Return of the Red Rocker


Probably the best concert I ever saw in my life–and this varies with whatever mood I happen to be in– was Sammy Hagar at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, way back in October of 1984. Any concert when you’re 16, and newly able to get around without needing a ride from somebody’s parent, is a good thing. But at that point in life, Sammy Hagar was the Man.

I was a big fan of his work as a solo artist, and as the lead singer for Montrose. When he joined up with Van Halen a year or so later, I was about the happiest I could be at that point in my life. But all that was still in the future back in 1984.

Music videos had exploded as the artform of choice for teenagers like me, and Sammy’s “I Can’t Drive 55” was one of the more amusing ones at the time. It’s worth pointing out that 55 was the speed limit on the interstates back then, and it wasn’t raised to 65 (or even higher, depending on where you are) until 1995. But that’s just an example of how much has changed since those days.

I held onto the ticket stub because that was one of the ways to remember a show. There was also the tour T-Shirt, of course, and here’s me wearing mine, probably in the summer of 1986.998073_10202078525579178_1108930424_nThe shirt’s long gone by now, but the little scrap of purple paper they gave me got buried in a box and somehow came back to me, all these years later.

Ticketmaster fees? No way, at least in those days. These were physical tickets, and the only way to get them was to go to the box office, preferably on the day they want on sale. I didn’t get these tickets, and I’m not exactly sure which of my friends did, but to get anything in the second row took some waiting in line. That’s how it was back then.

Section AA was in front of one very large pile of amplifiers, and Section CC was in front of another large pile. Section BB was in the middle, and perhaps those people were spared some of the sonic assault that I endured for two hours and more. But sonic assault was exactly what I was there for. My ears rang for three days after the concert, and I loved it. And any hearing loss hasn’t caught up to me yet, either.

When the lights when down and the music started up, the stage was flooded with homemade banners proclaiming “Sammy’s the best, Fuck the rest.” There were literally dozens of them, and they were displayed for the approval of those in attendance. Great minds all think alike, apparently.

At the end of the show, after taking several requests from the audience, Sammy promised the crowd that he was going to come back to Springfield again. And so far as I know that hasn’t happened, an least until this upcoming weekend. Hagar will be playing with his band at the Illinois State Fair, and it should be a Rock and Roll Weekend for those who can make it. Sadly, though, that won’t include me.

Part of me realizes that concerts are a commitment of both time and resources, and part of me doesn’t want to disrupt the memories of the VOA tour back in 1984. To mix old rocker metaphors for a moment, Eddie Money once put it pretty well:

I wanna go back, and do it all over

but I can’t go back, I know

I wanna go back, cause I’m feeling so much olderĀ 

But I can’t go back, I know

So I’ll just heed Eddie’s advice and take a pass on seeing Sammy this weekend. Reminiscing about it here is good enough for me.


Seeing the President

It’s an election season, as everybody knows, and that offers a chance to reflect on the two times in my life that I’ve actually seen the president with my own eyes. Some people see the president more often than that, and others probably live their lives without ever seeing the president at all. As with most things, I’m content to be somewhere in between.

The first time I saw a sitting president was the summer of 1984, when I saw President Reagan at the Illinois State Fair. I took my cheap little disc camera and drove myself (a new thing since I had just turned 16) and drove myself to the state fairgrounds. Reagan was enormously popular at that time, and I probably would have voted for him if I had been old enough. But as the picture indicates, I was far, far away from the speaker’s podium. But it was still a thrill, seeing the nation’s leader with my own two eyes.

The second time I saw the president was in 1996, when I saw President Clinton in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had been to a couple of Clinton rallies during the 1992 election cycle (having switched over to the Democrats in college), but he wasn’t yet the president so it doesn’t count, for these purposes.

Since President Obama is from Chicago, I’ve seen military helicopters flying over my house many times. And last summer, I got a glimpse from my back porch of the greenish-blue helicopter that was taking him to his house on the South Side. But that doesn’t really count, either. Perhaps one day I’ll get to see him, during his second term in office (and I can’t realistically envision any other outcome for this year’s election).

I haven’t yet seen a president during the digital age, where a cellphone camera would be the method used to capture a photo. These were both physical prints that I can now retire, since they’ve been transferred into a hopefully more permanent medium. And perhaps the next time around they’ll actually be something interesting in the photo. Time will tell, as it always does.

The summer of my discontent

Twenty-five years ago, I was back in my parents house following my freshman year in college. I think of it as trying to put the bird back into the cage. I was used to setting my own schedule by then, and Mom and Dad’s house was dreadful as a result. It was the final time that I lived under their roof, as every following summer I found something to do on campus, instead.

I had to get a job to make money for the fall, and so I went into a local Dairy Queen. They were slammed with summer business, and so they hired me right away. I had even worked for 3 or 4 days, I think, before they gave me the training that I was supposed to have before I started.

I was forever in my manager’s dog house because I used too much ice cream. A large cone cost 95 cents, and so I gave the customer what I thought 95 cents worth of ice cream looked like. There was a scale, but I can’t recall ever putting anything that I made on it. I can’t imagine that anyone did, really.

It was a minimum wage job, and I knew it was only temporary, so there was minimal effort put into what I was doing. I liked making the Blizzards, which were the new thing back then, and so tonight I had a Butterfinger blizzard, which has always been my favorite kind.

The job came to a halt after I secured a job that paid more money picking up trash at the Illinois State Fair. I worked 12 hour days for the 10 days that the fair ran, so that job turned out to be the financial boon that Dairy Queen never was. But working at DQ was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a summer job, so it’s worth thinking about at least a little bit, all these years later.