From the Coliseum to Altamont: Desert Trippers Remember Their First Concerts
You know they got up to some crazy shit back in their day. Actually, they probably still do.
If there's one thing we learned at Desert Trip, it's this: Our parents used to rage. And given half the chance, they still know how to throw down.
All over the Empire Polo Club grounds at Goldenvoice's massive classic-rock festival, folks in their 50s, 60s and even 70s were getting crunk, putting their knee replacement surgeries to the test, and reliving their rebellious youth. We asked some of them to tell us about their first experiences seeing the bands on Desert Trip's lineup, particularly The Who, Roger Waters' former band Pink Floyd, and The Rolling Stones. Here are some of the best ones we heard. (Spoiler alert: The guy who saw the Stones at Altamont clearly wins.)
Gail from Whittier (with Ken from Riverside)
Concert: The Rolling Stones at Long Beach Coliseum, 1964
Gail: I saw them when I was in sixth grade. I was 10, 11 years old. My parents dropped us off to go see them and picked us up afterwards. We sat in the very, very last seats in the last row of the Long Beach Coliseum.
Do you remember what year this was?
I was 10, so it had to be '63 or '64.
Oh, wow, so one of their first U.S. tours.
Yeah, it was their first. Later on, The Beatles came, same year.
And you saw them, too?
Yeah. And tickets were about 20 bucks apiece. I would send in cash. But [at the Stones show] I ended up losing my brother — he was the responsible one, six years older — and having my phony ponytail wig pulled off because I got up against the [band's] car and there were policemen hitting us. But we didn't care because we just wanted to touch them or have them breathe on us.
Jimmy from Humboldt, and his dad Jim, from L.A.
Concert: Pink Floyd at the L.A. Coliseum in 1987
Jim: My family and I moved from New Jersey to California. Jimmy, my son, he was six months old. My wife went and purchased the tickets, which was unusual. We had a great time. First [concert] in L.A., first time at the Coliseum.
Was Roger Waters still in the band at that point?
Jim: No. I think it their first tour without him.
Have you seen Waters solo?
Jim: Yes. Here at the Hollywood Bowl.
Jimmy: So that's where that coincides with my first time seeing him. It was 2006, Hollywood Bowl. It was the first tour he had done with Dark Side of the Moon solo. Me and some friends rented a limo. He was there. [points to his dad] And on the way there, we got some mushrooms and all ate a bunch of mushrooms, him included.
We almost didn't get in because on our way to the ticket person, one of my friends decided to use the bathrooms. So we're waiting in line at the bathrooms and we're tripping the fuck out. And my friend, we left him outside, and he really started tripping out when we left him by himself. So runs into the bathroom and runs past all of us in this huge line — then he blacks out and just face-plants onto the bathroom floor. So I run up to him, I'm tripping hard, I start shaking him: "Dan! Dan!" And I just see his fucking eyeball, it was up in his head and it just rolled down and looked at me. This was all before we gave anyone our tickets. As soon as we got in, it was a relief. But he [points to his dad] was fuckin' frying hard.
Yeah, how was that, your first mushroom experience at a Dark Side of the Moon show?
Jim: I'll never do it again.
Susan from Huntington Beach, Phil from Burbank
Concert: The Rolling Stones at L.A. Coliseum, 1980
Phil: Coliseum, brother. I believe that was 1980, with Prince, when he got booed. I went with my sister. I went off on my own and was in the middle of the fuckin’ field and it was awesome, bro. Thorogood came on and he was commanding the stage.
Phil: Yeah. After Prince got booed off, Thorogood came on and then J. Geils came out. But then the Stones came on for my first time, dude. They played "Sympathy for the Devil." It was one of the most evil but peaceful times ever.
How about you? Do remember the first time you saw them?
Susan: Yeah, Petco Park. The Zip Code tour.
That was the recent one, right?
Susan: Yeah. Last year.
And they’ve still got it?
Susan: Oh my gosh. Totally. I was blown away.
Phil: They do still have it. And seeing them after that many years … that’s why we’re here.
Randall from Tiburon, CA
Concert: Pink Floyd's The Wall tour, L.A. Sports Arena, 1980
Do you want to hear the good story or the bad story?
Both. But let's start with the good, I guess.
I saw Pink Floyd in 1980 with my girlfriend at the time, at the Sports Arena in L.A. They only toured in I think six cities.
That was The Wall tour?
Yeah. And then in 1990 I was living in Stockholm, Sweden — I think it was 1990 [checks T-shirt]. My girlfriend and I and some friends, we did a road trip from Sweden all the way down to Berlin and we caught the show [commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall]. It was very exciting.
So wait, which was the good story and which was bad story?
Well, [the Sweden] story is a bit more exciting. Seeing them in L.A. isn't all that.
Rogerio from São Paolo, Brazil, with his wife and niece
Concert: Desert Trip 2016
So you've never seen The Who because they've never played Brazil before?
They never played São Paolo before. São Paolo is a big city; it's the largest city in Brazil.
So you came all the way up from Brazil for this show?
We flew to Los Angeles and then drove to here. And we are staying just for the show.
Are you a fan of all the bands?
Yes. We saw Paul McCartney in Brazil. Also The Rolling Stones, they played Brazil. But not The Who, Neil Young or Roger Waters. They never played there. Not that I know of. So we are very happy to be here.
Glen from Rancho Mirage
Concert: The Rolling Stones at the T.A.M.I. Show, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1964
The T.A.M.I. Show: that was with James Brown, right?
That's right. Where they had the big dispute whether the Stones were gonna close or James Brown was gonna close. The Stones figured they were the bigger stars and they were very upset with James Brown. The Stones played a great set but James Brown blew everyone away. It was at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. I skipped out of high school with a friend.
Do you remember how old you were?
I was 16. James Brown was just jaw-dropping. I had never heard of the guy. I've probably seen them four times since. This T-shirt is from Bridges to Babylon, which was 1997.
Bill from Palm Desert
Concert: The Rolling Stones at Altamont Speedway Free Festival, 1969
You saw the Stones at Altamont? Where the Hells Angels stabbed a guy to death during the show?
What was your most vivid memory of that set? Did you have any idea what was going on?
Not at all. I actually found out what was really going on when I saw the movie. A buddy of mine I was there with, he’s in the movie. He’s on the stage. Other than that I can’t remember too much about it.
If you had to describe Altamont in a word, how would you sum up that experience?
To be perfectly honest with you, it’s very hard to remember. It’s very hazy. [laughs]
Because it was so long ago? Or you were in an altered state of consciousness?
I was a very young person back then. Everything was hazy then.
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