Thursday, October 8, 2009

July 19-20, Los Angeles Coliseum Stadium: Eric Clapton/Grateful Dead (didn't happen)

The very end of the weekly rock column "Rock Talk From KG" in the Hayward Daily Review always included a few notes about upcoming shows, some of that not yet final or advertised. This is the final paragraph of the May 17, 1974 column, with the tantalizing note that Eric Clapton and The Grateful Dead would play together at the giant Los Angeles Coliseum, with a capacity of about 80,000. Needless to say, it didn't happen.

The idea wasn't as far fetched as it might seem. Eric Clapton had just returned to touring after a four year layoff, and his tour was a huge event. Stadium concerts were "in", at the time, a chance to see major acts in a venue with refreshments and bathrooms, as opposed to a muddy field. The Grateful Dead had a new, expensive sound system, and they needed high paying gigs. While the Dead were never as popular in Los Angeles as they could have been, even in 1974 it was well known that Deadheads would travel in large numbers, given the incentive. OK, the LA Coliseum was an old dump, and the area around it wasn't exactly hippie central, but a 4-hour Dead show followed by a couple of hours of Clapton would make it all worthwhile, right? And then we could do it all again the next day? Oh, well.

Eric Clapton did indeed play Los Angeles on July 19 and 20, but he played at the much smaller Long Beach Arena. The Grateful Dead played Selland Arena in Fresno on July 19.

As to the CSNY/Allman Brothers/Beach Boys/Marshal Tucker gig at the LA Coliseum, it didn't happen either, but it almost did. CSNY were just starting their titanic National tour, mostly in Stadiums, but the Bill Graham produced show was scrapped, and they did not open until July 9 in Seattle.  The Beach Boys were on the CSNY tour, and they too opened in Seattle with them. The Allman Brothers tour seems to have been between Tulsa (July 5) and St. Paul (July 8) during these dates.

I'm listening to "Dark Star">"Have You Ever Loved A Woman">"Not Fade Away" in my mind's ear.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Correspondent Doug writes in to point out that I probably greatly underestimated the capacity of LA Coliseum at "just" 80,000:

    You say that EC and the Dead might have drawn 80,000, and that's a reasonable estimate. But the way you phrase it is that the venue had "a capacity of about 80,000." That struck me as low for "capacity."

    According to the venue's history page,
    On March 29, 2008, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox set a Guinness World Record for the largest attendance ever at a baseball game with a crowd of 115,300. Other historic events include Billy Graham’s appearance in 1963 in front of 134,254 (still an all-time Coliseum record)…

    I'm sure that setting up a stage for EC and GD would take more space than for a 1963 Billy Graham Crusade! But a stage down at the Peristyle end of the stadium (the east), even with a 1974 sound system (the Wall of Sound debuted in March and this would've been May), I think they could've tried to fit 100,000 in. I've been in a USC-UCLA football crowd in that venue, and with the usual east-end bleachers removed, the crowd was above 90,000 with no spectators on the field.

    1. So paid attendance for the weekend could have at least theoretically been 200,000 plus.

      "Playing In The Band">"It's A Sin">"Badge">"Playin", anyone?