"His jokes started to fall flat," he said. "He wasn't singing too well, and then he just had this look on his face of what am I going to do next?"
McLean said someone from the crowd was eager to offer a suggestion. Somebody yelled out, "Why don't you just get the hell off the stage?"
"And he turned bright red," McLean said, "and did."
It was humiliating.
Shows these days are much different. There isn't much of a risk of things taking a wrong turn at one of his shows. The crowds know what they're getting, and if the crowd gets wild that's just fine with him.
"I love it when they're wild," he said. "They're wild for me, and I'm wild for them."
McLean still likes getting out to play, though he stopped recording a few years ago and isn't really writing songs anymore. He doesn't think there's much of a point.
"The music business, in case you hadn't noticed, is dead," he said. "What you have now is a lot of amateurs making a lot of noise. Where are the Elvises, the Sinatras, the Dylans, the Paul McCartneys, John Lennons and Mick Jaggers?
"They don't exist, and that's the reason you don't really hear a hit record any more."
The music isn't all that interesting to him. It doesn't electrify people or change something.
"Think of everything The Beatles did and about half of what Elvis did," he said. "Those were hit records."
He's just not particularly impressed by latter day rockers like Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen.
"They're great attractions," he said. "But I don't hear any hit records."
And he doesn't get what all the fuss is about Justin Bieber.
"That's not even a talent," he said. "I mean he has no talent. I've seen him on 'Saturday Night Live.' He can't act. He can't sing. He can't dance. I don't know; he's a pet rock."
For McLean, the music, or at least the music business, died a long time ago, but he's not complaining, he said. He got his chance. He made the people dance and maybe they were happy for a while.
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.