At age thirteen, when I was 13, a trustworthy kid could do a lot of things without adult accompaniment – within certain boundaries of course. It was a sunny June Saturday afternoon, Mom was in the hospital recovering after surgery (today it would be out-patient), and I was raring to go. Don’t get me wrong, I was her youngest child and very close, but I was to attend my first concert that evening. I had a single ticket in the ‘nose bleed’ section, but I didn’t care. I was about to see the hottest group in the history of music – the Jackson 5, in their first ever Los Angeles appearance.
The year was 1970, “The Love You Save” stood alone atop the charts, Marlon and I were the same age, my little fro was just getting started, and I don’t remember why my two older sisters didn’t go with me because they were “crazed” J5 fans. You know the kind – college girls who frequently stood outside the Havenhurst driveway hoping to get a peek at a Jackson that was old enough to drive.
Dad and I left the hospital in the pick-up truck in route to the venue. He dropped me off at the corner of Manchester and Prairie with instructions to be standing there when the concert ended. “Stay with the crowd and don’t leave with anybody” was the order, and “don’t let anybody use your binoculars.” He would return at around 10:30pm circling the block until he spotted me or vice versa. Obviously in awe, not only my first concert, but this was my first time in “the fabulous” Forum. Back then television didn’t allow us to see inside the Forum. All that I knew was listening to Chick Hearn on the radio describing “the house that Jack built” (former Forum and Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke) and the 17, 505 fans there to see the game in person or passing by on the streets wishing one day I could go there. Little did I know I would spend the entire ten years of my 20s there for countless concerts and for the “Showtime” Laker games. But, think about it, it was 1970, and the then Jerry West led (Los Angeles) Lakers hadn’t even won their first NBA championship yet, Entering the building was just above street level and I couldn’t understand how to read my ticket so I asked an usher how to get to my assigned seat. He sent me halfway around the arena to my section. Instead of going ‘down’ to my seat closer to the stage, I was directed to go ‘up’. Good thing I had my little binoculars mom got me with Blue Chip stamps otherwise I would be seeing the micro J5.
The great Rare Earth was the opening act. I always liked them because they had a hard sound. Play that funky music…! The remake of the Temptation’s “Get Ready” was the entire side of their LP and one of my all time favorite rock songs. Until Led came along in the mid to late ’70s, Rare Earth was my favorite rock band. Hard to believe they were Motown. After they left the stage the Forum’s sub par sound system had major problems causing a long delay before the J5 hit the stage. I sat patiently because I was 13 and was kind of afraid to do anything else. Most of the people around me were either older teenagers or adults. Then finally, here they come! Bananas! Whoopee!
(Black folks didn’t really say “whoopee” in those days or even now come to think of it)
The crowd of over 18,000 went insane screaming and jumping. I remember for the first time in my life not having a voice the next day. The J5 opened with “Stand” a Sly and the Family Stone pillar. So, I stood, like everybody around me, yelling (cause I’m a dude) and jumping. There were still a few technical problems, but it was soon corrected. But there they were, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Jackie and Michael. They were like brothers, because we knew everything about them. I couldn’t believe it – I was there. The next song was “I Want You Back” and then it was pandemonium. My eyes were always fixed on Jackie because he was visibly the tallest and a dancing machine. Using my binoculars I could see how comfortable they appeared to be on stage. They were funky. Girls were screaming “Michael, Michael, Jermaine, Jermaine”! After a bunch of songs then came “The Love You Save”. There was absolute bedlam. I hadn’t seen that kind of chaos since the ’65 Watts riot. The crowd broke through the skimpy security surrounding the stage. I saw a lady grab at Jermaine, another at Michael, Jermaine dropped his bass guitar and they ran backstage faster than jack rabbits.
After standing there for what seemed like forever, in shock, the lights came on, and the show was over. Wow man. The show was over. There were a lot of disappointed people in the nose bleed section. I exited on the east side of the building. I was a little intimidated by the exiting crowd as it was denser than the entering crowd and angrier. The rows of limousines were trying to flee the scene too. I saw the big Forum sign on the corner. I stood there for a short time as scores of people were directed to cross the busy intersection. The white 1965 Ford F-150 pick-up pulled up, I hopped in.
Mother came home the next day.