Author Archives: The Classic Rocker

About The Classic Rocker

Author of "The Beatles At Shea Stadium" and "The Beatles In Cleveland." Visit TheClassicRocker.com

#197 – I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home)

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#197 – I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home) by Grand Funk Railroad

 – There used to be a small diner in the small town where I grew up. There were only eight stools attached to the floor in front of a counter and when they were full you stood and waited for one to open up. If you waited or decided to go “take out,” you crammed into the tight space between the stools and a wall until your order was made, bagged and rung up on the cash register. Then you looked for another place to sit down and eat.

As weekend working stiffs starting our senior year in high school during the early fall of 1970, my two best friends and I would meet at the diner every Saturday around 11:30 am. If there was a lunch rush, which meant more than eight people because it was a very small town, we’d beat the competition by grabbing our stools before noon.

At the wise old age of seventeen we had already figured out how to maneuver a time clock for our benefit.

3 plays 4 a quarter

The diner had a jukebox, though I can’t remember where it fit in such a small place. There were also a couple counter jukeboxes attached to the… well, counter. We would grab our stools, flip through the pages of songs, insert a quarter (three plays as opposed to only one for a dime) and punch in the codes. It was mandatory to have a soundtrack while talking and lunching on greasy hamburgers, fries and cokes.

The cook’s work area wasn’t any larger than where we sat tight to the counter. He had the usual grill and space for the general chaos it took to whip up our lunch orders. And there was always a ham in a slow cooking rotation over the grill. This detail has stayed with me because while leaning over the counter talking with us one Saturday, the cook suddenly turned, sneezed loudly, and then continued our conversation.

The three of us decided not to order the ham.

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I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home) was an every Saturday play on the jukebox that fall, along with Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young and Crazy Horse. The third song for our quarter was selected by whichever one of us was fastest to punch in the code for whatever he wanted to hear.

This 1970 hit by Grand Funk Railroad mentally takes me back to these diner days. It also took over my mental state on the morning of May 23rd. I’m sure it hasn’t been decades since I’ve heard it, but it’s been long enough for the song to punch its way into the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

Detroit Suburbs? Just a guess.

Grand Funk was a hot new band at the time. Since our small town on the south shore of Lake Erie wasn’t far from their home base of Detroit, we knew their story. Okay, to be factual they were out of Flint Michigan, but close enough. Two of the trio, Mark Farner (guitar) and Don Brewer (drums), had morphed their way out of the band Terry Knight & The Pack. Terry’s Pack was known for their remake of I (Who Have Nothing) and I had watched them on the Cleveland based pop music television show Upbeat. So it was kind of cool to see these same guys with “mop tops” in the mid-1960’s morph into 70’s rockers. As Grand Funker’s, Farner had hair down to the middle of his back and Brewer added about a foot to his height with an Afro.

But to be honest, I wasn’t completely sold on Grand Funk. Later that fall they came out with a live double album called… well, Live Album. I bought it and… well, didn’t care for it. Hey – we all have our own tastes in music and I didn’t say that to upset any GF fans. To each his own. But as far as my tastes, I’ve always been a huge fan of Keith Richards and John Lennon on rhythm guitars. Grand Funk was a 3-piece at the time and when hearing a band playing live, I like a fuller sound.

The title says it all

So when I had the opportunity to see Grand Funk later that same year in Cleveland, I turned it down. And that story takes me back to the diner days. Or maybe in this case, it was diner daze

Our 3-piece band of pals would use our Saturday lunch breaks to review Friday nights. We were basically good kids, but also typical teenagers. We’d all been decent athletes playing basketball and running track, but small minded people in small towns during the late 1960’s could make it tough to be both a jock and a rocker. For example, I remember my hair being – maybe – about two inches long on top, but still off my ears and shirt collar (school dress code). But our small minded basketball coach delighted in tugging the hair on a few of us that didn’t follow crewcut athletes as fashion icons and thought Mark Farner and Don Brewer looked cool.

Of course as he snuck up on us for the hair tug he felt compelled to say, “You look like a girl.

Geez coach, maybe that’s why more than a few of us felt compelled to cut you from our team and head for the music department. By my second year in high school I could play the heck out of a trumpet. My luncheon buddies obviously felt the same way and manned the saxophone section.

The band director never said anything about our hair. And we were having a lot more fun than running laps or doing pushups because we missed a foul shot.

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To kick the fun up another level, we joined the marching bad. On a personal note, if you had asked whether I’d like to ride a school bus to an away football game with a bunch of sweaty guys in smelly uniforms or sit next to cute girls on the band bus, my answer was (and still would be) a no-brainer. It was the same for my two pals.

But to repeat myself, we were typical teenagers. That means we weren’t exactly angels. So as a means of pushing the envelope when it came to respectable behavior, one of my pals took a bottle of Triple Sec from his parents’ liquor cabinet. If you’re not familiar with that particular brand of booze, let’s just say it’s not meant to be consumed on its own. It’s usually mixed with Tequila and a sour mix for Margarittas.

But for a couple seventeen year old guys, that was a lesson that still had to be learned.

Nasty Stuff!

I was invited to join them for a Triple Sec drinking session before marching with the band during a Friday night home football game. To keep my stellar reputation in tact… okay, I won’t go that far with an angel routine, but I turned them down. One of the cute girls on the marching band bus had agreed to a date and I was picking her up on the way. I would see them at the game.

I won’t go into all the gory details except to say – yeah – they were seen. Two saxophone players who had completely drained a bottle of Triple Sec before joining the band to march across the field were very noticeable. The result was a three day school suspension for each.

And of course, the rest of us laughed and LAUGHED! That’s what teenagers do and we did it well.

The next day at our Saturday lunch meeting I had never in my young life seen anyone that hung over. I helped fill in the missing pieces from their staggering performance the night before while listening to I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home) and Cinnamon Girl. I don’t remember the third song that morning, but I’m sure it was my choice since I doubt they really wanted to hear anything louder than a pin dropping.

One of the benefits of being suspended from school means you don’t have to go to school.

So one of the them took the opportunity to buy tickets for the upcoming Grand Funk Railroad concert in Cleveland. He snuck into the school that afternoon, because one of the disadvantages of suspension was not being allowed to walk through the front doors, and hid out in the band room. I got word he was there and met in one of the rehearsal rooms where he told me he had an extra ticket for the concert.

Sure, I’ll go! But then he dropped a bomb louder than a pin dropping. It wasn’t a gift – I had to pay him for the ticket.

They had a blast!

Sorry pal. I don’t remember the cost and I know it was nowhere near what a concert ticket costs today, but I was on a weekend worker budget. I had already bought tickets to take my cute marching band girlfriend to the annual Christmas rock concert held at Cleveland’s Public Hall. And also based on Live Album, I took a pass on Grand Funk.

One of our other buddies coughed up the cash and they had a blast.

As for our Christmas concert, the headlining act got stuck in a snowstorm in Pittsburgh and missed the show. Sad ending? Not really. The replacement was Little Richard. And since that show has gone down as one of the many highlights of my concert daze, I’m sure we compared notes over who had the better time while lunching on greasy burgers, fries and cokes in the diner the next Saturday. Right after we punched in the code for I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home) on the counter jukebox.

Here’s a video of Grand Funk performing I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home) live at New York’s Shea Stadium in 1971. And you know what? They sound pretty darn good! Maybe I should’ve taken that ticket…

 

To purchase Greatest Hits: Grand Funk Railroad with I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home) 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

Beatles Program

 

#198 – Funky But Chic

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#198 – Funky But Chic by David Johansen

 – Loud, brash, chaotic, unpredictable and gritty. And I’m not just talking about this song, but also the images it brings back of New York City at night during the late 1970’s. Funky But Chic is more than a rock song. It’s a soundtrack.

I might have forgotten to mention that to David Johansen… uh, Buster Poindexter while hanging out during the 1980’s. But more about that later…

When Funky But Chic was released in the spring of 1978, I was closing out my first year living in Manhattan. Moving from a small town in Ohio without knowing anyone in the city could be called a ballsy move. Looking back, I guess it was. But after college I wanted to avoid the boredom of a normal life and headed east looking for excitement.

By this time I had scored a job at a company that ran concessions for Broadway theaters. I had started out at the candy counter, but within a couple months I was a manager. This was actually a very cool job. I would check on the bars at various theaters each night to make sure everything was running smoothly and then grab an empty seat to watch the show. I could see every popular (and not so popular) Broadway show countless times. I usually finished close to midnight and for anyone that knows New York City and is even slightly involved in the entertainment industry, that’s the prime time to hit the nightlife.

Weekends were always too crowded at the popular (and no one wanted to hit the not so popular) hangouts. As New York Yankee star Yogi Berra once said: “Nobody goes there, it’s too crowded.” So on Fridays and Saturdays we usually gravitated to our local neighborhood Cheers style bar where everybody knows your name.

But Sunday nights were different. I worked afternoon matinees, so the evenings were free to explore. One of the clubs was the legendary Max’s Kansas City, located on Park Avenue South and only a few blocks from where I lived in Gramercy Park.

“Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Since Sunday was considered an “off night” at Max’s after a weekend packed with rockers and punks, we never found it over crowded. We could find a seat at the bar, have a few beers and carry on a conversation without shouting. One night my closest rocker pal Tim, who is still rockin’, pointed to a guy sitting a couple stools away and said it was Ace Frehley from KISS without his makeup.

I mention this because right up there with Funky But Chic as late 70’s Manhattan soundtrack songs would be New York Groove from Frehley’s solo LP the same year. Both were high frequency selections on jukeboxes at whatever local hangouts we were exploring. And BTW, we didn’t bother Ace at Max’s because that’s not what you do in New York. We left him alone to get his own New York Groove on.

Though I never thought it was as cool as Max’s, I also hit the equally legendary Studio 54 twice during this time – as an invited guest. That means we didn’t have to deal with the velvet rope and doorman to get in.

Another hot spot was the Mudd Club down in Tribeca, mentioned in the song Life During Wartime by the Talking Heads. Somehow we met someone who could sneak us in the back entrance and also avoid the long lines outside. My biggest memory has most of the crowd trying to look like Keith Richards. Since I’d already had a year to ditch the Midwest look (whatever that was) for a more chic NYC style… Okay, I honestly wouldn’t describe it that way because I never looked like Keef. But we all still looked cooler in the late 70’s than what happened fashion-wise in the 80’s.

Let’s just say I didn’t exactly fit in with the wannabe Keefs, but didn’t feel out of place either.

Once the excitement of being new to New York had worn off and any urge to fit in with the wannabe’s had completely disappeared (wasn’t difficult) we found the local bars in our neighborhood to be a lot more friendly and fun. And just like the TV show mentioned above, eventually everybody knew your name.

And that’s where I eventually met David Johansen. Or was it Buster Poindexter… Either way I knew his name, but that was still more than a few years removed from 1978.

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Career-wise I went from Broadway shows to music clubs, bars & restaurants and eventually comedy clubs. My jobs included everything from managing and bartending, to performing music and telling jokes. As a fan of the nightlife it worked for me since I usually started after the sun went down. And again, if you know anything about New York, you know it’s a different city at night than it is during the day.

It’s very funky, but – depending where you are – also very chic.

This classic David Johansen song woke me up with a reminder of nighttime Manhattan on May 15th. I’ve never owned a copy due to my 1978 NYC budget where (high) apartment rent, food and hanging out took precedence, and I also can’t remember the last time I’d heard it. So funk this one up into the subliminal neighborhood of Dream Songs.

College pin ups?

One of my all-time closest friends from college who went by the Midwestern rock star name of Smiley viewed the New York Dolls as only about a half step behind The Rolling Stones in legend status. I didn’t share his enthusiasm, but would hang around his room in our frat listening to their only two albums from around 1973.

We also watched them on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert late night TV show (I’ve always done the best things at night) and couldn’t help noticing lead singer David Johansen had a resemblance to Mick Jagger.

And with their dolled-up, drag queen wardrobe and makeup, they were pin-ups for both the glam and punk rock scenes. I immediately liked them more than the flannel shirt-wearing, acoustic guitar-playing troubadours that were still trendy on our campus, but always bored me to no end.

Now let’s fast forward about a decade…

In the mid 1980’s I had scored a job managing and bartending at our local Cheers style hangout on the corner of 20th Street and Third Avenue in Gramercy Park. It was called The Honey Tree and yeah, I was a wannabe Sam Malone. I had also learned enough about the New York Dolls to recognize David Johansen when he walked through the door.

Within a couple weeks of regular visits, he was part of our local hangout crowd.

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We all contributed a lot of laughs, loud conversations, insults, stupidity, and the general chaos and craziness that accompanies late nights in NYC. I don’t remember talking about The Dolls except one night when he spotted one of the former drummers, Tony Machine, walking along the other side of Third Avenue with a hero sandwich. David opened the door and yelled something to him (he had no problem being heard over the traffic), but that’s the end of the memory.

And just to add a “note of interest” – Tony Machine played percussion on Funky But Chic. Wondering if he brought sandwiches for the entire band…

David also had another talent for making sure we didn’t shut down the fun just because of the 4 am legal closing time. When I’d give “last call” David would shove ten or twenty bucks in the jukebox and start punching in songs. Since it only cost a quarter per, everyone knew we’d be there for awhile. Making a managerial decision, I’d shut off the outside lights, lock the door and pull the curtains closed over the front windows and keep the party going.

But what really made this experience cool was witnessing the creation of his alter-ego, Buster Poindexter. And if you don’t know Buster, then you’ve never been Hot Hot Hot.

Steve Holley from Wings with The Classic Rocker

Another club we used to frequent was Tramps on East 15th Street (it moved to SoHo in 1988). Monday nights were the favorite with non-weekend crowds and jam sessions by great musicians. The house band was called The Bullies with a rotating door of players. One night we were watching another closest friend and NYC acting coach Ted Bardy playing piano with the band, until he took a break and Ian Hunter sat down at the keys. I also met Steve Holley, drummer for the final version of Paul McCartney & Wings, who recognized me more than 25 years later when I was signing books at the Beatles fest, Abbey Road on the River in Louisville, Kentucky.

He told me he never forgot a face and proved it that day. Amazing…

David started inviting us to Tramps on Mondays to watch him try out his Buster Poindexter character. He’d sit on a barstool wearing a tuxedo, (what looked like) black women’s stockings as socks, slicked back hair and a cocktail in his hand. It started out small, maybe with just a backup piano and guitar player at first, but he gradually added more players. Instead of rock, he’d croon standards and calypso style songs.

Cheers Buster!

After a few months of watching him morph into the very cool music personality alter ego, we were invited to a happening New Year’s Eve party at Tramps. I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing  it was to ring in the year 1987. It was a full-out and packed Buster Poindexter celebration and for a night that usually doesn’t live up to everyone’s high expectations, this NY’s Eve was a blast. I distinctly remember Buster… uh, David asking for a swig of my beer as a cure for his dry throat before running back on stage for an encore.

Not long after we all seemed to gravitate onto our next career moves and neighborhoods. I ended up running the most popular comedy club in New York City and Buster… uh, David was back on the radio and television with Hot Hot Hot. Believe me when I say it all turned out to be much more than a boring normal life.

It was a long way from when I was a wannabe be New Yorker in the late 1970’s. And even though a calypso beat can still bring back memories of late nights in Manhattan, Funky But Chic was the soundtrack for when it all started.

Here’s a 1993 clip of David singing Funky But Chic on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Loud, brash, chaotic, unpredictable and gritty – just as it should be.

To purchase David Johansen’s self-titled and first solo CD with Funky But Chic check out 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

Beatles Program

 

#199 – Leave It To Beaver Theme Song

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#199 – Leave It To Beaver Theme Song

 – The television sitcom Leave It To Beaver portrayed the television image of Middle America in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Everything was perfect. The family unit included a nice house, a mom and a dad, and two kids. Dad supported the family; mom took care of the family and any problems the kids were in could be solved by the family within a half hour episode.

Were things really that simple? Maybe on television, but not in real life.

The 1960’s, as many of us remember the decade, was simmering in the background. The show was broadcast into our living rooms each week in glorious black and white beginning October 4, 1957 until signing off on June 20, 1963. Elvis was still pre-army when viewers first met the Cleaver family and when the final episode aired we were only five months away from JFK’s fateful trip to Dallas.

In May 1963 Bob Dylan released his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, with songs about civil rights and nuclear war. In August Dr. Martin Luther King declared “I have a dream” in Washington D.C. and went on to be named Time Magazine’s Man Of The Year. And The Beatles were gearing up for a televised surprise attack on our senses that came on February 9, 1964.

Along with many other factors including The Space Race, The Cold War and The Vietnam War, our generation was in for a change. A BIG change. The sitcoms – and many are considered classic and still very entertaining – were far from being reality shows for the era.

The Cleavers

Leave It To Beaver was one of the moving picture postcards of The American Dream delivered into our living rooms every week. As referred to above, it was broadcast in black and white. But when you think about it, there really was no “black and white” on television during these years. Except for African Americans appearing as guest stars or supporting players, the first black leading character on a network series didn’t happen until 1965 when Bill Cosby starred in I Spy with Robert Culp.

As a member of the younger edge of baby boomers (I was five years younger than Jerry Mathers, who played Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver), Leave It To Beaver was one of my weekly looks at the outside world. But it really didn’t seem that much different from where I was growing up in northern Ohio. School, friends, girls (not always the same as “friends”), dealing with teenagers and respecting adult authority were about as deep as things got. I was fortunate that my parents were always more open than some of the others. My mother was from Detroit and they both enjoyed taking me on weekend excursions to other big cities such as Cleveland, New York and Chicago.

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The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special

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In all honesty, that’s where I’d see minorities. But the cities to me were exotic places with energy, excitement and adventures on every block and didn’t seem to exclude anyone because of color, sex or religion. As a young visitor in those days before the race-related riots of the 1960’s, I was never exposed to any inner city problems. Like the Cleavers and their social circle in Leave It To Beaver, it was life in a protected bubble. But these youthful real world experiences in big cities helped me form the opinion there were no reasons why we all couldn’t – or shouldn’t – live together.

Not The Cleavers

So when I write about the dramatic changes that still make the 1960’s the most talked about and studied decade of the Twentieth Century, The American Dream and The American Reality on how the 60’s played out serve as bookends. Start with Leave It To Beaver and end with the film Woodstock and you’ll understand why Boomers are so passionate about this decade of change.

For the first generation to be accused of having television as an adult authority figure, sitcoms were our windows to the outside world. And just like race, sex and religion, what we learned from television went a long way in defining how we look at the world – and how the world looks at us.

One of my favorite (and funniest) personal examples happened more than twenty years after Leave It To Beaver faded off into rerun land. I was living in New York City and breaking into the comedy biz. Before ending up with my career “behind the scenes,” I did stand-up comedy. But once again in all honesty, I lacked the necessary edge that in my opinion makes seasoned NYC comedians the funniest. After one particular bleak performance on stage at a famous comedy club, a couple of my black comedian friends (while laughing) told me I was too “white bread” to be truly funny. I was too Ricky Nelson from Ozzie and Harriett, which is another television postcard of 1950’s and 60’s American Dream.

And you know what? I laughed with them because it was true. There was no way around the stereotyping. But looking back, even my friends didn’t get it right. I was more Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver in the 60’s than the cool Ricky Nelson from the 50’s.

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The Leave It To Beaver Theme Song (actual title; The Toy Parade) is a classic example of the catchy tunes that lured viewers to their television sets and can still set off nostalgic memories for the boomer generation. I’ll even go out on a limb and say most of us can hum it all the way through (there are lyrics, but never heard on the show) just like we can sing I Want To Hold Your Hand and She Loves You. This particular TV tune waxed nostalgic in my waking mind on May 9th. Since it doesn’t fit the classic rock requirements to be on my digital playlist, I can’t remember the last time I heard it and The Toy Parade falls onto the subliminal side of the Dream Song List.

Eddie Haskell

One comic element of Leave It To Beaver that has stayed real for me through the decades is the supporting character Eddie Haskell. If I were to ever list my all-time favorite television characters, he would have to be in the Top 10. Played by Ken Osmond who later left showbiz to become a police officer, Eddie Haskell embodies the heart, soul and devious mind of every wise guy kid who ever stirred up any type of trouble and tried to schmooze his way out of it by being overly polite and agreeable toward whatever adult authority was coming down on him.

My dad, who had a wonderful sense of humor and could make me laugh until I cried, would compare my friends and me to Eddie Haskell whenever we tried to talk our way out of whatever predicament we had gotten ourselves into. And I also used it to describe my son to anyone that might remember the legendary TV name.

Since he was born in 1995, I’m sure Paul has no idea who Eddie Haskell is. But when someone from my generation gushed over how nice and polite he was while growing up, I reminded them of this iconic television character. They knew immediately what I was talking about. Kids can still be typical kids before the BIG changes of adulthood and no different than we were growing up in the 60’s. And similar to when we started asserting our independence while moving into our teenage years, there were many times at home when I felt I was talking to Eddie Haskell in all his American Dream wise guy glory.

The only glitch in the process was that I had grown out of my Eddie Haskell phase. I’ve reverted back to being The Beaver.

The theme song arrangement changed during the years, with the final season using a “swing” style. Below is the opening sequence to Leave It To Beaver from season four, which is the one that scored on this list.

If you’re a dedicated fan, you can purchase the complete Leave It To Beaver series on DVD from Amazon.com. Also separate seasons and episodes are available through the link.

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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

Beatles Program

Chuck Berry – Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll

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 – I drove for more than a few miles Saturday evening with my mouth hanging wide open. I had just heard Cousin Brucie announce on his SiriusXM radio show that Chuck Berry had passed away. At the age of 90 we couldn’t expect one of the true originators to continue duckwalking across the rock and roll landscape forever, but it was still a shock.

It’s the end of an era – though the legend will live on.

It’s doubtful I ever go a day without hearing a Chuck Berry riff. As a Classic Rocker with musical tastes never straying too far from the basic three chord rock and roll that excited and influenced every important rocker that followed him, he is still an important foundation for my daily playlists. Chuck Berry was covered and copied by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and way too many others for me to even attempt to list. They handed it down to the next generation and the legacy continues.

If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’” – John Lennon

I’ve stolen every lick he ever played.” – Keith Richards inducting Chuck Berry into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Since The Classic Rocker is about music and memories, here’s one of mine…

As fate would have it, I had just talked about my experiences going back to the roots of rock and roll in the most recent song on this Dream Song List. My album collection in the late 1960’s and early 70’s was being restocked with the originals by Chuck Berry and other members of the first class inducted into The Rock Hall. My goal was to play guitar like Chuck, piano like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and sing like Elvis. It didn’t exactly work out that way, which is why you’re reading these ramblings rather than listening to any of my albums.

During my freshman year in college – and I’m not kidding – my dorm room featured Chuck Berry wallpaper. As a Berry fan, I might have been an originator among interior decorators.

Chuck was playing a show at another college nearby. Of course I would be there, but that’s another story for another song on this list. Especially since I wound up on stage with my hero and had a rockin’ good time. But the buildup had started a couple months before.

I went to my local record store (vinyl you crazy cats!) to check out what was new. I saw a stack of flyers on the counter advertising the concert. I went crazy (cat) right there about my commitment to the greatness of Chuck Berry. The store manager picked up the pile of flyers, handed them to me and said I could hang them up. I was probably guessing correctly he meant for me to hang them up around campus, but since no discount was offered to me on the ticket price or the album I’m sure I purchased that day, it meant the only place these flyers would be hung up were in my dorm room.

I have a photo somewhere of the coolest room on campus that spring, but would need to dig through too many boxes of Classic Rocker keepsakes to find it. Trust me when I say the flyers made the walls both colorful and unique.

Which is also a good description of Chuck Berry’s overwhelming influence on popular music. The exact birth date of rock and roll will always be debated, but it’s a no-brainer to say the fuse was ignited with his first big hit in 1955, Maybellene. The future of rock and roll followed in a direct line behind him. And when you think about it, there’s no higher praise you can give to someone that meant so much to so many.

Rock on Chuck Berry! You will be missed, but not forgotten.

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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

#200 – I Can’t Get No Nookie

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#200 – I Can’t Get No Nookie by The Masked Marauders

masked marauders – I didn’t get completely taken in by this hoax in late 1969, but I’ll admit to being on the fence for a listen or two. It was an era of rock music exploding into different genres and groupings. Cream and Traffic had formed Blind Faith. The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies begat Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The Yardbirds had morphed into Led Zeppelin.

But the biggest supergroup of them all was The Masked Marauders. But then again, not really.

I remember “sort of” a rock and roll revival happening that fall with my buddies that were into music. The big album, of course, was Abbey Road. Paul McCartney’s song Oh Darling was a throw back to a 1950’s sound with pounding piano and raspy voice. I don’t know if that’s what triggered it, but a few of us started looking back to that decade to hear the originators.

It’s important to remember we were at the younger end of the baby boomer generation. The early rock’n rollers had been replaced by the watered down versions being fed to us in the early 1960’s. For example, we weren’t exposed to Little Richard singing Tutti Frutti. Nope. Instead we saw Pat Boone singing his tepid version on our black and white family television shows.

Lennon Jagger

Lennon and Jagger unmasked

I only knew songs like Roll Over Beethoven, Long Tall Sally and many more classics because they were covered by The Beatles. That was also true for releases by The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits and other British Invasion bands. They were reworking American rock and roll hits and bringing them to my generation for “seemingly” the first time. The originals were standards for the older kids who were already teenagers when we were in preschool.

Around the time of Oh Darling and my early teenage years I wanted to know where this music came from.

I had a friend who went by his initials “BS.” He was one of the smarter guys in my high school class, but also an agitator who wasn’t afraid to use his column in the school newspaper to stir up trouble between the “jocks” and the “brains.” His initials stood not only for his first and middle name, but also the slang you might use to tell someone they’re “full of it.”

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Thursday March 9, 2017 – Lakewood, Ohio!

Join The Classic Rocker for a FAB evening of Beatlemania!

Doors open 6:30 pm – show time 7:00

FREE admission – reservations suggested

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The dates are a little out of whack, but I distinctly remember him turning me on to I Hear You Knocking by Dave Edmunds in late 1970. This was a throw back to real, three chord rock and roll from the 50’s while the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and other rock acts at the time were going for more complicated songs, sounds and arrangements. So along with those albums, including Abbey Road and Led Zeppelin I, we were digging through record bins for vinyl by Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis.

But I bring up BS and sharing our rock music research because I distinctly remember him telling me about this supergroup called The Masked Marauders. I hadn’t read the Rolling Stone Magazine article that started the “buzz” but with Blind Faith and CSN&Y the hot groups at the moment, anything seemed possible.

Stones Dylan

Keef, Mick & Bob marauding about.

According to rumor, The Masked Marauders were made up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. There were also hints that Keith Richards and Donovan were part of the lineup, but there was no way this could be confirmed. In an era many decades before the internet and social media, all we could rely on were rumors and our ears.

In late fall 1969 or early winter 1970, BS informed us he had a copy of the self-titled Masked Marauders LP and invited us to his house to listen. Three or four of us sat through both sides of the disk with individual reviews of “no… yes… well, maybe?

I’m sure BS claimed it was real, but I left highly doubtful.

I know because if I had believed this gathering of my favorite rock stars had joined forces near Canada’s Hudson Bay (on the liner notes) and recorded an entire album, I would have run out and bought a copy. I never did.

masked-marauders-news-clipping

It wasn’t long after that everyone found out The Masked Marauders was an elaborate hoax from Rolling Stone Magazine. An article satirizing the trend for “supergroups” was a little too believable for many fans of the above mentioned (supposed) members. In taking the hoax a step further, a California based group was hired – along with Dylan, Jagger and Lennon impersonators – to record the album.

The Masked Marauders LP was released by Reprise Records in November 1969. It goes down in history as the only record ever on their just-made-up Deity label.

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I compare it to Orson Wells reading War Of The Worlds over the radio on Halloween in 1938. A lot of people bought into it and caused a panic that Martians were really landing. In 1969 the same “blind faith” almost landed The Masked Marauders onto the Billboard Hot 100 Album Chart.

One of the (many) fun things about writing The Classic Rocker is not knowing where the next song is coming from. If you’ve read the concept and followed any of these ramblings, some songs are from recent memories while others have been embedded in my subconscious and somehow just came out. In this case, the song I Can’t Get No Nookie has to hold the longevity record for being buried under decades of useless information before climbing to the top of my morning music chart. It happened on April 29th and I’m more surprised than anyone to add it to the subconscious list.

I’m sure someone must have played it when we were in college. Otherwise, the last time I heard it had to be in 1969 or 1970. The mind plays strange tricks – and in this case, strange music.

Dylan Jagger

Bob, Mick and Jack

I Can’t Get No Nookie has to be a play on (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. On the MM LP the lead vocal is by the Mick Jagger impersonator. It’s also a catchy tune and with the word “nookie” I’m also sure as teenage guys we sang it for laughs more than a few times in high school or cruising around in cars on weekends.

There’s also another credit I can throw to this fake album.

Using the excuse mentioned above about not hearing the original rock’n rollers until after The British Invasion calmed down, I’ll embarrassingly admit The Masked Marauders introduced me to the classic Duke Of Earl. It was a track supposedly sung by Bob Dylan, but it connected with us as a new song. None of our favorite groups by 1969 had covered it and since there were no oldies stations on our radios at the time, chances were good we hadn’t heard – or remembered hearing – the original by Gene Chandler in 1962.

It made such an impression that for our high school talent show in the spring of 1970, we put together a group to perform the song. On the stage in our school auditorium we had a piano, bass, electric guitar (me) and drums. A few pals stood around one microphone singing back up (“Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke Of Earl, Duke, Duke…“) while our friend Gary did the lead vocals. Not that he was the best singer, but probably because he’s the only one that knew the words.

And before we started, we plugged in a string of Christmas lights draped over the upright piano as our “light show.” Both the lights and our song drew big applause.

david-1971

Classic Rock(er)

For the next year’s talent show we went even more retro with our rock’n roll revival adding greased hair, rolled up t-shirt sleeves, cuffed jeans and sunglasses. We called our group Peter Priest & The Rabbis (in good humor) and with two electric guitars, bass, drums and my pal Tim as lead singer, we rocked through loud versions of Blue Suede Shoes and Long Tall Sally.

We did two shows and played “by the rules” for only the first.

During the second show for the younger kids (9th and 10th grades) we decided to keep playing until we were chased off stage. Once we started some of the girls from our class ran into the auditorium and stood by the stage screaming. And after we finished our second song, we kept tearing through three-chord 1950’s rock’n roll until the teachers realized we had no intention of stopping.

The curtain was closed and as our class advisor ran on stage waving his arms for us to stop, Gary (our lead singer from the year before) opened them back up. The advisor ran off in a panic and we kept playing.

Finally he pulled the plug.

Since we were seniors graduating in less than a month and basically good kids, we didn’t get into any trouble. In fact there were more laughs than any supposed punishment over our “hoax” to keep the show going. We never went on to become an undiscovered supergroup, but like the legendary Masked Marauders we had our brief moment in the spotlight.

And it was very rock and roll.

Of course there is no video of the elusive Masked Marauders, but for your listening pleasure…

To purchase The Masked Marauders with I Can’t Get No Nookie 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

Beatles Program

#201 – I’m A Loser

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#201 – I’m A Loser by The Beatles

Beatles I'm A Loser – When it comes to personal memories, this song is a double-edged sword. Good vs. evil. The White Knight against The Queen of Darkness. It represents a battle in the generation gap war that I lost at the time, but felt I’ve gone on to win. And in my own convoluted way, I’ll tell the tale…

Like probably every first generation Beatles fan in North America, I first heard I’m A Loser on Friday, October 7, 1964 when a film of their live performance was aired on the ABC television show Shindig. This was a highly anticipated big deal since we didn’t actually see the group very often. There were no VCR’s or even a science fiction thought of YouTube, so fans only “saw” The Fab Four during their three February appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show (rerun on CBS that summer), a clip of Ed interviewing them on the set of A Hard Day’s Night followed by the performance of You Can’t Do That (edited out of the final concert scene in the feature film), or by going to the theater to see their first movie (as John Lennon called it, “The black and white one.“).

Interview Sullivan

Interviewing The Beatles

Many lucky fans saw them in person during the August – September tour or closed circuit theater showing of their first U.S. concert at Washington Coliseum. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of those.

But other than that, all we had were the records and magazines.

So when ABC started running advertisements for their appearance on Shindig, I put it on my mental calendar as a “must watch” event. But I never realized that because it was on a Friday evening I would be called out as a “wannabe Beatle” in front of my classmates by an evil old school teacher.

Sound harsh? Yeah, I know…

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Thursday February 23, 2017 – Stow, Ohio!

stow-library-2017

Join The Classic Rocker for a FAB evening of Beatlemania!

Doors open 6:30 pm – show time 7:00

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Friday evenings in the fall were “supposed” to be reserved for high school football games. I had been going since I was a little kid, mainly for something to do. We had absolutely no interest in what was happening on the field and spent our time running around under the bleachers and eating junk food. And since we lived in a small town in northern Ohio there was no danger walking to the games and home with friends. It was nothing out of the ordinary.

Host Jimmy O'Neill

Host Jimmy O’Neill

Not like seeing The Beatles on Shindig. There was nothing ordinary about that and was well worth skipping one game out of the entire season. So I stayed home to watch.

The next day I saw a kid in my class who told me our sixth grade teacher had been at the football game. From what I remember, she made a BIG DEAL out of going to only one game a year and wanted to make sure all her students were there because that’s where we were “supposed” to be on a Friday night. During her only appearance in the fall of 1964 she saw the other guys from my class and asked where I was.

They told her I stayed home to watch The Beatles. My friend said she wasn’t too happy about that.

Maybe I’ll set this scene a little deeper. I mean, why not. I’ve already said I sound harsh

The two teachers I had in sixth grade were a humorless old woman and old man that split the mornings and afternoons with two classes. They both should have retired years before. They were truly old school and I honestly don’t remember either being supportive or nurturing toward students. Their shared attitude was “learn this or suffer the consequences” and I blame them for making an entire year of school essentially joyless. To say they were verbally abusive to anyone that didn’t follow their golden rules would be an understatement.

In fact, I’ll go even deeper. The woman had been my father’s third grade teacher. My dad was an excellent trumpet player and taught me a lot about music. She’d also had our neighbor in her class, who was a teenager in the 1950’s. He was an excellent basketball player (earned a full ride to Ohio State University) but also liked Elvis Presley. When he was gone I’d sometimes sneak into his room with his younger brother and we’d listen to his record collection. Both were good students and good kids. So was I.

By the Monday morning following The Beatles appearance on Shindig, she’d had all weekend to stew over my absence at the high school football game and her BIG DEAL appearance. It was almost as if I had cussed out my mom, given apple pie to the communists and spit on the American flag. I have a vague memory of walking into the classroom and hearing her talk about being at the game, but not seeing everyone who should have been there.

Then class started.

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When she asked anyone a question, it was mandatory for the student to stand next to his or her desk to answer. I don’t remember whatever outdated nonsense she was trying to shove into our young minds, but before I knew it I was standing next to my desk and being asked a question I had no answer for.

That’s when the other edge of the sword came down.

She was determined to make me the loser in front of the entire class. Immediately she was shouting full volume at me. But it wasn’t about not knowing the answer – but the fact that I had skipped a high school football game and stayed home on a Friday night to watch THE BEATLES ON TELEVISION! In her eyes I was the enemy of all that was good and decent and a pervert among angelic high school football fans. Her exact words still ring in my ear:

  • “Your father wanted to be Harry James!”
  • “Your neighbor wanted to be a hound dog!”
  • “And YOU want to be a BEATLE!!!”

I had been singled out in front of my friends and classmates and verbally attacked like I had done something wrong. After flushing her anger about me and disapproving musical memories of my father and our neighbor out of her evil system she told me to SIT DOWN!

Harmonica Contraption

Harmonica Contraption

At the time I was shaken up (what 11-year old wouldn’t be?). But you know what? It was the only thing she ever said to me that made sense. I won’t give her any credit as an inspiration, but I think it’s pretty cool I went on to write two books about The Beatles and none about high school football.

Harsh? Yeah, but I look at my books as being the fun result of the double-edged sword!

I’m A Loser assaulted this Dream Song List on April 28th. It’s been a favorite since I watched the Beatles on Shindig and is on my digital playlist. That also places it into the recent memory category since I had just heard it.

I’m A Loser is also especially memorable because the group already looked different on Shindig than earlier that summer in A Hard Day’s Night. Their hair, especially Lennon’s, was a lot longer. He also had a harmonica hooked to a metal contraption around his neck that allowed him to play it and his guitar at the same time.

I had seen photos of Bob Dylan with the same setup, but he was still considered a “folkie.” Lennon as a pop-rocker made it cooler.

But there was definitely a Dylan influence in this Lennon-penned song. The lyrics were a lot more introspective than we’d heard on The Ed Sullivan Show only seven months earlier. It also signaled a more country-twang feel in some of their newer songs such as Honey Don’t, Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby and I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party.

Even though we’d heard I’m A Loser in October 1964, we couldn’t own a copy until the U.S. LP Beatles ’65 was released on December 15th. On first listen I immediately remembered it was the song from Shindig with John Lennon playing the harmonica contraption and acoustic guitar. He was cool and the song was cool – and this hit of countrified Beatlemania went a long way to make my personal sixth grade double-edged sword a lot easier to deal with.

Here’s a video of The Beatles performing I’m A Loser on Shindig from 1965

To purchase Beatles ’65 with I’m A Loser 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

#202 – Hold Me Now

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#202 – Hold Me Now by Thompson Twins

Thompson Twins – We were definitely into the MTV era when this song was riding high on the video charts during the winter into spring 1984. That’s when the network’s initials really meant what it provided: Music Television. And for that reason, Hold Me Now seems more of a fashion statement to me than just a catchy tune. It also stirs thoughts of a reality statement that carries a deeper message.

Let me explain that better…

MTV ran 24/7 and during the early years it was the same format as AM Radio. VeeJays played music videos, instead of spinning disks. And for the artists to make a splash – an impact – the visuals became just as important as the music.

But in reality, it’s always been that way with pop music – and real life.

Elvis’ greasy hair, sideburns and gyrations were visual magnets to teenagers and a nightmare for their parents. The same could be said about The Beatles’ mop tops and high heeled, pointy-toed boots. Along with the music, their appearances made enough of a splash to be the topics of news reports, comedian punch lines and an older generation’s scorn.

Thompson 2

A different look

Much of what made them different was how they looked.

Part of being an artist is having a recognizable image and as pop progressed into rock it seemed the coming generation has always tried to outdo its predecessor. Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper, The Ramones… Okay, those are only a few off the top of my head, but you know what I mean. Mention any of them and chances are good you’ll also have a strong mental visual image because they looked different.

So by the time MTV was pushing both visuals AND music into our lives 24/7 the artists that wanted to make a splash had to go all out. For your own visual think of the two biggest pop stars at that time – Michael Jackson and Madonna. Their songs alone were good enough to be hits on the radio, but add their unique images and the combination is a reason why both are still considered icons today. Mention Michael’s sequined glove or Madonna’s wedding veil and you’ll immediately “picture” the songs (Billie Jean and Like A Virgin).

You might also remember a portion of society did not like them because of how they looked.

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Monday February 4, 2017 – Tiffin, Ohio!

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Hold Me Now had the same visual effect in 1984. (The) Thompson Twins were noticeable to a lot of us at first because there were actually three members instead of (two) twins. Funny. Also MTV threw this song into heavy rotation so it seemed whenever we actually looked at the television screen rather than treating it as background music, we would catch the video. And from my memory, it was part of the Big Hair Era the 80’s is still famous for.

Some liked the look – some didn’t and still don’t.

My NYC cohorts (as part of the boomer generation) were past the age of trying to shock the older generation with our looks. And I don’t remember being a big fan of 80’s music or fashion while it was happening. It all seemed more comical to me than cool. But I’m totally into creative artists expressing themselves through whatever medium they choose to work in. And during this segment of the 80’s it seemed like pop musicians were more concerned with grabbing attention visually rather than with music.

The Midnight Runners with Dexy

Looking different

They wanted to look different.

An example of what I mean would be Dexys Midnight Runners in 1983 with Come On Eileen. They wore bib overhauls and came off more as street urchins than musicians. And why am I suddenly thinking of the Broadway musical Oliver as I write this…?

Okay, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that when you consider all the fashion trends we’ve lived through. Even Ann and Nancy Wilson from one of my favorite rock bands from the 1970’s, Heart, moved into bigger success with the 80’s MTV generation when their managers reinvented the sisters with teased hair, frilly dresses and too much makeup. I read Nancy’s book and they weren’t happy about it. They were rockers closer to Led Zeppelin than The Go Go’s, but it was standard wear if you wanted to sell records and concert tickets via MTV.

You had to sound AND look different to stand out from the crowd. If you don’t believe me, ask Boy George.

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The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special

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Thompson Twins are remembered because of Hold Me Now and a look that’s somewhere between big hair and street urchin. It’s a catchy song and definitely memorable since I’ve never owned a copy, but woke up with it in my mind on April 27th. That gives it a hold in the subliminal playlist of Dream Songs.

No, look at me now!

Way different!

A lot of the girls I ran with or saw around NYC were into the Madonna look that included teased hair and worn high. Yeah, a few even wore their bras outside their shirts. And Thompson Twins included three distinct looking characters that could be called MTV fashion icons in 1984. As the music scene continued through the decade, the clothes seemed to get even more outrageous and hair on both girls and guys was teased and sprayed higher and higher.

And you know what? Not everyone liked the look. It seemed some people were more concerned about it, rather than simply hearing the music. In a visual society first impressions often make lasting opinions.

And it’s always been like that.

But the good thing about being different simply through fashion is that images are easy to change. That’s why we can look back at the 1970’s fashions and cringe (at least some of us!) but not be labeled with how we looked in the past. Leisure suits, big bellbottoms, platform shoes, droopy mustaches and… Well, I’m done cringing. They’re all long gone and I won’t be looking at any old photos from that era any time soon. I’ve changed.

Which brings me to a more important opinion.

With the benefit of hindsight, I’ll compare the general outrageousness (looking to make a splash) of the 80’s to the 1960’s. But it’s not the 1960’s of shocking society with Beatles haircuts or hippie clothes. I’m talking about the differences in looks that lead to inequalities.

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For a showbiz example (this is The Classic Rocker after all), what I’m talking about is depicted in the 1988 movie Hairspray and the later Broadway musical and film. In the story there was a segment of society that wanted to hold back – discriminate against – people because of how they looked. It’s about the struggle and fight for equal rights and not being accepted based solely on appearance. The main characters were not accepted by the powers that be. The message is racism, but it occurs on many levels. Motor Mouth and Seaweed weren’t accepted because they were black. Tracy was kept out of the “in-crowd” because she was overweight.

Some people make judgments only on appearance. But wait, am I getting too deep based on a simple 1980’s pop song that actually has nothing to do with this topic? Well, as The Classic Rocker I’m allowed an opinion – and in my opinion that’s despicable, racist and wrong. It just took Hold Me Now with a visual image that some people didn’t like to remind me of it.

Too different?

Too different?

Like Elvis in the 50’s and The Beatles in the 60’s, many pop stars of the 80’s including Thompson Twins, Dexy, Michael, Madonna and Boy George were often judged on their appearance. They were expressing themselves as artists, but some people wouldn’t listen because they didn’t like the way they looked. And using Hairspray as a fictional account for what was actually going on in real life, it was much deeper than that. Some people are too quick to judge based on first impressions. And when it comes to equal rights you can’t just change your status by changing clothes or hairstyle.

It’s a problem that rocked the 60’s and is still around today.

But other than the more important and continual campaign for equal rights, a common thread between the two decades was making a splash. The ones who appeared different were the ones that were noticed first and were either admired or scorned because of it. So when I hear Hold Me Now I have a visual image of an era when the trend was big hair – teased, shaved, weaved, braided, curled, uncombed and sprayed. I thought the visual was comical in some ways, but didn’t knock it because it was different.

It also didn’t affect how I heard the music.

In the BIG picture we’re still looking for many preconceived opinions and inequalities based on appearances to disappear from society forever. The BIG fight for equal rights should never stop until it’s won. But in a very small way, fortunately for me and other boomers we were past the stage of shocking the older generation with our looks when Thompson Twins and the others were dominating MTV. And for that reason, our 80’s photos aren’t as cringe-worthy as they could have been. At least for some of us…

Here’s the video of Thompson Twins that was in heavy MTV rotation in 1984.

To purchase Thompson Twins – Greatest Hits with Hold Me Now 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