Led Zeppelin performed during Nassau Coliseum's inaugural year on June...

Led Zeppelin performed during Nassau Coliseum's inaugural year on June 14 and 15, 1972. Credit: Joel Peskin

In 1972, a new arena was unveiled in Uniondale that single handedly changed the entertainment landscape of Long Island. Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum opened its doors on Feb.11 with a Nets basketball game and by April 29 began hosting a series of concerts with varying musical styles. 

“Nassau Coliseum suddenly opened up our world,” says Ed Silverman, 64, who grew up in Baldwin Harbor. “Instead of having to go see the big bands in the city, they were coming to us.”

Russ Ginsberg, 65, who grew up in Long Beach, adds, “As a kid, going to shows at the Coliseum was like pure freedom. You were away from your parents in this major venue watching music groups that your generation related to.”

For the 50th anniversary of this Nassau County venue, Newsday spoke with several Long Islanders about their concert experiences at a dozen shows from five decades ago.

THREE DOG NIGHT

Three Dog Night singers Chuck Negron, left, Danny Hutton, center,...

Three Dog Night singers Chuck Negron, left, Danny Hutton, center, and Cory Wells entertain a mildly enthusiastic crowd at the Nassau Coliseum on April 29, 1972. Their performance didn't catch fire until the last set. Credit: Newsday/Mitch Turner

The opening show that kicked off the Coliseum’s concert career was Three Dog Night with support acts Black Oak Arkansas and T. Rex on April 29, 1972.

In his May 1, 1972 review, New York Times reporter Don Heckman wrote, “Although their material clearly is chosen for its popularity quotient, Three Dog Night performs it with musicality and enthusiasm; unlike many other top level performers, they seem to have retained a devotion to craft and a joy in making music.”

Rick Swanson, 69, of Smithtown, recalls the show’s massive capacity.

“It was more than sold out,” he says. “My girlfriend and I were sitting on folding chairs that were added onto the walkway behind the last row of actual seats.”

CHUCK BERRY

DJ/tour promoter Richard Nader put together his own bill called, “Richard Nader’s Rock & Roll Revival” when this show came to Nassau Coliseum on May 6, 1972 including Fats Domino, the Coasters, the Five Satins, Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge plus headliner Chuck Berry.

The performance was recorded for the 1973 documentary film, “Let the Good Times Roll” showing Berry playing his signature song, “Johnny B. Goode” with a guest appearance by Bo Diddley.

“It was a high energy show including Chuck doing the duck walk several times,” says Arlene Sceri, 65, of Selden. “A year later I went to the movie theater in Hicksville and saw myself up on the screen. It felt so strange. People started to recognize me from it.”

JETHRO TULL

The ticket sale for Jethro Tull’s May 13 and 14, 1972 shows at Nassau Coliseum was almost as legendary as the band’s performances.

Joel Peskin, who grew up in Baldwin, slept out all night to capture seats in the eighth row but there were over 5,000 people outside the arena rushing the box office striving to buy tickets.

“They tried to open the doors and everyone was pushing. It was an absolute crush,” recalls Peskin, 64. “This was a death defying situation. There was no leeway to move.”

The situation caused Nassau County Police to respond with more than 125 officers who arranged the massive crowd into line formation.

However, the shows went off without a hitch as the band was supporting its “Thick as a Brick” album, the follow up to the multi-platinum record, “Aqualung.” 

“[Lead singer/flutist] Ian Anderson came out from the side spinning a flute around his fingers like a baton as he skipped across the stage while the band started playing the opening song,” recalls Robert Rosello, 64, who grew up in Glen Cove. “It was dynamic!”

DAVID CASSIDY

David Cassidy performed at Nassau Coliseum on June 10, 1972.

David Cassidy performed at Nassau Coliseum on June 10, 1972. Credit: Debbie Roberts

On June 10, 1972, David Cassidy, the heartthrob of “The Partridge Family” TV show, came out on stage at Nassau Coliseum singing to a sea of teenagers and their parents. 

“Everyone was screaming and yelling while standing on their seats,” says Linda Nicastro, 63, of Oceanside. “Nobody wanted to sit down.”

Cassidy performed his hits “I Think I Love You,” “I Woke Up in Love This Morning” and “I’ll Meet You Halfway.”

“It was amazing to see what was on TV become real in front of your eyes,” says Kathryn Bagnuolo-Gray, 63, who grew up in East Northport. “It was a real goosebump moment.”

LED ZEPPELIN

Drummer John Bonham takes a solo during Led Zeppelin's performance...

Drummer John Bonham takes a solo during Led Zeppelin's performance at Nassau Coliseum on June 14, 1972. Credit: Joel Peskin

Arguably the biggest band in rock at the moment, Led Zeppelin made its Long Island debut at Nassau Coliseum with back-to-back dates on June 14 and 15, 1972 in support of its album, “Led Zeppelin IV.”

“Each member had their own personality,” says Fredric Stone, 68, who grew up in Roslyn Heights. “Robert Plant was flamboyant strutting around with his open shirt and flowing hair. Bassist John Paul Jones quietly performed in the background. Guitarist Jimmy Page was a real showman puffing his cheeks out and almost directing the music. Drummer John Bonham was the backbeat that connected the band together. They all complemented each other.”

The night was a memorable one for Michael Anselmo, 80, formerly of North Babylon, as he brought his wife who was six months pregnant.

“The baby was thrashing around in her stomach like you couldn’t believe,” he says. “My wife was grabbing my hand and putting it on her belly. That became a family legend.”

THE OSMONDS

The crowd was very family-friendly on July 22, 1972 at Nassau Coliseum when the Osmonds took the stage featuring teen idol Donny Osmond on lead vocals.

“Girls were screaming and running up to the stage. One of them got on the stage, kissed Donny on the cheek and I was mad about it for weeks,” recalls Susan Werner Gassman, 63, who grew up in Sea Cliff. “To be in the same room with the person who was singing on my little 45 records was just thrilling.”

Sharon Main, 62, who grew up in Malverne, got dressed up for the occasion.

“My sister and I wore everything purple because we knew that was Donny Osmond’s favorite color,” she says. “We thought we would stand out. Of course, we didn’t because every other girl our age did the same thing.”

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT

Long Island’s own Blue Öyster Cult opened a triple bill with the J. Geils Band and Black Sabbath at Nassau Coliseum on July 27, 1972. The band had just released its self-titled debut album earlier that year.

“We were nobody in 1972,” says BÖC vocalist-guitarist Eric Bloom. “Playing an arena like Nassau Coliseum was a big step for us.”

BÖC vocalist-guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser adds, “It was a great validation for our family to boast that we were playing the Coliseum. I remember my grandmother, who had no concept of rock and roll, came to the show in her 80s. She was standing on a chair to see over the people in front of her.”

THE BEACH BOYS/THE KINKS

Ticket stub for The Beach Boys/Kinks' 1972 concert at Nassau...

Ticket stub for The Beach Boys/Kinks' 1972 concert at Nassau Coliseum. Credit: Mike Stanko

The mismatched bill of the Beach Boys and the Kinks at Nassau Coliseum on August 21, 1972 drew a lot of attention as both bands were going through a transition.

The Kinks were touring the U.S. for the first time in over three years after being banned by the American Federation of Musicians for rowdy behavior on stage.

“During the Kinks’ set, nobody stayed in their seats,” says Frank Lima, 68, who grew up in Valley Stream and ran the Kinks Preservation Society fan club. “As soon as the lights went out, it was a free-for-all. Total chaos.”

Long Island Music Hall of Fame Chairman Ernie Canadeo, 67, of Lattingtown recalls, “The Kinks were sloppy but a lot of fun. The crowd was 90% Beach Boys fans, but the Kinks had a strong cult following.”

At the time, the Beach Boys were promoting their “Carl and the Passions - So Tough” album. 

“It was edgier than the traditional Beach Boys material. They even looked more scruffy,” says Steve Bender, 65, who grew up in Bellmore. “They were becoming more hippish and less all-American.”

LEON RUSSELL

Newspaper ad for Leon Russell's 1972 concert at Nassau Coliseum.

Newspaper ad for Leon Russell's 1972 concert at Nassau Coliseum. Credit: Mike Stanko

After his star-making performance at George Harrison’s 1971 “The Concert for Bangladesh,” Leon Russell came to Nassau Coliseum for two shows Sept. 23 and 24, 1972 on his “Carney” tour.

“It was like a big house party,” says Roxane Peyser, 62, who grew up in Centereach. “Leon had a way of interacting with the audience that made you feel like you were in his living room.”

Stuart Abbott, 63, of North Bellmore, adds, “When I heard he was playing at Nassau Coliseum, I had to get tickets. I never saw anybody pound on a piano like that in my entire life.”

ELTON JOHN

Before the oversized sunglasses, sequined jackets and feather boas, a low key Elton John headlined Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 9, 1972.

“Elton pretty much stuck to the music and didn’t try to wow the crowd with theatrics. The music was his focus,” says Silverman. “Although he was less of a showman, in a way it was more satisfying because he wasn’t distracted by stuff that had nothing to do with the music. It was fun to catch him in his initial incarnation.”

YES

Charles Byrne, 67, who grew up in Freeport, holds up...

Charles Byrne, 67, who grew up in Freeport, holds up his ticket stub to Yes' Nov. 20, 1972 concert. Credit: Charles Byrne

Touring on their 5th studio album, “Close to the Edge,” Yes performed the new album in its entirety at Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 20, 1972. The show featured new drummer Alan White, who replaced Bill Bruford, and it was recorded for a live box set called, “Progeny.”

“It was rare for a band to play a whole album that most people hadn’t heard yet,” says Steve Bender, 65, who grew up in Bellmore. “Today people just want to hear the hits but back then you came to hear whatever the band wanted to play.”

Kenny Forgione, 66, of Merrick, who plays in the Yes song titled band Wonderous Stories, recalls, “Rick Wakeman’s keyboard solo on ‘Roundabout’ blew me out of the water. Jon Anderson’s voice was so high, like in a female’s range. Their musicianship was above anyone else.”

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD

The year 1972 closed out with a concert by Grand Funk Railroad at Nassau Coliseum on Dec. 14, 1972. Seventeen months prior the band sold out Shea Stadium with hits like “Closer to Home (I’m Your Captain)” and “Footstompin’ Music.”

“[Lead singer/guitarist] Mark Farner was wearing bright red pants and no shirt with long blonde hair,” recalls Harold Lepidus, 63, who grew up in Islip. “They came out and played the instrumental ‘Flight of the Phoenix’ to open the show and they closed with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimmie Shelter.’ ”

Cliff Weinstein, 64, of Seaford, adds, “It wasn’t sold out, which was surprising. In 1972, Grand Funk went from being cool to being the bane of the critics. I remember wearing my concert t-shirt to school the next day and getting the wrath from some people.”

SPOTLIGHT ON LONG ISLAND ARTISTS

Playing Nassau Coliseum is a real benchmark for musicians from Long Island. Here are eight LI acts that took the stage at the Old Barn: 

BILLY JOEL - The Piano Man from Hicksville has a long history with Nassau Coliseum playing over 30 shows from 1977 to 2018 including shooting an HBO special, “Live From Long Island” in 1982, co-headlining with Elton John on the “Face to Face Tour" in 2002, closing down the venue before its renovation in 2015 as well as playing the grand reopening in 2017. Joel also holds the record for most sell-outs (9) in one year (1998).  

THE STRAY CATS - The rockabilly trio from Massapequa rocked Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 24-25, 1982 with Squeeze on the bill.

TWISTED SISTER - While opening for Dio, the furious fivesome, lead by Dee Snider of Baldwin, received platinum awards for their 1984 album, “Stay Hungry” on stage at Nassau Coliseum on Aug. 15, 1984.

PAT BENATAR - The lady of Lindenhurst was “All Fired Up” to play Nassau Coliseum on March 7, 1986 on her “Seven the Hard Way Tour.”

EDDIE MURPHY - The Roosevelt-raised comedian/actor raised the roof with laughter on July 29, 1986 for his “Pieces of My Mind Tour.”

DEBBIE GIBSON - At age 19, this former Merrick resident brought her “Electric Youth Tour” to Uniondale on Nov. 22, 1989. 

JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS - Jett had a short commute from her home in Long Beach to headline on Oct. 13, 2001.

TAKING BACK SUNDAY - LI’s own emo band hit their peak of popularity when the boys from Rockville Centre took the stage on June 23, 2006.   - DAVID J. CRIBLEZ

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