MUSIC: Let your kid go to the
Happening. or, Why I Bought Tickets to a 50 Cent Concert
' When I was twelve years old my father took me to
my first Happening. My life hasnt been the same since.'
I was twelve years old my father took me to my first "Happening".
"A what?" my brother and I asked in unison when he told us
where we were going.
"A Happening" said my father. He was merging into the traffic
of the Bayshore freeway. We were headed north from the San Francisco
airport toward "the City" where my older brother and I were
to spend a long weekend visiting our father.
"Whats happening?" I asked him. He looked back over
his shoulder at me. As the younger brother I was consigned to the backseat.
"Its not whats happening" he said. "Its
I was cool. I was trying to be cool, at least. I was a kid crammed into
the backseat of his fathers Volvo wanting his father to think
he was cool, so I said, "Oh, okay, thats cool. Well then,
whats a Happening?"
"Youll see," he said and he winked at me in the rear
We drove north toward the City. "Thats the Cow Palace over
there," he said pointing to a large building off to the left. "Thats
where the Beatles played."
As we neared the City my father asked the obligatory questions that
a father asks his sons when they live a long distance away and he sees
them only a couple times a year. "How is school? Are you guys keeping
up on your homework? Do you have girlfriends? Do you even like girls
We answered, of course, in the standard grunts of twelve and fourteen
year old punks who think theyre cool. "Okay. Fine. Yup. Naw.
Mmmm." But I had questions of my own. "So, Dad," I asked.
"Whats up? Where are we going?"
"I told you. To a Happening."
"Yeah, but, whats happening?"
"I told you. Its not whats happening. Its a Happening."
"But what happens at a Happening?"
"A Happening happens," he said.
"A Happening happens?"
"Whats that mean?"
"Youll see," he said and thats all that he said
as we entered the City.
A Happening happens. I wondered what that meant but I was soon to find
It was 1967. The Summer of Love was just kicking off. That year we lived,
my brother and I, with our mother in a house on a bluff overlooking
the ocean in southern California. Our house was set back in some tall
eucalyptus trees with a large lawn of crabgrass out front and a walkway
lined with beach pebbles and edged with abalone shells leading out to
the bluff overlooking the sea. There was a bench set out on the point
and in the evenings we would sit out on the bench and watch the sun
set. When the tide was in down below we could look down into the water
and could sometimes see sharks cruising along the shallows and the inner,
rocky areas of the reef. This was the same stretch of water that we
would surf at low tide. When the tide was out the waves would form on
an undersea ridge and push upward toward the shallower water to curl
off in both directions. At low tide the sharks stayed out beyond the
kelp line and we could surf without worrying about them.
The property next to ours was an avocado orchard. We used to sneak over
the fence, climb the trees and pick the avocados. We would take them
down the trail to the beach and eat them before going surfing or snorkeling.
There was a large gully on the other side of our property. Coyotes and
bobcats lived over in the gully and big barn owls nested up in the crevices
of the steep gully walls.
My bedroom was on the western side of the house so I could always see
the ocean in the distance. There were lemon bushes outside my window
and when the window was open my room always smelled of lemon. That spring
a hummingbird had built a tiny, pouch-like nest in amongst the leaves
of one of the lemon bushes. The eggs were like little marbles and I
would lie on my bed with my chin on the window ledge and stare through
the glass at the delicate hummingbird sitting on the fragile eggs. The
mother hummingbird stared at me, I stared at her and when the baby hummingbirds
hatched one of our cats got them. I was furious but the cats knew that
that was the way of things. Sometimes at night the coyotes or the barn
owls would come over from the gully and take our cats.
We spent a lot of time on the beach. My brother and I would play Frisbee
and search the tide pools for abalone shells to place along the walkway
and for octopus and at high tide the sharks would cruise along the edges
of the reef and at low tide we would surf and the waves would curl in
and the sun would set and we would watch the gray whales pass on their
way to and from the breeding waters in Baja. I was just a kid. I ran
with the dogs on the beach and climbed the avocado trees. I poked around
in the tide pools and played catch with my brother but something was
beginning to happen. Something was stirring.
Then one night in San Francisco my father took me to my first Happening.
That was my entrance into the Summer of Love. That was when my life
changed. The Happening happened, all right. It happened at The Fillmore
Auditorium. It happened thanks to The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane
and The Quicksilver Messenger Service. Looking back now that was not
bad for a first rock concert.
Climbing the stairs into The Fillmore Auditorium in 1967 as a twelve
year old kid was like stepping into a phantasmagoric dream world of
sights, sounds, colors and motion. I was swept up the stairs on a comet
tail of strobe lights, outlandish sights and throbbing rock and roll.
I remember there was a barrel of apples at the top of the stairs in
the lobby area. A sign told us to "Take One", so we did. The
walls of the lobby were covered with posters and psychedelic drawings
with so many colors playing against each other they almost seemed to
move and jump. Entering the main auditorium the music grew louder and
more thunderous. I could feel the vibration of it in my ribcage. The
ambient light grew darker punctuated by the flash of strobe lights which
made the fluid dancing of the crowd appear jerky and erratic. Peoples
eyes shone purple in the neon glow of black lights. A Hells Angel
walked by (Wow! A real Hells Angel). Guys with long hair and beads,
girls with long hair and beads and colorful, flowing clothing all swaying
rhythmically with the music. Another Hells Angel walked by chanting
"Acid. Speed. Grass." I didnt understand. The place
smelled of incense and sweat. Light and color pulsed like a heartbeat.
Behind the stage a liquid light show splashed onto the wall in time
with the pounding and shrieking of the music. All clichés aside,
I had arrived in Wonderland and it was, indeed, happening.
When I was twelve years old my father took me to my first Happening.
My life hasnt been the same since. It was a coming of age experience.
It was a rite of passage. It changed the course of my life. It blew
open a new pathway and beckoned me forth. It sucked me in like Charybdis.
For me, there has never been a turning around. It was my baptism by
fire. I now measure my life in rock and roll stages. Oh, I still ran
on the beach and climbed up into the avocado trees to eat the green
fruit. I still surfed and snorkeled and pried abalone off the rocks
and watched the sharks at high tide but a new world was opening. The
fog of childhood was clearing and I was looking down a path lined with
rock and roll bands and electric guitars and, thanks to Grace Slick
looking so sultry and beautiful on the Fillmore stage that night, girls.
And Ive never looked back. Till now.
But music changes, styles change and the world turns, as they say. I
now have a thirteen year old son. I remember the feelings I had back
in the year 1967 when new things and new desires came to me and I can
see it in my son. I can see that he wants to venture down that pathway
and jump into the whirlpool of life.
There is an upcoming concert event called "Summer Jam" this
summer at The Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington, which features
a number of currently popular hip hop/rap artists. Specifically it headlines
an artist by name of 50 Cent, whose music my son happens to like. What
kind of name is 50 Cent, you ask? Well, what kind of name was The Jefferson
Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, Creedence Clearwater Revival,
Led Zeppelin? I remember seeing bands at The Fillmore with such diverse
and different names as Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Peanut
Butter Conspiracy, The Buffalo Springfield.
Anyway, my son asked me if he could go to the concert and I promptly
went and purchased tickets. This has turned into one of the more controversial
things I have ever done. Im not going to go into a long description
of who 50 Cent is. All of the local paper, television and radio stations
have taken care of that for me. If you have teenage kids or pay attention
to popular music then you probably know who he is.
Now, folks, let me say that I am not trying to sell tickets to Summer
Jam. But why am I letting my young, thirteen year old son go even though
several of his friends parents think I am either irresponsible
Well, when I was twelve years old my father took me to my first Happening.
That night I saw The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane and a band
called The Quicksilver Messenger Service. My life has been enriched
by that decision of his. At least I think so. Some great music came
from those years. Classic rock, as its called now. When I was
thirteen years old, I saw The Doors in L.A. You think 50 Cent is controversial?
What about Jim Morrison? When I was fourteen years old, in 1969, I went
to see Jimi Hendrix. Some of the recollections I have of seeing certain
bands back then constitute some of my best memories. If my father hadnt
taken me to The Fillmore Auditorium that night back in 1967, well, if
So what should I do? Should I not allow my son the opportunity to go
see a musical artist, in fact, several musical artists that he likes
as much as I liked Janis Joplin? Will I live to regret it? Is this a
mistake? Im not letting him go alone. I will be there with him.
I may not be a hip hop fan but I think he deserves the right to dig
the music of his day. I deserved that right when I was his age.
As parents we each have to make our own decisions regarding our children.
I certainly dont subscribe to some of the things other parents
let their kids do. Likewise many dont agree with my decision to
let my son go to the 50 Cent concert. This guy 50 Cent may not be the
musician that Hendrix was or the lyricist that Jim Morrison was or the
singer that Marty Balin of The Jefferson Airplane was. I agree. However,
he is what is popular today (whether that is much to my chagrin is beside
the point). I hope that someday, perhaps when he is in his thirties,
perhaps his forties, my son looks back with a nod of nostalgia and appreciation
for the fact that his father helped open the way to a pathway of music
appreciation and experience as I do. When I was twelve years old my
father took me to my first Happening.
© Jeffrey Beyl June 2003
and Jimi Hendrix
Jeffrey A Beyl
all rights reserved