Los Angeles native Cindy Ainsworth was 22 years old when she bought tickets for Elton John’s shows at Dodger Stadium in 1975, holding her breath until they arrived at her door. It was an exciting time for Ainsworth, who had fallen in love with Elton John’s music in 1972 when she heard “Your Song” for the first time, so she seized the opportunity to see the Rocket Man live in concert.
As soon as she and her friends took their seats at the now historic performances, Ainsworth was so excited that she left her pals behind and dashed through the stadium to get as close as possible to the stage for the three-hour-hit-filled extravaganza.
Forty-seven years later, sitting in the lobby of a Pasadena hotel the night before Elton John’s last performance in Los Angeles, Ainsworth recalls the experience as if it were yesterday, with her eyes beaming and a smile on her face.
In town from Reno, Nevada, where she now lives with her husband, Ainsworth grabbed tickets to the final show in her hometown as soon as the superstar announced his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour in 2018.
No doubt thrilled to bookend her 1975 experience with what was sure to be another unforgettable and historic night at Dodger Stadium.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Cindy, where does your story with Elton John’s music begin?
It was around 1972. I was really disillusioned with rock music around 1970 when The Beatles disbanded, and I was listening to jazz fusion music more than rock. Then I heard Elton, and I went, “He’s really different.” The songwriting was great. The music was wonderful. And I said, “Hmm, I’m going to listen to this guy more.” And so, around 1972, I really jumped in there and recognized how good he was.
Was there one song that grabbed you to start?
Well, I heard “Your Song,” and I thought, what a sweet, innocent song. But I think my favorite song is “Levon.” When I hear “Levon,” I kind of tear up, and as I’m thinking about it now, I’m tearing up. That’s my favorite song.
What do you think it is about “Levon” as opposed to other songs?
The lyrics just hit me, really strong. And you don’t know quite what Bernie’s [Taupin] thinking about, but you can analyze him later. That’s what was fun with his songs, with Elton and Bernie’s songs. But it was just very emotional for me.
You attended both of his L.A. concerts, Dodger Stadium in ‘75 and The Forum in ‘74. Were those your first concerts?
I’d gone to the Forum concert, and it was really hard to get tickets to his concerts. I was a college student and didn’t have much money, and we were kind of behind the stage, but it was okay because the piano was right there. So when the Dodgers Stadium concerts came up, my friends and I were talking, and we [said] we got to go.
You had to send in a form to get the tickets, so we were anxiously waiting for those tickets. My friend got hers, and I was waiting for mine. I’m going, where am I? So I think we bought more, whatever the limit was, and when we got them, it was $10. Pretty incredible.
How old would you have been at this time?
Oh gosh, let’s see. I think I was 22.
What was it like?
There were so many people, and they say it was 55,000. I think there were more than 55,000 crammed on that field. I think we sat up in section 220, I don’t quite remember, and I was nervous because I really wanted to go on the field.
My friend wouldn’t do it. She was so used to me taking off. That’s why she brought somebody else with her and had somebody to sit with. So I just took off and weaseled my way through the crowd. I was probably one of those obnoxious people you hate when they’re going through the crowd. But I got to the front and wrote in my journal, “It was incredible. Just incredible.” Because I’d gone to a couple of concerts where I was up front, but yeah, I wanted to do it for Elton. So it was really important.
I think he opened with one of the songs you mentioned earlier, “Your Song.”
He did open with “Your Song.” It’s the opposite now. He ends the concert with “Your Song,” but he used to open with it. I get really emotional about “Your Song,” too.
I just was blown away by listening to all these great songs. And by then, he had such a catalog of songs too. He was doing Rock of the Westies. It really was the Rock of the Westies tour. But he played songs from all his albums at the time.
What was it about his performance at Dodger Stadium that grabbed you?
He wasn’t the typical rockstar, but when he got on stage, he was so different, like his acrobatic stuff on the piano. I remember at the Dodger Stadium concert; I was cracking up because he just kept throwing the [piano] bench. The poor roadie kept bringing it, and I swear I said in my journal that he had a different colored bench every time. I don’t know if that’s true, but he kept throwing that bench. But it was so much fun to watch him. I’m so thankful I got to see him when he was doing all that. I know critics [at the time] criticized him for that, but I thought it was really fun, and I think everybody loved it who went to those shows.
Do you remember seeing him come out in the sequined Dodger uniform?
Oh yeah. He first came out with a blue kind of jumpsuit on and a derby [hat]. Then in the second half, he came out with the Dodgers uniform and threw the hats into the crowd. I always wondered, especially the derby one, “What happened to that derby?” I don’t know if he lost the Dodgers hat too. He might have thrown that one out, but he also wore it the next night. But yeah, it was pretty incredible.
How did you feel leaving the stadium after seeing such a powerful show that night?
It was abuzz. You’re just so excited, and the crowd was fantastic, all dancing and happy. Some concerts during that period could get a little violent, but this was so different. Everyone was just celebrating. I commented in my journal that families brought their kids, and you saw that, too. I think nowadays he promotes that, too. Bring your family and all that. I specifically made a comment about that [in my journal] because I had just gone to a Rod Stewart Faces concert. Those were pretty wild concerts. So this was really kind of different.
Maybe more wholesome in a way?
Although he wasn’t very wholesome on stage, he was a naughty boy on stage.
In what way?
He had tennis balls because he was hitting them into the crowd and things like that. But he’s also got a sense of humor, which I always liked.
One of the things that a lot of fans have pointed out is his sense of humor.
You could tell he was a serious musician, but half the time, he was having fun. I know it was a stressful time for him, too, but he was having fun on stage. You could tell that was the place where he wanted to be. So that’s why it’s bittersweet now that he’s leaving the stage.
And this journal you’re referring to, is this a journal you keep to record Elton John concerts and stuff or every day?
I recorded everything. I hung out on Sunset Boulevard and at the Roxy a lot.
Growing up in L.A.?
There was a two or three-year period where I was doing that all time. I just recorded all the concerts, and I had a big section with Elton because he was here in L.A. all the time. He had a house here. Whenever I went to Sunset Boulevard – I lived in the Valley – I went back through Benedict Canyon to see if he was there.
One time I went down to watch him get his star on Hollywood Boulevard. It was really crowded, and there were thousands of people, screaming girls mostly.
I took the day off and had lunch at this great health food place called The Source on Sunset Boulevard. A lot of stars went there quite often. You could sit outside and watch everything. I saw Warren Beatty that day and later went to Tower Records before I went back to the Valley.
So I went in, and there weren’t many people since it was mid-afternoon. So I’m just digging through the records and was going to buy something, and I looked up, and there was Elton across from me. I played it really cool. He had three bodyguards with him and his limo driver, who was loading a box with records. I didn’t have the guts to go up to them, and now I wish I had.
What records was he looking at?
He was very organized; he had a pen and a list and would just do boom, boom, boom. He was over in the singles. They had a wall of singles, and he bought a Barbra Streisand one and some record that I forgot the name of. It’s a German disco group, and they had a hit that year.
I went up to the counter, and I was all excited. Elton John’s here. The guy checking me out goes, “He’s here all the time.”
So I went back to my car, and I screamed in the car. I couldn’t wait. No phones. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my friend.
So you went to both shows at Dodger Stadium?
Saturday, to me, was a better show. Maybe it was because it was the first one up, but they let everybody stand and dance and have fun on Saturday. I went Sunday, and of course, I weasel my way up. My poor friends, they’re back there, and they made everybody sit down for most of the concert. And I go, well, this isn’t fun. But because of the time change, most of the concert was in the dark, so that made it really cool.
When you’re leaving the stadium, how long does it take to come down after a show like that?
You know, you want to put more music on as everybody’s leaving, and everybody’s got their radios pumped up; it was pretty incredible.
When did you decide to go to his last U.S. shows?
When he announced this tour, I thought I had to see him again. And then, the pandemic happened, and my schedule was all messed up. But they announced Dodgers Stadium, and I said that’s it, I’ve got to go. Especially to the last night as a tribute to him.
What was it like seeing Elton perform in 1975 versus seeing him at the Phoenix and L.A. shows?
I think the earlier shows were a little bit looser. The band was fantastic, and the sound system was good, and Elton was younger.
But when you’re up close, you see everything. [These shows] are such a production. It’s not just a rock concert. That’s what I was trying to explain to my friends because the videos and everything are fantastic.
I think Elton’s going to get really emotional at the end. He got emotional at the Phoenix show and said, “This is it, last time we’re going to see you guys,” and then he sang “Your Song.”
It feels like it’s an end of an era.
Yeah, it really is.
How will you feel at the end of the night after Sunday’s show?
I don’t know. I’m going to get emotional, and I’m starting to tear up.
What would you tell Elton if you ever got to meet him?
It seems like I’ve known him for all these years. So that’s what I probably would say.