Another tease for the previous post before we begin this one. You like anal-retentive quizzes about the kinds of details you can only learn by staring for hours at album covers? Well, we have just the thing for you, Bunky. Go check it out.
I get hung up on music trivia sometimes — like a certain lick on a record, or a cryptic liner note. The post mentioned above will attest to my flights into detail.
But what really gets me going about pop music is the role it plays in people’s lives … the way it sets a backdrop for personal events, and sometimes even seems to comment on them.
By and large, it’s more interesting to imagine the real-life interactions that took place to the tune of “#9 Dream” than it is to imagine Klaus Voorman in the studio laying down the bass track.
(I spent some time on that very exploration once; the results can be found here.)
I was reminded of this yesterday, when I spent some time surfing a scanned-in high school yearbook from the 1970s — specifically, the Norwood (Mass.) High School Tiot, 1976 edition (incorrectly labeled as 1978 online.)
To answer two questions that will inevitably arise: I lived in Norwood about 20 years ago, and a random Google search for my old address led me to the yearbook. And no, I don’t know what a Tiot is.
Anyway, the members of the Class of ’76 were allotted a few lines of commentary along with their senior portraits.
And damned if it didn’t seem like one out of every six seniors had been to the Beach Boys-Chicago concert at the old Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro on June 29, 1975.
References to the show came up time and time again, even from people who left only one or two other notes behind.
It must have been the social event, not just of that year, but of the full four-year enlistment of the Class of ’76. I read the entire senior section of that yearbook, and no other inside joke, reference or event had the shared staying power of the Beach Boys-Chicago concert.
A concert at the end of June would have been a marvelous beginning, not just to the summer, but also to the senior year of the Class of ’76. It must have seemed like a party set up just for them.
Chicago and the Beach Boys were both very successful and in good fighting trim in the summer of ’75, too. So the actual performance was probably pretty solid as well.
As I read the yearbook, my imagination was populated by the kids of Norwood High meeting, greeting, getting together, hanging out, breaking up, hooking up, snogging, arguing, pondering philosophy, scoring mood-enhancers and drinking beers — all set against the backdrop of a summer night’s musical party with 55,000 other people.
And of course, my mind also ran to the unfortunates — those seniors who couldn’t get tickets, or who were otherwise occupied that night.
In particular, I’m imagining some sad-sack senior committed to work that night at a pizza place, putting in time to pay for his gas and grass … and at 11:30, about a dozen of his classmates come waltzing in, ripped to the gunwales, telling him about everything he missed.
I might be over-romanticizing things, but this concert reminds me of one I went to myself, 13 years later.
It was June 10, 1989, and the Steve Miller Band was playing the Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua, N.Y.
The venue’s management had apparently expected a middling crowd of aged hippies, since Miller hadn’t had a chart hit in six or seven years. But Miller’s ’70s greatest hits album was hugely popular among teens in those days, and the hill of the amphitheater was crawling with kids, like a pre-graduation party for dozens of high schools.
You could probably open a 1990 yearbook from any high school in a five-county range and find at least one or two senior wills with references to the Steve Miller Band at Canandaigua.
The Beach Boys-Chicago show sounds like it was one of Those Shows, only even bigger and more epic.
I wonder if there are members of the Norwood High Class of ’76 who can still close their eyes and go back there … smell the smoke, see their friends and hear the horn section.
I imagine so.