Well, without getting too morose the fact is, most of them are gone now. Some are still living but no longer perform. So indulge me, OK? If anyone reading this DID get to hear these people play, I’d love to hear about it.
First and foremost of course would be the Beatles. Although from the reports I got from the few kids I knew who did see them (in Boston or Shea Stadium in New York) had nothing to do with the music. Tens of thousands of screaming girls made sure the laughably underpowered sound systems of the day were totally useless. But still, to be there when the absolute seminal rock group of all time performed would have been great, in retrospect anyway.
Then there is The King. When he was alive I thought of him as kind of a buffoon to be honest, some kind of caricature. Eventually I began listening to his early, Sun Studio stuff and I “got it.” And the show I wish I’d seen was one of the many he did at the Las Vegas Hilton back in the late 1960s, especially one that came close to the time he more or less reappeared on the music scene and was lean and full of energy.
Which brings me to Vegas and the music that happened and still happens there. One of my favorite recordings is a live set of tunes by the great Count Basie band and Sinatra performing at The Sands in the early 60s. Frank absolutely slays the audience with his delivery and swagger as the Basie band swings hard and with the confidence that they are the best. The hell with the new rock music that was taking over the radio. Listen up, people. This is JAZZ. Now THAT would have been a show to see!
On the other end of the spectrum entirely – Hendrix. I went to lots of concerts back in the 60s but most of them were in the latter part of the decade and of course Jimi died in late 1970. One person I knew was at the famous concert at the Fillmore East that was recorded and then released as an album, with Buddy Miles on drums. Being still primarily an acoustic guitarist in those days, before I went through my electric phase in the 70s, I couldn’t appreciate what he did on the guitar and in fact, even today I think a fair percentage of what he played was excessive to the point of being absurd. But there is no question that he radically advanced rock guitar and I wish I’d had a chance to watch an entire Hendrix show to understand at least partially what he was all about.
Joe Pass. One of the all time greats of the jazz guitar, without a doubt. From all reports a surly and thoroughly unpleasant person however. But to hear him live in the famous trio of Pass, Ella Fitzgerald (still in my opinion the greatest female jazz vocalist of all time), and Oscar Peterson on piano would have been heavenly. You can at least get a feel for it on the recordings they made. They were the epitome of jazz class. All gone now.
This one I’m still kicking myself about. When my son Matt was a freshman at the George Washington University the school had on parent’s weekend a concert by Ray Charles. I don’t know why Kathy and I didn’t go down for it, just too lazy I guess. Ray died shortly after that date. I began to learn more about him and of course saw the movie “Ray” about his life, although I took much of that with a large grain of salt. Still, he was an innovator and there were few that had his soul. Damn.
Back in the mid 70s there was a concert club on Boylston Street in Boston called Paul’s Mall. At least once a year Bob Marley and the Wailers performed there. The place was small, maybe seating for a few hundred. A guitarist I was playing with at the time urged me to go with him time and time again, but when I listened to Bob’s songs I only heard some lazy rhythms and monotonous chord changes with sentiments in the lyrics that seemed simplistic and trite. You see, at the time I was very into both electric blues (I could understand where THOSE sentiments were coming from!) and also slick jazz rock by groups like Steely Dan. Marley was just….boring. How wrong can a person be? It took a lot of years to “get it” but finally I did when I began going to the Caribbean and also began REALLY listening to his message – and then I dove into reggae and learning about Bob’s amazing, short and tragic life. The lesson for me was, keep an open mind.
There are other musicians that I’ve missed for one reason or another. Today the battle is getting off my ass and making the effort, more than anything else. Fortunately, son Matt loves music and his tastes are eclectic, to say the least. He keeps trying to turn me on to new music and once in a while he succeeds. I still don’t pay attention as much as I should but I’d like to believe my outlook is more open than in my younger days when the issue was what constituted “good” music. I think I’d better get up to Boston to hear Sonny Rollins the next time he comes through town……
Peace & good music,