California Jam, Ontario, California 1978

California Jam, Ontario, California 1978
Authored By John Nicholson

In 1974, the first California Jam attracted a quarter of a million people and was broadcast on network TV. You still see a lot of footage from that gig - especially of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. It was a huge success and made everyone serious money. So it was inevitable a second would be held, but surprising that it took four years to happen. By now, the one-day festival was firmly entrenched as the preferred mode for making a festival happen. The counterculture was, by 1978, a distant memory; a tie-dye t-shirt in the wardrobe of life. 

Less well-known than the '74 show, is the Cal II in 1978. It was also filmed and broadcast on ABC. Like its predecessor it was held at the Ontario Speedway track in Ontario, California.

It happened on March 18, 1978 and produced by Leonard Stogel, Sandy Feldman, and Don Branker. More than 350,000 people attended this one-day festival and though it is much less well known than the '74 show, the line-up looks incredible - Aerosmith, Foreigner, Heart, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Dave Mason, Ted Nugent, Rubicon, Santana, Bob Welch. 

Of course by 1978 festivals had ceased to become an expression of alternative lifestyles and had evolved into being just a big music event. Where it differed from today is that the line-up was very, very strong. There was no loading the bill with lesser bands. This made it tremendous value.

A double album was culled from the performances and it's pretty much all killer stuff, with Santana on top form. Weirdly, the album features Jean Michel Jarre doing Oxygene part 5 but I can't find any reference of him actually playing the gig. News just in - his music was used in some sort of between-set laser show.  

Cal Jam 2 crowd. Wow, that's a lot of people.
Cal Jam 2 crowd. Wow, that's a lot of people, dude.

Rock music was becoming big business and the Cal Jam festivals are often credited as ushering in that era. The bands were choppered in from the Beverley Hills Hotel, one can only imagine the amount of cocaine consumed. Everyone made big money on the back of efficient, business-like operations and it was certainly a long way from the hippy-run festivals of eight or nine years earlier. But the rock 'n' roll played still sound superb and I've always loved the cover of the album.

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