Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wayback Machine

Set your time machine for 1970.5, (±1 year)    I was dating the daughter of a quack doctor.   This guy was making a killing selling diet pills and behavior counseling to housewives from all over our county back in NJ.   They had built a great big fancy house with his office attached, along the main drag a few towns over from us.   I had met this girl, in summer school and we really hit it off in a free-spirited, Summer of Love, kind of way.   It might have been the summer of Bordentown Military Academy or the hippie dippie, Moorestown Friends School or maybe it was Doane Academy Preparatory School.  I am not sure.   Anyway, she was a furry, freaky, funny, happy, blue eye blonde, rich, hippy chick who never wore underwear and really didn't give a $hit in a very sweet, casual kind of way.   My parents had no clue about raising a kid and her parents believed in freedom, or some sixties notion like that.  We were a hit!  I was totally infatuated with this girl because she was so fresh and so different from the girls in my home town.

Her family was very progressive.   Except the doctor dad, he stayed in the clinic for what seemed to me 24 hours a day so he was absent.   They had a big pool out back in which the entire family frequently jumped into and out of without a stitch, Mom included!   Similarly they roamed freely about the house, sometimes dripping wet in an exposed state seemingly without notice.  All this much to the dismay of the older brother who repeated reminded the mother, "Mom! We have company."

There were times when the mom asked if I was "staying over" and she never had a problem sending me upstairs to wake her or to help get her ready when picking her up for a date.   

This one night she was very excited.   "Let's go!"
"Hurry we'll be too late." She rushed to my '61 chevy wagon, jumped in the drivers side and slid half way across the bench seat.

"What, where huh?!"  She never did anything in a hurry.   I got in the car and took off.  Turns out she had tickets for a concert.  
"There's this new band called Jethro Tull."
"Jethro Tull?"
"The front man plays a FLUTE!"
She assured me it was going to be very cool and I would like it and please drive fast to Philly.   A big green cloud filled the car as we drove toward the new Spectrum.   We arrived just as JT was taking the stage.   I was amazed at the smell in that place and how long everybody's hair was.   

The music started just as we emerged from the ramp to the second floor.  The crowd let out a roar and music filled the hall.  I was stopped in my tracks by the volume and the vivid scene that had suddenly unfolded directly in front of us.   
"Quick" she says, grabbing my hand and giving a little squeal of delight, "Let's sit here."  
We slid our feet under the bar at the top of the ramp, sitting on concrete, our earth shoes and ragged bell bottoms dangling 30 feet in the air and our heads and arms protruding through the space between the second and top bars.   These were great seats, forget those numbers on our tickets, stay right here.  The stage was just below us and slightly to the right.   The sound was amazing!   The colors smoke and flashing lights were out of this world.   The acrid smell of sweat and weed was just overpowering.   I was stupefied with happiness.  Who could imagine such a scene existed on earth.   Joy.

The music finished and Ian Anderson announced the name of the song and plugged the new album, Aqualung.  I swear he looked right at us!   The piano player, dressed in an all white suit, was rapidly and deliberately pacing around the stage as Anderson began to introduce the next song.   The Piano dude looked like a cross between an ice cream man and an over amped Colonel Sanders with hair down to the middle of his back and cascading over both shoulders.   This guy was so wound up that he would frantically wave one hand or the other as fast as possible if he had an idle second without assigned notes to play.   The urgent, rapid strides around the stage continued between songs.  It's a wonder his heart didn't explode right then.

Mr Anderson had an unusual appearance also.  He was wearing a bright green, soiled, swallow tail coat with one tail raggedly removed.  He had sort of white tight pants and brown, fringed, over the calf, lace up fringed boots.   He put the sole of one boot on his opposite knee as he played the flute.   Long, wild, frizzy hair and a full untrimmed beard completed his stage presence.    Freaky.   The third (or tenth) song was Cross-eyed Mary.   An excerpt of the lyrics is:

Laughing in the playground -- gets no kicks from little boys:
would rather make it with a letching grey.
Or maybe her attention is drawn by Aqualung,
who watches through the railings as they play.
Cross-eyed Mary...   

Just as Anderson sang "maybe her attention is drawn by Aqualung"  he cocked his head toward us.   He was looking right at me!  He stretched out a bony hand with the longest fingers I had ever seen in my life, pointed right at us and sang, "watches through the railings..."  

So here I was barely 17, first real concert, tweaked out of my head, in a perch suspended high above the crowd and this guy saw us!   I was part of the show.   Everybody looked.   She rushed, shook her hair and threw her arms over her head and kicked her feet.   It seemed the singer appreciated the exuberant little show she put on.  Thumbs up!   We were quickly joined on the ledge by others seeking to share our advantage in access to the band.   The sudden movement caused the guards to descend in a large group.  Now we were caught in an unsafe and popular position.   We had to take our real seats for the rest of the concert.   

After that night, every time I returned to the The Spectrum and saw the solid steel panel welded to the bottom of all the railings at the top of each ramp reminded me that Rita, me and Ian Andersen were the reason they modified that opening.   The little hippie chick succumbed to cancer and The Spectrum has been demolished and replaced by a bigger, better, more modern facility.   Ian Andersen is still making music and me... well you know what I do.