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The ordeal that was buying concert tickets in 1985

Heavy demand for concert tickets took both the promoter and the police by surprise when Bruce Springsteen came to Toronto in 1985.

Would-be Bruce Springsteen spectators were fainting in the crowd crush

A huge crowd lines up for Springsteen tickets, leaving police and promoters unprepared. 3:33

Buying tickets online for a popular concert in the Ticketmaster era can be frustrating, as CBC News explored this week.

But would anybody go back to the time when getting tickets meant lining up in person, along with thousands of other fans, for hours or even days?

By the time ticket sales began, thousands of fans had lined up in hopes of snagging some. (CBC Archives/CBLT Newshour)

That's what happened in the summer of 1985, when it was announced that New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen was coming to play two dates at Toronto's Exhibition Place.

Thousands of fans got in line — but it was less than orderly, as seen in the news report above.

Police had little warning

"They're just pushing in every which way and you can't get your arms out," said one fan who emerged from the middle of the crush. "If that barricade [at the front] comes down it's going to get scary."

Police were present but they said the promoter, Concert Productions International, gave them no warning of the crowd's size.

"We've put some officers in the crowd and they're holding them back until the people at the front have got their tickets," said a police spokesman. "This wasn't happening before, they were all crushing one another."

A fan shows off the fruits of his efforts in the crowd crush: eight tickets to see Bruce Springsteen. (CBC Archives/CBLT Newshour)

But Bill Stockwell, general manager of the venue, said everything was under control.

'It was worth it'

"It's not a case of getting into a problem and then calling the police," he said. "The police have been in since the start." 

As the police and promoter blamed each other, fans were caught in the middle — sometimes literally.

"I got stuck in the crowd, and I panicked," said one young woman. "So finally they had to lift me out." But, she said, it was worth it — she got eight tickets, as did her companion.