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Musical Moments? It's a Toss Up

October 15, 1992|JIM WASHBURN | Jim Washburn is a free-lance writer who contributes frequently to The Times Orange County Edition. This column appears regularly in OC Live!

I can't remember what eastern locale they put the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in--Philadelphia or Delaware or some other cheese-steak-ridden hole--but they would have been as justified plopping it right here in Orange County. It is here, after all, that Leo Fender unleashed the solid body electric guitar--the plink heard 'round the world--here that Dick Dale pulled surf music from the briny deep and here that the Rolling Stones had several thousand shoes thrown at them.

That last took place at Anaheim Stadium in 1978 during the first show of a two-day stop on the "Some Girls" summer tour. It was still de rigeur at the time for critics and biographers to depict skinny British person Mick Jagger as some kind of dark Lucifer, hypnotizing audiences and commanding their wills with the merest quiver of his sushi-like lips.

It was an awesome power to behold, especially on this particular occasion, which happened like this:

The Stones were in mid-song. Suddenly a shoe sailed past Jagger, followed shortly thereafter by a thong.

The lips quivered. "Hey, stop throwing your shoes!" Jagger shouted in the same commanding voice he once used to opine: "You mumble got to mumble mumble mumble tumbling dice."

Perhaps the audience, dulled by recreational drugs and Ron Wood's brick-like guitar solos, only heard the word "shoes." In any case, they obliged by chucking a few more Jagger's way. Earth shoes were popular then, as I recall.

"Awright then, let's have them all!" a clearly irked Jagger/Lucifer yelled, and within moments he'd collected enough soles to fill a dozen PayLess stores, or purgatory, if there's a difference. Before it was over, the footwear was several layers thick, and most of the Stones were scampering to avoid the larger or less stylish ones, with only the godlike Charlie Watts remaining impassive behind his drum set.

Just a couple of years ago in a radio interview, Keith Richards was asked which moment of which concert had stuck most in his memory through the decades, and he answered immediately: "It was those shoes, man, those shoes," and he dissolved in laughter.

Speaking of audience's innovations:

The Bic Salute--wherein a sea of fans holds lighters aloft, screaming as thumbs blister--most likely originated elsewhere during Bob Dylan's 1974 tour, but it was improved on here in Orange County in the late '80s. It was up on the lawn of Irvine Meadows, I believe, that primitive man first introduced fire to his wax paper beer cup and discovered-- voila !--a way to singe the entire hand. The wax on those babies lighted up like a Pinto hatchback.

Seen close up, it was kinda inspiring, those wiped-out folks holding their flaming beers aloft, wobbling like the Statue of Liberty after a weekend with Ted Kennedy. But seen from the distant stage, they could well have struck terror into a performer who'd seen the last reel of any Frankenstein flick, when the torch-wielding villagers come around for a housewarming.

But it's things like that that bands need to see, to remind them that not all audiences necessarily are alike.

You can hardly blame a singer for mindlessly repeating "Hey, how ya doin' (your city name here)?" when his band is out there night after night giving its all at nose-bleed volume to audiences that never bother to distinguish themselves.

It would take teamwork and planning, but I'd like to think a tableaux like this is possible here:

Visiting rock star who probably can't wait to get offstage and finish reading Forbes: "Hey, how ya doin', Orange County?"

Thousands of voices answering as one: "Our noses are bleeding, thank you! Unemployment is up! They're building a shopping center or something right in the middle of the 5 Freeway! Our elected representatives appear nationally on C-SPAN with embarrassing froth on their lips! How the hell do you think we're doing?"

That, or we could just throw burning shoes at them.

This throwing business can work both ways, though. In 1967, at the newly opened Anaheim Convention Center, the then-little-known Who was stuck opening for Herman's Hermits.

While most of Herman's teeny-bopper fans weren't too big on the distortion and violence of the Who's stage act, some were swayed by the British accents--which could get you anything in the '60s--and threw the stuffed animals they'd brought for Herman at the Who instead.

A friend who saw this show says he remembers the ever-resourceful Pete Townshend using his guitar to bat the furry toys back at the little girls with a vicious, stinging force.

Then there are the people who simply hurl themselves at the performers in the spotlight, which folks seem drawn to do in Orange County, moreso than in most counties not populated entirely by moths. It's a good thing the presidential debates aren't being held here, because they'd probably go like this:

Jim Lehrer: "Now, about our helplessly spiraling economy. . ."

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