THE TIME I GOT STOOD UP
It doesn't even seem that the concept of getting "stood up" even exists anymore. I mean, who even asks people out on traditional dates? You know, where the guy saves up his money to take the girl out for dinner and dancing? It seems like an eternity since that was the norm. When I was a freshman in college, I wasn't paying too much attention to anything to do with my classes. I was just mostly staying up until 5:00 AM reading every book I could get my hands on from the college library or writing 3,000-word letters in tiny scrawl to my friends back home. But in my required biology class one day, I noticed a sandy-haired girl whom I found quite fetching. It was a big lecture hall on Tuesdays and Thursdays with hundreds of students, so it was fairly easy to sit near her and strike up a conversation without intruding on the lecture-of-the-day on the skeletal system of the foetal pig. I didn't expect her to give me the time of day, but she chatted amiably enough. An inner voice kept telling me that I was "out of her league", but faint heart ne'er won fair lady, so I concocted a plan to see if I could get to know her better. As I recall, her name was Susan.
A floormate of mine from North Carolina sometimes let me listen to music in his dorm room. He had an elite stereo system with earphones, so the music I loved had never sounded so good. One day, he said he could get tickets to see the hottest performer on the planet, young James Taylor on his first international tour. Taylor had just released his second album, Sweet Baby James, and his effort catapulted him to the top of the charts and instant fame.
Everybody loved the record. It had been released early in 1970, and its most famous track, "Fire and Rain", sat near the top of the Billboard charts for a while. Today, it is viewed as one of the seminal works in what came to be known as the "Singer-Songwriter" movement, one that would allow personal, almost confessional, musical statements by the likes of Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Jackson Browne. The blend of folk, country, rock, and blues in Sweet Baby James provided a little something for every taste. And, of course, there is his voice.
My friend suggested that we could drive to Cincinnati, have dinner and then see the concert with our "dates", at the beautiful and stately Cincinnati Music Hall, where I would eventually enjoy many concerts, ballets, and even an opera.
So, on Tuesday, I figured I'd ask Susan if she'd like to double-date and see James Taylor, knowing that almost every girl on campus would kill to get tickets to that concert. I figured that she might not be interested in me, but she might be willing to put up with my company for an evening in order to see JT. (As you can see, I had self-esteem issues). To my utter surprise, my plan worked! She said she'd love to go. I told her I would give her all the details during Thursday's class, and my heart did paradiddles for the next two days.
I was looking forward to talking with her about what a wonderful night we had planned for Saturday during Thursday's class on the neuro-muscular composition of the foetal pig but, sadly, Susan wasn't in class. I figured I had her phone number, so I'd call to firm up the plans. I called her dorm room Thursday but got no answer. I tried two or three times on Friday night, but still no answer. The concert was for Saturday night, December 4, and I still hadn't connected on a time and place for us to meet. I started calling her every thirty minutes from 10:00am to 2:00pm on Saturday. Nothing. I was in full panic mode. Finally, shortly before three, a voice on the other end! The conversation went something like this:
Susan's Roommate: Hello?
Doug: Hi, is Susan there?
SR: Who is this?
Doug: This is Doug Felter. Susan and I are going out later and I needed to confirm time and place.
SR: (Putting hand over the receiver so I can just hear a muffled conversation) After 30 seconds: I'm sorry, she's not here.
Doug: Do you know where I could reach her?
SR: More muffled talk: She's in, um, Kentucky. Um...her grandmother died. She won't be back until Tuesday.
Doug: Um...well, thanks.
Her grandmother died?! Really?! It was just too pathetic. Now, I'm supposed to go on a double-date, and I have no date. To the hottest concert on the planet. I had no choice two hours before we were to leave. I asked my roommate if he wanted the ticket, and I took him to the concert. My romantic dreams had been dashed once again.
Interestingly enough, when the concert was to begin, an announcer said that the opening act couldn't make it and that a young songwriter named Carole King would open instead. Carole King was just two months away from releasing one of the biggest selling albums of all time--Tapestry. But virtually no one in the crowd knew much about Carole King except for me and my roommate! We were well familiar with all the tunes she had written for others during the 60s.
Carole, accompanying herself on the piano, opened with "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", and followed it with "Up on the Roof" and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?," all classics from the period, for Carole and other artists who covered them, as Aretha did famously with "A Natural Woman". All three performances were the first times she had sung them in concert!
Then James Taylor came out and sang sixteen songs, six of them with Carole joining him.
Here is the Set List:
There aren't videos from that night, but there are videos from a concert just a few weeks earlier, so I'll include a couple.
My favorite on the album was "Steamroller", a funky blues number. But I'll include the monster hit "Fire and Rain" too. The latter was supposedly a thinly-disguised memoir of Taylor's own troubles following a drug problem and rehab. The former was a tongue-in-cheek blues homage that was actually better than just about any real blues number simply because James Taylor's voice was at his all-time peak. He's still recording though, more than fifty years later.
And here is a grainy video shot a couple of weeks before my concert with Carole and James performing together. "So Far Away" would become one of the hit songs from Tapestry, which won four Grammys (including Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year) and sold 14,000,000 copies. Two of its singles made it to #1 for five straight weeks each! It stayed on the charts for 313 weeks, the second-longest of any album ever!
I'm sure you are all wondering what happened when I saw Susan again. Well, she didn't show up the next couple of classes. I saw her once in class on the last day, but I wasn't sitting anywhere near her. She never approached me. Never called. No apology. I licked my wounds and moved on. But she missed a hell of a concert--that's all I can say.