#136 and 137 – Sunny

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#136 & 137 – Sunny by Bobby Hebb

 

Bobby Hebb

Here’s a cool story. It’s also one I don’t think is shared by too many people. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say no one has ever had the exact same experience, though there might be some journalists or music fans that can say something similar.

But not like this…

First of all, I can say Bobby Hebb was cool. He was also a nice guy. How do I know? Because I talked with him – not only once, but twice. And I have that bragging right only because he was nice. I’m sure there are some other artists that wouldn’t have been the same.

Sunny – 1966

Bobby Hebb is best known for his number one hit Sunny, that topped the charts in August 1966. I didn’t need to do any research to give you that fact because I’ve known it since… well, August 1966. But his story includes much more than just one song.

He had been in showbiz all his life, starting as a child dancer in Nashville at the age of three. How do I know that? Well… I had to research. But I also learned he played multiple instruments, performed at the Grand Ole Opry, sang backup for Bo Diddley and replaced the original Mickey in Mickey and Sylvia, the duo famous for the 1957 number one song, Love Is Strange. Through a mutual connection, I’ve also learned he would write a song every day for most of his life.

That’s quite a feat considering some of us have a hard time just getting out of bed every day.

Sunny scored on this Dream Song list twice – August 29 and September 23. Both times have been marked as recent memories, which is no surprise since it’s usually around mid-August every year when the song finds its way back onto my digital playlist.

There is a reason for that – which gets me back to telling my cool story.

I saw Bobby Hebb perform once. That would be cool enough. But to kick the coolness up a notch, I had the opportunity to talk with him about the concert – forty years later. And to raise that experience into the freezing coolness stratosphere – I talked with him about it twice.


The Classic Rocker is the author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland

For details, visit our Author Page on Amazon.com


In August 1966, Hebb was on the brightest concert stage in the world with the country’s number one hit song. But instead of being the headliner, he was an opening act for a band that hadn’t had a number one hit in two months and was winding down their career as a touring act.

In case you’re not a boomer or a pop music historian with immediate recognition of the significance of that month in that year, the act he was touring with was The Beatles.

I also didn’t need any research to know that, because I attended their concert in Cleveland on August 14th and watched Hebb, along with The Remains, The Cyrkle and The Ronettes set the stage for The Fab Four. And though we were there for the Beatles, I’ve always remembered Hebb’s performance. Especially when he did Sunny, and the crowd sang along. After all, it was the number one song at the time, and everyone seemed to know it.

So, can this story get any cooler? Well, it took forty years for that to happen, but it was worth the wait.

After talking about… actually, bragging about being at this show for decades, I decided to write a book called The Beatles In Cleveland. Besides including my memories, I put the word out on the internet to interview anyone personally involved with the tour or the Beatles. I started hearing from people and one connection would lead to another, and that would lead to another and eventually, I heard from Bobby’s manager. This was around 2006 and if you do the math, that makes it forty years since we had shared the same air in a large stadium near downtown Cleveland.

His manager said Bobby was available for an interview – if I was interested.

Are you kidding me? We set it up and I counted the days until our phone conversation.

Getting Bobby’s autograph!

When we finally talked, Bobby seemed more than happy to share his memories of the Beatles tour and anything he could recall about the Cleveland concert. He also remembered the bus ride following two shows in Detroit the evening before. While traveling along the Ohio Turnpike on the way to Cleveland, they stopped at a service plaza. That moment was very vague for him – and basically, he only remembered stopping and getting out of the bus to stretch his legs.

It wasn’t until later in my research I learned this rest stop happened in my hometown of Vermilion, Ohio. If my cousin, best friend and myself (we went to the concert together the next night) would’ve had advance notice, we could have jumped on our bikes for an annoying (on our part anyway) meet and greet in the parking lot where the Beatles smoked cigarettes and ate ice cream bars.

I’m thankful Bobby’s interview is in the book. The only problem is that it’s not the one I had planned. After a casual, informative, and fun conversation, I thanked him, and we hung up. Then I experienced every journalist and writer’s nightmare when it comes to doing important interviews.

I had forgotten to turn on my audio recorder. Yeah, it was panic time, which makes it seem this story is not as cool as promised. However, it’s about to get cooler.

I put my nerves and mental embarrassment aside and redialed his number. When Bobby answered I explained my dilemma, apologized if I was being a pain in the you-know-what and asked if he had any other plans. In other words, could we do it all again with the audio recorder turned on?

Only one person in this photo had the current #1 song!

And this is once again when he proved he was a nice guy – and very cool. Saying it was not a problem, he waited for me to hit “record” and once again took me back to the 1966 tour with the Beatles, the Cleveland concert, and his memory of a bus stop in my hometown.

On a sad note, Bobby Hebb is not with us anymore, passing away only four years later in 2010. But he’s still with us whenever you hear a new version of Sunny (there are many) or played on a classic pop-rock radio station (and there are also many of those). That’s the beauty of music, and this one carries with it the fab memories of a nice guy who was also very cool, and the excitement we were all feeling in August 1966.

Have a comment? Please use the contact form below and as always… keep rockin’!


Wish there was a video of Bobby Hebb performing Sunny in 1966 – but a great song is a great song…


Be sure to follow The Classic Rocker as we count down to the #1 Dream Song!

Keep Rockin!

Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

For information about author presentations for both books – including rare concert films – visit BeatlesProgram.com

Copyright 2021 – North Shore Publishing

#138 and 139 – Baby Blue

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#138 & 139 – Baby Blue by Badfinger

Badfinger

I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but The Classic Rocker is all about memories. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but The Classic… oh, wait. Sometimes I do.

So, after making that guideline clear and understandable, let me say this song brings back a big one. Except there’s a twist. Baby Blue had nothing to do with the following memory. It had already been a hit decades before and wasn’t even being played while I had an experienced memory of a lifetime.

Baby Blue appears on my digital playlists more than any other song by Badfinger. That’s saying a lot because this band had four fab hits within a short time period in the late sixties and early seventies that I still enjoy. In addition to Baby Blue, I’m referring to Come and Get It, No Matter What and Day After Day. And the use of fab was on purpose since the Badfinger quartet was signed to Apple Records, which was owned by the original Fab Four quartet.

Badfinger with George

It also didn’t hurt that their first hit was written and produced by Paul McCartney, and they were introduced as members of George Harrison’s backup band during The Concert for Bangladesh. But after Baby Blue was released in 1972 and scored as another big hit on college radio, the band’s story turned tragic. The dark side of the music business hit these guys full force with devastating bad deals and lost fortunes resulting in two suicides within the group. It wasn’t anywhere near the rock and roll lifestyle fantasy you’d expect for a band scoring hits on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.

Come and Get It!

Baby Blue turned up twice as a Dream Song thanks to the mysterious workings of the waking mind. As mentioned, it’s frequently on my playlists which is probably why it appears twice in the recent memory category. In other words, I had just heard it. And both times, on September 29 and November 28, my waking brain forgot to remember about my days rocking out to college radio. Instead, it took a mysterious turn to a sold-out show decades later in a comedy club.

Here’s the story…

In the fall of 1994, my wife Deceptive Deb (not exactly a handed-down traditional family name) and I were still newlyweds and about five months into our permanent arrangement of everlasting love. Since we weren’t exactly teenagers (far from it), one of our dreams was to have a baby and still be young enough to enjoy hanging out with him or her before we’re the ones being fitted out for diapers and daycare. Our clock was ticking but we didn’t know when – or even if – it would happen.

I had also just embarked on a new career as a newspaper columnist. Yes, in 1994 people still read newspapers. It was only after I realized they weren’t that The Classic Rocker was born as a digital, online rambling of words.

One of my weekly columns was about the comedy scene in Cleveland, Ohio. Since I had worked with many comedians during my career in New York and Los Angeles, this employment meant I’d get to hang around with my friends when they were in the city and watch their shows in clubs and theaters without paying for anything. Not a bad gig, except when I’d receive my paychecks and realized the newspaper was also keeping me hanging around without paying for anything.


The Classic Rocker is the author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland

For details, visit our Author Page on Amazon.com


A couple weeks in advance I learned one of our favorite comedians would be performing at a large comedy club in Cleveland called Hilarities. This was a huge venue for a “club” and could seat over five hundred comedy fans per show. Thanks to the comic’s popularity his shows were sold out, but also thanks to my important newspaper credentials, Deceptive Deb and I would have a table in a prime location two or three rows from center stage on a Friday night.

In the days before this laugh fest, I remember walking into our kitchen a few times to find Deceptive Deb in the middle of low-key, almost whispering, phone conversations. What’s up with that? But after delivering that standard question I would receive the standard “You’re an idiot” look that husbands can detect from great distances. Even as a newlywed I had already learned it’s best to play the part of an idiot in these cases and not to ask any more questions.

We arrived for the comedy show and nothing about the evening seemed any different than the countless times we had been at the club before. The owner and manager had become friends and we were led to our table at the prime location. We ordered drinks and it didn’t faze me that Deceptive Deb had a Pepsi while I went for a beer. I figured that was a clear signal she would be the designated driver and I might have another (or two) by the end of the night.

We watched the two opening comics and were ready for the show’s headliner. But instead of the MC appearing on stage to make the introduction, the manager walked up to the microphone and asked for the audience’s attention. Probably not expecting the unexpected, it seemed like all five hundred (plus) people in the showroom quieted down and waited for him to make an important announcement. I had no idea what he would say and thought maybe some lucky audience member would be gifted with a new car or a free vacation to a tropical island.

It was neither. Oprah was not in the audience.

He was holding a champagne bucket filled with ice and a bottle of bubbly decorated with bows and ribbons. Once again, I had no idea and might have assumed it was for somebody’s birthday or possibly Oprah’s arrival.

It was neither. Instead, he called out my name and asked if I was in the audience. Okay…

He knew I was in the audience since he had walked us to our table and had even hung out for a few moments to talk. A bit caught off guard but always ready to roll with the punch(lines), I went with the “joke,” raised my hand and called out, “I’m over here!” He looked at me, held up the bucket and said, “This is for you!”

What was up with that? I had no clue…

He walked off stage and came to our table, bringing the microphone with him. The spotlights followed and next thing we knew, Deceptive Deb and I were the stars of the show. He placed the champagne bucket on the table and handed me an envelope. But before I had a chance to open it, he told me to stand and read it out loud into the microphone.

I still had no clue. But I did know this…

The Classic Rocker has no problem being the center of attention and talking in public. It’s called “showbiz” and when the spotlight is on – I’m on!

I stood up, opened the card, and started reading. The sold-out audience stayed quiet, probably hoping I would change my name to Oprah and award them with cars or vacations. Deceptive Deb stayed seated and looked as confused as I did with everything that was going on.

Note to the Academy Awards – this moment should have earned her a nomination for Best Actress. I continued to read into the microphone…

“Congratulations!” the card said on the front. I opened it – still with no clue – and continued out loud…

“You’ve knocked-up your wife!”

The next few memory moments are a blur, but I’ll guarantee they included shock and surprise. I have a mental picture of looking up with bulging eyes and a wide-open mouth as the audience erupted with BIG cheers and applause. Deceptive Deb stood up, we hugged and… Well, like I said, it was and still is a blur.

It turned out her whispered and secretive phone calls were setting me up for this big moment. Nice one… to say the least!!

We must have eventually sat down because I’ve retained a memory of not standing through the rest of the evening. The champagne cork was popped and I’m sure I had a glass of the bubbly and Deceptive Deb possibly a sip or two, before it was time to continue the show. After the headliner, who was (and still is) known as one of the funniest insult comedians in the biz and someone I’d known for years, was introduced he stood on stage and glared at our table. He finally spoke into the microphone:

“My show was f***’n delayed for YOU?!”

Again, the audience cheered, I waved, and we were back to laughing. If there was a category in Dream Songs for the best comedy show I’ve ever attended, this was it.

So, to get back to what we were talking about earlier, Baby Blue was never heard that night. But hearing it today brings back the blur of that evening, which was also my first experience with a baby of our own. Things were never really the same after that, my baby blue


For whatever reasons, WordPress won’t allow me to include a video of Badfinger performing Baby Blue. But you can check it out on YouTube at this LINK.


Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

For information about author presentations for both books – including rare concert films – visit BeatlesProgram.com

Copyright 2021 – North Shore Publishing

#140 and 141 – California Sun

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#140 & 141 – California Sun by The Rivieras

Surfin’ all the way from Indiana!

People my age can be really annoying bragging how things were in “the good old days.” Especially when it’s aimed at generations currently living in the time they’ll look back on as their “good old days.” Based on my memories, a lot of it wasn’t all that much better and I’m happy to be dealing with things in the “current days.” If you need examples, my list includes better meds (health care), seat belts (better safe than sorry) and even better frozen foods (aluminum tray TV dinners vs. microwave meals).

The best reason I’d ever have to go back in time would be to tell the youthful me to “smarten-up!”

However, as you may have noticed, these Classic Rocker ramblings are all about going back in time. So, is the joke on me? I don’t think so because if I was forced to clarify, I’d call it what it is – reminiscing. Music brings back memories, which can be fun, enlightening or even nightmarish to recall. There’s nothing wrong with that and I enjoy doing it here (you’re welcome very much). But when all is said and done, I would rather be waking up in my own bed – today – instead of in an era before the internet, laptop computers, cell phones and streaming music.

Speaking of waking up in my own bed…

That’s how California Sun joined this Dream Song List – not once, but twice. First was on September 29th and again November 28th. I must have been dreaming about escaping to a warm Pacific coast beach during a couple chilly fall nights near the north coast of Cleveland, Ohio.

Speaking of up north…

The best-known version of this song is by the surf band, The Rivieras, who also came from up north. If you don’t believe me, look at a map. The group formed in South Bend, Indiana, which in the 1960’s had a music scene about as far from the surf as London, England.

Speaking of England…

California Sun can also be seen – if you imagine a pop music map with your mind – as a line drawn in the beach sand separating “the good old days” for people older than me and “OMG!” For boomers my age lacking benefit of Gen-X’er or Millennial hanging around the house, that translates into, “Oh my gosh!”

In other words, it signifies a great divide.

The song was released in January 1964. Boomers will immediately know what happened the month after because the music scene went through the OMG big change I referred to above and one we’re still trying to explain to younger generations. California Sun has been called the last American rock and roll hit record before The Beatles and The British Invasion.

Aging punk rockers with “good old days” that are not as far back (but close) will undoubtedly remember the version by The Ramones that was also featured in the classic 1979 movie Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy may not have a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame membership for being a New York City surf band out of the clubs in lower Manhattan, but they were geographically closer to an ocean than The Rivieras in South Bend.

Surf’s Up!

But I need to stick with The Rivieras with this edition of Dream Songs since it was their record that rode a double wave onto this list. I had recently added the song to my digital playlist, inspiring me to cure my wife Disco Deb’s insomnia with the following reminiscence. So, for that reason it charts on the recently heard category rather than as a non-prescription sleep aid.

Let’s discuss the “good old days” of vinyl records…

I hate to disappoint my fellow classic rockers, but I lack the mania we once had for vinyl records. I’m not into the cracks, pops, fizzes, and other sounds that accompany the music we were meant to hear on disks dragging a stereo (or hi-fi) needle around in circles on a turn table. I’ve also had my fill of accidental scratches, needle jumps, sun warps and worn-out grooves we suffered through before 8-tracks and cassettes became state-of-the-art replacements. Imagine how psyched we were to play our songs in a moving car! Currently I’m more than happy with my digital playlists and can stay home downloading favorite tunes while collectors are out re-buying re-issued vinyl during industry-driven “record days.”

Hey wait… Don’t go broken record on me and repeat over and over that something must be warped in my boomer brain for admitting to that. We learned in the 1960’s we have choices and that’s mine. I’m a proud veteran of “the good old days” when records were the only way to hear a song other than waiting for a deejay to play it on the radio. And during that time, I was a dedicated vinyl head.

State-of-the-art sounds!

For my segment of baby boomers that were young teens or preteens, the start of The British Invasion on February 9, 1964 was ground zero for vinyl record collecting. Only a year or two before, the pop-rock music scene was missing the dangerous excitement that came from the original rock ‘n’ rollers. I mean… seriously… Pat Boone singing Tutti Frutti? But once The Beatles hit the charts and other English groups followed on their collarless jacket coattails, kids within walking distance or bike ride to a record store could scrape up enough change to buy the latest hits.

I was no different. But I had to be careful with my funds.

Being a pre-teen in a family that had a family business, having a job was a given. In fact, it was given to me when I really didn’t even want it. But the main benefit was the weekly pay envelope. With money I’d earned stuffed in my pocket and only a short bike ride to a store with a record department, I started a collection of vinyl 45 rpm singles that I had previously only been able to hear on Top 40 AM radio stations.

Now I could own these records! That was a big deal…

But not all the singles being sold in our local stores would go down as classics. In fact, many of them weren’t even played on the radio. That meant the sellers were stuck with dozens of unheard and unwanted records. So, they did what merchants have done in the decades before and since.

They came up with gimmicks.

One of these ploys was to take five random non-selling 45 rpm’s and packaging them into one “surprise” bag. You never knew what records were in the bag, but you would have five to take home for only one dollar. That was a lot of money for pre-teens in 1964 when hit singles were priced at about sixty cents, but some of us were born to gamble.

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In 1964 our town had a new outdoor shopping center, which would today be described as a strip mall. It was just a mile or two east and appeared state-of-the art when compared to the older buildings in our downtown area. It had a good variety of stores and we could ride there on our bikes.

The shopping center had a pretty good variety of stores. There were two grocery stores (A&P and Kroger), a drug store (Marshall’s) with a good-sized lunch / dinner counter that was popular in those types of stores back then. There was a men’s clothes store, a couple women’s clothes stores, and one that I’ll call a hardware store. It was Western Auto (they might still be around) and it’s where we went to buy streamers, lights, banana seats and handlebars (boomers will remember those) and stuff like batteries, flashlights and I’ll assume – though I couldn’t drive at the time – accessories for cars (autos).

One item I distinctly remember was displayed on a glass counter near the cash register. It was a pinkish-red solid body electric guitar. I have no idea what brand it was or even if it would sound good. I just knew it looked cool and I wanted it. I’ll also assume a lot of pop music influenced guys in our town did also. But I didn’t know anyone my age that could afford it. I remember getting a “No” from my mother since it was considered an expensive item at the time and I had no clue how to play it. So, every bike ride to the shopping center included a few moments spent in Western Auto paying respects to this out-of-reach, state-of-the art instrument.

Next to Western Auto was a “Five and Dime Store” called Ben Franklin’s. Again, I think there are a few still around, but probably few and far between. It seemed to have everything in stock from clothes to school items to candy to… yeah, you know what’s coming – records.

As a preteen I remember they had a decent number of records for sale. Not everything I wanted – I’d have to go shopping with my mom and dad to bigger cities for the best selection – but it was possible to find something that was fab enough to buy for about sixty cents and bring home. I also remember it being the first place I had seen photos and posters of The Beatles on sale.

Ben Franklin’s is also where I fell for the gimmick mentioned above. They had “surprise bags” on sale for a dollar and it caught my interest…

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I only fell for it a few times before I “smartened-up” and realized almost none of these records were worth listening to. In showbiz terms they were duds.

But in one of these packages was California Sun by The Rivieras. I had never heard it since American rock ‘n’ roll was practically non-existent on our transistor radios during The British Invasion. And surprise of “surprises” – it was good. With The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean already making breakthroughs over the airwaves and turning us on to the California Sound, this was ground zero (surf-breaker?) for me.

California Sun was the lone survivor from that “good old days” era and is probably (hopefully) collecting dust in a collector’s collection. Then again, I still have a few stacks of vinyl 45’s hidden away in my “secret” storage space. It could be there with the original British Invasion records I’m still proud to own but have no intention of playing again.

And there’s really no reason to when so many favorite songs are stored on my digital playlist. It’ll make it so much easier than carrying a box of vinyl if I decided – once again – to go chasing the sunshine in California.

Here’s a video looking back at “the good old days” of baby boomers digging the California Sun:

They’re out there having fun in the warm California Sun!

To purchase California Sun The Best of The Rivieras visit Amazon.com

Have a comment? I’d love to hear from you. Thanks – and keep rockin’!

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2021 – North Shore Publishing

#142 and 143 – Walk On The Wild Side

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#142 and 143 – Walk On The Wild Side

#142 & 143 – Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed

I had a college roommate I didn’t like very much. That’s okay, because I’m sure he didn’t like me at all. We only shared a room for one quarter of a school year, which was enough. The guy moved out and I never saw him again. But that doesn’t mean my adventures with his “family” were over.

I can’t remember why we antagonized each other. It was never to the point where we had heated arguments or even close. It’s just that he was as annoying as I was, and we got on each other’s nerves. It’s no wonder I had the best grade point average of my entire college career during that quarter because I spent more time in the library than I did in our room.

So, what’s the connection between one of my many (maybe I was the problem?) college roommates and Lou Reed? I don’t think there was any really, if you know anything about Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol. But there was a common denominator:

Walk On The Wild Side.

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Andy Warhol and Lou Reed

This song joined the Dream Song List twice on December 26 and almost a year to the day later on December 24. This gives Walk On The Wild Side a very special status – and I’m not talking about a December holiday theme. If you’ve read about how this countdown works, the more times a song appears causes it to rank higher on the list. Every song up to now has been a one-hit, one-wakeup wonder.

Walk On The Wild Side is the first repeat, which gives us new meaning to the term – Deuces Are Wild. It’s also wild I hadn’t heard it in a while, unlike during the time we shared a room. I’ll explain that in moment, but for right now it joins the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

I’m not going to make any allegations my former roommate walked on the wild side. At least not in the way Lou Reed describes it. And as a college freshman, I didn’t either, unless it involved draft beer and cute girls.

But I found out a couple years later his “family” did.

The reason I’m writing about this lost college connection (I honestly can’t remember his first name) revolves around his late night radio habit. He would fall asleep listening to music, which means I did too.

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Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

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The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

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Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

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I’m not complaining about the bedtime tunes since this Classic Rocker was a rocker before these songs were considered classic. In fact, the only fun memory of this guy is having his radio on and hearing Walk On The Wild Side every night before falling asleep. And when I say “every night” I mean it. The station we listened to had this on heavy play rotation during that entire school quarter.

Even decades later when I hear the song, I can immediately picture every detail of our room including bunk beds, desks, chairs, closets and one phone hung on the wall. I used it every Wednesday at 6 pm to call home and say hello to my family.

It became obvious to me later that my family was much different than his “family.”

Okay, I don’t want to make any allegations or give you the wrong idea when I write “family.” It wasn’t like The Godfather or… Oh wait. Yeah, I guess it was.

A year or two later I took a week-long summer road trip to New England’s Cape Cod with one of my best friends, who was also a college fraternity brother. We camped out on sand dunes, ate seafood and hung out at the beach. At night we looked for clubs with draft beer and cute girls.

In retrospective, it was sort of like being in summer school.

In a wild twist of fate, it turned out my ex-roommate’s older brother had attended our same college and was also a member of our fraternity. I had never met him since I was younger, but my pal did. Since he lived close by at his “family” home in Connecticut, a phone call was made and we were invited to the house for an overnight stay.

To be honest, I was a bit worried about the reception I’d have waiting for me, but it turned out very cool. The older brother asked why we hadn’t gotten along, and I answered honestly. I said he annoyed me, and I annoyed him. That was good enough and we had a good laugh. It was also helpful that the brother in question wasn’t there with us.

We ended up having a big Italian dinner with our frat brother, his parents and a few other family members. Then, I’m not sure when the subject came up, but I’ll go ahead and say it was helped by a few glasses of red wine with our pasta. The real family name of our hosts was the same “family” name of a notorious New York Mafia chief.

No lie. But wait. It gets better… Or scarier, if you prefer.

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The notorious gangster who was the real life uncle to the family we were staying with that night had been in the news not too long before. It wasn’t for a big trial, big heist or big insider story. He had been gunned down by a rival “family” on a sidewalk in New York’s Little Italy district.

Yeah, let’s make that scarier rather than getting better… If you prefer (I do). Talk about taking a walk on the wild side…

But to be honest, I’ll stop with the dramatics. I actually felt quite safe even after knowing the “family” connections. I thought if there was any trouble during the night, this group would know how to “go to the mattresses” (Godfather reference for movie novices) while my pal and I could sleep safe in an upstairs bedroom at their large house.

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Looking cool?

We had decided the next day to make a quick trip into New York City before heading home. I was reminded by our host that I had talked during dinner (and wine) about wanting a black, pin-striped suit. We had seen the movie A Clockwork Orange during a rainy afternoon on Cape Cod and for some reason, I thought Malcom McDowell looked cool wearing one.

Tony (our host’s real name, but I’ll keep the last name to myself to avoid needing a witness protection program) walked us to our car and handed me a folded piece of paper. I opened it and saw an address on Mulberry Street in Lower Manhattan’s Little Italy neighborhood. He said to go to the address and tell them he sent us. They’ll take care of me.

Okay…

We drove into Manhattan and found the address on Mulberry Street. It was a men’s clothing store, so we walked in and announced that Tony had sent us. All of a sudden, we had another new “friend” who seemed to be the owner or guardian (or tailor?) of the store. I asked about a black pin-striped suit and he showed me a really nice one in my size. The problem was that it had a very expensive (at least for a college student) price tag. It’s hard to remember exactly, but I’ll guess it was in the $300 range, which was a lot of money for a college student – especially all those years ago.

I told him thanks but no thanks. I couldn’t afford it. But he didn’t seem to be the type of guy who would take no for an answer…

“No problem,” he said, and came down on the price. I still couldn’t do it, so he lowered it again – and even again, if I would pay cash. Our negotiations – me saying no and him coming down in price – continued until we hit $99. Even me (as a college student) knew that was a good deal, but then something happened.

Godfather 150

The head of the family

I must have assumed some of the cockiness Malcom McDowell had in A Clockwork Orange and thought I could get him to cut the price even more, so I refused again. That’s when I realized my assumed movie character was negotiating with one that was closer to Marlon Brando’s in The Godfather.

I remember it started to get a little scary. Don Corleone… or the tailor… began losing his temper and was mad about wasting his time. I had a feeling he was about to “go to the mattresses” and his sights would be aimed at me. I thought the best deal for me was to get out of there – in a hurry.

I turned, walked out of the store and headed toward our parked car. I think there were a few choice words aimed in my direction, but at least I felt a little safer outside, until realizing the head of the “family” where we had stayed the night before might have felt the same way on a Little Italy sidewalk – until bullets started flying in his direction. I also realized $99 was a darn good price for a new suit.

My friend agreed. But in his case, he might have been thinking of my purchase as a peace offering and personal protection, rather than me looking stylish.

I handed him the money with instructions to go back buy the suit. He did, telling Don Corleone… uh, the tailor, that his friend (me) was an idiot to pass up such a deal and that he wanted to buy it for himself. He came back, handed me the suit and I tossed it into our car. Without looking back, we made our getaway uptown where we spent a much calmer afternoon walking around Rockefeller Center before starting the long drive back to our home turf.

I can’t remember where I ever wore the suit, since being stylish in college meant bellbottom jeans and nothing resembling anything seen in A Clockwork Orange or The Godfather. But I can still picture it in my mind looking cool hanging in the closet as a reminder of my Walk On The Wild Side.

Here’s a video of Lou Reed performing Walk On The Wild Side at Farm Aid in 1985.

To purchase the Transformer LP with Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed, visit Amazon.com

Have a comment? I’d love to hear from you. Thanks – and keep rockin’!

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2021 – North Shore Publishing

#144 – Ding Dong, Ding Dong

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#144 – Ding Dong, Ding Dong by George Harrison

George Harrison

For a Classic Rocker like myself, this song has become more of a New Year’s tradition than the previous chart-topper of New Year’s tradition songs, Auld Lang Syne. That one was geared for our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Then again, this George Harrison singalong probably already has that same reputation with generations younger than the boomers.

It’s funny how age will do that. And it’s a guarantee – like turning the pages on a calendar.

Even though I remember reading Harrison wrote this to be a New Year’s “ring out the old, ring in the new” celebration song, I don’t quite remember getting that message when it was included on the Dark Horse album that came out in December 1974. There had been a lot of excitement the month before over Harrison’s (and any Beatle) first solo tour of North America and the the LP’s first single, also called Dark Horse. Ding Dong, Ding Dong seemed to be a hidden gem only heard after purchasing the album.

In other words, I don’t remember this being a radio hit. At least not during the 1974 holiday season.

Harrisongs in concert

I purchased the Dark Horse LP when it was released. But the bigger excitement was scoring tickets to one of Harrison’s two concerts at Richfield Coliseum (Cleveland, Ohio) that was supposed to take place on December 2, 1974. I say supposed because both shows were cancelled due to a major snowstorm. They were never rescheduled – but that’s not even the worst part of this sad story…

On the day of the show, my girlfriend and I had at least a two-hour drive from our college to the Coliseum. And that would be with no snow covering the highways and back roads. We listened to radio updates all morning with deejays reporting roads were almost impassable, but the concerts had not been cancelled. Harrison would be on stage whether we were there or not.

So we took off in my Chevy Vega station wagon, which was great for hauling stuff to college, but not exactly known as an all-weather vehicle. An hour into our drive we were still only about ten miles from campus, but the radio reports were egging us on. Finally, the announcement came.

Harrison couldn’t get to Cleveland and shows were officially cancelled.

Making a U-turn on a snowy and slippery road, my trusty Vega slid into a ditch. In the days when cell phones were nothing more than a space age wristband in a Dick Tracy cartoon, we sat and waited until a tow truck – obviously making emergency runs up and down the highway – stopped and pulled us out. We eventually made it back to campus in time to declare our concert night would now be transformed into a frat party night.

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Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

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And if it adds to the story, this was the only time in my life I had grown a beard. I doubt it looked good at all, but it was 1974 which was an era stuck post-Woodstock and pre-disco. With that excuse in mind, a beard seemed like a good fashion statement at the time – right up there with leisure suits and platform shoes.

So, to “protest” (yes, that’s the term I used after only one or two beers) the delay in cancelling the concert, I shaved the beard off that night. I’ve never had one since.

What I have had since are plenty of Dream Songs and this one joined the list on July 17th. Yeah, I know – far from New Year’s Eve, but I have no control over the just-waking mind. I sometimes wonder if I even have any control over an already-awakened mind, but that’s another mental concept I’ll need to drag from my personal ditch in the future.

But I am conscious enough to admit I own a copy of Ding Dong, Ding Dong and adhere to no seasonal restrictions when adding it to a digital playlist. In other words, I had just heard the song, so it enters this Dream Song List in the recently heard category.

Since there have been references to New Year’s Eve in this Classic Rocker rambling, it seems only fair there should be a corresponding memory. Okay, here’s one…

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About two and a half decades following the release of Dark Horse and Ding Dong, Ding Dong I was managing the top comedy club in New York City. Based in the West Side Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, we were only a couple blocks from Times Square where – if you know anything about New Year’s Eve in Manhattan – thousands of partying tourists gather to watch the ball drop at midnight.

A Beatle at the NYC Improv

Dick Clark and a whole slew of celebrities make it a celebration while nightclubs, like The Improv comedy club where I had been hired to maintain some type of control, were packed with sold-out audiences.

I won’t mince any words in saying I view New Year’s Eve as “amateur night.” I know you’ve heard the term and I won’t take any credit for making it up. I just lived it too often and learned through experience I’d rather work in a nightclub then try to live up to everyone’s party expectations. I always had just as much fun (probably more) and was paid to do it.

After this particular New Year’s Eve 3-show comedy club extravaganza, I locked the front door and looked forward to heading downtown to my Gramercy Park neighborhood for late night hanging out with friends. In NYC a special holiday license allowed bars to stay open until 8 am on New Year’s and my fellow working pals would just be getting together a few hours before that. So we would have plenty of time to ring in the year at our local watering hole.

Along with my girlfriend (a different one from above) and a best pal I had invited to be my guests for the late comedy show, we stood on the corner of West 44th Street and 9th Avenue looking for a taxi. BUT since the Times Square thousands were also looking for rides and carried a well-earned, decades-old reputation for being more than a little inebriated after hours of partying in the streets, taxis were not picking up anyone.

As each red light turned green, countless cabs drove past us with their “Not In Service” lights turned on.

“Yo taxi!!”

It looked like we were going to be in for a long night / early morning wait for a miracle cab. It was either that or riding a packed subway with booze-saturated amateurs or making a long cold walk downtown. None of these choices would be a great way to kick off a New Year.

Then my adopted New York street smarts took over…

During the umpteenth red light with mobs of tourists filling the streets with the same objective, I went for broke. I ran out into the intersection and slapped a twenty dollar bill on the windshield of an off-duty taxi. I yelled through the window at the driver, “This is yours on top of the fare AND a tip!

He looked at me and said, “Get in.

I jumped in the back with my two companions and laughed as we drove off, leaving everyone without New York street smarts behind. We made it downtown and hooked up with more friends in plenty of time for our own New Year’s celebration and great advice for anyone desperate to find a taxi in an overcrowded city.

Ding Dong, Ding Dong. The lyrics, “Ring out the old, ring in the new” is the message in this song. But sometimes old traditions make a lot of sense. In this case the age-old advice simple:

Money talks.

Here is the first music video George Harrison ever made for one of his single records:

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To purchase the Dark Horse LP with Ding Dong, Ding Dong by George Harrison, visit Amazon.com

Have a comment? Please use the form below. Thanks – and keep rockin’!

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2021 – North Shore Publishing

#145 – Footloose

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#145 – Footloose by Kenny Loggins

 – I couldn’t even imagine what my favorite memory about this song would be when it came out in 1984. Let’s just start by saying I was pleasantly blindsided by Footloose, and it only took a little over three decades for it to happen.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Movie fans will know Footloose was the title song for the 1984 Kevin Bacon star-maker movie of the same name. Okay, I know he earned a lot of notice for supporting roles in Animal House and Diner, but this is the one that put him on posters hung in teenaged girls’ bedrooms and convinced a lot of shy guy teens that dancing could be a way to get noticed by those girls. For the boomer generation it would be comparable to the beach party movies of the 1960’s. The main difference was the costume designers were inspired by Stetsons, jeans and boots, rather than bleached hair, bikinis and baggies (for you surfer dudes).

He’s a dancing machine!

But Footloose wasn’t just a hit for the rural teenage crowd. I remember seeing it with my girlfriend at a theater in New York City and enjoying the music and energy. It wasn’t a classic like Animal House and Diner, but it was a fun night out. There’s also a good chance we went line dancing in an urban club afterwards.

The song by 80’s hit-maker Kenny Loggins was on every jukebox in New York City during the winter of 1984. And if no one sacrificed a quarter to play it, chances were good you’d still hear it. Since MTV was actually a music video station at the time, television sets hanging over every bar would rely on the channel for a background soundtrack. Since the Footloose music video was in heavy rotation, you could look up once or twice every hour to view clips of Loggins lip-syncing and Bacon boot scootin’.

The song scooted through my mind on the morning of January 27. I didn’t own a copy at that time even though I do know, thanks to the explanation why coming shortly. But I couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard it, so this 80’s dream-maker joins the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

Looking back three decades, I always felt January in NYC was the dreariest time of year. I loved the holiday decorations that filled the city with lights and a festive mood through December and until after the New Year’s celebrations, but January is when they all came down. Along with everybody’s celebratory spirits.

Christmas in the city.

Okay, that’s not true because there was always something exciting to do in the city. It just seemed good to write that to raise the dramatic effect for my following story.

So, to continue, when the Christmas lights came down it signaled the start of a long cold wait until spring.

I was never a fan of that mood shift and did my best to prolong the season and avoid the dreary. I’m pretty sure my best effort was during the winter of Footloose. At the time I was managing and bartending at a cozy restaurant in Gramercy Park. And since I had some, very slight control over the place, I told the staff to leave the Christmas lights up a little longer than usual.

In fact, if I had my way Christmas lights would be a year round decorative mainstay.

————————————————————————

Have you finished your holiday shopping?

Give them three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

————————————————————————

When you think about it, they pretty much are when you visit tropical island resorts – whether in the tropics or Manhattan – or even as summer lighting at many outdoor restaurants today. Wish I could take credit for that, but I doubt our place in Gramercy Park would qualify as an inspiration. Plus my request didn’t last as long as I wanted. When the owners were calling the shots during one of my days off, I came back to work to find the only exciting light came from MTV videos on the television over the bar. The decorations had been packed away in the restaurant’s basement for another year.

But that didn’t prevent me from making my point at home.

We had celebrated Christmas with a real tree in my apartment on East 22nd Street. After it had dried out enough to be declared a fire hazard, we took off the lights and decorations and moved it outside onto my small balcony. I felt it gave us a forest view rather than an urban view when looking out of the window. Plus, it looked great after a snowfall. Another bonus was as a guaranteed conversation starter if we had guests or when any of my friends felt like shouting three floors up from the sidewalk with jokes about my outdoor decorating skills.

A little too late

That particular Christmas tree lasted until May when it became too obvious enough was enough. Spring had sprung in the city and it was time to sweep off the dried needles and get the hibachi and a couple of chairs ready for summer.

It was time for the disposal…

Manhattan bars and restaurants could stay open until 4 am, which is when my shift would start to end. I say “start” because that was when the regular customers had to leave. I would need to close up, count the money and clean up (a bit anyway), while making sure I kept a few friends’ glasses full, so I’d have late-night company. It was a cheap way to avoid being in a dark Midtown Manhattan bar alone. On this particular night, my girlfriend was part of this posse since we still had another job to do later.

We knew garbage pickup was that morning and we needed to have our final Christmas relic off the balcony and on the curb.

We walked up to 22nd Street and she waited on the sidewalk while I took the elevator upstairs. I opened the sliding door to our balcony, grabbed the tree (if I forgot to tell you it was large – it was), and dangled it over the metal railing. I waited for her to give me the “okay” sign and when she signaled no one else was in sight, I let it go.

The tree fell three floors and hit the sidewalk with a soft explosion of dried pine needles.

I took the elevation down and dragged it to the curb where we left it resting on top of the building’s garbage pile. Then laughed for a few weeks imaging the faces on the pickup crew. They had to be at least a bit confused wondering what kind of misfits would wait until May to throw out their Christmas tree.

Ho, ho, ho!

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Okay, fast forward three decades.

The movie Footloose was turned into a Broadway musical in 1998. It’s gone on to be a favorite production in theaters around the world. In 2016 it was being produced as an Equity (that’s the actor’s union and a big deal) show in a large outdoor venue near us. And as luck would have it, our son Paul was cast as Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon’s role). I’m sure my wife Dancin’ Deb and I weren’t there for every show, but we came pretty close. We also dragged as many family and friends as possible to watch his star-making, and Equity-card earning performance.

And as chance would have it, Kevin Bacon and his band The Bacon Brothers had a gig one evening just a few miles away. No, don’t get your hopes up for a BIG surprise because he didn’t make an appearance. Of course, I still can’t figure out why since I sent him a personal invitation via Twitter to check out the new kid who was getting the dancing ban lifted in Bomont, Texas. If you know the movie or the show, you know what I’m referring to. I’m also sure Bacon didn’t know me, but since The Classic Rocker is so…

Okay. On second thought, maybe he didn’t see the tweet.

The bottom line is as an over-enthusiastic and over-proud stage dad, The Classic Rocker not only owns a copy of the song Footloose, but also the entire Broadway show soundtrack. And as a small admission of guilt that only those of you reading this far will know, my playlist includes our son’s live performance. It’s lucky we have recording devices small enough to fit in a dad’s pocket and not noticeable to theater ushers.

Unlike a Christmas tree on a New York City apartment balcony in May.

For my own entertainment purposes, I’ll throw in an extra video. Below is the Kenny Loggins / Kevin Bacon 1984 MTV mainstay. Following that, I hope you’ll stick around long enough to enjoy an energetic curtain call as Paul makes his bow memorable during his reign as Ren more than three decades later. Yep, just call me an over-enthusiastic and over-proud stage dad.

Here’s a video of Kids Gone Wild from the movie Footloose. Oh yeah, vocals by Kenny Loggins:

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And for an energetic curtain call, here’s son Paul as Ren McCormack about three decades later:

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To purchase the movie soundtrack with Footloose by Kenny Loggins, visit Amazon.com

Have a comment? Please use the form below. Thanks – and keep rockin’!

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2020 – North Shore Publishing

What Happened? New Book – That’s What!

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Something To Laugh About

If you haven’t noticed (I was hoping you would), The Classic Rocker has been unusually quiet for the past five months. Don’t worry, there are plenty of songs and stories yet to come on our countdown to number one on the Dream Song List. And yeah, I know what that song is – it’s just taking a bit longer than expected to get there.

Why? Thanks for asking…

During the shut-down of 2020 I finally got around to finishing my latest book. It’s not about The Beatles (even though the group is mentioned more than a few times, along with The Rolling Stones, The Monkees and yes – even Britney Spears). But don’t let an absence of the classic rock theme stop you from reading.

The theme is my other passion – humor and laughter.

Something to Laugh About is available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com and all online book sellers. Also signed copies at TheComedyBook.com.

Here are the details…

Something To Laugh About: 144 Essays On Being A Guy, Parenting, Holidays & Stuff Other People Think Is Funny

By Dave Schwensen / North Shore Publishing / 353 pages

Something To Laugh About is a collection of 144 stories, experiences, observations, imaginations, exaggerations, lists, truths, half-truths, true lies and basically, stuff author Dave Schwensen thought was funny enough to write about every week in his syndicated humor column that went by the same name. This weekly and family-friendly 800 word effort appeared in newspapers during the first decade of the 2000’s and won an award for Best Original Column in the U.S. state of the author’s origin, which happens to be on the south shore of Lake Erie near The Home of Rock ‘n’ Roll (we know you can figure it out based on those two hints).

The purpose behind Something To Laugh About is to show a different outlook on everyday life. Humor can often be found right in front of us if we just take the time to stop, look and eavesdrop… uh, we mean listen. And if there is a common thread meant to be shared throughout these personal insights, we’ll go with the most obvious: fun. It was fun writing them and hope they’re just as much fun for you to read.

If you need more incentive to dig into this massive volume of nonsense, these 144 blasts of 800 words can be devoured in short segments. You can pick it up, read one or two and drop it back down almost anywhere – to be picked up again later. And to borrow instructions from a bottle of shampoo, you then repeat the process.

We’ve all heard laughter is good medicine. Dave believes it should be taken every day and when possible, passed along to anyone who might need some. Something To Laugh About is divided into four sections with the author sharing his insights into being a guy, being a parent, and being a guy and a parent during holidays. But he can’t accept all the credit or in some cases, all the blame since he wasn’t the only one laughing and contributing. Jokes, lists and stories sent in by readers were always encouraged and fill up the Audience Participation section in this book.

In addition to being an award winning humor columnist and journalist, Dave is the former talent coordinator for the television show A&E’s An Evening at the Improv, The Improv comedy clubs in New York and Los Angeles, a nationally recognized comedy coach, corporate trainer and entertainer, and pop culture enthusiast.

Reviews:

“Dave has a way of capturing the everyday travails of life and relating them in the most hilarious way. His writing is a real treat with laughs in every paragraph.” – Kay Frances, Funny Motivational Speaker & author of The Funny Thing About Stress

“Dave is a prospector. If smiles and chuckles are the gold nuggets of life, he has hit the mother load with these articles.” – Bryan Cox, Comedian / Radio Host of Hey Get Off My Lawn

“Fun-filled, lighthearted, and engaging stories that are just what the doctor ordered for relaxation and stress reduction. By the time you finish reading, these stories will be stuck in your head like a song you can’t get rid of and you’ll be taking notes on your own crazy life.” – Cynthia Shelby-Lane, MD

“From dealing with Debutant Deb and Chaos Kevin, to becoming village idiot with Dangerous Paul, if you can’t find something to laugh about go seek professional help!” – Phil Sorentino, The Original Humor Consultant

“This is a wonderful way to relax and enjoy a good old fashioned family laugh, with short stories in the style of Mark Twain. Delightful!” – Leslie Norris Townsend, Producer of the Yearly Comedy Bootcamp, The Clean Comedy Challenge

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic, Comedy FAQs And Answers, How To Be A Working Corporate Comedian, and (as the pop culture enthusiast) The Beatles In Cleveland and The Beatles At Shea Stadium.

To purchase Something To Laugh About visit Amazon.com

To purchase an author signed copy (Continental U.S. only) visit TheComedyBook.com

Thanks for reading. The Classic Rocker will return soon with song #145. Until then – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2020 – North Shore Publishing

#146 – My Way

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#146 – My Way by Frank Sinatra

Frankie

– This edition of The Classic Rocker is not going to go the way you think it’s supposed to. In fact, this will be nowhere near what you might be expecting…

First of all, My Way is Frank Sinatra’s signature song. Yes, I know there are many others to choose from over a career in which he was as popular in the 1940s as Elvis was in the 50’s and The Beatles were in the 60’s. But unless you’re leaving Yankee Stadium at the end of a baseball game where Frank’s version of New York New York is still ringing in your ears, My Way was Frank’s way of telling you he was king of the hill.

My Way hit a line drive through my sleeping mind on January 14th. The tune is actually from a 1967 French pop song, but the English lyrics were penned by American pop star and composer, Paul Anka. Everyone from Paul to Elvis to Sid Vicious recorded a version, but Sinatra’s is the classic of the bunch. It may not be considered classic rock, but it joins this Dream Song Countdown in the subconscious category since I don’t own a copy and haven’t heard it since before my last visit to Yankee Stadium many seasons ago.

Chairman of the Board w The King of Rock and Roll

But as mentioned earlier, the memory induced by this 1969 worldwide hit song undoubtedly varies from any memories it may bring to you. Mine includes a very different star from a different world of entertainment.

Back in the late 1980’s I was manager of the world famous Improv Comedy Club – officially known as The Original Improvisation – in New York City. This was actually the first comedy club in the country and the one all others were modeled after. It was a hotbed of laughter on West 44th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue in a district still known as Hell’s Kitchen.

During recent visits to Manhattan I’ve described the updated city as more Disneyland than The Gotham City I remember. The Improv is long gone and the famous original brick wall that stood behind the stage is the only reminder left. It’s now part of an Italian restaurant that displays a plaque listing many of the famous comedians that had been regular performers at the club.

And no… my name is not included since there’s no “management” listing. Ha!!!

Former Manager

One rainy and dark off-night, meaning not a Friday or Saturday when we always had comedy fans lined up around the block waiting for our next show, I was doing my best to look busy. What that actually means is I was trying to decide what comedian would go on stage next. The “name” comedians were always scheduled for earlier in the shows, while newer performers would come to the club around midnight and hang-out, hoping they would be chosen for time on stage.

It wasn’t uncommon for famous comedians to pop in and do a guest set.

It was always exciting because we never knew who might walk off the mean streets and in through the club entrance. I could name-drop some impressive drop-ins right now, but let’s concentrate on one who in comedy circles is probably just as legendary as Frank Sinatra is with singers.

So, on this particular night I was talking with the two “door guys” – who were both very funny up-and-coming comedians still needing jobs to earn money – near the club entrance. Since it was the 1980’s and Hell’s Kitchen was more Adventure Land than Disneyland, we always kept an eye on the door to make sure any trouble was kept outside. Let’s just say the streets could be wild and though there was never a sense we were in any type of real danger, we had to be cautious about who walked in.

————————————————————————

Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

————————————————————————

At the same time during this late, dark and wet city night, the three of us noticed a sinister figure jaywalking across 44th Street to the club. The guy was dressed in a jogging suit with a hood covering the upper half of his face and didn’t seem to be walking too steady. Both door guys started to lock the door, which was a standard move when we saw potential trouble coming our way.

But just as the hooded figure stepped onto the sidewalk, I caught a glimpse of his face in the streetlight. “Wait,” I told the guys. “It’s okay – that’s Rodney.”

They stepped back, the door opened, and Rodney Dangerfield walked in.

Getting no respect!

Yeah, he looked just like the characters he played in Caddyshack, Back To School and Easy Money. He introduced himself (like we didn’t know who he was) and got a drink at the bar. As I did whenever a celebrity came in, I asked if he would like to go on stage and say “hello” to the audience. He walked to the showroom door, looked inside and declined. He didn’t seem all that interested in an “off-night” crowd that wasn’t the same as a sold-out crowd.

He finished his drink and took off into the dark, damp night to his next destination.

I ended up seeing Rodney more than a dozen times during my New York and Los Angeles career and this was only our first meeting. I bring it up because we never seemed to know “what” Rodney we would get. Honestly, the way he approached the club on West 44th Street that night had the guys almost locking this “sinister” looking person out. But there were other times he was a Hollywood legend basking in celebrity.

But getting back to “my way” – Rodney did things “his way.”

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In New York City, the night before Columbus Day always had a party atmosphere and shows we booked at The Improv followed that theme. We would schedule the city’s best comedians and definitely new it would be an “on-night” with a full audience. One year during our pre-Columbus Day show the comics were hot and the club was steaming with laughter.

Then in through the door – unannounced – walked Rodney Dangerfield.

Following my offer to say “hello” to the audience, he looked in the showroom, saw it was packed and said okay. When the comedian on stage finished his set, I told the MC to introduce Rodney. As he walked to the stage the audiences’ cheers raised the excitement to another level.

Then he made an announcement. “No jokes,” he said into the microphone, before taking a sip from his drink. “I’ll just answer questions.”

I was as surprised as my door guys while we stood in the back of the showroom and watched. The first question from the audience was, “Are you going to make any more movies?”

“No,” he answered. “Next question.”

No jokes?

This is a detailed description of his performance during the next ten minutes he stood on stage. There would be a question, his one or two word response, a sip from his drink, and then a request for the next question. It wasn’t exactly what any of us would call “entertainment.”

Finally, he did tell one joke – that has been lost to my memory. But I’m sure it included his famous line, “I don’t get no respect.” When he finished, he waved the the audience and walked off stage.

Disaster? I assumed it was.

However, the crowd jumped to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. Rodney walked by us, hit the bar for one more and then disappeared back into the NYC night.

After closing, I grabbed a taxi heading downtown with both door guys and another comedian from the show. We were all very excited about how the evening had gone with a line up of top comedians, a full audience and a lot of laughs – until we stopped talking about it, looked at each other and pretty much said at the same time…

Except for Rodney.

We couldn’t figure out why he didn’t want to tell any jokes to an audience that was obviously thrilled to be in the presence of a comedy legend and movie star. But that’s just the way it went. As a club manager I never knew who might walk through the door or how they would respond to my invitation to “say hello to the audience.” But one thing I learned from working with Rodney.

He always did it his way.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Here’s a video of Frank Sinatra performing My Way. It’s not at The Improv, but it was close. New York’s Madison Square Garden was only about ten blocks away. Too bad Rodney didn’t wander in to say hello.

 

To purchase My Way 50th Anniversary Edition by Frank Sinatra, visit Amazon.com

Have a comment? Please use the form below. Thanks – and keep rockin’!

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2020 – North Shore Publishing

#147 – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

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#147Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles

The Band

– It was late spring 1967 and we really didn’t know what was going down. At least not where I was living in small town northern Ohio. It had been less than a year since we saw the Beatles at Cleveland Stadium during their (what we thought at the time) annual summer tour. And while we waited for the next Beatles moment, we were being entertained by a new show on NBC called The Monkees.

Yeah, I won’t deny they were the cool thing at that moment. When the show premiered in September 1966, it seemed most of my eighth grade friends had a case of Monkeemania. But since we were first generation Beatles Fans, the novelty began running out not long after the release of their second album and hit single I’m A Believer, which was right around the Christmas holiday.

After that I had the feeling that we went into the winter months waiting to see what The Beatles would do next.

In January 1967 we were treated with the primetime television special The Beatles At Shea Stadium, which kept us in a fab mindset. But by that time the 1965 birth of stadium rock was more historical document than a current event. It was still very exciting to watch, but comparable to a greatest hits album.

We were ready for something new.

The Look

Then in February, we were finally gifted with the group’s latest guaranteed hit, Penny Lane with the flip side, Strawberry Fields Forever. All of a sudden, the pop music of The Monkees and other Top 40 hits seemed more for a younger generation.

The original Beatles fans were maturing with the group.

But the first thing we noticed from the picture sleeve for their latest single was that they looked different. The mop tops and matching suits were gone. The new look was longer hair, mustaches and colorful clothes. Then once we heard the music it was a game-changer. It was a long way from I Want To Hold Your Hand to Strawberry Fields Forever.

Then came another bombshell.

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Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

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In May 1967 I read a short newspaper article that said the Beatles would not tour that summer. In fact, they may never tour again. I learned later, as an author of two books on the group, they had made this final decision during the 1966 North American tour. But their manager Brian Epstein kept it under wraps in hopes they would change their collective minds and not put his job scheduling concert tours in jeopardy.

And if you don’t believe me, a copy of a newspaper article titled Beatles May Sing Swan Song appears in my book The Beatles In Cleveland. I cut the story out of our newspaper in May 1966 and saved it since it was ground-breaking news at the time and… well, still is.

The Album

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in the U.S. on June 2nd. I honestly can’t say, because I honestly don’t remember, if that was the date that I actually bought the LP. Since my small town in northern Ohio wouldn’t be on any record label’s list for first-day releases in stores, as I assumed it would be in New York or Los Angeles, I’ll say it arrived for us a few days later. I just know I first heard our local record store had copies on the day of the graduation party for my eighth grade class. I phoned my pal Kevin (who had seen the Beatles with me in Cleveland), we jumped on our bikes and rode off to make our purchases.

Kevin was and still is a year older than me, which might have given him the advantage. He moved fast to the record bin and grabbed the last copy of Sgt. Pepper with the prized word “Stereo” displayed at the top of the now famous, pop culture work of art album cover. The only one left for me read “Hi-Fidelity.”

What’s the difference?

In 1967, supposedly a lot. With newer stereo technology, you could sit between the stereo speakers and hear different sounds coming at you from both sides. In Hi-Fi or mono, the same sounds come out of both speakers.

But you know what? We didn’t find out until decades later – at least as fans – that the Beatles never intended Sgt. Pepper or any of their earlier albums to be stereo. It was all “mixed” in the studio to sound great coming out of one speaker. That’s why when looking – and listening – back, early Beatles albums including Sgt. Pepper don’t sound as fab as the mono mixes. They were given “artificial stereo” technology that carried the Instruments out of one speaker and the voices out of another.

That was not the way their songs were meant to be heard.

Though I was disappointed when I bought the album in Hi-Fi, it turned out I was the winner all along. From the first time I listened, it was the way The Beatles meant for it to be heard.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – the song and not the entire album – joined this Dream Song List on December 14th. Yes, I own a copy. And as a matter of historical reference, I still own the same Hi-Fi copy bought in early June 1967. Except now my listening is digitalized. And since a true Classic Rocker can’t go very long without hearing it, that’s why the opening song on the album that provided the psychedelic soundtrack to The Summer Of Love floats into the recent memory category.

But don’t let the above term psychedelic be a reference to my personal summer of 1967. As an eighth grader heading into his first year of high school in the sheltered environment of a small town, the closest any of us would come to experiencing psychedelic was when we listened to Sgt. Pepper with our eyes closed and imagining Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

As mentioned, the album landed in my local store the same day as our eighth grade graduation party. I made it through one entire listen before my mother chased me out of the house so I wouldn’t miss the first social event of my pre high school experience. I’m pretty sure I would have stayed home long enough to hear it again, but the party was promising to be a good “boys sneak out to find girls” all-nighter that none of us could really afford to miss if we wanted to head into ninth grade with a “cool” rep.

The guys were set to camp out on a small island in the middle of a man-made lake that was in the middle of a new housing development. I don’t know where the girls were staying, but if I remember correctly, we planned to meet on a nearby golf ball driving range after it closed. I also have this vague memory of all the guys having to swim to this island with our dry clothes in plastic bags on our heads. But that might have been just what we did on a hot afternoon anyway. I’ll go ahead and assume there was a rowboat that we took to stay dry as we escaped from the island for the evening driving range rendezvous.

The summer soundtrack?

And since there were probably about two dozen of us, that rowboat was kept busy most of the night.

The last memory is of most of us still not being as cool as high school students yet. The golf ball driving range turned into a grade school playground where we ran around, found golf balls and acted like the kids we were. Eventually the girls disappeared back to where they were staying and the guys took turns rowing a small boat back to our small island where we talked, laughed and probably made rude noises in sleeping bags under the stars.

It was a great way to start a fab summer. And the soundtrack wasn’t too bad either.

Have a comment? Please use the contact form below.

The Beatles never performed Sgt. Pepper live – but here’s what is being called the “official” video:

 

To purchase the remastered classic LP Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2020 – North Shore Publishing

 

#148 – Bitch

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#148 – Bitch by The Rolling Stones

The Stones!

– I’ve just deleted about a month’s worth of Classic Rocker ramblings about this song because… Well, frankly – I didn’t have much to say about it. Bitch is a great song by The Rolling Stones and opened side two the classic LP Sticky Fingers. But it doesn’t achieve the classic greatness as the album’s side one, opening track, Brown Sugar.

It’s not a throw-away either, when considering the Stones’ earlier albums included a lot of filler tracks. But in all my years as a Classic Rocker and Stones fan, I’ve never had anyone tell me Bitch was their number one, all-time favorite Stones tune.

I like it, so don’t get me wrong. When the song comes up on my digital playlist, I’ll crank up the volume.

I also remember – and I checked an online video to confirm this memory – Bitch was the second song in the concert set played by The Rolling Stones during their 1972 Exile On Main Street tour. And since I was a teenaged fan at that tour’s concert stop at The Akron Rubber Bowl and distinctly remember how everyone seemed to fly out of our seats when the group opened with Brown Sugar, I’m sure we were still standing through Bitch and whatever songs followed.

But like I mentioned, I had been rambling on during an earlier version and going nowhere. I was making an honest effort to place this song in a Classic Rocker perspective as a Stones fan and highlight its inclusion into this Dream Song list. I wanted to give some background into what was going on during the spring of 1971 when we were all cranking up the volume to Sticky Fingers. But to be honest, I really don’t really have much.

Life is a…

The song was rocking through my head on the morning of December 11th. I own a copy, of course. That’s a “given” since it’s on Sticky Fingers, which every Classic Rocker and Rolling Stones fan should own. If not, they need to vacate both titles.

But I hadn’t heard it in a while.

It’s not one of the classic Stones songs that the average fan would feature in a Rolling Stones playlist. But it has a solid Keith Richards rock ‘n’ roll groove and a vocal from Mick Jagger that is as identifiable to his sound as any other Stones classic. Plus, it’s always fun to hear. But because I hadn’t heard it in a while, it goes into the subliminal category and also an honorary place in my personal rock ‘n’ roll memory bank. Why? Well, as also mentioned – it was the second song played during the band’s legendary Exile On Main Street tour set and I was there to see it.

But do I really have any other memories to dredge up when hearing Bitch? Just one…

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Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

————————————————————————

Sticky Fingers was the “album of the moment” when I was graduating from high school. Yeah, there were some others – but since I can’t think of them offhand at the moment, this will go down as the main one. I mean seriously, when you think about it – what other song would you want to get the party going when you were seventeen years old in 1971 other than Brown Sugar?

Then flip it over and Bitch opened side two? That’s all it took to get the party started.

So, if you want the memory…

During this crucial teenage period in our lives, which was our high school graduation, a friend opened his backyard swimming pool to our classmates for an afternoon party. To say he and his family were “straight” would be an understatement when compared to what was going on in the world during 1971 when long hair was a statement, rock music was a soundtrack, and dodging the military draft was a healthy male’s activity.

While a good portion of our small town, teenaged clique wanted to be considered “hippies,” it was actually a physical and psychological impossibility while living in northern Ohio at that time. We wanted to believe it, but there was no way our protected and small-town environment could ever be compared to San Francisco or London. But we mostly seemed to get along, probably because of our youth and ideals. When looking back under the haze of a new political climate, it’s amazing now to think we could have all been in the same room, let alone the same backyard for an afternoon swimming party that included both “straights and long-hairs” in 1971.

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But there was no hippie or straight attitude involved that afternoon during a graduation party. It was strictly for sun, swimming and flirting with the opposite sex. Drinking low-alcohol content beer and looking for deeper love was not acceptable at this parent chaperoned party, but would be the featured attractions when we were under our own teenaged supervision later at night.

So why am I bringing this up?

Not The Stones, but this is a diving board!

No other reason except I can hear Bitch in my mind while I think back to opening a wooden gate into the side yard of our friend’s backyard that led to his family’s swimming pool. And then sometime – it had to be within an hour or so after we’d all arrived, one of our friends jumped on the pool’s diving board and it broke in half.

Embarrassing?

I’m sorry to say that would be an understatement for a teenaged guy working hard at a high school graduation party to make good impressions under intense peer pressure. Think back to your teenage years – and yeah, we’re talking pretty devastating. But he got over it, as everyone else did. I’m just glad it wasn’t me.

Okay, so that’s not the best or funniest Classic Rocker memory, but it’s another one that’s true and still swimming around in my mind. When I hear Bitch blasting out from my car speakers almost five decades later, I think about swimming pools and diving boards. I also hope that if I ever jump off one and into one – and I will someday – the board will be extra secure.

But then again, since we’re far from being teenagers, who really cares? My insurance will pay for it.

Have a comment? Please use the contact form below.

Here are The Rolling Stones performing Bitch from the 1972 Exile On Main Street Tour

 

To purchase the classic LP Sticky Fingers with the song Bitch, visit Amazon.com

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Twitter

Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2020 – North Shore Publishing