Music. Just a few notes of a song is enough to evoke emotions and memories, taking the listener back to a particular place in time. For some, those memories include gripping concert tickets tightly, waiting in long lines and chanting along with — or fainting at the sight of — their favorite musicians. The Port City has certainly seen its fair share of performances, with some, like legends Elvis Presley and Alan Jackson, visiting more than once. The mid-1960’s opening of Mobile Municipal Auditorium — now known as Mobile Civic Center — provided the perfect spot for artists to put on a show, and in 1964 alone, Elvis Presley, Tina Turner and Donnie and Marie Osmond appeared on stage. The following decade saw rock come rolling into the city.
For a little stroll down memory lane, MB asked readers to share their concert memories from an era known for long hair and shock-rock, hip-shaking and folksy-blues: the ‘70s. For lifelong Mobilian Bonnie McNamee, the decade really kicked off with The Rolling Stones’ June 1972 performance as part of the “Stones Touring Party.” Stevie Wonder also performed that night, as the opening act. “The Stones loved elaborate sets,” she recalls, saying the stage layout was evidence of that. “It was one of the best concerts I have ever seen.”
Another act known for extravagance, Alice Cooper and his May 1975 “Welcome to My Nightmare” tour left a lasting impression on Joe Langley. “I remember him hanging in the gallows, a cable strapped to his back,” he recalls, adding that the night’s performance was filled with fog, props and Cooper’s infamous snake. Perhaps just as jarring as the concert was the culture shock Langley felt. “I had just gotten out of the Army,” he laughs, “so I was amazed to see that everybody but me had really long hair!”
The following month, June 1975, the “King” entranced Marion Frizzle with his wriggling hips — she had waited 20 years to see Elvis Presley. “My mom wouldn’t let me go in the ‘50s,” she recalls. “She said it wasn’t a good thing for me to do. But the anticipation of waiting for him to come out on stage and begin was unbelievable.”
While most concerts were performed among hordes of people, Bob Dylan sought a cozier concert venue and chose the Mobile Exposition Hall for his April 1976 “Rolling Thunder Review” tour. Mark Williams says Dylan wanted to connect with his audience — and connect he did. Williams not-so-patiently awaited the door’s opening so he could rush to be up-close-and-personal with the singer. “If you were really lucky,” he says, “you’d be able to touch him!”
Although decades have now passed, each bringing with it new bands, styles and genres, the spirit of music stays the same, providing a temporary escape from reality. Our new reality now includes buzz words like “coronavirus” and “social distancing,” words that substantially alter the live music experience. But leave it to artists like Alan Jackson to find a way to inject musical relief by way of drive-in concerts. His June 2020 concert in Fairhope brought a sense of community to one that had been deprived of contact with the outside world. And in a time filled with unknowns, one can only hope that this drive-in concert style will be continued, creating a new generation of music and entertainment. Because in the end, whether jammed shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of screaming fans or on a pick-up tailgate, the beat will go on.