In October we went to see The Who at Toyota Center in Houston. The band opened with a lengthy but incomplete selection from Tommy. After a few minutes, I realized I was singing along, easily recalling all the words even though I probably had not listened to the album in its entirety in years. As I looked around, it was clear that 20,000 other people had joined me.

In the late 60’s, the dawning era of album rock, a new release by a favorite band was an anxiously awaited big deal. And the first of the group to acquire the record was a momentary celebrity. Usually, we would gather in Bobby’s room, a legendary place, for a first listen, appraisal and discussion. The album cover would be passed around and examined in great detail. Double albums were especially appreciated since they had double the space for art and information. We also discovered that they had a secondary function. Albums that contained the words on the album cover, interior jacket or sometimes on a bonus insert, were especially treasured.

The second most valuable possession of the day, after exclusive use of a car, was the component stereo system. The system consisted of a turntable, receiver and most importantly speakers, preferably as large as possible. The systems were zealously guarded. One simply did not touch another’s stereo without permission, instruction and careful attention to the owner’s detailed procedure for handling records. Scratching another’s record was a particularly egregious offense.

On the occasion of the release of Tommy, it was announced that the debut would take place on a Saturday night at Gary’s basement. This was an upgrade of sorts since Gary had a proper component system with bigger speakers and generally more room. It was important to arrive in a timely manner to claim a priority piece of floor space midway between the speakers. This allowed for the optimum appreciation of the stereo effect.

It was believed that optimum appreciation also required the ingestion of certain mood altering substances. This had to be accomplished prior to arrival since parental units occupied Gary’s first floor. This meant meeting first at Bobby’s room or simply imbibing in the car on the way or sometimes both. Bits of lunch money would be collected unti

1970 stereo stoe

l there was enough for a nickel bag. Someone would be dispatched to a nearby McDonald’s parking lot to score and return with the goods. The goods would be dumped into the center of double album mentioned above and the seeds and bits of stem would be separated out. The useful product was then rolled into cigarettes for immediate consumption, the product of the day being of mediocre quality by today’s standards.

All of this came flashing back as Pete and Roger performed, magnificently as expected. Unfortunately, the concert was cut short with the rapid onset of a bout of bronchitis, rendering Roger speechless.

In recalling all this, I am struck by the ceremonial nature of these events, often repeated over a number of years until we all drifted into adulthood and the accompanying separation of distance. We remain close in heart, a tribe of the times, a family of choice, even after 50 years.

Next up the Rolling Stones, if this damn virus would go away.     

William Hunn

William Hunn

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  • What a fantastic storyteller you are! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and it brought me back to what I perceive as a simpler time among really groovy and good friends, filled with infinite hope for the future, perhaps falsely due to our youth. I never became any sort of deadhead, though I know many who were... are. I loved their earlier music,. but never saw them live. My favorite concert of all time was Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" in 1975 Boston Garden. I was a 23 year student infatuated with a strikingly gorgeous, body and mind, 40 year old "girl." As the lights went down and the show was about to begin, the first lights I saw -- I swear this is true -- were a few dozen embers in the rows on the other side, being passed down the line, those embers then suddenly exploding brightly with each person. But when a joint came to me, I just passed it along, and the racven haired *girl* next to me also didn't partake. Hey, I did weed back then. Not a lot. Just once in a while with friends, and it did a lot to help me with the socialphobia that came along with my ptsd. But I was also a biology student, and kept thinking of all that bacteria on the joints from people I didn't know. But it was a wonderful event, as many were, such as the Mooody Blues, Arlo Guthrie etc which for me made me believe that there was always going to be hope for humanity no matter who sits in the Oval Office. Those concerts, as you suggest, were my growing up rituals and divergence from the world view of an earlier generation, a bit late for me than for most others. (sorry for any typos. Can't figure out how to dhhange from the Danish to the English spell checker in Google Chrome)

  • Going back to our LYR days at Gather, the topic of ceremony and ritual was one that we visited on multiple occasions. In pondering the events that provoked this article, I was struck by how much of our behavior formed into ritual and ceremony without deliberate intent. It just happened through repetition. I shared to see how much others might have engaged in similar rituals within their own tribes.

    Elsewhere on FB, I posted a livestream of me giving a kind of mini concert. The selection of songs covers learning spanning the entirety of the 45 years I have been playing and I am always working on another song. I find it increasingly difficult to remember the words to new songs. I am able to work out the accompaniment much more quickly than in the past but I struggle with the lyrics. The exception is songs from that era. Those lyrics are deeply embedded in memory and are more a matter of recall than memorization.