Has anyone ever attended a rock concert at BYU? You may have noticed that they dried up in the mid-1980s, and I am trying to figure out why. In the 1970s artists such as Elton John, America, Seals and Croft, and Neal Diamond performed at the Marriot Center. Most of the acts seem to have been pretty tame–Bread, the Carpenters, and John Denver do not exactly rock the house. A brief foray into hard rock was stamped out quickly under President Dallin Oaks. When Tower of Power’s 1975 performance left the BYU crowd “almost out of control,” Oaks vowed “there would be no more ‘Rock Concerts’ at BYU.”
But the concerts continued in the 1980s under President Jeffery Holland. Boston came at some point, and Billy Joel appeared in 1986. The Joel concert, as near as I can tell, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Glen L. Pace, then a member of the Presiding Bishopric, attended the concert with his children. He left angered and appalled. Pace later recounted his experience in a BYU devotional address given in December 1987 and published the next year in the Ensign.
In the talk, Pace quoted Joel’s words to the crowd just before singing “Only the Good Die Young,” the hit song about a man trying to talk a young Catholic women into giving up her virginity. â€œIâ€™m not trying to convert anyone; I just want to provide you with an alternative,” Joel supposedly said. Pace never mentioned the Piano Man by name, but his identity was obvious. In the song, Joel concludes he would rather “laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” Pace argued the opposite. He entitled his talk “Crying with the Saints,” a close paraphrase from the song.
I can imagine Pace filing a complaint with the BYU Board of Trustees, but I cannot verify this because the board’s minutes for this time are restricted from historical researchers. Obviously President Holland knew about Pace’s disapproval of the concert, for he was on the stand when Pace gave the address. In any case the rock concerts seem to have disappeared soon after. When I was attending BYU in the early 1990s, the only act I remember coming to the Marriot Center was Dan Folgelberg. My wife, who attended in late 90s, remembers no rock concerts at BYU. I position the decline of the concerts as a kind of covert cultural critique, a silent declaration in the Culture Wars of the time.
Did any T&S readers attend rock concerts at BYU? Any other theories about their demise, or links to similar BYU actions around the same time?