Earth Day 1982- The Mob Rules!

April 22, 2007 at 8:49 am (The Easy Chair, Waxing Nostalgic)

Do you know where you were 25 years ago today? I do.

I was nearing my 21st birthday, and my little sister had just turned 16. She had never been to a rock concert, so the ex-wife and I picked a doozy for her to pop her sonic cherry.

Black Sabbath!

Rock purists at the time were dismissing Sabbath, as Ozzy Osbourne had been fired/quit the band, and Ronnie James Dio was now the lead writer and singer. This was okay with our camp; it meant twice the metal sludge! Diary of a Madman and The Mob Rules were both in heavy rotation on our turntables. Yes, children, turntables. See, kids, this was before CDs, and we had these things called records.

Okay, the uppity crowd had cassette players, but we weren’t ready to change formats yet. But I digress.

Knowing I would be in no condition to work, I took the day after the concert off, as well as the day of the show, of course. This was a festival seating show at Memorial Coliseum, the biggest indoor venue in Portland at the time, so if you wanted a good seat, you had to be in line early. Six AM should be early enough, don’t you think?

After getting off work at 2 AM, we went to my friend’s motel room, for a bit of, um, white powder enhancement. (I mean, gee, we had to be up all night, and most of the next night, right?) Bouncing off the walls, and ready to be outside, we disembarked across downtown, and walked over to the Coliseum.

Apparently, others wanted to be seated front row and center too. There were easily 1,000 people milling around, playing Frisbee, occupying blankets, passing pipes. The area under the canopy leading to the seven or so entrances was packed, and the line was snaking out to the parking lot. Yikes!

We fell in, and as people wandered off, we moved up, in typical line-creeping fashion. (Positioning is everything!) After a couple of hours, we were camping on the edge of of the canopy, in a good spot to jump into whatever line moved or opened the quickest. Annie, my ex-wife, was the runner. She’s tiny, and fast, and cute. We were using our best weapon against the D&D meatballs who would undoubtedly be ruling the front row area.

We passed the time by playing cards, and drinking Wild Turkey out of 16 oz cola cans. It was a gorgeous day, and still the hottest day on record. 79 degrees!

The day was not without incident. We saw a mounted police officer whack a kid with a nightstick when he did something stupid to the horse. The kid was hustled into the venue, and I swear I saw him in the front row area, with a giant bandage on his nose.

Another kid was taken away by paramedics, after he admitted he’d consumed 134 pink hearts, a caffeine/ephedrine mix that was popular at the time. (In comparison, it made our medium-sized lines of crystal seem like a good idea.) There were pink crustaceans at the corners of his mouth, and he wasn’t looking so good.

Finally, 6 PM rolled around, and the doors opened. Annie was off like a rocket, we would find her indoors after passing security. She was dressed for a quick search; the rest of us would bring the contraband. I was carrying Annie’s bag of joints, and looking ever so manly doing so, ahem. One of the girls was three months pregnant with a pint of Cuervo.

Then there were the six hits of acid. I took two, and gave one to the rest of our crowd. Showtime!!

We didn’t get front row. Half of the main floor was taken already, and we had gotten in quickly. Soon I see Annie’s long black hair, and she’s waving furiously. “Get over here!” She’s trying to save eight seats, and others are eyeballing them. We claim our spot, about ten rows back, just to the right of the stage. Perfect! We can even sit down. It’s been a long day…

As the speed wears off, and the acid takes over, the room starts getting weird(er). It reminded me of all the Jehovah’s Witnesses conventions I’d attended as an impressionable youth, only for the dark side. There were lots of people wearing tights, it seemed. Like a bunch of elves and leprechauns, with long hair, flashing devil-horns.

There were also a few ill-advised cowboy hats in the crowd. I should mention; the opening band was The Outlaws, a southern rock/hard country outfit. (Where’s Blue Oyster Cult when you need them? Oh yeah, currently having the biggest success of their career. Never mind.) There were a couple of fights, which gave us something to watch while the house filled up.

Finally, the lights went down, and The Outlaws took the stage. They were drunk, and loud, and it sounded like they were all playing different songs. Eventually, they played Hurry Sundown, and it was recognizable.

The crowd around me was okay, for the most part. But there’s one in every crowd, the guy that has to fuck with you. Tired from standing in line all day, we were grateful for the chairs. Except this doofus right in front of me, who insisted on standing. I’m looking around him, trying to be patient, when I feel something tugging at my hair. I turn, and this blonde kid, about sixteen, is urging me to get up and dance. I give him a dirty look, and turn back to the stage. He does it again. I ignore it. He keeps it up.

A word or two of advice- it’s not usually smart to taunt a six foot tall, 250 lb hippy who is full of crystal meth, LSD and Wild Turkey. They tend to snap, and I was about to.

I turned and grabbed him by the throat, eyes flaming. “KNOCK IT OFF, ASSHOLE!” I wanted to pick him up and throw him through the dumbass standing in front of me.

Then, a moment of clarity. I let go, and surfer dude melted back away from me. I realized I did not want to be kicked out after waiting all this time, so I reached into Annie’s shirt pocket, fished out a Marlboro, and yelled into her ear, “I’ll be right back!” Then I split for the exit, to step out for a smoke and a little less intensity.

I reached the edge of the building, next to the windows where you can look over the Willamette. Damn, I forgot the lighter. I turn to bum a match, and there’s the rest of my group. “Are you okay? What happened?”

After a couple of puffs, (and a surreptitious joint passed around) I am calmer. Our seats down below have undoubtedly been filled, so I suggest we climb to the upper bowl, to watch the carnage from a distance. On the way to the rafters, my sister puts her hand into a pile of raw liver, which doesn’t help our already near-freaked out condition.

This is a much more peaceful place. We are three rows behind anyone, and security is too busy down below to worry about us passing joints and smoking cigarettes. After ninety minutes of cacophony, The Outlaws play Green grass and High Tides, and stumble off the stage. Let the unholiness begin!

Our new perch allows a good view of backstage. A fellow dressed in black wanders over to this thing that looks like a large coffee can, and dumps the contents of a grocery bag into it. Smoke billows out, and wafts from behind the curtain blocking the view of the stage being assembled. Soon I am catching a strong whiff of marijuana. (Mexican or Colombian, I’m guessing from the smell.) The band is smoking out the house!

Like magic, the lights go down, and the crowd is rapt. RJD bounces to the front, as the crashing sounds of Neon Knights hit us over the head like a hammer. The band plays for almost two hours, and by the finish, everyone is spent.

Three hours, and one long colorful bus ride later, we are back in Forest Grove, curling up with a final beer and trying to get sleepy. The pharmaceuticals haven’t quite worn off, so sleep is a long time coming.

The concert, if not the best, was one of the more memorable.The tour is captured on disc, Black Sabbath’s Live Evil. I still break it out once in a while, if I am at my sister’s, and she’s feeling nostalgic. She still has a turntable…

This Earth Day? Not nearly so eventful. I haven’t snorted anything in over ten years, rarely drink, quit smoking cigarettes a LONG time ago, and am more interested in prolonging life than that whole ‘die young’ phase I went through. Life isn’t boring either. Guess that means I’m in a good place.

I will celebrate, though. I’m going to hop on a bus, ride downtown to get a coffee, then maybe go out to breakfast. Cholesterol may kill you as quickly as speed, but at least I’ll be able to sleep tonight…

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