“Which musicians or bands have you most liked seeing live?” was the Storyworth question this week. The answer, for me, was easy.
The date was November 27, 1966. My brother Dan pulled up in front of our house at 2077 Jefferson Ave, in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was driving his old 1950’s Cadillac. Not sure of the exact model but this picture comes close.
I remember that the engine was noisy and it was a stick shift — my Dad’s cars were always automatics. The inside was beat up a bit, but it still had a “feel.” It WAS, after all, a Caddie. And, from my perspective as a 13 year old kid-brother it was pretty darn cool.
Dan was 21 years old at the time. The eight-year difference in our age meant that we hadn’t been playmates or particularly close growing up — though we did share a bedroom for many years when I was small. And, in truth, at that point in our lives he was a bit of an unknown to me. I know he had had a rough few years after his best friend was killed in a biking accident while they were roommates at St John’s College. But, even if I didn’t really “know” Dan at that point in his journey, he was still my big brother.
And that was enough to make this day special. Just as it had been when I was smaller and he gave me a glimpse into the world that he he shared with his buddies — the big kids. Whether it was him letting me into one of the shacks he and his friends had built out of scrap lumber or tolerating my “help” when it came time to create the backyard skating rink in the winters, I treasured those moments of connection.
And now…my big brother had invited me to go with him to a concert. My first ever. The Lovin’ Spoonful were at the peak of their popularity and we were going to go see them play at the Minneapolis Convention Center. It was a Sunday afternoon.
I couldn’t have been more excited. Not only to see the Lovin’ Spoonful play…but because my big brother was taking me. At thirteen that trip across the river to Minneapolis and the Convention Center seemed pretty magical and intimidating all at once; the crowd, the noise, the excitement. But Dan had it covered and I just followed his lead.
To this day, I don’t know what led him to ask me to come with him but, because he did, it made my first concert my most memorable, without a doubt. There have been better musicians and probably more dynamic performances that I’ve seen over the years but that doesn’t matter. It was me and my brother. And it was cool.
I don’t recall what we talked about. In those days, I talked a lot (and yes, I know, I still do). Dan less so. Certainly later in life he learned the art of asking questions…he was often non-stop. I think he was interested in hearing the answers, but also, the more questions you ask, the less you have to talk about yourself. Not sure if that was his strategy but it worked for him.
But that day as we sat in the Convention Center we didn’t have to talk — just listen. They played “Summer in the City,” “Do You Believe in Magic,” Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind,” “Other Side of This Life,” and “You Didn’t Have to be So Nice” to name just some of the set list. Oh….and they played “Daydream” too (a song I used to play on the guitar while our sister Chris sang and our Dad thought it was about the best thing he’d ever heard — but that’s another story).
In the music that day we began to find a certain common denominator that became an even stronger connection over the next few years. It opened doors for us to know each other in ways that I might not have expected but for which I’m grateful and that musical connection was important in giving us a way to build our relationship as I started to grow towards adulthood.
I remember Christmas 1968, for example, — the Beatles White Album had came out late in November and was one of the gifts waiting under the tree.And Dan and I sat down the basement later on Christmas Eve listening to it together, critiquing the songs and just enjoying the experience of sharing something special together.
It wouldn’t be the last time we compared musical notes or shared artists we liked. Chicago, Gypsy (from Minnesota), Blood Sweat and Tears, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills and Nash…so many new bands were coming on the scene.. It was an amazingly rich time musically and I can remember conversations about them all with Dan. The questions gave way to commentary and insight. His passion was clear.
As I grew older we found more ways to bond and to know each other better and, for all our differences, I like to believe we were close. And I miss him now very much. He passed away — far too young — in 2007. But I’ll always be grateful that he took the time to take his little brother to a concert over a half century ago. I’ll never forget it…or him.
(Dan is far left, I’m on the far right…our Dad and younger brother Andy are in the middle.)