I thought it would be fun to share some of my stories about my various McCartney concerts (and a few near-misses of meeting him). I’ve shared one already from New York City. So, how about this story about my second Macca concert. I was almost 17 years old.
Sunday, July 29, 1990. I decided to create a special moment with my Mom that would last forever. What better way to do that than with a Paul McCartney show? The concert was held at Soldier Field in Chicago.
This would be the fourth concert Mom and I attended together. The other three: The Oak Ridge Boys (I was a big fan when I was nine, also my very first concert); Loretta Lynn at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville (Mom was a big fan when I was a kid); and The Monkees (my fourteenth birthday present). Yeah, I have an extremely eclectic taste in music. Can you tell?
Mom had gone through so much to get me to see Paul the first time around on this tour, I decided early on that this show—the last show of the 1989-1990 North American tour—would be for my Mom and me.
I wrote a poem about this experience for my AP English class. It was awarded a B-; which I guess was fair considering it wasn’t a full-blown story. I did, however, write the story on the ten-year anniversary of the concert. Good Lord, I’m just admitting to my age all over the place, aren’t I? So here is the tale of Soldier Field, Paul, Mom and Me.
This story actually begins a couple of months before the show. I had a job at K-Mart at the time and had put in a lot of overtime hours in order to have enough money to actually buy tickets to see Macca when he came back to Chicago on his 1989-1990 World Tour. My first experience had taught me the valuable lesson of prepare, be prepared, and stay prepared. I was not going to mess anything up this time!
I decided to camp out overnight at the Sears in Louis Joliet Mall. Mom quickly vetoed that idea, citing the “world is a horrible place at night” as her reasoning. She said that we’d get up early in the morning and we would wait in line together.
True to her word, Mom and I woke up extremely early that morning. I remember it was on a Saturday, and I had to beg to get off from work. My excuse? I told them, plainly, “Paul.” Regardless of what they would have said (and they did give me the day off), I was prepared this time. Mom and I piled in the station wagon, and off we went to Sears.
The place was jam-packed full of cars when we got there. We located a parking space and I secured a place in line while Mom went looking for a place to get breakfast. I really wasn’t hungry. I just wanted my tickets. Tickets went on sale at 10am that morning. I thought that I had a pretty good place in line in spite of all the cars in the parking lot.
I became extremely dismayed, however, when I learned that there had been a lottery list started the night before and those people on that list were guaranteed the best seats possible. I was most definitely not a happy camper, and Mom actually apologized as I started to cry. I was just terrified that I’d worked so hard and that I was going to come up empty handed.
Ten o’clock came, and people jammed into the doors of Sears. Mom and I seemed to get lost in the shuffle. People were calling in to order tickets. Other people were dealing with the lottery list. The woman in line in front of me got the last 10 tickets in the bottom of the arena and then turned around and bought 10 more tickets in the lower half of upper arena! The guy behind the counter said to her, “We’re running low on tickets!”
I hoped he wasn’t serious, that he was just teasing her. I tried not to get upset and Mom put her arm around my shoulders. Finally, it was my turn to buy tickets.
“I’d like two tickets, please.” I said to the guy behind the counter.
“Just two?” He was teasing me as the tickets printed.
“Yes, please.” My voice was shaky in reply.
“That’s $72.25” he told me, and I nearly had a stroke. That was a lot of money for a kid. But, it was Paul.
I only had $70. By sheer coincidence, Mom’s change from breakfast was $2.30. So she chipped in the rest of the money I needed. The man placed my tickets in the traditional Ticketmaster envelope and handed them to me. The woman in line behind us got the last seat in the entire stadium.
I carried those tickets with me everywhere I went. I refused to let them out of my sight. Extreme, I realize now; but back then, those tickets were my lifeline. Nothing came between me and seeing Paul.
The day that I got the tickets, I went straight to K-Mart and requested July 29 off; which I thought went off without a hitch. When the schedule came out for the week of July 29, I was instantly angered to find out that I was on the schedule for that day.
Thank goodness one of my co-workers took pity on me and traded me shifts, otherwise I would have quit right then and there. Hey, I was a kid, I didn’t value my job (a lesson I’ve since rectified many times over). So, I was set. I was going to see Paul.
The morning of July 29, I woke up bright and early and immediately switched on all of my Beatle/Paul music; much as I did the first time I went to see him seven months earlier. This time, I decided from the beginning that I wanted Mom to go with me. I decided that from the beginning. This time, it was just me and my Mommie.
It was overcast and warm that morning. I just knew that it would rain, but nothing was going to rain on my parade. It took about an hour and a half to get from our house to Chicago, or rather, Soldier Field. I’d never been there before, not even to see the Bears play. I’d driven by, but never been in.
Mom and I piled into the station wagon at about 4:30 in the afternoon. The oldies station we listened to was playing nothing but Beatles music, and of course, we had it cranked all the way up.
We stopped at the toll booth to throw in our change, and the collector asked “Are you going to see Paul?”
Mom and I both answered “Yes!” and then the collector handed over these two pink pieces of paper that was the size of a ticket. ‘I Made History with Paul!’ was printed in bold letters.
We were about a mile away from the stadium when we got caught up in a gigantic traffic jam. Every single car around us was not only going to see Paul, but all of us were listening to the same radio station! I turned my radio down in the car, and all I heard all around me was Paul. It was completely amazing.
We finally made it into the parking lot; which was no easy feat. The concert wasn’t supposed to start until 8pm, yet the parking lot was nearly full by 6! The sky got darker and darker by the second, and the wind had really picked up. I paid for the parking ($7!), and we parked the car. I had my black fanny pack around my waist. It carried my precious tickets and my money.
Mom carried my dad’s army binoculars. I opened the door and climbed out of the car, my money in hand as I tried to put it back in my fanny pack. Before I knew what had happened, the wind blew all of my money out of my hand. I scrambled to recover what I could, but still only managed to regain half of my money.
I started to cry because I had calculated all of the money I would need to buy the souvenirs I wanted, pay for food, parking, etc right down to the last penny. I was treating Mom to this concert, and now I was partially broke.
I remember that Mom said something about having money or cashing a check, but I was so upset I really wasn’t paying attention. I still had some money left, but it was nowhere near enough to do much of anything with. Lesson learned and never repeated.
The sky was ominously dark as we walked toward the arena. We knew it was going to storm. We got up to the arena, and I bought two t-shirts with what money I had. There was a hat and a tour book that I wanted, and I whined like a child about not having money to get them. We walked away to stand near the doors, and Mom excused herself.
The first drop of rain fell. The only reason I remember it is because normally, summer rain starts off with a few drops and then graduates through various stages of rain before the actual heavy rain falls. It didn’t do that on this day. The first drop of rain fell, and then the sky poured rain like water running through a cheap paper towel. I remember trying to hide under the small overhang of the stadium’s door frame, but even that didn’t stop me from getting drenched. After about five minutes, Mom found me and we huddled together.
“I have something for you.” Mom smiled, her hand hidden behind her back.
She handed me the hat and tour book that I had whined about. “Mom!” I screamed in excitement and hugged her. “How did you?”
“Don’t you worry about it.” She ignored my question.
I put the hat on my head immediately–it was a black hat, with the Hofner bass on the front and the words “Mac Is Back” on the back. I still wear it whenever it rains.
I held the tour book close to me, afraid to open it while it was raining. But, when the storm finally let up about an hour later, I opened the book and thumbed through the pages with an eagerness that is only ever exhibited by me when Paul is concerned.
Mom’s favorite part about the “tour book experience” was when I temporarily lost my mind. I opened the book to the photo of the whole band, and I remember someone asking me to name each person. So I named them in turn: “Linda, Robbie, Hamish, Wix, Chris, and…um…umm.” I pointed to the photo of Macca and couldn’t remember his name!!!! The people around me shouted “Paul!” and my face turned beet red.
Then it started to rain again, but since we were already soaked to the bone, I really didn’t care. About an hour later, the rain stopped and the massive doors to the stadium opened to let the sodden crowd in. Mom and I immediately found the restroom and dried ourselves off. I put on one of my new t-shirts and Mom wore the other one.
The sun poked out as we made our way to our upper level seats. We were about six rows away from the top of the stadium. Security had checked nearly every orifice on our body searching for cameras, recorders and other contraband, and we were relieved that they let us keep the binoculars. The show was supposed to start at 7, but the stage had gotten wet from the rain and the show had to be delayed so the crew would have time to dry everything off. So, Mom and I flipped through the free program we’d been given at the door and waited for the start of the show. The sun came out while we waited.
A little after 8, the pre-show film began. This is the same show that was shown throughout the entire tour–except at the first Macca show I attended.
And then, Paul arrived. I absolutely, completely, totally and in all other ways lost my mind.
I remember that I screamed and sang along. Mom watched the entire show through the binoculars. She kept smiling at me. The majority of the show is a blur of wonderfulness. The one clear memory that I have happened at the end of the show: There were fireworks, and because we were so high up, it felt like they were not that far away from us. Mom and I held each other close and cried. It was a beautiful moment.
After the show was over, we gathered up our things and made our way out of the stadium. We found the car and climbed in. Mom drove, and we made our way out onto the expressway.
I don’t really remember there being a huge traffic jam trying to get out of the parking lot, but as we drove on the interstate, a black stretch limousine pulled alongside us on my side. I still had my Hofner hat on as I leaned my head on the window frame; the window was open. Suddenly, the window of the limousine rolled down a little bit and an arm stretched out of the window. I noticed that the arm was clad in the same exact shirt I’d just seen Paul wearing on stage, and I freaked out. The person in the limousine waived at me.
“Mom! Mom! I think that’s Paul!”
“What?” Mom looked across to the limousine. “Oh my God. No way!”
I remember that I was seriously close to climbing out of the window. Mom grabbed a hold of my t-shirt. We started to follow the car, as it pulled a little ahead of us, but it ended up exiting off towards the airport. That was the closest I’d ever been to Paul McCartney. (And no one will ever be able to convince me that it wasn’t him 🙂 )