This article originally appeared in the March 15, 1983 issue of the Boston Phoenix.
To get into the Aerosmith concert at Cape Cod Coliseum last week you had to worm through a battalion of helmeted police, a few of them with German shepherds. One officer standing next to a trash barrel was popping the tops off confiscated six-packs. The rest milled around the doors, eyeballing the crowd, warding off gatecrashers, and demanding immediate apologies for wisecracks. As I neared the door a rowdy young man was arrested and led away. Not a minute had passed when a different scuffle began and another geek was handcuffed and taken to the nearby paddy wagon. Inside, hundreds of cantankerous, bleary-eyed louts thronged the halls and greeted each other with a punch in the arm, a slug in the kidney, or my favorite, a surprise hammerlock. Most of these guys, ranging in age from their mid-teens to early 20’s, wore a variation of the following: leather jacket, denim jacket, hooded sweatshirt, T-shirt, jeans, sneakers, workboots, (many of these were intentionally laceless, forcing the wearer into a distinctively graceless gait), and the occasional bandanna or crucifix (à la Ozzy Osbourne). The quarter or less of the crowd that was female looked the same. The clothing was faded and tattered, sometimes held together only by sewn-on patches boasting favorite bands. Judging from these patches, and the hand-painted vests or jackets (JIM MORRISON LIVES!) or T-shirts (on sale here with Aerosmith’s logo at $10 per, $14 for the long-sleeved), the following are among the revered acts of the Aerosmith crowd: Rush, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Foreigner, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Doors, Led Zeppelin…and Marvin Gaye (just kidding).
Aerosmith worked their way into this rank 10 years ago in the Midwest, the first area beyond New England the band cracked. Out there, the group’s bargain-basement Stones show delighted guys like me and my friends. We aped the band’s delinquent image, albeit with less mascara, and marveled at Joe Perry’s kerchunkachunka guitar and Steven Tyler’s gypsy sleaze and ripped-larynx singing. Looking back I have no regrets, but looking across Cape Cod Coliseum’s iceless hockey rink, my nostalgia soured. Were my friends and I this surly? Probably. When I found an empty wrapper on the floor that said Big Bomb Super Firecrackers I began to wonder. Were we this stupid? Most certainly. One of the first times I should have been arrested for drunken driving, Get Your Wings was in the tape deck. There was only one difference between the Cape crowd and my crew a decade ago: as a companion said of the 6500-strong mob, “If we nuked Iran tomorrow there aren’t three people in this place would care.” We would have cared, but only because when it came to war we had Vietnam to wise us up.