Talk Show 1: with Tod Goldberg, Pagan Kennedy, Rick Moody, and Elizabeth Searle
Topic: First Concert
Tod Goldberg is the author of the novels Living Dead Girl, Fake Liar Cheat, and the short story collection Simplify.
Pagan Kennedy is the author of eight books, among them the novels Spinsters, The Exes, and Confessions of a Memory Eater, as well as the short story collection, Stripping. Her most recent book is The First Man-Made Man.
Rick Moody’s most recent book is Right Livelihoods.
Elizabeth Searle is the author of three books of fiction: Celebrities In Disgrace, a novella and short story collection; A Four Sided Bed, a novel; and the short story collection My Body To You. She is also the librettist for Tonya and Nancy: The Opera.
––what was your first concert?
TG: My first concert was either Donna Summer or Air Supply – neither of whom I’d consider myself a huge fan of, but, as I recall, the tickets to both were free courtesy of the newspaper my mother worked for. My sister Linda tells me that it was Donna Summer. My brother Lee tells me it was Air Supply. In any case, I was nine and really, really drunk and had been snorting coke off and on for, like, ten years, so the memories of both sort of meld into each other. What I remember about both shows was the shrieking diva in the middle of a stage, which is no help at all, I know. And since we had the exact same seats for both shows, it’s even more confusing.
PK: I can’t quite remember whether my first concert was Tull, Floyd or Heart, but I’m going to say Heart simply because that’s the one that was most memorable. Why? Because I learned a valuable life lesson: If you’re female, you should never drink a six of Miller and then go see a chick-oriented hair band. I arrived at the Capital Center in Largo, Md., so full of beer that I thought I was about to pee blood. (By the way, the Capital Center would later be immortalized by my friend Jeff Krulik in underground cult film “Heavy Metal Parking Lot.”) So we found our seats down front, and I tried to ignore the bleeting of my bladder, but before the warm-up band was done, I had no choice but to head to the bathroom. There I found a line of women going out the door and all the way down to the Capital Center popcorn stand. Heart fans, I learned, had big hair. Giant cotton-candy like tufts of black and blonde ringlets. And they had to maintain that hair, so they lined up eagerly to get to the mirrors and the stalls, where they could spritz and spray and primp. I spent the whole concert waiting in line for a toilet.
RM: Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention, the Palladium, NYC, Halloween, 1975. At least I think it was 1975. It might have been 1976.
ES: Elton John.
TG: When you’re nine, want is a relative thing. What I recall is that my mother had four free tickets to the concert(s) at the Concord Pavilion – an outdoor concert venue not far from our home in Walnut Creek – two in the grass, two on the floor and that originally my older siblings, Lee and Karen (at the time 18 and 16), we’re going to take the floor seats and then they were going to give the grass seats to their friends. Well, that just wasn’t going to fly. At age nine, I knew well enough that these were prime tickets and that the opportunity to see a legendary act like Donna Summer – or Air Supply – wouldn’t come along again in this lifetime, so I think I cried until my mom made Lee and Karen take me and Linda, then 11, to the show with them.
RM: I’d been a big fan of Zappa’s for about six months, especially a fan of the salacious, tragicomic stuff that was found on APOSTROPHE and OVER-NIGHT SENSATION. I was fourteen at the time, which is sort of the perfect age for Frank Zappa, at least the Frank Zappa of that period. (However, I still like a lot of his music, even though I am now 45.) Also, I’d never been to a concert and was eager to experience the medium.
ES: My brother. He and his friends took me to see Elton John in South Carolina; it was such a non-memory––Elton danced on the piano; someone in our party threw up, but I forget who–– that for the purposes of these questions i’d like to fast-forward to my First Concert DATE. This was Tori Amos, before she became so big they made her play stadiums. What made me want to go? My date and I were both total Tori fans–– and (read below) because of the concert in question, my then-date now-husband even wound up ‘appearing’ on a Tori CD…
––where was the concert held?
TG: The Concord Pavilion, an outdoor venue in the Bay Area.
RM: The Palladium, which later became a night club. Sort of a medium-sized venue, I think, like the Beacon Theater on the Upper West Side.
ES: Saunders Hall in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. Just Tori & her piano and a crowd of 200 or so packed into the theater’s wood church-pew style seats…The all-wood arena made a wonderful thumping mega-sound when we all stomped our feet in Tori-love…
TG: In the back of a blue Ford Fairmont. In later years, that same blue Ford Fairmont would be used to drop me off a mile from the Concord Pavilion for much cooler shows where a Ford Fairmont would not have been appreciated. Like, you know, Rick Springfield. Or Berlin, except that I didn’t actually see Berlin, I just hung out in the parking lot trying to look cool at age 13. But definitely for the Thompson Twins.
RM: My sister must have driven us. She was older and had her own car. Or a series of cars, because she crashed at least one of them. She took me and my boarding school roommate, Andy.
ES: hmm… We must’ve driven & parked & then hiked several miles to the theater… Do not recall being drunk… I think we wanted to keep our heads clear for maximum Tori Rush…
––what was the show like?
TG: Well, as it turns out, a nine year old can get stoned if he inhales enough secondary smoke from the disco survivors and soft-rock aficionados that peopled the grass section of the Concord Pavilion, so my memories of both shows are that they rocked big time. The deal we made was that the four of us would split the show in half, so during the first half of the Donna Summer/Air Supply show, my sisters had the seats and my brother and I had the grass and then, at an appropriate time, we exchanged spots. What I recall about Donna Summer was that when she sang “Hot Stuff” the crowd lost all control and began dancing like it was Studio 54. What I recall about Air Supply is that they had an elaborate laser show at the opening of the set for a song called, ironically, “I Can’t Get Excited,” and that people in the grass section were playing some hard core air guitar to it, which, upon listening to it moments before writing this, makes me think that people in 1980 didn’t have a strong sense of what songs were worthy of air guitaring.
RM: It was great, I think. What I can remember of it was great. He played a lot of material from LATHER, which was his quadruple album that Warner Brothers had rejected that year. A lot of this stuff later ended up on LIVE IN NEW YORK (and SLEEP DIRT and STUDIO TAN and ORCHESTRAL FAVORITES), which was recorded at that show and others. I remember that Frank unfurled a banner saying “Warner Bros. Record Company Sucks” at one point. And Don Pardo did some announcing.
ES: Sexy and intimate––like she was singing all these fabulous dirty songs just for us… I remember getting teary-eyed over her cover of the recently-deceased Kurt Cobain’s SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT. I also remember when Tori first burst out onto stage, some nut yelled ‘you’re not beautiful’ and someone sane yelled back: ‘BULLSHIT!’ and the crowd erupted: the first of countless ovations for Tori that night…
TG: That I knew this wasn’t in any way cool, no matter which show it was that came first. That Air Supply had cool lasers. That I really liked that song “Sunset People” by Donna Summer. That I own both Donna Summer’s and Air Supply’s greatest hits CDs, but have no memory of ever listening to them, which makes me think they date back to a time when Columbia House allowed me to steal CDs from them using several different aliases. That the first really cool concert I went to wasn’t for another five years, at least, and, in looking back, I don’t know how cool Depeche Mode really was, but I sure did like their hair. That my mother was highly irresponsible in letting us go to a Donna Summer concert, what with the lasting effects disco has on young children.
RM: Well, besides the music, Andy threw up during the encore. The guy seated next to him, a stranger, gave him some pot to smoke which must have had PCP in it or something. We also drank quite a bit, even though we were underage. Anyway, Andy threw up, and the people around us scattered. He seemed okay after that, however.
ES: At the end of Tori’s great underated I WANT TO KILL THIS WAITRESS, my date, John Hodgkinson, let loose his piercing patented two-fingers-in-the-mouth whistle. His distinctive––and deafening––siren whistle is CLEARLY AUDIBLE on Tori’s ‘live’ UNDER THE PINK CD version of I WANT TO KILL THIS WAITRESS… just hearing John’s joyful high-C whistle-pitch, preserved forever, brings back the whole night to me…It was John’s most memorable concert-moment as well, followed by him yelling “I love you” to Joni Mitchell onstage and her yelling back to him; “What?”