Twenty-nine years ago this week (8/5/79), Jack Murphy Stadium hosted Blue Öyster Cult, Cheap Trick, UFO, Pat Travers, and Shakin’ Street. To launch the all-day show, promoter Marc Berman battled the fire department over attendees being restricted to the stands. The regulation had been circumvented for a 1976 ZZ Top concert by constructing stairs from the field to the plaza level. However, this caused the Sports Arena to sue San Diego on the grounds that the City had promised “no competition” upon the arena’s construction.
For the August ’79 event, the City installed temporary ramps up to the stadium’s plaza level, reasoning the Sports Arena couldn’t sue unless the stadium built permanent equipment for competing events. The concert stage was built in sections on movable rollers, again to avoid “permanent fixture” accusations, at a cost of around $25,000.
I spent the night before the show sleeping in a bulldozer amid parking-lot construction being done near the stadium. Thanks to $15 earned by selling blood plasma the day before, I scored a ticket and walked in just as all 50,000-plus attendees were shouting the chorus to Travers’s hit “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights),” which KGB was playing at least twice per hour at the time. UFO had just lost Michael Schenker, but they did a decent set that included “Doctor Doctor” and “Too Hot to Handle.”
Cheap Trick’s Dream Police album was about to be released, and they debuted “Need Your Love” and “I Know What I Want” from that record. They stole the show from headliners BÖC, whose laser show had recently been legislated out of existence for purportedly being dangerous.
Nearly 100 people were arrested (many in the parking lot, for trespassing, scalping, drugs, and being drunk in public) and around 300 cars towed away during the concert, according to local newspaper reports. There were also complaints from nearby residents about the fireworks at 11:30 p.m., measured at around 100 decibels. (Local law forbade anything above 40 decibels after 10:30 p.m.)
“Considering the size of the rock concert, however,” said a noise-abatement official at the time, “we did not find the noise levels universally unacceptable.”
– Jay Allen Sanford