Ginger Baker Wannabe, 1969
Okay, this is going to reveal me in all my shallowness.
I was once crazy about Marilyn McCoo’s legs.
In the late 60s and early 70s I saw a lot of concerts. I saw Jimi Hendrix at the Dome in Virginia Beach in 1968. Chicago (then still Chicago Transit Authority) the original Blood, Sweat and Tears (with Al Kooper) and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels also played there. Diana Ross and The Supremes performed on what is now a middle school baseball field the next summer.
Yes, concerts were far more intimate in those pre-arena days.
One of the most entertaining shows I ever saw, though, was a double bill of a group called It’s a Beautiful Day and The Fifth Dimension at the Franklin Street gym at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1971.
The Franklin Street gym was just that, the gymnasium for an urban university that had until recently been known mostly as an art school and school of social work, which gives you some idea how much emphasis was placed on athletics. By today’s standards, the Franklin Street gym was small and smelled, as you might expect, of old tennis shoes, floor wax and deferred maintenance. For shows, you either sat on wooden bleachers that folded out from the walls or on the floor.
The concert took place on a bitter cold winter night. Inside the gym it was warm and humid, the smoky air a blue-ish tint of…well, you know. The floor was littered with parkas and purposeful looking longhaired guys and girls in turtlenecks and Frye boots.
It’s a Beautiful Day was a one-hit wonder band. “White Bird” was their big hit. It was no less treacly performed live than it was on the radio. I don’t remember much about their act other than that nobody cared if I wandered around the stage with my camera.
In the early 1970s it was still possible for standards, even Broadway show tunes, to be big on popular music charts. The Fifth Dimension had monster hits with songs by Jimmy Webb and Burt Bacharach. But they didn’t stick to familiar territory. They had a hit with a song from “Hair.” They recorded more songs by Laura Nyro than Nyro did herself.
And did they have an act! Which brings us to that night in the VCU gym.
By 1971, The Fifth Dimension had peaked. But they still gave every show their all. They sang. They danced. They didn’t need smoke or psychedelic light shows. Marilyn McCoo sang and strutted her long legs around that stage in a way that Mick Jagger could have learned something from. The crowd of jaded young hipsters loved it. And I fell in love with Marilyn’s legs. I was all over that stage with my camera.
If I say any more about Marilyn McCoo’s legs, it’ll just sound creepy. So I’ll close by reporting that I used five rolls of film that night. I could tell you those pictures were great, that Annie Leibovitz would have been jealous of them. But the truth is when I got home that night I stashed the film somewhere so safe that I never found it again.