Category Archives: 1980s music

#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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Monday, October 2, 2017 – Solon, Ohio

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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’!!

 

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#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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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’!!

The Classic Rocker Featured Book Review

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Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes

Rating: FIVE Classic Rock Stars

Runnin’ Down The American Dream

This is the story of a southern kid out of Gainesville, Florida who would have never scored on anyone’s Most Likely To Succeed list. But we know Tom Petty proved any doubters wrong with a music career deserving of this detailed and entertaining biography.

You can feel the Florida swamp in this book. From the beginning best described as more hillbilly than country or rural during the 1950’s and early 60’s, Petty’s upbringing and family situation were far from offering a clue to his rock superstardom. Though his surroundings and earliest attempts at earning his living making music may not have been as extreme a rags to riches story when compared to his biggest influences, Elvis Presley and The Beatles, it’s an example of The American Dream for anyone with a clear focus, dedication, talent and luck.

The author relies on his connection with Petty and insight as a musician to give readers a more in depth look than a writer needed to rely only on media research and second hand interviews. Petty’s personal memories, thoughts, opinions and experiences are what make this book stand out from others about his life and career.

The added dimension that sets this apart from being simply a one-subject biography is an insider’s look into the life of a successful rock and roll band. The formation and maintenance of all Petty’s groups and partnerships including Mudcrutch, his Rock Hall Of Fame group The Heartbreakers and super group The Traveling Wilburys, are examined through each of their various stages of rise, fall and continuation. The impact of his solo career, marriage, fatherhood and other personal relationships are a stimulus, cause and influence in creating his song catalogue and recordings, touring schedules and private life, and fill out the description of a man that many non-fans would probably never recognize as a rock star if they passed him on the street.

Between bursts of creative energy and chart-topping hits, Petty comes off as an introverted and often isolated creative artist. This book is written with an honest and entertaining tone and gives an insightful glimpse into both his private and public life.

Here’s the “official” video for what I consider to be Petty’s breakout song from 1979 – Refugee

To purchase Petty: The Biography visit Amazon.com

#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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The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special

20% OFF Retail Price with FREE Shipping (Continental U.S. Only)

Signed by the author and only through the website – BeatlesSheaStadium.com

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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

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