Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rant #473: Summer Concerts Make Me Feel Fine

We are almost at April 1, April Fool's Day, but what I am going to talk about today has nothing to do with that.

With April, we are at the threshold of warmer weather, and that can mean only one thing to lots of people: the summer concert season is about ready to get started.

Many dates have been announced for these concerts, and you will have a wide choice of performers to see, from the latest, hottest bands to those who filled that mantle yesterday, but are still performing to enthusiastic audiences today.

My family and I are going to see the Monkees in June. I have seen them--sans Michael Nesmith--many times, and I have seen them as solo artists, and I can tell you that if there is one concert to see this summer, see this one. You will not be disappointed.

But looking back, I have been to lots of concerts over my lifetime, and yes, I can remember the first concert I ever went to, and the second one too.

And they both took place during the summer.

The first concert I saw was in 1966. My family and I went to Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey, which does not exist anymore. As we were riding the rides, I remember I got sick on the Swiss Alps ride, and needed to sit down for a few moments.

We came to the bandshell, and a concert was just ready to start.

Hal Jackson, the popular local DJ, was the emcee, and he brought out an act that was then totally unknown in the U.S.

Lulu was her name, and within a year, she would not only have the No. 1 record in the country with "To Sir With Love," but she would also be one of the stars of that now-classic movie.

Anyway, she was on for just a few minutes, and no, she did not sing "To Sir With Love."

The reason was that Epic, her U.S. record company, thought that what eventually became the flip side of that tune, "The Boat That I Row," penned by Neil Diamond, would be the plug side, or the song that they would push to radio stations.

So she sung that song, and a few others, and then that was it.

Of course, radio programmers flipped the single when the movie became a hit, and the rest is history.

My second concert was in day camp. At that time, in 1969, the then-named Westbury Music Fair (it has gone through several name changes since then) used to have both daytime and evening concerts during the summer. I had been there before, to see "Camelot" with Robert Goulet, but this occasion was my first concert there.

It was a "Motown Revue," with opener Willie Tyler and Lester, the ventriliquist and his dummy who would later be a regular act on "Laugh-In"; Gladys Knight and the Pips, who were a popular act at the time, but had not reached their heights as a recording act yet; and headliners the Temptations, who had had hit after hit at that point ...

... but nothing like the song that had just catapulted them to the top of the charts when I saw this concert.

"Cloud Nine" had just hit No. 1 on the charts, and they were probably the hottest act in the land now. When this show was booked months earlier, I doubt the promoters envisioned that the Temps would be this hot, but anyway, the place was jumping at this afternoon concert.

I remember that the place was packed, mainly with kids my age (12 years old), and there was dancing in the seats and in the aisles. It was almost like a precursor to Woodstock, which would take place just a few days later, but it was certainly more controlled than that massive undertaking, and, of course, not a drug was seen at Westbury.

But the place was hopping, especially when "Cloud Nine" was performed.

It was infectious. It was one of the greatest concerts I ever saw.

Nowadays, I might go to one concert a year, and it is probably an oldies concert. I have since seen the Temptations many times, but, of course, most of their members have passed on, so it is really the faux Temps, not the real thing that I saw way back when.

And I have never seen Lulu again. I understand she is huge in Europe, but she has only had a few fairly mild hits over here since "To Sir With Love."

So go to the summer concerts, have fun, and I guarantee they will remain in your mind for the rest of your life.

There's something about summer concerts that are truly intoxicating, without the alcohol or substances.

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