In 1979 my pig farmer pal Bill showed up at the dilapidated rathole I was inhabiting in Shippensburg and twisted my arm into going with him to see Blue Oyster Cult–whose songs were a bit too baroque for my tastes–at the York Farm Show Arena. But Bill always had the maddest assortment of drugs–the two of us are probably the only human beings ever to see Devo on thorazine—and on this occasion Bill’s menu du jour included acid and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Me, I was far too nervous an example of homo sapiens to be fooling around with LSD. But I never learned my lesson, and could never say no when offered the stuff.
By the time we arrived at the Farm Show Arena the acid already had me feeling decidedly twitchy. Bill and I pushed our way into the middle of the arena–which was just one extremely long and depressing space, shabby and and dim and bearing the distinct aroma of the thousands of farm animals that had passed through it over the years–just in time to hear “Career of Evil.” Then the band broke into “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll.” And the lyrics, “Three thousand guitars/They seem to cry/My ears will melt/And then my eyes”–which ordinarily would have amused me with their ridiculousness–instead struck me as decidedly ominous. I didn’t want my ears to melt! Then “Cities” ended, I looked down at the ground for a moment, and when I looked back up, the drummer had been replaced by Godzilla. It was just a head he slipped on to accompany the song, but how was I to know that in my acid-addled state? All I knew was that the new drummer of Blue Oyster Cult was a Japanese movie monster, and I panicked.
Pushed Bill aside and said, “I’ve got to get out of here before Godzilla gets me.”
And with that I proceeded to push and elbow my way, in full flight, towards the back of the arena. I intended to flee the building, but just as I reached the distant exit, I saw a long row of showgoers sitting slumped against the far wall. One look and I could tell these were my people: the lost and the freaked out, the jabbering and drooling, the comatose and the guys with the thousand yard stares. I didn’t hesitate; I immediately slumped down amongst them, grateful to be with fellow sufferers and safe in the knowledge that Godzilla was at least a football field away.
And there I sat until I recognized the sound of a phone ringing. I finally looked up and saw that I was sitting near an old style phone booth, the kind you walk into and close the door behind you. It rang and rang until finally I did something I rarely do–I got up and answered it. And the voice at the other end said, “Is Blue Oyster Cult there?” In a sober state I undoubtedly would have recognized the call for what it was–someone asking if Blue Oyster Cult was playing the farm show arena that night. But what I heard was someone asking to speak to Blue Oyster Cult. So instead of politely saying “Why, yes they are,” I said, “Hold on, I’ll go get them.”
And suddenly I was transformed. I was no longer another acid casualty–I was a man on a mission. There was a phone call for Blue Oyster Cult, and only I could deliver them the news. “Phone call for Blue Oyster Cult!” I cried like Paul Revere, bursting out of the phone booth and pressing my way through the crowd. “Phone call for Blue Oyster Cult!” As I did so, my mind raced–who knew how important this phone call might be? It could be vital, earth-shaking. It could be a matter of life and death!
It’s a miracle I didn’t climb right up on the stage. I might have, but the pit before it was too tightly crowded by dangerous-looking bikers. So I switched direction and, still crying “Phone call for Blue Oyster Cult!”, made a beeline for the sound man. He was standing high atop a 12-foot rig, so I started jumping up and down below him, shouting, “Phone call for Blue Oyster Cult! Phone call for Blue Oyster Cult!” until I finally I captured his attention. “Phone call for Blue Oyster Cult!” I cried again, certain in the fact that he would appreciate the extraordinary measures I had taken to get to him.
Instead he looked at me the way you might look at a three-legged dog, and in a voice dripping with derision said, “Ask them what they want.” Why hadn’t I thought of that? Details! I needed facts! So I turned around and once again elbowed my way to the back of the arena and the telephone. But when I picked it up, all I heard was a dial tone. “No no no no no!” I cried. I had failed! Now Blue Oyster Cult would never discover whatever critically important news the guy on the phone had to communicate! Defeated, I fell out of the phone booth, then took my place back amongst the damaged slumped against the far wall. And it was there that Billy found me some half hour later, and gently convinced me to return to the audience. “Godzilla is gone” he said kindly, “back to Japan where he can do you no harm.”
Blue Oyster Cult is playing the State Theatre on Saturday December 8–something to do with a 40-year anniversary tour–but you won’t find me there. The sight of that Godzilla head would almost certainly send me into a flashback and set me fleeing for the exit again. But I suggest you go–this is your chance to hear “7 Screaming Diz Busters” in the flesh. Just go easy on the acid, my friend, and don’t pick up any phones.