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Were you there the first time the Stones, Springsteen or Dylan came to town?

c d kaplan is a rock & roll lifer. He’s got some stories, lots of stories. Here are some.

Rolling Stones.

Bruce Springsteen.

Bob Dylan.

Rock icons, they.

One of the blessings for Derbytown rock & rollers through the decades has been several appearances by big name acts. Including these Hall of Famers.

Their first times through town are "legendary" in one way or another. Especially when one is playing rock & roll smackdown, and can say "I was at that show."

Which your inveterate historian cannot invoke of the Stones initial visit through town.

November 14, 1964. Memorial Auditorium.

I was away at college. Besides, we didn't quite know at that early stage they'd become as many believe, "the best rock & roll band in the world."

My pal, long time Elvis documentarian Alanna Nash was in the house.

Girls screamed, she reports. The Stones "made no attempt to be NICE." The crowd was spare, and as is often the case, she remembers little other than Brian Jones didn't play because he was sick. And her, at an age when her father drove her and a pal to and from the concert, trying to figure out what "losing streak" meant in “Satisfaction?"

One bit of anecdotia learned decades later from the gig's promoter, Martin Cohn. He took Mick, Keith and the blokes to Lentini's for pizza after the show.

I was in the house April 2, 1976 for Springsteen's first foray to Louisville. At Macauley Theater, which was what the Brown Theater was called at the time.

My indelible memory is what a well meaning ticket taker advised as we walked in.

"Don't light up in the theater, or we won't be able to have any rock shows here in the future."

To which I immediately retorted, "Well, why would we want shows here if we can't get stoned?"

It was an odd period in Bruce's career. He'd been having management issues. And he'd appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek at the same time just months before.

And hadn't quite learned yet how to deal with the klieg lights of fame.

As for the music, I was taken with the Wall of Sound lack of nuance, struck by the lack of any subtlety whatsoever. He was full bore from first note to last of every song. Also, when running through his classics of the time -- "Rosalita," "Jungleland," "Thunder Road" etc. -- it seemed like he spent a lot of the set with his back to the audience.

It was . . . OK.

Ah, but that next time through in August, '78 at Louisville Gardens, that one was an all-timer.

I was there for Dylan’s first visit also.

I heard Dylan's "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" for the first time as I was lugging my foot locker down the hallway to my room in freshman dorm in the fall of ‘63. I'm the guy who brought his records home that Christmas, and forced my friends to sit down, shut up and listen to the words.

February 4, 1966. Louisville Gardens. Wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

There were only 1500 or so in the arena for this, his initial "electric" tour.

Dylan played two sets. The first, solo acoustic.

The second amplified, with his band intentionally playing loud. There were catcalls, the "we want the real Dylan" stuff you've read about. As well as hurled barbs of a nature that can't be printed here. To which Dylan replied in kind.

What was vexing about that show was the sound system. For vocals, they used the tinny cone speakers on top of the scoreboard. Which was passable — oh not really — during the first half of the show. But inexcusable during the second set, because you couldn't hear any of the lyrics over the instruments.

As grateful as I was to be at the concert that night, I can't remember any of the songs he sang.

But I do recall where we went after the show.

Lentini's for pizza.

Observer of the Passing Scene: Pop Culture and Sports. Writer. Film Critic. Curmudgeon. Rock & Roll and Louisville Cardinal fan.

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