An avid concert-goer, I attended Aerosmith’s, Draw the Line show in Philadelphia when a thrown cherry bomb injured Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. Disappointed and angry that anyone would do such a thing, I was especially excited the following year when I got tickets to the November 1978, Live Bootleg! concert. Shortly after the show began, a fan threw a bottle hitting Steven Tyler. The band walked off stage immediately. I don’t blame them, but it was incredibly disappointing.
As anyone who lived the time can tell you, when entering a venue, searches performed helped to assure that everyone had a valid ticket, and to remove glass bottles, fireworks, lethal weapons and cameras. For security personnel, I’m certain it was a bit like searching for a needle in a stack of needles.
Once inside, cash ruled as the hawkers of concert paraphernalia, especially T-shirts with album cover art, commanded astronomical markups. “Festival seating” was the norm for those on the floor, though stadium seating was more specific. Smoke from exploded M-80’s thrown into the crowd by out-of-control fans (usually the drunk ones) mixed with the cloud of pot. Crowd control largely consisted of protecting the band from a rush to the stage and breaking up the occasional brawls among the rowdier fans. While I never failed to enjoy the myriad of talented musicians who I saw in the 70s and 80s, I also learned street- smarts and how to avoid the real trouble spots in a crowd.
So when 1979 rolled around I looked forward again to standing in line for concert tickets. On more than one occasion, after befriending my line-mates and fellow fans, we’d meet again, seated side-by-side at the venue—a result of the ticket machine doling out our tickets in row order. At the end of March, time stopped for several days; a result of a single event.
“T-M-I.” Today, those three letters uttered aloud immediately shift me into the defensive mode required to rid myself of whatever horrid thing I envision, the result of too much information. But “T-M-I” meant something entirely different in 1979.
The Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident, then dubbed “TMI,” brought a whole different fear. The accident changed the face of the nuclear power industry, but for the few days surrounding the meltdown, we wondered if our world might ever be the same. Even today, thirty plus years beyond the event, Chernobyl notwithstanding, when we stumble upon an outlandishly over-sized strawberry, or an oddly-shaped vegetable of some sort, we joke that it must have been grown near TMI. It is odd how sheer horror can similarly be funny.
Because ultimately and by the grace of God, no one was injured, we forged ahead with our lives and were able to make light of what could have been a catastrophe. Getting back on track allowed me to continue to attend the concerts I loved.
As such, nausea overcame me when I heard the news on the radio that 11 fans died trying to get in to see the WHO concert in Cincinnati Ohio’s Riverfront Coliseum. May they always rest in peace.
A favorite TV sitcom, WKRP in Cincinnati, about a wannabe rock station, created an episode to address the horrific, though real event. Rarely has there been more apropos soul-searching on network TV.