The Linear Canvas
This journal is about the wrongs and rights of the world, as I see them.

The Linear Canvas

Summer of ’75: Aerosmith

February 8th, 2009 . by Alexander Fisher

“In The Summer of ’75, The Whole World Is Gonna Come Alive”
-Jefferson Starship

My friend John and I spent the biggest part of the summer of 1975 following Aerosmith around Ohio and wearing out our Aerosmith records and tapes. We threw in some hard partying as well that summer. It’s not like they were the only band we were into at the time, we saw Uriah Heep twice that summer as well.(see my post Summer of ’75:Uriah Heep ) But Aerosmith was the rock band we liked the best. I saw them at Dayton and in Cleveland that year.

John had a girlfriend and a posse. The posse was made up of people John had grown up with in his rural village. They were all around sixteen or seventeen years old. All were younger than him. The group included one of his younger brothers as well. I was new to this party, and sometimes felt more like an outsider than anything. I was like the new kid in town and was treated somewhat different as a result. I never did posse well.

Dayton, Ohio Hara Arena, April 1975

On the day in late spring that we saw Aerosmith at Dayton Hara Arena, there were enough people going to the concert that we could barely squeeze everyone into two fairly large cars. This group included John’s girlfriend, Marlene. Marlene was a cute 16 year old girl that always acted the part of the stoner chick. The problem for her was she liked John more that he did her. When it came time to decide who was riding in which car, it came down to a choice between me and his girlfriend. John picked me and made his girlfriend ride in the other car. The thing I remember about that most was, she didn’t seem to mind that much. Weird.

When we first got to the arena, we went into the lobby to wait for the gates to open. As more and more people arrived, the temperature began to rise quickly. there were so many people there that we were all pressed in there tightly . Hundreds of us. It was so hot, it was a wonder someone wasn’t hurt that day. Someone was passing around a few towels in the crowd. Believe it or not, because they were so hot, some people in the crowd were wiping off their sweat, with the towels, and then wringing it out, and passing it on. I doubt anyone would even think about doing that today. There were these security guards behind the glass doors who probably could’ve let us in, but they were just standing there on the other side laughing and pointing at us.

Once we got into the arena, we headed straight to the front of the stage and began to party with everyone there. You could see the roadies making final checks of the sound and equipment, as all the overhead lights were still on. The opening act was a band I barely knew anything about, at the time. That band was Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes. I remember the bass player did most of the singing. If Nugent sang I don’t remember it. As an effect or maybe just because of the heat, they had a large fan blowing straight at Ted and his hair. Watching him lean into that fan and his hair blowing in the spotlight as he played his Gibson ES335 guitar was very memorable. I’ve always thought that because The Amboy Dukes were so good, especially live, that I probably saw what must’ve been the best performance by Aerosmith ever. They probably had to play that way every night they toured with Nugent just so they didn’t look bad.

Aerosmith was touring that summer promoting their new album Toys in the Attic, their third record. I bought the recording when it was first released and played it constantly. I remember I had preferred the Get Your Wings album over their first LP. Toys in the Attic had a sound unlike either record. It was their most professionally produced LP up until that time. At this point the album was still new and all the classic songs on it like Walk this Way were mostly still unknown.

I remember it was very dark as Aerosmith entered the stage. The stage then exploded in lights as the show began. Steven Tyler was still a young and energetic lead singer, with a scarf covered microphone stand that he bounced across the stage with during every song. The rest of band were mostly just stationary in comparison. At times the songs would feature Joe Perry on lead guitar and Joey Kramer was very busy on drums, but Tyler was usually the focal point. They played many of my favorite songs that night except for Spaced and Seasons of Whither. I kept hoping to hear them, and I yelled for them constantly, but they must not have been on their playlist for that tour.

Cleveland, Ohio Municipal Stadium, August 1975

I had been working at an artificial creamery for about six months as a janitor. They made artificial coffee creamers, whipped cream, and several other products like that. I had been a part-time janitor at a foundry previously and was capable of keeping the place clean, any more responsibility and your were taking a chance with me, at the time. On a couple of occasions the owner asked me to skip school to come in and work an eight hour shift on the production line. I was only seventeen, so I am not sure I was legally able to work in this kind of place, other than cleaning. Once he asked me to work and then I didn’t show up after saying I would. I actually went to school. Nothing was said to me when I showed up later for my regular part-time shift.

Several weeks had passed when John came to me with an idea about going to Cleveland to see the then annual World Series of Rock on Saturday. Performing that year were Mahogany Rush with Frank Marino, Blue Oyster Cult, Uriah Heep, Aerosmith, plus Rod Stewart and Faces. All for about $8. That sounded great to me, but he wanted to leave late Friday afternoon, about 4PM. John had already worked that day so he could leave any time. I would have to call off work to leave when he wanted to go. It was a 150 mile drive so the earlier we could leave, the more time there was for partying. I didn’t think that not going to work was all that big of a deal, until I called in.

When I called, the owner of the company answered the phone. When I told him I was not coming to work, he flew into a rage. He told me I was fired and then he brought up the time I hadn’t skipped school to work. I really hadn’t thought that this would be anything that I’d get fired for. He could have just said that I couldn’t take the day off and I would have gone in. I only lived about a block from there, so I hurried on down and offered to work that evening, but he wasn’t buying any of it. So I’d been fired over going to a rock concert and not wanting to skip school.

Still, I had a ticket and some money. I wouldn’t have let a minor thing like getting fired get in the way of having a good time. So we headed to the show with another friend, Noreen. John and Noreen had kind of a luke-warm relationship. Their only common link was me. Maybe it was some kind of jealous reaction. I think at that time, both John and Noreen regarded me as their best friend. I sort of took advantage of both a little here and there, but they used me and each other for their own gain as well.

As we drove north towards Cleveland, I made the suggestion that we stop and buy groceries of some kind to eat that night and the next day as this was an all day concert with five bands. John ridiculed the idea. Noreen agreed with me, but John was driving and would not stop. I knew there would be food there, but the price would have been higher than any food we could have bought in a store along the way. Plus I wasn’t planning on spending all my money on food.

We had listened to our local album rock station WCOL-FM in Columbus as long as we could. When we got into the Cleveland area, we started listening to WMMS-FM. I had heard of WMMS from Rolling Stone and other rock music magazines. I also knew that the rock band Rush had thanked them on the back of their first album the previous year. I had pretty high expectations for WMMS considering the high praise given it by so many people. But I must say that I was mildly disappointed with the commercial album rock sound of the station compared to the laid back style that WCOL had. Still, WMMS is currently a famous rock station and even though WCOL was very popular then, it started playing Top-40 rock a couple of years later and now plays country. There must have been more to WMMS than I thought.

As we drove through downtown Cleveland, all I remember seeing were brightly lit empty streets, tall buildings, and teenage gang members hitching rides on the sides of moving city buses. All I had known about Cleveland before was that it was supposedly dirty, violent and the river had caught on fire at least once. This moment did not change my perceptions whatsoever.

When we arrived at the stadium parking lot, we got out and found the first party we could. The bad part about what happened in that parking lot, was all the drug dealers. It wasn’t the drugs that were the problem though, it was the fake drugs being sold that took all my money. I tried to buy real drugs all night and never did. A smarter me would have stopped while I was ahead. I was nearly broke before the evening was over and I had a full 36 hours before I was going to be home again.

We settled into the car and all fell asleep. When we woke up the next day, we hung around the car for awhile and then started to make our way towards the stadium when everyone else did. It was a beautiful sunny day so we took our time walking. Almost immediately I started seeing other people I knew. We talked to some for awhile, then went into the stadium and found a place to sit.

After waiting about a hour or so I noticed that the wind was picking up and rain clouds appeared overhead. A storm was rolling off of Lake Erie and was threatening lives as well as the concert. By this time the stadium was nearly full. WMMS disc jockey, Kid Leo, came on to urge everyone to back away from speaker banks on either side of the stage because they could fall and crush someone. As he said that, I noticed the speakers rocking back and forth.

After a short heavy rain, the sun came back out and the concert began.

Mahogany Rush began playing just as the skies were clearing up. Frank Marino was a Jimi Hendrix clone and played several Hendrix songs very well. He also tried to write originals that sounded like Hendrix, but they were just okay and really didn’t sound that much like Hendrix’s material to me. At the time there were two guitarists that went for the Hendrix-like sound, Marino and Robin Trower. Marino did a better Hendrix impression, but Trower’s originals were better. The highlight of the Mahogany Rush set was when Marino played Hendrix’s version of Red House. He also played the Hendrix standard The Star Spangled Banner. Everyone came to their feet after the performance, which overall was very well done.

I had never owned a Blue Oyster Cult album before then, though some of my friends had. I guess I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Noreen was much more familiar with the group than I was. Even so, she was not willing to go down into the crowd to get any closer than the very back. I remember watching the band play. During a couple of songs the guitar players were doing the duck walk across the stage. I remember being very impressed by that. They put on a very good show and I was familiar with more of their material than I had thought. I remember them playing Godzilla and Cities on the Flame, two of their most popular songs. They were a very good live band. It would have been worth going just to see them play that day.

The next band that played was Aerosmith. This was the main reason we came to Cleveland. It was about two o’clock and the skies were clear and the sun was shining. It was now a perfect day for a concert and our favorite band was getting ready to play.

Just before they began, all three of us left the bleachers and moved down to the field level. For a few moments neither of us knew what we were going to do next. There were hundreds of people between us and the front of the stage. We decided our goal was to get as close to Aerosmith as possible. We made it easily through the crowd in the beginning, but found it harder to move through the closer we got.

When we finally made it to the stage, we were able to watch Aerosmith that close for the second time in two months. Steven Tyler would dance to the edge of the stage where we could almost touch him. People were throwing things on the stage. Girls were throwing clothing, mostly panties. My friend John decided to throw a joint on the stage. It was one that he had rolled with bright green paper. He waited until Tyler was close and threw it directly at him. Stephen couldn’t help but see it lying right in front of him. He picked it up and held it up in the air, and then put it in his mouth. The entire stadium roared their approval.

When I got closer to the stage I began looking around below me. I must’ve been near one of the stadium walls. The stage was set up just above it. At the base of the wall, lying end to end, were people that had passed out sometime during the previous bands. Some were partially sunken into the mud. I hope they were all right, but I didn’t make any effort to find out.

There were many police in the stadium. But there were none on the field that I ever saw. Providing first aid were volunteers that all looked like they had just been released from the local mental hospital. They all wore plain white T-shirts with red crosses drawn on them with a red magic marker or crayon. To look at these people you would have never thought that they were capable of helping anyone, even each other. Once when I was buying food I heard a man yelling behind me. I looked over at him and I saw two or three of the so-called first-aid workers trying to drag him into a first aid station. He yelled “I’m tripping, man, help me”. It was obvious he was just high and didn’t really need any first aid. Several of us came to his assistance, and ran off the first aid clowns. Then we all ran so that none of us would get caught if they brought the police back.


The next band was Uriah Heep. Although we were big fans, being down front for Aerosmith pretty much wore us out. We returned to the stands, to sit back down and rest. When I saw Uriah Heep in Dayton the previous June, the bass player, John Wetton had a broken leg and was leaning up against a chair. By this time his leg was better and he was not wearing a cast anymore. They played basically the same set that I had heard in Dayton. I do remember John Wetton singing a King Crimson song. Later he would become the lead singer for the rock band, Asia.

Sometime after Uriah Heep played both myself and Noreen were pretty hungry. By this time though, through poor money management and bad choices, neither of us had any money. John had a full-time job but he wasn’t giving up any of his cash to either of us. Noreen had some money her grandfather had given her to buy him some lottery tickets with, but she was trying not to spend any of it. The state lottery was still new and people had a perception that buying tickets in the Cleveland area was luckier than buying them anywhere else. This was supposedly because of the proximity to the lottery offices which were in Cleveland.

So Noreen and I went down to the concessions area. Noreen said “You go stand over there, and I’ll get us something to eat” as she pointed me to the wall. She then approached a man and started talking to him. After a minute he was smiling and joking with her. She was obviously flirting with him and he was responding. I could hear her ask him to buy her a hotdog. He said yes. She looked at me and motioned me over, and he told me he would buy me one too, although I don’t think he realized I was part of the deal at first.

After we ate our hot dogs covered with the famous Cleveland Stadium brown mustard, both Noreen and I had had enough music for one day. We asked John if he wanted to leave but he said he wanted to stay for Rod Stewart. We decided to go and wait in the car. After awhile we could hear the Rod Stewart and Faces show begin. Almost immediately we both realized that we had made a mistake and wanted to go back in. We walked back up to the stadium, hoping that we could get in somehow.

There was a small group of people at the gate trying to get in even though they had no tickets. I assume they were just hoping they would open the gates near the end of the show. Noreen walked up to the policeman who was keeping all of these others out. She explained to him that we had tickets but we just got tired and wanted to leave and now we had decided to go back in. He said he would not let us back in regardless. He said that once we left the stadium we couldn’t return. Noreen motioned me away again. I couldn’t hear what she was saying to the policeman, but he started to smile. She looked over at me and the policeman motioned us both through the line and back into the stadium. I’m not sure what she said to him but he was a man about the age of Noreen’s father. I always suspected she played on his fatherly instincts. She also might have offered him sex or drugs, but in any case, it worked.

We had only missed the first two songs of the show. My memory of Rod Stewart is what I described later as, he looked like he had green and gold striped pajamas on. The guitar player for Faces at the time was Ron Wood. Not long after this concert, he joined The Rolling Stones and has been their guitarist ever since.

All The Way Home

After we got back in, we found John sitting in the stands with a friend from London and smoking a grass mask made from an army gas mask. We sat down in front of him and watched the remainder of the show. I was very impressed by the Faces and by Rod Stewart but we were so tired, all we could do was watch. There wasn’t a chance that I was going down onto the field again.

It was getting dark as we made our way out to the car after the show. All of us were exhausted and none of us were capable of driving back home that evening. We got just out of the Cleveland area on I-71 and pulled into a road side rest and decided to sleep there, at least for a few hours. By then the car seemed too crowded for three people to relax, although we had done just that the night before. John had brought a sleeping bag and he got out and slept on the ground all night in it. He was probably more comfortable than us out there, but at least if it rained we were going to be dry.

After falling asleep for a few hours, I woke up and noticed a state highway patrol car sitting a few cars from us. When I turned to look for John, I saw that what had been just John sleeping on the grass, had multiplied to about ten other people who had found a place sleeping on the grass too. I just laid back down and fell asleep again.

In the morning, I woke to find the policeman had been there all night keeping an eye on us. I suspect that he was doing that to protect us as much as wanting to arrest us, which was the norm for most of our brushes with the law up till then.

After we were all awake, we began heading home. We were able to stop at a store that sold lottery tickets and Noreen was able to buy a few tickets for her grandfather. She had spent over half the money he had given her for lottery tickets on food.

As soon as we got on the road again, it began to rain very hard. As we listened to the weather reports on the way home, it was clear to us that the concert had ended just in time to avoid one of the worst storms and flooding that Cleveland had seen for years. I remember seeing pictures of knee deep water on the field that we were just on the day before.

It was a long time before I went to another concert. Never again did I go to a concert with John or Noreen. I had a chance to see Aerosmith in Columbus with John a couple of years later, but they were broadcasting the show on the new radio station in town, QFM96 and someone had to stay home to record it. Me being Mr. Technical, I was elected. I am glad I did it as I still have the recording and was able to transfer it to CD a couple of years ago.

The summer of ’75 nearly killed me, almost got me arrested, and got me fired from my job, but I can’t imagine doing it any differently. What a summer.

clip_image003On the cover of the “Get Your Wings” album, Steven Tyler is wearing a scarf  that has drugs rolled up in it. People would throw him joints onto the stage, and he would walk around gathering them up. He says he doesn’t do things like that anymore. I heard he said he hit rock bottom when he only had twenty thousand dollars in a Keogh account and was shooting heroin in a dirty apartment in New York City. When they first started touring again, they had to hire security people to keep the pushers away.

Recently I heard that Steven had wanted to be the singer on a Robert Plant-less Led Zeppelin tour and was said to have failed the audition miserably. How the mighty have fallen.

See my post Summer of ’75:Uriah Heep

I posted this story on my blog and was it auto-imported to Facebook via RSS.

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