Yes, another Facebook meme had crossed my path a few weeks ago (courtesy of fellow rock fanatic Will Betheboy) and in true obsessive/compulsive fashion, I was diligently attempting to track down the exact dates of some key concerts I had been to, attempting to identify the 10 most important/memorable rock n roll shows in my life.
Of course, #1 is Friday, December 17, 1971 – my first concert: Alice Cooper, Pacific Gas and Electric, and Dust at the St. Louis Arena Annex. This show probably demands a write up of its own since it’s memorable for many things, including, well…I will save that for that post.
What I did stumble upon (no pun intended) was this: an article published last January in the Memphis Commercial Appeal celebrating the 3oth anniversary of the Sex Pistols appearance in Memphis. Of course, that show would probably rank #2 or #3 on my all-time list. Again, not just for the show, but for the various incidents and encounters that happen when 3 21-22 year old punks decide to go on a road trip through the Ozarks.
The central cast of characters in my story, Jim R and Jim S both recently resurfaced in my life thanks to (of course) Facebook. Not long after I posted a link to that news article, I received an email with this attachment. So I have always remembered that headline, and was immediately transported back to that Friday in Memphis.
First, there was the car ride from St. Louis to Memphis, with the obligatory stop for gas in the middle of BFE. While Jim S filled the tank, Jim R visited the bathroom, and exited having changed into his evening clothes – a white dress shirt ripped to shreds with his Kansas U school ID safety pinned above the pocket. This of course led to us scrambling out of the parking lot (ala a certain Charlie Daniels song) as the locals got a good look at us. Saved by a Duster with slant-6, baby!
We arrived in Memphis around dinner time and were scheduled to meet up with our other friends from Saint Louis that had made the pilgrimage. We somehow found our way entering into TGIFridays through the rear door. This is when we found out that The Scruffs, a great Memphis based powerpop band (and our group’s connection to the tickets) had been unceremoniously dumped from the bill.
We got to the Taliesyn Ballroom very early. With the lights in the hall still on, the crowd seemed like a casting call for a wanna-be Fellini film. This was 1978, really really early 1978, and not many folks in Memphis had figured out just what you wear to a punk rock concert – there were even some folks in KISS makeup!!
31 years later, when people find out that I saw the Sex Pistols, they always ask “So, how were they?” (Or ooh and aah like friends of my young pal William, who, when told I had seen that tour seemed in awe that someone old enough to see them still lived! – thanks, Bill).
But in a word, they were good. Not great, not awesome, but definitely better than I expected. Outside of Sid, they were a solid rocknroll band and Johnny Rotten was definitely the showman and had a knack for tossing off memorable lines. I’ve repeated one of them many times over the years: “I’m not here for your entertainment — you’re here for mine.”
After the show, we gravitated to a bar where we finished off the evening while Memphis legend Alex Chilton held court at one of the back tables.
Maybe some of my friends will fill in some of the blanks or post comments about their memories of the show.
If you’ve read the above articles, you are aware that this was the same weekend Memphis was swollen with mourning Elvis Presley fans celebrating what would’ve been his 43rd birthday. The Saturday after the show, we ventured out…
and encountered the woman who had no face…
(to be continued…)