This is the last part of the story of the fans that were going to various George Harrison concerts during his North American Tour in 1974. This time they are at Madison Square Garden. This was written by Pat Simmons.
And then there was New York….
Mysteriously enough, Kris, Marla, Deb and I had all come down with malaria that Friday (December 20th) and were unable to go to work. Beautiful blue skies awaited us in New York City and Mary Ann had volunteered to pick us up and take us into Manhattan. The temperatures were well into the 40s and it looked like it was going to be an all-around beautiful weekend. We just regretted that Joy wasn’t able to afford to come with us. We just barely, by the time we’d landed and met Tempy and four Mary Ann’s car, had enough time to go to our hotel (Park Lane – and no, he didn’t stay there. He stayed next door at the Plaza), dump our rubbish and bop over to the Plaza to try to see George depart for the concert. We waited right up until ten minutes to four (the show started at 4:00). We had seen Billy, Tom, Willie, and just about everyone else leaves, but not George. We figured out later he must’ve bopped out the side door. We all crammed into taxis (along with Jean and Cyn from Minnesota) and proceeded toward Madison Square Garden averaging about two miles an hour most of the way. The crowds not only with the concert but with last minute Christmas shoppers were just unreal, considering NYC is usually a rat race anyway. Not to mention that by the time we approached Madison Square. It was also the beginning of rush hour with people leaving work! The group in the other taxi gave up about ten blocks from Madison Square and ran the rest of the way. They were smarter than we were. We finally got there and were seated about halfway through the second song. We were in the lower balcony about halfway back. You could see beautifully (especially thanks to Mary Ann’s binoculars!) but if you own an Instamatic camera, forget it. It seemed hard to believe that just 3 ½ years ago Bangla Desh had happened in that very place. This time George was wearing plaid trousers and white shirt, looking as good as ever, but also looking very tired, about to fall over. It’s been a LONG tour. He changed the order of songs somewhat, doing “In My Life” as the 3rd song in the first half instead of in the second half. During that song, instead of singing “I love you more” he sang “Olivia more” which really blew our minds – pass THAT one on to Gloria Stavers, folks! He introduced that song by saying, “The net song is about some old friends of ours.” And during “Sue You Sue Me Blues” he sang, “Bring your lawyer, don’t bring Klein.” And when Billy sang “Will it Go Round in Circles” he said, “I got no melody…gonna sing it to my George.” George introduced Ravi by saying “I would like to introduce to you the man without whom my life would be a misery and very boring.” Lakshmi had her Apple watch on – one of the watches Ringo sells – is that right? Anyway, it seemed funny to see her wear it. At one point George said that he, in his other NYC shows, had been getting knocked because during the Indian section people were shouting “ice cream! Ice cream!” And he said, “So would the people selling ice creams please shout “ice cream” a little quieter?” That cracked everybody up. (They didn’t shout “ice cream” any softer by the way). That was weird seeing people bop around the aisles selling ice cream and pop (pardon me, you New York people, SODA) during George’s concert! IT was like being at a football game. George said before introducing “Zoom Zoom Zoom,” “I’d just like to say that as we’re finishing this tour, what there appears to be is a battle against people’s concept of what we’re supposed to be, and this plays a big part in the battle of concept. So, the easiest way to enjoy anything in your life is not to try to pre-judge it. And we’d like to continue with a piece of music called “Zoom Zoom Zoom.” When George finished introducing the Indian musicians, Ravi stepped up to the microphone and finished the intros saying, “and the fifth one, George Shankar!” It didn’t get much response. And during “Dispute and Violence” during each beat, George would do things like kicking his leg or slide forward or lift his guitar – that man can’t keep still even during the Indian music part. Shame on him. When George introduced Jim Horn and all of them, he added, “You name it, they’ll blow it.” He once in a while would look behind him as though remember he had an audience behind him and would say, “Forgive me. I tend to forget about you.”
He changed the order of the songs in the 2nd half too. He introduced “Tom Cat” by saying “It’s a pleasure to be playing in Tommy Scott’s band.” During “Dark Horse” he was having amplifier trouble – kept giving off a high-pitched squeak. He kept looking around and thought things, “somebody do something!” Eventually, somebody did, because it was all right after that. There was an extra-long version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with a long, long guitar duet between George and Robben. He received tremendous applause afterwards, to which he said “Thank you. Thank you. God bless you all.” During “Nothing From Nothing” George kept pitching in little comments, like Billy would sing “Nothing from nothing mean nothing, ain’t that right?” and George would say “Yeah, that’s right.” Oh, when Tom did “Tom Cat,” he came up behind the unsuspecting George, who had his back to him and stood next to him. When George finally realized someone was behind him, he turned around, grinned, put his arm around him, and proceeded to do the Harrison soft shoe! And during the encore, he tried again to get the audience to participate saying that they’d be the back up band and the audience should be the singers. “The Lord lives within all of us – we are a reflection of each other. The sooner we discover ourselves within our hearts, the sooner we’ll have united nations, because it’s the same sap that runs thru the maple tree – whatever you like. The message is to see God – it’s so hard, but it’s so easy. And I’d just like to tell you that this band is a gas! It didn’t take them long, did it?” It brought the usual response, which wasn’t much, but oh well, we had fun anyway. Just watching him on stage was worth the price of the ticket.
Between that show and the second, which would be the very last one of the tour, Cyn, Mary Ann and I went to scrounge up din-din at a coffee shop underneath Madison Square (*you’d have to see that place to believe it. It’s fantastic!) Afterward, we ran into some scalpers who had 2nd-row seats for sale, which we promptly bought. IT turned out that they were 2nd row lower balcony about ¾ of the way back. WE met up with everyone else. Tempy and Deb had managed to get front row seats from a scalper! Marla had one about ½ way back, the main floor, which she traded with me so that I could be on the main floor instead of the balcony. Before the show started, while sitting there, I had itchy feet, so I bopped down to where the first half started to talk to Tempy and Deb. Somehow, I managed to double-talk my way into the first half of the main floor. There was an empty seat next to Deb and I managed to keep it until about halfway through the second or third song when the owner of the seat finally showed and the little man in the red coat kindly ushered me out. I thought for a while he was planning on throwing me the rest of the way out. I was scared to death. Before being escorted away, dear Deb shoved her ticket at me so that I wouldn’t get thrown out altogether, and mumbled “come back during intermission and I’ll trade seats with you.” I must have the nicest friends in the whole world or at least the most unselfish, which seems to be a rare trait in the “Beatle fans” today – generally, it seems “everyone for herself” which is rather sad. Anyway, I wormed my way down an aisle to lose the ever-following little man in the red coat, and then wormed my way back. Never having made a practice of this, I continued to be scared to death. Eventually, I found an empty seat in the first section, about a third of the way back, and the seat was toward the middle where the usher couldn’t reach me, so I wormed my way in there and plonked myself down. Still was a beautiful seat. I noticed a couple of empty seats ahead of me a couple rows and only wished I could get the attention of Mar, Kris, Mary Ann, Cyn, and everybody else who were still back there in our super-gyp scalper seats.
I even had an extra scalper ticket for a seat up in peanut heaven which I hadn’t been able to sell at all. People had approached me asking me to give it to them for free, which I wasn’t about to do, so it became a souvenir, an expensive one, but a souvenir. Anyhow, I sat there in the middle of that section, terrified I would get chucked. After a while, I got over that feeling and was finally able to enjoy the concert.
You could just feel the tension in the air because everyone, absolutely everyone it seemed was expecting Lennon to show. But he never did. I was really disappointed. So were a lot of people. We heard later that Lennon had been backstage but had decided not to join George onstage because he didn’t like the way George changed the lyrics to “In My Life” and George wouldn’t sing them the way they were supposed to be sung, so that was that. John couldn’t have been overly mad at him though because he did show up at George’s after-tour party later that evening.
I forgot to mention that this show was a bit late in starting and guess how the extra time was filled in? By a group of people singing Christmas carols. And George wore this time the overalls and a yellow shirt and red tennis shoes! He opened the show saying “Good evening, New York, take 3!” He introduced “In My Life” this time “I’d like to do a song written by two old friends and one and a half new friends. You figure out which is the half! (ooooh!) however we all live and learn, and the Lord bless us all.” He again ended the song by saying, “God bless John, Paul, Ringo, and all the other x’s.” The intro to “Sue You Sue Me Blues” – “I’d like to do a song off the Living in a Material World album which was born and bred in New York City.” Introduction to the Indian musicians: “We’d like to enlarge the band or orchestra or whatever you want to call it and hopefully bring new preconceived ideas as to what the Lord should and should not do in our lives. It’ll take a minute or two to plug Bushy Barkley pickups in, and hopefully, you may enjoy it depending on the kind of concept you like (Bushy Barkley pickups – what is that?). When, one time, George went up to the mike to speak, at first it wouldn’t work and he looked panic-stricken. He tapped at it, going “Hullo, hullo, hullo.” Before one of the Indian songs, he mentioned “Shankar Family and Friends” album “on the Dark Horse label at your local deals now – plug, plug, plug again!” This is called “Dispute and Violence” and you know all about that in New York! Introducing the rest of the band: “Ace lunatic on percussion, Emil Richards!” After introducing Robben, he announced that he was only 18! And Jim Keltner threw his drumstick in the air, and as usual, he missed! He introduced himself as Carl Marx. The introduction to Maya Love was the topper when he said, “Not to be confused with My Love.” Before “Tom Cat,” his amp broke once again and this time it really took them a while to fix it. The band started up some background music while George inquired, “Well, anybody got any jokes? No? Well…” During the Indian part, George introduced “Na Da Dani” by saying “It’s Swahili or Benga!” Also during “I Am Missing you”; George and Kumar sang real loud and very off key trying to out-do each other and Lakshmi sounded very much like Yoko. The two in a duet would’ve been far out. But Yoko didn’t show up either! Tempy did thinks she saw Julian to the side of the amps at one point. Oh, it really took a while for that amp to get fixed and finally George plucked s trying and said “ahhh!” and the show was underway again.
Anyway, George once said “I must tell you, since 1971, New York is much more patient and that’s a nice sign. Thank you.” During the encore, he tried again to get people to participate by asking them to blow the rafters off the place. We didn’t do as bad as we thought, but in the very end George said, “See you in another 8 years.” That was one bummer about this tour – he seemed to be totally intolerant of those who wouldn’t accept his religious beliefs, tried to shove it down your throat whether you wanted it or not, and was very sarcastic at times. That kind of business turned me off, but it was hard staying mad at him, watching him bop around the stage and singing in what was left of his voice – a hoarse voice just ain’t too bad at times. No sir.
During the intermission, I had bopped up front to talk with Tempy and Deb at which time Deb said “I’m switching seats with you.” Just another little sample of how unselfish some people can be. Turned out she was sure glad she did switch with me because after the show, while standing on Tempy’s coat, I felt this vise-like grip on my arm and there was Deb, dragging me off the chair saying “you aren’t gonna BELIEVE this…” Turns out that just after intermission, when the house lights had gone off again, who should sit down in front of her, directly in front of her yet but Paul accompanied by Linda! I wish you could have seen this poor kid – she was so excited. It was her very first time ever seeing any of them close up, particularly Paul, who happens to be her fave-rave. I was so glad it had happened to her – to someone who certainly deserved it, and to someone who had never had any kind of luck in seeing them before. But I’ll let Debbie tell about that bit later on in this newsletter – I don’t think she’s recovered since! Nothing, absolutely nothing, is ever quite like the first time seeing one of them close-up.
Very much elated, we bopped down the stairs of Madison Square, while I sang a rousing chorus of ’Give me Air, Give me Air…” We were just unable to believe that the tour was over and that we wouldn’t be bopping off somewhere next weekend. Even if Rolling Stone and the critics hadn’t liked the concerts, each one had a special meaning.
We had heard that there would be an after-tour party at a place called the Hippopotamus and we took a cab there in an effort to crash. That bombed-out – would you believe TV nearly wasn’t let in and they didn’t let Robben in and was he mad! We saw George arrive and when Lennon arrived, that was the REAL topper. I heard Tempy say, “Lennon!” and I said “Lennon?” And there he came bopping up from behind us with May Pang, grinning away, grinning even more when someone screamed. I would’ve thought he would’ve been annoyed, but he didn’t seem to be. When he came out he held up his arms and said “Keep cool, keep cool!” (I did get a photo of him but it’s really blurry…blah). Lennon was so cute. George came out and looked very, very stoned with a blank, dull look in his eyes – it was frightening. He was being assisted to his car. His dad came out accompanied by a groupie! His hair really is long. And he used to complain about the length of his son’s hair? Looks like George has brainwashed him into the Krishna bit because he wears those buttons and symbols all over his coat too and we hear Peter, George’s brother, who also accompanied him on part of the tour is very much into that too. One of the best parts of the whole weekend had to be when Alla came out, you know the pudgy little bongo player in Bangla Desh and he was plowed! Two people were helping him walk up and down the street to get some air. He was that tanked – not realizing his problem was one too many. I thought he was sick and walked up and asked him if he was all right. He just grinned back and said “I’m all right. I’m all right” and I caught a whiff of his breath and almost passed out. That struck me so funny. I thought their religion said they weren’t supposed to drink. Come to think of it we never did see Ravi leave. Anyway, that was THE perfect ending to a most perfect day.
The next day we bopped over to the Stanhope where Paul was staying and after having a drink in the hotel’s pub in an effort to thaw out a bit, we whiled away the time fussing over every dog that trotted past. We always seem to attract the dogs! Mary Ann had waited with us at the Hippo but had caught the flu and couldn’t go with us to the Stanhope. I was really sad about that. I really wanted her to see Paul. She had been one of the ones who’d never seen any of them either, until seeing George and John at the Hippo. Anyhow, after about six hours of waiting, Paul and Linda finally bopped out and somehow when you see him, the waiting is always worth it and you suddenly forget that you were frozen solid just a minute ago. They were dressed to kill, on their way to see the Sgt. Pepper play. When he first came in, Paul’s mouth dropped open in mock astonishment and he exclaimed, “are all of you waiting for me?” What a ham, but he was as gorgeous as ever. There were even some older people hanging around waiting for him, wanting autographs. Though he’d hate that, but the really loved the attention and was quite enjoying himself. They were out there for about 10 minutes. Don’t know how Paul could stand the cold win. He just had a suitcoat on, no other coat, and it must have been in the 20s by then.
Sunday we spent hanging around the Plaza, having learned that George was supposed to leave that day, but after hours and hours of waiting in the freezing cold, we finally learned that he’d cut out at 6 that morning. Leave it to George to think of something sneaky like that. We hit the Stanhope briefly but decided we really didn’t have the time to wait because we did have to fly home and go to work the next day. Just when we caught a cab in front of the Plaza, Kris, Mary Ann and I had gone precisely one block when we saw Jeff Raven out in front of the building and two limos slither up, so we shoved a dollar at the cab driver and wailed over, only to see Tom Scott leave. To think we paid a buck to go one block to see Tom Scott … then again, he ain't half bad!
Off to the Stanhope for about a half-hour where we finally split up, all going to our appointed airports to catch flights for home. It was sad, breaking up the group! Still, McCartney’s coming soon (so he says!). We talked to Jeff a bit at the Plaza when we saw him, and when we mentioned that line George said at the last show, “See you in another 8 years,” he seemed very surprised and said that George had been saying he was very pleased with the way the tour went. So to the people, especially the Clevelanders, that never got to see him, it seems he’ll be back again before long, and this time, maybe he’ll learn and tour in the summer. It’s so weird being back to the “normal routine.” Being at those concerts gave you a feeling you can’t explain in words…but you will find out when he comes back!