Category Archives: baby boomer

#148 – Bitch

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#148 – Bitch by The Rolling Stones

The Stones!

– I’ve just deleted about a month’s worth of Classic Rocker ramblings about this song because… Well, frankly – I didn’t have much to say about it. Bitch is a great song by The Rolling Stones and opened side two the classic LP Sticky Fingers. But it doesn’t achieve the classic greatness as the album’s side one, opening track, Brown Sugar.

It’s not a throw-away either, when considering the Stones’ earlier albums included a lot of filler tracks. But in all my years as a Classic Rocker and Stones fan, I’ve never had anyone tell me Bitch was their number one, all-time favorite Stones tune.

I like it, so don’t get me wrong. When the song comes up on my digital playlist, I’ll crank up the volume.

I also remember – and I checked an online video to confirm this memory – Bitch was the second song in the concert set played by The Rolling Stones during their 1972 Exile On Main Street tour. And since I was a teenaged fan at that tour’s concert stop at The Akron Rubber Bowl and distinctly remember how everyone seemed to fly out of our seats when the group opened with Brown Sugar, I’m sure we were still standing through Bitch and whatever songs followed.

But like I mentioned, I had been rambling on during an earlier version and going nowhere. I was making an honest effort to place this song in a Classic Rocker perspective as a Stones fan and highlight its inclusion into this Dream Song list. I wanted to give some background into what was going on during the spring of 1971 when we were all cranking up the volume to Sticky Fingers. But to be honest, I really don’t really have much.

Life is a…

The song was rocking through my head on the morning of December 11th. I own a copy, of course. That’s a “given” since it’s on Sticky Fingers, which every Classic Rocker and Rolling Stones fan should own. If not, they need to vacate both titles.

But I hadn’t heard it in a while.

It’s not one of the classic Stones songs that the average fan would feature in a Rolling Stones playlist. But it has a solid Keith Richards rock ‘n’ roll groove and a vocal from Mick Jagger that is as identifiable to his sound as any other Stones classic. Plus, it’s always fun to hear. But because I hadn’t heard it in a while, it goes into the subliminal category and also an honorary place in my personal rock ‘n’ roll memory bank. Why? Well, as also mentioned – it was the second song played during the band’s legendary Exile On Main Street tour set and I was there to see it.

But do I really have any other memories to dredge up when hearing Bitch? Just one…

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Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

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Sticky Fingers was the “album of the moment” when I was graduating from high school. Yeah, there were some others – but since I can’t think of them offhand at the moment, this will go down as the main one. I mean seriously, when you think about it – what other song would you want to get the party going when you were seventeen years old in 1971 other than Brown Sugar?

Then flip it over and Bitch opened side two? That’s all it took to get the party started.

So, if you want the memory…

During this crucial teenage period in our lives, which was our high school graduation, a friend opened his backyard swimming pool to our classmates for an afternoon party. To say he and his family were “straight” would be an understatement when compared to what was going on in the world during 1971 when long hair was a statement, rock music was a soundtrack, and dodging the military draft was a healthy male’s activity.

While a good portion of our small town, teenaged clique wanted to be considered “hippies,” it was actually a physical and psychological impossibility while living in northern Ohio at that time. We wanted to believe it, but there was no way our protected and small-town environment could ever be compared to San Francisco or London. But we mostly seemed to get along, probably because of our youth and ideals. When looking back under the haze of a new political climate, it’s amazing now to think we could have all been in the same room, let alone the same backyard for an afternoon swimming party that included both “straights and long-hairs” in 1971.

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But there was no hippie or straight attitude involved that afternoon during a graduation party. It was strictly for sun, swimming and flirting with the opposite sex. Drinking low-alcohol content beer and looking for deeper love was not acceptable at this parent chaperoned party, but would be the featured attractions when we were under our own teenaged supervision later at night.

So why am I bringing this up?

Not The Stones, but this is a diving board!

No other reason except I can hear Bitch in my mind while I think back to opening a wooden gate into the side yard of our friend’s backyard that led to his family’s swimming pool. And then sometime – it had to be within an hour or so after we’d all arrived, one of our friends jumped on the pool’s diving board and it broke in half.

Embarrassing?

I’m sorry to say that would be an understatement for a teenaged guy working hard at a high school graduation party to make good impressions under intense peer pressure. Think back to your teenage years – and yeah, we’re talking pretty devastating. But he got over it, as everyone else did. I’m just glad it wasn’t me.

Okay, so that’s not the best or funniest Classic Rocker memory, but it’s another one that’s true and still swimming around in my mind. When I hear Bitch blasting out from my car speakers almost five decades later, I think about swimming pools and diving boards. I also hope that if I ever jump off one and into one – and I will someday – the board will be extra secure.

But then again, since we’re far from being teenagers, who really cares? My insurance will pay for it.

Have a comment? Please use the contact form below.

Here are The Rolling Stones performing Bitch from the 1972 Exile On Main Street Tour

 

To purchase the classic LP Sticky Fingers with the song Bitch, 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 2020 – North Shore Publishing

#149 – Bonanza

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#149 – Bonanza Television Series Theme Song

The Cartrights

– Hearing this song during the early to mid-1960s was the signal for battle lines to be drawn on the home front. At least that’s how I feel some of us belonging to the younger edge of the baby boomer demographic would remember it. Then again, it all depended on the opponents you were battling against.

For the preteens, a good guess would be our parents.

First of all, Bonanza is one of the most recognizable and catchy television theme songs of all time. And several different versions received plenty of airplay while the show was a prime time, Sunday evening ratings hit from 1959 to 1973. Each episode opened and closed with a “ride’em cowboy” instrumental version, which is the one that landed on this Dream Song list.

But there were other instrumentals and also record releases with lyrics sung by everyone from Lorne Greene, who played the father Ben Cartright on Bonanza, to Johnny Cash who gave it more of his trademark Nashville twang than you might have heard on The Ponderosa.

Little Joe, Adam, Ben & Hoss

And if you don’t recognize my reference to The Ponderosa Ranch, or know Ben Cartright and his three sons by three different wives, Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Michael Landon)… Well, you were either doing your homework or going to bed at a decent hour because it was a school night. I knew that, but it didn’t really matter since just hearing the theme song come through the tiny speakers on our black and white television meant I was usually heading into the thick of a battle and had no time to learn much about the characters or episodes.

Wait. I wasn’t fan of Bonanza?

Honestly, I don’t remember ever wanting to watch it EXCEPT as an excuse to stay up past the bedtime my mother thought was reasonable for good-parenting. The problem was, I knew even then through my preteen wisdom that I was meant to stay up later than her 9:30 pm lights out deadline. For as long as I can remember, my body clock has always kicked into a higher gear once the sun went down. I just couldn’t get my mom and dad… and the public school system (to start classes at a later time) to realize, acknowledge and accept that fact.

So, here’s how it would go.

We would watch The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS from 8 to 9 pm. After that I was supposed to get ready for bed. But a quick (pre-remote control) turn of the dial to the NBC channel would launch the theme song from Bonanza, which as mentioned above, was not only a very catchy song, but also energetic enough to get the adrenaline running through the system of any preteen boy too wide awake to even think about going to sleep.

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Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

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My mom would lead the charge with, “Turn off the television and get ready for bed!” I would lead the resistance with, “I’m not tired!” Then the real fun would begin…

Since it was on throughout the 1960’s, here’s how it would play out:

  • Pre-Beatles the 9:30 bedtime was still a battle.
  • After February 9, 1964 it was all out war.

Map of The Ponderosa

When I think of the Bonanza song, that’s where my mind goes. But honestly, as also mentioned above, I really wasn’t a fan of the show or any of the “cowboy” shows for that matter. The longest running series in the history of television was Gunsmoke and to this day I’ve never watched an episode. Sitcoms, variety and game shows – in that order – were all that interested me.

Even on the Sunday nights when I was allowed to stay up later because of snow days, holidays or summer vacation, I’d listen to the theme song and then start channel surfing (though we only had three networks) for something else to watch. For a couple years it would be The Ed Sullivan Show – again!

How did that happen?

In the mid-1960’s Ohio, where I was brought up, was divided in half by two time zones. Cleveland was in the Eastern Time Zone, while Toledo was on Central time. We lived between the two and could pick up the television signals from both markets. That meant I could watch The Beatles (and all the other British Invasion groups) at 8 pm EST out of Cleveland – then switch to the Toledo station to watch again as they were aired in the different time zone at 8 pm CST (9 pm EST).

Time Zones gave us encores!

And yeah, it was a very fab quirk!

Somewhere around that time they ironed out the differences so the entire state was on the same time. That cancelled out my every Sunday double dose of Ed Sullivan. But in early 1967, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour took over that viewing gap for me. By the time they were fired by CBS in June 1969 for catering to younger viewers like myself and other boomers, I had won the parental war and outgrown a mandatory bedtime.

Yeah, I was a teenager. How grown up… (I write dripping with sarcasm).

As for Bonanza, it was definitely a hit show and if I remember reading this correctly, it’s still the second longest running cowboy (western) show in network television history. And as far as I’m concerned, there’s no better cowboy show theme song.

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At least that’s how it sounded in my waking mind on November 20th. This classic theme song goes into the subliminal category of Dream Songs since I can’t remember the last time that I’ve heard it. And of course, I don’t own a copy because – let’s face it – if I did and my mom happened to be visiting and heard it, she might just instinctively tell me it was bedtime. Which come to think of it, wouldn’t be a bad idea anymore – especially since I lost the battle with my own kids many years ago, I can now appreciate a good night’s sleep.

Here’s the opening AND closing of Bonanza with the foot-tapping, “ride’em cowboy” theme song.

 

You can purchase seasons of Bonanza at 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 2020 – North Shore Publishing

 

#150 – Bus Stop

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#150 – Bus Stop by The Hollies

Waiting for a bus?

– After almost five decades of listening, this classic pop song suddenly took on an entirely new meaning for me. There was nothing about the recording that had changed. It was still the original by The Hollies, who have always been one of my favorite British Invasion bands. And I’m pretty sure most of their first generation fans still pull up images of young love at bus stops every time they hear it.

And most likely, they’re thinking of the stops where they were waiting for a school bus while listening to this one on portable transistor radios.

But those similar types of memories have taken a backseat to what I now think about whenever Bus Stop hits on my personal playlist. Usually, that’s quite often. But for some reason I hadn’t heard this 1966 Top Ten hit in quite a while. Maybe it’s because of my recent memories? Well…, that’s doubtful because it’s a great song with a catchy tune. But when I woke up with these great harmonies and raga-style guitar riff (Indian music was a fad in 1966) in my head on November 17th, it was queued up in the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

Forty-nine years after The Hollies recorded and released Bus Stop, our triple threat (actor / singer / dancer) son Dangerous Paul was going into his junior year at a highly respected music conservatory in Cincinnati, Ohio. For some reason, the genius (have you ever heard of sarcasm? I just used it…) of a department head scheduled auditions for ALL the musical productions that would be performed during the entire school year on the FIRST day the students returned from summer break.

If for any reason a student missed these written in stone auditions, they could kiss goodbye any chance for a decent lead or supporting role in every production that year. If they couldn’t return to the conservatory in time, they might as well take their high-priced tuition money and flush it into the Ohio River.

A boomer box office smash hit!

For some students, this schedule wouldn’t be a problem. But for Dangerous Paul and many others who had been practicing their craft in musical theater productions around the country, the return trek to campus for these ultra-important auditions could play out like a favorite boomer movie, The Great Race. And if you’re not familiar with this 1965 Blake Edwards classic starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, I suggest you head to your library and find a copy in the classic film section.

Dangerous Paul had spent his summer playing the role of Link Larkin in a production of the musical Hairspray. It was in a beautiful summer lake resort in Maine that had only one strike going against it. The final performance of the show was the night before his afternoon auditions in Cincinnati. Oh yeah, I guess strike two could be called because airline flights out of the area and to Cincinnati were not frequent and very expensive.

Oh… okay… Strike three – he needed his car to get from the airport to his on campus auditions, and his parents, played in this classic boomer adventure by my wife Drivin’ Deb and myself – had it with us in Chicago.

So, The Great Race was on…

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Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

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We drove the car to the Cincinnati Airport, which is actually in Kentucky. To me, that begs for a joke. But there’s really no need because the real laughs are coming soon enough anyway. Dangerous Paul and a few fellow cast members made the late night drive through the woods of Maine to an airport in New Hampshire, made various flight connections and landed in Cincinnati (okay, Kentucky) with hardly any time to spare. We were waiting for him and did The Great Race to campus where he made the auditions.

In the meantime, after delivering Dangerous Paul’s car for the school year, Drivin’ Deb and I sat in his off-campus apartment trying to figure out how we’d make it back to Chicago. We found out very quickly the airfares were outrageous, the car rental fees were ridiculous, and passenger trains didn’t seem to have a direct route (and they also weren’t cheap).

Finally, I hit on a different idea.

Our ride

During our drive we had seen colorful buses that advertised super cheap fares. By that I mean, starting at one dollar and not moving that far up in price. We googled the company, found a number for reservations and purchased two cheap tickets home. The bus from Cincinnati to Chicago only made the trip once per day and our Bus Stop pick up was eight o’clock the next morning.

Drivin’ Deb and I stayed in a hotel downtown and made a night out of it at the local casino playing penny slot machines. We figured rest wouldn’t be a problem on the bus and planned to sleep during the seven hour ride to Chicago.

If only…

After only a few hours of shut eye in the hotel bed, we grabbed our bags, took a cab to the designated bus stop corner and found a long queue already waiting. And yes – I’m borrowing the British term for “line” used in the Hollies song because it fits with this topic. With the wait lasting past our promised time of departure, a car finally pulled up and stopped. A woman got out and announced – for whatever reason – the new bus stop has been moved to a corner across the street. Along with our fellow queue members we dragged our suitcases to the designated promised land, and again waited.

A long HOT wait!

Probably about an hour after it had been promised, our transportation arrived.

At this point, it should be noted this was a late August day in Cincinnati. We’re talking southern Ohio where it’s not unusual for the temperature to ride in the high nineties with enough humidity in the air to turn the outdoors into a steam room. By the time we started boarding the bus, all I could think about was getting off and taking another shower – after taking a needed nap, of course.

I don’t remember if it was a general announcement made to everyone, or someone had overheard the bus driver talking on his phone. Either way it doesn’t matter because the next glitch in our travel plans was this colorful bus having a broken air conditioner. The options were to sit by an open window or wait for the next bus – which wouldn’t be until the next day. Most of our group decided to sit on the upper level of the double-decker that had air vents – similar to car sunroofs. At least we could feel the rush of air over us as we traveled up the highway.

But we also could (almost) feel the brush of a big tree limb as our driver pulled out and knocked a few branches off a large tree. And yes, a few leaves fell into our upper deck through the open air vents.

Not going anywhere!

Then the fun really started – as in rain. As we whipped up the highway toward Indianapolis, the sky grew dark and a steady rain began falling. And yeah, that included falling into our upper deck through the vents. The heat was stifling, and it seemed the humidity wasn’t going to break anytime soon, despite the rain. So rather than screaming for the bus to stop and close the vents, Drivin’ Deb and I dug through our suitcases for hooded sweatshirts (with the college logo) and used them to cover our heads and faces to block both the wind and the rain.

Yeah – you’re right. It really sucked.

After picking up more passengers in Indianapolis, who must have truly been miserable stuck sitting on the lower deck of the bus without air conditioning or an open air vent, we were back on the highway headed north to Chicago. But it wasn’t as easy as it might sound.

In fact, it really sucked.

The State Police

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere Indiana, our bus broke down. It rolled to a stop on the side of the highway. The driver could be seen walking outside talking on his phone, while someone else that seemed to work for the company (perhaps joining our no-so-magic bus ride in Indianapolis), appeared in the upper deck and told us we might be more comfortable outside since the rain had stopped. With the heat turning the doomed bus into an easy bake oven, we exited to wait alongside a busy highway for what the bus company might have in store for us next.

Drivin’ Deb and I were part of a motley crew of bus travelers that had been subject to extreme heat, wind and rain for hours, and were now stranded on the side of an overpass built over a small creek. Trucks and cars zoomed past us, with a few blasting their horns, which made it sound like they were taunting us. More than a few times I saw the middle fingers from some of our fellow motley crew passengers respond to the blowers.

Rescue mission arrives!

Okay, to make a bad story come to a quick end, eventually a state police car pulled up behind our broken down bus and turned on the police lights. Calls were made and within a couple hours a replacement bus rescued us. We had a quick stop at a nearby McDonald’s for lunch, paid for by the bus company. Yeah, that might sound good – but it didn’t make the food taste any better.

A few hours later in an air conditioned bus, we had caught up with the rain and followed it all the way to downtown Chicago. Drivin’ Deb and I dragged our suitcases over the wet sidewalks to the train and eventually to the airport where we had parked our car. After picking up our family member Snickers from the doggy hotel, where I’m sure he had been much cooler and dryer than we were during our bus ordeal, we made it home.

Bus Stop? Yeah – I love the song by The Hollies.

Bus Trip? I’ve just given you the entire story of our Great Race home, starring Drivin’ Deb and myself. And as I’m sure you will agree, there was nothing about our bus trek that deserved to be put to music. And if it was, I’m sure the song would suck also.

Here’s a video of The Hollies performing Bus Stop in 1966 – with a great stereo remix. Enjoy!

 

To purchase Greatest Hits by The Hollies with Bus Stop, 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 2020 – North Shore Publishing

#156 – Smoke on the Water

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#156 – Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple

Deep Purple

– Two decades after this song came out Nirvana was grunge-ing about Smells Like Teen Spirit. But for boomers that frequented college parties and dance clubs when Smoke on the Water was released as a single in May 1973, after first appearing on the Deep Purple album Machine Head in early 1972, your sense memories should be drenched in teenage sweat at just the thought of one of the best known guitar riffs in rock, heavy metal and now, classic rock.

And like all great rock guitar riffs, you know exactly what song is playing after only the first couple notes. Chances are good you’ll also remember immediately jumping out of your seat and bouncing onto a dance floor whenever every local rock band cranked this one up to the max volume.

How am I so sure of that? Because that’s how I remember it.

I really don’t know what Nirvana was shouting about in the classic grunge-rocker from the 1990’s, but their song title fits what my sense memories recall from the pre-disco music scene in the 1970’s. I doubt there was any local rock band that didn’t have Smoke on the Water included in their repertoire – along with Roundabout by Yes.

And though I won’t earn any new classic rock fans and will probably lose a few by saying this, I remember both being way overplayed.

Did I just say that – really? Yeah, I did.

Blurred by 3.2% beer?

For a couple of years anyway, Smoke on the Water and Roundabout were guaranteed party-starters. The first notes of either song would cause a stampede of late teens and early twenty-somethings to abandon their “legal at age eighteen” 3.2 percent (alcohol) beers and jump around on a dance floor until the sweat of teen spirit was added to the already thick aroma of brew and smoke (as in cigarettes, which any twelve year old could buy at the time). These songs were such a sure thing to get everyone up and rocking we heard them so often I seriously can’t remember ever wanting to hear either again after we were done with the 1970’s.

That’s why Smoke on the Water joins this Dream Song list as a subliminal member. I hadn’t heard it in a long time, I’ve never owned a copy – and have no desire to change that. When the opening notes jolted me awake on October 15th I must have been unconsciously dancing under the covers since I was breaking into a sweat. I can only assume I was having a dream influenced by long ago teen spirit memories and was back on a dance floor jumping around like a college student powered by watered down beer on the last day of final exams.

Now, if you’ve followed these Classic Rocker ramblings you know I can’t leave you with just a general vague description of hearing Smoke on the Water at every music club we went to. There is one specific memory that jumps into my mind when hearing the opening notes…

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20% OFF Author Signed Copies!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

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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A few weeks after a bad breakup with a long time girlfriend (is there such a thing as a good breakup?) I escorted a new girlfriend to one of our local live music clubs. It was big place and typically crowded for a Saturday night. So of course, the first person I spotted was my “ex” hanging out with her pack of loyal girlfriends. With experienced knowledge you can’t learn in a college classroom, I immediately steered the new girlfriend to the opposite side of the club and found an empty table.

After ordering a couple 3.2% beers we suddenly had company.

To take the suspense out of this sense memory, it wasn’t the “ex” dropping by to say hello or put her cigarette out on my arm. Instead it was two of her friends that had obviously been given an assignment in espionage. Their mission (and they chose to accept it) was to scope out what the heck I was doing with this new girl and to gather any information and perhaps incriminating evidence that I may have been seeing her before the bad breakup with their friend.

Yeah, real teen spirit stuff.

They were on a mission!

Of course I hadn’t talked with the “ex” friends in what seemed like forever, but suddenly they acted like we were all new friends. Over whatever loud early 70’s rock the band was playing, we verbally danced over the obvious, “How are you?” “What have you been up to?” and more specifically, “Who’s your friend?” interrogation that was both awkward and annoying. But the new girlfriend and I handled situation like a team from Mission Impossible (the television series, since we were still decades away from the movies) with fake smiles, polite answers and another round of 3.2% beer.

Then Smoke on the Water came to the rescue.

When the local band hit the first few notes the current girlfriend grabbed my hand and gave me a look as if we’d been granted parole. I called out a (polite) “See’ya later!” and made a beeline onto the dance floor.

End of conversation.

After a lengthy version of Smoke on the Water that was most likely followed by the band’s cover of Roundabout, I suggested we go to another (probably hyped by me as better) club and we split the scene. I’m tempted to add I could feel a few sets of teen spirited eyes trying to burn a hole in the back of my head as we made for the exit, but that would only be speculation on my part. Where there’s no smoke (on or off the water) there’s no fire.

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Eventually the “new” became an “ex” and the first “ex” became a friend. Yeah, I know. It’s complicated. But in the teen spirit of the 1970’s, we all kept dancing – just with different partners in different places. But if I can assume at least one thing stayed the same after going our separate ways, it would be wherever we were and whatever local band was playing, we’d join the stampede onto a dance floor as soon as we heard the opening notes to Smoke on the Water.

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Thanks for reading – and keep rockin’!

Here’s a 1972 video of Deep Purple performing Smoke on the Water

To purchase The Very Best of Deep Purple with Smoke on the Water 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 2019 – North Shore Publishing

 

#158 – Stay With Me

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#158 – Stay With Me by Faces

Faces

– Summer heat and a packed stadium of wannabe boomer hippies morphing into mod rockers. Okay, maybe you won’t think it was as game-changing as I’m making it out to be, but let’s put it this way:

You had to be there.

Since The Classic Rocker is all (well, mostly) about memories this song brings back more than a few – including the scene mentioned above. Rod “The Mod” Stewart, future Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood, future Stones keyboard sideman Ian McLagan, future Keith Moon replacement in The Who, Kenney Jones, and original Small Faces bassist Ronnie Lane were throwing a booze-fueled rock and roll party on stage and everyone was invited.

And it was a needed party. At least that’s how I remember it.

This was happening in July 1972 following my first year in college and the country was going through a very heavy scene. We were hearing a lot of message songs on FM and campus radio not only about protesting the Vietnam War, but also serious odes to peace and love and coming together as a community. These were important topics for our generation and had been growing stronger since the late 1960’s.

In the Navy!

It especially hit home when my age of U.S. males became eligible for the military draft. With the end of student deferments and low draft lottery numbers (mine was #52 which was way too low for comfort), some of my college friends had no choice about their futures. You either went in or went on the run.

It was pretty serious stuff.

We still had rockers like The Who and Led Zeppelin blasted out future classics with attitude, but a lot of music was meant to be listened to. Acoustic guitar playing troubadours with flannel shirts and denim bellbottoms dragging on the floor were a popular sound and style. But as teenagers in the early 1970s some of us could only sit cross-legged around a stereo digging the heavy vibe for so long until feeling the need to cut loose.

The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar had kicked off the summer of 1971 and offered us an alternate vibe. The message was sex and being wild – and if that’s not rock and roll someone needs to come up with a better definition. It had crunchy electric guitars, a heavy beat, a screaming saxophone from Bobby Keys and major attitude. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards weren’t going to waste their time or ours by standing around with acoustic guitars looking introspective and thoughtful.

As soon as the stereo needle hit the vinyl we were in a better place.

Faces also sang about rock’s main topics, backed by electric guitars, keyboards and a drum beat that made sitting cross-legged on the floor virtually impossible. And it was a heck of a lot of fun.

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20% OFF Author Signed Copies!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

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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Legendary as the ultimate ode to backstage groupies, Stay With Me by Faces – as opposed to “The” Faces, which would be like saying “The” Led Zeppelin – was a definite party-starter. The song closed the first side of their late 1971 album A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse and opened my eyes on September 26th as a recent memory. It’s one of my all-time favorite rock songs (along with Brown Sugar) and rarely off my digital playlists for any great length of time. In other words, I had just heard it.

So, what did I mean earlier about morphing from wannabe hippies to mod rockers? It all started on July 3, 1972…

As a nineteen year old U.S. male home from college with the second year riding on the results of an upcoming U.S. military draft physical, I was doing my best to emulate the Woodstock culture of the boomers a few years earlier. The style included hair to my shoulders, a faded t-shirt and faded denim bellbottoms long and wide enough to drag on the floor. My three best pals were also clones of the look as we took off in a beater car for a major rock concert experience at the Akron (Ohio) Rubber Bowl featuring Cactus, Badfinger and the main attraction, Faces.

When we arrived, the stadium was already packed with like-minded hippie wannabes. But for some reason we felt brave enough (stupid enough?) to wade our way through the crowd sitting cross-legged close to the stage. When we reached a space that gave us a great view, we sat. Seriously – we just sat down, practically on top of the fans who were already there. I remember some teenage girls and guys giving us the evil eye and saying something about our arrogance (stupidity?) but it worked out. We were basically good guys and actually funny enough to resemble a hippie comedy team.

It didn’t take very long before we were making friends and they let us settle in for the show.

Come to think of it, we probably made these fast friends because one of my pals had hid a bottle under his shirt and was free in passing it around. Combined with the 3.2 percent beer we were allowed to buy from venders at the legal age of eighteen, everyone seemed pretty friendly and the atmosphere could be described as party central.

Badfinger

Except for being a hot, humid day in July with more dirt and dust than grass covering the stadium’s pre-Astroturf college football field, I don’t have any highlights of the opening acts to share. I don’t remember any of us being into Cactus. They might have been part of the country-rock scene out of California, which we weren’t into at the time. I was psyched about seeing Badfinger since they were a Beatles-related Apple band, but they were a bit of a disappointment. I have a memory of one or two of them sitting on stools while playing the hits we wanted to hear. Not exactly the rock and roll energy we expected.

Faces fronted by Rod Stewart were the complete opposite.

They rock and rolled, pranced and posed and made no secret they had a party central happening on stage. We were close enough to see bottles of booze on the amplifiers and they took healthy swigs before, during and after songs. I’m not sure if Stay With Me was the closing number, but I like to think it was. As a dedicated soccer fan, Rod kicked soccer balls into the crowd and at one point either he – or it might have been Ron Wood – landed on his butt after an especially energetic and booze-fueled kick.

We roared our approval.

But what did I mean about a change from wannabe hippies into mod rockers?

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Faces were far from being flannel shirt and denim rockers. They were decked out in brightly colored slim-fitting, wide lapel jackets, flashy shirts, bellbottoms and high-heeled shoes. There’s no way these guys would’ve felt comfortable walking through the mud at Woodstock or showing up for a military draft physical.

They were traveling in style. Which is something I started to do within a few weeks of the concert.

My goal was to fashion myself like Rod and the band with what I can only call a “rock and roll jacket.” It had to be slim fitting with wide lapels, which turned out not to be as easy to find in northern Ohio as it must have been in London.

Not as cool as this!!

After hours of driving with my concert-going buddy Gary to every clothes store we could find near and far from Cleveland, we finally wound up back in Akron at a then-known but now-gone 1970’s fashion trendsetter clothes store called Chess King (as opposed to “The” Chess King). A mod-rocker sales dude pulled out a jacket in my (tight) size and I reached for my wallet.

And even though muddy brown sugar would never be called a flashy color by Faces or London fashionistas, I proudly wore it to add mod to my rocker status.

To end this Classic Rocker rambling in a way I feel is even more dramatic than landing on my butt after an energetic and booze-filled soccer ball kick into a standing room only stadium crowd of boomer, mod-rockers, the military draft fizzled out only months before my lottery number was scheduled to be inducted. That meant the rock and roll jacket would be my main uniform during a second year of college.

That also signaled another needed party – and I’m sure I wore my jacket. And even though it didn’t inspire the Rod Stewart solo-hit, in my teenaged mind I probably thought it: You wear it well.

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Here’s a live video of Faces performing Stay With Me looking like 1972 rock and rollers!

 

 

To purchase A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse 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 2019 – North Shore Publishing

#162 – The Mighty Hercules Theme Song

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#162 – The Mighty Hercules Theme Song by Johnny Nash

 – Surprised? Yeah, I was too. I had no idea the singer, producer and songwriter of the 1972 Reggae hit, I Can See Clearly Now, was the same voice leading us into each episode of this 1963-1966 cartoon series. It’s amazing what can be learned through a quick online search for something – really, anything – about an obscure and mostly forgotten television cartoon theme song.

Okay, maybe not completely forgotten if you’re old enough to have watched and have a talent (or curse) for remembering catchy tunes. Since I fall into both categories, Hercules was muscling its way onto this Dream Song list on the morning of September 19th. And when you think about it, that means it’s been simmering in my mind for decades.

Do I own a copy? You’re kidding – right? This one is definitely subliminal, but admittedly a fun addition.

The Mighty Hercules was one of the many cartoons rushed into production and aimed specifically for the younger segment of baby boomers. Even though a television set was becoming fairly common in homes during the 1950s, the preteens of the early 1960s were the ones that didn’t know what life was like before the small screen became a regular piece of living room furniture.

Johnny Nash

I’m sure you realize that unlike Johnny Nash, Hercules was a mythical Greek strongman who could probably take Superman the distance. If you need a reference, think Rocky vs. Apollo Creed. Based on pure speculation and memories, the cartoon Hercules was sent down from the Mount Olympus of animation to ride the then current trend for Greek Mythology adventures. As young kids we still pulled ourselves away from the television for our hometown movie theaters where I remember watching the films Jason and The Argonauts (released on my birthday in 1963) and The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962) on a big screen.

On college campuses the trend was a little more risqué than heroic with toga parties. But I didn’t study that aspect of Greek Mythology until watching the frat boy documentary Animal House on another big screen over a decade later.

In our preteen version during the early 1960s, we’d run home from these movies and reenact our Hercules and Argonaut adventures. We’d crash through solid walls of cardboard boxes and sword fight using the cardboard tubes we’d slide out of the wrapping paper rolls our mothers were saving for Christmas or birthday gifts.

Think how much money they could’ve saved shopping if they had just given us the cardboard rolls and boxes as presents. Call it a Hercules Power Gift Pack and we would’ve been happy.

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Come to think of it, we might also have sung The Mighty Hercules Theme Song after a hard-fought victory and total destruction of our cardboard city walls. Maybe that’s why I remember more of the words to this song than I do the arithmetic formulas we were supposed to learn in grade school.

Truthfully, which is what I imagine they’d expect on Mount Olympus, I was never into The Mighty Hercules cartoons. At the age of ten it would only be a few months before The Beatles changing everything with their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and my most entertaining piece of furniture would move from the television set to the record player. The Hercules shorts (lasting no more than five minutes each) were probably part of my early morning TV viewing during breakfast before rushing out to catch the bus for school.

And when I think about it (again) the song has stayed with me for longer than I Want To Hold Your Hand. Yeah, it’s amazing (again) and I didn’t have to do an online search to realize that.

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On another note, this cartoon along with others rushed out for boomer entertainment, were not exactly works of art. The colorfully drawn cartoons our parents watched in movie theaters when they were kids were later packaged as kid’s programming and aired on television in black and white for our generation. And as mentioned in earlier Classic Rockers, that was also how we discovered The Three Stooges and The Little Rascals (Our Gang) from decades before.

The cartoons produced in the 1930’s, 40’s and early 50’s were made to be shown in theaters with feature films. Hercules and many others from the 60’s were quickly drawn to be watched on a small screen.

Clutch Cargo

Another I distinctly remember from this era was the series Clutch Cargo. It also couldn’t be classified as artistically drawn, but it was fascinating to watch since human mouths were somehow superimposed over the characters animated faces. If you know what I’m talking about – watching these cartoon characters “talking” – I’m sure, you’ll agree. But if not don’t think I’m being weird.

You had to see it to believe it.

It would be another decade before I’d hear the name Johnny Nash and as mentioned earlier, many more before I’d discover his link with The Mighty Hercules. But during my college daze in 1972, somewhere deep in my mind, the mythological cartoon connections to Mount Olympus must have still been simmering. Otherwise I have no excuse for wearing a toga at a frat party and doing my best dance moves to I Can See Clearly Now.

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Here’s the opening theme for The Mighty Hercules sung by Johnny Nash

 

 

To purchase The Mighty Hercules on DVD 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 2019 – North Shore Publishing

#163 – It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

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#163 – It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me by Billy Joel

 – When this song came out in 1980 boomers were still controlling the music scene, but something strange was starting to happen. Our rebellious nature had been focused on the older generation, but now we were feeling the push of a generation coming up behind us. They were tagged as Generation X and many of us considered them too young to be of any real notice as we continued to groove through our late twenties. It was noticeable when the punks and new wave bands of the late 1970s (with members born in the boomer generation) started calling our favs like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles and The Who “dinosaurs.”

I’ll go ahead and lay the blame on the newer and younger record-buying age group for pushing the latest vinyl 45 rpm singles to the top of the music charts during the late 1970s. My age demographic had been album-oriented since the late 1960s and the current singles really didn’t interest us.

If a new group didn’t have an album worth buying, we didn’t notice.

But teenagers were buying the singles, making them hits and influencing the latest styles. Since sales equals profit for record companies hoping to stay in the black (vs. going into the red and out of business) they focused on their new audience. And like boomers during our era, the latest look was influenced by new artists, which meant both the music and fashion trends were shifting away from us.

We had to adjust or join the pack of dinosaurs that risked going out of style and being labeled old.

Here’s what I mean:

In the late 1970s you could still be psyched about the latest album from your favorite band that had formed in the 1960s. Fashion-wise you could still maintain some type of cool looking like one of The Eagles from Hotel California, a disco freak from Studio 54, a punk rocker or Keith Richards. As a side note, the Keith Richards look always allowed for admittance into the other groups.

By the time we hit 1980 there was a major shift in music and fashion sense.

I was already three years into my New York City residency when I realized this new trend was taking over. Hippies were past tense, the Woodstock era no more than a memory, disco was dying, and punk was… well, for punks.

The music consisted of more electronics than guitars and the beat came from drum machines. To be fashionable and anti-prehistoric, the guys had ditched bellbottoms for skinny legs and shirts with skinny ties topped with loose jackets. Hair on girls would continue to get higher throughout the decade while the guys went shorter.

But again, the fault didn’t lie with my demographic of baby boomers. The younger crowd was coming into spending money and the music and fashion industries were catering to their newest and profitable big market.

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me was a protest song about this.

A hit during the summer of 1980, Billy Joel defended our taste in music while still succumbing to a fashion statement in the song’s video that wouldn’t make him seem like a dinosaur. His shorter hair and skinny tie made that perfectly clear.

The song rocked enough to make adulthood challenged boomers still feel relevant while also signaling the end of our musical dominance. The 1980s would’ve only gotten worse for us if we hadn’t been saved by the advent of Classic Rock Radio. At least our hits would still be on the airwaves while it would be decades before our fashion sense became retro.

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It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me hit this Dream Song list on September 18th. I own a copy and it’s not an unfamiliar addition to my weekly playlists. But it hadn’t been recently. For that skinniest of reason, it goes into the subliminal category.

As a musician I was still playing what I felt was rock and roll at the time, even though it was a far cry from the rock and roll I lived for as a teenager. Over the previous decade bands like Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who and yeah… even KISS had given it more volume, power and flash.

If you wanted to be in a rock band in 1980 you had to adjust.

I strummed here a few times!

After a couple years strumming an acoustic guitar and going nowhere fast in Greenwich Village folk clubs, I bought a bass and decided it was time to turn up the volume. Along with my pals Tim on guitar and Bobby on drums we formed a hard rock, high volume trio that we called Rox. I found out years later another band had used the same name and released an album, so in the end I guess they own it. But I also maintain we were first.

It’s just that no one outside of our NYC neighborhood ever heard of us.

As a band we spent more time rehearsing and recording than we did playing live shows. I thought it was mistake then and still do. Playing live really was the only way to be seen and hopefully discovered, but the others disagreed. Their logic was to record an album worth of original songs and sell it to a record company.

Rather than debate the merits of that decision let’s just say it didn’t work out.

But thanks to a good friend who worked as a producer of radio jingles and had been a fan of my earlier music in the Village clubs, we scored quality time in a state-of-the-art recording studio in Midtown Manhattan. She basically “piggybacked” us onto scheduled jingle recording sessions. If she had booked four hours for a jingle and it only took three to complete, we inherited the remaining hour. The result is that I own about three-quarters of a finished LP by Rox that no one outside the three of us and a few family and friends have ever heard. And to be honest, it’s pretty good.

Someday I should do something with it. But in the meantime…

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The few live shows we did were more concerts than club gigs. When the mood struck us, we’d rent a large loft near Gramercy Park, rely on friends to help build a stage (and I have no idea who donated the lumber for these “raves”), use a photographer friend’s lights, and borrow a sound system from another band. We’d schedule an opening act, print up flyers and end up packing the place.

These were hot, sweaty, energetic and LOUD performances. The crowd reaction was always great and called for encores until we ran out of songs. But instead of keeping the momentum going, my two band mates were content to spend weeks in rehearsal studios and hours recording our “breakout” album.

Again, it didn’t happen.

Fighting for Rock ‘n’ Roll

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me was on the charts and video airwaves while all this was going on with Rox. And it reminds me of one live performance that was far from a concert since it was an audition for some type of talent show that was supposed to help us be seen by record people.

It was a Saturday morning (not the best time for rock and rollers) during the summer of 1980 when we carted our equipment via a NYC taxi to a studio in The Village. We set up in a room to play in front of a panel of about six people who would decide if we’d be part of this industry showcase.

Billy Joel’s video comes to mind because we played rock and roll but bowed to the current fashion trend. I remember wearing tight pants, white Capezio dance shoes, shirt with skinny tie and a white cloth jacket with the sleeves pushed up. I’m not sure what the other guys wore, but guessing it wasn’t too far removed from my look. The only real difference from Mr. Joel was our long hair.

The 80’s hadn’t changed us that much – at least not yet.

We were a loud and heavy band, but for some reason Tim and I had written the first – and only – slower, ballad type song we would ever do. It was called Forever and I played a very melodic bass line while Tim floated a flanged guitar effect sound over the top. Bobby kept a simple time on the drums, and I sang lead. By the end of the song it built into a heavier sound that I thought then – and still do – was very cool and more classic rock than ’80s hip.

When we finished the song, we were very pleased with how it went. However, one of the judges came over and asked if we could “turn down the volume” for our second song.

Say what?!

Turn it up to eleven!!

That definitely wasn’t what we were about as a band. We also realized, based on the judges looks (80’s hip) and attitudes (turn it down?) that this showcase wouldn’t be right for us anyway. The three of us came to a quick decision, scratched the idea of doing a more pop song we had planned and turned the volume on our amplifiers up to eleven.

We played one of the hardest rocking songs we’d ever written and recorded called Love On Wheels. I maintain we sounded like Guns ‘n’ Roses at least six years before any of us had even heard of Guns ‘n’ Roses. We also extended the ending lead guitar jam into what we called a Wall Of Sound and pretty much shook the building down to its foundation.

I remember a few of the judges walked out during our performance. I have a feeling their 80’s hipster ears were bleeding to the sound of Rox.

After finishing, we didn’t even wait for the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” decision. Laughing and giving each other high-fives, we dragged our equipment out onto the street, hailed a taxi and made it to our local neighborhood hangout for lunch and beers. A crowd of our friends turned the afternoon into a party and we never thought again about auditioning for a showcase.

We ended up doing one more huge loft gig that year before we split up – staying friends – for other career paths. In my case, my microphone and small practice amplifier were the only equipment needed to start a popular comedy club in our same neighborhood hangout that ended up taking me places and providing experiences I would’ve never dreamed of while protesting the “new sound” by being a rock ‘n’ roller in 1980.

Have a comment?

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And speaking of protesting and defending rock ‘n’ roll in 1980, here’s Billy Joel doing just that:

 

To purchase The Essential Billy Joel with It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me 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 2019 – North Shore Publishing