They've Torn Down Vet's Memorial, part three - by Ricki C.

The heading of my year-long Pencilstorm series has changed this month, as I read in my daily newspaper (a newspaper, how quaint) that the demolition of Vet’s Memorial is complete.  


JUDY COLLINS / March 20th, 1970

I would guess the first question longtime readers of Pencilstorm would have about this month’s entry is: “What the hell was Ricki C. doing at a Judy Collins concert?”  There are a variety of answers to that question: I’ve always had a soft spot (no pun intended) for acoustic music, even in my most rockin’ times.  In 1969 I loved The MC5 and Joni Mitchell with equal and opposing fervor.  The Mekons and Shawn Colvin probably shared roughly equal time on my cassette deck back in 1989, and right now Jack White and Dar Williams CD’s are both stacked next to my player.

Also, I probably wanted to see Judy Collins in early 1970 because I still LOVED Crosby, Stills & Nash in those days, and Stephen Stills had penned all those tunes about Collins: “Suite: Judy Blues Eyes” and the like.  (By 1973, only three years later, when the New York Dolls released their first record, I was ready to ship CS&N and all of their hippie brethren ilk out on the Japanese current.)  

Probably the biggest reason I attended Judy Collins, though, was that I was dating a girl named Linda Finneran at the time and Linda liked Judy Collins.  (There’s an entire blog about Linda and my schizoid senior year of high school – Linda Finneran & Scoring Heroin – in my former blog, Growing Old With Rock & Roll.  Check it out if you get twenty free minutes.) 

I don’t really remember a whole lot about the show: I can’t even recall who the opening act was, and that’s very unusual for me, they must have been a genuine folkie snooze.  I do remember that Collins opened the show with a song called “Hello Hooray” by Canadian singer/songwriter Rolf Kempf, which, roughly three months later - June 13th, 1970 - Alice Cooper opened THEIR set with at the Cincinnati Pop Festival.  That has to be the ONLY song ever shared by  Judy Collins AND Alice Cooper.

I further remember that Ms. Collins displayed an absolute MANIA for being in tune.  She spent literally minutes at a time between songs tuning the six-string she started with and what seemed like HOURS fooling with the tuning pegs of her twelve-string acoustic.  Collins sang great, but the bouts of tuning REALLY began taking a toll on the show; people started yelling for her to just sing, to just get on with it.  (And those were the days before guitar tuners were invented: Collins just muddled along, tuning & re-tuning every string interminably.  It was maddening.)

Finally, after about 40 minutes in which I think Collins had managed to perform only five songs between tuning, she put down her 12-string and walked over to the Vet’s Memorial grand piano positioned stage right.  She sat down, played a couple of notes, put on a sour face and stood up to actually LOOK INSIDE THE PIANO.  At that point a hippie guy seated right behind Linda and I said – in a voice loud enough to carry to the stage – “Oh man, if she starts tuning that goddamn piano I’m LEAVING.”

The entire audience cracked up laughing at that, Collins looked pissed, and was perfunctory the rest of the show.  It was the best, and most memorable moment of the concert.  Nameless hippie heckler, I salute you.  – Ricki C. / March 17th, 2015.


March 3rd, 1968 – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (full account at Growing Old With Rock & Roll, 11/13/13)

March 26th, 1969 – Steppenwolf