It could rank as the classic rock concert of the century - six bands and performers who revolutionized popular music in the 1960s gathering in the Southern California desert over a single weekend in October.
Organizers of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival are looking to book Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Neil Young and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters - all Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees - Oct. 7-9 at the Empire Polo Field site in Indio, The Times has learned.
All six have never shared billing at another concert event, and it also would be the first time that Dylan and ex-Beatle McCartney - representing the two most important rock artists of the 1960s - have played on the same bill, albeit on different nights.
The concert is being organized by Goldenvoice, the Los Angeles-based concert promoter that is putting on the show with its corporate partner, AEG Live, according to people close to the situation who could not speak publicly because negotiations with the performers are still being finalized.
Artist representatives contacted by The Times indicated that plans are nearing completion.
“It’s so special in so many ways,” said Young’s longtime manager, Elliot Roberts, “because you won’t get a chance to see a bill like this, perhaps ever again. It’s a show I look forward to more than any show in a long time.”
Under the tentative plans, Dylan and the Stones would play back to back on Oct. 7 to open the new festival. They would be followed on Oct. 8 by Neil Young and the Promise of the Real band that has been on tour with him for the last two years, and McCartney and his touring band.
The event would conclude on Oct. 9 with the Who and ex-Pink Floyd bassist, songwriter and singer Waters.
This collective, while viewed by some younger music fans as representative of pop music’s old guard, is made up of the musical prime movers who didn’t just redefine the parameters of rock music, strongly helping transform it from teenage entertainment into an art form, they also helped foment social and political upheaval of the 1960s, ‘70s and beyond.
They put their parents’ generation on notice that the times they are a-changin’, empathized with all the lonely people and seducitvely exhorted peers to spend the night together. They bragged to authority figures that we don’t need no education, taunted that they hoped to die before they got old and suggested that it’s better to burn out than to fade away.
The festival would also constitute yet another sign of Goldenvoice’s continued evolution beyond its beginnings in the early 1980s as a scrappy grass-roots promoter that organized punk-rock shows in low-rent theaters, warehouses and other off-the-grid venues in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.
The company’s flagship event, the Coachella festival that begins this weekend, has become the best-attended and highest-grossing music festival in the world -- total attendance at the 2015 edition was 594,000 (at 99,000 per day over six days). Coachella’s six-day gross of more than $84.3 million last year dwarfed the competition, according to Pollstar, the concert-industry-tracking publication.
The Coachella festival has generated a largely enthusiastic response to appearances by McCartney, Waters, AC/DC, Steely Dan and other classic-rock acts in recent years, leading organizers of the proposed concert to expect that a sizable portion of the turnout will consist of music fans under 40.
Separately, the Stones, McCartney, the Who and Waters still put on among the highest-grossing concert tours whenever they go on the road, usually appearing in sports arenas and stadiums.
Dylan typically plays in midsize theaters and amphitheaters of 3,000 to 10,000 capacity, and Young habitually shifts formats from acoustic to electric and solo to group settings, performing in recent years in venues as small as the 3,400-seat Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on a solo tour to the 17,500-capacity Hollywood Bowl with his band Crazy Horse in 2013.
It’s the kind of powerhouse bill few rock fans ever imagined they’d see.
The prospect of taking in three double-headers of rock music heavyweights figures to be highly tantalizing to classic-rock fans as well as younger concert-goers who are just discovering the music of their parents’ or, in some cases, grandparents’ generation.
Conversely, all the participating artists have strived over the years to remain relevant, typically expressing greater interest and passion toward their latest creations than revisiting past glories.
Beyond whatever paychecks they’ll get out of it, the featured performers have the added allure of a prominent role at a likely never-to-be-repeated gathering of rock music titans.
Where most festivals schedule dozens of acts each performing across multiple stages, the new festival is expected to use just a single stage in the northeast corner of the polo field’s grounds.
Some of the show’s participants have performed together previously - Dylan and the Rolling Stones shared bills in South America in 1998, and even teamed up at one point for a version of Dylan’s 1965 rock classic “Like A Rolling Stone.” McCartney, Waters, the Who and Young have appeared with one or the others over time at large-scale benefit concerts.
Of the four English acts in the lineup, McCartney - as a Beatle - appeared on occasion with the Stones or the Who, but only early in their careers and even then, very briefly -- those bands quickly playing just a song or two for television or radio programs. Waters and Pink Floyd emerged after the Beatles stopped touring in 1966.
Record producer-engineer Glyn Johns, who worked with the Beatles and the Stones in the late-'60s, wrote in his 2014 memoir “Sound Man” that Dylan once approached him in the late-'60s to explore whether England’s two biggest rock bands would be interested in recording with him, a rock Valhalla-like summit meeting that never came to fruition.
Dylan famously played with George Harrison in 1971, shortly after the Beatles broke up, when Harrison organized the Concert for Bangladesh benefit at Madison Square Garden in New York. That pioneering benefit concert also featured a bevy of other rock stars including Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Ringo Starr and Billy Preston.
Dylan, McCartney, Mick Jagger (minus the rest of the Rolling Stones), the Who and Neil Young all appeared in 1985 for the Live Aid series of benefit concerts, which played across two continents.
Lewis writes for the California News Group, publisher of The Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.