With the Rolling Stones announcing a tour, Tom's experiencing déjà vu

In 1978, I wrote that the Rolling Stones were getting too old and should probably stop touring before they began to embarrass themselves. After all, Charlie Watts was pushing 40, and the others weren't far behind. OK, so I got that one wrong. The Stones (who are now in their 60s) are touring again this summer, and I'd love to go see them, except there's no damn way I'd pay $100 to do so.

I wouldn't pay $100 to see Janis Joplin, even if part of the ticket price went to cover the cost of her reincarnation.

One of the few good things about being a kid in Southern California in the '60s was the opportunity to see a lot of great musical acts live, and for a very small amount of money. The first time I saw the Stones, it cost two bucks. It cost me $6 (that I still want back) to see Jimi Hendrix, who was so stoned, they almost had to wheel his punk ass onto the stage. For $5, I saw Janis Joplin and her opening act, Santana, at the Hollywood Bowl. And I saw Cream's final concert in the United States for $8.

Sometimes, bands would play free mini-concerts at local high schools in the afternoon just to drum up interest for the concert that night. I saw The Doors that way. The mini-concert was enough for me.

You could go to a different concert at a different venue every night of the week. You could see a new rock act at the Whisky on Monday and go out to a jazz club in Pasadena on Tuesday and then see Jim Croce or somebody like that at The Troubadour on Wednesday. I even saw Eric Clapton play backup guitar for Delaney and Bonnie and Friends at The Palomino, a country-Western nightclub in North Hollywood that's featured in those Clint Eastwood movies with the orangutan and Sondra Locke, if you'll pardon the redundancy.

The big acts would hit town on the weekends, playing The Forum or the Anaheim Convention Center. The opportunities were almost endless. Back then, the concerts would have three or four acts. I saw the Rascals, Rare Earth, Tower of Power and War at one concert. The only act that I remember playing solo was James Brown, and he had that whole revue thing going on. I saw James Brown every time he came to town, even during the "Kill Whitey" days.

Radio stations, which were incredibly powerful back then, would hold free concerts in parks or at the beach. I saw the Animals play at the beach one time. As the sun set on the Pacific Ocean at Malibu Beach, Eric Burdon sang "We Gotta Get out of This Place." It was surreal.

Back then, deejays had huge followings, but they were also responsible for one of the unavoidable rites of passage in those days, the incredible sense of disappointment one felt after seeing his favorite deejay in person for the first time. "That voice comes out of that face/body/person?!"

I saw the Motown Revue at a venue where you could actually dance! They'd have the Temptations, the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas and others come out and do two or three songs each. It was heavenly. The opportunity to slow dance to "Ooh Baby Baby" with Smokey Robinson singing live was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I just wish I'd had a girl to dance with.

The concert business began to change in the late '60s. I went to a three-day event in June 1969 that was actually a precursor to Woodstock. Hendrix was supposed to close the show the first night, but Ike and Tina Turner had torn the place up with a wild set, and the crowd kept screaming for more Tina Turner. Finally, Hendrix announced that he wasn't coming out to play, so the stoners in attendance started a riot. And believe me, stoners can't riot for shit!

The last big concert I saw before I moved to Arizona was an all-day event at the Ontario Motor Speedway, east of Los Angeles. The headliners were Black Sabbath, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Deep Purple, none of whom I particularly cared to see. I went to see the early-day acts of Earth, Wind and Fire, Rare Earth and the Eagles. I remember reading that the police had impounded hundreds of cars that day, including many that had been stolen and left parked on the Interstate. The times, they were a changin'.

Oddly enough, after I wrote that thing about the Stones, I got a free ticket, so I went to see their concert at the Tucson Convention Center. (Yes, there used to be concerts in Tucson, and not just of Boomer acts at the Indian casinos.) The show was really good, and I felt stupid for having written what I had. Linda Ronstadt, who was mega-huge at the time, joined Mick Jagger on stage for a hot rendition of "Tumbling Dice."

Now the greatest rock 'n' roll band of all time is coming back. And if I can get another free ticket, I'm willing to go see them again. So hook me up.

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