Wednesday, October 12, 2011

1978 - Black Sabbath / Van Halen Tour

In 1978 I was stationed in Spokane, Washington, the "Inland Empire". We'll skip that for now....

My wife at the time, my two best friends and I got tickets for the Black Sabbath tour. Rock on! Some band called Van Halen were opening for them. Okay, I think I heard a single they had on the radio. Sounded pretty good, but BLACK SABBATH was coming to the fieldhouse! I didn't care who was opening for them. So, we were going. I'll get back to this in a moment.

I was just sitting here watching That Metal Show on VH1. Yes. I was. I listen to a diverse selection of music. Up until recently, I had one of the most diverse and extended music catalogs of anyone I knew, or had met. What now with the Internet, everyone seems to know everything (okay, not really), but people are far more diverse now and with all the bands and nationalities available at your fingertips, everyone can at least sound like they have a huge musical vocabulary.

Oh, and about VH1. I remember when cable first started and there was MTV. Then VH1. I HATED coming into someone's house who were playing VH1. Boring. Kill me, then throw me in the alley but don't make me listen to VH1. Doesn't Lawrence Welk listen to that channel? Well, VH1 for old people now, is kind of my cohort. What a drag....

Chris Cornel was sitting in the audience on this episode (from Soundgarden). He used to come into Tower Video Mercer store in Seattle back in the late 80s. We had a few bands like that who hung around between video and records, Metal Church, Green River (of course, Jeff Ament now of Pearl Jam, worked in Tower Video as media buyer, eventually training me and turning his work over to me; btw, Green River didn't hang out, per se, but sometimes the band members showed up to see Jeff), Mudhoney, and others.

One of those bands, Metal Church maybe, I had to come out and ask the lead singer to get off the counter in the video store because he was freaking out the employees. I came out and he got down smiling, and looked at me waiting for my reaction, which was, "Oh, hey! How you doing?" He just waved and I told the employee don't worry about it, he's the lead singer in a rock back and they are a rock band. I told her who, but she didn't know them.

I was in Mudhoney's house one day when the band was on tour. I had given one of the band's girlfriends a ride home and she showed me all the photography she was doing of the band. I would have loved to have stayed as we were getting along incredibly well, but she worked for my friend John and he almost literally drug me away from her and her tongue stud. She worked for him at the time and it would have caused him problems, or so he thought (probably correctly).

John was running Champ Arcade on First Avenue at Pike Place Market and she was one of the "dancers" there. John is gay and I had been the one to help him move up from Tacoma (any idea what it was like back then to be gay in Tacoma, Washington?). Actually, my apartment mate and manager of Tower Video at the time. I was picking up John to go do something that night and one of his dancers asked for a ride home. I was inclined to acquiesce. But he knew my history with women and besides I had picked him up to go do something, not start dating someone that could get me killed by an entire band.

So anyway, I'm watching TMS and they have on Tony Iommi! If you don't know him, think Black Sabbath. If you don't know Black Sabbath, well, read a book. So I'm thinking, Awesome (yes, capital "A"). My first big interest in a band would have to have been Black Sabbath (okay, you could argue Three Dog Night and I did see them in concert, and oh my God, what a night that was and no, I'll never forget it, something about driving down Alaska Way in Seattle, and a cop in a patrol car on my left, watching me closely about midnight on a Saturday night, and a very hot, naked nubile hiding in my passenger side footwell. And yes, if you are reading this, which you probably are, that was you, and you know who you are.

It was cool enough when Ozzie went on TV with his family, but then Gene Simmons' show kind of blew them away, but it was never their families I wanted to hear about anyway, it was the music, the music history, and their mental processes. Okay, I like Gene's family a lot, I like Ozzie's too, but let's face it, Gene's family was built for a show like Simmons Family Jewels.

So they ask Tony, on TMS, about the "myth" that in the New York Black Sabbath / Van Halen tour in 1978, if it was true that Van Halen blew them off the stage. That got me because I was at a stage in that tour, only in Spokane (and yes, I lived in New York and I know the difference and sure I'd rather have been in New York, but the US Air Force wanted me in Spokane and Leavenworth Prison said, I would follow their lead on this one).

Tony's response was, "Well, I'm friends with Eddie and I don't want to say, but they had a lot of energy and I think we put together a good show." Or something like that, I paraphrase a bit there, but you get the gist. This was on the Season Eight Premiere of the show on August 20, 2011, by the way.

Well, all this hit me when I realized that hey, I had been to that tour. My friends told me, that next day, that they too thought that Van Halen blew Black Sabbath off the stage. So it got me thinking about all this. I think, perhaps, if I could go back to that show, I could now, and perhaps I could have back then, seen what was happening. Because of Van Halen's style, it could easily seem like they "blew Black Sabbath off the stage".

And I'd have to, because, although I was at that concert, I didn't get to see the show. What I remember, what I saw of the show was it was festival seating. Everyone was sitting on the floor. The four of us were sitting on the floor. Suddenly, the lights went out. I think someone said something on a loudspeaker, then we all stood up. The lights all came on, the curtain opened, some guy leaped out center stage front and WHAM! A chord rang out and I could tell, just from that, this was about to be something special!

There was some more chords, then some very fast playing, but I was too busy observing the ceiling crashing down in my face. Then, blackness.

Now we considered ourselves professional partiers. But part of that professionalism is in lasting to the end of whatever event you are partying at. I was told later that, one of my friends turned around to look at me, as if, wow this guy's good, just in time to see my eyes rolling up in my head. He hit my other friend who saw it, then my head started to go back, and they both caught me just as my knees buckled and I started to go down. Before I could hit the floor they lowered me. My wife was trying to figure out what was going on, checking me out and the guys decided taking me to the side of the main area was a good idea.

I remember coming too as they were holding me up, one on each side, and the double doors opened leading out to the wings, the hallways lining either side of the main floor. As I came too, I saw one of those guys doing Security in the black shirts that work for the people putting on the concert. He was walking up and asked, what are you doing? It was obvious, my head was rolling around on my neck, but then I started to get to my senses again.

Was it the Evil Satan Music of a Black Sabbath Concert? Hmmm... probably not. The Security guy, understanding fully what was going on (had he seen this kind of thing before?), as if he were a professional in this kind of business, says, "Take him to the OTHER side, not this side, you don't want to bring him into this side!"

My friends are getting pissed, I need what I need and they're going to see that I get it. Hey, what can I say, we were tight, I would have died for these guys, I would have gone to jail for these guys, I would have stolen one of their cars off of a Nuclear Air Base risking five years in Federal prison so they didn't get caught for whatever might have been in that car, while they were on vacation and under arrest in absentia... I mean, if that had ever happened...

My friends said they just wanted to get me some air, or a drink of water. The Security guy says, "But the Police are on this side, take him to the other side, otherwise...." Just then a cop walks up. My friends straighten up. I shake them off as I've regained my senses again and with a cop there, trying to regain my composure. They talk to the cop, what's going on, yadda yadda yadda... while I try to get to a drinking fountain because I KNOW I need a drink of water. And honestly, I think had I been able to get a big glass of water, I might HAVE been better, I was probably concurrently dehydrated a bit making whatever was going on, worse.

As I lean over the typical white ceramic and metal drinking fountain, the cop yells, "Don't do that. Don't let him do THAT!" I hesitate, glance at them, I feel fine, I turn my head, look at the fawcett, and begin to lean into it to get a drink, thinking, I'm fine and I'll prove it!

Luckily, I had intelligent friends. They both went for me and just as I passed out a second time, they got to my arms and pulled me back, saving me from smashing my face into the drinking fountain. At that point, all I know is there was yelling, and someone was lifting, someone or some people, and then I was on a flat white plane. I felt it was white, it just seemed like I was lying on something, white. It was a gurney. I was being wheeled to the other end of the fieldhouse, where you come in the front door.

I looked up, I saw a few people, I saw a cop, I knew the cop was bad, the Security warned me against being on that side, because of THE COPS. So, I figured I needed to do the one sane thing left for me to do. I would punch the cop out and make a run for it, maybe get back inside and hide among the many people watching the concert, and that would be that. I started to ball up my right fist, I started to lift my right arm to prep it, then full out take a swing at the cop's head, and I realized, no, my arm isn't moving, I can't do a thing, in fact, now that I'm starting to think more about it and the night air is hitting me, I'm thinking that perhaps, hitting a cop at a rock concert, just might be the wrong path to choose, especially, if I wanted to either, 1) see the concert at all, or 2) go home to my own bed tonight, or perhaps even tomorrow night for that matter.

They wheeled the gurney to an ambulance. I'm now fully accepting that I'm fully out of it. There is a bunch of levitating and bumping and sliding and suddenly, I'm inside an ambulance. Their are questions and answers going about. What's wrong with him. What happened, etc., etc., but not a lot of answers from my friends or wife about why I was in that condition. So the cop says, check his wallet for any medical information. My wife says she is my wife and I don't have any kind of medical situation.

One of the medics is looking through my wallet and the first thing he says is, "I want him out of my ambulance" and he hands my wallet to the other medic who is saying, "What? Why?"

The first medic replies, "Because his wallet says he has a Secret Nuclear Clearance. I'm not sitting up all night filling out paperwork for this guy. I had one of these guys in my ambulance a while back, another guy from the Air Base, if they have a Secret clearance or nuclear weapons stamped on their ID, you have to fill out so much paperwork, so many times, to so many people, if he doesn't absolutely have to be in my ambulance, and have to go to the hospital, I want him out."

I'm hearing all this. But I still can't move. He looks at me and asks if I have to go to the hospital. I say, no. He says, Then get out. I said, can I just lie here for a few minutes? He said, "Fine, two minutes, then I want you out of my ambulance. If we need this for someone really in trouble, I don't want you here slowing us down."

And so, I didn't see the Black Sabbath / Van Halen concert in 1978, that I was at. But I heard it was still pretty good. Black Sabbath got their due even if my friends liked Van Halen better. Now let me mention, I was older than my friends and Van Halen was the new, and Black Sabbath the old. I was a Black Sabbath fan, as were my friends, but they were younger and didn't have the awe I did for a band that changed things so much for us.

My wife pulled the car around that night and after I threw up green in the gutter right in front of a cop, we said, yes, we'd go to the hospital, but I said, take me home. I got into bed and we had an incredible night of lovemaking and giggling and listening to music that I knew, wasn't the concert. I was regretting every minute of missing my number one band at that time (Jethro Tull strangely enough running a close second and they even changed positions at times), but the music we were making at home, really did a lot to make up for it.

As for my friends the next day, they felt bad for me, knew I was sad I had missed my favorite band and were just trying to make me feel better.

Two bands I'd have loved to have seen that night, a concert lost to me forever.

So do I think Van Halen blew Black Sabbath off the stage than night? My friends said they seemed like maybe they were tired or not really into playing that night and Van Halen was nuts, young, dumb, and full of well, energy, let's say. But I would have loved to see my band in their heyday, albeit a year before Ozzie quit. And seeing Van Halen at the beginning would have been pretty awesome.

Oh, why did I get sick? Before we left for the concert, and in timing it as best we could, my wife made some brownies. But she didn't stir it up very well and whatever was added to the recipe to enhance our musical experience that night, all ended up in my quarter of that small pan of baked goods. When we were sitting in front of the stage, just before the band came on, I was offered a pipe and I refused it, because something told me I was done. They said, but you have to, you're here! I allowed myself to be buffaloed and took one small drag and that was all it took to put me right over the edge.

What did I learn from that? Make your own brownies.


  1. I was at the same concert and was there to see Sabbath. I don't remember Sabbath being particularly bad, but at that time Ozzy was out of control with drugs and drinking, and he was fired from the band not long after. Van Halen were young and hungry and out to impress. I do remember there were lots of drunk and stoned people there (myself included) and the drinking fountains all seemed to have vomit in them. Ah, the good old days....

  2. Happy to make your acquaintance. Having watched a documentary on Ozzie just recently, I know now about his trials and tribulations in more detail and with a timeline.
    I'm happy to report that the drinking fountain I got to (facing the stange, on the right, door closest to the stage leading to the side hall, at the time I got to it, just at the beginning of the concert, was immaculate. But I have to say, if the cop hadn't spoken up, if my friends hadn't caught me, it would have had blood all over it. :)

  3. What a stupid story. I like how you blame the reason why you missed the concert, on your wife's hastily made brownies, and "[allowing yourself] to be buffaloed." Perhaps, it was because YOU made the poor choice to use drugs? Poor writing. Oh, and it is "Tony" Iommi. That alone was enough to ruin your "good-old-days" narrative. Maybe you will find some wisdom in the writings of Gautama Buddha? There is some to be found, but it will lead nowhere, unless you consider "escaping the non-existent Wheel of Suffering" as somewhere.

  4. Thanks for the correction on Tony Iommi's name. I'd been doing some work about Tommy Bolin at the time I wrote this and made a mistake on Tony's name.
    I'm glad you were able to comprehend that this story was about foolishness (on my part) and during those days.
    I HAVE in years since, found wisdom in the teachings (not writings) of the Buddha Dharma.
    Please keep on with your reading and studies.
    It will eventually I'm hope, serve you well.

    1. JZ,

      I fully understand about foolishness, as I have experienced much of it, not least, my own.

      I was referring to the "teachings" of the one known as Buddha. I have studied these, but only briefly, and have no desire for any study in depth. There is a measure of truth to be found in the "teachings," but it is limited. Did Buddha learn what he did from within, or by accident? I would say no. Such wisdom comes from without. It is revealed by the One who created all that is seen and unseen. Regarding wisdom, the Apostle Paul wrote: "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30, NIV).

      After re-reading my response, I realize that it was not very kind, and I do not know you at all. This shows me that I did a pretty poor job of bearing the image of the One that is "gentle and humble of heart." For this I am sorry.


  5. I appreciate the comments. Thank you.