Deseret News archives
The American Basketball Association All-Stars play at the Salt Palace on Feb. 6, 1973.

You've never heard anything, or any place, so loud.

Well, maybe you have: This is Utah. Fans are intense here.

But I remember experiencing rock concerts and sports championship games during the early days of Salt Lake City's downtown Salt Palace of the 1970s. I sat with so many others deep in that huge, drum-like arena with a roof that somehow was able to stay firmly in place and not pop into the heavens like a plastic lid exploding from an over-pressurized tube of Pringle's potato chips.

The place seemed to have been made for loud.

My first such experience: The Utah Stars' run to the American Basketball Association's championship in 1971. Several friends and I — we were in our teens — managed to get tickets to the seventh game of the playoff series against the Indiana Pacers. And the Stars — remember the great Zelmo Beaty, the red-white-and-blue basketball? — they actually won.

Man, was it loud in there.

The Stars still had to beat the Kentucky Colonels in the finals, again in a seven-game series. And they did. The Stars — from UTAH — were the ABA champions. I still can't believe it.

Another such experience is from 1973, when the British progressive-rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer came through Salt Lake City. Their hit album of the time: The outlandish "Brain Salad Surgery" with "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends." I was in college.

My buddy Brian and I couldn't believe how great our seats were. We were pretty close to the stage, kind of at an angle to one side, and had a super view of Keith Emerson and his keyboards, a piano and a couple of organs and synthesizers that he knocked around like one of those big sand-in-the-bottom punching clowns we had as kids. The sounds he could get out of that system! He even strummed the piano's internal wires as if it were a harp.

But vocalist/bass player/sometimes-guitarist Greg Lake was the center of attention at first. He had been arrested during the night before for swimming nude in the hotel pool. On stage, the band created a storm of sound so loud Brian and I walked out of the Salt Palace in a daze.

"I don't think we need to turn the radio on, do you?" one of us said. I don't remember which. "No," he or I replied. It felt as if we had cotton in our ears; our auditory systems had shut down for their own protection. Mine are ringing right now, either in sympathy for the moment or because there's a touch of tinnitus hitting me three-decades-plus later.

No one will claim the acoustics were great in the Salt Palace arena of that era. They were horrible, in fact. You went not for the sound, but for the event. Music's greats went there when they passed through Utah. Glen Campbell. Simon & Garfunkel. Kansas. The Doobie Brothers. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.

Circumstances and schedules decreed that I would not be a Salt Palace regular. I began working evenings and into the night when I was in high school. I became a reporter for the Deseret News in 1973, ostensibly covering the "night police" beat, but in reality working as a general assignment reporter at night for three years.

I covered conventions and other events in the Salt Palace as a young reporter. I remember one that started with what might be considered a proto-music video: A camera slowly panning over a moon-like landscape, slowly, slowly pulling back to the music of classical composer Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis." It was beautiful.

It turned out we were looking at an orange. I was mesmerized. And remember it still.

But I didn't witness and absorb as many concerts as I would have liked. Beyond my work schedule, allergies are partly to blame.

Believe it or not, marijuana smoke was not a big problem in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the Salt Palace, at least when I was in attendance. For some reason, toking went up and enforcement went down over the years. And, as it turns out, I'm allergic to pot smoke. My eyes would tear up and my sinuses would shut down. Not helpful when you love rock 'n roll music.

Needless to say, I did not see the Grateful Dead in concert.

My career as a journalist took me (too soon) into the editors' ranks. I was an editor on Jan. 8, 1991, when several teens were trampled in a mad rush and crush of fans during an AC/DC show inside Salt Lake City's Salt Palace, perhaps its most infamous, and unfortunate, rock n' roll moment.

Elizabeth Glausi, 19. Jimmie Boyd Jr., 14. Curtis Child, 14. All three died. Others were hurt. They should not be forgotten.

The Deseret News reviewer assigned to the concert didn't even know the tragedy had occurred. AC/DC, a band that could play loud like no one else, never stopped playing. The dead and injured were taken from the Salt Palace arena as the music played on. No announcement was made.

A strange and sad legacy for an arena that sparked so many amazing memories.