How and when did the practice of holding up lighters during rock concerts come about? I have a friend who insists that this practice began in 1972 at a Neil Diamond concert during his popular song "Turn on Your Heart Light." I tend to doubt that.
-- Lit Up, San Diego
Neil Diamond, the guy who went to NYU on a fencing scholarship? Uh-uh. But plumbing the memories of antiquated rock and rollers isn't easy. There's that irritating blank most of them have for the decade beginning around 1965. They suspect they had a lot of fun and can flash back on occasional encounters with law enforcement, but beyond that, events are hazy at best. But from among the crowd of burnouts, I coaxed what seems to be at least a semi-reliable answer. Roused from his afternoon nap (a necessity for those approaching their golden years), my informant croaked, "The Doors, Los Angeles, 1967, Light My Fire," then collapsed back into sleep. Or a coma. Hard to tell.
Baby, Let Me (Turn on Your) Heartlight and/or Light Your Fire, then Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)
As discussed last week: who started the tradition of holding up lighters/matches/burning things at concerts? No way Neil Diamond in 1972. Not even the Doors in 1967, says Union-Tribune pop music critic George Varga. "I suggest you look to the fabled mudfest of 1969, otherwise known as Woodstock, and the songbird known as Melanie, whose performance there in a rainstorm was rewarded by appreciative fans who held various lit items up to demonstrate their gratitude. Melanie documented this illuminating incident in her song 'Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).' Being a bit too young for Woodstock-- never mind that I was a kid living in Germany at the time-- I can't vouch for how many candles were held aloft for Melanie or, more to the point, how said candles happened to be available in plentiful supply at an event that lacked even a hint of infrastructure. But there, I believe, is your answer."