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Best Fourth: July 4, 1976


July 4, 1976, Elton John at Schaefer Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts. —Joe Sia photo

July 4, 1976, Elton John performs at Schaefer Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts. —Joe Sia photo

July 4, 1976. It was our nation’s Bicentennial celebration. The Spirit of ’76. I will never forget where I was, who I was with, or what I did. It was the best Fourth of July ever.

On that day, along with 60,000 other fans, I got to see Elton John perform in concert at Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

The concert was as historical as the date.

At 17, I had been an Elton John fan my whole teen life. I’d seen him in concert twice before, in 1972 at the Boston Music Hall and in 1974 at the Boston Garden. I had founded an Elton John Fan Club called SNAFF (Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting), and  designed a T-shirt with Elton’s birth name Reggie Dwight emblazoned on the front.

Yes, I put the “fan” in “fanatic.” When Elton’s albums came out, I bought them, when they came out as 8 Track cartridges (Yes, freakin’ 8 Tracks) I bought them too, and then I bought the cassettes and DVDs. Elton’s a billionaire because of the likes of me.

Schaefer Stadium, July 4, 1976 —Contributed photo

Schaefer Stadium, July 4, 1976 —Contributed photo

So there was no way I was going to miss this concert. Here it was our nation’s 200th birthday and on the most important day of the year, my hero was going to be right in my backyard, to be specific just 20 miles from my hometown of West Bridgewater, Mass.

I snagged a pair of tickets to go with my boyfriend Mark. I was a senior in high school, he was a year younger. We had only been dating a few months and had a passion for Monty Python. My friend Paula was going to the concert too and said her father could drive us.

We got to the stadium around 11 a.m., and didn’t leave till midnight. Paula’s dad waited for us outside the whole time. He was a saint and I never really thanked him properly. So thank you Mr. LeMasa, you are a great dad!

Elton John's Statue of Liberty costume —Hard Rock Cafe

Elton John’s Statue of Liberty costume —Hard Rock Cafe

Our tickets were general admission, not for specific seats, so we plunked ourselves down on the football field all day. This was back in the day before crowd control measures were implemented. The field was PACKED. Mark and I  went through all the Monty Python routines we knew and canoodled a little a bit throughout the day, which in hindsight was probably a bit rude to Paula. But we were teens and there was nothing much to do. This predated the cell phone era.

The concert started with opening act John Miles. As he started to sing I realized we were really far back from the stage. I looked at Mark with a sad face. All this time, all this waiting, and Elton was only going to be a tiny whir of a dot. “You want to get closer?” he said. Well of course I did but there were too many people on the field. It was a mob scene. “C’mon, we’re  going,” he said and grabbed my hand. I grabbed Paula’s and like a bull, Mark stormed through that crowd, pushing people aside until we got to the very front of the stage. Unbelievably rude, but I was too happy to complain.

Photo from Concorde program.

Photo from Concorde program.

Then Elton arrived. What an entrance. A helicopter touched down in the stadium and Elton hopped out dressed like the Statue of Liberty. He pounced across the stage in shimmering silver sequins with fireworks spouting from his crown. Two words — rapt amazement. I was so close I could reach out and touch his costume, if I dared, which I didn’t.

The concert was incredibly fun and exciting. It was part of the Louder than the Concorde But Not Quite As Pretty Tour. Elton hit most of my favorites that night — Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, Benny and the Jets. I sang every song with him. Mark stood behind me, held me, swaying. The crowd went wild as he finished with three finales, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, Your Song, and Pinball Wizard.

After that summer I went off to college, Mark went back to high school and we never saw each other again. But I’m never going to forget that he was that guy that made that night so special, getting me so close to my idol. Mark, thanks for the best Fourth of July ever.

NOTE: Preparing this blog post I dug out some of my Elton memorabilia. I have the souvenir program from that night. It’s a bit tattered but I’ve held onto it for almost 40 years along with the program from his 1974 tour.

Elton John and his band, July 4, 1976:

Elton John – Piano, Vocals
Davey Johnstone – Electric guitars, banjo, mandolin, rhythm guitar, background vocals, slide guitar.
Caleb Quaye – Electric guitars
Kenny Passarelli – Bass
James Newton-Howard – Keyboards
Roger Pope – Drums
Ray Cooper – Percussion (He got sick at beginning of tour and was out for most of it.)

Louder than the Concorde Tour playlist:

Grow Some Funk of Your Own
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Hercules
Bennie and the Jets
Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Love Song
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
Holiday Inn
Empty Sky
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Philadelpha Freedom
We All Fall In Love Sometimes
Curtains
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
Your Song
Pinball Wizard

Elton John and his Louder Than the Concorde band.

Elton John and his Louder Than the Concorde band.

Program from Elton John's 1976 tour.

Program from Elton John’s 1976 tour.

My favorite Elton John program, from the 1974 tour featuring brilliant art by Jacques Benoit.

My favorite Elton John program, from the 1974 tour featuring brilliant art by Jacques Benoit.

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21 thoughts on “Best Fourth: July 4, 1976

  1. RisingPhoenix on said:

    I went to this concert too… summer right before my senior year. We drove up from Newport and to this day this is one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. Elton’s entrance being dropped from the helicopter was spectacular. We had gen adm. tickets too so spent a lot of the time roaming around trying to get closer to the stage. Wow… what a summer and what a night. I think I’ll remember it until the day I die.

    • So cool to hear from another person who went to this concert! I’ve been to a number of Elton John concerts over the years, but this one can’t be matched for its electricity and excitement! I’ll never forget it either. We got something special.

      • RisingPhoenix on said:

        Elton’s come here to Jacksonville quite a few times but I’ve never gotten to see him. The tix were outrageously expensive :(

      • Thanks so much for your comments! Too bad you haven’t been able to see him in Jacksonville, and yes his concert tickets are very expensive. That’s one reason I feel somewhat responsible for making him a gazillionaire. I’m also somewhat amazed (and also quite pleased ) at how well he’s been able to attract new audiences. By crossing over with Broadway scores such as The Lion King, the younger generation loves Elton too. Attending a concert along with parents with small kids is pretty unexpected, but cool nonetheless.

    • jennifer johnson on said:

      It was spectacular !The fireworks at midnite…the whole day was just breathtaking…Yes, we remember him coming into the stadium by helicopter.Dave Mason and Traffic? He played as one of the opening acts as well .”Curtains ” under a twinkly sky, I’ll never forget it .We lived in Quincy and God love our dad, he came to get us too! We got back home at 3:00am .Elton”s next extravaganza that we saw was at TD Garden in town on September of 2005 .My husband and I have seen quite a fewEJ concerts ,no one can top Elton !Thanks for sharing!It truly was THE NITE !!!!!!!!! July 4 1976

  2. Lived down in Marshfield and went with my older brother as the rest of my family headed to the Esplanade for the Pops Bicentennial Concert. I still remember the chants at the gate in the morning as we shouted “1,2,3,4, open up the f**ing door. 5,6,7,8 open up the f**ing gate. I was all of 10 years old and we were able to get within about 25 yards of the stage. I couldn’t see when Elton took the stage and everyone stood up, so I ended up walking up to the stands by myself so I could see. I waited until I was about 30 to tell my Mom that part of the day. What an amazing concert.

  3. Like yourself I have been an Elton fan since first seeing him perform in 1974, I was 14. I’ve seen some amazing concerts over the years and got some everlasting memories. Take a look at my website http://www.little-dirt-cowboy.co.uk
    Keep it Elton guys!!

  4. James Powers on said:

    I first saw Elton on Nov. 20 1974 at Boston Garden and had been listening to him from the beginning in 1970. When I saw him on July 4 1976 in Foxboro it was just amazing, the day, the concert, it was special you know? My old best friend and I spent the whole day there. The tickets were 8.50. It is a splendid life.

  5. Matt on said:

    I was there too. 16 years old and the first concert I went to. Yes, it was one of the best! Had great seats on the right side. Rick Derringer, Dave Mason were great too. M8’s blowing up all around us was a little scary, but I’ll never forget that show. No ride home and had to walk all the way home to No Attleboro. Got home around 3 AM. Seen him a few times since and all were good, but not as electric as that 4th of July night.

  6. Anna on said:

    I was a 17 yr old, rabid Elton John fan. On July 4, 1976, my cousins came to my house in Quincy. My uncle surprised us with tickets for the boys to go to the Sox game and 2 tickets for me and his daughter to see Elton John. I was beside myself. We enjoyed John Miles & Dave Mason from the far end of the field. When Elton John arrived, my cousin grabbed my hand & started running. No one seemed to mind us snaking through the crowd. We ended up close to the stage. A little while later, 2 complete strangers grabbed us and put us on their shoulders. Insanely amazing vantage point. Awesome concert. It was an extraordinary experience that I’ll never forget.

  7. Cathi on said:

    I was there too! My cousin worked at WCOD and some guy called in looking to sell his tickets so my cousin called me. Hell yes I want those tickets! My girlfriend and I hopped in her car, ran and got the tickets and drove there from Hyannis. What a show!

  8. As I just turned 20 & secured 2 tickets to this show, little did I know it would be something I would never forget ! Attending Northeastern University @ the time my (girl) friend & I caught a bus @ the Boston Commons for the trip to Foxboro. We arrived in the early afternoon & went in as soon as the gates opened. We got good seats stage left about 3 rows back from the access path on the lower stadium level. Was blown away with John Miles & Dave Mason’s performance. We were ready to leave then & call it a night. But then on the horizon a helicopter circled the stadium 3 times. Elton’s gold rimed glasses were easily seen in his seat as he watched the crowd’a reaction. The wind & effects of Funeral for a Friend opened what was the shortest 2 and 1/2 hour concert I ever saw. Leaving the field & on the bus back to Boston my ears were ringing attempting to replay what we just saw. We arrived well after 2AM in town & Pati lived on campus. I had to get home in Cambridge. Most folks know the T stops running @ 1AM. So not having money for a cab … I walked home. Strolling across the Massachusetts Ave. bridge repeating the lyrics to Holiday Inn. Some 38 years later, still remember this 4Th …… Thanks for the pix Pat !!

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