The World Series of Rock and Other Blowouts

(I wrote the post below yesterday afternoon, before I found out about the death of Teddy Pendergrass this morning. Pendergrass was the mighty voice of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ classic hits, powering “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Bad Luck,” and “Wake Up Everybody,” plus the one I’d take to the desert island, the unstoppable “The Love I Lost.” Against those magnificent Gamble-and-Huff arrangements, Pendergrass taught a white kid—and I’ll bet I’m not the only one—what testifyin’ is. We now return to our scheduled feature, already in progress.)

The all-day rock festival with multiple headliners has made a modest comeback in recent years, but they ain’t like they used to be. In the 1970s, it was quite common for several headlining-caliber bands to descend on a baseball stadium or some other outdoor venue on a summer Saturday for an all-day blast. A tiny bit of Googling reveals several examples:

July 12, 1975: Yes, J. Geils Band, Ace, and Johnny Winter, Buffalo, NY
August 23, 1975: Rod Stewart and Faces, Uriah Heep, Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, and Mahogany Rush at Cleveland Stadium
July 4, 1976: Ted Nugent, Foghat, Rick Derringer, and Mahogany Rush at Rockford Speedway, Rockford, Illinois
June 5, 1977: Emerson Lake & Palmer, J. Geils Band, Foghat, and the Climax Blues Band at County Stadium, Milwaukee
July 16, 1978: Doobie Brothers, Atlanta Rhythm Section, and Van Halen at Credit Island, Davenport, Iowa
August 5, 1978: Aerosmith, Foreigner, AC/DC, Mahogany Rush, and Walter Egan at Comiskey Park, Chicago
August 19, 1978: Eagles, Steve Miller Band,  and Pablo Cruise at Comiskey Park, Chicago
April 26, 1979: Rush, Foghat, Pat Travers, Billy Thorpe, Point Blank, Little River Band, and Joan Jett at the Cotton Bowl, Dallas

Mahogany Rush seems to have been the quintessential big-bill band of the 1970s. Did they ever play anywhere that had a roof?

Massive bills like these went out of style in the 1980s, and apart from mega-festivals like Bonnaroo or Coachella, it’s doubtful that we’ll ever see their like again. In the summer of 2010, however, we may be getting a taste. It was rumored for a while and has now been announced that the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac will hit the road together for a stadium tour this summer. (Granted, Fleetwood Mac isn’t Fleetwood Mac without Stevie and Christine, but this is still pretty big rock news.)  The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac shared a bill once in their heyday: July 25, 1976, at Schaefer Stadium in suburban Boston, with both bands on the verge of historic recordings: Hotel California, which would be released late that year, and Rumours, released early in 1977. Cost of a ticket: $10, which is what a beer is likely to cost at any of their 2010 shows. (They also played on the same bill during their respective inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.) No dates have been announced, although the tour will supposedly begin in June.

Also planning a joint tour this year: Chicago and the Doobie Brothers, who went out together in 2008. Chicago has done several of these in recent years, touring with Huey Lewis & the News, America, and last year, Earth Wind & Fire.  Dates have been announced, although it looks like the nearest show to Wisconsin is a two-night stand at Charter One Pavilion on Chicago’s lakefront.

Also planning a joint tour this year: James Taylor and Carole King. All in all, it’s looking like a pretty good year for live shows, particularly for those of us who remember when music came on 45s and concert refreshments were smuggled in wineskins. Please add some of your favorite multiple-headliner bills in the comments, whether you actually went or just wished you could.

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11 responses

  1. I saw Heart and Cheap Trick in Phoenix a dozen or so years ago. It was an outdoor concert. Both groups really rocked the house.

  2. I saw the Bob Dylan-John Mellencamp-Willie Nelson tour last year — sort of a World Series of Gray-Haired Roots-Rock.

  3. That Cotton Bowl show you listed seems incorrect…in April ’79, Joan Jett would have still been with the Runaways, not playing solo. It was towards the end of the line for that band, yes, but I doubt if Jett was playing stadiums as a solo act that early.

  4. I wondered about Joan Jett too, but the bill is big enough that A) she might have played it or B) she might have played it with the Runaways and C) I spent five minutes googling this stuff, so gimme a break.

  5. Chicago is a shadow of their former selves. This past summer they parted ways with Bill Champlin who had been with the group since 1981. A couple of the horn guys (Walt Parazaider on woodwinds and James Pankow on trombone) have largely retired from touring. So “Chicago” that now tours is basically 2 original members (keyboardist/vocalist Robert Lamm and trumpet player Lee Loughnane), 4 “new” members (Jason Scheff who replaced Peter Cetera in ’86, Tris Imboden who replaced Danny Seraphine in ’91, Keith Howland who replaced Dawayne Bailey in ’95, and most recently Lou Pardini who replaced Bill Champlin in ’09), and 2 subs (on trombone and woodwinds respectively– there are a handful of different guys who have subbed on those instruments over the past few years).

    I saw Chicago about 9 times between 1993 and 2004. Sadly their performances seemed to get progressively worse over the years. They’re a mere shadow of their former selves.

    That being said… Enjoy the Doobies! I hear they still put on a great show!

  6. I saw that Comiskey Park show with the Eagles, Steve Miller Band, etc in 1978. I have some fun memories of that day, especially the fact the the tickets were free, courtesy of a ward heeler for the 43rd ward alderman (Dan O’Brien?). The past week I took my three kids (17, 15, 12) to see The Eagles, Dixie Chick, and Keith Urban at the Meadowlands in NJ. Wasn’t quite an all day show, but lasted a good 5-6 hours. The boys still sounmd great, but Keith and the Dixies kinda stole the show.

  7. I saw the 1976 Fourth of July concert in Rockford. Ted Nugent was on Dennis Miller today and I googled the concert and found your blog.

    I ruined a new pair of white painter’s pants by sitting on the oily race track that day. Also, this show was the first time I had ever been frisked thoroughly on the way into a concert, lol. That was a bit disturbing.

    The bicentennial rock concert.was amazing. My little sister and I actually left before Foghat played because we wanted to see the fireworks in downtown Rockford. She was a huge Ted Nugent fan and I was more into Rick Derringer and we both were too cool to care about Foghat, lol.

    OT We used to watch Cheap Trick for free at the Sinnisippi Bandshell in Rockford. I couldn’t believe they hit big while I was in college… I don’t think Rick Nielson ever moved out of Rockford. You used to see him at the toy store and restaurants always wearing his amazing graphics heavy clothing.

    Thanks for the memories…

  8. […] they were most often found opening shows for other acts, and especially headlining those fabulous all-day festival shows so common during the […]

  9. I saw the eagles show at comiskey in 78 and there was one called “the loop’s day in the park” WLUP radio station. it was also at comiskey..this was a crazy good show..Santana, Journey, the totally under rated Thin Lizzy..boy did they kick some ass!, Molly Hatchet and Eddie Money

  10. I was at the Eagles show at Comisky and I have fond memories. I threw out my concert T-shirt from that day and I have regretted it ever since. Now I have been looking all over the Internet for a concert poster for that day. Any ideas?

  11. Day on the Green was the Bay Area held at Oakland Coliseum and promoted by Bill Graham. They actually continued well into the ’80s in some form – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_on_the_Green.

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