Best Fourth: July 4, 1976
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.
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!
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.
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
Bennie and the Jets
Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
We All Fall In Love Sometimes
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting