Boomers Went to Concerts for the Experience of Live Music

Recently, Mister Boomer was paging through a newspaper (remember those?) and stopped to look at some pictures of an outdoor rock concert that was held the previous weekend. The main photo featured a shot of the crowd. Much to Mister Boomer’s chagrin, every single person in the crowd had one arm fully extended, cell phone in hand, presumably video-ing the proceedings. Talk about surreal, man.

Naturally, this got Mister B thinking about his concert days. He didn’t attend too many concerts, but when he did, he went, like most boomers, for the live experience. In fact, the entire idea of filming or taping one second of any concert was strictly verboten. In the late sixties and early seventies, you could bring in cigarettes, bottles of liquor and an assortment of drugs at outdoor venues, but no video cameras or tape recorders were allowed. Ever. Obviously, some people got away with it from time to time, hence the underground market for bootleg cassettes. Though Mister B did not purchase or possess any of those, he had friends who did. There were bootlegs of Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, the Who and Led Zeppelin that he recalls, in particular.

The fact that the concert venue is continuing to evolve should not have come as any surprise to Mister Boomer. After all, when the Boomer Generation was coming of age in the 1950s, concerts then were pretty much the same as when their parents went to see Frank Sinatra in the ’40s. Most photos of concerts in the late forties and into the fifties show a seated audience that for the most part, responded with polite applause. Girls and boys were dressed in what was considered proper for an event: girls in dresses or skirts, boys in suits, or at least more like what was expected for church. However, certain stars such as Frank Sinatra (and later, Elvis) attracted screaming fans wherever they performed, but no one was trying to film them. Nonetheless, it showed an evolution was underway from the staid days of earlier concert attendance.

In the Boomer Era, bands toured to promote their record sales, which accounted for the vast majority of their income. Somewhere around the late 1980s, that began to change drastically, as the biggest names could gross more from their concert tours than they did selling records. The decline of vinyl records sales, then cassettes and finally CDs was predicated by the evolution of online, on-demand music. Purchases in the early days of online music facilitated single-song buying, which put less emphasis on owning an album. The concert was then a big-show experience that was beyond the single records.

In 1956, Elvis jokingly told the girls in the audience at a Florida concert that he would “see them backstage.” That caused a near riot. The Beatles have said that, in their 1965 Shea Stadium concert, they had to play completely without being able to hear their stage monitors because the screaming was so loud. The thing is, we went to concerts for the experience of being there live. Would we have wanted to revisit it via film, videotape or cassette? Mister Boomer feels that would not have been the case. Sure, many bands released live albums of legendary concerts, but the vast majority of boomers who bought those records did not attend the concerts. There are a few concert films from the era that have gone on to be classics, most notably The Last Waltz, the final concert tour of The Band in 1976, and of course, Woodstock, the film from 1970.

There was a certain prestige associated with some concerts if a boomer could say, “I was there.” Yet would boomers have posted numerous videos of bands in concert if the technology was there at the time? That’s hard to say. Mister B feels for the most part that someone filming an entire concert, blocking the view of people behind them, would have been met with a “down in front, man” comment at the very least. The concert was the experience, and that was not going to be reproduced or vicariously lived through filming.

In 2016, Justin Bieber (of all people!), actually stopped a concert to ask the audience to stop screaming. Broadway shows have been stopped when audience members have had cell phones ring. Is this a sign that there is a backlash beginning on this personal freedom to do whatever you want, especially with that portable device known as the cell phone? One can only hope.

Did you go to concerts for the live experience, boomers? Would you have wanted to have physical moving-picture evidence to show your friends that you were there?

Boomers Liked Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

Mister Boomer’s mother really liked Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. She asked her kids to buy the albums for her, playing them on the stereo that she called “the Victrola” her entire life. That is an indicator of the popularity of Herb Alpert’s band and music that spanned the generations, as well as a good indication of the mix of genres that was played on AM radio in the early 1960s. His instrumental, “feel good” horns became a staple of mid-60s TV and movies.

Alpert, with a writing partner, had a couple of minor hits as a songwriter in 1960, but a chance trip to Tijuana, Mexico inspired him to change the arrangement of an instrumental song he had been working on, called Twinkle Star, by Sol Lake. Alpert added the sounds of a bullfight and mariachi band, and renamed the tune, The Lonely Bull. He recorded the album and single with studio musicians — most notable, members of the Wrecking Crew. Herb Alpert partnered with Jerry Moss to form A & M Records to release the song in 1962. It reached No. 6 on Billboard’s Top 10, and Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass was on its way.

Alpert released additional songs with the same Mexican flair and by 1964, calls for live appearances caused him to create a touring band. The group released two albums in 1965, Whipped Cream & Other Delights and Going Places. Mister B’s mom had both albums. The Whipped Cream album was known for two reasons: first, Alpert’s version of A Taste of Honey won him the first of his six Grammy awards; and second, the album cover pictured a woman presumably covered in nothing but whipped cream. It made for fascinating imagery for a young Mister Boomer, who instantly became a fan of album art. Going Places spawned four hit singles, including Tijuana Taxi, a favorite of Mister B’s mom that she listened to more than her Andy Williams albums.

The group was everywhere — on tour, on TV specials and on the radio. In 1966, the band had five albums in the Top 20 — four in the Top 10, a feat that remains unmatched. That year, the band sold 15 million records, outselling the Beatles.

In 1968, Alpert appeared on a CBS TV special and sang a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Not possessing the strongest voice, his forte had always been instrumentals, but he wanted to sing a song to his wife. It caught on with audiences and This Guy’s In Love became Alpert’s only No. 1 single, and the first No. 1 hit on his A & M label.

A & M became a musical force in its own right, releasing music by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, Stan Getz, Carole King, The Carpenters, Cat Stevens, Quincy Jones, The Police, Supertramp, Peter Frampton, Sheryl Crow and a host of others. The duo sold A & M to Polygram in 1987 for a reported $500 million, and managed the company until 1993. Alpert and Moss were recognized for their accomplishments and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1966. They have also been inducted into the Grammy Museum’s “Icons of the Music Industry” series.

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass did it all in less than a decade — including movie music like the theme for the original Casino Royale to their music being used in several TV game shows, most notably, The Dating Game.

Did your mom like Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass? Did you buy the band’s singles and albums, boomers?