Where Were You When The Lights Went Out?

Where Were You When The Lights Went Out?

Written by Jay Jay French

You probably wished you were hanging out with me…read on…

Recently, as I was walking through an antique store in Geneva, New York, I came upon a box of old vinyl (there is at least one of these in every one of these stores).

The first album at the front of the pile was an RCA Records album of Elvis live at Madison Square Garden, June 10, 1972.

I was at that show and didn’t have great memories of it either. I just knew that I had to buy it, listen to it and see if my memories were consistent with the often-told story of the show.

When I returned home to Manhattan I thought about the fact that it was cool that I was there. It was at that moment that I realized that many of the shows I’ve actually been to were turned into live albums. I quickly went through my collection and amassed the following live albums of shows I had attended.


The Weavers – Reunion at Carnegie Hall, May 2nd 1963 (with my parents!), Vanguard VSD 2150

I was 11 and it was my first concert. I loved the Weavers, but I met Pete Seeger backstage and he wasn’t very nice to me. I never forgot that he seemed dismissive. Hey, I was 10…

John Mayall – The Turning Point, at the Fillmore East, New York, July 12, 1969, Polydor 24-2004

Had no idea that there was not going to be a typical blues band at the show. It was just John Mayall with Jon Mark on acoustic guitar, Steve Thompson on bass and Johnny Almond on tenor and alto sax, flute and mouth harp. Basically all-acoustic. The show was unbelievable. I walked out knowing that I had seen something very special. The opening act, a solo artist named Duster Bennett, got booed off the stage. I had never seen that before at the Fillmore.

The Rolling Stones – Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! at Madison Square Garden, November 27 and 28, 1969 (they played three shows including an afternoon matinee on the 28th), London/ABKCO M57176


This was the Stones at their very best. Totally incendiary. A riot ensued during the matinee show when everyone rushed the stage. This is what rock and roll is supposed to be. Totally subversive and dangerous. We were all at the mercy of Jagger. (Satan laughing with delight…thanks Don McLean!)

Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys, Fillmore East, New Year’s Eve 1969/70, Capitol Records STAO-472

Went in hoping for an Experience. I had 10th row center seats. Buddy Miles (on drums and vocals) held Jimi back way too much. The show dragged on until Jimi went nuts, turned on an additional Marshall amp and tore through “Purple Haze,” “Foxey Lady” and “Manic Depression” and ended with “Wild Thing.” He was playing that night. To me. It was the greatest guitar exhibition I have ever seen and I’ve seen ‘em all!


Grateful Dead –Workingman’s Dead (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY, February 21, 1971, Warner Bros. Records/Rhino Records R2 624973, 603497848539

On acid (what else is new) and another classic show. I hitched a ride back to Manhattan. I got home alive; that’s all I can remember!

The Band – Rock Of Ages, The Academy of Music, Manhattan, New Year’s Eve 1971/72, Capitol Records SABB-11045

An incredible show by one of the greatest bands to ever exist. Majestic is the only word I will use. At the top of their game. The added horn section was superb.

Elvis Presley – Elvis As Recorded at Madison Square Garden), June 10, 1972, RCA AQL1-4776

A total letdown. This was not the Elvis of the 1968 comeback special. This was the Vegas Elvis, complete with an opening comedian. In between the acts, a guy selling T-shirts and programs hawked them from the stage. The white jumpsuit Elvis was wearing tells you all you need to know. Elvis sang lots of pop covers (“Proud Mary,” “Never Been to Spain,” “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” “The Impossible Dream,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Polk Salad Annie” and others). But his classics were all shoved into a seven-minute medley. ’Nuff said…

Mott the Hoople – Live, at the Uris Theater, New York, May 9, 1974, Columbia X698 (PC 33282)

If you can believe it, Queen opened these shows. They were an incredible opening act but nothing was going to stop Mott, who were at the top of their game. During the encore, a drunk John Bonham tried to get on the drums to play “All the Young Dudes” and a fight broke out backstage when he was tackled by a roadie, That was exciting! The theatrics were beautifully staged. Anyone who was there has great memories of this set of shows.


Cream – Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6 2005, Reprise Records 9362-49416-2

Three old men playing Cream songs. It wasn’t Cream. It was skim milk.

Airfare to the UK – $1,000

Tickets (fourth row courtesy of EMI) – $1,500

Listening to Cream play through Fender amps and guitars (instead of Marshall amps and Gibson guitars) – worthless.

Could there have been more shows that I attended that wound up on record? Sure. I was at hundreds of shows between 1967 and the end of 1974. At that point, our band began and I was working too much.

Like I said, you probably wished you were hanging out with me.

For reasons that I truly can’t explain, I made a conscious effort, as stoned as I was, to remember what I was seeing because I felt that what I (along with hundreds, if not thousands of other participants) was watching was historically significant. That what I was watching meant something more than the 90 minutes of time that it took to watch these shows.

I saw so many great concerts (the vast majority not made into live albums but important nonetheless), that they shaped my rock and roll dreams.

I was fortunate to live in New York City during these times. I was fortunate to be able to walk down the street to the Fillmore East, or into Central Park in the summer for the Schaefer Music Festival concerts, or go to the Academy of Music or the Pavilion at the World’s Fair site in Queens, or to MSG, or wander onto the Great Lawn in Central Park…

I was there at the right place at the right time and my memories of these events remain meaningful still.

Those nights at the Fillmore and the Academy of Music especially, when I was watching Leon Russell, or Neil Young and Crazy Horse, or the Mothers of Invention or Moby Grape, BB King, The Band, The Incredible String Band, Johnny Winter, the Jeff Beck Group, Ten Years After, the Kinks, Jethro Tull, Family, The Nice, Jimi Hendrix, The Dead, Janis Joplin, Country Joe and the Fish, The Airplane, John Mayall, Led Zep, the Who, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Canned Heat, Iron Butterfly, the Youngbloods, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chicago (the Chicago Transit Authority), Pacific Gas and Electric, Trapeze, Joe Cocker, NRBQ, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, Soft White Underbelly, Blues Image, Man, Savoy Brown, the Foundations, Love, The Allman Brothers, Lighthouse, Cold Blood, Ravi Shankar, Taj Mahal, Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison, Edgar Winter’s White Trash, the Byrds, McKendree Spring, Head Over Heels, the Hampton Grease Band and the New York Dolls, Roy Buchanan (at the new Fillmore East) and others are etched in my memory.


Also, special mentions: Carnegie Hall, where I saw The Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Van Morrison, Frank Sinatra, and MSG where I saw John Lennon, The Stones, Jimi, Ike and Tina Turner, Blind Faith, Free, Wings, Led Zep, R.E.M., AC/DC, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John,  Beck/Clapton, Adele, Tim McGraw/Faith Hill,  Oasis, Roger Waters, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder…

At the Nassau Coliseum I went to concerts by Pink Floyd, KISS, The Allman Brothers., Queen, Thin Lizzy, My Chemical Romance and Led Zep.

I saw shows at the Beacon Theater by John Fogerty, Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, Hall and Oates, Earth Wind & Fire, Steely Dan, Steve Miller, Alice Cooper, and Vanilla Ice.

Radio City Music Hall was where I witnessed Prince, Run DMC, Naughty by Nature, INXS…Ungano’s nightclub…Clapton, Winwood, Dr. John, Free, Mountain, the MC5, Muddy Waters…

…and I can’t forget The Ramones at CBGB.


Header image courtesy of Pexels/Wendy Wei.

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