#187 – Saturday In The Park

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#187 – Saturday In The Park by Chicago

– I’m using an absence of total recall to put the pieces of this puzzle together. It’s not pretty since it’s a tale involving both youth and… well, the stupidity that comes with youth. Then again, when many of us look back at our teenage years, there’s a good chance a lot of growing up experiences fit those adjectives. In many ways, that’s what growing up is all about.

This trek into the past was stirred by the release date of Saturday In The Park. I couldn’t find a definitive date other than sometime in the month of July 1972. But the exact date doesn’t matter since boomers will remember songs were premiered on AM radio in advance of release date. Deejays would hype their insider reputations by announcing exclusive broadcasts of potential hit songs before they were available in stores. The excitement would build and listeners couldn’t wait to hit their local record bins to buy a song they had to have after days or even weeks of only being able to hear it on the radio.

Chicago 2

So regardless of the exact release date, it’s a good assumption that even before we were into the month of July that year, Saturday In The Park was in heavy rotation on our car radios. And though I don’t have a specific memory relating to this song, I recall when it was Chicago’s latest hit – which puts us into the summer of ’72. This was also my last summer as a teenager and making experiences that overwhelmingly fit the above dumb and dumber related adjectives.

The mental journey this song takes me on is a road trip. And based on that memory, it would take a 19-year old road warrior to pull off this type of adventure and not be worse for wear and tear. If I was to do this today… well, with age comes wisdom. Maybe I could, but I know enough to not even try.

The first memory exercise comes with placing dates and certain events. In looking at a calendar from 1972 and exactly where I was on specific days, I’m more than dumbfounded my good friend Gary and I even had time to put this adventure together. On Monday, July 3rd a bunch of us were at The Akron (Ohio) Rubber Bowl for an outdoor concert by Rod Stewart & Faces with Badfinger. Then eight days later on July 11th we were at the same stadium for The Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street Tour.

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In between The Faces and The Stones, we made a teenaged road warrior trip

Roughing It

Starting from the shores of Lake Erie west of Cleveland, we drove Gary’s hatchback car to visit our best pal Tim in Albany, New York. This is what we were calling a camping trip because Gary had purchased some type of tent contraption that fit over the back of his car when the hatchback was in the up position. The seats would fold down and the car would have enough room for our sleeping bags. It was easy, fast to set up and for teenagers, very cool.

Oh, did I forget about the stupidity part? That’s coming up…

In 1972 the legal drinking age was 18. In our home state of Ohio, that meant we could buy beer containing a lower 3.2% alcohol. But in New York you could buy anything, including high-potent booze that could make remembrances of stupidity impossible the next day.

Tim had moved with his family to Albany shortly after high school graduation. The three of us couldn’t get together as often, so the goal was to do a quick overnight visit before Gary and I made a sharp right on the highways and headed south to Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And since we were in New York State, we thought (stupidly) it was a good place to fill up our beer cooler with stock more potent than the 3.2% we were only allowed to buy in Ohio.

This is the stuff!

While roaming through a beverage store pretending we were smarter than we really were, Tim pointed out a high-potent local beer called Maximus Super. I just looked it up online and the alcohol content is 8.9%.

We were a long way from Ohio.

Tim told us about polishing off a six-pack before a Humble Pie concert earlier that summer. He claimed to have finished the last one just as the band came on stage, then remembers nothing else until waking up in the backseat of the car as his friends were dropping him off at home. He claimed it was impossible to drink that much of the brew without passing out. Using the full mental power of a 19-year old college student and frat boy, I accepted the challenge and grabbed a six-pack for our trip south.

Our first night in Virginia Beach was spent at a place call the Cherry Motel. I remember this detail because of a photo taken next to the pool with the sign in the background. We did tourist stuff by visiting Colonial Williamsburg and Roanoke Island. Our next stop was Nags Head, North Carolina where we set up the car as our tent in a camp ground surrounded by sand dunes.

This was also a very cool destination.

I still have total recall of buying a green t-shirt that said “Peabody’s” that I wore for years, until it finally just fell apart. We also hit a local seafood restaurant where a staff of very cute waitresses served us platters of crab legs (mostly free because I’m guessing they also considered Gary and I were cute) while we went through pitchers of low-potent draft beer.

During one of our sand dune camping days we hit the beach and made plans to hit the town for another night in another seafood restaurant. But before we set out on that adventure, we sat down at a picnic table near our car-tent to have a few beers out of the cooler. I decided that was a good time to take the Maximus Super challenge.

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This is what I remember specifically, because I’ve told this part of the story many times since. I wish I had told it more as a warning for other mentally embarrassed 19-year olds, but it’s mainly been as a confession of stupidity worthy of a few laughs at my expense.

After a couple hours of sunshine, laughs and current Top 40 hits from a portable AM radio – and I’m assuming Saturday In The Park was on the playlist – I finished the sixth and final can of this Maximus brew. I remember standing on the picnic table declaring our friend Tim was a “wimp” and…

The next thing I remember is the bright morning sunshine waking me up.

I was in my sleeping bag, but under the picnic table instead of in the back of our car-tent where Gary was sound asleep. I staggered over, woke him up and asked what the heck had happened. It turned out I was the wimp. After making my tabletop declaration, I was no more coherent than Tim had been during Humble Pie and quickly made my mental and physical exit into the sand under the table. Gary ditched me to go out for something to eat. When he returned he tossed me my sleeping bag and left me to sleep it off in the sand for my recovery process.

As for my learning process, I won’t confess to being an angel because of this incident. But I will admit the rest of this trip was dry as we headed up the coast to New York City for a quick visit with my cousin, one more overnight in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and back in time for a July 11th date with The Rolling Stones in Akron.

1970’s Maximus Offer

Saturday In The Park? I won’t use that song as a soundtrack to describe my road warrior episode since it was fast, furious and along with a brief lack of memory, anything but a calm and simple walk in the park. But on the morning of July 17th when it joined this Dream Song List in the hasn’t-been-heard-in-a-long-time subliminal category, it jump-started my thoughts back to that summer of ’72. The concerts, the friends and the road trip were great. And as for that one night in Nags Head… well, it’s probably best not to be remembered.

But wait. Did this youthful episode of stupidity end my relationship with Maximus Super? Yes – to be specific, it did. But not with the beer’s source.

A dozen years later I visited the Matt Brewing Company in Utica, New York where this brew is brewed. Utica was the hometown of my steady girlfriend of that moment and her pre-NYC job had been as a tour guide and model for the brewery. She gave me the tour and a few extra sample tastes of different beers.

With total recall I’m proud to say I passed on anything that might have had the word Maximus in the name or the alcohol potency to black out an entire Humble Pie concert or a night on a sand dune. So let’s just say… lesson learned (the hard way!).

Comment? Please use the contact form below.

Thanks for reading – and keep rockin’!!

Here’s a video of Saturday In The Park by Chicago – beer not included

 

 

To purchase Chicago’s Greatest Hits with Saturday In The Park visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

 

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Born To Run – Featured Book Review

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Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Classic Rocker Featured Book Review

Rating: FIVE Classic Rock Stars

Takes You Along for the Ride

Bruce Springsteen is an American storyteller. His songs have meanings, characters, situations and experiences. He digs deep and can never be accused of not having an opinion. He brings that same attitude when telling his own story as he details events, thoughts and reasons that shaped him into who he was along every step of the way and into what he’s become. You can envision the streets, frustrations, determination, thought processes; relationships, success, fears and ongoing results that continue to drive both his creative process and personal life.

Like his songs and famous ramblings that set up where he and The E Street Band are about to take fans during his marathon concerts, Springsteen does the same with this book. His energy builds into a full tilt, no holds barred life or death scenario that is as entertaining as it is insightful. His expressive writing feels like he’s spitting out every adjective and emotion he can dreg up while inviting readers along for the ride.

Each album receives its own chapter beyond any mundane details of “who played what and where,” but rather goes behind the inspirations, meanings and what he HAD to say. Every career decision needed full commitment or wouldn’t be worthy of his fans or brotherhood of musical conspirators.

As opposed to after-thoughts or simple overviews of events, he takes you with him. From his earliest gigs in New Jersey to sold-out stadium shows around the world he relives the surroundings, people, highs and lows, and emotions. For example, his heartfelt and exciting telling of the band’s halftime show at The Super Bowl will get your adrenaline pumping while mentally preparing backstage and reliving the twelve minutes allotted to encompass the band’s history. Afterward you’ll appreciate unwinding with Bruce while knowing he “nailed it.” On another extreme, he can hear the difference on stage when his audience is screaming “BRUUUUCE” or “BOOOO” and is not afraid to admit when it happened.

If this book were put to music it would fit the definition of one long Bruce Springsteen song with all the storytelling characteristics mentioned above. And like a concert by Bruce and The E Street Band, you don’t have to be a diehard fan to enjoy the ride.

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#188 – All The Young Dudes

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#188 – All The Young Dudes by Mott The Hoople

 – This song has carried more than a few heavy connotations since it was released in July 1972. It’s been called the anthem for glam rock and an anthem for gay rights. But according to the composer, David Bowie, it was neither of those. In later interviews he said All The Young Dudes carried the same meaning as the opening song on Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. Titled Five Years, the character of Ziggy warned the earth only had five years left before it died.

In All The Young Dudes, the dudes “carried the news” predicting the planet’s final meltdown. In other words, it wasn’t written to be an uplifting song.

Bowie also claimed to have written it especially for Mott The Hoople who was on the verge of breaking up. He liked the band and thought a hit song would keep them together. But according to different versions of this story, the band’s recording and concert timelines during spring 1972, along with the existence of Bowie’s own version rumored to have been meant for his Ziggy Stardust album, the true origins of this song are still shrouded in mystery.

You can hear Bowie’s / Ziggy’s version on YouTube at this LINK.

As teenagers in 1972, we didn’t know any of that. It was simply a great song and worthy of turning up the volume whenever it came on the radio.

A Hoople fashion statement

With hindsight it’s possible to see how All The Young Dudes can be associated with glam rock and gay rights. The seeds for both were flowering in the 1960’s with rock stars already cross-dressing and baby boomers rejecting many of the strict morals handed down by older generations. If you’re not following me on this, check out the flower children from The Summer of Love that gradually morphed into the hippies of The Woodstock Generation.

In 1971 the Alice Cooper band hit the scene with I’m Eighteen. And when they made the scene in concerts and television appearances, their makeup and clothes made them look like poster boys for walk of shame partiers the morning after a wild night in a glam bar. A year later Bowie kicked the movement up notch releasing Ziggy Stardust and touring North America looking like… well, nothing we’d ever seen before.

It wasn’t long until a new wave of bands sported glitter makeup, silk flairs and platform shoes. And that wave included the dudes in Mott The Hoople.

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I definitely wasn’t wearing makeup in 1972, or anytime before, during or after the “glam period” of rock ‘n’ roll. So at least I have that going for me… ha! But the flairs on my trousers were pretty wide and would have picked up every speck of dust and glitter from dragging across floors if not for the high-heeled shoes a lot of us dudes were balancing on. Those long-gone fashion statements (thankfully) only exist now in old photos and memories, which is also how All The Young Dudes made it onto this Dream Song List.

Of course I own a copy on my current digital collection, but hadn’t included it on a recent playlist. So carry the news that this one has glammed its way into the subliminal category.

David Live

I’ve always loved the song, but by 1972 buying single (45 rpm vinyl) records had been replaced by album collections. And to reemphasize the constraints of being a college student on a budget during that era, Mott The Hoople lost out to LPs by Bowie, Alice Cooper and few others. So the first version of All The Young Dudes I owned was by the originator on his 1974 album, David Live.

So again, was it actually written for Mott The Hoople? Bowie seemed to like it an awful lot himself…

Though I don’t have any specific memories for this song, I have a slight one that involved the lead Hoople himself, Ian Hunter.

As mentioned in a few past Classic Rocker ramblings, during the mid 1980’s we’d occasionally hang out at a legendary NYC music club called Tramps. To add a little bit of specificity (an awkward, but fitting word) to this tale, our night of choice was usually a Monday. The weekend partiers were tucked away somewhere recovering from Fridays and Saturdays, so we never had to worry about an overcrowded scene. We’d have plenty of room at the bar or grab a table in the back to watch the night’s jam session.

The Monday night resident band – a loosely knit group of blues and rock musicians – was called The Bullies. One of my best pals was the semi-regular piano man and the main reason why Tramps became our semi-regular destination.

One Monday afternoon he called and said Ian Hunter was planning to come in and jam for a few songs. Since that would be a definite celebrity moment for any rock fan, our core group met up and headed for Tramps.

Ian Live

The band stomped out a few classic twelve bar blues and three chord rock ‘n’ roll classics and when they took a break, Ian Hunter walked into the room. And though he probably stopped wearing silk flairs and platform shoes a decade before, there was no mistaking who he was. But instead of plugging in a guitar, he sat down at the piano, which meant my best pal was relegated to sitting at the table with us during the next session.

I remember giving him a few digs about Hunter not wanting to jam with a commoner, but it didn’t faze him at all. We thought it was cool to hear some classic rock and blues from a great group of musicians that happened to feature Ian Hunter, which was the main reason we hung out on Monday nights while the real commoners were still recovering from weekend cover charges and drink minimums.

I don’t remember having a specific conversation with Hunter after they finished the set. My pal may have talked with him about keyboards, but that would have been it. But that’s the beauty of NYC. On a Monday off-night he was just another talented musician hanging out in a local music club with a group of music fans.

Except in the back of my mind I’m sure I was replaying the Mott The Hoople version of All The Young Dudes.

Comment? Please use the form below and as always… Keep Rockin’!!

Here’s a video with Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople doing a glam lip sync of All The Young Dudes.

To purchase The Essential Mott The Hoople with All The Young Dudes visit Amazon

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

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#189 – Copacabana (At The Copa)

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#189 – Copacabana (At The Copa) by Barry Manilow

 – Flash, glitz, disco dancing, spinning mirror balls and the steady South Beach Brazilian influenced beat churning up the nightlife. And no, I’m not describing the actual Copa nightclub or even Studio 54 in the 1970’s.I’m just guessing what it must have been like visiting Barry Manilow’s house during this high point in his career.

There’s no way The Classic Rocker can knock Barry Manilow.

Okay, he may have crossed the line into more Las Vegas glitch than the serious song writer-singer stereotype he fit into when first grabbing our attention with the hit song Mandy in 1973. But he morphed into a glitzy showbiz entertainer that has awarded him with a longer career than most of the other serious song writer-singer troubadours from that era.

Singer song-writer

And he wasn’t that outrageous at first. At least not compared to some of the other entertainers that were glimmering up their stage presence in the early 1970’s. If you need a reminder, check out videos of Mick Jagger, Elton John and David Bowie during that time.

I rest my case.

In comparison, Manilow has been called more nerdy than cool. But in addition to his musical talents he’s a performer – and his fans love his performances. He was popular enough to host his own network television specials and the songs Mandy, I Write The Songs (that Manilow didn’t write) and a host of his other hits are great examples of mid-1970’s AM radio pop music.

And you know what?

It was obvious he was having fun and didn’t mind to be fun(ny) at the same time. His 1978 hit Copacabana is the perfect example. I honestly was never into the song, but Manilow performing it on television in a puffy shirt is somehow burned into my mind. That’s probably how it wound up on this Dream Song List since it was catchy and memorable. Did I like it? I didn’t dislike it, but it was too far removed from my rock ‘n’ roll playlist to ever own a copy. But you would’ve never known that the morning of July 12th.

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Yeah, I know.

The dedicated rockers hooked on three-chord riffs, heavy metal, power pop and head banging grunge will accuse me of losing my edge. But as often used in my defense, I don’t get to choose what songs make this list. I just report on what’s going through my mind and Copacabana is a subliminal category example of the extreme. I just didn’t know my waking mind was capable of a hot Latino beat so early in the morning.

For all practical purposes I could end this Classic Rocker rambling right now.

I don’t have any specific memories attached to Copacabana other than watching Manilow perform it on television. And as far as the already mentioned song Mandy, one of my college pals had a girlfriend with the same name when it came out in 1973. He acted like it was written for her, but as guys we ignored his ramblings and wrote him off as any competition for the single girls.

Then again, The Classic Rocker has never been called practical, so this rambling will continue…

Barry and his Bette

Barry Manilow is from New York City. I remember reading his bio somewhere when he first hit the music charts and learned he wrote commercial jingles (for State Farm Insurance and McDonalds to name only two). He came up as a singer-songwriter in the local club scene and was the piano player and musical director for Bette Midler. By the time I moved to NYC in the late ’70s he was headlining tours and making television specials.

So I never ran into him. But I did meet a close connection – his mother.

Edna Manilow lived in my neighborhood and occasionally in the late ’70s or early ’80s would stop by the restaurant I managed for a glass or two of wine. Since Barry is older than me, his mom was… well, a lot older. She was pleasant and talkative, but more with the older business crowd that would frequent the place after work and treat me more like a kid than a manager. But since I was still in my 20’s it was a stereotype I couldn’t break away from.

Barry and his mom

They all knew Edna was Barry’s mom and lived in his apartment not far from Gramercy Park. I’ll guess it had to be somewhere in the upper East 20’s (streets) on either 2nd or 3rd Avenue. One afternoon she took her new friends (not including me) to see the apartment. When they returned I was told about all of Barry’s stuff that was still there including clothes, albums and photos. I’m sure they also mentioned a piano, but no spinning mirror balls.

Okay, that’s about it. Well… except for this…

After only a couple months of being around, Edna left the neighborhood. I don’t recall any specific conversation on where she was moving, but the next time there was a Barry Manilow special on television (I’m guessing the early ’80s) we had it on in the restaurant. Again, I don’t recall if someone had advance notice, but there was an opening scene that included Edna with Barry. It was actually pretty cool and it looked like she was having a blast. I’m sure she enjoyed her son’s celebrity status and the one thing I remember during the short time she was part of our neighborhood scene, she was very proud of him.

And finally, that’s really it. Well… except for this…

Here’s the video that must have burned Copacabana into my mind – puffy shirt and all.

To purchase Ultimate Manilow with his greatest hits including Copacabana, I Write The Songs and Mandy visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Comment? Please use the form below and as always… Keep Rockin’!!

 

#190 – Strutter

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#190 – Strutter by KISS

KISS in NYC

– On July 25, 1980 I was getting ready to hang out in New York City. I didn’t have any specific plans, but the great thing about living in Manhattan was just going out and always knowing something would happen.

I can’t remember how I’d heard the news, but word reached me that KISS would be performing a special concert that night at The Palladium on East 14th Street. Usually the band played stadiums and sports arenas so appearing at the 3,000 seat venue was a big deal. Already having seen quite a few shows at the former Academy of Music, I knew no matter where you sat it would be a lot more intimate and close-up compared to sitting in the upper levels of Madison Square Garden or The Meadowlands in New Jersey.

But here’s some inside information. I really wasn’t a fan of KISS.

The band seemed to break with the younger crowd around my senior year in college. I was locked into The Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who and other rockers, so when the freshmen in my frat house (yeah, I was a frat boy) hung up posters of these guys wearing Kabuki makeup and alien spacesuits (whatever), my college crowd pretty much laughed them off. And when we watched the fire-breathing, blood-spitting performance clips on television it seemed more like a circus than a rock ‘n’ roll show.

Rock ‘n’ roll all night!

The only song I knew was Rock And Roll All Night, mainly because the younger crowd had it on heavy turntable rotation and cranked up to full volume. We’d try to drown it out by blasting the latest and classic hits by our classic favorites.

Yeah… real music wars as a youth movement tried to knock the college boomers off our rock ‘n’ roll pedestals.

Fast forward to 1980 in New York, we had a great friend who had insider contacts at The Palladium. Louie was a lot older than the rest of us, but since no one really paid attention to that he was still part of our crowd. His sense of humor, energy and boomer outlook made him one of us and everyone that met the guy loved him. Especially the ladies.

Oh yeah, and one other thing he had going for him was that he seemed to be connected with just about everyone in the entertainment business.

One of his connections was in charge of the backstage area at The Palladium. Whenever a band was appearing I’d want to see, I’d call Louie, he’d make a call – and arrangements would be made for me to be let in through the stage door entrance. A backstage guy or a security guy would sneak me (and guests) past a curtain and we would grab whatever empty seats we could find.

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So when I heard KISS was playing The Palladium that night, I thought it could be interesting and maybe even fun to watch them for a few songs. After all they were one of the biggest acts on the planet at that time. Then I would sneak back out through the curtains, through the stage door and continue on with my nightlife in Manhattan.

So I called Louie. He made a call and the deal was done.

The late Eric Carr

The reason for this KISS show was a payback for The Palladium allowing the band to use it as a rehearsal space to break in their new drummer, Eric Carr. Original drummer Peter Criss had left and this would be the debut of the new lineup.

On my walk to The Palladium I ran into my pal Bobby and his future wife Barbara. This was one of those kismet (had to be) moments especially for them, because Bobby had auditioned for the drummer spot. By this time we had been playing in the same rock band for a couple years and I knew he was a huge KISS fan. When word got out in music circles about the auditions the rest of us encouraged him to go for it. I’m not sure if he actually got to audition by playing with the band, but he’d sent in a tape and had already designed makeup for his character as “Metalman.”

But he never got a chance to wear it since Eric Carr got the gig (as “The Fox”).

And in case you’re wondering about the other characters:

  • Paul Stanley – Starchild
  • Gene Simmons – The Demon
  • Ace Frehley – The Spaceman
  • Peter Criss – The Catman

Since Bobby was the never-to-be Metalman, I still thought it would be cool for both of them to check out the show. So using Louie’s connection to make my connection seem cooler, I took Bobby and Barbara through the stage door with me.

The place was jam-packed with no empty seats to be found. A Louie-connected security guy led us up to the mezzanine and said we could sit on the aisle steps and watch. Guess no one really worried about fire codes and overcrowding in 1980…

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From what he told us the audience included a lot of music biz heavyweights. The only one I remember recognizing was Dick Clark, but I didn’t pay much attention to that type of star-watching. As mentioned, I wasn’t much of a KISS fan and was really there to watch the circus for about three songs, and then head out into the New York night.

But that all changed the moment KISS hit the stage.

Holy ****!!!! I had seen everyone from The Beatles and The Stones to Led Zeppelin and The Who. And when it came to theatrical rock, I thought no one could ever top the show I had seen at the Akron Rubber Bowl a few years earlier by the original Alice Cooper band.

But I had NEVER seen anything like this!

It was LOUD and in your face. The band sounded great, even though I really didn’t know any of their songs except Rock And Roll All Night and their latest, disco-influenced, I Was Made For Loving You (which I already liked!). But the show is what kept me locked in with no more thoughts of leaving after only three songs.

KISS comes alive!

In their Kabuki makeup and costumes they stomped, danced and posed on high platform shoes. Simmons spit (fake) blood and when he did the fire-eating routine, I could swear my eyebrows were tinged from sitting so close. The guitars shot Roman candle blasts over the crowd and at various times the members of KISS flew through the air on wires. Bobby, Barbara and I stayed until the final notes and crowd cheers were over and all that was left was high pitch ringing in our ears.

And yeah – from that point on I’ve been a KISS fan. After this spectacle, there was no way I couldn’t be.

The next day, before I even had a chance to run out and buy KISS Alive or any other LP at our neighborhood record store (it was era when we still had them), Bobby made me a cassette of KISS songs he felt I had to have. The first track was Strutter, which I immediately recognized from The Palladium show.

I also recognized it the morning of July 3rd as a power pop way to kick off the morning. I own a copy on my digital playlist, but since I hadn’t heard it in awhile it kisses its way onto the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

Admittedly I never became a full force fan, which would place me into the category of KISS Army membership. In fact, I can’t name any song they came out with after removing their makeup in 1983 – even though I watched their unmasking in a club with my New York crowd on MTV. I also haven’t seen the band live since that show at The Palladium, but the sheer impact, showmanship and sitting close enough to actually feel the energy (and fire!) they generated on stage makes it an exciting memory.

Here’s a video of the original KISS lineup performing Strutter.

To purchase KISS Alive with Strutter visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Comment? Please use the form below and as always… Keep Rockin’!!

 

#191 – While You See A Chance

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#191 – While You See A Chance by Steve Winwood

Steve Winwood

– Even though this song carries very distinct memories, I couldn’t remember exactly to what year they were sending me back. So like all dedicated researchers (rememberers?) I checked out the song facts online and am a bit amazed at how the timeline for this one played out from my personal point of view.

If you’ve followed any of these Classic Rocker ramblings, you’ll already know it’s not just about “song facts.” Yeah, the artist and year are important. But like anyone else that can hear a song and be swept back to a certain moment in our lives, each one is like a movie soundtrack.

It’s what was playing while our scenes were playing out.

Arc of a Diver

While You See A Chance was the hit song from Steve Winwood’s album, Arc of a Diver. I already knew that. What I didn’t know was the release date of the LP was December 31, 1980 and the song hit its highest peak at No. 7 on U.S. charts in April 1981. That’s a four month episode in my personal timeline made up of numerous scenes. And the first scene I was playing out in real life that particular New Year’s Eve could best be titled:

While You See A Chance

I’m sure this has been mentioned in past ramblings, but along with my cronies in New York City we had started calling New Year’s Eve amateur night. It’s like St. Patrick’s Day when normally laid-back people or ones that don’t even go out that much think it’s The Night to party like a rock star. Expectations for a good time are abnormally high, which is also true with “special event” overpriced cover charges promising free midnight Champagne toasts, cardboard hats, plastic Hawaiian leis and noisemakers. Bars and streets are packed (those Times Square celebrants have to go somewhere after the NYE ball drops) and the craziness can go on for hours after the usual 4 am closing times with a “special holiday” liquor license.

Okay, I’ve had my share of good ones, but also a few duds sprinkled in where expectations didn’t match up to what actually played out. But that doesn’t mean I’m a “bah-humbug” kind’a guy who doesn’t enjoy a good holiday. But when it came to amateur nights, we had learned through experience to use Other Nights to party like rock stars.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017 – Willoughby, Ohio

Monday, September 11, 2017 – South Euclid, Ohio

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By 1980 I knew working in a New York City club on New Year’s Eve was a lot more fun and profitable than making expensive reservations at someplace I’d never normally go. So on this night I didn’t mind bartending in our local Gramercy Park hangout where I was also the manager. That’s where my friends were planning to be at midnight anyway, and for the ones that fell under the spell of high cover charges and expectations, I knew they’d also be there hours before last call.

So on the release date of Arc of a Diver, I was working behind the bar when a group of about six girls walked in. Obviously they were new to the neighborhood because I hadn’t seen them before. And obviously they were cute because my guy friends all took notice. I can still see their eyes looking up at the girls with renewed expectations for this New Year’s Eve.

Something like this…

One beautiful girl with long blonde hair caught my attention more than the others. The place was loud and crowded, but we could still talk while I poured drinks and played cheerleader by keeping classic rock on the jukebox at high volume and the Times Square ball drop on television. It turned out the girls were flight attendants for United Airlines (actually still called stewardesses at the time) and were newly based in New York. They lived in a “crash pad” a couple blocks away, which meant there were about ten girls sharing the rent on an apartment, but only a few would be living there at the same time while the others were flying around the country.

While You See A Chance may not have been playing on the jukebox at the time, but it’s the soundtrack in my mind’s picture. I flirted with the blonde, she flirted back and before New Year’s Eve fizzled out for the amateurs, I had taken a chance and we had a dinner date for the next night. And though I’ve been known to mention names as The Classic Rocker, I’ll keep this private. She was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known and in no way should anyone assume she was “easy” because we met in a loud and crazy bar and started dating the next night. She just happened to walk in with friends that also wanted to do something besides sit in a crash pad on New Year’s Eve. We hit it off, had a lot of respect for each other, laughed a lot and became a close couple.

So how did the rest of this personal movie episode play out with a Steve Winwood soundtrack? Here are a few memorable titles and scenes from that winter into spring 1981…

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The Year of the Cat

We spent one winter Saturday afternoon shopping and laughing (as we did a lot) around West 34th Street at Macy’s and Herald Square. With a load of packages we decided to take a taxi back to our neighborhood with a quick stop at another couple’s apartment to feed their cat. They were on vacation and unwisely put me in charge of caring for their feline. In digging around my pocket for cash purchases or to pay the cabbie, I had lost their apartment key. Afraid the cat wouldn’t last until our friends returned, I shelled out $125 for a locksmith to let us in. When my friends returned a day or two later they were at first shocked their key didn’t work (I had left a note!) followed by more shock I had paid that much money. That’s when I learned cats would be okay for a few days when they have lots of food, water and a litter box. This cat had all three. Lesson learned the hard way.

Playboy After Dark

Yeah, this was her…

It had also been only a year before when Playboy Magazine came out with an issue featuring flight attendants (stews!) in a nude layout. My girlfriend was not the type to bare all – but one of her roommates in the crash pad was. And to make this scene even better, she was the magazine’s covergirl and centerfold for that month.

Of course my guy friends were wild over this.

If any collectors still have the magazine you can look up her name. But since I’m not into name-dropping during this verbal time capsule, I’ll just say she was also nice, into establishing a modeling career and gave me all the Playboy joke books the company had sent her. Every once in awhile she joined us for drinks and appetizers at the bar-restaurant and yeah, I can still see my friends eyes looking up with high expectations whenever we walked in together.

Ha!!

In fact, one of our older friends carried that issue of Playboy with him for months hoping he’d see us and get her autograph. What made that extremely funny was every time she was with us, he would walk in immediately after she’d left. It was good for a lot of laughs telling him he had just missed her again… and again… and again…

The End

And in the end…

Somewhere around four or five months after our relationship started, it ended. I won’t go into any details, except being 20-somethings in NYC with crazy schedules, hours and lifestyles came into play. But I will say it happened just as quickly as our first meeting and taking a chance on a first date. We both felt bad, but followed our own timelines by going separate ways.

But I always remember this life’s episode as being way above any expectations I could’ve ever had for that New Year’s Eve and the months that followed. When You See A Chance is the soundtrack that brings it all back. It joined this Dream Song List on June 30th and since I don’t own a copy anymore and hadn’t heard it in forever, it goes into the subliminal category. I’ll also throw in a fun category for this one.

But wait…

Is there an alternate ending or coda to this story? Well, I did mention feeling amazed at how While You See A Chance played out on my personal timeline during this life’s episode…

Coda

It was around the end of this 1981 love story when another good friend asked if I wanted her vinyl copy of Arc of a Diver. She was a true music fan who also happened to have a surplus of money. If she felt an album had been overplayed and a new one was necessary for the stereo needle to pick up all the sounds imbedded in every groove, she would simply give away the used one and upgrade to new.

I happened to be the beneficiary of Steve Winwood’s latest hit record.

I had gained a new album but lost a close friend at the same time. Not a good trade-off by any means. But in the long run, it was the soundtrack to signal the end of another scene and the beginning of more to follow.

Here’s a video of Steve Winwood performing While You See A Chance. A cool fact from the recording? Steve wrote the song, sang, produced and played all the instruments. That’s a lot of talent to share…

To purchase Arc of a Diver with While You See A Chance visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Comment? Please use the form below and as always… Keep Rockin’!!

#192 – Sweet Caroline

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#192 – Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond

 – There are a few pop culture bandwagons I’ve been happy to miss. I’ve never owned a pet rock; could care less if anyone ever solves a Rubik’s Cube, and was never into the cult of Neil Diamond.

Now don’t get me wrong. I get it for the legions of fans who are.

Diamond has sold multi-millions of records, is one of the top pop songwriters of all time and his concerts still sell out. He’s also been inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Songwriters Hall of Fame.

I get it.

I also loved the dedication and humor sent his way in the film Saving Silverman and the characters’ tribute band, Diamonds in the Rough. Neil made a cameo appearance, which definitely made him a cool guy in my mind. And way back in 1966 I loved Cherry Cherry and was thoroughly impressed when I learned he had written the classic I’m a Believer for The Monkees.

But when it came to my personal tastes in 1969, Neil and Sweet Caroline were nowhere to be found. The music scene was splitting off into different extremes ranging from Woodstock rockers (Classic Rocker preferred) to bubble gum schlockers (Classic Rocker avoidance). Diamond didn’t seem to fit into either category. To my ears, his songs were aimed for a crowd that would now be called Adult Contemporary and not played on the FM rock stations I preferred.

But as I’ve written before, not too many cars in 1969 were equipped with FM radios. And since my pals and I were sixteen years old with newly earned driver’s licenses, AM Top 40 was still our cruisin’ music and we could only hear the current pop chart hits.

Not so sweet memories

One of the songs we heard constantly over our car radios in the fall of 1969 was Sweet Caroline. It definitely has a catchy tune, which seems to be a requisite to land on this Dream Song List, and has obviously stayed with me. Since I’ve never owned a copy and can’t remember the last time I’ve heard it, waking up with this tune running through my head on the morning of June 28th definitely places it into the subliminal category.

And yes, it brings back memories. But they’re not the best…

I was one of the younger members of my high school class and almost all my friends had been driving for months before I was even old enough for a temporary license. That meant I spent a lot of time hanging out at home waiting for rides. Fortunately, my best pal Kevin was as psyched as most sixteen year olds about driving and could always be relied on to be my chauffeur.

Cruisin’ around together gave us plenty of time to talk about a lot of stuff, including who was (or in my case, who would be) the better driver. We even made a bet which one would be the first to have an accident. Yeah, it’s the kind of stuff sixteen year olds would talk about, but at least we were cool enough not to bet on ourselves.

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When I finally scored my driver’s license we were two weeks into August 1969. That made life very different, even though I was still working the same job I’d had since turning ten years old. Don’t worry; we’re not dealing with unlawful child labor when I say that. My job was the chief dishwasher, bread slicer and floor sweeper at our family bakery. As baby boomers will know, parents and grandparents were allowed to put the kids to work so we could pay for our own record collections. For me a was a good deal because while the other kids were sleeping in or watching Saturday morning cartoons, I was collecting a pay envelope and peddling off on my bike to buy the latest Top 40 vinyl releases.

So on a Wednesday morning about two weeks into August 1969, my dad asked me to take my mom’s car to pick up a vacuum cleaner from a local repair shop and drop it off at home. I not only looked at the opportunity as a break from shoving baking pans into an overheated washer, but also a chance to drive.

I was psyched, but you already know what’s coming… right?

I was almost home when I thought I saw one of my younger neighborhood pals walking along the sidewalk. What could be cooler than a “older” sixteen year old pulling up and offering him a ride? Yeah, I thought so too – but when I looked out the passenger window it wasn’t him.

Too bad I wasn’t looking at the road instead.

This was a residential section, so fortunately I wasn’t going more than 25-30 mph. But even at that non-freeway snail’s pace things can happen fast. When I turned my attention back to driving, I had a few split seconds to realize the car in front of me had stopped to make a left turn.

Cue the sound effects!

Okay, let’s take a moment here to imagine your favorite comedy movie where the idiot behind the wheel drives off a cliff or high bridge. The film goes to slow motion and you see everyone in the car go bug-eyed with their mouths hanging open and in a low, slow-mo sound effect they all go, “OH $#$%%#!!!

In my case I envision a Blues Brothers car chase. The cowboys, Nazi’s and police in hot pursuit of Jake and Elwood demonstrate that slow-mo movie look and sound as they fly through the air, hurl off a road, or spin through a mall upside down.

That’s how I still picture my slow-mo self at that moment: “OH $#$%%#!!!”

CAAA-RASSSSH!!!

I’ll interrupt this driving moment to make it clear no one was hurt in the making of this non-comedy movie real life action sequence. As for my mom’s car… Well, that’s another story.

Something like this.

Her car came to a sudden, crunching stop embedded into the rear of the car stopped in front of me. In slow-mo I can still see the front hood of her blue Oldsmobile Cutlass flying up in the air and landing on the road next to me. Then without any notice or fanfare, the engine dropped out with a crash accompanied by the sound of broken glass (or could it have been broken metal?). In an era before airbags, I’m sure my steel grip on the steering wheel and locked arms bracing for impact kept me from a face plant on the dashboard.

The guy I rear-ended happened to be a kid I had been going to school with since about third grade. He jumped out of his car and delivered one of the most famous lines you’d hear during a similar scene in a Hollywood movie:

“WHAT THE $#$%%#??!!!” 

At that point I figured I should probably get out of my car too. The only problem was the doors were jammed shut, so I crawled out of the window. I definitely did not feel as cool as Jake or Elwood.

Wait ’til mom hears about this!

The car was totaled. In fact, the only part that was salvageable was the AM radio, which was still playing while we waited for the police and a tow truck. And just in case you’re wondering, it was not playing Sweet Caroline.

That memory is still coming up…

Within a hour my dad had picked me up in his car and I was back at work to finish washing pans and sweeping the floor. Fortunately, my parents took it all quite well and were happy no one was hurt. And with insurance my mom got a new car.

So business as usual? Well, not quite…

My punishment would be handed out during a date in traffic court a few months later. But the real punishment that hit home for me as a sixteen year old psyched about driving came as advice from the police and even the judge, who were all frequent visitors in the family bakery. They mentioned to my parents it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to drive before traffic court, just in case I saw another neighbor walking along the street.

So until I had to face the Judge in his courtroom, rather than in our bakery, I was back to hanging out at home waiting for friends – like my pal Kevin – to drive me somewhere. It was also a good stretch of time to lose any skills a sixteen year old might continue to develop while sitting behind the wheel of a car.

Sweet Caroline? It’s coming up…

When I finally went to court, which was only about half a block from the bakery and probably with a box of our donuts in the outer office, the judge just gave me a talk about being more careful. That was it. Then I asked the BIG question: when can I start driving again?

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017 – Westlake, Ohio

Thursday, September 7, 2017 – Willoughby, Ohio

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He said I could have been driving the entire time.

Say what? “OH $#$%%#!!!” And no – I didn’t say that, but it probably ran through my mind. And with so much time away from driving, it was almost like starting from scratch. At least that’s what it felt like.

My instructor in “learning to drive again 101” was my dad. My backseat driving coach was pal Kevin. The first step was to cruise around some country roads until I got the hang of it again, so the three of us took off in mom’s new car.

I have to admit to being a bit scared. Totaling a car will do that to someone. On the two lane back roads we had some laughs with my instructor and coach joking about sharp corners, stop signs and oncoming cars. But at one point as we went under a low bridge and around a corner, a large truck was coming from the other direction. I put a steel grip on the wheel, went over the right side edge lines and slowed down to a crawl as the truck blew past us. They faked being scared (at least I hope they were faking!), but I broke out in a slight sweat. Driving wasn’t as cool for me as it was when I first got my license.

And looking back, that’s a good thing. I actually learned to be a more careful driver rather than a psyched sixteen year old with a license.

BUT – and here it is…

The song playing on the AM radio at that moment the truck blew by us? The Top 40 hit Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. And yes – it’s true. I remember that, which is why the song still carries that memory for me.

BUT there’s another part of this story that also has a steel grip in my memory bank. Remember the bet I made with my pal Kevin?

There were only a couple weeks until school started when I wrecked my mom’s car. That same evening we had marching band (very cool – don’t ever doubt that) practice at the high school. I called Kevin with my non-comedy sorrowful tale of on road destruction and asked him for a ride. Since the main attraction of being in the band was hanging out with girls, an assorted group of us piled into Kevin’s car (actually his mom’s car) after practice and…

Well… You already know what’s coming – right?

Wait ’til your mom hears about this one!

We drove to a local restaurant for something to eat. When we were leaving, there were about four or five kids crammed in the backseat and three of us – Kevin driving, me in the middle and another pal Rob riding shotgun – sitting in front. Kevin made a sharp right turn out of the parking lot that caused all of us to lean left. In fact we leaned so far left that

CAAA-RASSSSH!!!

Kevin was shoved against the driver’s side door with his arms locked in place. He yelled out something to the effect of a slow-mo, “OH $#$%%#!!!”

Everyone else sort of screamed. The car scraped over a concrete curb causing a stream of sparks to fly up in the air around us, smashed through a landscape of bushes, and dug a couple donut shaped ruts in the front lawn of the restaurant before coming to a stop. Once again, no one was hurt except for another mom’s car. But this time all it took was a tire change and a slow unsteady drive home.

As you can tell, Kevin won the bet, but only by a few hours. And I became a more careful driver at the age of sixteen because to tell the truth, two accidents in one day was “$#$%%#!!!”

Back to Sweet Caroline? Yeah, I know it’s a standard at Boston Red Sox Games and an uplifting, healing song for The Boson Marathon after runners and supporters were attacked by cowardly militant scums (or in more polite terms, $#$%%#!!!).

I get it.

But for me, I’d rather for-get the experience of Sweet Caroline and my sixteen year old driving experience. Hail, hail public transportation!

Here’s a video of the great (I get it!) Neil Diamond performing Sweet Caroline.

To purchase All-Time Greatest Hits by Neil Diamond with Sweet Caroline visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Comment? Please use the form below and as always… Keep Rockin’!!