Sunday, July 12, 2015

Camping Out For Wristbands Back In The Day

The music scene has changed so much since I was a 15 year old Orange County kid. I still remember hearing  Led Zeppelin was coming to LA and that was driving distance from the OC suburbs. If all went well, I would pass my drivers test and get my drivers license in time to borrow dads car and drive to the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles.

But first things first. If tickets were going to go on sale, I had to listen to the radio and go to the record store for information because we didn't have internet and cell phones. My best friend, also named Tom was determined to go and we both put out our feelers. He had older brothers and I had an older sister. That older sister turned me on to Yes by the way but back to the tickets. Tom got word that tickets were going on sale at the Montgomery Ward Department Store at 8 am on a Saturday.  That was just a couple of weeks away. We had to get money which was a lot easier in those days as I had a job mowing lawns. He used to recycle newspapers. Fact is, we got the money. It was Led Zeppelin after all, we couldn't let this slip away.
I got this photo with the purchase of my recording and rehearsal studios in the 1990's. 

On the Friday night before the tickets went on sale, Tom and I rode our bicycles down to Monkey Wards as we called it and did our first of many sidewalk ticket camp nights. We stayed up all night playing cards and smoking cigarettes and stuff and we were the first in line. We were sure to get tickets to the show. People lined up behind us as the night went on. Most were more prepared and brought chairs and sleeping bags. Some had battery powered televisions. They even remembered things like water and food like pizza and sandwiches. I watched and learned. I had only been camping once before because my dad didn't like to camp so this was all a bit new to me.

About a half hour before the store opened in the morning, some other people started lining up at another door to the store. This caused some confusion but since our line was longer and we convinced the store folks that we had been there all night and the others got there within the hour they told us to wait and went back into the store.
When they returned, they had some tickets like the ones carnival rides use with numbers on them. They then just randomly handed them out at both doors and told us to meet at another door in a half hour. We all complied and they randomly drew numbers and called us into the store to get our tickets. I remember that there were people there that didn't get tickets. We did. Not great ones, be we had a pair and we were going to see Led Zeppelin in 1977.

I got a job at Coco's in Fullerton soon after we got the tickets and got my drivers license in time to drive to the Forum in LA.
The Coco's gig was fun because of the people I worked with. One was a member of the 1980's  band Berlin. Another was the drummer for The Steve Miller Band on his Book of Dreams tour. But back to the camping and Led Zeppelin. The Coco's job in addition to laws allowed me money for gas, t-shirts, and other expenses associated with being a wide eyed teenager in search of fun.

I borrowed my dad's Ford Maverick, got a freeway map and off we went to the concert. On the way we picked up a hitch hiker and talked him into buying us a 12 pack of beer. We gave him 10 bucks for his troubles and a couple of beers and we were all happy. Only a few blocks from the Forum we dropped off our passenger and followed the long line of cars into the parking lot. We drank a few beers and ate some dried mushrooms in the car and then headed to our nose bleed seats in the arena.

People were lighting off fireworks like skyrockets and cherry bombs inside, it was crazy! After a while the lights went down, everybody lit up, and it was nobody's fault but mine fading up from the stage. It was the Presence tour, the last time Led Zeppelin came to California before John Bonham died so I feel a bit special being able to say that my first real concert was Led Zeppelin.

This fantastic experience led to many nights camping on the sidewalk in front of Music + or at the Forum itself in pursuit of tickets. The Forum was in Inglewood which was not the best neighborhood to be on the sidewalks overnight. We were all about the music though and didn't even notice some of the unsavory characters that were keeping their own watchful eyes on us kids camping on the sidewalk at midnight. In those days the cops didn't stop and shake us down or search us or ask us why we were camping on the sidewalk in Inglewood when we should be at home in bed in our OC suburb. Times were good.

We eventually learned that being first didn't matter all that much since the wrist band method of handing out random numbered wristbands starting with the first people in line only meant you would probably get a ticket. We were still competing with ticket agencies that were phoning in to get tickets so we would see the people coming back from the ticket booth saying I got the floor 12th row. The next person would be in the loges. The next two people after that might be in the colonnades and then the cycle would repeat. So they would go by section rather than distance from the stage. Even with camping out and getting a wrist band, the whole thing was a crap shoot.

What was a sure thing was a great sidewalk camp out,  usually followed by a great concert a few weeks later. These were the hay days for the record company's stranglehold on the music industry though and things changed fast with the advent of the internet. First of all you didn't have to camp out anymore for wristbands. You now bought your tickets on line with a credit card. And then you had the whole social media thing that the internet brought which allowed bands to bypass the big record companies and do everything themselves from the recording to the distribution and sales of the entire product.

As a musician, recording engineer, producer, radio program director, music director and now internet DJ, I have seem the progression of the music business from more than one side. I feel, other then the problem with downloads that exist where the artist don't get paid, things are much better over all. Sure there aren't nearly as many huge sold out stadium tours as there used to be but a lot of that money just got sucked up by the big record companies anyway. I was inspired to write this after a visit to our local record store People's Records in Arcata California.

They still have vinyl and CD's both used and brand new. Also happening there were local venue ticket sales. Several people entered the store while I was there and purchased tickets to local shows. I have been going there more regularly as of late restocking my music selection for my on line Weekend Classic Rock Show  on www.RadioVegas.rocks.  The store and people that come there remind me s bit of what I miss about those good old days.

2 comments:

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  2. I am sitting here in total shock, having read the term Monkey Ward's for the first time in several decades omg Tom I'm Kathleen Ward, do you remember me and my sister Elizabeth? From Fullerton? Wow she just sent me the link to your blog. I live in Sonoma County now. Been here since 92. I am floored! Remembering John Williams, the Coronado, wow. Just wow! Get back to me if you want.** Had to edit - typos irked me!

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