My Rock ‘n Roll journey & Favorite live performances
My earliest music memories are listening to the greats from the “oldies” genre, such as Bobby Vinton, Smokey Robinson, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Frankie Vallie and the Four Season, and so on. My mom was of the sock-hop generation, but she also appreciated the crooners as well as rhythm and blues. I wish she had kept her vast collection of vinyl LPs, but alas, like many folks from the past, she never imagined them being worth anything. Or maybe they simply wore out from constant playing. As for how this influenced me, a steady diet of early rock and roll infused my soul probably from the cradle onward. My dad preferred old style country music, and while I have learned to appreciate some country artists along with many other music styles, it has never been my preference.
As a pre-teen I was exposed to the mavericks of psychedelic rock from my older sister. She brought Janis Joplin, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, and others of the 1970s into my awareness. I admit to not understanding the significance of these revolutionary artists at the time. How could I at a mere 10 to 12 years of age? But I do remember all the names. I remember being frightened of the cover of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung but also loving the songs because of Ian Anderson’s flute playing since I was learning to play the flute. I remember my sister’s devastation when Joplin died. I remember listening to music being one of the few activities she would do with a pesky sister six years younger!
By the time I entered high school in 1976, rock and roll stations on the radio were plentiful. The hour long bus ride to my high school passed swifter while we all listened and sang aloud to the hits from Journey, Bad Company, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Fleetwood Mac, Queen, and so on. TV shows like The Midnight Special and American Bandstand were family viewing staples, even my dad enjoying the performances. I remember, when I was barely 15, begging my parents to allow me to go with friends to see Foreigner in concert. In the end they relented, even adding money to what I had saved so I could buy a new pair of jeans and knee-high boots. Man, did I ever look hot! Over the years I attended many concerts – Pat Benatar, Journey (many times), Santana, Billy Squier, Eddie Money, Bryan Adams, Toto, Stevie Nicks, John Mellencamp, ZZ Top – but that first one was so very special.
My younger brother Gary was, and still is, a metal head. Snobs that we were, my sister and I ignored his many attempts to interest us in what we believed to be screeching “music”. Then one day he finally wore us down, and out of pity we sat down and listened. The album that time was Diver Down by Van Halen. Suffice to say, while I never developed a huge taste for metal or hard rock, I was thereafter open to give it a listen! It helped that David Lee Roth was sex personified (and I was 17, so there ya go!) but the fact is, the music was awesome!
And it still is, in my opinion. Yes, I certainly am aware that there are good artists out there today. Some may even be great. Yet I can never really leave my favorites in the general “rock and roll” genre of the past long enough to embrace anything new. So for today, here are a mere drop in the bucket of my ultimate favorite artists. I chose live performances that frankly, IMO, blow anything done today out of the water.
Queen, Somebody to Love ~ Live in Montreal 1981
I am a huge fan of Queen and truly believe that Freddie Mercury is not one of but literally THE GREATEST talent the world of rock has ever known. I cried when he died. There are many live performances of Queen, and all are outstanding, but this one is transcendent. Mercury’s pure talent, in an era before autotune or any digital enhancements for a live performance, is beyond belief. All of the members of Queen were superb musicians and singers, making for a unique grouping that will live forever in rock history.
Queen: Freddie Mercury (piano), Roger Taylor (drums), Brian May (lead guitar), John Deacon (bass guitar).
Fleetwood Mac, Rhiannon ~ The Midnight Special 1976
I might have watched this live in 1976, but doubt 13 year old me would have fully appreciated the magic happening on the stage. After watching countless performances of Rhiannon by Stevie Nicks (all of them very different) this one is the best for sheer rock grit. It is no surprise to me that she is the only woman to have TWICE been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Fleetwood Mac: Mick Fleetwood (drums), John McVie (bass guitar), Christine McVie (vocals, keyboards), Lindsay Buckingham (vocals, lead guitar), and Stevie Nicks.
Journey, Stone in Love ~ Escape Tour 1981: Live In Houston
I feel in love with Journey the second I heard Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ on the radio. I was on the school bus, I remember it clearly. All total, I saw them in concert four times. Steve Perry’s voice is pure gold and the band was fabulous. This is just one of many live recordings I could have shared.
Journey: Neil Schon (lead guitar), Steve Smith (drums), Jonathon Cain (keyboards), Ross Valory (bass guitar), and Steve Perry (lead vocals).
Janis Joplin, Ball and Chain ~ Monterey Pop Festival 1967
Every performance by Janis Joplin, the few we have, is legendary. She poured her heart and soul into each song, the result mesmerizing to watch. Enjoy this classic Janis while keeping your eyes peeled for a stunned Cass Elliot (Mamas and the Papas) in the crowd.