Where were you on December 17, 1979? Rick Mayer can tell you where he was, and where he wasn't—at The Who concert in Providence.
In December 1979, then-mayor Buddy Cianci canceled the British rock band’s Providence concert for perceived safety reasons after a stampede at The Who show in Cincinnati killed several concert goers.
"When I heard it was canceled, my first reaction was anger and frustration over this 'Mayor Cianci' canceling the concert," said Mayer, who was 22 years old and living in Brighton at the time. "I thought, 'Why is he canceling the performance?' because the Providence venue was very different than the one in Cincinnati."
Cincinnati was general admission (which led to the rush stampede) and Providence was reserved seating at the Providence Civic Center (now the Dunkin’ Donuts Center).
Mayer can also tell you his seat number -- Upper Arena, Section 226, Row E, Seat 10 -- for which he paid $11.50 ($10.95 for admission plus a 55 cent sur-charge).
He remembers because he still has the ticket, or had the ticket until Tuesday.
As part of its current Quadrophenia tour, The Who pledged to honor those unused 1979 Providence tickets at its February 2013 performance at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
On Tuesday, Mayer was one of 10 die-hard Who fans (and impressive momento retainers) who gathered at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center box office to exchange a total of 14 tickets.
“We traded them in and were given these $130 floor seats off to either side of the stage,” Mayer said. “I’m told they’re very good seats.”
The 1979 tickets were turned into a representative of the Rhode Island Special Olympics and will be auctioned off to benefit the charity.
Just five years before the infamous concert cancelation, Mayer attended his first Who concert in 1974 at age 17.
“It was their debut Quadrophenia tour after the album came out,” said Mayer, who grew up in Mamaroneck, NY. “I didn’t know them well at all but I was immediately hooked after seeing them. Now, I’m seeing them on their [allegedly] last Quadrophenia tour.”
He said Quadrophenia is his favorite album.
“It’s about growing up as a teenager, the trials and tribulations of growing up; I can identify with that,” he said.
Mayer said he has kept tabs on the ticket all these years as he shared it and other rock memorabilia with his wife, Caryl, and their children who were raised on The Who.
“We used to play ‘Name that Tune’ in the car when the kids were young and I started to throw in some Who songs and they would get them,” he said. “One of the songs was from Quadrophenia and my daughter always remembered that song. In fact, I was at a concert a few years ago and they played it and I dialed her on my cell phone to let her listen to it on the phone.”
Caryl said, “My older daughter could sing Who songs before she could say her ABCs. That’s just how it is in this house.”
Mayer will attend the concert with two of his children who paid $130 per ticket to sit next to Medfield’s Biggest Who Fan. They will be joined by two of Mayer's longtime friends with whom he has seen many concerts.
But where has the ticket been all these years? How did he keep track of it?
Mayer said he had seen the 1979 ticket several times over the years, but he suffered a mild panic attack when he could not find it right away.
“I have a tattered old Ticketron envelope with a lot of stubs in it from concerts – Yes, Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, The Who – all of them I paid about $5, $6 or $7 for,” he said.
He thought the unused Who ticket was in the envelope but he couldn’t find it.
If it wasn’t in the envelope, that meant it had to be in his scrapbook photo album but he couldn’t find it there either.
He looked a few more places, took a few deep breaths, then returned to the photo album where he found it between two pages that had stuck together.
Mayer now keeps a photocopy of the redeemed 1979 ticket with his collection.
“I think it’s a great story, and we heard the band wants to do something for us on the night of the show,” he said with the enthusiasm of a 22-year old fan.