#122 and 123 – Drive My Car

Standard

#122 & 123 – Drive My Car by The Beatles

This song recalls two different memories separated by more than two decades. Both carry equal weight in my weighted-down memory bank, with each deserving space in this Classic Rocker rambling of words. We’ll title the first, “Sunday School Music” and the second, “Three Dave’s Die In Fiery Car Accident.” However, don’t read too much into each title. Both are misleading and have happy endings, rather than the fire and brimstone you might expect.

In both cases, don’t let the titles fool you.


I’m gonna be a star!

Drive My Car was an excellent soul-influenced rocker to kick off a Beatles album. What album depended on what side of the Atlantic you were located. For me it was in June 1966 and the LP Yesterday and Today. For their home-grown fans in England, they were gifted this gem on the pre-Christmas 1965 release of Rubber Soul. As classic rockers know, Beatles albums in various countries had different song configurations until Sgt. Pepper in 1967.

I won’t get into any reasons for this sometimes-confusing mix and match. But it’s why first-generation Beatles fans can still talk about the same songs, but from different albums.

Before we dwell on the past, Drive My Car joined the Dream Song list twice on January 29 and September 13. And since Beatles LPs in all configurations are never far from my daily playlists, it goes down in the recently heard category.

Sunday School Music

In 1965-66 I was aware of the album track differences and knew my pre-Christmas copy of Rubber Soul had less songs than the UK version. When I learned of the missing titles, Drive My Car had me confused since only The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean sang about cars.


U.S. Beatlemania

Then I learned Yesterday and Today would kick-off another summer of Beatlemania with announcements they would tour North American again in August. The excitement was building.

Our local Top 40 AM station was broadcasting teasers about premiering this song from the upcoming album, so it was important to stay within listening distance of a radio. The deejays told us it was coming but not when.


Visit The Classic Rocker’s Amazon author page

For me it finally occurred on a Sunday morning. My mother had dragged me out of bed to go to Sunday school at our church. After what seemed an eternity, which is what we all were being primed for on Sunday mornings, I couldn’t leave fast enough to turn on the car radio. I was way too young to drive but must have convinced my mother to give me the keys because I was in the driver’s seat watching the more pious members of our congregation heading in for the church service when a deejay finally gave it a spin.

And yeah, that’s exactly how it happened. It also sounded as great then as it does now.

Three Dave’s Die in Fiery Car Accident

Okay, obviously the second story also involves a car. It’s in the title. There were also three Dave’s, with me being one of them. But there was no fire, and nobody died. It’s just what one of the other Dave’s screamed out during a hectic drive with me behind the wheel.

Oh, and I should mention, the louder Dave went on to be very famous.

I’ve mentioned in past Classic Rocker’s I’ve worked in the comedy industry. My official title in Los Angles was Talent Coordinator and I was based at The Hollywood Improv comedy. At that time, there was also club in Santa Monica, where we filmed the television show A&E’s An Evening at the Improv. I scheduled comedians to perform at both venues and the TV show, while also looking for “new faces,” which were unknown comedians that could possibly go on to become famous.


John Lennon outside The New York Improv

This story involves one that did.

It was late 1992 when I received a call from a friend in New York City who managed comedians and scheduled shows for a club in The Village. He told me about a young comedian he was working with and wanted my help getting him on stage in Hollywood to be seen by important television and film producers.

I trusted his kid would be funny, but also knew how to “play the game” within the entertainment industry. I said I would do it if he scheduled two of my NYC comedy friends for an MTV audition happening at his club. He agreed and it was a done deal.

I’ve always compared it to making a trade in baseball. I’ll trade you two of my players for one of yours. I’ll reveal the name of his player in a moment.

We scheduled his comedian for a five-to-seven-minute showcase on a Thursday evening at The Hollywood Improv. This was always an important night for new comedians since the “already-famous” acts would fill the stages on Fridays and Saturdays. Industry people would be looking for “new faces” on the weeknights, with the most popular being Thursdays.

I was at a table in the back of the showroom waiting for this unknown comic to find me. I felt there was more pressure on me than usual since there were a lot of behind-the-scenes bigwigs in the audience. One of my jobs was to make sure our “new faces” were funnier than at other clubs and worth seeing. To keep the odds in our favor, I would normally watch a video of a new comedian before deciding to add him or her to an important show. But in this case, I had trusted my NYC pal. I had no idea if this kid was going to be a hit – or a bomb.


Follow The Classic Rocker as we count down to #1

The trade had been made.

I noticed a tall, skinny young guy making his way toward me. He must have asked a server where I was because he walked up to my table and asked if I was Dave. I said yeah and asked who he was.

He introduced himself as Dave Chappelle.

I looked up at him and said, “You better be funny.”

“Okay,” he answered.

I’ll cut this rambling short and just say he went on stage and tore down the house. I was laughing so hard there were tears running down my face. When he walked off stage, I was already running up to him, grabbed his hand and said, “You’re doing the TV show An Evening at the Improv.”

He said, “Okay.”

Now, whether there’s truth in this or not, I’m still claiming to be the first to schedule Dave Chappelle for a television appearance. Intense research may prove differently, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve taken full bragging rights for this one and will not easily give it up.

Of course, Dave generated a lot of attention from the industry that night and was on his way to a hugely successful career. So, for that reason, he was staying in Los Angeles rather than heading back to New York. And of course, we took advantage of his new west coast status by scheduling him to appear at our two local Improv clubs.

One evening I was again seated at one of the back tables in the Hollywood Improv watching for new faces when Dave walked up and said hello. I asked what he was doing there.

“You gave me a spot,” he answered.

“Yeah,” I said, “but not here. You’re supposed to be in Santa Monica.”

Oh man,” he said, or something close to that, “I’m from New York. I don’t have a car.”

I’m sure I answered with a word that would fit right into a Dave Chappelle comedy routine and knew I had to come up with a solution. It wouldn’t look good for a still up-and-coming comedian to miss a scheduled performance AND wouldn’t look good for me – as the talent coordinator – to be with him when he did a no-show.

Thinking fast, I told him to get in my car, and I’d drive him to Santa Monica. We didn’t have much time, but if traffic was light and I ignored any type of speed limits or traffic laws, we could possibly make it.


Two guys named Dave

As we ran for the door, he grabbed a comedian pal – also named Dave – to ride with us.

I don’t remember what route I took, but it was a race against time. Dave Chappelle was in the passenger seat and his pal Dave was crammed into the back. The jokes and one-liners about my driving were also flying fast and furious as I kept the pedal to the metal and avoided contact with the other cars I was passing.

At one particular moment, probably after another close call, Dave Chappelle put his hands on the dashboard and yelled, “I can see the headlines now! Three Dave’s Die in Fiery Car Accident!”

“Shut up!” I yelled back. Actually, it was more laughing than in fear. I may have even punched him in the shoulder, but that could just be an exaggeration I’ve come up with over time. It wouldn’t have been too smart of me to take my hand off the wheel traveling full speed ahead.

We pulled up in front of the Santa Monica Improv with barely a minute or two before he was due on stage. I slammed on the brakes and yelled at both Dave’s to, “Get out!” They did, ran inside and I went back to the relative safety of my table in Hollywood.

To close out this chapter of Drive My Car

Several years later, Dave was one of the biggest comedy stars on television with The Chappelle Show. He was on tour, and I learned he was performing at my later comedy home base, The Improv in Cleveland, Ohio. I headed out early hoping I could find him and once I arrived, well… it was easy.

In the parking lot was a large touring bus with his face the size of a billboard covering the side. I walked over, knocked on the door and waited for someone – probably a security guy – to answer. Instead, the window curtains opened, and Dave Chappelle looked out at me.

“Hey!” he called out. “Three Dave’s die in fiery car accident!”

We had the chance to hang out for a bit and have a few laughs before the show. I really don’t remember what we What we talked about, but I will tell you one thing we didn’t do. We didn’t listen to The Beatles.

Thanks for reading and as always – keep rockin’!

To hear Drive My Car by The Beatles with some cool in studio photos visit YouTube.

Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of the books The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. For more information visit his author page on Amazon.com

#124 and 125 – Oops, I Did It Again

Standard

#124 & 125 – Oops, I Did It Again by Britney Spears

The element of surprise can always be a good storyline. And it doesn’t matter if you’re being surprised or the one doing the surprising. It adds to the plots of great plays and movies, along with real life. There can be good surprises and bad surprises, and for this edition of The Classic Rocker, we’ll go with the good vs. bad format, even though at one point it wasn’t looking good.

Think surprise parties, surprise reunions, surprise gifts and in this case, a surprise concert.

Surprise classic rockers!

Britney Spears was the “Pop Tart” (I didn’t come up with that term but read it somewhere and thought it was fitting and funny) for a younger generation than mine. I was more in tune with Mick Jagger prancing across a stage, but I also didn’t tune out what my kids were listening to.

At one time or another during the late 1990s and early 2000s, both Chaos Kevin (older) and Dangerous Paul (younger) had posters of Britney hanging on their bedroom walls. To be quite honest, I would have also gone with that over a photo of Jagger, but my wife Debutant Deb would not have allowed me to hang either in our shared sleeping space.

This was the poster – yeah, I remember…

Britney’s songs were also heard on a regular basis in our house starting with Chaos Kevin and eventually handed down to Dangerous Paul. So, I was very familiar with her hits, especially our latest addition to this Dream Song List, Oops, I Did It Again. Boomers may not consider it classic rock, but with the passage of time I’m sure both our boys now consider it music from the distant past.

The song joined this list as a double-hit on August 23 and November 26 when it “tarted” up my sleeping mind. I was the only male in our household that didn’t own a copy and hadn’t heard it since before Britney’s kids were old enough for her to start worrying about what they were listening to or posting on their bedroom walls, so it goes into the subliminal category. It wasn’t as much fun as waking up with a poster of her on the wall, but it has a catchy enough tune to put a smile on my face with the memory of a surprise worthy of any Classic Rocker’s Hall of Fame.


Follow The Classic Rocker as we count down to the #1 Dream Song!

In 2001 I was writing a weekly music column for a local newspaper. My assigned focus was country music, which I had learned to enjoy, but could also use my editorial connections to nudge my way into shows the designated (and much younger) rock columnist had no interest in covering. Examples included The Monkees (too classic pop) and The Everly Brothers (too classic) which were right up my music alley. Then, in a not-so-surprising turn of events, when Britney’s Dream Within A Dream Tour landed a Cleveland date on November 9th at Gund Arena, Mr. Rock Journalist had zero interest in covering it for the newspaper.

That’s when I made my move and secured a press pass and photographer’s pass for the concert.

I’m sure my editor and fellow journalist were surprised that someone who looked at Don and Phil Everly as rock gods would volunteer for a pop tart assignment. They may have looked at me as a dirty old man, but I had an ulterior motive.

Now, a decision had to be made.

Debutant Deb had been thrilled when my concert and backstage passes allowed us to hang with her teenage pop tart, Davy Jones of The Monkees. But she also mistook Don Everly for a stagehand while I stood at the door of the brothers’ dressing room like I was about to meet royalty (in my mind, I was). So, she took a pass on my extra Britney pass.

Chaos Kevin had reached an age where live concerts meant an exciting night out, but not with his dad. If I could offer up my pass so he could take a date, he would be interested. But that wasn’t part of my game plan. I had another partner in crime in mind and the element of surprise would be the best way to make this happen.

On the afternoon of the show, I looked at six-year-old Dangerous Paul and told him to get dressed in his new bellbottoms (an old style from my generation trying for a comeback) because we were going to Cleveland. When he asked why, I told him it was surprise. Don’t ask any questions – let’s just go.

As frequent traveling adventurers, a trip to our nearest big city was not that surprising. I had a tradition (started by my parents when I was a young adventurer) of taking him out of school for one day every December to do our Christmas shopping downtown, drink hot chocolate, eat cookies, and ride the Rapid Transit (the north coast version of an above ground subway) just because we liked trains. So, without any protests, we jumped in the car and took off.

Really? Britney Spears? Two of the three went for it!

There were a few questions on the way, but he seemed resolved to this being just another of our shopping trips where he might score a new toy or video game. However, when we passed in front of the arena his six-year-old reading ability kicked in when he saw signs and banners promoting the concert and crowds of people lining up to go in.

His eyes grew big with excitement as he turned to me and asked, “Are we seeing Britney Spears?”

“Yeah,” I answered, before laying on an even bigger surprise. “And we’re going to meet her backstage!”

I mentioned at the beginning of this rambling there are good surprises and bad surprises. This one took a turn into the direction I didn’t expect. He sat quiet as I parked the car. I held his hand and started walking toward the arena when he suddenly stopped. He was visibly nervous, looked up at me and said he couldn’t do it.

What? This was a surprise to me!

Knowing in my “adult” mind this would be memory that would stick in his mind longer than any of my Dream Songs, I suggested we take some time to regroup and talk about this. We made a turn and headed next door to Tower City Mall, which is where we did our Christmas shopping excursions and might give him a more familiar comfort factor. There was a bakery kiosk on the second floor where we both ordered a hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookie and sat at a table overlooking shoppers, office workers heading to the Rapid Transit for the evening commute home, and excited Britney fans heading for the concert.

We talked. It was clear that meeting Britney Spears was an overwhelming prospect for him, and he wanted the game plan laid out before he would commit to this latest adventure. One of his questions was wanting to know how close we would be to her.

I pointed to a table about ten feet away and said that would be a good guess. He sipped on his hot chocolate and contemplated. I’m sure there were a few more questions, but after serious thought and gentle encouragement from dad, he made up his mind.

This is not an exact quote, but it went something like this: “Let’s do it.”

We made it back to the crowded arena where I presented our press passes at Will Call and was handed two concert tickets for (I’m pretty sure) the fourth row. We were then directed to a door that would lead us backstage. My plan was in motion until we were met by another surprise.


Visit The Classic Rocker’s author page on Amazon.com

A guard at the backstage entrance checked my press pass and said I was okay to enter. But when I showed him the photographer’s pass for six-year-old Dangerous Paul, his gatekeeper mentality kicked in.

“He’s not a photographer,” he said, denying him entrance. Yeah, okay… genius, but he still had a pass.

This exchange went back and forth for a few volleys until I was told, in a security guard’s tone of voice, that Dangerous Paul would not be admitted backstage. I could go in to get a few quotes and photos with Britney Spears, but the photographer imposter would have to wait outside – by himself in a crowd of concert-goers – until I came back out.

Yeah, okay… genius. As a protective father, I told him that wasn’t going to happen. Thanks to him we’ll skip running any quotes or photos of Britney in the newspaper and just review the concert. In hindsight, I think Dangerous Paul was a bit relieved that the “meeting” pressure was over. Now he could get psyched about seeing his favorite Pop Tart on stage.

The opening act was finished by the time we were led into the arena and our seats in the fourth row. Compared to the huge crowd behind us stretching out into the dark nosebleed sections, it was almost as if we were seated on stage. Talking to some of the people around us, I realized we were in a prime section with family and friends of the band and dancers. The woman next to Dangerous Paul (I think, but it’s been a while) was married to one of the guitar players. The two of them hit it off as loyal Britney fans and talked about how “cool” she was as the excitement continued to build. Then the lights went down, the crowd started screaming, the band started playing and a spotlight lit Britney Spears at center stage.

Show time!

I won’t go into a concert review, but for Dangerous Paul it scored a ten out of ten. The singing (debate on some of it pre-recorded, but didn’t take away from the show), dancing, lights, effects, and energy had him standing on his chair the entire time with this Classic Rocker hanging onto his bellbottomed legs to prevent any falling mishaps.

For this journalist’s review, it was very different than a concert by The Monkees or The Everly Brothers. I enjoyed the songs. Oops, I Did It Again was one I knew, and nothing in the show could be called a “dud.” As a six-year-old Dangerous Paul would have said, it was “entertainment plus.”

I also can’t help but mention her stage outfits. To describe them as risqué would seal my reputation as an outdated Classic Rocker. I’ve watched 1960s Beach Party movies where the actors would be considered overdressed compared to what little coverup she wore on stage. It’s no wonder in my concert review I mentioned there seemed to be a lot more fathers taking their kids to this concert than mothers. Geez, I wonder why…

And to emphasize this point, I’ve told Dangerous Paul a few times in the years since that I should have taken that offer to meet Britney Spears and left him outside. Okay, just kidding… maybe.

The Classic Rocker and Dangerous Paul almost 2 decades later. I’m guessing he would have gotten back stage…

The surprise was a huge success, and it didn’t take a genius to realize that. Dangerous Paul sang and danced as his favorite pop tart did the same only a few feet away from us on stage. At the end she flew over on a device hanging from the ceiling of the arena, did a few encores and sent her fans out into the November evening exhausted and happy. And being a concert more youth oriented than what I’ve grown accustomed to as an experienced Classic Rocker, we were home early enough so there was no excuse to skip school the next day.

On a final note, it would have looked even more suspect having a six-year-old with a photographer’s pass if we didn’t have a camera. Still in the days before cell phones, I made sure the prop was with us and ended up making good use of it during the show. When I brought home the photos, Debutant Deb questioned why I had taken so many more of Britney Spears than I had of The Monkees and The Everly Brothers – combined. With a nod to the risqué outfits mentioned above, she really didn’t need an answer. Let’s just say they looked better than any poster of Mick Jagger.

Thanks for reading and as always – keep rockin’!

For a video of Britney Spears performing Oops, I Did It Again visit YouTube.

Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of the books The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In ClevelandFor more information visit his author page on Amazon.com

#126 and 127 – What The World Needs Now Is Love

Standard

#126 & 127 – What The World Needs Now Is Love by Jackie DeShannon

This song was a hit for both Jackie DeShannon and Dionne Warwick and I enjoy both versions. It was co-written by Burt Bacharach and has a catchy melody – usually a requirement (but not a rule) to make this Dream Song List. And that’s exactly what happened on July 27 and August 3, which also qualifies this as a double hit. But I hadn’t heard it in a while, so goes twice into the subliminal memory hit parade.

Jackie DeShannon

DeShannon had the all-American image of a blonde surfer girl from California. Her television appearances that I remember most, (probably Dick Clark produced) had her lip-syncing outdoors by sand and surf with dancers and fans that could have been the cast extras for any 1960’s beach movie. She was also one of the opening acts during the Beatles first tour of North America in 1964. That makes her cooler than both surfing and cars on my personal hit parade. Apologies to Brian Wilson for that one.

In making the rules for these Classic Rocker ramblings, I only set one in stone. There are no rules. Yes, I do tend to relate songs to specific memories. But I’ve also gone off into tangents that have led me to places that have nothing to do with the song, artist, year and what was happening at that time. It’s only about what it inspires me to write.

So, where is this rambling taking me? Well, I’m conjuring up a memory that has nothing to do with the song. I can try to fool myself into being influenced by the words “world” and “love,” in the title, but to be honest, I wasn’t as worldly (yet) as I would become after this experience. And as Tina Turner once sang, “What’s love got to do with it?” The answer to that question in the following blast from the past memory comes from Edwin Starr in the song War:

“Nothing.” 


Follow The Classic Rocker as we count down to the #1 Dream Song

In the late 1970s I had settled into a “new world,” adapted to life in Manhattan, and had built up a good core of crazy people that doubled as my good friends. “Colorful” is a word I’ve often used to describe them because like every day in New York City, each was different.

One adventure I lived through, though there was momentary doubt at the time, took me to the hard-core South Bronx and legendary Yankee Stadium for a baseball game between my hometown Cleveland Indians and The Bronx Bombers. As an avowed Yankee-hater (the NY Mets were my adopted National League team), I always caught one or two games every season when The Tribe was the visiting team. Yes, I know they have been rechristened The Guardians and I’m a big supporter of the new name. But since this adventure happened during the summer of 1978, the big toothed, grinning racist cartoon character was still my team’s logo.

South Bronx Fun and Games!

Usually, I’d attend these games with my colorful gang of sports fans, but this time was different. My then-girlfriend and best pal rock band cohort joined me to fill three seats in the upper deck. Since neither of them could be called a Yankee, Indians or even baseball fan, I can only guess one of us had scored free tickets and brought the other two to make an adventure out of it.

The game was delayed by pouring rain, but since we were in the lower deck nosebleed viewing area, the upper deck kept us dry. It was also the scene of a few jumbo beers and laughs. We were having a great time.


Buy both books at Amazon.com

When the game was eventually called off due to the wet field, we made it across the street to the popular Stan’s Sports Bar. This classic beer joint is known for baseball cards of Yankee players laminated onto the top of the bar and always a mandatory stop for a final cold one before climbing the stairs to the subway station and a return trip to Manhattan.

But for the dynamic trio, that was when the real adventure started.

My girlfriend Kathy grew up in the South Bronx, which is like the other side of the world from where I grew up in Ohio and the safe Long Island suburb where our wannabe rock star pal Tim was hatched. Since she said we were only a few blocks from her home turf, Kathy suggested we check out one of the local bars where she might have some pals hanging out.

So instead of climbing steps to the subway station, we flagged down a cab.

It was already past sunset on a rainy night when we left Stan’s and the sky continued to get darker the deeper we traveled into the personally unknown region of the South Bronx. Out of the taxi’s windows it was noticeable that many of the buildings had been abandoned or burned out. For an image, think back to some of the movies featuring the dirty, tough streets of New York with neighborhood gangs and a sense of danger lurking around every corner and you’ll have a good idea of the adventure she was leading us into.

Kind of like this – only at night!

Let’s just say I didn’t expect to see any leather-clad tough guys dancing cheerfully to the soundtrack of West Side Story. In the movie playing through my mind, the show-stopping number had The Sharks and The Jets dancing on my head.

We finally pulled up outside a local, neighborhood bar. I don’t remember it being much more than an old concrete structure worse for age, dirt, and grime. There might have been a neon sign in a window advertising beer, but that was it. If I had been alone on the street or without a hometown girl as our travel guide, this is one establishment I would have danced by at a step quicker than normal.

Kathy walked in first, recognized some people at the bar and took off to hang out. Tim and I started to follow, but at that same moment it seemed like everyone stopped what they were doing, stood still, and stared at us.

Trust me, it was not a time to say, “What are you looking at?”

The bar was straight ahead of us and was typical of what you’d expect at a local establishment with stools, beer taps, shelves of booze and a few neon lights for bar ambiance. But to get there, Tim and I would need to cross an area with two or three pool tables each being used by two or three guys, with another two or three guys standing around waiting for their turn.

Kind of like this – only at night!

As mentioned, everything seemed to stop, and all eyes were on us. The first thing we noticed was that all these guys were holding pool sticks – and none of them seemed to have any front teeth.

You might associate the term “redneck” with the truck driving, bible-thumping, cousin-dating swampland somewhere south of wherever you might be right now, but we were standing face-to-face with the South Bronx version. It was also crossing our minds that a gang of tobacco-chewing, baseball-cap-wearing, tattooed local Bronx Bombers might not look kindly at two wannabe rock ‘n’ rollers with hair down to our shoulders, bellbottoms (it was still the ‘70s) and an obviously visible fear of pool sticks.

Tim and I both looked at each other – true story because this is my clearest memory – and said at the same time, “We’re gonna die.”

Okay, I’ll cut to the chase. We didn’t die since I’ve stayed around long enough to relate this adventure to anyone that has read this far. And to finish my Bronx Tale on a positive note, we ended up having a blast. And by that, I mean no one blasted us with pool sticks.

We hung out with a group of people I would have never otherwise had met, laughed, drank, sang with songs on the jukebox, and by the time it came for us to head back to Manhattan, a few of the guys went outside into the dark, burned-out neighborhood street and found us a taxi. Now, if there was any use of pool sticks to get a cab to stop for us in that neighborhood, it’s an event lost in the fog of a long-ago memory.

During my time as a New Yorker and resident of Manhattan, I made many return trips to the South Bronx and Yankee Stadium, always with a stop for a cold one (or two) at Stan’s Sports Bar. But the side trip to the inner sanctum of pool sticks and neon signs was a one trip wonder, never to be repeated. I’ll just call it what it was – another adventure with another group of colorful people in New York City.

Thanks for reading and as always – keep rockin’!

For a video of Jackie DeShannon performing What The World Needs Now Is Love visit YouTube.


Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of the books The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. For more information visit his author page on Amazon.com

#128 and 129 – What It Takes

Standard

#128 & 129 – What It Takes by Aerosmith

Aerosmith

A few months after moving to Los Angeles, I convinced one of my best friends from New York City to join me. We referred to each other as “brothers” and since I’d never had one, this served the purpose. For over thirteen years in Manhattan, we had joined forces in a couple rock bands, hung out and partied in every neighborhood, celebrated with new girlfriends, and consoled each other through every inevitable girlfriend breakup. We also laughed so hard and so often it’s surprising we didn’t permanently injure ourselves mentally and physically.

On second thought, I’ll go ahead and assume we did suffer some damage. But it was worth it because I’m still laughing.

Once I hit Hollywood, my rocker days were behind me. I had scored behind the scenes in the comedy biz in NYC and was attempting to work my way into that zone on the west coast. On the other hand, my brother-in-arms was looking to recharge the rock fire. When I picked him up at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) he looked as he always did – like a clone of Steven Tyler. He had a suitcase and a guitar and set out looking for a band and an amp to plug into.

1989 Rocker Look

After hosting a few parties in a condo sublet for our new LA friends that probably still has the Silverlake neighborhood wondering what the heck hit them, we crashed in a large apartment located in North Hollywood. As past city dwellers, we were shocked at the lack of bars and clubs within walking distance, but it didn’t matter. If we weren’t hosting a party where the crowds came to us, we had cars available to take us to where the action was happening.

But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds…

Being from Ohio, it was a “given” that at the age of sixteen, the most valued possession was a driver’s license. What I didn’t realize until I moved to Manhattan was that most city and suburb natives weren’t concerned in the least about that piece of plastic or the skills needed to get one. Public transportation was the fastest, cheapest, and most convenient way to get anywhere you wanted to go, whether it was Uptown, Downtown, Midtown, or a borough. If it wasn’t within walking distance, subway, taxi, or bus could always get you there.

As an adopted New Yorker, I soon shared a same outlook. Why in the world would I ever want to travel anywhere else? Everything we needed and everywhere we wanted to go was in New York City and a driver’s license was not a requirement to get there.

That’s why I didn’t drive – unless I was in Ohio visiting my family – for thirteen years. Besides, keeping a car in Manhattan was like paying rent on another apartment. The only thing fast about that would be the rate you burned through your bank account.

So, before my native New Yorker “brother” who went by the rock star name Tim could make his mark in Los Angeles, he had to pass a driver’s test. If I were a betting man, I would have given better odds he would be named lead singer of Aerosmith.

Steven Tyler

One of the “smart” things I did as a NYC resident was to keep my Ohio driver’s license current. That didn’t mean I could navigate Los Angeles traffic with any skill, but at least I was legal. But since we were both on the plus side of thirty-years old (me a little more plus) I didn’t know how well my potential rocker pal and native New Yorker would handle passing Driver’s Education and the driver’s test – especially since (as far as I knew) he had never even sat behind the steering wheel of a car.

To both our surprise, he passed. 

After that my only questions were about the mental capacity, sobriety, and resistance to fear of death the testing person at the DMV possessed to have passed him. I also thought about contacting Steven Tyler to check out the odds of the Aerosmith singer needing an understudy.

Since I had scored a lemon of a car (detailed in another Classic Rocker rambling) soon after my arrival in Hollywood, the next quest was to help find a set of wheels for my adopted brother. He had started a day job in the music biz that gave him some financial stability, but his credit rating wasn’t enough to do the trick. And since he was estranged from his “real” family at the time, this adopted family member was coerced into being a co-signer on a car loan.

I used the word “coerced” only because it sounds cool. 


Follow The Classic Rocker as we count down to the #1 Dream Song!


In reality, I was duped by a used car dealer to sign on the loan’s dotted line. Now, please don’t question my mental capacity, sobriety, or fear of financial ruin in this matter and allow me to explain. My only previous car ownership came during college when I had paid cash for a Vega station wagon (now you’ll understand the thirty-plus age reference above). That was the only way I knew how to go through life since I had never borrowed money before. 

My California car purchase had been the same cash deal. Taking out a loan was new territory, but the car dealer (another word for crook) assured us both that it was just a formality. My name could be taken off the loan after six months as long as my pal kept his steady job and monthly payments.

Yeah, I know… 

This scam artist saw these two streetwise New Yorkers walk in with the word “sucker” flashing in neon lights on our foreheads. It was a lesson most teenage car owners in the Midwest were being taught while I was jumping on a NYC subway and laughing about how I would save a fortune not paying for gas, parking, or insurance.



Before I get too carried away with this story, it might be a good stress-relief break to talk about this song on The Classic Rocker Countdown. What It Takes is from the album Pump by Aerosmith and the “real” Steven Tyler. It came out in 1989, which was only a couple years before this adventure, and was still in regular play rotation in both of our car’s cassette tape decks. The rich kids might have had CD players by the early 1990s, but since we purchased our wheels from the used car markets, cassette decks were still considered our “state of the art” technology.

The song joined this list on April 11 and October 4. Since I listen to it more on my digital playlist than I did in my lemon of a car in Los Angeles, it goes down as a recent memory. I’d heard it within a day or two of both mornings before waking up with the real Steven Tyler’s voice screaming through my waking mind.

Riding as a passenger with a thirty-something, newly licensed native New Yorker behind the wheel on any highway or street in Los Angeles can easily become a white-knuckle thrill ride. The “California roll” was common through stop signs, U-turns were spur-of-the-moment shortcuts, and pedestrians brave enough to use crosswalks were questioned about their mental and athletic abilities since he had no intention of slowing down, let alone stopping. He also saw no reason to stop at traffic lights if there happened to be a gas station on the corner. He’d just cut through, drive past the pumps, and exit in the direction he was going to turn anyway.

“This isn’t just a car,” he told me when I tried to explain there were traffic laws about these things. “This is a three-thousand-pound weapon.” Since I have no idea how much a used compact car weighed on November 21, 1991, you can trust that’s an exact quote.

You can also trust that was the exact date. It was when two events occurred and another (more important) a little more than a week later.

On November 21st I was a white-knuckle passenger while we were running errands, probably for groceries to stock our North Hollywood apartment, when Tim realized we were running late for that evening’s new episode of The Simpsons. The television show was never on the “must see” list for either of us, but his favorite rock band was going to appear as cartoon characters, and he wasn’t about to miss it.

The band? You guessed it… Aerosmith.

Walk this way!

After a few California Rolls and a quick shortcut through a corner gas station to beat a red light, his maneuvering of his three-thousand-pound weapon hit a roadblock. Actually, it couldn’t legally be called a roadblock since he slammed into the rear of a car, driven by someone that had made the bad decision to legally stop at a red light with us riding on his tail. 

Bam!

It happened so fast that we were deprived of the moment in comedy movies where the heroes or antagonists launch their car off a bridge (I’m thinking of The Blues Brothers) with their mouths hanging open, looking at each other and screaming. That scene usually leaves audiences – like us – in hysterics.

But in our case, it was… Bam!

Followed by each of us looking at the other and going, “What the…?!” Our experience wasn’t what a director would call for in a Hollywood comedy production.

Fortunately, it was only a fender-bender since he had no time to gain any true collision speed following the gas station shortcut. I don’t remember the driver of the other car being too upset, probably because he was a native of Los Angeles and these events were expected on a daily basis. They traded insurance information and Tim’s car limped us home in time to catch Steven and the band rock out on The Simpsons.

Kind’a like this…

The car was never repaired since it wouldn’t have improved his driving anyway.

About eight months later the rock music scene hadn’t panned out and the music biz job ended abruptly, for whatever reason I’ll never know. After a month of no income, two big guys knocked on our apartment door with repo papers and drove off with Tim’s car. A week or so later I dropped him off at the LA train station with a one-way ticket back to New York City, this time funded by his now un-estranged family, and I set about finding place of my own closer to where I was working.

Fortunately for me, the train ticket also included funds to pay off his car loan and I was able to mentally erase the word “sucker” from my forehead. But that doesn’t remove the word “crook” from a certain used car dealer in Los Angeles.

And in case you’ve forgotten, I mentioned another event happening a week (and a day) after our entry into the Hollywood demolition derby. The Friday evening after Thanksgiving I met with Budd Friedman, the owner of the Hollywood Improv comedy club, for a job as his assistant and talent coordinator. There was also another “interviewer” that sat at our table, who I hadn’t expected – Jay Leno. The results of that meeting gave my life a U-turn worthy of a Hollywood movie, but that’s another story…

  • And here’s a different “another story”: What It Takes is the only song on this list to EVER be the first song I heard on the radio after waking up with it running through my mind. Before I even had a chance to make my morning coffee, I turned on the radio and BAM – there it was coming out of the speakers. Does that qualify me as a Nostradamus of Classic Rock? On second thought, maybe I should have purchased a lottery ticket that day…

To watch Aerosmith on The Simpsons go to YouTube.

For the official What It Takes video by Aerosmith, visit this YouTube link.


Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker – and author of The Beatles In Cleveland and The Beatles At Shea Stadium. For details and more books by Dave, visit his Amazon.com AuthorPage. Thanks for reading – and keep rockin’!!

#130 and 131 – When Will I See You Again

Standard

#130 & 131 – When Will I See You Again by The Three Degrees

Philadelphia Soul

This wasn’t a record I would have added to my vinyl collection when it came out in 1974. It seemed part of the disco wave that was coming in on the coattails of Philadelphia soul (which I enjoyed), but I was a rocker to the core. If a song didn’t have an evolutionary connection close to a Chuck Berry beat, it belonged on the radio and not on my college stereo turntable.

When Will I See You Again evolved into an exception to this rule during a quick road trip to Chicago, which is another hot bed of soul music. But I don’t consider The Windy City to be as much of a disco influencer. I associate it with a more soulful brand of R& B and blues generated out of Chess Records, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf that when combined with a Chuck Berry beat helped give birth to The Rolling Stones, rather than The Three Degrees.

The Three Degrees are a female trio that formed in 1963 and (as of this writing) are still performing, though there have been quite a few different members over the decades. But don’t assume the group continually replaced the old with the new. In fact, it’s been almost the opposite. Some have come and gone and come back again. Two of the Degrees, Valerie Holiday and Helen Scott can both say they have added up about 50 years of history with the group.

History majors

Because The Classic Rocker likes complete transparency in these ramblings, I’ll admit to going online to research those membership facts. But I’m also proud to say I knew nothing about their Philadelphia soul connection when opening this edition. I’ve only just learned they originally joined forces in The City of Brotherly Love.

When Will I See You Again joined this Dream Song List on September 18th and December 14th. I don’t own a copy and since it never lands on any classic rock playlist I follow; it dances into the subliminal category.

And speaking of dancing, that’s a memory this song brings back, even though I wasn’t the one shaking my booty or anything else. Instead, it brings back a first-time experience I can laugh about when thinking back. But at the time it had the potential of a costly result, rather than laughter.

The road trip to Chicago mentioned above was financed by my parents and included one of my best pals. During Christmas break from college in 1974 we were back in our northern Ohio hometown and looking for something to keep us occupied until heading back to campus. Thanks to our family bakery business, my mother was interested in taking a two-week cake decorating course in Chicago. Since it would be during January when the business was closed for their annual vacation, my dad and sister planned to go with her. The main question they had was about the safety of the area. So, my family duty was to drive up with my pal Gary, stay a couple nights and scout out the territory. If we gave it the “okay,” she would enroll, and they’d move up north for two weeks.

Gary and I threw our bags in the car and took off on a five-hour drive with a bankroll for gas, lodging, food, and adventure. We had an address for the school and a nearby motel. After that, we were on our own.


Follow The Classic Rocker as we count down to the #1 song!

After checking into our room, we drove to a nearby suburb to find the school. We pulled into a parking space in front of the building, looked out the car window and both agreed it was “okay.” Considering our mission completed, we returned to the motel and called a taxi to take us to where the real action was in downtown Chicago.

Gary had heard of the Blackhawk Restaurant (now closed) that was famous for a “spinning salad bowl.” Curious and hungry at the same time, it became our destination for dinner. I remember a server placing a big bowl on the table and spinning it while tossing in salad ingredients and dressing. We ordered a couple steaks and…

Here’s an admission. I don’t drink hard liquor. That’s not to say I never have. After all, I went to college and that’s one of the first things they teach you. But ever since my golden era of frat parties filled with mental embarrassments, I’ve graduated into a lightweight category consisting of boring selections of light beer. And as I’ve matured age-wise, though not mature-mental-wise, I drink it over ice to enhance the watered-down effect. Believe me, it makes waking up in the mornings with Dream Songs in my head a lot easier than back in my college daze.

During our Chicago adventure, Gary was more alcohol-mature (or immature) than I was. His chosen beverage was Scotch and water and convinced me to try it. I did and though I’ve never liked the taste, I’m sure it made me feel more mature sipping a cocktail in a high-class restaurant, rather than sliding around a beer-soaked dance floor at a college beer-bash.

The next day we went sightseeing, probably on the Navy Pier. I don’t recall exactly what we saw, but we missed something big – which will come into this story at the end. When evening fell, we needed another adventure and found it within walking distance of our motel.

Great advertising!

I had never been to a strip club. Thankfully Gary had, which saved me from suffering the consequences referenced above concerning the potential of a costly result. Since we’re decades removed from this college-boy excursion, I won’t even pretend to know the name of the club or even if we had to show an ID or pay a cover charge to get in. I remember being seated at a table in a dark showroom lit by neon lights and ordering Scotch and water, once again trying to look mature. The music was loud, and the entertainment was…

Well, what do you think?

Girls came on stage and danced while taking off their clothes. That’s the simple entertainment definition for a strip club and the audience seemed to appreciate it. I know we did. Now, I’ve always considered these places to be a bit sleezy and still feel this way. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, especially when you’re a college guy experiencing big city adult entertainment for the first time. To show our appreciation, we ordered another round of drinks.

Not us – but sort of like this.

After a few “performances,” Gary must have left for the restroom or the bar. I was alone at the table when a very cute blonde about our age came on stage wearing a long gown. Her song (drumroll but should be no surprise) was When Will I See You Again. When she finished her routine (in other words, practically naked), I was in love. Well, maybe… It may have had something to do with the Scotch and water.

She must have noticed the invisible target on my smitten forehead because she put on some type of coverup and sat down at my table. I’m sure there was some type of small talk where I tried to evolve into my best “James Bond” maturity before she asked if I would like to buy her a drink.

I mean, sure… why not? It wasn’t every day that a semi-naked girl sat next to me and pretended I was cool. As if on cue, a server came over and she ordered Champagne. Thankfully, at that same “on cue” moment, Gary reappeared and asked what the heck I was doing.

I said I was buying my new friend a drink.

He immediately cancelled the order. She immediately stood up and ended our love affair by moving in on another James Bond wannabe at different table. Gary then enlightened me about the types of scams that went on in strip clubs. The girls pretend they’re interested and ask you to buy them a drink that will wind up costing about eighty dollars, which is the amount I distinctly remember him saying. How am I so sure about that? Because I didn’t have anything near eighty bucks and the big city bouncers standing by the exit door might have taken an interest in my cash shortage when I couldn’t pay the bill.

I’m sure we had at least another drink, but also remember dirty looks from the other “performers” when word spread that we weren’t going to spend like James Bond. Feeling uncomfortable about being two broke college guys taking up a table otherwise meant to add to the girls’ nightly income; we took off to find a less mature sleezy club before heading back to the motel. The next day was another five-hour drive home.

During our parental report, we gave the school and neighborhood an “okay” and my family ended up have a great two-week stay in Chicago and my mom graduated as an expert cake decorator. But when it came to a full scouting report, we didn’t score the highest marks.

Missed it!

My dad was interested to see the city’s newest high-rise, The John Hancock Building. When he asked about it, I distinctly remember saying we never saw it. Since he had a great sense of humor, he couldn’t stop laughing that we missed the tallest building in Chicago. How was that possible? Well, between spinning salad bowls and a nightclub that we didn’t volunteer any details about except for having great music, it must have slipped our minds to look up in the air.

When Will I See You Again?

I have a feeling if Gary hadn’t returned to the table on cue and my new love interest had been served that bottle of Champaign, a better song would have been When “Would” I See You Again? The answer song would probably include lyrics about a disgruntled stripper, an encounter with big city bouncers, and a parental bank wire request for eighty bucks to get me out of a third-degree jam. It was a lesson they never taught us in college, unlike Beer 101, and also the last time I ever tasted a Scotch and water.

Visit YouTube for a video of The Three Degrees performing When Will I See You Again.


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

Thanks for reading and as always – keep rockin’!!

#132 and 133 – Centerfield

Standard

#132 & 133 – Centerfield by John Fogerty

Now batting!

Living in Manhattan for thirteen plus years brought many opportunities. For instance, I was a member of three different softball teams. Yeah, I know there was a lot more that came with city life, but those are the memories this song carries with it.

I’ll admit I didn’t play on all three teams at the same time. I wasn’t a Bo Jackson wannabe (younger readers might want to look him up). But each wacky collection of wacky guys had its own distinct personality that could only be found on a softball field in Manhattan.

Centerfield was an immediate classic baseball song from the moment it was released in 1985. Decades later it is still played in stadiums and on broadcasts to get the crowds rocking with excitement. That’s also what happened when it cracked my softball memories awake on the mornings of November 19 and 2 – almost a year apart. I hadn’t heard it since… well, the last time I had the radio on during a baseball season. Since that’s been every summer since 1985 and will hopefully continue for many summers to come, we’ll score it as a recent memory.

My first softball team came at the best time possible. I had gone through my first year living in Manhattan, learning the city, and making new friends. I know this has been mentioned in previous Classic Rocker rants, but I moved to the city after college not knowing anyone or really, anything I was about to get into. I’m proud of not only surviving, but also making lifelong memories and friends.

While I haunted the nighttime music clubs in the East Village playing original songs and acoustic covers (and hoping for a big break), I paid my rent by working for a company that operated Broadway theater concessions. I broke-in at a candy counter in the Edison Theater and quickly moved up to a manager’s position. The bars and concessions did major business before the shows and during intermission. Then they would close at the beginning of Act Two. My job was to float between theaters, check on staff, inventory, and lock up the money before heading down to The Village.

While floating between theaters I could grab an empty seat at a different production each night and enjoy parts of the show. I may not see the entire performance in the same night, but with timing I could patch the entire show together within a few visits.

Winter Garden NYC

One of the hit shows during the late 1970’s was Beatlemania at The Winter Garden Theater. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but if not – I’m sure you can guess what it was about. Four actor-musicians portrayed The Fab Four and supplied the Beatles soundtrack live with films of news headlines and pop culture events playing on large screens. As a manager, I made sure to work the upstairs bar at The Winter Garden every Saturday during the third “late show” for a rockin’ dose of Beatles inspired adrenaline before heading out for a later night downtown.

My first softball team was not affiliated with any type of organized league. We were a group of guys that had an every-Friday-morning game in Central Park against another group of guys that had a bit of notoriety at the time. Our team was made up of Broadway theater bartenders and managers while the other team were members of the cast and crew of Beatlemania.

Central Park – Play Ball!

Since we’re talking about decades ago, I won’t even pretend to remember names, scores or even if we had matching uniforms. The only clear memories are of playing against a team that had a few lookalikes of John, Paul, George, and Ringo on the field at the same time. There were also girls in the stands acting not exactly like it was the “real” Beatles, but still fans. It was more funny than weird and made Friday mornings worth waking up for after a (usual) late Thursday night.

The next team was called The Ironmen and represented The Honey Tree Restaurant and Bar located at East 20th Street and Third Avenue. At this time, I had moved on to become the manager and weekend bartender and was in the beginning process of turning the restaurant space into a weekend comedy club. That’s also a good description of our team. Our games were more comedy show than athletic event.

BTW – The Ironmen roster is listed in the Dedication section of my book, Comedy FAQs And Answers. Yeah, they deserved to be in there for the laughs we provided. We were all good friends, drinking buddies and prone to cause chaos when the mood hit us. And that seemed to be more often than when we would hit a softball.

There are too many highlights still imbedded in my brain, but here are a few:

Don’t slide home!!

I played centerfield (like in the song) and my buddy Frankie was in leftfield. On another note, my pal Chris, the guy who got me into the comedy biz, was in right field. But that’s another funny story…

Our home field was a blacktop playground with the bases painted on. Remember, this was New York City. The outfield fence was too deep for anyone to ever hit the ball over, so everything hit to the outfield was in play while the batter sprinted around the bases. Against the outfield fences were several basketball courts that were often being used during our games by some… well, let’s call them tough-looking groups of ballers.

During one game, the opposing team kept blasting hits over our heads and onto the basketball courts. Frankie and I would sprint out to make a catch or at least play it off the bounce against the fence. A lot of times this would place us in the middle of a very different game that might include a drive to the basket or bounce pass on the basketball court. The ballers would grumble over our intrusions and call us a choice name or two, but we would throw in the ball and run back to our outfield positions, hoping they would think we were also serious athletes involved in an equally competitive game.

During one sprint to the fence where we interrupted another drive to the hoop, one of the ballers reached into his gym bag and showed us his gun. No BS – a gun. After that, any ball hit over our heads for the rest of our game became an automatic in-the-park home run.

Our pitcher – also a best friend and one of the funniest characters I’ve ever met – would take a few “shots” (alcohol) before the game to loosen up. Everyone else would just stretch, but he had a different regiment. Let’s just say the shots didn’t always help his game. Occasionally, one of his pitches would roll across the plate like a bowling ball. In that case, his teammates (the rest of us) would throw insults and heckle him worse than any opponents ever could. It was sometimes difficult to play while we were laughing so hard.

One other thing he learned – never slide home when the plate is painted on a blacktop field. I’ll let it go at that and you can imagine the rest.

Quick highlights of Ironman Softball: I once hit for “the circuit.” My teammates disputed this, but I won out by yelling louder. I had a single, double, triple and… a walk. As far as I was concerned, that counts in softball. Our pitcher said it was because of a girl pitching for the other team, but I quickly defended the equality of the sexes and christened myself an all-star.

We also had a play-by-play announcer and a video camera for pre-game, during game and post-game interviews with us. The announcer was Brian Doyle Murray, who was also the News Update Anchor at the time for Saturday Night Live. Yeah, we lived in an interesting neighborhood. After the games we would play the video through the television at the bar and toast our win or loss (it didn’t matter) with a few cold ones.

Which reminds me of our team motto: “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose – it’s how you look.” We all thought we looked cool – so that’s a win.


Follow The Classic Rocker as we count down to the #1 song!

I was a member of a third team during my final two summers in NYC, before acting like the former New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers by moving west to California. This one was in a “Showbusiness League” and took me back to the “real” dirt and grass fields of Central Park.

I was the manager of The Improv Comedy Club up on West 44th Street and played on a team made up of comedians. When I talk about The Ironmen heckling our own players (and our opponents), you can only imagine what it was like playing against The Improv team. I’ve always said I would have paid for parking, a cover charge, and two drink minimum just to sit on the bench and listen to what these guys would say. It was more than hilarious.

The comedians were all well-known in the business. They were on stages all weekends, toured and racked up television appearances. I can’t mention them all, but there are a couple you might have heard of. One was Ray Romano, star of Everybody Loves Raymond and another was Larry David who with Jerry Seinfeld created Seinfeld and wrote most of the episodes. He’s also the genius and star behind the television series, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Except for heckling the other players, we took these games seriously. We wanted to win the league championship which is probably why our team manager mostly kept me on the bench to be entertained by the creative heckling delivered by the comedians. We made the playoffs, but then our luck disappeared.

For our first important playoff game, our “really good” players – most of the starting lineup – were out of New York and doing gigs in other cities. That meant I had to come off the bench to play second base (I’m a centerfielder – remember?) and our first baseman, Larry David, moved to shortstop. He was a good first baseman and I was a decent outfielder, but in our new positions… let’s just say our team was at a disadvantage before the first pitch was tossed toward home plate.

Long story, short – we had a miserable game and lost. We were out of the playoffs and had to break the news to our traveling teammates when they returned for shows at The Improv. But there was one notable event that is still played out… on television, no less.

I played on that team?

I distinctly remember the playoff game ending and – let’s call it acting on the frustration we all felt – Larry took off his glove, thew it down and said, “I’m never playing this stupid game again!” I’m sure most of us felt the same way and I don’t remember any laughing during this losing moment.

Fast forward a few years…

I was watching an episode of Seinfeld and saw Jerry and George Costanza – the character that was modeled off Larry – wearing Improv softball jerseys. I thought, “Wait, that’s my team!”

I haven’t seen the episode in a while, but Bette Midler played an umpire (that didn’t happen with our game). But I remember George having a frustrating time and eventually saying something along the lines of, “I’m never playing this stupid game again.”

While watching, I was thinking, “I played in that game!”

I know Larry didn’t write the episode – I read credits – but it really caught the essence of what it was like playing on that team. We laughed a lot, but also played hard. It was New York City softball and I’ve had the experience three times over.

Put me in coach – I’m ready to play!

Visit YouTube for a video of John Fogerty performing Centerfield


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

Thanks for reading and as always – keep rockin’!!

#134 and 135 – Year of the Cat

Standard

#134 & 135 – Year of the Cat by Al Stewart

Not a snake but a cat!

I’ve never put much weight behind zodiac or astrological signs. I don’t really understand the difference, but I know they’re not the same. In my jumbled-up knowledge of these matters, zodiacs consist of years, while astrological signs divide up a single year. For instance, I’m a Gemini (astrology). In the Chinese Zodiac, I was born in the Year of the Snake.

A two-faced snake? Okay, maybe it does make sense. But not much more than playing with a fortune telling 8-ball when I was a kid, or when my clairvoyant cousin would read our palms. It was fun, but to this day my hand lines haven’t helped me pick the winning lottery numbers.

The Year of the Cat is a category of the Vietnamese Zodiac, which was happening in 1976, when this song was written. The War In Vietnam had “officially” ended the year before, but was still fresh on every red-blooded American male’s mind. So, in my jumbled-up perception of the times, that might have had something to do with this title, though not with the story within the song.

I’m not sure that makes sense, but it does to me in a mystic or clairvoyant way. The world had changed, which meant life in general was changing for many of my boomer peers. I was no different. When this song was released in October 1976, it was part of the musical soundtrack that was heard while I was making one of the most important decisions of my life.

The LP cover – cool.

If I were to place songs into sign categories – as I tend to do – Year of the Cat would fit “middle of the road” status in 1976. I was a rocker, as The Classic Rocker moniker should make clear, and was into the new albums like Hotel California by The Eagles and New World Record by ELO. Discs by The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin were never too far from my stereo turntable. Disco was a minor annoyance, though I found appreciation decades later, and I was completely tired and turned-off by the guitar troubadour scene headlined by James Taylor, Cat Stevens and the others that all sounded the same to me.

Year of the Cat wasn’t rock and roll, but it also wasn’t boring. It had a catchy tune, which I’ve always admitted to being a gateway in joining this Dream Song list. It was worth turning up the volume on the car radio and decades later is often found on my digital playlists. Since I had just heard it before waking up on both July 16 and November 11 with Al Stewart singing in my waking brain, it joins the recently heard category of this countdown.


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


At the same time in 1976, I was changing the path of my entire life and moving into the unknown. Actually, the location wasn’t unknown – it was New York City. It’s only what would happen in The Big Apple after the big move that was unknown.

New York City, 1977

I had graduated college five months before Year of the Cat started getting major airplay on our FM radio stations. I had earned a degree in Business Administration and Marketing, with no interest in doing either as a career. My friends had been going to on-campus job interviews all year, while I never went to any. I had no interest in a job. I wanted a life that included some excitement.

Law school had been “pushed” on me by certain people (guess I liked to argue) and I had taken the LSAT (major-important test) and scored relatively high. The best part about it was stuffing my results into the faces of a few college buddies who had considered me not as “scholarly” as they were before taking this massive test together on a Saturday morning.

I distinctly remember playing it cool the night before by skipping a raging party happening in my fraternity house and going with my girlfriend to a theater to watch the movie Tommy (the rock opera by The Who). The results of my friends’ tests meant the next steps in their higher education wasn’t going to happen. Mine gave me acceptance into two law schools.

Following a semester internship on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC where I mingled with members of Congress and others with higher political aspirations, I was completely turned off to the scene. I still remember hearing racist comments during certain “prestigious” social events and talking to a couple recent law school graduates who were (seriously) sweeping floors in the Capitol building while trying to find jobs. The joke going around the building was that they had law degrees in their back pockets while pushing brooms.

Okay, I know it wasn’t like that for every law school grad, but the two schools I had been accepted to were far down on the list of being “prestigious.” One I wrote off completely because I had no interest in moving from one corn field-surrounded Ohio campus to another. With the second university, I remember going to a meeting with admissions to discuss classes, schedules and whatever else would happen over the next three years if I decided to go. I walked outside, looked at the tall building that housed the law school and made the decision:


Follow The Classic Rocker as we count down to the #1 song !

No way. I had just completed degrees in subjects I had no interest in pursuing. I didn’t see any sense in continuing the pattern.

I’ll admit to being a bit lost. As far as career options, the Rolling Stones had just hired Ronnie Wood, so there were no openings there (I’m joking). Also, the television sitcoms I watched were not casting outside of Hollywood or New York (not so much joking). I wanted excitement and creativity, which wasn’t happening in small-town Ohio where I had returned. I was working in our family’s (successful) business, living in my old bedroom and was about to burst at the seams. A decision on “life” had to be made and I started the process.

The first move was influenced by attempting to – maybe – hold onto what I might have had. In October, after a full summer of working and boredom, I made a phone call. But it wasn’t geared toward the excitement and creativity I craved; it was to the ex-girlfriend who had helped me stay focused on the LSAT by going with me to see Tommy. I had some type of need for closure since her goal of marriage to a lawyer, kids and a house with a picket fence had not appeared anywhere on my radar while we were together. Since that decision had influenced her decision to drop out of school and go home to find her own life, maybe I had made a mistake. After my surprise phone call that was made months too late made it clear there had been no mistake, I walked out of the kitchen (where our only phone was located) and made an announcement to my parents.

“I’m moving to New York.”

Manhattan 1977

There was no protest or resistance in my plan. They were supportive, obviously knowing me well enough that I wanted more in life than where we lived could offer. I put the wheels in motion very quickly to make this happen.

My first move was to call the music teacher who had directed me as the lead in our high school musical. I met with him and his wife who gave me books about acting schools in New York and their recommendations on what were the best. The school that stood out – because of the legendary name – was The Lee Strasberg Institute. I called, scheduled an appointment and in that same month – and also the month with Year of the Cat starting its rise up the music charts – I threw a bag in my 1974 Chevy Vega station wagon and made the 500-mile drive to New York City.

Life changed very fast after that and by May 15, 1977, I had moved into an apartment in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan. There was acting school, acting jobs, a new “day job,” new friends, new girlfriends, and thirteen years as a New Yorker ahead of me. It may not have technically been The Year of the Cat, but Al Stewart’s song was on the radio and still on the charts as I began this adventure.

I knew before I got there it was going to be exciting.

Here’s a video of Al Stewart performing Year of the Cat

To purchase Year of the Cat visit Amazon.com


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

#136 and 137 – Sunny

Standard

#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

Standard

#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

Standard

#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.

Visit Dave’s Author Page on Amazon.com

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…

Follow The Classic Rocker Countdown to #1

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’!

Email

——————————————————————————–

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 2021 – North Shore Publishing