remember my kids' birthdays but every August 2 I recall where I was in 1971.
My life had changed...
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