I was 12 years old and I was enamored with “Juke Box Hero.” Not just the song, but the story. That one guitar that blew him away and felt good in his hands and was a one-way ticket to the top.
My mom drove me through the Southwestern snow to the local Sears. We stood among the tents and the canteens at the back of the ticket line and my anxiety grew as every satisfied customer walked away from the counter. When we finally got to the front, there were 12 tickets left. We got three of them.
It was my first concert. My sister Dale and her husband Dan took me. She was a seasoned concert-goer. We spotted three seats, but she insisted we move down a couple of rows. Sure enough, a few songs into Foreigner’s set, those seats were covered in puke as three teenagers stumbled down the steps in shame. I gained an admiration for Dale’s Buddha-like wisdom.
Some Canadian opened the show. His name didn’t warrant anything other than “Foreigner and special guest” on the ticket. A couple of days after the concert, I called my favorite radio station to request his song “Lonely Nights” and the DJ and I had a conversation about how great his set was. I came to hate his music but he will always be my first.
When I look back with honesty, I expected more from Foreigner. I expected magic and I got an arena rock show whose highlight was a giant inflatable jukebox. I spent the next 20 years chasing what I got and what I didn’t get that night. I drove across states, I flew to the coasts, I traveled to other countries, searching. I gave up college and marriage and money and all the security that most people find in their 20s because I was chasing the dragon that Foreigner promised me on that February night.
I’m still chasing that dragon. Every time I put on a new record, every time I open Spotify, it’s my hope that I’ll grab that feeling of “Juke Box Hero” and ride it the way I rode it that first time. Usually it doesn’t happen but sometimes it does. Those are the moments that keep me coming back, over and over and over again.
“Personal Stories” is a series of posts about artists, albums, concerts, and other experiences that permanently changed our relationships with music.