Deconstructing Pop Culture

Deconstructing Pop Culture header image

James C. Pagni

September 27th, 2006 by David Kronemyer · No Comments

When we were in high school, our little group attended pretty much every rock concert that came through – usually, as an adjunct to a more important show up there in L.A. land. I was at the first San Diego outdoor rock festival of consequence, which was held on Mother’s Day (May 11th) in 1969, at what then was San Diego State College. All of the San Francisco bands came down and performed. If I recall correctly, that was the last concert held there; the preferred outdoor venue then became Balboa Stadium at San Diego City College, where I saw at least a dozen shows. I can remember several of them with particularity, including The Sons of Champlin – Jefferson Airplane – Ten Years After; Poco – Country Joe & the Fish – Chicago; and Them – Vanilla Fudge – Jimi Hendrix. The local hip FM radio station was KPRI, and they promoted the shows incessantly, at one point even devising the clever moniker of the “gnurl festival” (whatever a gnurl is). There also were a couple of other bigger-size indoor concert venues, including Golden Hall at the San Diego Community Concourse; and, of course, the San Diego Sports Arena, where I also witnessed many shows. I also can remember several of them in detail, including Electric Flag – Deep Purple – Cream; Terry Riley – Ike & Tina Turner – B.B. King – Rolling Stones; Blue Mountain Eagle – Country Joe & the Fish – Spirit; the Doors, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, etc. I was an editor of our high school newspaper, so I’d usually get two tickets for free from whomever was promoting the show, in exchange for running an ad. Usually that was someone like Jim Pagni, with whom I became friends; his company was “James C. Pagni Productions” or “James C. Pagni Presents,” depending on the day of the week. During this same time, I also was going to see performances by the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, the San Diego Opera, the San Diego Civic Light Opera (“Starlight”), traveling shows that came through town, and so forth. I spent whatever money I had, buying records. So for whatever reason, I had developed a real interest in this kind of stuff. I had sounds on the brain.

I may have been the only person in San Diego, who subscribed to Melody Maker, the British rock magazine. It was chock full of articles about bands, singers, performers, venues, equipment – you name it, they had the whole scene covered. I was particularly intrigued at the descriptions of clubs, like London’s Marquee Club, and thought about all of the great musicians who had played there. I traveled through Europe in the summer of 1973, and one of our stops was the U.K. Needless to say, one of the first things I did upon arrival, was to check out the Marquee Club. You can imagine my sense of wonder, and dare I say amusement, when I discovered it was about the size of our living room!  Later, it occurred to me that one of the main problems with Southern California was scale. Our concept of what counts as “big,” or significant, simply isn’t the same, as it is, elsewhere. When I was going to rock concerts, and reading Melody Maker, I simply imagined the shows I had seen, but in another country. I had no idea that the venues in the other country were almost as small as an HO train set.