Founded in the heart of Harvard Square by J. Robert “Bob” Gordon, a strong proponent of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll as fuel for creative expression, the Cambridge Common Concerts began in 1967. For nearly eight years, Boston’s college population would cross the river to hear everything from the folkie stylings of Chris Smither and James Taylor (who played with his brother and sister, the only time all three played together), to local rock heroes like Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, Beacon Street Union and J. Geils Band, and even out-of-towners like ZZ Top and Chicago; the Cambridge Common Concerts was a three ring circus of unpredictable appreciation of the smell of grass, long braided hairy ladies and rock and roll.
In a city where “outdoor music” largely meant hearing Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops at the Hatch Shell, the Cambridge Common Concerts filled an emerging cultural scene’s need, and Gordon soon expanded his vision to create “Summerthing“, Polyarts, and “ReCREATION” – the latter of which formed the seed for “First Night,” the largest multi-city venue New Year’s Eve program in the country.
The concerts continued well into 1975, when the politics of permits, police security and overtime became a factor in the concerts’ productions. Music continues in Harvard Square with musicians who are now permitted by the City of Cambridge on a limited basis, but it will never be the same as with the smoke, the “Dance Free” and the vibes of rock and roll.