Ace Backwords goes to the Paul McCartney show
For months I’ve been debating whether to go to the Paul McCartney concert in San Francisco. In a way it would make the perfect epilogue to my Acid Heroes book which basically starts in 1964 when I heard the Beatles singing “She Loves You” for the first time on my transistor radio at age 7.

But by the time the day of the show came around it was too late to get tickets. I woke up that morning at my campsite, fed my feral cats, and smoked a joint as I laid in my sleeping bag. 103.7 The Band (the “classic rock” station) was playing their Saturday morning Beatles show from 7 to 9, only they were playing all McCartney songs to get people in the mood for the concert. Played a lot of great live stuff, McCartney doing “Paperback Writer” and “Daytripper” and a great version of “I Got a Feeling,” which reminded me how great even the Beatles minor songs were, Paul singing along with another guy singing the Lennon part (“Everybody had a wet dream, everybody let their hair down . . .”). Even with the millions of Beatles cover bands, Paul still does the best Beatles covers, which is a weird kind of compliment I guess. Then Paul did a live version of “A Day in the Life” which sounded suitably cosmic, segueing neatly into “Give Peace a Chance.” Which annoyed me, because in the “A Day in the Life” song, Paul said he got the “I’d love to turn you on” line as a reference to Timothy Leary’s “Turn on tune it and drop out” line. And John had told Paul that “A Day in the Life” was a “drug song.” So the Beatles were saying a lot more than just give peace a chance in some of those songs. Anyways, by the time the radio show was over I kinda’ felt like I had already experienced Paul’s live show, so actually seeing it would probably be redundant. Plus I was nervous about the whole idea. I’m claustrophobic and hadn’t been to one of those big stadium shows in more than 30 years when I saw the Grateful Dead and the Who at the Day on the Green at the Oakland Coliseum.

But I was curious to get a look at Beatles fans, who I had heard a lot about but had never seen en masse. What kind of person goes to a Paul McCartney concert after all? So I pounded a quick beer and smoked another joint and hopped on the BART train, feeling this weird sense of deja vu. The last time I had gone over to the city to see a Beatle was in 1980 on the day Lennon was shot. I took some acid and went looking for a rumored memorial taking place at the marina. Never found it, but found a lot of other weird and bizarre shit on that trip.

As I rode on the BART train I thumbed through the latest issue of the SFWEEKLY. There was an article about McCartney’s guitarist, this 53 year old guy (the exact same age as me). In the back of the paper was an ad for Deseree Foxxe who was appearing live at the Mitchell Bros Theatre with an all nude revue. I momentarily reconsidered my entertainment options for the day, mulling over the comparative merits of seeing a 68 year old bass player from Liverpool or a bunch of naked 20 year old chicks cavorting on stage. But I figured this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a Beatle, and I’d probably get another chance in this lifetime to see a naked woman (at least I’m hoping). So I soldiered onwards.


The plan was to just hang around outside the stadium and listen to whatever music wafted outside. Or maybe I could talk my way inside. I had my trusty Ace Backwords press pass from 1992 which entitled me to backstage access, VIP treatment, and free buffet privileges, among other things. So perhaps I could dazzle the guy at the door with my credentials, tell him I was working on an exclusive McCartney piece for the Berkeley Barb. He’d no doubt steer me to four burly security guards who perhaps I could intimidate with veiled threats of writing a searingly critical review of McCartney’s live show for a prestigious local newspaper. Or, barring that, a searingly critical blog on my MySpace page. So that stratagem seemed unpromising. But I was up for anything I had a fresh pack of smokes and a 24 ounce can of Old English malt liquor in my pack. So I was ready for action.

But first I had to find the stadium. I had a vague idea where it was located — I knew it was by the water because I used to read accounts of Barry Bonds hitting home runs out of AT&T Park and into the San Francisco bay. So I figured if I just followed the waterfront I would eventually find it so long as I was headed south, which gave me a 50-50 chance which was about the best odds I could hope for these days. I passed two cute young chicks who were talking about the AT&T Park, so I asked them if they were going to the McCartney show, which they were. “Maybe I’ll see you cool cats at the show,” I said. So things were looking up.

I ran into a black guy as I was walking down Mission Street and asked him if he knew how far a walk it was to the stadium. “It’s about a mile walk,” he said. “You looking for tickets? I got tickets for you.” He pulled out two tickets with $99 price on them. “I’ll sell them to you for face value,” he said.

“‘That’s a little too rich for my blood,” I said. “I’m going to try and bullshit my way in.”

“How much you got? I’ll give em to you for 50 bucks.”

It occurred to me at this point that my bullshit hadn’t been working too well lately, and I remembered I had 60 bucks in my back pocket from taking in my recycled cans-and-bottles the previous day. So I gave him the 60 and stashed the precious ticket in my pocket. “Keep the change,” I said (I’m a big tipper after all).

“Enjoy the show,” he said, happily.

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By this time I noticed a swarm of obvious Beatles fans herding along in the general direction of the stadium. Spotted a middle-aged guy with a black jacket with “The Beatles” written across it in the familiar white logo. So I was part of the whole circus now, and quite pleased at how I had pulled off the ticket deal. A vendor called out “Three dollar beers,” as I passed, which got my attention. “How far to the stadium?” I asked. “You can see it from here,” he said. I looked up and their was a billboard photo of Tim Lincecum, the San Francisco Giants pothead Cy Young winner. So just like that I was home. Huge crowds of McCartney fans were excitedly swarming all around the building. A street musician was bleating out a tepid version of “Something” on his trumpet. And a small band of Christians with megaphones were haranguing the Beatles fans with threats of eternal damnation.

I sat down, leaned against the side of the stadium, and smoked a cigarette to orient myself just as a big black stretch limo pulled up to the curve. For just a second I imagined Paul and Linda McCartney getting out of the limo and romping into the stadium “Hard Days Night” style as they’re chased by mobs of screaming Beatlemaniacs. But it was just a nondescript middle-aged couple and their daughter, no doubt having the time of their life. The crowd of McCartney fans were about 99% white and mostly middle-aged, clean-cut, with the look of money and success to them. For some reason I felt my key role in the proceedings was to add a much needed note of degeneracy to the proceedings. I asked one of the women working the door if I could get in with my backpack. She said: “Yes, but no cans or bottles or alcohol.” So now I needed to find a secluded place to quickly pound my can of beer and urinate — no easy task surrounded by 40,000 McCartneymaniacs. But I quickly succeeded in finding a back alley to do my thing. Thus fortified I marched back to the stadium and took my place on line with the throngs. When I got to the front door the woman ticket-taker examined my ticket for some time with some kind of computer scanner. “The ticket don’t scan,” she said. “Stand over there for a minute.” A second guy scanned my ticket with the same negative results. I could see the chosen ones inside the stadium milling around, and here I was right on the verge of success, but now this. “You’re going to have to go out to the box office to the ‘Ticket Issues’ window,” he said.

There were quite a few people waiting on line there with anxious looks on their faces. When I got to the window, I smiled broadly to the guy behind the window, and said: “With a little luck hopefully this ticket is good,” hoping my inside knowledge of McCartney lyrics might somehow sway in my favor whatever decision was coming down. He scanned my ticket and gave me the bad news. Counterfeit. “I have to keep the ticket,” he said, “but I can make you a xerox,” which he did. A rather expensive memento which I’ll probably cherish for not a long time. In the space of one second I went from this hip, street-smart dude, to a total fucking idiot. You could probably hear the air leaking out of my tires.

I wearily trudged off in the other direction, in my usual role of going against the grain of humanity as I fought my was around the thousands of McCartney fans that were flooding towards the stadium. For a moment I considered tracking down the guy who had sold me the ticket and killing him. But I was too tired at this point for direct action.

As I sat on BART on the ride back to Berkeley I pondered what kind of human specimen could so casually take my money, give me nothing in return, and ruin my evening. One thing you gotta give McCartney credit for:  Show biz ham that he was, you knew he was doing everything humanly possible to give the fans their money’s worth and put on one hell of a rock show. Which I, sadly, was not going to see. I tried to rationalize the situation to take the sting out of the sad turn of events that my evening had taken. “Well, at least that guy won’t enjoy that 60 bucks, he’ll choke on it,” I thought. “His bad karma will come back at him.” But then it occurred to me that my bad karma had come back at me. So there was little solace in that gambit. “Perhaps a major earthquake will hit San Francisco causing the stadium to collapse, crushing all 40,000 McCartney fans. Maybe this will turn out to be a blessing in disguise that I missed the show.” And I felt a momentary sense of optimism. “Or maybe McCartney will choke on a tofu sandwich half way through singing “Silly Love Songs” and hack and gag his way through the rest of the concert, causing 40,ooo disgruntled fans to storm out of the stadium demanding refunds.” So I was a force for pure evil at this point. (P.S. If anyone went to the show and gave it a really bad review, feel free to send me a copy.)

For a moment I blamed Yoko Ono for the whole thing. But I couldn’t come up with any logical, rational explanation to back up that contention. So I dropped that idea.

It was nighttime now, so I went to People’s Park and hung out with a bunch of street people. This crazy street chick with a radio lurched at me and asked for a hit of my beer. Of course the song that came on the radio at that exact moment was that song by Beck “I’m a loser baby so why don’t you kill me.” So my life had a soundtrack (sometimes the gods really rub it in, don’t they?).

Ah, what the hell. I can still catch Ringo when he comes to town in a couple months.




6 thoughts on “Ace Backwords goes to the Paul McCartney show

  1. DAMN you belong on SFGate- you’re 100 times more interesting than Mark Morford. How can I help this happen! It’s GOT to happen!!!

  2. No scalper worth his salt would ever drop his price by half ($100-$50). That’s when you know the tickets are bogus. (They even sell ’em with the wrong dates if they’re real, but they never drop the price like that.) I had good seats to see Paul live in ’89, but there was always the stadium echo and crowd issues, impinging mightily on actually hearing any of the music properly, to make me wish I’d just listened to some love stuff of most of the same tunes on the radio, like you did.

  3. It’s not you, Ace; it’s the Curse of the Walrus. Back around ’76/’77 a friend and I ordered from High Times some Hawaiian woodrose seeds which we ground up and ingested for a Wings Over America concert in San Diego. I had an old VW bug that had only 2nd, 4th and reverse gears which we jerk road north up from Imperial Beach near the US/Mex border about 30 miles to the Sports “Aroma,” so dubbed for its rock shows’ infamous heavy cannabis dank. By the time we found our cheap seats, our naturally over-alkaloided buzz headkicked in like a mule. So instead of staying safe and put, my bud hurls himself from on high down to the floor seats near the stage with me druggedly drug along in his drag stream wake whooshing thru a snaking, undulating gauntlet of screaming heads cheering us on with “SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN, ASSHOLES!” Over amped, I was compelled to look for a safe haven and so wending my way back out by attempting to walk thru solid objects themselves walking with concession snacks and drinks to their legitimate seats — “SIT THE FUCK DOWN!” — I somehow, without getting my ass kicked, made it out of the inner, cacophonous concourse into the relatively empty yet ear- ringing outer ring where security were guarding the glass doors from gate crashers. Security had a hard time comprehending, then believing, that I wanted only to get out. Convinced I wasn’t going out to come back later demanding re-entrance, a guard shook his head and opened the door. Ticketless stranglers outside wanted to know why the pigs were throwing me out. When with vague gestures I conveyed that I only needed to get my sorry self away, a gathering mob grew suspicious but before it could u-turn its full frustration upon my sorry self I morphed into a puff of smoke to gather back in one piece within the cocoon of my bug parked a mile or so away off premises in a dirt lot. I curled up in the back seat to replay every bummer scene, every loss of love and opportunity, in my sad, hallucinogenic life from birth to present which played out right up to after the concert was over long enough for my forgotten-about passenger to make his way back to the car and tell me about what a bitchen concert I missed while I labyrinthed the surface streets back down south stuck in 2nd gear.

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