Category Archives: baby boomer

#169 – 25 or 6 to 4

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#169 – 25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago

 – Sometimes there’s nothing like a solid horn section to punch up a great rock ‘n’ roll song. For me that feeling goes back to the early days of Little Richard (though I was too young to actually experience it at the time) when a dirty-sounding saxophone raged over his pounding piano. And even today since a young Little Richard is never too old for the digital age of listening, the volume is worthy of being turned up whenever The Upsetters – his backing horn section – kick it in with him.

The same can be said for Bobby Keys and The Rolling Stones. Brown Sugar would not be the same song without his sax, even if Keith Richards and Mick Taylor had practiced what Keef refers to as “the ancient art of guitar weaving” for the instrumental break.

Saxophone was one of the founding instruments in rock ‘n’ roll. But as also a big fan of rhythm & blues, soul and Motown, a horn section with brass trumpets and trombones are also requirements. I have a feeling any promoter suggesting James Brown, Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye could have cut costs by leaving the horns at home would have found himself with nothing but an empty stage to promote.

But when I was finally old enough to experience what was happening in the world of pop music, it was the beginning of The British Invasion. Other than The Dave Clark Five with Denis Payton on sax, groups featured guitar players. Even when American groups counterpunched with The Byrds and The Lovin’ Spoonful, no one was blowing into anything other than an occasional harmonica – and that includes Bob Dylan.

With a horn section!

In May 1966 The Outsiders caught my attention with Time Won’t Let Me and a great backing horn section. Then later that summer The Beatles released Revolver with the Motown influenced Got To Get You Into My Life. But it wasn’t so much that horns were changing the pop music we were listening to. It was more like pop was borrowing from the other styles to give us a lesson in what a big segment of the youngest baby boomers was missing by only listening to our local Top 40 AM radio stations.

What does that have to do with 25 or 6 to 4? I’ll tell you…

I remember a slight bit of personal confusion when Chicago hit big in 1970. Pop had morphed into rock and the main engine driver was a high-powered electric guitar. Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton were making that notion very clear. Horns could be a great background enhancement, but none of our radio favored bands seemed to have these jazzy players as permanent members.

So with embarrassed hindsight, my perception of Chicago predated the lyrics Dire Straits sang a few years later in Sultans of Swing:

They don’t give a damn about any trumpet playin’ band. It ain’t what they call rock and roll.

But then Chicago changed that.

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Their innovative style as a band in the pop-rock world wasn’t really new. Al Kooper’s original Blood, Sweat & Tears made the scene in the late 1960’s and was the first group I took notice of that had a permanent horn section. But just like the subsequent version led by David Clayton-Thomas, they were too jazzy for my tastes.

It ain’t what they call rock and roll.

Chicago’s first LP under the name Chicago Transit Authority went unnoticed by me. But the opening riff of 25 or 6 to 4 when it was released in June 1970 definitely caught my attention. It rocked. And I don’t think I’m saying anything dedicated classic rock fans will object to, but it struck a rock chord by sounding a lot like Babe I’m Gonna Leave You by Led Zeppelin. And then the horn section came in over the grungy guitar and…

That’s what they call rock and roll.

This sound was coming in through my grungy brain on the morning of September 4th. It rocks its way into the recent memory category because I had just heard it. In fact, this song has occasionally crept into my Top 25 list of Most Played Songs that iTunes so conveniently keeps track of. And by the way, in case you can’t tell from the countdown aspect of these Classic Rocker ramblings, I enjoy that feature immensely.

I should have been more welcoming to the brassy horn sounds of Chicago. But as mentioned, The Guitar Gods had taken hold of the rock scene. I say this because at the time I was a player that could have fit into either section.

My guitar fumbling (for lack of a better term) started soon after The British Invasion – like many other baby boomers. But my skills have never been anything to write home about. I tend to blame that on never having the best guitars. I went more for “looks” (does it look cool?) rather than ease of playing. But trumpet was the opposite. I had access to two very cool horns and a practiced ability to play them.

My interest in the trumpet didn’t start when my parents “told me” that’s the instrument I’d play in the junior high and eventually high school band. It was a tradition on my dad’s side that started with his father and continued with him. And believe me, they were both good players. Especially my dad who played bugle in the U.S. Navy and made trumpet his creative outlet by performing with numerous bands around where we lived. He could play anything from jazz, big band to marching band. I have memories as a very little kid going with my mom to watch his shows. He had invested in a very good (let’s call it expensive) trumpet in the 1950’s and yeah, he looked and sounded cool.

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My grandfather was a lot older than my friends’ grandfathers. He was 46 when my dad was born. I don’t know how young he was when he started playing, but know he had purchased a silver cornet in 1905 and was a member of the town’s concert and marching band. Not only do I still have my dad’s trumpet, but also my grandpa’s silver cornet – and the 1905 proof of purchase receipt.

Yeah, you could say I’ve always been good at hanging on to important stuff.

Herb Alpert & TJ Brass

I alternated between the trumpet and cornet when I joined the school band, but again – I didn’t have much interest. I thought the guitar was cooler. But in April 1967 I watched a television special by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and beginning at that exact moment – by the end of the show – trumpet looked pretty cool. I’m positive that I immediately went to my room and started practicing on grandpa’s cornet. My dad – most likely shocked but overjoyed at the same time – got out his trumpet and started teaching me. Before long we were playing duets and it became a father-son bonding I’ll always have with him.

Another totally shocked victim of my new-found love for brass was our junior high band director. For close to three years I had been languishing in the lower reaches of the trumpet section, barely able to make any type of recognizable musical noise. A few weeks after the Herb Albert TV special we had tryouts for “chair placement” and I aced it.

I still remember him staring at me – smiling – and wondering out loud why this happened “to him” when I’d be moving on to the high school band and a different director in just a few months. My band friends were also flabbergasted (again – lack of a better term) when I propelled past about 30 other trumpeters from the back end of the section to third chair. I never looked – or went – back after that.

Beatles Horn Section

But would I have wanted to be in a rock band like Chicago? Honestly, not in the horn section. As Paul McCartney once pointed out, his first instrument had also been the trumpet – also a gift from his dad – but you can’t play and sing at the same time.

Since that’s what I had in mind when I auditioned for the high school musical – and aced it – my trumpet playin’ band days came to an end. When I took off for college and later New York City, a couple guitars were in the back of my station wagon and the brass horns were left behind.

But they didn’t go unused, since I’ve always been good at hanging on to important stuff. More than a century after my grandpa bought his cornet and half a century after my dad bought his trumpet, my son Paul was playing both in the high school band. But now that he’s a professional singer, they’re both on the shelf waiting for the next generation.

And as for Chicago, they’ve also lasted for a few generations. Sometimes there’s nothing like a solid horn section to punch up a great rock ‘n’ roll song. And since there are still plenty of rock ‘n’ rollers from first generation baby boomers on down, I don’t hear that sound fading out any time soon.

Have a comment?

Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

To watch the original Chicago lineup performing 25 or 6 to 4, check out this video…

 

 

To purchase Chicago’s Greatest Hits with 25 or 6 to 4 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 2018 – North Shore Publishing

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Halloween Bonus Tracks: Top 3 Scariest Songs in Classic Rock

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Can’t you hear me knockin’?

– Somebody put the fear factor into what was once the classic holiday celebration line-up. Here’s how it used to go…

July 4th was an excuse to play pyromaniac and scare the heck out of our friends by making them dodge small explosives and sparklers for our enjoyment. There’s nothing like setting off a screaming missile during a crowded and fenced-in backyard barbeque for a few yucks.

Next was Labor Day when no one needed a doctor’s note to miss work. Scaring someone isn’t mandatory, but if you’ve got a few mini explosives left over from The 4th — then why not? The element of surprise is always a fun way to scare the heck out of someone.

After Labor Day it was a countdown to see how early the TV networks would start showing Christmas commercials. Usually the ads with Santa frolicking through plastic snow with shapely female elves were in regular rotation by mid-September. These ads would scare the heck out of us procrastinators, since each viewing would serve as a reminder of our bleak future as last-minute shoppers in crowded and fenced-in discount stores.

But those days have passed-away to the other side. Now the holiday celebration is all about scaring the heck out of someone and Halloween has engulfed the entire month of October. Oh the horror…

Too hot to handle!

I’ve seen front yards pimped-out with pumpkins, ghosts, skeletons and ghouls since Labor Day. The Christmas lights our dads used to hang outside while the weather was still warm enough to avoid doing a Clark Griswold on a slippery roof have been relegated to the attic for another month. The only outdoor lights I’ve seen draped over bushes and evergreens so far have been orange and black.

As usual, I blame the explosion of Halloween holiday extravaganzas on rock’n roll. After all, it’s a lot more fun dressing up as Kiss and Lady Gaga, than Santa and Mrs. Claus. But putting the Halloween scare in pop music is old school and didn’t just start when Michael Jackson moon walked with a bunch of Hollywood zombies, or Marilyn Manson watched Nazi Week on The History Channel and decided he had an act.

The influences can be traced back to 1958 when little kids in plastic masks and one size fits all costumes sweated out the image of a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater. The hit song Purple People Eater from part time cowboy actor Sheb Wooley (he was on Rawhide, my little cretins) hit number one on the music charts and inspired everyone from high school cheerleaders to your weird uncle to dress up like Prince and claim to be a people eater.

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Believe me this was scarier for kids of the 1950’s than it was watching Ozzy Osbourne cheer for another one of his kids on Dancing with the Stars.

Doin’ The Mash!

Then in 1962 Bobby “Boris” Pickett channeled his inner Karloff for Monster Mash. Thanks to Halloween locking this song onto every classic rock radio’s playlist, it’s a lock to say it probably earns more royalties per year than White Christmas.

But these songs were more fun(ny) than scary. They were novelty records and didn’t invoke lasting nightmares that stay with you whether the disk is on a turntable or buried in a shallow grave with your uncle’s Prince Costume in the backyard.

There are three album tracks by classic rockers that still give me the creeps in broad daylight and make a quick look under the bed a mandatory nighttime exercise. They have nothing to do with Halloween, but combine the spirits of Steven King and George Romero into a musical feast of electric guitars and deadly vocals that can cut through the darkness of any night.

When it’s done by the right band, it’s scarier than retro-disco night at the local PTA fundraiser.

So to honor the spirit of Halloween for what its become – a needed delay until my kids hand deliver their Christmas gift lists – here are…

The Top Three Scariest Classic Rock Songs:

#3. Dead Babies – Alice Cooper

I have the entire Killer album loaded into my digital playlist except for this song. That’s how much it creeps me out – big time. In his defense, Alice said it was supposed to be a statement against child abuse, but for teenagers in 1971, the year this album was unleashed, it was a musical play on a series of sick jokes going around junior high lunchrooms:

How do you make a dead baby walk? 200 dead babies and a sack of cement.

How do you make a dead baby float? Root beer, two scoops of ice cream and a dead baby.

Since I’m no longer eating lunch from a tray in a junior high cafeteria, I’m probably going to hell just for writing that. If nothing else, it creeps me out – big time.

As Alice would say, “Welcome to my nightmare.

This song was recorded by the Alice Cooper Band and not a solo from Vincent Furnier, who somewhere between releasing this disk and Billion Dollar Babies legally changed his name to Alice Cooper. For the other guys, it was worse than a sick joke. When the band eventually broke up, the lead singer owned their name. That would be like Paul McCartney changing his name to Beatles. For some reason, The Plastic Cooper Band wouldn’t carry the same image.

And image is what the Alice Cooper band was all about. When the group toured behind this album in 1972 we witnessed a makeup smeared transvestite in torn fishnets raging, threatening, and finally slashing away at plastic baby dolls on stage. Combined into a deadly medley with the LP’s final track Killer, he’s put on trial by his robe-wearing band-aides and lead to the gallows. The death dirge accompanying this dead man walking ended with Alice swinging from a noose, and then magically reappearing for an encore in white top hat and tails to sing Under My Wheels.

And it wasn’t even Halloween. If that ain’t creepy, I don’t know what is.

I’ll tell’ya what else is creepy – the video of Dead Babies from a 1971 live performance by Alice Cooper.

 

#2. Dazed and Confused – Led Zeppelin

I already know there’s gonna be some flack over this choice, but I’m going for feeling with this one. I actually did a crowd survey… okay, as much as I could standing in line at a convenience store behind some scary looking dudes who represent the new breed of metal rockers. I previewed two of my choices and here’s how they polled:

Dead Babies… uh, don’t know it.

Dazed and Confused… Are you high? What about SabbathMarilyn? Megadeath? Metallica

And you know what? Yeah, they’re all pretty scary, but they ain’t Jimmy Page. So shut the hello up and figure out who gave those guys the incentive to bring a dose of Black Magic and Goth into the realm of rock in the first place.

Maybe this is a selfish choice because of how I got introduced to the song. This is from Led Zeppelin… well, we call it “I” now, but it was their first album and back then nobody knew if there would be a “II.” My best friend had the disk and told me it was the scariest song he’d ever heard. It was night, we’re sitting in a dark room and he put the needle down (this was vinyl, you gremlins) on this last song from side one.

We sat there in silence and listened.

I’ve been dazed and confused for so long it’s not true…

Name a teenager who can’t relate to that and I’ll show you a Rhodes Scholar. And the deal is, once we figured out who these guys were, it just got scarier. The sound waves coming out of the speakers were blacker than the circles under Keith Richards‘ eyes at the crack of noon. It wasn’t the kind of rock where you jumped out of your seat and danced. Instead you sat there wondering if anyone was gonna get out of there alive.

The meaning of the song has been interpreted as either a girl stringing along a guy making him dazed and confused, or describing an acid trip that makes a guy dazed and confused. Either way it doesn’t matter. It’s the music and the emotion. Jimmy Page conjuring up Aleister Crowley by slashing a violin bow against his electric guitar is scarier than me calling the metal dudes at the convenience store punks without getting a ten minute head start.

Turn out the lights, slap on a videotape of the original Night of the Living Dead and put the needle down on Dazed and Confused. Trick or treat – punks.

For a pre-punk 1968 black & white rock’n roll video of Led Zeppelin conjuring up Dazed and Confused, check this out…

 

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#1. Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones

If Paint It Black was… well, black– then this one is as red as Keith Richard’s eyes at the crack of noon. The Satanic Majesties of rock had ditched the flower power facade they threw out in rainbow colors a full six months after Sgt. Pepper had already dosed everyone for a Summer of Love and traded in their flowers for a walk on the dark side.

The transition started with the 1968 video for Jumpin’ Jack Flash when the Stones wore enough rouge and eyeliner to make Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley sit up straight and think about a career move. But that was only a warning for the devilish dance Mick Jagger and his clan of deviants conjured up later that year for the opening track on Beggars Banquet.

This song launched a new era of bad behavior that even Flip Wilson couldn’t excuse with, “The devil made me do it.

The Stones were already on the Children’s Services black list for sex, drugs, drug busts and more sex by giving Mars Candy Bars a bad image. But when it was hinted they were into devil worship, the earth opened up and all hell broke loose.

Parents were horrified. Kids were mesmerized. The Stones were revitalized.

Sympathy for the Devil started as an acoustic folk song with Mick playing the part of Lucifer. Then Keith, the bluesman voted most likely to make a crossroads pact with the devil, added a tribal rhythm infectious enough to cause everyone in the recording studio to howl “Woo Woo!” at the moon.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t really the moon and only a microphone hanging from a boom stand. But if you’ve seen the movie One Plus One by Jean-Luc Godard who interspersed clips of the Stones developing this song with scenes of zombied-out models searching for something – anything – to rebel against, the microphone hanging over the group of stoned Stones and friends imitating a street corner doo-wop group could be a spaced-out metaphor for the moon.

Within a year Brian Jones, the once upon a time leader of this cult of musical personalities, was found at the bottom of his swimming pool. Five months later, after performing this song at Altamont, Jagger was quoted as saying, “We’re always having something very funny happen when we start that number.” In that case it was the stabbing death of a fan that got too close to a Hell’s Angels’ bike.

In a six minute percussion groove with piercing shrieks of electric guitar, Lucifer… ah, I mean Jagger, covers enough evil history to earn a Masters in the subject. Since Ed Sullivan had him change the lyrics to Let’s Spend The Night Together only a year earlier, Sympathy For The Devil would’ve put him over the edge and left him spinning in his prime time crypt.

For a visual trip to the other side, check out this video from a 1968 David Frost Show appearance by The Rolling Stones singing Sympathy For The Devil– with Brian Jones on the piano. It’s in glorious black & white, like the glorious original Night of the Living Dead… BOO!!!

 

Have a comment?

Please use the form below – and keep rocking’!

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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 2018 – North Shore Publishing

#170 – Purple Haze

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#170 – Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix Experience

Jimi Hendrix Experience

Like chewing aluminum foil. I’ll let that roll around in your mind for a moment…

This might be difficult for younger classic rockers to grasp, but Jimi Hendrix wasn’t an instant, overnight success. His earliest records released in England during 1967 were not exactly hits, even though other rock musicians were taking notice. On May 29th he opened a concert in London with the song Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles were in attendance and more than impressed since the LP had been released only three days earlier. That moment has been written and talked about countless times since because Hendrix is such a legend.

But at that time in 1967 he wasn’t… yet.

On June 3rd Sgt. Pepper was released in the U.S. and organizers for the Monterey Pop Festival starting two weeks later were doing their best to coax The Beatles into performing. They turned it down, but Paul McCartney suggested Jimi Hendrix. They went for it and that’s when the legend started becoming real.

At least for the people that were there.

Let me stand next to your fire!

For many younger teenagers living near the northern Ohio metropolis of Cleveland, now home to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we didn’t hear much (if anything at all) about this legendary rock ‘n’ roll event. This was before Rolling Stone Magazine started covering the hippie scene for those of us thousands of miles away and the film Monterey Pop with Jimi’s legend-making guitar burning performance didn’t even come out until December 1968. I’m pretty sure I didn’t see it until it made my university’s late night film lineup during the 1970’s.

Hendrix’s album Are You Experienced with Purple Haze was released in late August 1967. And since none of the songs were played on our reliable Top 40 AM “pop” radio stations, we pretty much had no idea who Jimi Hendrix was.

But during that same Summer Of Love, riots in Detroit forced my grandmother to get the heck out of Dodge. With army snipers on the roof of her apartment building near the Detroit River, she caught a Greyhound Bus and made it to our isolated niche on the shores of Lake Erie. When the fires simmered down we drove through the battle zone, packed up her stuff and moved her into an apartment near us.

It was around this time I started hearing rumors about underground music on FM radio stations.

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Since grandmothers are usually programmed never to say “No” to their favorite grandchildren, she allowed me to commandeer her FM stereo radio. Not long before this, FM was pretty much a wasteland for teenage pop music fans by featuring talk, easy listening music, weather and news. The older generations might have tuned in, but boomers were only within hearing range when we were stuck in a doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room playing FM stations that numbed us to near-death with background elevator muzak.

Through grandma’s radio I listened to songs by groups that were leading us from pop to rock. This included the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the songs Purple Haze, Fire and Foxy Lady. It was called psychedelic and sounded electric, heavy, soulful and very cool.

I was hooked.

In early winter 1968 mom and dad took my sister and me to New York City to visit our Radio City Rockette cousin. Thanks to a lake effect snowstorm that shut down the Cleveland airport, we boarded a passenger train for a twelve hour ride to Grand Central Station. Somewhere near Rockefeller Center between watching shows by the high kicking Rockettes, I wandered into a record store and saw Are You Experienced.

I bought it.

After an all night train ride home spending as much time looking at the LP cover as I did looking out the window, I finally had the chance to rip off the plastic wrapping and put it on the turntable of our family stereo. This might also be difficult for younger classic rockers to grasp, but a stereo in many boomer’s homes during the 1950’s and 60’s doubled as a piece of furniture. So I was a bit surprised when my parents allowed me to commandeer the stereo and move it into my bedroom for my own personal use. They didn’t mind rock ‘n’ roll (after all, they had taken me to see The Beatles), but this gave them a better chance to hear what was on their FM stations when I listened to Jimi’s guitar feedback behind my closed bedroom door.

But similar to discovering Jimi Hendrix at the age of fourteen, I realized my room wasn’t cool enough for this new music. Hendrix also had a look and my room had none.

Sometime that summer I found a psychedelic poster of Jimi Hendrix with the words, “Like chewing aluminum foil.” My first impression was that it was funny. But it was also different and seemed very cool.

I bought it.

But it needed a better display than just being hung up in my room, so I also bought a blue light bulb. Don’t misunderstand. This was not a blue light that could be paired up with a lava lamp to turn any kid’s bedroom into a hippie hang out. It was exactly what I said it was – a blue light bulb. I slid open my closet door, pushed the clothes on hangers as far to the side as possible, tacked up my Jimi Hendrix poster and replaced the regular light bulb (with a pull string to turn it on) with the blue bulb.

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I had a cool room.

When my pals came over I would open the closet door, push aside the clothes, pull on the blue light bulb string, and play Are You Experienced. Oh yeah… we thought we were very cool.

Purple Haze joined this Dream Song list on September 2nd. I still own my original vinyl album, but in the years since have added it to my digital playlist. And since I had just heard it, the song joins the recent memory list.

Like chewing aluminum foil? Yeah, since we weren’t really that cool you should know what’s coming…

During this phase of our high school careers, my best pal Kevin and I were pretty much inseparable. We were about fourteen or fifteen years old and if I wasn’t at his house he was at mine. We’d ride our bikes around town looking for great adventures and throw parties so we could talk-up the cute girls in our class. On weekends we’d sleep over at one of our houses so we could stay up all night watching the dumbest movies we could find on television.

Actually, we were pretty bright kids and really didn’t get into any trouble. But then again, even smart kids can be dumber than the dumbest…

One night with my Jimi Hendrix poster displayed in it’s (not that cool) blue light, we started debating what like chewing aluminum foil really meant. Was Hendrix trying to tell us something? Was it about the music or the experience?

There was only one way to find out.

We walked into the kitchen, took out two pieces of aluminum foil, popped them into our mouths and bit down. Maybe it had to do with having one or two metal tooth fillings that were popular with muzak-listening dentists in the 1960’s, but there is only one way to describe the sensation.

OUCH!!!!!

If you’ve ever made the claim that you’ll try anything once in your life – cross this one off your list. It was like having a jolt of Jimi Hendrix electric guitar feedback screaming through every nerve ending connecting our jaws to our brains. We couldn’t spit it out fast enough while trying to muffle our cries of agony so we wouldn’t wake up my mom and dad. It was bad enough to learn how dumb we could be without letting my parents in on the realization.

Decades later I can still dredge up the pain like a bad acid flashback – even though I’ve never taken acid. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to stick a live electric wire your mouth, it’s…

Like chewing aluminum foil.

To this day if Kevin and I see each other all we have to say is, “LCAF.” Believe me, the impression was lasting and we both know exactly what we’re referring to.

The legend-making part of Jimi Hendrix’s career was also a short explosion that only lasted only a few years. He died in September 1970 while I was still in high school and at a time when some rock stars were only just starting to figure out there might be a dark side to doing drugs – and teenagers learned not to chew aluminum foil.

But we didn’t stop playing his records. Like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and a certain few other legends of the rock world, Hendrix still seems to be relevant. He is still referred to as one of the best – if not THE best – rock guitar player and innovator. He changed the music forever.

He also changed the way I look at aluminum foil. LCAF.

Have a comment?

Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

For a live performance video of Purple Haze by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, check this out…

To purchase Are You Experienced with Purple Haze 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 2018 – North Shore Publishing

Bonus Tracks: Top 3 Back To School Songs

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Bonus Tracks: Top 3 Back To School Songs

 – It doesn’t matter what generation you fit into on the pop culture chart, even if you’ve reached the status of “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” The end of summer means one thing:

Back to school.

Okay, I’m not using that as an incentive to quit your job, pack up your vinyl album collection and move into a dorm. I’m only giving reason to the memories swirling through your mind after you’ve realized it’s too quiet around the house. Another younger generation of kids or grandkids is heading off to the halls of higher learning, which was once our domain. Our former turf where togas were considered formal wear and empty beer kegs served as coffee tables.

For many of us college was our first real taste of freedom. Also, for many of us, it goes down in the mental bank as the final four years of freedom until these same kids and eventually grandkids punched our admittance tickets into the real world.

Yeah, we all have something to remember about school when we hit this time of year. Grade school, junior high, high school or college – we’ve been there and done that. Some of these memories are great while others recall pure embarrassment. You might be dreaming of your old dorm room and wishing you could do it again knowing what you know now, or simply glad it’s all over.

Either way, like any memory, it should have a soundtrack. And since I’m not writing these ramblings for the incoming freshmen who will be glorifying Nicki Minaj, Kanye West or Justin Bieber behind their memories decades from now… Wait. I take that back. Will anyone even remember Nicki, Kanye or Justin decades from now?

Sorry, guess I was stirring up the feeling of “been there, done that” while staring at my vinyl album collection. And since most of them date back to my college daze, it gives me an idea.

Using these historical grooved references tucked in designer cardboard sleeves as inspiration and to pay respect to Hollywood’s favorite college freshman, Rodney Dangerfield, here are my selections for the top three Back To School Classic Rock Songs. But keep in mind these are more than just songs about the topic. That’s not the main point. I’m going for the feelingattitude and just flat-out fun that were important memory-makers prior to our admittance into the real world.

It was – and still is – called college.

You may not agree with these choices because they may not even mention the word school or be associated with the end of summer. But if it’s been a few decades since you called your roommate a jerk, slept through a test because the Student Union had dollar drafts the night before, or know more about Leave It To Beaver than you do about Justin Bieber, you’ll find a reason to relate.

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No. 3 – Student Demonstration Time by The Beach Boys.

What’s a list about songs connected with summer that doesn’t have at least one connected to The Beach Boys? Except this choice has nothing to do with daddy’s T-Bird, surfin’ girls, California girls, or even staying true to your school. It’s all about the attitude of America’s college students in the early 1970’s from a group of college dropouts later revered as America’s Band.

College students in the 60’s and 70’s didn’t Tweet or Instagram their complaints about not trusting anyone over the age of thirty. They took over administration buildings, protested, and basically did whatever they could to make it clear they weren’t happy with what was handed down to them.

In this case, we’re not talking about tacky furniture and smelly closets left by graduating seniors for incoming frosh. Student Demonstration Time is about protesting an older generation’s policies in Southeast Asia that made college campuses more popular than a government job for males over the age of eighteen, thanks to student military draft deferments.

Too heavy for you? Okay, let’s skip the bullets and free speech references in the song and soften the blow for our list…

College students will protest just about anything because that’s what they’re good at. It’s like the old Burger King “have it your way” commercials. When we were enjoying our first taste of freedom, we wanted it our way – or no way.

  • Bad food in the cafeteria? Food fight.
  • Conduct codes? Co-ed dorms.
  • Dress codes? Streaking.

When this song closed side one of the classic Surf’s Up album in 1971, The Beach Boys were developing a social conscious despite resident genius Brian Wilson being zonked out in his bed for three years. His heir apparent and brother Carl Wilson fuzzed up his guitar and followed cousin Mike Love’s lyrical makeover of the classic Leiber and Stoller jailhouse rocker, Riot In Cell Block Nine, to put a hard edge on student protest songs. You can put this one on the next time the government screws you over or when the mashed potatoes are too soggy.

Warning: Repeated listening might awaken your inner Howard Beale (Peter Finch) attitude made famous in the 1976 film Network, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” Just do us all a favor if it involves streaking and keep your shorts on.

Sorry, no video for this one. But here’s an audio LINK for Student Demonstration Time on YouTube.

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No. 2 – Hot For Teacher by Van Halen

Oh man… This one is just wrong. At least that’s what the Parents Music Resource Center said when they tried to have the song and (especially) the video pulled from the airwaves in 1984. But when it comes to combining feelings of your nerve-wracking first day of school with a crush on your teacher, this one brings back both.

The song is powered by testosterone and a rapid-fire guitar and drum onslaught from the Van Halen brothers, Eddie and Alex, along with the trademark backing vocal from bassist Michael Anthony. But as always in the band’s pre-Van Hagar days (a quick nod to Sammy), Diamond David Lee Roth is the sleazy guy hanging around the schoolhouse that your parents warned you to stay away from, but will have the best stories to tell at future class reunions.

Whether you were a Waldo, the kid in the video being fast-tracked to a nervous breakdown on the first day of school, one of the mini-me Van Halen clones encouraging a show-and-tell with their playmate-worthy teacher, or somewhere in the middle, Hot For Teacher is like many of the stories we reminisce about with our old school buddies. An exaggerated fantasy.

If you haven’t seen this video in awhile, you’d better check it out. Just don’t tell the kids…

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No. 1 – Shout by Otis Day & The Knights

Hey, cut me a break. Don’t you think I know the original Shout was by The Isley Brothers in 1959? And there was also a shortened version by The Beatles from their 1964 television special, Around The Beatles, and included on Anthology Vol. 1. But when it comes to pure back to school fun, National Lampoon’s Animal House put Otis Day & The Knights on The Campus Wall of Fame.

The film is set in 1962 which means the Isley’s original was one of the newer party songs played by every cover band that set foot in a beer soaked frat house. The entire setting was an extreme lampoon (okay, maybe not for everyone) of college life, but after the film’s release in 1978 it would’ve been hard to find anyone on academic probation that hadn’t wrapped a sheet around themselves at one time or another and shouted, “To-ga! To-ga! To-ga!

Otis Day & The Knights were originally cast as actors with DeWayne Jessie as Otis and a young Robert Cray as the bass player. But after the soundtrack’s huge success (including Shama Lama Ding Dong), the group became a real band and toured the country.

Shout is a time proven rocker that gives every former college student the opportunity to embarrass themselves by demonstrating dance moves they’ve had no reason to update since graduation. With a gospel flavor that could’ve been James Brown’s follow-up sermon in The Blues Brothers had Jake and Elwood had gone back the next Sunday, it’s an arm waving, gator-inducing mind eraser that makes memories of going back to school a lot more fun than thoughts of returning to real life. It’s no wonder Bluto (John Belushi) spent seven years in the Delta House gaining valuable partying experience for his future career as Senator Blutarsky.

You wanna SHOUT with the Delta Tau’s? Here’s the clip from Animal House...

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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 2018 – North Shore Publishing

#175 – Up Where We Belong

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#175 – Up Where We Belong by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes

 – If you were a Boomer in 1982 and involved in any type of romantic relationship, it’s almost impossible to separate this song from the movie An Officer and a Gentleman. The grand finale when Richard Gere walks into the factory wearing his Navy whites and sweeps Debra Winger off her feet is still a highlight in the drama/romance genre and the movie soundtrack played an instrumental version of this song as it was all coming down.

The film was a box office hit that summer and made it a must-see for the romantic generation. I remember lines at the theaters in New York City, where I was living at the time, and if you fit into the relationship category mentioned above, chances are you were standing in one of those lines with your significant other.

But let’s call it what it is (or was). And I don’t mean this as a put-down at all because I actually remember An Officer and a Gentleman being a good movie. But in all honestly, it fell into the category of “chick flick.”

I’m not sure if some Boomer-guy invented that sexist category, but we might as well go ahead and claim it. After all, our generation seemed to put tags on everything from hippies and straights to rock and bubble gum (music – not chewable items). It was because of our generation that movies began to be rated G, PG, R and X. The older folks had to maintain some type of restrictions over what we viewed in theaters and at drive-in movies since they had lost any control over what music we were listening to.

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Again – no disrespect intended.

I just don’t remember any of my guy-friends making An Officer and a Gentleman a “must see” movie. If there was no girlfriend or wife involved, odds heavily favored us standing in lines with our pals to see Rocky III, Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Poltergeist during the hottest months of ’82.

And now that I have that guy-thing out of the way…

Up Where We Belong is really a great song that fits the times. You didn’t even have to attend Ridgemont High to realize that. It’s a soaring, romantic uptempo duet following the trend for power ballads that teased-hair rock groups used to make it onto MTV playlists in the 1980’s. These songs would put stadium audiences into mellow, cigarette-lighter-waving moods before exploding with endings that had everyone on their feet cheering for more.

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If you need a reminder to figure out what I’m talking about, check out Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue, Faithfully by Journey or Keep On Loving You by REO Speedwagon. It was the trend.

Up Where We Belong joined this Dream Song List on August 18th. But I have no reminder to figure out why. I don’t own it and hadn’t heard it in… like… forever. In fact, I don’t think I’ve even seen the movie since standing in line with an ex-significant other in 1982. So we’ll check this one into the subliminal category.

SNL

The teaming of Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes seemed interesting at the time… to say the least. Warnes was new on the scene, but Joe had been a classic boomer favorite since growling through With A Little Help From My Friends at Woodstock in 1969. Though John Belushi did his best to keep the Cocker legend going with a great impersonation on Saturday Night Live – actually performing next to the real deal himself – his star had faded a bit as we got into the 1980’s. Whether Warnes was a friend or a record company-made partnership, it didn’t matter.

This little help from a more recent hit-maker put them both at the top of the music charts.

A gentleman and an officer

Unfortunately, or maybe I should say fortunately for you, this song really brings back no other memories. I don’t even remember the ex-significant other I saw the movie with. I guess it will have to stay that way until my married-significant other decides to include An Officer and a Gentleman on her Richard Gere viewing list.

Since I’ve sat through Pretty Woman with her probably more times than I’ve heard this song, I’ll go ahead and assume it won’t be too long before that happens.

But until then…

Have a comment? Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

Here’s a video of Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes performing Up Where We Belong.

 

To purchase The Best Of Joe Cocker with Up Where We Belong 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 2018 – North Shore Publishing

#176 – I’d Do Anything

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#176 – I’d Do Anything from the Broadway musical Oliver!

February 9, 1964

– Here’s a little remembered fact about baby boomers. We weren’t all raised on rock ‘n’ roll. Many parents of young teenagers that went wild over Elvis in the 1950’s were also raising infants who would be converted into Beatlemaniacs only eight years later. This older generation, that included the “bobby-sockers” who swooned over Frank Sinatra in the 1940’s, was just as shocked over the rebelliousness of rock ‘n’ roll as many boomer parents (or grandparents) were about rap music decades later.

So a lot of them didn’t listen. And as infant boomers in the household, we didn’t hear a lot of rock ‘n’ roll until we were old enough to discover it for ourselves.

Popular music was family-friendly. Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby and other “mainstream” singers were having hits. And to make my point even clearer, Patti Page had a number one record in 1953 with How Much Is That Doggie In The Window and I’ll bet most boomers born in the 1950’s can still sing it.

But before we took over our own vinyl turntables with disks by Elvis and The Beatles (and many others), we heard our parents’ record collections. In my case it included the above-mentioned singers, jazz, big band, movie soundtracks and Broadway show tunes.

February 9, 1964 Headliners

This was also the music that was popular on television. In the 1950’s and 60’s variety shows earned high ratings for family viewing. On Sunday nights the most influential primetime host, Ed Sullivan, featured the widest variety of them all.

Most of these shows treated rock ‘n’ roll singers as little more than novelty acts for the youngsters. Though Sullivan may have used that billing to schedule everyone from Elvis to The Beatles, appearances on his show could make their careers more than just a passing fad.

If boomers wanted to see the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll, we watched The Ed Sullivan Show. And while we watched, he also made sure to present acts everyone else in the family could enjoy.

As mentioned in past Classic Rockers, I was well versed in Broadway musicals thanks to my mother – a member of the Frank Sinatra bobby-sock generation. But my first exposure to I’d Do Anything from the musical Oliver! occurred the same night Ed Sullivan introduced The Beatles to U.S. audiences on February 9, 1964.

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I’d Do Anything was introduced to this Dream Song list on August 17th. And as proof my digital playlist is as varied as one of Sullivan’s programs, I own a copy from the 1968 movie soundtrack and had just heard it. So place this one into the recent memory category.

So why would a Classic Rocker have this Broadway show tune mixed in with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and others that proved not to be just passing fads?

I’ll get to that in a moment, but first here’s a 1964 fact about this song and a then-future teen idol.

When we watched for our favorite group on The Ed Sullivan Show, it was necessary to watch the entire program. We never had a clue exactly when they would appear. On February 9th Sullivan told us The Beatles “Would appear now and again later in the second half of our show,” which kept us tuned in for the entire hour. On a weekly basis that meant we’d also see comedians, animal acts, plate spinners, acrobats and opera singers while waiting for The Dave Clark Five or The Animals.

Davy Jones as The Artful Dodger

Between the Beatles two sets on their debut night, Sullivan introduced the Broadway cast of Oliver! to perform two songs. The first was I’d Give Anything For You featuring Davy Jones as The Artful Dodger and English singer Georgia Brown as Nancy (who sang As Long As He Needs Me).

Little did we know that two and a half years later Davy Jones would become one of The Monkees. And during an interview years after that, he talked about watching The Beatles from the side of the stage and thinking how much fun that would be as a career. Little did he know

But the real credit for this Oliver! classic making our Dream Songs list goes to my son Paul.

We learned at (his) very young age that Paul loved Broadway musicals. His first exposure came when he was about four years old and we took him to see the local high school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. He sat on my lap the entire time to see over the adults seated in front of us and it was obvious to me he was mesmerized. Days later he was singing the songs – after only hearing them that one time. Musically gifted? As a proud and supportive dad I definitely say yes.

Two years later the high school staged Oliver! and the same thing happened. So before we made a long drive to Florida for a spring vacation, I bought the Broadway cast CD and we listened constantly. On the fun(ny) side (for father and son anyway) his mother almost lost her mind hearing it over and over and over as we sang along. And after each time we’d hear I’d Do Anything, he’d call out from the back seat (since he was still too small to ride in the front):

Play it again!” Being the proud and supportive dad, I always did.

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So my memory is not of Davy Jones on The Ed Sullivan Show, but instead our son Paul as a five or six year old musical prodigy serenading us on a 20+ hour drive to Florida. And adding to the memory bank about the influence this music had on him, he has gone on to graduate from a well-respected Conservatory of Music and onto a career in musical theater. This past year he made the full circle by starring in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. But since he’s in his early twenties and over six feet tall with leading man looks, it’s highly doubtful we’ll ever see him as the youngster Artful Dodger in any revival of Oliver!

The Classic Rocker with Davy Jones

And finally as a footnote for this Classic Rocker’s personal memories about waiting for The Beatles and watching Davy Jones as The Artful Dodger singing I’d Do Anything on The Ed Sullivan Show, I guess you could call this another type of circle.

The first concert we took Paul to – as an infant – was by The Monkees.

I had interviewed Davy Jones for a newspaper column I was writing at the time and being a nice guy, he invited us back stage after the show. We had time to talk and take photos, which was also a thrill for my wife Debutant Deb, who still views Davy as her teen idol from the ’60s. And yeah, we have a photo of him with infant Paul who I know will complete another circle some day soon when he makes his Broadway musical debut.

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Here’s a video of Davy Jones and the cast of Oliver! performing I’d Do Anything on The Ed Sullivan Show

 

To purchase the original Broadway cast recording of Oliver! with I’d Do Anything (sorry, but Davy Jones wasn’t part of the original cast and not on this one!) 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 2018 – North Shore Publishing

 

#177 – Stop! In The Name Of Love

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#177 – Stop! In The Name Of Love by The Supremes

 – I’d say there’s about a fifty-fifty chance I heard the word “Stop!” during a concert by The Supremes. The problem was that it wasn’t followed by, “In the name of love.” More likely it was, “Where do you think you’re going?

Alright, I didn’t belong there anyway. But at the time it seemed worth the try.

I’ll get to all that in a moment, but there’s no way to stop Stop! In The Name Of Love from joining this Dream Song list. It happened on the morning of August 16th. There’s a decent selection of Supremes songs on my digital playlist, but this number one hit from 1965 isn’t one of them. That’s strange because I like the song, but just haven’t gotten around to downloading it. Guess I’ll have to take care of that soon. In the meantime, since I hadn’t heard it in awhile, we’ll add it to the subliminal category and use it to bring back a memory that would’ve been better off left in my subconscious.

In past Classic Rocker’s I’ve gone through the valuable music heritage that was coming out of Detroit on a regular basis during the 1960s. There’s no need to repeat any of that here, especially for those of you that lived through it. If you’re of a younger generation, just retrace the roots of your favorite hip-hop, soul, rap and funk artists and you’ll wind up at Motown.

Top tier Motown talent

It’s not a stretch of the imagination to say The Supremes were the top tier of talent for Motown’s founder, Berry Gordy. The trio of Diane (later Diana) Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard (later Cindy Birdsong) set records for consistent chart-topping songs (twelve number one singles) and were favorites on The Ed Sullivan Show and many others that we watched on a regular basis. And it wasn’t just the baby boomer generation that was enamored by The Supremes. Gordy self-guided their career to also include high-end, big-name nightclubs to include an audience of “mature” fans and in the case of Ross, a high-profile movie career in the 1970’s.

The fact that he also fathered one of her children only adds to the legend and why he took such special interest in her career. But that has nothing to do with our Classic Rocker ramblings today. And my rambling into a Supremes performance where I actually didn’t belong also has nothing to do with Ross since she had already split the scene in 1970 for a solo career and was replaced by Jean Terrell.

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The same year Ross split, my friends and I were joining. To be more specific, we into our last two years of high school and were involved. We joined various clubs and activities ranging from ski club to band to the school musicals. I was class vice president and prom chairman my junior year, and on student council as a senior. But that also has nothing to do with Classic Rocker ramblings. I don’t want it to sound like bragging and it’s only mentioned because it sets up the reason why we joined a club specifically meant for the smart kids.

It was called Quiz Bee.

Basically you had a team of students that – together – knew everything. We’d compete against other schools and whichever team answered the most questions correctly would win. There were about twelve of us in Quiz Bee, and we were divided into two teams. The really smart kids were on the A-Team. My closest friends (myself included) made up the B-Team. In other words, we weren’t really that smart. We just joined because we were just smart enough to know we could get out of school early and hang out together while traveling to compete at other schools.

But there was one really cool perk being a member of Quiz Bee. Two schools from each state in the U.S. would be invited to participate in a three-day student United Nations Assembly in Washington, DC. Ours was one of the schools from Ohio for both our junior and senior years.

Talk about a cool perk! But it’s better than that…

The idea was that each team would represent a different member country in a pretend UN session. Our school was given Norway and Malta. Our B-Team was trusted with the fate of the small island country and we prepared for this educational experience as if we were going to an island for spring break.

The Fab Shoreham

I must say this was a very good program to be involved with. We traveled to DC and stayed at the famous Shoreham Hotel, (where The Beatles stayed) and had schedules that included small group meetings, large assemblies (with schools from every state), speakers, debates and voting on (pretend) international policies. But once these were completed by early evening, we were still teenagers away from parental supervision, staying in a large hotel in a big city, and left to our own devices.

I shared a hotel room with my two best friends who had no more business being on the Quiz Bee team than I did. We were just out for a good time. And to add to the devices, our girl friends (two words, so not girlfriends) were staying only two doors down. Occupying the room in-between was our teacher chaperone, but he was old and we knew he’d be in bed by nine o’clock.

Suddenly I’m depressed by that term old. Thinking back, he was probably younger than we are now.

We were all basically good kids, but certainly not angels. We knew how to have fun as long as we didn’t get caught. My buddy Tim and I each claimed one of the two beds and told Gary he could sleep on the foldout cot. But that didn’t concern him at all. What did was the supply of booze he had packed in his suitcase for our B-Team’s wild weekend. Since we were only 17 years old he had gone to the trouble of finding “adults” (probably older kids with fake ID’s) to buy him bottles of whiskey and vodka.

We invited the girls over for a party.

That night got a little too loud with talking, laughing and the radio because we woke up our (teacher) neighbor. He banged on our hotel door and we had to keep yelling “Wait a minute” while hiding the booze and any evidence we were underage kids drinking it. As a preventative against real trouble, the girls stood in the bathtub and closed the shower curtain shut.

Of course we were all caught red-handed. The party ended with the girls being sent back to their room and a promise that all of us would be sent back to Ohio via bus the next day.

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Wisely, Tim, Gary and I woke up early that day and walked or bused our way to the Capitol Building. Either that morning or the day before, a radical group (we didn’t use the term terrorist in 1970) had set off a bomb and blown off a small chunk from the corner of the building. The area was cordoned off by police tape and there were a few guards hanging around. One of us reached over and picked up a small piece of brick. We went back to the Shoreham Hotel and gave this small souvenir from our nation’s historic Capitol as a peace offering to our teacher chaperone.

It must have worked because we continued as the Malta delegation for the rest of our planned weekend.

We attended all the meetings and only left one early on Friday to drop water balloons on our school’s A-Team from the hotel roof as they walked across the street for lunch. Otherwise we kept our fun to the evening hours. And for those two remaining nights we just made sure not to get caught.

I remember most of the other schools were just as adventurous as we were and there was never a shortage of underage kids using fake ID’s to buy booze from the liquor store about a block away. There was a lot of running around the hallways, shouting, laughing and acting like… well, teenagers on booze.

Oh yeah… I almost forgot about The Supremes.

There was a large lounge, or maybe a convention center turned into a showroom in the hotel. Coming back from one of our Saturday meetings, we saw a sign outside saying The Supremes were performing that night.

So a plan was set in motion…

Jean Terrell and Supremes on Tom Jones TV show 1970

Since we had to dress up for our pretend UN Convention, the guys had shirts, ties and jackets and the girls had dresses. We stayed in our “good clothes” instead of our “running around the halls clothes” and waited until the show had started. Then along with my two buddies and our girl friends we put on our best mature attitudes and walked around the velvet ropes and into the showroom.

The place was filled with a mature well-dressed audience that obviously didn’t need fake ID’s to enter. We probably got about halfway in and stopped because we couldn’t see any open tables or seats. The Supremes were on stage (sorry, I can’t remember the song) but that was also when we heard (fifty-fifty chance), “STOP!” I’ll go ahead and add “Where do you think you’re going?” only if you think it’ll enhance the story.

We were quickly escorted out by a few big guys in suits and left to our own devices for the rest of the night.

With no shortage of fake ID’s among high school students from all fifty states, the parties raged on in the hotel hallways for the rest of the night and into the early morning hours. As for The Supremes, our adventure became a good bragging right (“Yeah, we saw them!“).

And speaking of The Supremes and our adventures…

I remember seeing the three girls on stage wearing either white or cream-colored long gowns that sparkled under the spotlights. Mary Wilson would have been the only original member – but it still counts!

We left Sunday morning for the long bus ride back to Ohio. I remember it being a fairly quiet trip for the B-Team as we caught up on our sleep, while the well-rested A-Team probably talked about the educational benefits gained from our extracurricular activity. I also left with knowledge of how the UN works and the importance of countries working together to make the world a better place.

But the main lesson I learned was that teenagers from all fifty U.S. states are not that much different – as long as fake ID’s are involved.

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Here’s a video from 1965 of The Supremes performing Stop! In The Name Of Love

 

 

To purchase The Supremes: The Definitive Collection with Stop In The Name Of Love 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 2018 – North Shore Publishing