The war was cold and the air was hot. The order of the day was sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. I was young. I was in love with two things, and only two things. Life and John Cougar. It was 1986… I hadn’t heard the name “Mellencamp” yet.
My best friend, Dawn, and I decided we’d attend the Scarecrow Tour concert in Hampton , Virginia . If I was going to marry John Cougar when I graduated high school, I should probably meet him first, right?
I had to work the morning the tickets went on sale, but I lined up with Dawn in front of Mother’s Records (records; you know, those big, flat, black, grooved things that used to play music?) until I had to go to work. A few hours into my shift, Dawn arrives with the precious tickets. She’d managed to get us into the last row of reserved seats. We were in the twentieth row, on the floor, center stage. Life was sweet!
The day of the concert arrived, finally, and we borrowed my brothers Chevy Blazer for the trip into Hampton . The enormous parking lot for the Hampton Coliseum was nearly empty. The concert wouldn’t begin for another seven hours. We may have jumped the gun just a little.
Once the crowds started to arrive, we hurried into line 2 hours before the doors opened. We missed the entire concept of reserved seating. All “reserved seating” meant was that I was luckier than the poor souls who would be crushed into general admission directly behind us. We planned to spend the entire show standing on our seats.
The house lights dimmed. The stage lights powered up. The crowd went crazy. John and his band appeared center stage and immediately rocked us with “Rain on the Scarecrow”, “R. O. C. K. in the USA ” and ” Small Town “. They played a couple of mega-hits like “Jack and Diane” and “Hurts So Good” before he took a break and talked to me… um, I mean the audience. (It’s okay, I was willing to share his attention. After all, he had a job to do. Private schools for our future children weren’t going to pay for themselves, you know.)
The spotlights on a stage are apparently rather hot, and he was wearing an amazing black leather jacket. Of course, he took it off to reveal his signature white t-shirt. He began to spin the jacket in a circle over his head with one sleeve. He spun it to throw it into the audience like a bordello stripper; faster and faster. Standing on my chair in the twentieth row, I couldn’t help but scream at the top of my lungs. We were only twenty tiny rows from the stage. We were so close, we could smell the sweat! The jacket was pretty thick. That’s a lot of momentum. It could fly twenty rows, right?
Suddenly, when the crowd couldn’t take it another second, John let the jacket wrap around his arm, turned and tossed it gently to a roadie just off stage. He looked at me … yes, directly at me and I’ll die saying it, and said, “I saw David Lee Roth do that once.”
And so began an evening of interaction and romance I will never forget. My first live rock concert. “Under the boardwalk” and other classics roared through my brain, my body and my heart. My first bid for freedom in the angst-filled turbulence of my teenaged years. It was a growth experience that prepared me not one little bit for my experience later with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – when I’d come to the realization that I was more in love with her than John Cougar. But it was definitely a great way to start.