Long Island music fans take a fond look back at Nassau Coliseum's first year of big concerts after its 1972 opening
By David J. Criblez Newsday April 24, 2022
In 1972, a new arena was unveiled in Uniondale that single-handedly changed the entertainment landscape of Long Island. Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum opened its doors on Feb. 11 with a Nets basketball game and by April 29 began hosting a series of concerts with varying musical styles.
"Nassau Coliseum suddenly opened up our world," says Ed Silverman, 64, who grew up in Baldwin Harbor. "Instead of having to go see the big bands in the city, they were coming to us."
Russ Ginsberg, 65, who grew up in Long Beach, adds, "As a kid, going to shows at the Coliseum was like pure freedom. You were away from your parents in this major venue watching music groups that your generation related to."
For the 50th anniversary of this Nassau County venue, Newsday spoke with several Long Islanders about their concert experiences at a dozen shows from five decades ago.
THREE DOG NIGHT
show that kicked off the Coliseum's concert career was Three Dog Night with support acts Black Oak Arkansas and T. Rex on April 29, 1972.
In his May 1, 1972, review, New York Times reporter Don Heckman wrote, "Although their material clearly is chosen for its popularity quotient, Three Dog Night performs it with musicality and enthusiasm; unlike many other top level performers, they seem to have retained a devotion to craft and a joy in making music."
Rick Swanson, 69, of Smithtown, recalls the show's massive capacity.
"It was more than sold out," he says. "My girlfriend and I were sitting on folding chairs that were added onto the walkway behind the last row of actual seats."
DJ/tour promoter Richard Nader put together his own bill called, "Richard Nader's Rock & Roll Revival" when this show came to Nassau Coliseum on May 6, 1972, including Fats Domino, The Coasters, The Five Satins, Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge plus headliner Chuck Berry.
The performance was recorded for the 1973 documentary film, "Let the Good Times Roll" showing Berry playing his signature song, "Johnny B. Goode" with a guest appearance by Bo Diddley.
"It was a high-energy show including Chuck doing the duck walk several times," says Arlene Sceri, 65, of Selden. "A year later I went to the movie theater in Hicksville and saw myself up on the screen. It felt so strange. People started to recognize me from it."
The ticket sale for Jethro Tull's May 13 and 14, 1972, shows at Nassau Coliseum was almost as legendary as the band's performances.
Joel Peskin, who grew up in Baldwin, slept out all night to capture seats in the eighth row, but there were more than 5,000 people outside the arena rushing the box office striving to buy tickets.
"They tried to open the doors and everyone was pushing. It was an absolute crush," recalls Peskin, 64. "This was a death-defying situation. There was no leeway to move."
The situation caused Nassau County Police to respond with more than 125 officers who arranged the massive crowd into line formation.
However, the shows went off without a hitch as the band was supporting its "Thick as a Brick" album, the follow-up to the multiplatinum record, "Aqualung."
" Ian Anderson came out from the side spinning a flute around his fingers like a baton as he skipped across the stage while the band started playing the opening song," recalls Robert Rosello, 64, who grew up in Glen Cove. "It was dynamic!"
"Everyone was screaming and yelling while standing on their seats," says Linda Nicastro, 63, of Oceanside. "Nobody wanted to sit down."
Cassidy performed his hits "I Think I Love You," "I Woke Up in Love This Morning" and "I'll Meet You Halfway."
"It was amazing to see what was on TV become real in front of your eyes," says Kathryn Bagnuolo-Gray, 63, who grew up in East Northport. "It was a real goosebump moment."
Arguably the biggest band in rock at the time, Led Zeppelin made its Long Island debut at Nassau Coliseum with back-to-back dates on June 14 and 15, 1972, in support of its album, "Led Zeppelin IV."
"Each member had their own personality," says Fredric Stone, 68, who grew up in Roslyn Heights. "Robert Plant was flamboyant, strutting around with his open shirt and flowing hair. Bassist John Paul Jones quietly performed in the background. Guitarist Jimmy Page was a real showman puffing his cheeks out and almost directing the music. Drummer John Bonham was the backbeat that connected the band together. They all complemented each other."
The night was a memorable one for Michael Anselmo, 80, formerly of North Babylon, as he brought his wife who was six months pregnant.
"The baby was thrashing around in her stomach like you couldn't believe," he says. "My wife was grabbing my hand and putting it on her belly. That became a family legend."
The crowd was very family-friendly on July 22, 1972, at Nassau Coliseum when the Osmonds took the stage featuring teen idol Donny Osmond on lead vocals.
"Girls were screaming and running up to the stage. One of them got on the stage, kissed Donny on the cheek and I was mad about it for weeks," recalls Susan Werner Gassman, 63, who grew up in Sea Cliff. "To be in the same room with the person who was singing on my little 45 records was just thrilling."
Sharon Main, 62, who grew up in Malverne, got dressed up for the occasion.
"My sister and I wore everything purple because we knew that was Donny Osmond's favorite color," she says. "We thought we would stand out. Of course, we didn't because every other girl our age did the same thing."
BLUE ÷YSTER CULT
Long Island's own Blue ÷yster Cult opened a triple bill with the J. Geils Band and Black Sabbath at Nassau Coliseum on July 27, 1972. The band had just released its self-titled debut album earlier that year.
"We were nobody in 1972," says B÷C vocalist-guitarist Eric Bloom. "Playing an arena like Nassau Coliseum was a big step for us."
B÷C vocalist-guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser adds, "It was a great validation for our family to boast that we were playing the Coliseum. I remember my grandmother, who had no concept of rock and roll, came to the show in her 80s. She was standing on a chair to see over the people in front of her."
THE BEACH BOYS/THE KINKS
The mismatched bill of The Beach Boys and The Kinks at Nassau Coliseum on Aug. 21, 1972, drew a lot of attention as both bands were going through a transition.
The Kinks were touring the U.S. for the first time in more than three years after being banned by the American Federation of Musicians for rowdy behavior on stage.
"During The Kinks' set, nobody stayed in their seats," says Frank Lima, 68, who grew up in Valley Stream and ran The Kinks Preservation Society fan club. "As soon as the lights went out, it was a free-for-all. Total chaos."
Long Island Music Hall of Fame Chairman Ernie Canadeo, 67, of Lattingtown recalls, "The Kinks were sloppy but a lot of fun. The crowd was 90% Beach Boys fans, but The Kinks had a strong cult following."
At the time, The Beach Boys were promoting their "Carl and the Passions - So Tough" album.
"It was edgier than the traditional Beach Boys material. They even looked more scruffy," says Steve Bender, 65, who grew up in Bellmore. "They were becoming more hippish and less all-American."
After his star-making performance at George Harrison's 1971 "The Concert for Bangladesh," Leon Russell came to Nassau Coliseum for two shows Sept. 23 and 24, 1972, on his "Carney" tour.
"It was like a big house party," says Roxane Peyser, 62, who grew up in Centereach. "Leon had a way of interacting with the audience that made you feel like you were in his living room."
Stuart Abbott, 63, of North Bellmore, adds, "When I heard he was playing at Nassau Coliseum, I had to get tickets. I never saw anybody pound on a piano like that in my entire life."
Before the oversized sunglasses, sequined jackets and feather boas, a low-key Elton John headlined Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 9, 1972.
"Elton pretty much stuck to the music and didn't try to wow the crowd with theatrics. The music was his focus," says Silverman. "Although he was less of a showman, in a way it was more satisfying because he wasn't distracted by stuff that had nothing to do with the music. It was fun to catch him in his initial incarnation."
"It was rare for a band to play a whole album that most people hadn't heard yet," says Bender. "Today people just want to hear the hits, but back then you came to hear whatever the band wanted to play."
Kenny Forgione, 66, of Merrick, who plays in the Yes song-titled band Wonderous Stories, recalls, "Rick Wakeman's keyboard solo on 'Roundabout' blew me out of the water. Jon Anderson's voice was so high, like in a female's range. Their musicianship was above anyone else."
GRAND FUNK RAILROAD
The year closed out with a concert by Grand Funk Railroad at Nassau Coliseum on Dec. 14, 1972. Seventeen months prior the band sold out Shea Stadium with hits like "Closer to Home (I'm Your Captain)" and "Footstompin' Music."
" Mark Farner was wearing bright red pants and no shirt with long blond hair," recalls Harold Lepidus, 63, who grew up in Islip. "They came out and played the instrumental 'Flight of the Phoenix' to open the show and they closed with a cover of the Rolling Stones' 'Gimme Shelter.' "
Cliff Weinstein, 64, of Seaford, adds, "It wasn't sold out, which was surprising. In 1972, Grand Funk went from being cool to being the bane of the critics. I remember wearing my concert T-shirt to school the next day and getting the wrath from some people."
Monday, March 9, 2015 4:35 PM
Don't remember much about the show but I do remember meeting Rick Wakeman. I had seats on the floor and on my way to the men's room I saw him standing in one of the tunnels taking in Lindisfarne. Went over, said hello and shook his had. He was very gracious.
I didn't want to go and my friend got tix and made me come with her! I don't remember much except that I was thinking I knew Yes mainly from the "hit" Roundabout, and as soon as they started playing other songs like SSOS and all of the CTTE masterpieces, I recalled that I'd heard this all on WLIR (local great radio station) and was a lifelong fan from then on!!
well on the anniversary of 32 years, my memory is somewhat vague. i do remember seeing rick's keyboard setup and being totally in awe. as far as the music, i remember hots, yind, ctte, ym/agp. the highlight was rick's keyboard solo. this was my first of 20 yesshows. i also recall it was rather cold out with a full moon. also plenty of weed and hashish. lindisfarne was a disappointment. while this was not yes's best show, it was still exciting since it was my first time and i got to hear all their classic songs from the early phase of yes with rick and alan.
Actually, Yessongs (the album) is compiled from several concerts from the 'Fragile' and 'Close to the Edge' tours, as indicated in the liner notes...and made obvious by the fact that both Bruford and White appear as drummers. At least two of the tracks -- Close to the Edge and Starship Trooper -- are from the 12/72 shows at London's Rainbow Theater, and are presented in the Yessongs movie.
This was the most experimentally improvised as well as my first and favorite of all the Yes shows attended. Each member used extremely different kinds of musical structures within their solos, so much so that at times it was even shocking. "Oh My God!" (said slowly and evenly) was pretty big back then for the few who had it in them to be able to appreciate Yes at a live venue. Yes also sometimes experimented with structural parts of their songs, occaionally leaving out entire sections and at other times adding whole new sections. When Alan White joined Yes, the band gradually changed their style. When I saw this concert, Yes didn't sound like they did on Yessongs, an album compiled from recordings made on 12/15/72. Instead Yes still played a little more like they had on the "Close To The Edge" album in spirit and in content. That is, Yes at the time they recorded Close To The Edge" and before that as well, had a more introspective and dynamic style but after Alan "White joined the band their performances became more oriented toward a more mainstream rock sound, along with its greater emphasis on rythmic > drive and heavier volume. I recall hearing 'Yessongs' when it first came out and thinking how much worse they sounded compared to this concert from the same tour which had the same high energy level as 'Yessongs', but without the distorted mainstream rock sound, and sloppiness when compared to the studio album versions of the songs. Then I came across a bootleg of this show I attended. I will trust the bootleg I received is from the concert I attended. From hearing it I now think Yes were more polished on the Yessongs performances then on this concert in which I saw them. Hearing this bootleg also taught me that a bootleg recording is a misleading thing because musicians sound much different and much better when you attended the actual live event than they do on a recording, even one which is professionally produced such as Yessongs. Anyhoe, I remember while I was at the concert that it was like stepping into some kind of> >abstract, fragmented, hyper futuristic art although often showing a traditional> > human soul. I mean, those weird solo organ breaks in the beginning of 'Heart of the Sunrise', for example were different then either 'Yessongs' or the studio album versions. And until I heard the bootleg, I remembered the guitar break with the wah wah pedal in 'Yours is no Disgrace' to have sounded at one point like he was breaking glass and then scraping the broken shards. Perhaps my bootleg recording couldn't pick up these subtlties that I remember and only hearing them live can do that. (Great tough guy routine!) The light show complimented all the music changes so powerfully. The whole band gave off the impression of being like a super beings. Each bandmember different from the other. A lot to try to look at simultaneously. I kept thinking " men from the beginning of time inside of young bodies". Chris Squire seemed to bounce and float in slow motion as did the music from his bass guitar. Jon Anderson looked like some broadway singer/entertainer from the early days of film, and had an aura to the vocals of a time gone by of the simple innocence of song. He gave the band a very comfortable human element in that way. I don't want to say Shirly Temple. His lyrics, his melodies, so provocative, so sweeping in their implications, subtle suggestions and he weaved in and out of different spiritual entities more commonly thought of in the classification of musical style, situation, historic event, time or place. This was way before anyone incorporated world music into their own music. This man is a musical and artistic visionary. He just stood there pretty much. Sometimes he swayed. Alan White, (I just watch the guy move while he's playing and I'm into the music) was great to watch. Looking at him you could see the "time" of the music which wasn't always so clear to my ears given my seats were halfway back and halfway up in a big basketball arena- an acousical nightmare. But since he moved in time with the underlying beat I couldn't help being into the music. What an inspired and joyful player he was and still is - a superb guy too! Rick Wakeman looked like a switchboard operator standing sideways to the audience plugging wires into his wall of keyboard input jacks jerkily in time to the music every few beats. Schizophrenic in residence. A homeless man dressed like a king. Of course he was great. I think I cried during his solo spot. Steve Howe was the picture of perfect physical form and control, so joined with his guitar and the group it seemed at times any deliberate or extraneous movement - if he twitched or went to swat a dust barnacle off of himself, or even sneezed, beauty would take shape from his guitar playing as a result. He is very much and does very much musically like Jon Anderson. He was jumping and dancing around like a marionette's puppet, a controlled acrobat or a cat at other times. He had a most amazing perfectly formed almost statuesquely waxed figure type look to him - angular hair, piercing eyes that seemed to look right through you like the window that Yes music provides. His fingers, equally as long, sinewy, and nimble as the rest of his body, played seemingly impossibly beautiful things on the guitar. He was in a sense, scary, as if he could do anything, like an evil magician. His playing was, and has remained, the most inpirationally impactful musical force on me. The agony and the ecstacy. It was an amazing experience. At one point during a solo, I'm not sure now after hearing the bootleg if it was the end of the "Close to the Edge" solo but I remember he was bouncing his ES175 (guitar) on his knee while tapping the frets of the guitar with both hands simultaneously in opposite directions. And, it sounded very musical. He did an acoustic guitar medley in my recollection of the concert which was not in evidence of the bootleg tape, a medely which started with "Mood for a Day", then moved into some Renaissance classical lute stuff that sounded like "Greensleeves" then if memory serves, what sounded to be some excerpts from "Classical Gas" and then picked up from the middle of "Clap", (the part where he strums a secondary dominant chord before each whole step ascending chord on each beat of the rhythmic pulse, each chord having one melody note, making for an ascending chromatic melody line) and then played "Clap" to its conclusion. I was so mesmerized that it didn't hit me that I was listening to "Clap" until he was playing "Clap" for an entire minute or so!!! On the bootleg tape I have, he played Mood For A Day and then Clap. My tape is choppy in that a lot of the songs start abruply and some end abruptly and the talking between the songs is edited out, so maybe Steve Howe did play a medely. From what I heard on my tape I've heard other performances of Clap but this one is amoung his very best performances. Mood For A Day also approached a great introspective energy more characteristic of Yes' work closer to the time period that they recorded "Close To The Edge". The part of the show that best summed it up for me was that so transfixed was I (this is beginning to sound like Edgar Allen Poe's descriptions of his hallucinations in "The Pit and the Pendulum") so transformed was reality that my friend was tapping me on the shoulder and yelling "Rick!, they're doing ""Close to the Edge""!! "Rick! You're missing it"!! Well, it's not that I wasn't cognizant of that. It was perhaps just that I had a different type of awareness at the time. It was toward the end of the opening guitar solo of "Close to the Edge".