Psychedelic space rock, streakers, LSD, booze in hollowed-out fruit, a woman in labour, a mock flaming jet crashing into the stage: all part of the biggest, most storied neighbourhood concert ever in Ontario, where hordes of sun-and-substance-baked fans slept on lawns and sidewalks days in advance.
Maybe the best moment was hippies piling out of a van, having travelled 4,000 kilometres to Ivor Wynne Stadium in the heart of east Hamilton. Because get this: those dudes never even saw Pink Floyd.
(Or “Mr. Floyd,” as the four-man British rock band was referenced by one square Hamilton politician.)
But it was definitely a bummer when an explosion in the stadium shattered windows of nearby houses, and had a promoter fearing someone had murdered the band.
It’s hard to believe it happened at all: that Pink Floyd, one of the most famous bands in the world, legendary for its live show featuring cutting-edge surround sound and special effects, played outdoors to an audience of 52,000 on June 28, 1975.
Floyd seemed the ultimate representation of a genre called progressive or space rock, defined by the band’s sonic masterpiece “The Dark Side of the Moon,” one of the biggest selling albums in history.
Back then, the album — with its celestial prism and rainbow beam-themed cover — occupied a place in most every milk crate of records curated by teenagers across North America.
Pink Floyd’s 1975 North American tour, featuring songs from the album as well as their forthcoming “Wish You Were Here,” started in April in Vancouver, and included five straight nights in Los Angeles.
A show on Thursday, June 26 in Montreal was to have been the finale, but a date was added for two days later, in a working class Hamilton neighbourhood on a Saturday night.
Steeltown, still in the shadow of Toronto, did not attract big-name rock bands in those days.
The news was greeted with euphoria and fear.
Would it be the greatest night ever, or a disaster?
This story is told in an oral history style, employing the voices of those who were at the concert or had involvement in the event. Quotes are gathered from interviews, emails and written accounts, and have been edited for length and clarity.
Part 1: ‘The wrong type of people’
In the spring of 1975, Jean Garofoli, a flashy Hamilton entrepreneur and promoter who drove a Rolls Royce and a motorcycle, met with his agent,“Ramos,” in New York City. They talked strategy about bringing a star performer to Ivor Wynne Stadium that summer.
Jean Garofoli: “I didn’t have a clue who to get, but I certainly was going to work hard at trying to get the best. We kicked a few names around, the likes of The Rolling Stones or Barbra Streisand. Ramos couldn’t believe that I had exclusive rights to our stadium. I stayed in New York a couple of days at his apartment. His wife was really lovely … they both did cocaine, right there in front of me.”
Ivor Wynne, wedged in the heart of Hamilton’s east end, was home to the Canadian Football League’s Tiger-Cats. The stadium had recently been expanded to hold 34,500 fans for football, artificial turf was installed, and city leaders yearned to boost revenue with concerts. In March, council voted to give Garofoli the green light to sign an act. In addition to his promotions business, Garofoli owned a car dealership and furniture store. Some believed he was linked to the Mob. His reminiscences in this story are quoted from his unpublished memoirs, shared by his daughter, Leslie Bradford-Scott, who is writing a book about her relationship with her controversial father.
Garofoli: “The public loved the idea of having major events in the stadium, and council had voted 16-5 in favour of me doing gigs in the facility. I loved it. Me, the poor Parisian boy that came on a boat from France, was on top of the world.”
Ken Edge, city councillor, in The Hamilton Spectator April 2, 1975: “Concerts of this magnitude will expose Hamilton as a growing, ambitious city. Young people have two places to go here: to a bar or an X-rated movie. This will let them see the international names they worship, in the flesh …We retain the right to veto after each performance should anything go wrong, but we don’t envision anything going wrong.”
Garofoli met in Toronto with Bill Ballard, son of Harold, the kingpin of Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, as well as Michael Cohl, with Concert Productions International (CPI). Cohl was 27 and had been in the business since 1969. He went on to “pioneer the modern-day mega tour,” including promoting The Rolling Stones’ massive 1989 Steel Wheels tour, and now heads S2BN Entertainment and lives in New York City.
Garofoli: “(Cohl) looked very shabby, he was wearing a torn T-shirt, had a scruffy looking face, and hair down to his bum. I found out that he drove a Rolls Royce. A yellow one. He was a man of my heart.”
Michael Cohl: “I still have jeans and a T-shirt on. And I did have extremely long hair, even for those days, and a bushy beard. (Sportswriter) Trent Frayne wrote that I looked like ‘an unmade bed’; my mother wanted to assassinate him for that.”
Garofoli: “I just sat there, curious as hell. Ballard opened the conversation by asking if I had the rights to the Hamilton stadium. I nodded. His eyes lit up, and Cohl took over: ‘Jean, I have a proposition for you. I have an act that I would like to have in that facility. It is Pink Floyd.’”
Cohl: “We had been looking to have a gig in Ivor Wynne and we needed someone from Hamilton to be our face; we didn’t want to be the big bad monsters coming in from Toronto … We had done other shows with Jean, he was a good guy. We said, ‘we’ll hire you as the local promoter and let’s work together.’”
The Hamilton Spectator April 19, 1975: “British heavy rock band Pink Floyd is coming to Hamilton. Floyd will star in the first ever outdoor entertainment venture at Ivor Wynne Stadium, on June 28. ‘We are expecting a crowd in the region of 50,000,’ said (promoter) Jean Garofoli. ‘The stadium seats 34,500 and the rest will be down on the field itself, which will be specially covered by an asbestos tarp.’”
Garofoli: “For the love of me, I didn’t know who the hell Pink Floyd was. I put on ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and the damn thing sounded like a cross between Brahms and Chopin, being played by a philharmonic orchestra consisting of a 50-piece band. Pink Floyd had only a total of four musicians. They certainly didn’t sound like the type that would bring in hippies.”
Ken Reid, 25, lived on the central Mountain: “It shocked us to hear they were going to play in Hamilton. Toronto got all the big shows. So it was about time, and we got our tickets pretty quick. I had ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and their earlier stuff, I listened to them a lot. It was like stoner music, different from everyone else, that spacey-type music. If you were under the influence of something, you would concentrate on the music and get right into it.”
Ellen Spring, from Ancaster, was 16 and had tickets with her 21-year-old brother, Jim: “I felt the anticipation, the excitement, and also — I don’t know if it was being scared, but my mother was saying: ‘All those people in one spot? How is that going to work?’ And all the negative press was building, about the neighbours being concerned. But my mom didn’t say not to go. She bought the tickets for us at Sam the Record Man downtown; $8.50. Our parents were pretty liberal. They were like, ‘if something happens, we’ll come and get you, but take the bus because we’re not driving you.’”
Kathleen Wilkie, Ivor Wynne neighbourhood resident, in The Spectator May 12, 1975: “I don’t want this concert. We can cope with drunks at football games but not drugs. At Grey Cup time we had people urinating around our house. When we spoke to them we were threatened.’”
Linda Corkill, who lived next door to the stadium: “We lived at the corner of Balsam and Beechwood. Anything that happened at the stadium was pretty much part of our lives … The football games, yes, we heard them, but we loved football. We enjoyed it when the games were on, because we could watch from the third floor window in our son’s bedroom. We could see three-quarters of the field. I was a young mom of two boys ages five and two. My husband worked at Dofasco and was on a 4-to-12 shift, so I was alone when the concert happened.”
Gordon Torrance, Hamilton police chief, in The Spectator May 13, 1975: “The wrong type of people could attend this concert. It is my information that the kind of person attracted to these concerts is often a drug-taker or a member of a motorcycle gang. They will be coming with no accommodation and camping out. There could be immoral acts, damage to property and the like.”
Charlie Cupido, city councillor, in The Spectator May 14, 1975: “No one is taking issue with Pink Floyd. I don’t even know the man. He’s probably a very nice guy.”
Part 2: ‘They will hang us high’
By showtime, 52,000 fans had filled the stadium. Some bought tickets for reserved seats in the bleachers, others “festival” or “rush” tickets to jockey for position on the tarp-covered field. By 9 a.m. on the Saturday of the concert, more than 3,000 fans were waiting outside. Some had slept next to the stadium, others had camped in Gage Park or slept under billboard signs along King Street East.
Vic Zwirewich, Hamilton police officer, in The Spectator June 28, 1975: “Things got a bit boisterous around 4:30 or 5 a.m. but these kids have been a surprise to us all. I have walked through them repeatedly and not once did I hear any shouts of ‘pig’ which is what one can usually expect. In fact, would you believe I found most of them polite?”
Margaret Ryan, 21-year-old fan from Toronto: “Four of us camped out in front of the stadium for four days. We wanted to get up front for rush seating; no tents, we just lay on the pavement. Everyone was drinking tequila and smoking dope and passing out on the pavement. I passed out, but my purse was still there at my feet when I woke up. We had a (camera) tripod, and when they opened the gates, there was all the pushing to get through, we held up the tripod and everyone got out of the way.”
Laurie Repchull, 15-year-old Lord Elgin High School student in Burlington: “We slept over at my grandmother’s (near the stadium) and got up at 4 a.m. to camp out on the sidewalk. We felt so hip and grown up. We each had a bottle of Pepsi and a wineskin filled with Baby Duck sparkling rosé. By noon, it was over 80 degrees and we discovered that warm wine is not exactly thirst quenching. Suddenly, through a haze of hashish smoke, I saw my grandmother walking down the sidewalk. She was carrying a big platter of sliced watermelon. Nothing has ever tasted as sweet. Fellow concert goers swarmed my poor little grandma and she was a hero for a day.”
Linda Corkill: “People were doing motorcycle wheelies up and down Beechwood Avenue. There were porta-potties across the street, but not enough for that crowd … I never had any problem with the Ticat games, maybe because it was a local crowd that attended. But (Floyd fans) were pretty much all over place, on our front verandah and in the backyard. It was sort of an invasion … It was frightening. Police were milling around, they told me it was best to ignore them.”
Jean Garofoli: “The day of the concert, the phone woke me up, it couldn’t have been any later then 6 a.m. It was (co-promoter) Mike Cohl. He said, ‘I don’t know how to put this to you, other than the show may be cancelled if you don’t come up with some cocaine. The group is hooked on cocaine and they will not do their gig without it.’ I said, ‘We can’t cancel the show, we’ll have a bloody war on our hands, man. There are thousands of people waiting out there and hundreds have been here for days; they will hang us high.’”
Michael Cohl: “I don’t remember that, and if it did happen, it wasn’t me who called. We had a procedure in those days, the band would never ask you for drugs, it would be the road manager or roadie or somebody who was delegated with that task. And I never got in the middle of it, I would have one of our production people at the stadium do it. And more often than not it was a roadie looking for cocaine, and using the name of the band.”
Ken Reid: “To get to the stadium that day, me and my friends slid down the big water pipe on the escarpment from Mountain Brow park. It was faster than the Wentworth stairs. It would take about 15-20 minutes, but you had to be careful not to go too fast, because there were big drop-offs in some spots. The pipe was smooth and slippery and you had to watch out for the big couplings that hold the pipe together; those were ball busters. Pretty tricky while under the influence, and we had smoked a bit of pot and got into some acid, we were geared up for the concert. The pipe took you right down by Gage Park, we walked to the stadium from there. And then it was like: look at all the people, a whole different crowd than for football.”
Ellen Spring: “My brother could have gone with his buddies, but he went with me. My parents wouldn’t let me go with my friends, they were too worried about all the people descending on the stadium … Jim smuggled in a thermos holding two beers, and it lasted him two minutes. He said he should have brought a case, because it was so open, you could see alcohol everywhere, they were trying to confiscate it but it didn’t work out too well. There were wineskins, and anything else you could bring in.”
Helen Gower, 31, lived in the North End: “We took the bus to Ivor Wynne Stadium each day leading up to the show to party with other fans … It was chaos the day of the concert. The people at the gates seemed overwhelmed. Some were able to sneak in without a ticket. People were hollowing out watermelons and pouring in alcohol; take a drink and pass it along.”
Jim Foley, 27, from Hamilton, went with his girlfriend : “It seemed like a disaster in the making without seat assignments … (But) the crowd was orderly; gentlemen were relieving themselves on whatever was available, some on the city property in front of local homes. This would be reported with great horror; I thought it odd considering the same local folks would allow you to park your two-ton car on the same front yard grass to see a football game.”
Emily DeBenedictis, 18, lived walking distance to the stadium: “It felt like it was another Woodstock in our own city. I remember the sleeping bags, tents, and the garbage; there were no portable toilets available and lots of stoned and drunk fans. The city wasn’t prepared to deal with the number of attendees who arrived from far and wide. With general admission, it made it even more chaotic. The mess certainly left a negative mark on the neighbourhood. But the concert was amazing.”
Ryan: “I had seen them live before, in 1973, in Carnegie Hall in New York, when they were debuting Dark Side, but were still calling it ‘Eclipse,’ they hadn’t changed the name yet … I ended up seeing Floyd 12 times, but the Ivor Wynne gig was hands down the best of the best. It was their ethereal music, and the way they presented: no-nonsense, no need for extra instrumentation, just the four of them and three women who sang backup. They were so tight, they had perfected the sound, and Dave Gilmour’s guitar pierced, it was so powerful and clear.”
Corkill: “Oh yes, I could hear it … I was basically hiding in my house, mostly walking around the floor. If my husband had been home with me it might not have been so bad, but there wouldn’t have been anything he could have done … Our sons went to sleep eventually.”
Repchull: “We found a good spot on the 30-yard line. The tarp was soon covered with a slimy concoction of vomit, beer and urine. We lost our shoes. Pills were being popped, pipes were being passed around and more than a few people were passed out. But there was no violence. No fights. No arguments. We were all just so damn happy to be there. The music was like nothing we had ever heard before. ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ really is the soundtrack to my generation. The entire night was a euphoric drink- and drug-infused blur, and we didn’t want it to end. Sadly, it eventually did, so we all straggled out and proceeded to hitchhike home. In our bare feet.”
The Spectator reported that more than two dozen people were treated for conditions such as over-exposure to heat and substance use, and that “a freaked out speeder, stark naked, was carried off to an ambulance chanting ‘Woodstock, Woodstock.’” Bernice Price, volunteering with St. John’s Ambulance, assisted a fan to hospital who was in labour.
Paul Casey, a fan from Cooksville west of Toronto: “Southern Ontario was inundated with LSD that summer, and everybody at the show was on that stuff. A group in front of us had a 40-ounce bottle of Southern Comfort laced with 40 tabs of MDA (a psychedelic) and were passing it around. One guy was swigging on that jug and after the show, three of his buddies carried him out naked and sideways, like they were carrying a wooden log.”
Reid: “We were sitting up under the press box, the stage was down to the right of us, and near the end of the concert, I see this little rocket thing on fire, sliding down a wire, to the back of the stage, and kaboom! … It landed sort of right behind the drummer, where there was also this big huge round thing, a gong, or some visual thing; I was pretty stoned by then. But anyway, the rocket went off like a bomb. We heard it did major damage to the scoreboard. It scared the hell out of me because I was pretty high on acid.”
In fact it wasn’t the crashing jet prop effect that damaged the new stadium scoreboard. It was a much larger explosion that came later.
Spring: “The light show was fantastic, and the smoke and fog, and then the jet prop; I don’t know if it was supposed to crash like it did, but everyone thought it was part of the show. It was like: wow, cool.”
Casey: “My buddy had rented a Winnebago for the concert. We managed to find it after the show, and drove slowly through the mobs on the street. Bonus: we had cold beer in the fridge, much to the envy of the stoned-out hordes peering in our windows. It was like the march of the zombie apocalypse out there; mouths agape, eyes glazed and dilated, shuffling along the sidewalks and road with arms hanging at their sides.”
Reid: “I don’t remember how I got home. But it was a fantastic concert.”
Joe Aref, 14, lived on Emerald Street North, two kilometres west of the stadium: “Many of my friends had gone to the concert, but I worked in my grandfather’s stall at the Hamilton Farmers’ Market and had to get up at 4 a.m. to work and was too tired to go. The window of my second floor bedroom on Emerald Street North faced east, and I could hear the concert (two kilometres away). I remember falling asleep listening to the music.”
Once the two-hour plus concert had ended, and fans had cleared the stadium, a catered barbecue Cohl had arranged was held on the field to mark the end of the band’s tour. After the barbecue, a special effects guy for Pink Floyd — from this night forward, dubbed “Crazy Arthur” by Cohl — lit up leftover explosive material from the jet stunt, near the top of the stadium.
Garofoli: “They did it at about two in the morning. It sounded like a nuclear blast.”
Cohl: “I’m under the stands and we’re doing the settlement (of cash from concession sales), and there’s two policemen for the pickup of the big bag of cash, and we hear the explosion, and smell the smoke, and the policeman puts his hand on his gun, and I’m running outside thinking: somebody just killed Pink Floyd. I run to see what happened, and the band is coming out of their dressing room, everybody is fine. It’s a miracle no one got hurt.”
Nick Mason, Pink Floyd’s drummer, from “Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd”: “Our appetite for stage effects was excessive … Some over-zealous crew member decided the easiest way to dispose of the remaining explosive was to attach it to the stadium’s illuminated scoreboard and fire it off. The explosion was devastating. The board erupted in smoke, flame and scores of a thousand goals a side. Not only did we have to pay for a replacement scoreboard but also a great deal of glass for the neighbouring houses. Fortunately we made our excuses and left before the locals tracked us down. We then rushed to England on a completely crazed timetable.”
Cohl: “The (band) manager said, ‘any chance you can keep this out of the newspaper?’ I said no, it’s impossible, but I’ll make sure we settle with everyone so we don’t have to fiddle with the insurance company. Some of the neighbours came to the backdoor of the stadium, and I sat there for hours, till after 4:30 a.m. with my partner Billy Ballard; we sent other people around the neighbourhood with pads and money and offers for tickets to shows, Tiger-Cat games, to settle this. So it was an amazing night but it had a very stressful ending. At the time it was: holy shit, what have we done?”
Part 3: ‘Never again’
Linda Corkill: “Ivor Wynne Stadium certainly never should have been the venue for such a situation. The next day my husband and I, along with other neighbours, took a walk through the stadium destruction. There were so many cigarette burns in the recently purchased Astroturf, and tons of garbage … tampons, beer bottles, you name it, along with the damaged scoreboard …We moved four years later up to the Mountain. That was part of the reason we wanted to move, we were afraid there would be more concerts.”
Margaret Ryan: “The fans were benevolent, everyone was very respectful to each other, and kind and happy, none of the stuff you hear about happening today. Everyone was stoned and happy, and there was good acid going around, and dope, sharing joints. That was the nature of that era, the flower power era.”
Jean Garofoli: “The concert was a major success. Debbie and I drove home, on my motorcycle. I experienced a great sense of relief driving home that it was all over … I talked to Debbie for a while because we couldn’t get to sleep.”
Paul Casey: “There were no fights, no public displays of rude behaviour, no rioting, nothing. In fact, I didn’t see any interaction with the police whatsoever. This crowd was too stoned to cause any trouble, so I have no idea why Hamilton complained so much and banned concerts for four decades after this show.”
Ken Edge, city councillor, in The Spectator June 30, 1975: “I’m happy there were no serious incidents or crowd control problems, but many residents were harassed … I have to recommend that no more rock concerts be held here.”
Charlie Cupido, city councillor, in The Spectator: “I’m thoroughly disgusted with the behaviour of some of those kids … Definitely not another rock concert at this stadium.”
Ian Stout, city councillor, in The Spectator: “There were some rowdies but you always get those; their conduct was better than that of a football crowd. I see no reason why there should not be future shows at the stadium … I would recommend they should be on a reserved seat basis, and I would like to see more washrooms and garbage containers.”
Garofoli: “The media painted a bleak picture of the concert … The pictures (published) were the ones they took before the clean-up had started. It looked bad. Really bad … What a bunch of bastards.”
Ivor Wynne never hosted another massive concert. Council voted to ban rock concerts in the stadium, but four years later, in 1979, approved an appearance by Rush, limiting ticket sales to 15,500. Pink Floyd went on to play shows in Canada many times — including a concert in 1977 before 78,000 at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, that inspired their album, “The Wall” — but never returned to Hamilton.
Michael Cohl: “(Pink Floyd) was the last of the huge shows there; it would have been nice if there were more. On the other hand, it’s hard to sell it, when neighbours say ‘we never bought into having rock concerts next door to us’ … I remember it as a fantastic show. It still stands out, and I continue to work with Pink Floyd, a thousand years later … But we were all learning about stadium shows back then, we didn’t know what we were doing, it was like: ‘wow, is this going to work?’ I would never do that show today, because you learn not to force something on a neighbourhood they don’t want. But back in those days, nobody wanted the shows.”
Laurie Repchull: “The night was magical, the memories so vivid. Maybe it was the mystical nature of the music. It was a culmination of so many things. It happened right after the last day of school, and we were bonded in friendship without a care in the world. It was the time of our lives and seemed to signify all that was fabulous … I’ll be 63 years old next month, and I’ve seen a fair share of A-list concerts. Nothing will ever compare to Pink Floyd. And my 25-year-old daughter has reinforced my conviction. She has ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ in her vinyl record collection, and it’s one of her favourites. Like my memory of that night, it has stood the test of time.”
In 1986, Jean Garofoli was convicted for conspiring to traffic cocaine, but fled two weeks into the trial.
And then, The Spectator reported, “the one-time jet setter who promoted a Pink Floyd concert at Ivor Wynne Stadium, was re-arrested near the Quebec/Vermont border.”
Ultimately, after an appeal and a Supreme Court ruling in his favour, Garofoli’s sentence was reduced from 15 years in prison to three years probation, and one day in jail.
A federal prosecutor said that while the sentence might seem “unduly lenient, we don’t live in a perfect world.”
Garofoli died from cancer in 2013.
That same year, Ivor Wynne was demolished, triggering a long and contentious search by the city to select a location for a new stadium.
In the end, it was built in the same east end neighbourhood.
In 2018, the band Arkells played the largest rock concert in Hamilton since Pink Floyd, at Tim Hortons Field.
That night, before about 25,000 fans, the lead singer paid homage to the Floyd show.
Ellen Spring cheered. She had been there in ’75 with her brother, Jim.
In the summer of 2021 she lost him. He died at 67.
Dr. James Spring had been a naturopath, with a practice in Dundas, and taught as well.
He was able to die at home, and she got to talk with him and say goodbye.
In one of those conversations, she mentioned their concert.
“I said to him, ‘remember Pink Floyd?’ It was something just the two of us had shared. He said ‘I was just thinking about it the other day.’ And I said, we’ll always have the Pink Floyd concert, and he smiled.”
Joe Aref, the teenager who fell asleep in his bed to the spacey sounds of Pink Floyd, is now 62, and has worked as a teacher for 36 years.
What sticks out most in his mind from 1975, is what happened four days after the concert.
It was Wednesday night, and the neighbourhood was cleaned up and back to normal.
The Tiger-Cats were scheduled to play Toronto in an exhibition football game at Ivor Wynne.
Aref stood among a group of fans outside the stadium. He waited with his buddies for their chance to hop the queue without paying, as was their routine.
A van turned off Cannon Street East onto Melrose Avenue North. It pulled up to the curb next to the group.
“We’re thinking, why is it getting so close?” says Aref. “It had California plates. It was what I call a Scooby Doo-style van.”
The van door slides open. He hears music, and guys singing.
Four of them get out, a vision of long, stringy hair, ragged clothes, wineskins, and colourful blankets wrapped around shoulders.
“We’re here for Pink Floyd!” said one of them with excitement. “Who has tickets?”
Aref will never forget the look of stone-cold disbelief on the guy’s face.
“It was Saturday,” someone replied. “You missed it.’”