I wrote this piece almost 10 years ago for a Facebook post we were about to do on a very special Who concert and the video simulcast at 9 Chicagoland theaters. What made me think of it today was Mary Schmich’s article in the Trib. this morning about what we did Before The World Wide Web. It’s a great memory for me and I’m sure many others. Check it out, I think you’ll enjoy it too.
Anniversary has always been a word I felt needed to be used in describing a celebratory event. It’s is a word I’ve always had a problem using when it came to disturbing or catastrophic or ominous historical events; the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the anniversary of the 911 attacks, the anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, the anniversary of my 3rd marriage (sorry I digress). I’ve always liked the word anniversary to be equated with a positive memory. This is “one” of those memories; it’s of the Who playing a very special concert at the Amphitheater on December 8th, 1979. That‘s almost 40 short years ago, but hold on…….think back to those days and where we were at back then…..no internet, no cell phones, no faxes, no MTV, no MP3 players, no IPods, no downloads, no UTube, if you wanted music you got it from the radio, you bought it at a record store or you got it “live”, ESPN was in its infancy, no cable, to speak of, in the City of Chicago….Jimmy Carter was in The White House, Big Jim Thompson in the Illinois Governor’s mansion, Jane Byrne the Mayor of Chicago……we were watching 60 Minutes (there’s some staying power), Three’s Company, M*A*S*H, Alice, Dallas, Flo and That’s Incredible on TV…..Kramer vs Kramer, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Apocalypse Now, The Muppet Movie, 10, Rocky 2 and Alien in the theaters…..the Cubs and Sox both finished in 5th place, the Bears made the playoffs, the Bulls more than 20 games under 500 and the Black Hawks won the Smythe…..we were listening to “The Wall” from Pink Floyd, “Damn The Torpedos” from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, “Highway to Hell” from AC/DC, “Rust Never Sleeps” from Neil Young and Crazyhorse, Led Zepplin, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Eagles, Supertramp even The Ramones and Rory Gallagher, but no Who album. They had decided to do a small tour, with the movie “The Kids Are Alright” getting set to premier in mid December. We at “The LOOP” knew they would sell out here in Chicago so we approached the Who’s management with an idea (the concerts promoters Celebration/Flipside were already on board). Remember, this was back in the day when radio was still about creative imagery and expanding new frontiers. Let us shoot the show “live” and send it via “satellite” to 9 Chicagoland theaters that we would equip with “Full Concert Sound” and play the visuals on the full size movie screens. This had never been done before (boxing had done this for years, but with music this was a new adventure because of the “sound”), at least not here, and we were looking for a way to include 25,000 more LOOP listeners into the “live Who experience” and possibly make a little “history”. With the Who’s blessing, we went forward and booked the theaters, started to advertise and promote the shows. We got to the week before the concert and we had sold only about 5,000 tickets (of the 25,000 available) at our 9 video locations. These included The Uptown, The Granada, The Varsity in Evanston, The Rialto in Joliet and 5 more spread around Chicagoland. We just weren’t getting the “right message” across to our listeners! Les Elias, the General Manager of The Loop, Jeff Schwartz, the General Sales Manager and myself (the Program Director) decided we needed to go and see the Who and get some direct help. On Friday, November 30th, we flew to Detroit, where the Who were playing, that night. We sat with their manager Bill Kurbishly and Pete Townsend after the show and discussed the upcoming event, in Chicago. I was able to get some tape on Townsend’s thoughts and outlook for this unique presentation. I called Matt Bisbee (one of The LOOP’S production department’s best) and told him to meet me in the morning, at the station. I got back, joined Matt at the station and we proceed to work on the first promo while teasing it on air (“a special announcement coming at 3pm today…stay tuned”). At 3pm we played the first promo and I’m happy to say the phones “went nuts”….”play it again”…”what was that’….We were able to sell the remaining 20,000 or so tickets in the week that followed. One other thing worth mentioning was this was the same week (just 5 days before the event here in Chicago) that 8 concert goers were trampled to death in a stampede for “festival” seating entering Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum for a Who concert. That was December 3rd. That brought great sadness and heightened security measures into play. I’m please to say Carl and Larry Rosenbaum and the late Bruce Kapp from Celebration/Flipside were very vigilant, in their efforts, to protect all concert goers and all went well. The fact that this did turn out to be a first and a success was very gratifying, but that’s not why I’m remembering and sharing this “anniversary” with you. This was an event that when it happened, made me smile and listening to the promos these many years later, made me smile all over again. I was at The Amphitheater that night, but I also traveled to 3 or 4 of the video venues and I have to say it was as much like “actually being there” as I could have ever imagined. Listen to the video promos and let your mind wander back. I’m hoping “you” might have been part of this experience and would like to express your thoughts or memories. Please do! We’ve come a long way in 40 years…sometimes it’s just nice to stop and look back for a moment………and remember……and enjoy………..