#207 – Green Tambourine

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#207 – Green Tambourine by The Lemon Pipers

The Lemon Pipers

The Lemon Pipers

– Like a lot of music we were listening to as teenagers in late 1967 going into early 1968, it’s tough to come up with a classification for this song. I considered it psychedelic, which was a trend that was definitely happening at the time. But after doing a quick online surf to find out what – if any – residue was left behind by this song in the annals of Classic Rock, it is given credit for inventing a category that had never been used before to describe a musical genre:

Bubblegum.

Lemon Fruitgum

Package of bubblegum

Going from psychedelic to bubblegum was a musical personality split comparable to sharing vinyl turntable space with Jimi Hendrix and The 1910 Fruitgum Company. It didn’t happen in a sane world. But looking back at our journey through the 1960’s I can see the “Y” in the road. Sitars, jingle-jangle tambourines and over-echoed vocals were part of the soundtrack for The Summer Of Love in ’67 and were still happening when Green Tambourine hit No. 1 on the music charts in February 1968. But it already seemed outdated in some ways. Pop music was evolving into the heavier sounding rock music and bubblegum was about as cool as a military crew cut in Haight-Ashbury.

Of course what did I really know about the hippie haven district in San Francisco? I was a 14 year old kid in Ohio and only knew what I heard on the radio or read in magazines. And since no one had come up yet with the term bubblegum for some of the new music we were listening to, it seemed as if the hippies from the summer of ’67 were still happening.

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In theaters with the documentary Eight Days A Week

The Beatles At Shea Stadium – Restored and Remastered

Read the story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special!

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In my location of the world we hadn’t been exposed to hippies outside of the media lifelines I just mentioned above. The Beatles had changed their appearances with mustaches and colorful clothes for Penny Lane and Sgt. Pepper, but a lot of us couldn’t follow the trend. Mainly because we were still too young to grow decent facial hair and school dress codes strictly forbid it, along with hippie attire.

San Francisco hippies?

San Francisco hippies?

In fact, these creatures of psychedelia were so rare in our neck of the woods, to spot one was comparable to a rare bird sighting in the wild and untamed outdoors. It was around this time that we would visit family in Saginaw, Michigan and all pile into a car as tourists to drive past the “Hippie House.” I remember it was a purple house with bright symbols painted on the sides and doors. It might even have had an orange or yellow roof, but those details have been lost in the haze of years since. I’m not sure the Ohio family contingent ever even caught a glimpse of a legitimate hippie outside, but the Michigan relatives assured us they truly did exist.

I’m pretty sure the closest proximity hippies to us in northern Ohio were The Lemon Pipers. I say this because they were touted as being a band from Cleveland. It wasn’t until many years later I found out they were actually a group of students from Miami University. But forget about visions of palm trees and bikinis. This was the northern based school in Oxford, Ohio.

Closer – but not Cleveland.

I’m not going to say this song had any impact on me. It didn’t. It had a catchy tune and we heard it on the radio. And since it came out during my first year in high school, I’ll assume we danced to it somewhere.

But it was more the local connection that made a lasting impression.

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I remember watching The Lemon Pipers perform Green Tambourine on the Cleveland based “teen music” television show Upbeat. When the program first started in 1964 it was comparable to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand out of Philadelphia. The original title was The Big 5 Show because it aired every Saturday at 5 pm on Channel 5 in Cleveland. The host was Channel 5 weatherman Don Webster.

The show featured an impressive lineup every week that – again from memory – included pop stars such as Stevie Wonder, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Yardbirds, The Jefferson Airplane and Otis Redding’s final performance. When the show was syndicated into different markets, the local aspect was removed and retitled Upbeat.

Don Webster "Monkee'ing" around on Upbeat

Don Webster “Monkee’ing” around on Upbeat

The Lemon Pipers looked like San Francisco based hippies. But I’m sure Don Webster told us they were from Cleveland (or maybe just from Ohio). Either way, they didn’t look like anyone else in my neighborhood. I wonder if they had a “Hippie House” we could’ve driven by on a tourist outing. Then again, since they were still college students we would’ve just been driving by their dorm.

But if this song stands as a first “Y” in the roads leading to bubblegum or rock, I took the route forged ahead by Jimi Hendrix and left The 1910 Fruitgum Company trail for the younger teens and preteens. It also wasn’t long after this that Upbeat disappeared from my regular viewing schedule. As a newly minted high school teenager with friends, dances, sporting events and the possibility of girls being around all three, Saturday afternoons and evenings were not meant to be spent sitting in front of a television.

Green Tambourine “jingle-jangled” onto this Dream Song list on April 8th. Though I never owned a copy in 1968, nostalgia got the best of me during an online shopping spree and the song is now on my digital playlist. I had just heard it, so “listen while I play” it into the recent memory classification.

To watch The Lemon Pipers lip-sync Green Tambourine during what I’m pretty sure is actually their 1967 or ’68 appearance on Upbeat (it reads 1969 in the title, but by that time they were long past plugging the song for more sales) check out the video below.

 

To purchase The Best of The Lemon Pipers with Green Tambourine 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 2016 – North Shore Publishing

#208 – Lady Godiva

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#208 – Lady Godiva by Peter and Gordon

Peter and Gordon – For a change of pace, we’ll dwell on the past by starting from a futuristic point of view. Let’s pretend aspiring pop culture historians a few decades from now are given the title of this song as a research assignment. They’re familiar with the story of Lady Godiva, who rode on a horse naked through the streets of Coventry, England to protest high taxes imposed by her husband on his subjects. That legend has been passed down since the 13th Century, so it’s safe to assume they’ll know that much (and now you do too).

Armed with only the title, they’re assigned the task of looking back into the 20th Century to find a pop song with the same name and the artist(s). Of course you already know that much (I gave you the answer above). But where do you think these futuristic researchers might start their search?

With Peter and Gordon? Let’s discuss…

Paul and Peter

Paul and Peter

The British Invasion duo was known mostly for their mid-tempo love songs World Without Love and Woman. And as pointed out in an earlier article by The Classic Rocker, both songs were written by Paul McCartney and given to Peter and Gordon. That’s what can happen when a Beatle is dating your sister and living in a spare bedroom in your parents’ house. In this case, it was Peter’s sister Jane Asher and the Asher mom and dad. It’s also one of the reasons Paul became the richest Beatle. While the others were spending their residuals buying mansions in a rich neighborhood, he was living rent free.

But in the fall of 1966 Peter and Gordon released a different style of song. Lady Godiva showed they had a sense of humor while also adding a little sense of risqué to their reputations.

Seriously – risqué?

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In theaters with the new film Eight Days A Week

The Beatles At Shea Stadium – Restored and Remastered

Read the story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special!

Buy now at Amazon.com

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Okay, it’s not like they suddenly became the Hugh Hefner’s of The British Invasion, but this song’s storyline was different. While artists that year were singing about falling in love, making love, getting high and in many songs doing all three, P&G were actually singing about a naked girl riding a horse down a city street, being discovered by a Hollywood director and becoming a star in pornographic films.

Lady Godiva with P&G

P&G (with deejay) and The Lady

It had been a long ride from World Without Love.

But do you think our futuristic pop culture historians could find Peter and Gordon based only on this song title? It might take them a while since the above mentioned teenage angst love songs of their earlier career never came close to referencing “All the cats who dig striptease” and “Certificate X.” Peter and Gordon were more aligned with the smiling, clean-scrubbed, blow-dried hair and “I wanna hold your hand” image of The Beatles rather than the scruffy, dirty and scowling members of The Rolling Stones looking for some satisfaction.

Future pop historians may toss artists of The British Invasion into one lump category, but those of us that lived through it know there were differences. It’s like comparing The Animals to Herman’s Hermits.

Eric Burdon would sing about Lady Godiva. Peter Noone’s mum probably wouldn’t let him.

At this particular time in 1966 pop music was still pretty innocent.

Bob Dylan was talking over a lot of teenager’s heads with songs like Subterranean Homesick Blues and no one in my junior high class knew what the heck John Lennon was singing about in Tomorrow Never Knows. In the fall of 1966 the Beatles were limping off their last-ever tour and The Monkees were bringing innocent pop hits to primetime television. From our futuristic point of view we could say Peter and Gordon were only doing the same. But when it came to their latest single the subject matter felt a bit stronger than Davy Jones looking into a beautiful girl’s eyes and singing I Want To Be Free.

peter-gordon-lady-godivaI’m not exactly sure of this, but I seem to remember Lady Godiva was banned from the radio in certain areas including a bit of protest about the storyline in Coventry, England. I guess the residents needed to protect their reputation and a 13th Century naked lady on a horse was a lot more innocent than a 1960’s naked lady scoring big in Hollywood.

Lady Godiva road onto this Dream Song List the morning of March 26th. It falls into the category of recent memory since I had just heard it. It also falls into one of my favorite genres of pop music – Music Hall Rock. With the jangly banjo, hook-driven verses and Peter and Gordon harmony, the song is a classic example of a popular 60’s trend that past and future pop culture historians should understand.

For other examples of Music Hall Rock check out Daydream by The Lovin’ Spoonful, Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks, and Good Day Sunshine by The Beatles. With the roots of these songs influenced by the pop hits of the 1920’s, it’s obvious that sometimes you need to dwell in the past to find futuristic trends.

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And speaking of a futuristic point of view, what might happen to our future pop historians searching for any information about this song simply based on its title? If it were me I’d round up the usual suspects of rock stars with oversexed images – which would eliminate Peter and Gordon. I can envision a research team swarming through a dust covered warehouse (think ending of Raiders of the Lost Arc) and excavating through bins and bins of vinyl records until they reach…

The late 1970’s?

Not Peter and Gordon

Not Peter and Gordon

Yeah, that’s where I’d start my search for a record titled Lady Godiva. And to narrow my research, I’d head straight for the Rod Stewart section and examine the song titles on the back covers of his LPs. He had the reputation for asking, “Da’ya think I’m sexy?” more than Peter and Gordon or any other smiling, clean-scrubbed and blown-dried hair pop stars of the 60’s.

In fact, I can dwell back into teenage angst mode and envision a music video for Rod Stewart’s version of Lady Godiva. Basically, he’d come out in his 70’s spandex and rooster hair while a string of Hugh Hefner worthy blondes recreate the naked ride on horseback. At the end of the song Rod jumps on the back of one of the horses – riding bareback (meaning no saddle – he’s still in spandex) – and rides off into the sunset. Ooh-la-la!

Of course this non-existent music video is nothing more than fun speculation and fantasy, even though it’s probably closer to what was riding through the minds of many teenaged males at the time. Looking back from a futuristic point of view it wouldn’t be a song title or storyline expected from Peter and Gordon. But then again, no one else expected it from them either in 1966.

For a video of Peter and Gordon performing Lady Godiva – featuring McCartney’s ex-girlfriend’s brother on jangly banjo and a bonus introduction by comedy legend Milton Berle – check this out.

 

 

To purchase The Ultimate Peter and Gordon with Lady Godiva 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 2016 – North Shore Publishing

 

#209 – Hey Jude

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#209 – Hey Jude by The Beatles

heyjude2 – It’s easy to look back at an event and think, “Yeah, that’s when that happened.” Time gives you a historical perspective or as the old saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20.” To go even further with this thought and put it into Classic Rocker terms, I’ll borrow a 1972 a song title and lyric from Johnny Nash:

I Can See Clearly Now.

There have been countless books written about the Beatles and like most dedicated fans, I’ve read many of them. With the passage of time, more often than not researchers and historians who are not first generation fans write the latest books. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s similar to new books about George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. No one writing these books was alive when these presidents were changing the world, but that doesn’t mean the authors are not experts on their subjects. They just have to look at their subject’s life from a historical point of view.

In other words, researching and writing on what has already happened. They have the benefit of clear hindsight and already know how each story ends.

But people living through these important moments don’t know – at the time – how important they might be in the long run. For example, no one including Sam Phillips had any idea how earth shattering the results would be when Elvis Presley first walked into the Sun Recording Studio in Memphis.

John and Paul AppleThe same can be said when the Beatles released Hey Jude. When we first heard it in August 1968 there was nothing on the radar – or even a hint – that we were entering the final phase of their earth-shattering career as a group. It was tuneful, uplifting and joyful. It was the first release on their newly formed Apple Records and would eventually become the Beatles’ all-time biggest selling single.

But looking back clearly with historic hindsight, it’s obvious something was different. First generation fans just didn’t know it at the time.

The Beatles had always been seen as a group. Again with hindsight we can see that wasn’t always exactly the case. For instance, when they performed live the 1963 album track All My Loving, Paul McCartney and George Harrison harmonized on the final verse. This is how it was presented to U.S. fans as the first song during their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. But read the back cover notes on Meet The Beatles (UK title: With The Beatles) and you’ll see Paul double tracked both vocals in the recording studio. Even during their years as a touring band Paul recorded as a “solo artist” on Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby and For No One. Beatles historians know this is also true with various songs by John Lennon and George, with the remaining three primarily serving as a backup band.

But to us they were still a group and everything we looked forward to in 1968 would still be a group effort. Hey Jude didn’t change that perspective, but the demise was on the radar and the final phase was in progress.

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In theaters with the new film Eight Days A Week

The Beatles At Shea Stadium – Restored and Remastered

Read the story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special!

Buy now at Amazon.com

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Following the Revolver album and final tour ending in August 1966, it was almost like they hung a Closed sign on the Beatles shop. After expecting at least two albums a year (more in the U.S. thanks to giving us less songs per LP) and a hit single every couple months, things went silent. The Monkees took over the Fab Four reign for younger teens and the rest of us had to wait until February 1967 for Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever. And it’s no strain of the imagination to say these songs signaled a new psychedelic phase that included Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour.

All the backward tape loops, studio effects and trippy lyrical images came to an almost immediate halt just over a year later in March 1968 with Lady Madonna. The song could be considered the group’s original Get Back – since it went back to a basic rock and roll feeling. I say almost because the flip side was the Eastern sitar raga rock track The Inner Light, which was George’s turn as a “solo artist.”

Then they seemed to close up shop again.

maharishi-mahesh-yogiExcept this time they should have hung up a sign saying “On Vacation” since they ditched their world-shattering ways and headed for India to meditate with their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

In my opinion (and I’ll never say humble opinion because The Classic Rocker doesn’t have one) something happened. It wasn’t earth shattering enough to make the world news. In fact, if you’ve read enough books on the topic it basically seems like India was a laid-back (boring?) time of reenergizing by the most famous frazzled foursome of their era. But they definitely changed. I believe India is where the cracks that eventually caused the final split started. Each member vacationed into his own mind and spirit and stopped being the shared four-headed monster as Mick Jagger described them during his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech.

They wrote enough songs to fill the upcoming double album The Beatles (renamed The White Album by first generation fans) but when they returned to the recording studio and the public eye they weren’t the Beatles of All My Loving, Sgt. Pepper or even Lady Madonna. The dynamics had changed. Hey Jude was by Paul McCartney and the Beatles while the flip side, Revolution, could be credited to John Lennon and the Beatles.

And it would continue this way until The End (final song on Abbey Road). And by the way – I told you I’m not humble in my opinions. We didn’t know it at the time, but hindsight makes it all very clear.

Hey Jude joined the Dream Song List on March 20th. From my opinionated dissertation above you already know I own more than a few copies including my original vinyl 45 rpm. And though it’s hard to believe because the song is still the flag-waving “hey remember us!” standard everyday reminder of the Beatles earth-shattering and world-dominating career and is a constant on every respectable classic rock radio playlist – I hadn’t heard it in awhile. So surprisingly, it goes into the subliminal chart listing.

Wait – a Beatles fan that hadn’t heard Hey Jude in awhile? Please don’t go for a non-humble bad opinion of me. But I’ll have to admit if there is one Beatles song that could ever possibly be overplayed, this is it. Of course now that I’ve written these ramblings while listening to Hey Jude it turns out I can’t hear it enough. It’s currently set for an unlimited run on my digital playlist.

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August 1968 was the first new music we had from the Beatles in at least five months. It was only one month less than the length of time we waited between Revolver and Penny Lane. In hindsight it seems like a blink of an eye. But when you lived through it their absence made us feel they were on a permanent vacation and the shop was closed for good. Fortunately we still had a couple years left but in hindsight the writing was on the wall.

My first memory of Hey Jude was on a Friday evening at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. Summer vacation was history and I was psyched and nervous for my first show as a member of the school marching band. Since I was still almost a year away from being old enough to drive, I was hanging around in my uniform waiting for one of my buddies to pick me up when this instant classic came on the radio. If he was outside in his car waiting I didn’t notice. There was no way I was leaving until the final “Na-na-na’s” had faded out.

Hey Jude CameraBut (another) wait – The Classic Rocker wasn’t a jock in school? Don’t make quick opinionated judgments. I had more fun playing music, even though I could run faster and jump higher than maybe one or two guys I went to school with. I proved that on the basketball and track teams through junior high and into high school. But when it became all too apparent I had zero interest in touching a basketball when there was a guitar or trumpet nearby and found running around a track as boring as listening to a radio station that didn’t play the Beatles, the jock stuff went on vacation and eventually closed down.

The decision wasn’t difficult to make, especially when an idiotic (told you I was opinionated) gym teacher (slash) basketball coach told me my (perhaps an inch long?) hair made me look like a girl. It didn’t because in those days there were still school dress codes for boys that included hair off our ears and collars. But wanting me to emulate his outdated crew cut style was a challenge worthy enough to be called a boomer generation dividing line.

And besides, like many musicians before and after, I found it was a lot more fun riding in the bus to sporting events and sitting in the stands with a bunch of girls rather than with a bunch of sweaty jocks. It didn’t take hindsight to know that at the time – and I don’t see it any clearer now than I did in 1968. And to prove that in historical proportion, years later I married one of the marching band majorettes from my high school – so score another one for the music department.

We can also score a HUGE classic rock hit for The Beatles with Hey Jude. Since they had stopped touring two years earlier, here’s the closest any of us ever got to seeing the group perform the song live. Because the musicians union in England prevented musicians from lip-syncing their songs on television, the instrumental backing is pre-recorded, while the microphones are live. Listen carefully and you can hear Paul’s recorded voice under his live vocals. The clip includes a fab introduction by TV host David Frost and an even “fabier” musical intro by the lads themselves.

 

 

To purchase The Beatles 1 with all their No. 1 songs including Hey Jude 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 2016 – North Shore Publishing

#210 – Killer Queen

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#210 – Killer Queen by Queen

Queen – I’m guessing for a lot of us in the Midwest, this was our first dose of Queen. It was years later when I learned they had released two albums prior to Sheer Heart Attack, which included this breakthrough song. But nothing had cracked the music charts or the radio airwaves we listened to until Killer Queen. The layered harmonies, dancehall rhythm and even the name Queen fit in with the flamboyant glam rock that was trending at the time.

David BowieMarc Bolan with T-Rex, the trashy The New York Dolls and the even trashier Alice Cooper are probably the best remembered. But it seemed everyone from Rod “The Mod” Stewart and Faces to Mick Jagger had been playing in makeup kits and going through their girlfriend’s closets for blouses, silk bellbottoms and long scarves. Queen, especially with lead singer Freddie Mercury, were adding more flamboyance and camp to the movement.

Queen 2As Midwestern college guys in 1974 we weren’t out to practice any gender-bending traits, but a lot of us into rock and roll did our best to be stylish. Bellbottoms were definitely “in” and the bigger the bells, the cooler the pants. And though I never wore platform shoes in my life, I distinctly remember having a pair of burgundy colored shoes with Cuban heels. These cool shoes were not modeled on Beatles boots of the 1960’s, but were necessary for my fashion statement after watching Keith Richards balance on a similar pair at the Akron Rubber Bowl during the Rolling Stones’ 1972 Exile On Main Street Tour. Except they still weren’t high-heeled enough to keep the bottoms of my bells from sweeping the floors of every room I walked through.

Killer Queen was on the radio during Fall Quarter 1974. For current or past students who were never exposed to that educational concept, most of the “halls of higher learning” at that time divided the year into four seasonal chunks – hence the word Quarters. Years later most went to semesters.

This was another time of big change for me, which has been a common occurrence throughout my life’s adventures so far. Then again, I think most of us can say that since life really is one big adventure. I just happen to be saying it now. My first serious relationship had ended that summer and I was heading back to college for my junior year as a single guy. But before jumping into what turned out to be a memorable and – yeah I’ll say it – adventurous year, I needed to up my game. Instead of bumming rides from my older or richer fraternity brothers, I needed a car.

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In theaters with the new film Eight Days A Week

The Beatles At Shea Stadium – Restored and Remastered

Read the story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special!

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I’ve never been a car guy. I could care less what someone drives. Honestly, I’m not impressed. As long as I have a safe (not a junker) vehicle to get me where I want to go I’m happy. Make and model are of no concern. To put my car mojo in Classic Rocker terms I liked The Beach Boys because they sang about girls, the beach and more girls. Their car lyrics might as well have been in a foreign language because I didn’t know the difference between a Little Deuce Coupe and a GTO – and didn’t care. I still can’t tell one make of a car from another. Ask me what model someone has and odds are I’d just give you the color. Seriously.

So my first car was not meant to impress anyone. It was to get me where I wanted to go and have enough space to drag my important stuff with me. I went to the local car dealership and cleaned out my bank account for a brand new, off-the-lot Chevy Vega station wagon. Price? $4,200 cash.

Vega

Not mine – but close!

That was a big chunk of money in 1974. And a station wagon for a college guy? For me it was a no-brainer. Along with transporting my clothes, album collection and portable stereo back to school, it also fit my guitar and (bigger is louder) amplifier. I could do it all in one trip. The Vega was also instrumental (pun intended) in my move to New York City three years later.

My ’74 Vega was burgundy colored, but wasn’t planned to match my shoes. It also had wooden panels on the sides and wasn’t a fuel hog like some of the bigger gas guzzlers a few of my buddies were using for cruising and impressing purposes. It had two doors, bucket seats, no power steering and the standard AM radio that could be cranked up loud when a song like Killer Queen played on the local Top 40 stations.

Okay, so maybe this doesn’t sound all that adventurous based on the bragging I did earlier, but one of my duties as The Classic Rocker is to put a time stamp or specific memory with the featured song. So for me, a burgundy car, burgundy high-heels, bellbottoms, glam rock and Queen bring home memories of college and my first car.

And now that I think about it, this also brings back another and more adventurous memory…

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My Vega station wagon was used for a spur-of-the-moment three day marathon road trip from Bowling Green State University to New Orleans. With two of my forever best friends who will forever carry the nicknames Smiley and Blade, we decided to ditch cold northern Ohio for a few days of sunshine. One, two or maybe all three of us had slipped on frozen sidewalks coming back from classes, so on a Thursday evening in January 1976 we jumped in my car and drove 16 hours until we hit Mobile, Alabama.

Then we turned right.

The Vega was fitted with a foam mattress in the back for sleeping between driving shifts, and a portable eight track tape player plugged into the cigarette lighter. Our No. 1 and most heard tape during that drive was Their Satanic Majesties Request by The Rolling Stones.

Seriously – I have not listened to it all the way through since.

Bourbon StreetAfter a night in the French Quarter (there’s that word again!) ordering Dixie Beer from half-naked waitresses (that’s what college was really all about – right?!) we made a side trip to Galveston, Texas simply for a photo opportunity in the Gulf of Mexico. We then cruised north through Houston and Dallas and back to Ohio before a mandatory Sunday night meeting at our fraternity house. If I remember correctly, the final leg was a 36 hour drive.

Bowling Green to New Orleans to Texas and back road trip highlights? Okay…

1 – Stopping for gas somewhere in Alabama. This was 1976, we were college students from Ohio and – if you recall my description of fashion sense above – we looked it. After gassing up we went in to grab a few candy bars and saw two rednecks leaning up against a red and rusted pickup truck. One said to the other, “Hey Beeel, look’it the hippies.” Our exit from the gas station resembled the start of the Daytona 500.

2 – We caught a few hours sleep at an affiliated fraternity house at Tulane University before catching a trolley to The French Quarter. After waking up we learned there had been a murder in the house across the street during our nap time.

3 – Speeding across Tennessee on Sunday morning I was sleeping in the back of the Vega. Blade was driving and Smiley woke me up by saying a cop was pulling us over. I said we didn’t have anything to panic about – until Blade told us he didn’t have a license. We were lined up along the highway and told by a State Highway Patrolman he could “Lock us up in the clink for five days and give us nothing but baloney sandwiches.” Unlike the rednecks, he might have thought we were Killer Queens. Instead he let us go with a warning. Blade was relegated to the back of the station wagon for the remainder of the trip.

4 – Once we were in Texas the trip also became a beer run. At that time Coors wasn’t available east of the Mississippi River and we had only heard about it. No stores carried it in Houston, so we had another Daytona 500 moment racing to Dallas before the liquor stores closed. We made it with just minutes to spare and loaded ten cases in the back of the Vega. Since we hadn’t told anyone we were doing this, we weren’t sure anyone would believe our story. Walking in with Coors would prove it. We made it back for our 10 pm Sunday meeting and each popped open a can and took a ceremonial (bragging) sip. It was all we could do not to follow that with a spit-take. It sucked. We ended up giving away most of the ten cases.

But what about Killer Queen? Okay…

Killer Queen was driving through my mind on March 8th. Yeah, I own it because I’m a huge Queen and Freddie Mercury fan. But for some reason I hadn’t played it in a long time so it charts on my subliminal list of Dream Songs.

Freddie MercuryI’m still impressed by Freddie Mercury, even though he’s been gone since 1991. Vocally I can’t think of any rock singer that had his range and power. The new singer for Queen, Adam Lambert, comes as close as anyone else ever could while also including the necessary glam and flamboyance factor. But Mercury still maintains his place in music history as one of greatest singers and performers to ever front a rock and roll band. The only possible rival I can come up with would be Mick Jagger.

But I found Queen to be an acquired taste. To drop the word seriously again, I wasn’t quite ready for the operatic Bohemian Rhapsody when I heard it the first hundred or so times (a low estimate on how much it was played – everywhere – when released in 1975). But I listened to almost everything else by the band and finally had my mind changed about their biggest song when Wayne and Garth used it for some serious head-banging during the 1992 film Wayne’s World.

The Vega made it until the summer of 1977, following my move to New York City. I parked it in my parents’ driveway, handed the keys to my little sister and told her she had a car. After I flew back she sold it for $500 and put the money toward buying a cool car.

I’m still listening to Queen and missing Freddie Mercury. And even though glam rock, flamboyant fashions, ’70s camp and ’70s cars are good for laughs and stories, I’ll remember – but won’t miss any of it whenever I stop for gas in Alabama.

Here’s a video of Queen with the great Freddie Mercury performing Killer Queen in 1974.

To purchase Queen’s Greatest Hits I & II with Killer Queen 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 2016 – North Shore Publishing

#211 – Can’t Help Falling In Love

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#211 – Can’t Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley

Elvis Cleveland – The legend of Elvis has been told countless times and doesn’t need repeating by The Classic Rocker. But I will say if you have any interest in pop, rock or even a broader genre like American Music, you are aware of his importance. If not you may have practiced the art of head-banging longer than even Metallica would recommend.

His life has been detailed in books, documentaries and acted-out in films. Depending on the source, some of it is true and other parts are just hyped-up creative fiction. If you’re a real fan you’ve probably heard it all. But hopefully in a few moments I’ll share a bit of Elvis history that you may not know.

And the cool part is that I was there when it happened.

To begin this part of the legend I’ll admit to being a third wave Elvis fan. I can’t assume you know what I’m talking about, but first generation and subsequent loyalists of The King of Rock and Roll should have a general idea. Here’s how I see the dividing segments:

The Waves Of Elvis

  1. 1956
  2. Post Army / The movies
  3. The Comeback Special
  4. Bloated in Las Vegas

elvis and Ed

I wasn’t around when Elvis turned the world of popular music upside down in 1956. Okay, if truth be told I actually was. But I wasn’t old enough to be aware of what was going on. My mother told me that as a baby I was with her on our living room couch watching Elvis’ debut performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. I have no memory of this, but she claims I really watched it. That means whatever EP was doing on the television screen was enough to keep me from doing whatever babies would do to keep parents from enjoying a show.

That was the first wave of Elvis. The beginning of a worldwide phenomenon.

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In theaters with the new film Eight Days A Week

The Beatles At Shea Stadium – Restored and Remastered

Read the story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special!

Buy now at Amazon.com

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The second wave kicked off after he left the army and hit Hollywood for a series of movies that have never been mentioned in the same breath as Citizen Kane, Gone With The Wind or any other films the Academy Awards voters used to honor themselves as important artistes. Guess it didn’t count that Elvis movies were out-grossing ($$-wise) the box office competition and filling drive-in movies with first generation fans.

Can't Help Falling In LoveBut while this older segment of baby boomers were making out in backseats to Can’t Help Falling In Love, Viva Las Vegas and Bossa Nova Baby during this wave, the younger pre-teens were looking for their own soundtrack. It landed with The British Invasion in February 1964. When compared to the new wave of shaggy-haired pop stars, Elvis with his Hawaiian shirts, neatly combed slicked back hair and absence of the legendary and notorious sideburns was strictly L7 (to use a term from Sam The Sham for square).

Then a third wave hit and everything changed.

Technically it was called Elvis, but anyone with any knowledge of the legend knows I’m referring to the ’68 Comeback Special that aired on NBC Television on December 3, 1968. To continue with my personal legend, I remember being glued to the television that night. Except Elvis hadn’t been the main attraction. Immediately following his one-hour special was another starring the French movie star (and blonde bombshell) Brigitte Bardot.

brigitte_bardotThe creative title was Special Bardot and for a video sample of why it was a primetime viewer ratings blockbuster for teenaged males that same night check out this LINK.

For this fifteen year old guy the goal was to finish my homework early, watch Elvis sing some old songs, and then drool over whatever surprises Miss Bardot could get away with to sex-up primetime television. But it turned out the surprise was on me. Before BB could even drop a hint of an oo-la-la, Elvis knocked me on my butt and I’ve never recovered.

Once again, you don’t need The Classic Rocker to repeat a legend that’s common knowledge to anyone even remotely interested in pop, rock or American Music. But if you want an Elvis thrill from that night check out this video LINK.

From that moment on I was hooked. It turned out the first wave fans had been right all along…

  • “If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.” – John Lennon
  • “Elvis is my religion. But for him, I’d be selling encyclopedias right now.” – Bruce Springsteen
  • “Elvis was the king. No doubt about it. People like myself, Mick Jagger and all the others only followed in his footsteps.” – Rod Stewart
  • “No one, but no one, is his equal or ever will be. He was, and is supreme.” – Mick Jagger

Yeah, there are tons more. But as also mentioned at the beginning of these ramblings, you should already be aware of this and I’m just preaching to the choir. But now for something you might not know…

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Three years later in 1971 I was a college freshman in Ohio. The first wave in decorating my dorm room was to hang up a larger than life poster of Elvis from the ’68 Comeback Special. Yeah we were also growing our hair down to our shoulders and listening to everyone from solo Beatles to Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin, but special respect was always due Elvis for starting it all.

I found out Elvis would perform at Public Hall in downtown Cleveland on November 6, 1971. There was no doubt I HAD to be there. But horror of all horrors I found out the 8:30 pm show was sold-out. Talk about bad luck…

… turning into good luck. A second show was added for 2:30 that afternoon and I scored two seats.

cleveland71showrev-2

Cleveland Nov. 6, 1971

Much to the annoyance of my family I never shy away from bragging about my memory (read The Beatles In Cleveland for proof) and my mental images of Elvis during that show are quite clear. The opening theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey had everyone standing up and cheering.

Okay, maybe not the females. They were SCREAMING!

Elvis walked on stage dressed in black and looking lean and fit. His hair was longer than expected and when he started singing (That’s All Right Mama) his voice filled the arena. I remember having that same thought about Robert Plant when I saw Led Zeppelin in Public Hall, except Plant’s vocals were more of a (male) scream. Elvis had a VOICE.

The show ended with Can’t Help Falling In Love. Elvis paced the stage, posed, nodded, waved and walked off while his band continued playing. The fans screamed for more when another voice was heard saying…

“Elvis has left the building.”

I distinctly remember hearing that announcement. The lights came up and show was definitely over. There would be no encore. It seemed funny because I had never heard a concert end that way.

Cleveland 1971

Cleveland Nov. 6, 1971

And as it turns out – no one else had either.

Just before he had started this tour, Elvis hired a new announcer. His name was Al Dvorin and the FIRST show he did was the 2:30 pm matinee at Cleveland Public Hall on November 6, 1971. Al is the guy who invented (first said) the legendary line, “Elvis has left the building.” It was used at the end of every show from that point on.

And in case you need a reminder – I was there.

So hopefully I just gave you a small addition to the Elvis legend we all know so well. As far as my personal legend, Can’t Help Falling In Love was added to this Dream Song List on the morning of March 5th. Score it as a recent memory because (of course) I own a copy and (of course) as an Elvis fan I hear it frequently.

But wait – there’s more…

I also happened to have married an Elvis fan. Debutant Deb witnessed Elvis in concert at Richfield Coliseum (near Cleveland) in 1975 and has also never recovered. Can’t Help Falling In Love was our first dance at our wedding reception – our wedding song – and for us, Elvis has never left the building.

What about wave four? You can read about that somewhere else because for me, Elvis has never been L7. The world lost a legend too early on August 16, 1977.

Here’s a video of Elvis ending a 1972 concert with Can’t Help Falling In Love. And stick around until the very end to hear those now legendary words…

The Elvis song catalog has been remade, re-released, re-mixed and re-everything in the (almost) four decades since his passing into The Great Graceland In The Sky. Elvis could make any song sound great, but nothing beats his version of Can’t Help Falling In Love – whether in the studio (from the film Blue Hawaii) or live in concert.

To explore and purchase different versions, start at this LINK on 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 2016 – North Shore Publishing

#212 – I Like It

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#212 – I Like It by Gerry & the Pacemakers

Gerry and Pacemakers – This song is pure pop from 1963 (UK) and 1964 (U.S.) with a bouncy tempo that’s hard to ignore. If you were a boomer just into your early teens or within a few years of crossing that age line of no return, it should be almost impossible for you to hear without cracking a smile.

It’s one of the songs by a group other than The Beatles that brings back memories of the first wave of The British Invasion.

I have a picture in my mind of being about eleven years old and riding my bike. It was before I was gifted with a transistor radio small enough to hold in my hand with the “important” (and that is assumed from my parents’ point of view) single earplug that would allow only me to hear what I’d usually blast out of the small, tinny sounding speaker. I had a metal basket on the front handlebars of the bike and I’d take my dad’s larger portable radio (my point of view assumption was he didn’t really need it) and peddle around listening to the latest Top 40 tunes.

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In theaters with the new film Eight Days A Week

The Beatles At Shea Stadium – Restored and Remastered

Read the story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special!

Buy now at Amazon.com

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Thinking back, I guess that would make me one of the pioneers of the boom box fad that annoyed everyone except the boom box owner a couple decades later. Also thinking back, I can assume our neighbors that lived on the street where I peddled my boom box equipped bike might have encouraged my parents to give me that small transistor radio with the earplug sooner rather than later.

Concert PosterGerry and the Pacemakers were billed as rivals of The Beatles. But since Brian Epstein managed them both, it was seen as a friendly rival. On the other hand, The Dave Clark Five was considered an either / or option. I don’t understand why fans had this perception of a competition, but there were teen magazines with cover stories promoting “The Beatles vs. The DC5” and a lot of kids were convinced if you liked one you were not allowed to like the other.

I didn’t fall for that. But at the same time, as I’ve mentioned in past Classic Rocker’s about my earliest daze as a pop music fan during the 1964 British Invasion, I didn’t have enough funds to buy every record I wanted for my collection. My preference was (and still is) for The Beatles, so I only heard Gerry and the Pacemakers and The DC5 via radio or television appearances.

How did these bands get to be the BIG 3 in early ’64? It took a dynamic combo of prime time television exposure and catchy tunes on the radio.

It started for us (U.S.) when the Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show for three consecutive Sunday evenings in February 1964. Ed’s point of view assumed (correctly) he could continue higher viewer ratings with more British acts. So in March he featured the DC5 singing Glad All Over – the competitive song that was promoted as knocking I Want To Hold Your Hand from the No. 1 position on the music charts.

DC5 fans could gloat while Fab Four fans would simmer with annoyance.

e9937a1379034fdfcf8b9383b20e22f7In May 1964 Ed and Brian treated us to two consecutive Sunday evening appearances by Gerry and the Pacemakers. Their first was on May 3rd and similar to The Beatles, they wore Brian’s mandated matching suits and sang I’m The One and Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying. The girls screamed, but I think that would’ve been the reaction to any band from England during this first wave. I thought they were good – but not The Beatles. They were missing the “mop top” look with a couple members looking a bit hair challenged. Also Gerry was distinctly the featured player while the four Beatles had appeared to be more of a group.

But here’s something interesting to think about.

What if Gerry and the Pacemakers had appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show before The Beatles? Based on the circumstances, which included the Beatles having a No. 1 record and radio play in the U.S. before anyone on this side of the ocean knew of Gerry and the boys, there was no chance. At least that was true from our point of view…

But from the UK fans point of view, it might have seemingly been possible.

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Did you know Gerry and the Pacemakers – from the Brian Epstein and NEMS stable of talent – scored a No. 1 song in England before The Beatles? Hard to fathom decades later, but this is what happened…

Officially” the Beatles first No. 1 song in England was From Me To You. In January 1963 they released Please Please Me and though it topped some of the local charts, it is only credited with rising to No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. That’s why the song is not included on the mega-selling compilation #1 with all their “official” chart-topping songs. Their first release, Love Me Do is included because it went to the top spot more than a year after it was released, riding the coattails of Beatlemania in the U.S.

Pacemakers & Beatles

Pacemakers with Beatles

Please Please Me wasn’t as lucky.

From Me To You was released on April 11, 1963 and would be The Beatles first No. 1. But what was the top song on the UK Singles Chart that exact day? If you haven’t guessed, it was I Like It by Gerry and the Pacemakers.

They were the first group managed by Brian Epstein to have a No. 1 hit.

As the legend goes, Ed Sullivan discovered The Beatles (even though Sid Bernstein had already scheduled the group for two February 1964 shows at Carnegie Hall in New York) on Halloween 1963 when he witnessed hundreds of screaming fans at London’s Heathrow Airport welcoming the Fabs from a short Scandinavian tour. The Beatles also broke onto U.S. Top 40 radio in December and had their first U.S. No. 1 hit with I Want To Hold Your Hand in January 1964.

gerry-the-pacemakersThey would be the pioneers and in February they’d seal the deal by bringing Beatlemania to the U.S. But after bringing in the DC5 a month later, Ed would turn to Brian to keep the momentum going and he delivered Gerry and the Pacemakers.

During their second Ed Sullivan appearance a week later, they played I Like It. As mentioned, the song had already been No. 1 in England a full year earlier, but in the chronology of Gerry U.S. hits it came after Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying and How Do You Do It. It also didn’t fare as well by only rising as high as No. 17 on the U.S. charts.

The song leaped to the top of my mental chart on February 29th (get it?) and still brings a smile to my boomer face when it comes up on my digital playlist. Since I now own a copy and had just heard it the day before, it lands in the recent memory category on this Classic Rocker Dream Song List.

To experience this bouncy tempo song that is still an example of pure pop music from the early-to-mid 1960’s, check out this video of Gerry and the Pacemakers with a live performance of I Like It.

 

 

To purchase Gerry and the Pacemakers Greatest Hits with I Like It 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 2016 – North Shore Publishing

 

#213 – I Just Want To Be Your Everything

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#213 – I Just Want To Be Your Everything by Andy Gibb

andy gibb – Even though a lot of classic rockers get night sweats when remembering the disco era, with hindsight some of the songs were actually pretty good. This is one of them. It’s just too bad there are negative reminders that go along with it.

I Just Want To Be Your Everything came out during the height of disco mania in 1977 and was No. 1 in the U.S. for four weeks. It was also ranked as the No. 2 song for the entire year by Billboard Magazine. It may have made rock and rollers, new wave’rs and punk rockers sweat at the time, but no one could deny Andy Gibb was a star and the latest teen idol on the music scene.

But did he have an easier route to success than other artists that struggled and survived hard times on their way to the toppermost of the poppermost? Think of The Beatles in Hamburg and The Rolling Stones living in Edith Grove and you’ll have an idea what I’m referring to.

I’ll let you break into small discussion groups to mull that one over. But in the meantime here’s what I remember while listening to I Just Want To Be Your Everything

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In theaters with the new film Eight Days A Week

The Beatles At Shea Stadium – Restored and Remastered

Read the story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special!

Buy now at Amazon.com

————————————————————————

I was part of a New York City music scene that was different from rock and rollers, disco, new wave and punk rock. This happened mainly because I wanted to play music, but was also a classic rocker before even knowing what a classic rocker was. In other words, by 1977 most of my influences were being relegated to the discount record bins by the newer acts that referred to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and others from my era as dinosaurs.

Andy Gibb Record SleeveAll of a sudden boomers were becoming victims of a reverse generation gap. A younger crowd was taking over the music scene. I want to say that newsworthy description comparing our rock stars to extinct relics came from The Sex Pistols or The Clash. I could look it up, but I don’t really care who said it. The younger generation I encountered in NYC during the late 1970’s were either going for The Ramones or Donna Summer and at the time, I also didn’t care for either.

But thanks to hindsight, my attitudes on both have changed.

Around this time I remember heading down to Greenwich Village most weeknights with my acoustic guitar to perform at the folk clubs along Bleecker Street such as Folk City, Kenny’s Castaways, The Back Fence and anywhere else you could get a beer and an egg roll as payment for doing a set. My music partner in what I consider a very Everly Brothers / Lennon & McCartney influenced act was my buddy Jeff. We covered the two just-mentioned duos and other acts from their era, wrote hours worth of original material and harmonized like we were born to be pop star brothers or Beatles. It’s just too bad we were born more than ten years too late and our musical tastes reflected that.

Bleecker StreetOkay, I won’t be so tough on us. We actually made a living playing music for about a year with regular paying gigs. The beer and egg rolls – with an occasional burger or steak – added to our income. At the time I remember telling friends it was great to get my butt out of the New York Subway and into the backseat of a taxi where it belonged.

Part of this lifestyle included late nights and early mornings in bars or coffee shops (sometimes both) talking music with other musicians. These were fun and even some wild times. But as many musicians or most anyone else in the entertainment business will admit, it wasn’t easy. We stood in line for lottery auditions, schmoozed club owners and talent bookers, made countless unreturned phone calls, recorded demos, sent demos and promotional packages to record companies, agents, managers or people that said they knew the “right” people, and hoped for any type of a break. In the meantime, we played as many gigs as possible. Some were great with large and enthusiastic audiences, while others were in dark and dank late night clubs in front of only a bartender and server who were watching the clock until it was time to close up and leave.

And we weren’t bad. We could do – and often did – four or five one hour sets a night without ever repeating a song. But one I especially enjoyed was Got To Get A Message To You by the Bee Gees. I don’t want to brag, but I could do a great Barry Gibb impression complete with a quivering vibrato that always “got” the audience when I’d use it for the last verse.

Which brings us back to Andy Gibb.

I distinctly remember more than a few conversations about whether any of us even had a future in the music business. Just trying to book a gig could be a time consuming struggle and as many entertainers will tell you about the early stages of their careers, you’ll hear the word “no” a lot more than “yes.” It’s the nature of being in the creative arts.

Then someone would suggest things would be a lot different if the Bee Gees were our older brothers.

Bee Gees Andy Gibb

Brothers Gibb with Andy

BAM – yeah, I said it. During my years in NYC I’ve been fortunate to know many entertainers who have gone on to be very famous. And in my memory they worked and struggled to get there. Some that are now household names spent the early stages of their careers couch surfing through friends’ apartments, working office temp jobs and maintaining a skinny physique on a steady diet of egg rolls. But from what everything I’ve read about Andy Gibb, he never had to do that.

With the mega-success his brothers were having as the Bee Gees, he always had more money in his pockets than other kids his age, he was driven to school in a limousine, and when he was ready to become a pop star he was signed by the mega-powerful Robert Stigwood – who also happened to manage his three older brothers, the Bee Gees.

I know that sounds like sour grapes, but there’s no way in hindsight to change our opinions from the late 1970’s. To the rockers, New Waver’s, disco bands and punks that dragged their equipment through snow, cold, rain or street-melting summer heat to play a gig in a crappy club for a crappy audience, it appeared he was handed success on a silver platter.

Wow, that does sound like sour grapes. Okay, maybe. But that’s not the sad part of the story. The sad part is how it destroyed him.

He didn’t deserve that.

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As mentioned earlier, I Just Want To Be Your Everything is a good song. It was written by Andy’s oldest brother Barry and in 1977 there was no one in the music biz who was hotter. It seemed anything he was involved in went straight to No. 1 and stayed there until they released another hit. The song was disco’ing through my waking mind on February 27th. I’m not sure how it got there because I didn’t own a copy and hadn’t heard it in awhile. But catchy songs have a tendency to stay with me. It’s on the subliminal chart of this Dream Song List because of those reasons, but I’ve since added it to my digital playlist (along with The Ramones and Donna Summer) and do my best Barry Gibb impression (he also sang background vocals on his youngest brother’s hit) when no one is around to hear my quivering vibrato.

Gibb Andy

Andy Gibb

It’s shocking that Andy Gibb seemed to have everything going for himself, but died just days after turning thirty years old. Officially it was heart failure, but it has also been acknowledged it was due to years of drug abuse. Cocaine was his primary demon.

Did his success come too easy and too fast and leave him too much time to party and indulge in too many pop star excesses? Honestly, I don’t have an answer for that any more than you do. But the scales tip both ways on this one and as we all know, Andy Gibb is not the only one this has happened to in the entertainment industry. I’ve known struggling artists and world famous performers that have fallen into the drug scene and couldn’t buy their way out. Addiction is a disease that’s easy to catch. The unknowns I encountered in The Village and at other scenes in NYC have remained unknown and there’s no reason to mention names here. But indulgent related reasons for the early exits of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and others are well-known.

So being born into the right family is not the cause.

Drugs in the music scene, especially cocaine in the 1970’s, was considered chic and cool. I saw it all around the NYC clubs and fortunately had no interest in it. But I had friends that did, used recreationally – and eventually got strung out and hooked. Some got help and others didn’t. The ones that didn’t ended up like Andy Gibb. And when you think about the decades they’ve missed since their demise at a too young age, it only adds up to more sad stories.

Andy Gibb had a solid gold invitation to join the family business, but somehow lost his way. With hindsight it’s still a sad story and will always carry a negative reminder that without such easy access to fame, fortune and indulgence it might have been avoided. But again, I don’t have the answer to that anymore than you do.

One thing that can’t be taken away is I Just Want To Be Your Everything. For a dose of late 70’s teen idol disco pop check out the video.

 

To purchase Andy Gibb: Greatest Hits with I Just Want To Be Your Everything 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 2016 – North Shore Publishing