November 20, 1973.
We’ve told the story for nearly 43 years now and we needed redemption.
Some time in the late summer or early fall of 1973 my buddy-since-the-third-grade Larry Finney and I headed to downtown Sacramento and the Farmer’s Market (now the Sheraton Hotel on J Street) to line up at their box officento get tickets to see the Who in November at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
As we finished high school in June of 1973, we continued on our quest to see as many great concerts as we possibly could. On our run we saw Jethro Tull, Neil Young, Loggins and Messina, Rod Stewart and the Faces, Billy Joel, Boz Scaggs, Earth, Wind and Fire, Leon Russell, The Allman Brothers Band and more.
Not sure exactly what happened, but we were in line well before the tickets were supposed to go on sale, but when we got nearly to the front of the line, the seller informed us they were SOLD OUT. Oh well we thought. There still are many more great shows ahead for us.
Little did we know that we were going to miss one of the most legendary concerts EVER.
Apparently drummer Keith Moon had been ill and collapsed in the middle of the set.
From Wikipedia.“On November 20, 1973, The Who were opening their Quadrophenia US concert tour at the Cow Palace in Daly City, a suburb just south of San Francisco. Halpin, a 19-year-old who had recently moved to the area from Muscatine, Iowa, was there with a friend using tickets they had bought from a scalper. They arrived at the show 13 hours early to get good seats.
The Who opened the show with three of their earlier hits before launching into material from Quadrophenia, playing eleven of the album’s seventeen songs and then continuing on to other hits. About seventy minutes into the show, drummer Keith Moon, whose fondness for drugs and alcohol was legendary, began to falter during “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” slumped over his drum kit, and passed out. As the house lights went up, Moon was carried offstage by roadies, who placed him in a shower in an attempt to revive him. Their efforts worked. An injection of cortisone got him back onstage after approximately a thirty-minute delay.
The show continued with “Magic Bus.” The percussion of the song’s opening verses consisted only of Moon hitting two wooden blocks against one another. However, when the drums were actually required, Moon only played for a few more minutes before passing out again. He was carried off—this time not to return. Guitarist Pete Townshend later said in an interview that Moon had consumed large tranquilizer pills, meant to be consumed by animals, with a large volume of brandy.
The remaining three band members then played “See Me, Feel Me,” without drums, with vocalist Roger Daltrey adding a tambourine for percussion. The song received a huge response, and Pete Townshend thanked the crowd for putting up with a three-quarter-strength band. Instead of leaving the stage, though, Townshend asked the crowd, “Can anybody play the drums?” He repeated the question, adding forcefully, “I mean somebody good!”
At this time, Halpin and his friend were at the left edge of the stage, and his friend, Mike Danese, began noisily telling the security staff, “He can play!” In truth, Halpin had not played in a year, but Danese made enough of a commotion that he had attracted the concert’s promoter, Bill Graham. “Graham just looked at me and said, “Can you do it?” And I said “Yes,” straight out. Townshend and Daltrey look around and they’re as surprised as I am, because Graham put me up there.” Halpin was given a shot of brandy for his nerves before sitting at his first drumset since leaving Iowa. “Then I got really focused, and Townshend said to me, “I’m going to lead you. I’m going to cue you.
Daltrey introduced him as “Scot,” and went straight into the riff of “Smokestack Lightning.” This was a very loose blues jam, Halpin’s drum work fitting in well enough, and it shortly became “Spoonful.” Less successful, however, was his contribution to the more complex “Naked Eye”, and he failed to provide the contrasting tempos despite Townshend attempting to give him instructions. Halpin did not look at all flustered, though, and established a steady beat throughout. The show ended after “Naked Eye”, and Halpin took a center-stage bow with Daltrey, Townshend, and bassist John Entwistle. Afterwards, he was taken backstage, along with his friend Mike, and given a Who concert jacket, which Halpin said was stolen later that evening.
In later interviews, Daltrey praised Halpin’s ability, claiming that the “papers missed it”. Interviewed by Rolling Stone, Halpin admired The Who’s stamina, admitting “I only played three numbers and I was dead.”
Oh well. So we missed one of the greatest rock concerts in the history of rock and roll. It’s been a great “the one that got away” story for the past 43 years.
43 years later
As I was cruising around the Internet in early January I discovered the Who were back on tour, their “Who Hits 50” tour. Saw the Grateful Dead’s 50th Anniversary tour last summer, so I knew Larry and I had to go. I bought the tickets and made the arrangements and Larry worked out getting back from a trip with one of his children and two grandkids and before we knew it, Thursday, May 19 arrived.
It was a short Thursday at school, so I was able to pick Larry up at the airport at two.
The pilgrimage had begun.
We had options as I had sought out Oakland dinner options on Facebook from all my friends and we decided on Drake’s Dealership, a brewery, in downtown Oakland. We got to Oracle by a rather circuitous rout with the help of Waze, parking was easy and we found our pretty sweet seats in plenty of time. There was an opening band but their name is long forgotten.
At last it was time for us to see the band that had alluded us for so long.
- Who Are You
The Kids Are Alright
I Can See for Miles
- My Generation
- Squeeze Box
Behind Blue Eyes
- Join Together
- You Better You Bet
- I’m One
- The Rock
- Love Reign O’er Me
- Eminence Front
- Amazing Journey
- The Acid Queen
- Pinball Wizard
- See Me, Feel me
Baba O’Riley (Teenage Wasteland)
Won’t Get Fooled Again
It’s always a little scary to see your old heroes who are now actually…old. No need to worry the show was terrific. Music was solid and the visuals were un paralleled. Not sure I have ever seen a better produced show (maybe Radiohead at Outside Lands in 2008) and to top it all off it was Pete Townshend’s 71st birthday.
(1) “Who Are You?”
(5) ” My Generation” This has the be the first Who songg any of us heard
(8) “Bargain” Roger Daltrey said this is his favorite song.
(14) “Eminence Front” It’s definitely more than just a GMC commercial.
(18) “Pinball Wizard
(21) ” Baba O’ Riley”