Songwriter: Dewey Bunnell
Original Release: America
Definitive Version: None
My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Sauer, took me to my first concert in Fall 1975: Pure Prairie League at Otterbein College in Westerville, which was close to where he lived. (I was really into Two Lane Highway at the time; sue me.) Six or seven kids went, escorted by Mr. Sauer and his wife.
I mentioned that Mr. Sauer looked like Grizzly Adams—tall guy with a huge Seventies Denver beard. Well, he piled us into his VW microbus (awesome!) after school and took us to his house. We had dinner there, and Mr. Sauer he got dressed in his concert duds—a straw cowboy hat and Levis that had 50 patches in them if they had one.
Looking back, it sure seemed that Mr. Sauer might have partaken of additional concert “preparations” that night, but he was responsible for the welfare of his students. I’m sure he wasn’t interested in burning his career in a moment of stupidity. My guess is he was straight as a judge at the concert.
The Pure Prairie League show was exciting, but it was just a warmup. The following April, on Easter Sunday, Mr. Sauer and his wife took me and two other kids to see America in St. John Arena at Ohio State. Because it was on a Sunday, he picked us up at school. I saw several basketball games in Ohio State’s old barn, but America was the only concert I saw there.
Me going to see America in 1976 was like me seeing Pearl Jam in 1994 (which I did, of course) or Rush now: I couldn’t have been more into a band and known all of the songs at any other time than when I saw America that night.
After Eric Carmen warmed up the crowd, America played every song I would have wanted to hear. They played everything from History, their greatest hits album, which was my first real album, as I mentioned. I don’t remember the whole setlist, but I definitely remember the song that opened the show (this one), the song that closed it (SandMan, as I mentioned) and where they played Ventura Highway (third song of the night).
The reason I remember that last one is on the drive to OSU, Mr. Sauer played a game where we tried to guess which song would open the show. I guessed Ventura Highway. Everyone else thought Horse With No Name. I definitely was closer to being right—Horse with No Name was the final song before the encore.
Years later, I still play the “what song will they open with” game when I go to see someone I really like, even if it’s just with myself. For the record, I haven’t been right since I saw Santana in 2008, but that’s a story for another time.