Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Gospel Zombies of New Jersey

On June 15, 1986, I saw U2 perform at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. They were the headliner for the Amnesty International benefit concert series that summer. The show in New Jersey was the final one of the tour. Other artists that day - all of whom I saw perform - include Sting, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, and The Hooters. I have no memory of this concert. None at all. The only reason I know I was there is that I wrote about it in my journal. I was visiting my friend Patrick in New Jersey. We spent the entire day at one of the most important concert events of our generation. We saw U2 in their early-ish years, in what most people (not me) consider to be their prime. We saw all of these bands along with over 80,000 other people in an MTV-broadcast MAJOR EVENT held across the river from Manhattan. Again, I have no memory of this concert.

(It should be noted that I was not drunk. I was not under the influence of any drugs. I was lucid and sober and present.)

One September 12, 1985, during another visit to New Jersey, Patrick and I went to see Foreigner and Joe Walsh at the smaller Meadowlands Arena, across the parking lot from Giants Stadium. I have a clear memory of this night. Joe Walsh was horrible (wasted, reckless... not in an interesting way). Foreigner played all of their average songs, with average energy and average stage presence, for an average audience. I clearly remember what happened during I Want to Know What Love Is. The crowd of 14,000 or so booed when the band brought out the New Jersey-based gospel choir that had been used for the recording of the song and the video. I remember fixing my binoculars on lead singer Lou Gramm's face and seeing his disappointment when he heard the boos. Yeah, Foreigner's core "rock" fans just couldn't accept the presence of a gospel choir (even a "local" one) on the song. (Also - it was 1985. Classic rock radio was completely, officially segregated and a full 24% of white New Jersey rock fans were racist, thereby partially explaining the boos of an entirely African-American gospel choir.) And did I mention that Joe Walsh was horrible? And that Foreigner was average?

What's the point of me bringing up two 20-plus-year-old concerts? I want to discuss memory. Why do I remember one concert featuring two artists I really didn't want to see... two artists that have never had any presence in my music collection? Why do I not remember seeing a generation-defining concert featuring U-Freaking-2 nine months later?

Was it because of other things going on in my life? Let's see:

September 1985 - working at the movie theater, living with my parents, hanging out with John and John and Blaine, no girlfriend, about to start my junior year of college, no real major issues/concerns.

June 1986 - working at the movie theater and the hotel gift shop, living with my parents, hanging out with John and John and Brett, no girlfriend, just finished my incredibly successful junior year of college, no real major issues/concerns.

Yes, my parents would leave for Singapore one year later and render me family-less in the Midwest. But that decision wasn't made until the fall. Yes, my sister had just left for Orange County but come on - that wasn't it.

It might seem like a fruitless exercise but lately I've been obsessed with figuring out why I have no memory of the concert. I even decided not to take my journal's word for it and I called up Patrick and he said yeah we were there. We stayed the whole day. We watched U2. They were awesome.

Over the years - before rediscovering my 1986 journal - people had asked me if I had ever seen U2 in concert. Nope. Never. I was almost as proud of this fact as I was of my insistence that Zooropa is their best album (IT IS!) But I guess I saw them. I was 20 and they were 30ish. It was in an iconic stadium in iconic New Jersey, for an iconic cause. It was important. But I have forgotten.

Was there a trauma that day that has caused me to quash the memory, deep in the recesses of my recollections? Don't think so.

Did I have a fever or other illness that caused temporary memory loss? Not likely. You'd think I'd mention that in my journal.

But here's the interesting part. Somewhere, somehow, I just pulled something up from my insides. It wasn't U2. It wasn't Sting or Miles Davis (Miles Davis!!!) No, I think I remember.... I think I remember.... no I DO REMEMBER... seeing The Hooters.

Here's a link for the un-embeddable video for their amazing song All You Zombies.

I believe they were the first act, the opener of openers. I believe we heard them play as we approached our seats. It was sunny. I think the sheer awesomeness of the Hooters (a band that played at my high school's PROM one year after I graduated) rendered the rest of the day unmemorable. Yes, that was it.

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