Tomyamaguchi’s Weblog

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Jim Carroll and a concert to (almost) die for.

It was sad to hear the news that Jim Carroll died of a heart attack on Friday, (9/11) at age 60. I didn’t hear of it until I turned on Alex Bennett on Sirius Satellite Radio this morning (9/14). Carroll had been on Bennett’s New York radio show as a poet in the 1970s, then as a rock star in San Francisco in the 1980s. I first heard Jim Carroll in 1978 at one of the most bizarre concerts I have ever attended. It turned out to be Carroll’s first rock performance when he opened for the Patti Smith Group.

My ex-wife and I were big fans of Patti Smith, starting with the release of her album Horses. When we heard she would be coming to the California Theater in San Diego in May 1978, I went out an bought tickets well in advance of the show. When we arrived at the theater, I was in total shock. The stagehands union had decided to strike the theater for hiring a non-union crew and had set up a picket line in front of the theater. Being the son of a union carpenter, crossing a picket line to me was a serious offense, even worse than voting Republican. I remember being disappointed as a teenager that I couldn’t go to the newly built Sea World because of a boycott called by the Carpenter’s Union. (I later ended that personal boycott by taking by daughters there. I have also voted since then for a few Republicans.) I decided to cross the line since we already had the tickets and spent our money. I found myself crossing another stagehand’s picket line to see Tom Robinson at an old movie theater in Pacific Beach. As with Patti Smith, I had bought the tickets in advance.

When the show started, Smith announced that the opening act had canceled and brought out Carroll for a performance of poetry back by rock music. There is very little I remember from that night. I found some references to the concert via Google search, including this link to an actual recording of the concert.

But wait, as they say, there’s more! A year before, Patti Smith had fallen off a stage during a concert in Tampa, breaking several vertebrae in her neck. During the San Diego concert she decided the best way to avoid another injury was to allow fans to stand directly under the stage. This way, human bodies would be there to break her fall.

The decision to have a bunch of people jammed up at the stage did not sit well with the fire marshal. He threatened to shut down the concert. This did not sit well with the audience. Panic ensued with Smith rushing on and off stage while her band stood there perplexed. Without their singer, the band decided to play the best they could without her. Finally, Smith came back to the mike and announced she had reached a compromise. The concert would go on if the aisles remained clear. At this time everyone was on their feet, and I was fearing a stampede. This was before the Who’s Cincinnati Concert where a stampede caused the deaths of eleven concert attenders.

Smith came down the aisles and cleared them herself, telling everyone to get back to their seats. The concert did continue, but I was still in shock from feeling very close to being trampled to death.
This was not my only near death experience. As a kid, I almost drowned in the Atlantic Ocean. So far, it is my most exciting. To be a part of rock history! And in San Diego, of all places! Goodbye, Jim Carroll. This post is for you my brother.

September 15, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment