Your Easy Guide to Purchasing Houston Concert Tickets...In 1983
I went to see Paul McCartney at Minute Maid last year. A friend bought the tickets, and I asked if he'd mail mine so I could hold it in my hand and marvel at this new, treasured souvenir. He said he would just e-mail it to me as a PDF once he'd received a confirmation in his inbox.
Photo by K. Shilcutt
Attending a concert in Houston 30 years ago was, as Chuck D. once said, the best and worst of times (yes, that Chuck D). Epitomizing it all was the first and necessary step of securing a ticket, a practice far more involved than it currently is. It could be an inconvenient pain in the ass, but more often than not, it was a memorable event, and one that today's concertgoers are largely being deprived of.
In the early 1980s, you couldn't log on to buy a seat for a show; there was nothing to log on to and nothing to log on with. A person wishing to see the Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" tour actually wound up spending the night together with strangers and friends, in line somewhere, waiting to purchase seats.
Here's how it worked. The night before tickets went on sale, you had to actually go somewhere -- a record or department store or the venue itself -- to stand in line to purchase tickets. The bigger the band, the earlier you had to get there. It was a first-come first-serve proposition. (The revolutionary idea of the ticket-sale wristband had not yet been conceived.)
The best place to do this was at the Astrodome. You'd loiter around on Kirby, waiting for security guards to open the gates. The folks in the best shape were the luckiest, since a sprint across the parking lot toward the front of the line was required. This would all occur several hours before the box office would actually open for business.
What a "ticket" for Paul McCartney's show here last year looked like.
Depending on the circumstances, this could be a wretched exercise. For one, you were out in the open and subject to Houston's weather, which meant you could be bathed in either sweat or rain.
If you were unable to spend the whole night out, you had to locate someone who could and ask them to do you a solid, and these folks weren't always upstanding or dependable.
Once, I asked a friend why our seats were so awful. He said he'd been on a date and made it to second base. It meant more to him to try to stretch it out to third than to get to the Astrodome parking lot to purchase seats that might be only a few aisles closer to the stage. By the time he arrived -- having been mowed down rounding second -- scores of people were ahead of him.
Once, my brother and some friends were planning to see Iron Maiden. They went to the Dome to buy their tickets, but once they arrived, the line was already so long they knew they were doomed to stare at the back of Eddie's skull all night from crappy seats behind the stage.
As they were mumbling their disappointment, a guy in line said he had a friend named "Sleepy" (Warning Sign No. 1) who was up toward the front of the line. He'd be happy to take their money to him. Just wait here (Warning Sign No. 2), he said. Obviously, they never got their tickets and never saw either the guy or their money again.
A word about money: You did need some to purchase a concert ticket 30 years ago. That hasn't changed. In 1982, Dad funded my new habit by purchasing my tickets to see AC/DC, The Police and Asia. In 1983, I got a job delivering pizza for Mr. Gatti's and, just like that, I was on my own.
"You got a paycheck now, mijo, so you can buy your own tickets," he said. "Now, if you want to go see James Brown or Jimmy Edwards, I'll buy you a ticket for that."