When I was a wee mountain man growing up in southern Connecticut, just outside New York City, I quickly learned that everything from Philadelphia was crap: The Flyers were a gang of thugs who belonged in jail. Hall & Oates were a couple of musical pussies. And I loathed the mind-bogglingly awesome Dr. J simply because he didn’t play for my team. (A decade later I hated Jordan for the exact same reason.)
However, as I got older, I slowly started to warm up to the city. I now respect Dr. J for what he brought to professional basketball, not just the 76ers, and I now realize that Hall & Oates were pretty good, especially the years when Guitarist Extraordinaire Smith was in their band.
But the Flyers still belong in prison.
What really softened Philly in my mind was the Spectrum. The city’s multipurpose stadium hosted some truly historical sporting events and some great concerts. Don’t get me wrong, it was no Madison Square Garden, but it had its uses, according to this Connecticut boy. I’d go catch a Rangers/Flyers game wearing my Rangers sweater (always fun), and if for some reason a band I wanted to see wasn’t going to hit the New England arenas or NYC, the Spectrum was only a $10 train ride from Grand Central.
But that was decades ago. I never went back, and once the Flyers and Sixers moved across the street to the Wachovia Center in ’96, the Spectrum faded from my thoughts.
Until Halloween, that is, when Pearl Jam concluded a massive four-night stint to close the old building. Upon reading how epic the shows were — 103 different songs over the course of those four nights — I fell into a nostalgic mood. I went through my archives to see if I had any old Spectrum shows and came across a gem by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band from October 15, 1976.
America’s bicentennial was a very good year for the Earth Band. Founding guitarist and singer Mick Rogers left after 1975’s Nightingales & Bombers, so Mann replaced him with Dave Flett on lead guitar and Chris Hamlet Thompson on lead vocals and rhythm guitar. The new lineup then recorded The Roaring Silence, a must-have for prog-rock fans, with the lead single becoming the definitive version of Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light” (sorry, Bruce lovers, but you know it’s true).
In the winter of ’76-’77, that song was everywhere. It seemed like every radio station in America was required by law to play it at least once every three hours, even if the station’s format was Hispanic spirituals. Besides, it’s the only time a song written by Springsteen has made it all the way to #1 on the Hot 100, so suck it, haters.
On October 15, 1976, the Earth Band was second on the bill, between Boston and Blue Öyster Cult. You get what you expect with this show: Mann’s spacey Moog effects, some killer guitar work, and even a VH1 Storytellers-type intro to “Davy’s on the Road Again,” a song that wouldn’t appear on vinyl for another two years.
Enjoy this slice of Spectrum history. Maybe we can come up with some more over the next few months. Are there any Popdosers from Philly out there? Do you have any great stories about your visits to the arena? How many times did you get drunk and get your picture taken with/deface the Rocky statue? I’d love to hear what you remember.
Except for you Flyers fans. You can all go to hell.