Andre Gardner

Weekdays 2:00pm–7:00pm

5th May 1974: British pop singer and pianist Elton John on stage before a vast crowd at an open-air concert. (Photo by Jack Kay/Express/Getty Images)

In early December, 1974, Elton John was, arguably, the biggest rock star in the world.  The timeless classic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was still fresh in the ears of music fans, they’d release the followup, Caribou, just eight months later, and only a few weeks prior, the band would put out a cover of The Beatles’ “Lucy In Sky With Diamonds” that actually featured a Beatle playing and singing on it!

It was also in the fall of that year, from September 25 to the last show in Philly, December 3, that Elton John and his band hit the road for a 42-date U.S. tour.  Just four days before the final tour dates in Philadelphia, John Lennon would join Elton and the band onstage at Madison Square Garden and perform live for the last time.

I’d been an Elton John fan from the very beginning, ever since first seeing him on TV performing “Your Song” in very early 1971.  I wish I could remember which show that was, but both my Mom and I became instant fans, and bought every single and album that would come out.

Needless to say, I was more than a little pumped when I found out Elton was coming to Philadelphia for two nights at The Spectrum.  As soon as I found out when tickets went on sale ($5.50, $6.50 and $7.50!) I talked my friend and fellow Elton fan Wendy into coming with me to get us tickets for the show.  Of course, this was long before the fiasco that has become the online ticket buying game.  If you wanted a shot at good tickets, or tickets at all if the act was hot enough, you had to go to The Spectrum box office, or a Ticketron location, and wait in line.

My Dad drove us to what I seem to remember was a Sears – I know it was in the Moorestown Mall – and we got in the back of the rather long line, just as tickets went on sale. We would stay in line for SIX hours before it was finally our turn, and all that were left were the $5.50 tickets. We bought four tickets, for Wendy, my brother Alan, his girlfriend and me, and we were in for the December 2nd show!! As we were leaving the Ticketron office, we heard a voice yelling “WE’RE SORRY, BUT THE SHOW HAS SOLD OUT.” We were one of the last to get tickets. It didn’t even cross my mind where these seats would be in the venue – I was just glad to get them.

Sure enough, we get to the Spectrum and walk our way up, and up, and up, to our seats. They were in the next to last row, behind the stage, at the very top of the Spectrum. Elton was so huge that no sections were curtained off, every seat was filled.

It turns out that it didn’t matter one bit. Kiki Dee opened the show with a killer set, punctuated by her hit at the time, “I’ve Got The Music In Me.” After a fairly long intermission, out went the lights and on came Elton!! Early on in the setlist, he busted out two songs from Caribou, “You’re So Static” and “Grimsby,” before launching into a night of greatest hits. It was the classic Elton band performing during that tour, too: Davey Johnstone on guitar, Dee Murray on bass, Nigel Olsson on drums, and the very animated Ray Cooper on percussion!

Even though we were behind the stage, Elton made it a point to ham it up for us in the back many times during the show. I also remember him changing the lyrics to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” going, “..and it took you a couple of Tequila Sunrises to set you on your feet again.” The things that stick in your mind.

Rumors were flying that John Lennon might show up again, like he had done in New York City just days prior, but he didn’t, of course. It didn’t matter to me, though, I had an incredible night watching one of my favorite rock stars perform live! Even though the seats weren’t the greatest, it still ranks as one of the best live shows I ever had the chance to see.

Andre Gardner is a 45 year radio broadcast professional who continues to live the dream.