The First Time

You always remember your First Time.

The first album I ever bought with my own money, the first LP I ever recall owning, was The Dave Clark Five’s “Return!”

I purchased it at our local Newbury Park supermarket’s record bin in 1965.

I was a drummer and loved the upfront focus on and prominence of the beat in Dave’s band, beginning with their hits “Do You Love Me” and “Glad All Over.” My fellow drummers and I used to do the boot stomps and then bang out that machine gun snare follow-up of the DC5’s “Bits and Pieces” intro with our fists on the rows of lockers in the hallways of Charles Evans Hughes Junior High and Reseda High School (where I walked to school everyday with drummer Preston Ritter, who would become the original drummer for The Electric Prunes).

“Return!” didn’t rock as hard as their first LP but it had a much better full color cover. The band looked sharp in their black & white coats and pants against that red photo studio backdrop. “Can’t You See That She’s Mine,” their hit single from “Return!”, was moving into more melodic territory. That was fine by me, as it indicated an expansion of the group’s musical capabilities.

I can’t recall the first single I bought. We were a poor family and I was very frugal with my money. Even later, when I began seriously (and I mean 6000 album seriously!) collecting music, I avoided singles for a long, long time, considering LPs a much better deal. It wasn’t until I became a fanatical collector that I began to buy singles. The primary reason I began to purchase 45s was that they contained music by my fave raves that weren’t included on their albums and I felt I had to have everything by them.

I usually convinced my younger brother John to buy singles in which I had interest, and then I sort of took them over. I talked him into buying the four song Beatles EP that had “Roll Over Beethoven” on it, as well as the Nashville Teens’ “Tobacco Road.”

I weaseled my way into becoming the sole DJ at the Senior Quad (our junior high’s private lunch place, set aside for seniors only) for my entire 1963/64 senior year (we were supposed to rotate that duty but I held onto that gig with a death grip). I was musically dependent upon what my fellow seniors brought me to play, so often during lunch, when no one had come through with a single or album, my brother’s Beatles EP played over and over and over…

The first concert I ever went to was a — surprise! — Dave Clark Five show: July 12, 1965 in Anaheim at the MelodyLand Theater. Among the openers were The Larks (“Do The Jerk”), The Premiers (“Farmer John”) and the Astronauts. Sonny and Cher were (surprisingly, considering their enormous popularity) bottom-billed; they were no-shows. Replacing them I recall Tommy Quickly and maybe even Roy Orbison (hell, I remember SOMEone played “Pretty Woman”!) singing at that show, too, but I could be very wrong.

Waiting outside the theater I met one of the Larks and got his autograph. I also enthusiastically chatted with my fellow DC5 fans. That was when I first heard rumors of Dave’s being gay. One of the fans opened the show’s DC5 program book. As verification for her claim, she showed me a sponsored ad within the booklet for Shure microphones. It’s headline was “Ask Dave About Mike.”

The DC5’s show was amazing. It was the first and only all-screaming concert I ever attended. It was extremely difficult to hear the music over the din. The lighting on the band was spectacular, though, a good early light show. When the band performed their pounding instrumental “Five by Five” Dave played on a set of huge floor toms that were lit from inside. Great!

I was happy and surprised that the group did several songs that weren’t on their LPs, like the “Peter Gunne” theme and “Big Noise From Winnetka.”

Police were constantly hauling out hysterical girls all throughout the show. The MelodyLand (named such because of its proximity to DisneyLand) Theater was (is?) a theater-in-the-round, so the band had to get to the stage and back out from the stage by running a police-cordoned gauntlet up one of the theater’s aisles. The DC5 ran right up the aisle next to where I was sitting. I recall touching Mike Smith on the back as he ran by. As intense as it was, one cop said it was nothing compared to the recent Rolling Stones show.

It was an exhilarating experience but because of the poor sound it was not until years later that I began to attend other live concerts, beginning with shows at the Whiskey A-Go-Go and the Hendrix/Animals/Soft Machine/Eire Apparent gig down in Anaheim. Following those I hit the all day long rock festivals at Devonshire Downs and Costa Mesa and then became a regular attendee of the phenomenal Shrine Exposition Hall concerts.

The best show I ever saw was at the Shrine in 1968. The original Steve Miller Band (with Boz Scaggs) opened the show. They were followed by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. The audience was not prepared for the next group: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. But wait — I’m not finished! The headliners were THE WHO! “The Who Sell Out” (in my opinion, their best LP; the mono version only, though) had just been released. If that wasn’t enough, each group played two sets! And The Who destroyed their instruments at the end of their last set! And the place was only one third full, so you could get as close to the stage as you wanted! Or even dance if you wanted! And security was so lax back then I got to go backstage and meet Roger Daltrey and Arthur Brown! I met (and photographed) Keith Moon in the men’s room!

OK — the final blow: Tickets for that show were $2.50 in advance, $3.00 at the door!

The live rock concert experience was ruined pretty quickly after 1969. The rock scene grew as, sadly, more and more people began showing up for concerts not because of the music but merely because it was where their friends were and because that scene was considered a hip or cool place to hang out.

Those pre-1970 shows and a few of the smaller 1970s era music concerts (a real music fan had to pay close attention to what was going on and catch acts before they became too big) and then the late 70s/early 80s Punk/post-Punk music explosion in Los Angeles are among some of the best memories I have.

4 Responses to “The First Time”

  1. Scott Foster says:

    Bill,
    What a charmed life you have lead. The more I learn about you,the bigger your shadow becomes.
    You must write an autobiography someday.

    I was thinking about this while reading your excellent booklet included with the Heaters CD.

  2. Gary says:

    I’m discovering your website and all these great stories!

    As a music lover also, I am fascinated with anything concerning live concerts from the most exciting time in music.

    Meeting Moon must of been so exciting! I’m also a drummer and consider him a big influence.

    Look forward to more of your stories, already posted and in future posts, you’re now in my "Music" bookmarks!

  3. Mark says:

    You’re not the first person to claim the Dave Clark Five played “Big Noise from Winnetka” in concert. It’s actually “Five by Five” (B side of “Here Comes Summer”). It’s available on iTunes. I’m sure the live version wasn’t as psychedelic as this studio version.

  4. Bill says:

    Hi Mark,
    It didn’t come directly from me — it came from Dave himself. Inside their official program book from the Melodyland show, the DC5 listed “Big Noise From Winnetka” in their set list of of possible songs they would perform.

Leave a Reply