In March 1964, 44-year-old Bridgeport resident Joseph J. Farkes was pulled over for speeding on the Connecticut Turnpike. Typically, Farkes blamed his daughter for blasting the radio and making it impossible for him to judge the car's speed (a sketchy way of gauging speed if there ever was one).
"It must have been that Beatle music," quipped Judge Max H. Reicher, shortly before handing down a $30 fine (today's equivalent figure: $226.26).
So begins Connecticut's long history of blaming bad behavior on rock music. Two years later, in 1966, exuberant youngsters at a Rolling Stones concert at Hartford's Dillon Stadium acted so poorly, the show had to be cut short. The following year, in New Haven, Doors singer Jim Morrison, maced backstage by a local cop, became the first singer in history to be dragged off the stage in the middle of a concert. Even stoned hippies at area Grateful Dead shows caused trouble and made headlines.
To honor the Courant's long, excellent history of covering pop music in Connecticut, here's a quick look at a few memorable shows —- rowdy and otherwise —- we might have forgotten.
Dylan famously plugged in his Stratocaster and went electric on July 25, 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival. As late as Oct. 30 of that year, however, when Dylan performed at the Bushnell Memorial in Hartford, he was still being promoted as a peace-loving Tambourine Man, a "singer, composer, poet and humorist," a "folk poet." "With a mussed shock of hair topping gaunt features," an unidentified Courant reporter wrote, "Dylan appears an outlandish, Chaplinesque figure." Fifteen years later, when Dylan returned to the Bushnell for two nights in May 1980, he was beginning his much-maligned born-again Christian phase (Dylan released his gospel-tinged "Gotta Serve Somebody" the previous August). It was his best showing in years. "On his face and his voice was a dire message of eschatological things to come," Courant reviewer Colin McEnroe wrote. "He crackled with an energy and purpose he hasn't shown in years… It was a little bit terrifying."
The Rolling Stones in Hartford, 1966
We've heard tales of wild, shrieking crowds at mid-'60s British Invasion shows, and the Rolling Stones' June 27, 1966 appearance at Hartford's Dillon Stadium was no different. Courant "Teen-on-the-scene" reporter Mary MacDonald of Avon went backstage to meet the Stones before the show, noting that guitarist Brian Jones "wore a pink and blue striped gangster jacket" adorned with "a huge button proclaiming, 'I Love the Beatles.'" The kids behaved for a while, particularly during warm-up sets by the Standells, the McCoys (featuring a young guitarist named Rick Derringer) and the Ronettes. "But when the Stones struck up something called 'Satisfaction,'" Courant reviewer Barbara Carlson wrote, "the double barricades between the audience and stage were breached, kicking girls —- some barefooted —- were hoisted off by police, and husky young barechested men battled police officers." Despite the efforts of the more than 60 police officers brought on board to keep the peace, the show ended early.
The Doors In New Haven, 1967
Jim Morrison, the leather-clad poetry-besotted frontman of the Doors, made history in Connecticut on Dec. 9, 1967 when he was dragged by police from the stage of the New Haven Arena and charged with indecent exhibition, among other things, making him the first rock star to ever be arrested mid-performance. The show was interrupted when the singer began recounting a story about how the police had harassed him earlier while he was with a woman backstage.
Powder Ridge Music Festival, 1970
Thirty-thousand hippies camped out on a mountain for three days, in defiance of local officials, tripping their brains out on LSD, and baked on weed in the hot sun, hanging out in hopes that an all-star lineup including the Allman Brothers, Jethro Tull, Chuck Berry and many others would play, stomachs rumbling without adequate concessions. But none of the big acts performed because of a court-ordered injunction (save one who risked arrest by playing). It sounds like a nightmare, or maybe a free-love dream if you squint. The Powder Ridge Music Festival was scheduled for late July in 1970 in Middlefield, and it was meant to be the next Woodstock. But it turned into a cluster of freaks waiting for something to happen. It was a non-event in the end, but one that went down in the history books for being such a massive flame-out.
Bob Marley At The Bushnell, 1975
On June 6, 1975, reggae legend Bob Marley brought the mighty Wailers (without the recently departed Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer) to the Bushnell Memorial, as part of his Natty Dread Tour. The Sunday night show wasn't well attended, according to Courant reviewer J. Greg Robertson, who blamed the lack of adequate notice (one flier read "Bob Morley and the Whalers," which surely attracted a number of hockey fans). Those who attended were treated to Marley's exceptional live show, "an hour and a half of reggae at its best," Robertson wrote. "[Marley's] impassioned performance of 'I Shot The Sheriff' made Eric Clapton's best selling version pale in comparison."
The Boss has never been a stranger to the Nutmeg State, having performed here a sizable number of times over the past four decades. (He'll return again this summer.) On the night of Aug. 21, 1976, Springsteen —- still embroiled in annoying lawsuits involving his management —- played a show at the Palace Theater in Waterbury with his E Street Band, leaning heavily on songs from "Born To Run." "By the second number, Springsteen was out in the audience, stirring up a frenzy," wrote the Courant's J. Greg Robertson. "His choreography was straight out of the old James Brown routine: staccato, pumping steps, lithe slides and whirling, 180-degree turns." Bruce and company notably played "Something in the Night," which came out later on his 1978 album "Darkness on the Edge of Town," as well as several covers, including the Animals' "It's My Life" and Eddie Floyd's "Raise Your Hand." "Get loose, Bruce," one audience member shouted. As Robertson wrote, however, "it was an unnecessary exhortation."
The Grateful Dead in Hartford, 1977
The Grateful Dead played 2,300 concerts over their 30-year career. The Dead played the Hartford Civic Center 18 times between 1977 and 1990. (The Dead played open-air shows in Colt Park, and numerous other gigs in New Haven and elsewhere in the state.) The Dead's first Civic Center show was part of what has become, among myth-making Dead heads, a legendary stretch for the band —- May 1977. It was after a long relatively dormant period for the band, and they were evidently ready to play, trotting out new material that year, recording "Terrapin Station," which would be released in the fall of that year. A recording of that May 28, 1977 in Hartford has been released by Rhino, as have many of the dates from that month. You don't have to look too hard online to find hyperventilating fans celebrating these shows as the creative peak of a band that peaked often. Listen to the 10-minute-plus "Row Jimmy" for a taste of Dead's cosmic American music, pay special attention to the sneaky rhythms, the and Jerry Garcia's free-flowing solos. Though the enthusiasm of Dead heads sometimes seems overwrought, one can understand what the fuss is about after settling in with those jams.
Madonna in New Haven, 1985
Back in the mid-'80s, still five years before the Milli Vanilli scandal (notably, in Bristol, Conn.), miming to backing tracks wasn't unexpected, but it wasn't exactly welcomed. Madonna, at 26 years old one of the biggest stars on the planet, lip-synched her entire June 3 concert at the New Haven Coliseum, Courant reporter Frank Rizzo noted. Despite feverish dancing, cavorting and frolicking her way charismatically through hits like "Material Girl," "Lucky Star," "Crazy For You" and "Like A Virgin" for 75 minutes, "there was not one breathy note, not one missed word, not one deviation from the familiar routine of her albums," Rizzo wrote. Thousands of teenage girls in Madonna garb (and boys who came to check them out) enjoyed every minute (even if their parents were displeased by some of Madonna's R-rated stage banter). The show was opened by the Beastie Boys, "a white rap group of four teenage goonies who also bounced around the stage, frequently fondled themselves and proved to be fairly obnoxious," as Rizzo evocatively described them.
Michael Jackson In Hartford, 1988
MJ was the biggest star in the world when "Bad" came out at the end of 1987, and why he chose Hartford —- Hartford! —- as the location for a three-night run of sold-out shows in the spring of 1988 raised more than a few eyebrows. (Courant reporter Colin McEnroe wrote a humorous investigative piece about how the city wooed Jackson by spending $185,000 on a big-time consulting firm.) During Jackson's three shows, which took place at the Hartford Civic Center on March 30-April 2, the superstar "worked like a demon, singing and dancing with overwhelming commitment, energy and talent," noted Courant critic Frank Rizzo. But he also worked a little too hard to be a badass. "In songs of simpler and sweeter sentiments, the incessant crotch-grabbing and sexual struts were simply misplaced," Rizzo wrote. "You wanted to slap his hand and just have him sing."