Dear Matthew Alice: How and when did the practice of holding up lighters during rock concerts to show appreciation for the band come about? I have a friend who insists that this now common practice began in 1972 at a Neil Diamond concert during his popular song “Turn On Your Heart Light. ” Now we all know Neil is a hip kind of guy, but for some reason I tend to doubt that it was his song that originated this widespread custom. Can you trace it to an earlier date or band? Perhaps sometime in the ’60s to, let’s say, the Stones or maybe the Grateful Dead? — All Lit Up in San Diego
Neil Diamond? NEIL DIAMOND? HAH! Neil Diamond, indeed. Why not Barry Manilow or Gordon Lightfoot, as long as we’re trolling for dorks? I don’t have an unassailable answer to your question, but I refuse to believe Neil Diamond ever started any kind of tradition, let alone this one. He always looks to me as if he’s going to sell the audience life insurance between songs.
One of the researcher’s biggest problems when plumbing the memories of antiquated rock and rollers is that irritating blank most of them have for the decade beginning around 1965. They suspect they had a lot of fun and can flash back on occasional encounters with law enforcement, but beyond that, events are hazy at best. But from among the crowd of drooling burnouts I coaxed what seems to be at least a semi-reliable answer. Roused from his afternoon nap (a necessity for those approaching their golden years) my informant croaked, “The Doors, Los Angeles, 1967, ‘Light My Fire,’ ” then collapsed back into sleep. Or a coma. Hard to tell.
That answer suits me fine. How about you? Anyone who can trace Bic flicking further back or to some other band is welcome to throw in his or her two cents, just about what an answer to this question is worth.