July 24, 1978 was a hot day in Anaheim, California. I was there with 50 or 60 thousand friends to see The Rolling Stones, with Peter Tosh opening the show. A few months shy of my 20th birthday, I was one of the younger audience members.
The scene was as decadent as any I had ever seen at a rock and roll show. There was no assigned seating. Stretched out on the field somewhere under the blazing sun, I saw somebody in an old Stones t-shirt nearby take out a mirror and a razor blade. He chopped a piece of cocaine into the finest possible dust. I was impressed with the dope fiend’s dexterity. Next, he carefully moved the drugs off of the mirror and into a little bottle. Working with the precision of a lab scientist, he added water to the bottle and shook it.
I wasn’t prepared for what I saw next. Our innovative drug user then put a dropper into the bottle and squeezed the rubber end. He raised the dropper out of the bottle, leaned his head back, and put several drops of the cocaine solution into his eyes!
“F***ing hell,” I thought to myself, “That’s pretty hard core for three in the afternoon, isn’t it? Maybe this guy thinks he’s being moderate because he’s not using a needle. Wow, I suppose the optic nerve is a pretty direct route to the brain…”
After the audience had a couple of hours to get good and loaded, Peter Tosh took the stage. I still remember being surprised and delighted with how musical and tight the performance was. Mick Jagger joined them on stage to perform “Walk and Don’t Look Back,” which went over well. The opening act wrapped up and the audience was happily anticipating the Stones.
Hours later, the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band took the stage. They played with obvious indifference. Watching each casual, sloppy attempt at playing a song made the audience increasingly angry. This band sucks! They charged us all this money ($12.50) to show up higher than we are and not even bother to pretend to have fun with us? No way!
Angry fans with good arms started throwing shoes at the Rolling Stones! The band had to start moving around a little just to get out of the way of the flying objects headed their way, but it did not improve their poor musicianship. Finally, Mr. Jagger had enough. The band stopped playing and he stood at the front of the stage. “C***suckers! If you’re going to throw shoes I want all of them!”
In reply, for several minutes the air was thick with shoes flying toward the stage. The band took cover. Everybody within 20 feet of the stage rushed for cover too. After a suitable delay, some people with big brooms came out and swept thousands of shoes off of the stage. The Stones returned to play a few more songs and call it a night. Everybody left happy, though many were barefoot.
July 24, 2013, was a warm, sunny day in Anaheim. I returned to the same stadium 35 years later to the day, to watch the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim win an exciting afternoon game against the Minnesota Twins. The audience and the venue both were a lot tidier and better groomed than back in 1978.
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