The Venues: Hollywood Bowl

I rarely blog back-to-back in the same category, but yesterday’s post about Red Rocks Amphitheatre was so much fun that I decided to do another one. And the Hollywood Bowl certainly isn’t just any place, at least not in my book.

The first time I heard of the legendary Los Angeles entertainment venue was in connection with The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl. It was one of the very first Beatles albums I got on vinyl. I must have been around 12 years at the time. I still own that copy!

Then, in 1980 as a 14-year-old, I got to visit the actual venue (though not for a concert) during a summer vacation in the U.S., which included L.A. – my first visit to this country. Also my very first time on an airplane! I still have so many vivid memories about this trip. Seeing the Bowl where The Beatles once played remains one of them.

I suppose the trip planted the seed that led me to come back years later to study in America and eventually stay here for good. My girlfriend I met during my studies, who I’m happy to call my wife for now 20-plus years, also had something to do with it! 🙂

Back to the Hollywood Bowl and a bit of history before we get to the ultimate thrill. It all started 101 years ago in 1919 when the Theatre Arts Alliance asked William Reed and his son H. Ellis Reed to find a suitable location for outdoor performances. After the Reeds found and selected the natural amphitheater because of its amazing acoustics and convenient proximity to downtown Hollywood, the Community Park and Art Association began construction of the facility.

The Bowl began as a community space rather than a privately owned venue. The first events were held there in 1921. Proceeds from the early performances were used to finance construction of new elements, such as a stage, seating and background, which were added in 1922, 1923 and 1924, respectively. Initially, the Bowl served as a venue for concerts by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as a community space for Easter services, the Hollywood Community Chorus and younger musicians including children.

In 1926, the first band shell was constructed but it was considered unacceptable from both a visual and an acoustics standpoint. Lloyd Wright came up with the now-familiar concentric ring motif and the 120-degree arc in 1928. But his wooden construction was destroyed by water damage and replaced the following year by a shell with a transite skin over a metal frame. That structure stood until 2003 and evidently was the one I saw in 1980.

In the early ’80s an inner shell made from large cardboard tubes that had been there since the ’70s to improve the acoustics was replaced by large fiberglass spheres designed by Frank Gehry. Eventually, in 2003, the 1929 outer shell was replaced with a new, somewhat larger, acoustically improved shell. Initially, a curtain served as a backdrop until a proper back wall had been constructed, which was first revealed in 2005. I suppose that’s the structure that stands to this day.

Now on to the real fun. Those who’ve visited my blog more frequently won’t be surprised what comes next: The Rolling Stones – just kidding! I love the Stones, but the first clip must capture my favorite band of all time. And, yes, there is historic YouTube footage.

The Beatles played the Hollywood Bowl twice, in August 1964 and in August 1965. Here’s A Hard Day’s Night, the title track of the corresponding studio album, which as usually was credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. This version is from the August 23, 1964 gig, an impressive illustration of “Beatlemania.” According to The Beatles Bible, all 18,700 tickets had been sold for the show. A Hard Day’s Night was the second-to-last tune of their 12-song set.

Are you ready to set the night on fire? On July 1968, The Doors did just that. Their performance that evening was captured on Live at the Hollywood Bowl, the band’s third official live album released in May 1987. A VHS version of the concert also appeared at the time. In October 2012, the full version of the show came out on CD, LP and Blu-ray as Live at the Bowl ’68. Credited to all four members of The Doors, Light My Fire originally was included on the band’s eponymous debut album from January 1967. Man, watching this footage gives me goosebumps, especially Ray Manzarek’s extended organ solo – even though by definition it doesn’t have any vocals! 🙂

Let’s get it on with a nostalgic piece, as Elton John called it during his September 7, 1973 gig at the Hollywood Bowl: Crocodile Rock. That show was also filmed, for inclusion in a documentary by English film director Bryan Forbes, Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye Norma Jean and Other Things. Co-written by John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin, Crocodile Rock was first recorded for John’s sixth studio album Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player, which came out in January 1973. Now, that’s the Elton John I dig. You also gotta love the guy behind John in the crocodile outfit playing what looks like a Vox Continental keyboard!

Before jumping to the current century, let’s go to October 2, 1991, and a gig by Sting during his Soul Cages Tour that year. The show at the Hollywood Bowl also coincided with his 40th birthday. Here’s The Soul Cages, the great title track from Sting’s third solo release that appeared in January 1991. Like all songs on the album, the tune was written by him.

Next are two clips from the current century, for which it is easier to find YouTube footage. Let’s kick it off with The Rolling Stones and what according to looks like the first of two dates played at the venue in 2005: November 6. There was another show there two days later. Both concerts were part of the Bigger Bang Tour. I caught the Stones for the first time during that tour on October 1, 2005 at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa. I realize Satisfaction is the most overplayed Stones song, but unfortunately, it was the only complete clip I could find from their Bowl gig. Co-written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction became the first no. 1 for the Stones in 1965 and was also included on the American version of their fourth studio album Out of Our Heads released in July of the same year. Hey, it may be over-exposed, but it’s still one of the coolest guitar riffs in rock & roll! When watching Jagger in this footage I noticed he was still moving like this when I saw the Stones again last year – unbelievable!

The final clip I reserved for an artist who has been near and dear to me for many years. Unfortunately, he’s no longer with us: Tom Petty. The following footage is from his final show with The Heartbreakers. This gig at the Hollywood Bowl on September 25, 2017 marked the triumphant finale of the band’s 40th anniversary tour. You can watch the entire concert here. I’ve done it twice and have to say it’s just amazing. For this post I’d like to highlight the final two songs of the night: You Wreck Me from Petty’s second solo album Wildflowers (November 1994) and the classic American Girl, off the November 1976 eponymous debut by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Sources: Wikipedia; The Beatles Bible;; YouTube

9 thoughts on “The Venues: Hollywood Bowl”

  1. I would love to watch a band at that venue. I didn’t know they redid it. That Beatles album I wore out when I got it. It sounded really good for them playing without monitors and that jet engine of a noise coming at them.
    I saw the Stones on that tour in a venue not made for music unlike this one…Church Hill Downs.
    I kick myself for not seeing Petty on that last tour. I only saw him once…in the early 90s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too. Well, at least I saw the empty facility once as a 14-year-old. In retrospect it’s interesting we could even enter!

      As for Tom Petty, I hear you. I saw him once in Germany in the late ‘80s as a doubleheader with Bob Dylan. BTW, the latter was perhaps my biggest concert disappointment to date.

      I saw Petty a second time in New Jersey in 2014 during the tour that supported the “Hypnotic Eye” album.

      Because of that and other concerts I had going on in 2017 (U2, John Mellencamp, Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’, Deep Purple and many tribute gigs) I skipped the 40th anniversary tour – a decision I subsequently bitterly regretted.

      But who could have foreseen Tom’s untimely death?

      That final Hollywood Bowl show, btw, is absolutely amazing. I read he was in incredible pain. Knowing that you can actually sometimes notice.

      And yet, he literally left it all on stage for his fans for 2.5 hours or so. It’s just incredible!

      I feel artists like him are a dying breed. Other than Springsteen, I can’t think of anybody who is so committed to his fans!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would love to see it one day…just to see it. I love the water up front.

        I’ve seen Dylan 8 times…One time he only played for 45 minutes…that was the only time I was unhappy.

        He is different everytime I’ve seen the guy.

        Yes you can tell Petty was in pain. That one video shows him up leaning on the piano and you can see a limp in other videos near the end.

        I know…Petty and Springsteen do give it all. I’ve seen Bruce twice…one just an acoustic and the other time with the E Street band. I’m glad I got to see Clarence.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The mistake I had made with Dylan was to listen to his “Before the Flood” live album, which I really came to dig – and then naively expect he’d actually would play all or most of these tunes. He played exactly one, and it weirdly was the very first song of the set: “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”! Then he played stuff I didn’t know. It looked like neither did the remainder of the audience!

        My good music buddy from Germany, who is a huge Dylan fan, cheerfully told me afterwards that’s typical Dylan!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’ve seen him where he kicked off with Maggie’s Farm and played a lot of well known songs…then…I’ve seen him only play one…and that is it.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I kind of felt like even though I had made an effort to familiarize myself with Dylan’s music, it didn’t make any difference. Of course, the problem was that “Before the Flood” pretty much is what you could call a greatest hits compilation live. And I guess Dylan typically isn’t the type of artist who performs his greatest hits.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I saw him in 2016 and he only played one song recorded before 2000…Tangled Up In Blue…the rest were newer…He then played a giant festival in the west and played his biggest songs lol.

        Liked by 1 person

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