Category Archives: baby boomer

#182 – No Particular Place To Go

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#182 – No Particular Place To Go by Chuck Berry

 – Musicologists, historians and even guys like me can sit around for hours debating the origins of rock ‘n’ roll. Robert Johnson, Delta Blues, rockabilly and obscure riffs from obscure regions can all fall into the mix if you dig deep enough. But for our purposes and particularly mine in an effort to avoid debate, it all started with Chuck Berry.

I recently read an article naming the most influential rock songs by Rock Hall members (only) that listed Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode as numero uno. There had been earlier rock ‘n’ roll songs by the time he recorded it in 1958, but Berry came up with a sound that had more influence on 1960’s rockers than anything else. It was a three-chord masterpiece copied by everyone from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones and beyond.

I’ve mentioned before about getting into the roots of rock ‘n’ roll through the back door. The first Chuck Berry song I remember hearing was during the first wave of U.S. Beatlemania in 1964 when they covered Roll Over Beethoven with George Harrison singing AND playing a wicked lead guitar break that still stands as one of my favorites. But it was only the tip of a very large musical iceberg I was yet to discover.

Another clue came later that same year when Johnny Rivers had a hit with Memphis Tennessee. My older cousin pointed out to me that his favorite duo, Jan and Dean, had released the same song a year earlier on their album, Surf City and Other Swingin’ Cities. When I questioned him about the composer of these songs, listed as “Berry” under the titles, he informed me it was Jan Berry (from Jan and Dean).

Oh well, what can you expect. I was about ten and he was only a year and a half older. What we didn’t know we would make up.

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Somewhere along the way I saw the real Chuck Berry on a television show like Hullabaloo or Shindig, so I wasn’t completely clueless. But it wasn’t until the era I consider to be a Rock ‘n Roll Revival that started with Elvis’ Comeback TV special in 1968 and the sudden popularity of Sha-Na-Na (who performed at Woodstock in 1969) that I started exploring the iceberg of originators. Instead of cover versions, I wanted the real deal and the first LP I purchased with this new frame of mind was a collection of Chuck Berry’s greatest hits.

To say I became a dedicated fan is an understatement. And to make sure Chuck Berry knew it, I had the chance to tell him a few years later. Well, sort of…

No Particular Place To Go joined this Dream Song list on August 2nd. It’s interesting (to me anyway) that of all the Chuck Berry songs I love, this is one I haven’t heard covered by the next wave of rockers. The only reason I can come up with is that Berry didn’t release the song until May 1964 when we were already in the midst of The British Invasion. It appeared later that year on the album St. Louis to Liverpool, which was already paying tribute to the mop tops that were putting Chuck back on the map. But by this time the newer bands were already playing his classics or borrowing his earlier riffs and turning them in to classics of their own.

Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out!

The main sources of inspiration for this newer wave of rockers included the three mentioned earlier (Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven and Memphis Tennessee). Along with School Days, these are usually The Berry Fab Four found most often on my digital playlists. And on what I consider to be the best live album ever recorded, Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out by The Rolling Stones, the band kicked up the originator’s influence a notch by ripping through versions of Carol and Little Queenie that I’m positive have contributed to any hearing loss I might have thanks to cranking up the volume at the sound of the first notes.

And just for the fun of it, here’s a related question for dedicated Classic Rockers. Where would Keith Richards be without Chuck Berry? No answer needed – even he knows.

Of course I own a copy of No Particular Place To Go. And thanks to mixing up my digital playlists every week or two, I had just heard it. So this one has a place to go, which is into the recent memory category of Dream Songs.

The opportunity for me to tell Mr. Berry I was a dedicated fan happened in the spring of 1972. My musical tastes at the time were spread pretty wide, but three chord rock ‘n’ roll masterpieces still touched my soul more than anything else. I was full into the originators, along with The Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who and others that were exploding off the turntable of my portable stereo during my freshman year in college. Hanging on my dorm walls were larger than life posters of John Lennon and Elvis and my inner conscious wondered why I was studying for classes I could care less about (and still don’t) instead of playing three chord masterpieces on an electric guitar in a band is beyond my looking back comprehension.

Chuck Berry Wallpaper Photo

I walked into the local record store to check out new releases and saw a stack of flyers on the counter advertising Chuck Berry’s upcoming concert at a university within hitchhiking distance from us. I flipped out. I told a guy working at the store what a huge fan I was and he handed me the entire stack. He asked me to tape them up around our school. I said sure and immediately went back to my dorm room and turned the stack into Chuck Berry wallpaper surrounding my posters of Elvis and Lennon.

One of my best friends went to the neighboring school and I convinced him in to buy tickets for myself and the six or seven other guys in my dorm that I had converted into Berry fans. Since we were all college freshmen with no cars, on the morning of the concert we hitchhiked in shifts of two or three with plans to meet up at the arena.

We all arrived around noon, making us the first in line for general (festival) seating. Eventually there was a long line behind us and when the doors opened around 6 pm we raced ahead of everyone and claimed the floor space directly front and center of the stage.

A local group came out and played a set – I remember a high-energy cover version of Sympathy For The Devil – then became the backing band for Chuck Berry. In case you’re not up on Berry’s way of touring, he traveled alone in his Cadillac (or whatever he was driving). He’d tell the concert booker in advance to find backup musicians and have them learn the songs on his Greatest Hits album. He’d show up, they’d play on stage together for the first (and only) time, then Chuck would collect his money and drive off to the next gig.

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All of us in the packed arena were on our feet when Chuck walked on stage and started playing one classic after another. Near the end of his set he looked at the front row where we were standing and motioned for some of us to come up on stage to dance. I turned to a girl I had never seen before or since and said, “Let’s go!

My college pals did the same and while Chuck and his back-up band played we jumped, danced and sang along only a few feet away from him. When he finished, I seem to remember the girls going back into the audience. The guys? We had a chance to be close to Chuck Berry and we took it.

Before introducing the next song he said something to us, though I can’t remember what. It might have been about having a good time, so I took it as a cue. I put my arm over his shoulder and told him he was the greatest.

Travelin’ Chuck

Seriously. I’m not making that up.

He appeared to be in a good mood, which according to his reputation could be an unpredictable state, and I’m positive he thanked me. He launched into another song – we jumped around on stage – and that was it. He shouted goodnight, waved and left. We continued cheering from the stage as the crowd roared its approval.

As the audience was leaving I looked down from the stage and saw a guy I had gone to high school with making his way to the front. He shouted hello, reached up and we shook hands. He told me how cool it was that I had been on stage with Chuck Berry. He might even have told me we did a good show (together with Chuck?) but on second thought, I might just be making that part of the story up. Similar to being a ten-year-old kid, long ago memories have a way of doing that.

On a final note, No Particular Place To Go has another special meaning for me.

During the late 1980’s while living in New York City, I had a cat named Kokomo. We were pals and I still miss her. Later with my wife and two sons we had two cats and a dog, but Kokomo was my only pet before becoming a family man.

Almost everyone that visited my apartment and met Kokomo assumed I had named her after the 1988 Beach Boys hit that was in the soundtrack for the 1988 movie Cocktail starring Tom Cruise. Nope… sorry to disappoint, but as a Classic Rocker I go much deeper than that. All the way back to lyrics by Chuck Berry:

No particular place to go, so we parked way out by the Kokomo.

Both the originator and my feline pal are gone, but not forgotten. Keep rockin’!!

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

To watch Chuck Berry perform No Particular Place To Go – live – with Keith Richards as part of his back up band, check out this video…

To purchase The Best of Chuck Berry with No Particular Place To Go 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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#183 – Rock Your Baby

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#183 – Rock Your Baby by George McCrae

 – This song is a snapshot in time. In my case, I’m not sure it’s one I want to look back on. To put this in perspective, some of you with short memories or worse yet, have kids that enjoy making fun of what you were like as a kid might come across an old box of photos.

You’re like, “Hey, check this out. Here’s a photo of me when I was really little. Look how cute I was…

But no matter how hard we try, nobody ever stays as cute as they were as a little kid. Maturity has a habit of doing that. So now your kids – or your short memory – continue to dig through the box of old photos documenting your personal aging process. There’s visual evidence of middle school and high school – including your prom and graduation photos. And when it comes to baby boomers, eventually everyone lands in the mid 1970’s.

Did we… really?

For those of you that lived through it, you already know what I’m talking about.

For younger boomers, this was the first time many of us were on our own. We were out of the house and away from any parental supervision and school dress codes that might have influenced the way we looked. Granted, some of my good friends were serving in the military where government regulations commanded a conformed look with uniforms and haircuts. But for a lot of us on college campuses or as members of the workforce, all hell was breaking loose when it came to what we looked like thanks to mid-1970’s fashion sense.

If you’re having a hard time following this verbal rambling (and I’ll get to the song in a moment), here’s what you need to do. Depending on where you fit in the boomer age scale, if you were at least eighteen and younger than thirty in 1974, dig through your old photos from that era. For those younger or older looking to have a good laugh at our expense, do an online search for 70’s fashion trends.

I’m sure you’ll run into a few memorable snapshots in time…

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In our defense we were cool, or at least thought we were. But the visual evidence of our once misconstrued beliefs can sometimes be a bit cringe worthy. For guys we’re looking at big hair, mustaches and bellbottoms that were skin tight down to our knees then would flair out to cover our platform shoes. For girls… well, it was the same – hopefully without the mustaches.

The look!

For an immediate mental visual, think mid-70’s Tony Orlando, Michael Jackson (or better still, Jermaine) and Farrah Fawcett. Yeah, now you’ve got the picture… or snapshot from our time.

And for a soundtrack, think Rock Your Baby by George McCrae.

During the summer of 1974 there was no escaping this song. It hit number one on the music charts and since a lot of us college-aged boomers were relegated to only AM radio in our cars, it was heard constantly on every Top 40 station’s playlist. Disco was firmly settling in for a long run and if your car wasn’t equipped with an 8-track to supply the need for rock, you were force-fed the trend during every road trip.

As a confession, I followed the 70’s fashion trend. In fact, I can’t remember any of my friends that didn’t. We were in our late teens or early twenty’s and just like the generations before us, we did our best to look cool.

Too bad the old photos do nothing to prove that fact. I had been told more than a few times I looked like Tony Orlando and it never bothered me – until that fact was pointed out decades later when looking at my old college photos.

Rock Your Baby disco’d (not rocked) onto this Dream Song list on July 31st. Loosely comparing its inclusion to a line Groucho Marx once delivered about shooting an elephant in his pajamas, “How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

That’s how I feel about this song disco’ing (not rockin’) through my mind as I woke up – in my own pajamas. I don’t really know why…

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Was it ingrained into my memory because it was such a huge hit during my college years? Yeah, I guess so. Did I like it? Not really. Did I dance to it? Well… yeah – who didn’t? But it definitely goes into the subliminal category since I’ve never owned a copy and haven’t heard it since… well, probably 1974.

In the name of research to make these Classic Rocker ramblings more meaningful than cringe worthy, I went online to look at a video of McCrae performing Rock Your Baby. Unfortunately, it dredged up another memory and the result is another confession.

Fashion sense

I once owned a leisure suit.

I’m positive it was given to me as a Christmas gift by my mother, who did her best to stay current with fashion trends. But the blame ends there – because I wore it. The two piece leisure suit was made with a brown, suede-like material and had a short-cut jacket and bellbottoms that were tight to my knees, then flared out over my high heeled (not platform) shoes. To complete the ensemble I wore a shiny silver shirt and a wide belt with a big buckle.

Cool?

Since I wore it around the time George McCrae was topping the charts with this disco classic I might have thought so. Since then I’ve done my best to push it out of my memory – except it keeps coming back like a bad dream.

So is there anything else I need to say about this song? Nothing from my personal point of view. I’ve already admitted too much. Instead I’ll crawl back into my Classic Rocker mindset and try and ease the pain of embarrassment from using Tony Orlando as a fashion icon and knowing a leisure suit once helped shape my college image.

But I’m also not someone who knocks music others might love and bring back great memories. As mentioned, Rock Your Baby was a huge number one hit in the summer of 1974. It sold over eleven million copies, making it one of less than forty singles to have ever sold more than ten million or more copies. Obviously for some boomers it was the song of the summer.

But let’s keep that for long memories rather than short.

If you want to look cool today, make sure none of your kids ever discover a leisure suit hanging next to a pair of bellbottoms in your bedroom closet. I suggest maturing boomers store these memories someplace hard to find – like in boxes with your 70’s photos and posters of Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson (or Jermaine) and Tony Orlando.

For your own leisure suit memory, here’s a video of George McCrae performing Rock Your Baby.

To purchase Rock Your Baby – The Very Best Of 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

#185 – Turn! Turn! Turn!

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#185 – Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds

 – It’s unreal how young many of us were when the 1960’s music scene started changing our lives. And if we really stop and think, it’s mind-boggling how fast everything was changing. It seemed we were being exposed to new sounds and looks on a weekly basis.

When The Beatles kicked open the floodgates with their February 1964 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, it was more than the music. It was also the visuals – how they looked. It was considered pretty shocking and for many of the boomers, also very cool.

The younger boomers had been too late for the original 1950’s rock ‘n’ rollers who brought a sound and look that earned them dangerous and rebellious reputations – mainly from the older generations. But our firsthand adolescent exposure in the early ’60s was through clean-cut male crooners in letter sweaters and girls in party dresses and bouffant hair. To emphasize my point, The Singing Nun had a number one song in late 1963 with Dominique.

Believe me, there was nothing dangerous, rebellious or shocking about that.

So The Fab Four with long hair, tight tailored business suits and high-heeled Beatle boots made a definite impression. But by 1965 that visual was practically clean-cut compared to what was happening. The second wave of The British Invasion included The Rolling Stones, who were considered the anti-Beatles with longer hair and a dislike for matching suits.

And on this side of the Atlantic the new wave included The Byrds.

The Sound

They were different. Of course it was visual, which is the direction this rambling is headed. Like The Stones they ditched matching suits and grew hair longer than a mop top. When I first saw them on television singing Mr. Tambourine Man in early 1965, the only one that seemed to have eyes visible beneath his hair was Jim McGuinn (who didn’t change his name to Roger until 1967). And when I stop and think about it, I’m sure his eyes were only noticeable due to the rectangular “granny” glasses he pioneered into one of many teenage fads of the 60’s.

Musically they were also different. The Beatles were at first considered rockers and The Stones were bluesmen. The Byrds were folkies. Mr. Tambourine Man was a Bob Dylan song while their second number one, Turn! Turn! Turn! was written by Pete Seeger. And even though George Harrison was playing a 12-string electric Rickenbacker guitar when recording the soundtrack for A Hard Day’s Night, it wasn’t considered the main “Beatles sound.”

Still, it was enough to influence a former folkie. With McQuinn the 12-string “Ric” became the basis of The Byrds sound and kicked open the floodgates for folk rock.

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The electric guitars and harmonies of McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby made Mr. Tambourine Man very different from the Bob Dylan solo acoustic version. Add the visuals that came along with The Byrds, including longhairs Michael Clarke and Chris Hillman, and the whole package could be pretty shocking for older generations and original folk music diehards.

But for many of the boomers, that’s what also made them very cool.

The Look

The Byrds released Turn! Turn! Turn! in early October 1965. Decades later when I woke up with the song “jangling” through my head on July 28th, it was still very cool. But what’s uncool is when I admit there are other Byrds songs on my digital playlist, but I don’t own a copy and hadn’t heard it in a long time. Maybe I could count the original 45 rpm vinyl since I rode my bike to the local record store in 1965 to buy it, but it would take an archaeological dig through my stored archives to find it. So I’ll just admit to my current lack of coolness and add it to the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

And speaking of digging through the past…

For my end of the baby boomer generation, we weren’t even teenagers yet when The Beatles, The Stones and The Byrds were changing our lives. We were still kids playing with our friends, who were also kids. Televisions had been earning a reputation since the 1950’s as the first electronic babysitters, but that didn’t mean we sat around all day watching cartoons and reruns of I Love Lucy. We had every inch of our backyards memorized and had explored all the woods, fields and creeks within walking distance of our neighborhood.

We did sports; we built forts and we played war. That might even be a decent title for a folk song if anyone wants to borrow it. And though I’m a dedicated peacenik who is stunned beyond disbelief that government madmen have control of nuclear warheads, many of us as kids in the 60’s were blissfully unaware of similar Cold War dangers. Of course that changed fast when we hit our teenage years and the escalating war in Vietnam was broadcast nightly on television news.

That was definitely uncool.

But as young preteens we’d choose sides to hit, pass or shoot a ball. If we were playing war, we might launch a sneak attack on a group of foreign neighborhood kids that might be playing too close to our assumed realm of influence. We’d battle with words and bravado, or during more immature standoffs throw chunks of dirt. If one of our foes landed with a hard chunk and your friend took off crying, the goal was to win the race to his house and tell his mom how brave he’d been in the heat of battle, and then race home before we all got in trouble.

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We built tree houses as high up in the trees as we’d dare to climb. On the opposite extreme we’d sometimes dig a large hole in the ground, cover it with plywood and use dirt, sticks and leaves to camouflage our underground forts. We also made tunnels, which were ditches covered with boards and dirt that were only big enough for us “little kids” to crawl through and keep out the “big kids.” We also believed “big kids” wouldn’t know where these bunkers were located because we could disappear in a small hole and end up crawling in a direction unknown to them.

And yes, as a kid it was all very cool.

After digging and covering one of our underground forts in the fall of 1965, a few of us were inside hiding out and listening to our favorite Top 40 AM radio station. I remember we had an old rug covering the ground so we weren’t sitting on dirt and a battery powered lamp so we also weren’t sitting in the dark.

The deejay announced the new Byrds song and played Turn! Turn! Turn! And when it finished, he shouted in his hip Top 40 radio deejay voice, “That was so good, let’s play it again!” And he did. We immediately heard the song a second time! I’ve always remembered that because it was the first – and only – time I’ve ever heard a song played twice in a row on the radio.

At that moment the deejay seemed dangerous, rebellious and shocking – and also very cool.

The Hit

But what became even more dangerous and shocking (I’ll skip rebellious since it was completely unplanned) during this second spin through Turn! Turn! Turn! the roof to our underground fort started caving in. Fearing we were about to be buried in a pit, we screamed, shouted and flew through our escape tunnel in record crawling time.

Popping out of the ground we saw a neighborhood “big kid” standing on the sinking ground with a stunned look on his face. He had taken a shortcut home through the woods and since we had been good at camouflaging our location, walked on top of our fort. The plywood boards cracked and popped and dirt started falling through the cracks. Stepping off before a complete collapse, he probably gave us some type of “big kid” lecture about making dangerous traps in the woods and then continued his walk home.

He turned, turned, turned (sorry, I can’t help myself) our fort into just another hole in the ground. If we had been playing war, we were the losing force.

A final note about Turn! Turn! Turn!

When Pete Seeger wrote the song he took the lyrics from the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes. And I’m not sure where I read this, but for that creative reason it holds the record as a number one song – with the oldest lyrics. Now there’s a sound visual…

To check out the song and shocking visuals, here’s a video of The Byrds performing Turn! Turn! Turn!

 

To purchase The Byrds – Greatest Hits with Turn! Turn! Turn! 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

#186 – Viva Las Vegas

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#186 – Viva Las Vegas by Elvis Presley

 – It’s almost impossible to think of one without the other. Las Vegas and Elvis – even though they weren’t quite so joined at the (swivel) hip when this title song for the movie was released in 1964. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was still five years away from his legendary July 31, 1969 debut at the International Hotel that caused an international ruckus announcing his return to live shows.

Okay, it wasn’t actually his debut in Vegas. That happened during his ground-breaking year of 1956. Teenagers were going completely bonkers over him, but when Elvis performed at the Frontier Hotel in front of a more mature audience that regularly haunted the casinos and bars and were more in-tune to the sounds of Frank Sinatra and future members of The Rat Pack, he bombed.

But thirteen years later his fans had outgrown the need for fake ID’s and were mature enough to sell out every performance.

A lot of the credit for his return to The Throne of Rock is given to his 1968 television special, Elvis (also known as The Comeback Special). It turned an entire segment of baby boomers that were swept into the music scene by The British Invasion in 1964 into Elvis fans. But the first generation from the 1950’s had never left him. Instead of competing directly with the younger long-haired fabs and flower children, he had spent eleven years churning out movies that may not have been mentioned in any Academy Award discussions, but were successful money-earners and kept him in the public eye.

Viva Las Vegas was one of those.

According to the entertainment trade magazine Variety, Viva Las Vegas was one of the top-grossing movies of 1964 coming in at number fourteen. And to just give boomers an idea of his popularity during this ground-breaking year of The British Invasion, The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night came in at number sixteen.

Yes, Elvis actually beat the Beatles.

Viva Las Vegas – the song – also beat all other artists the morning of July 27th when it joined this list of Dream Songs. But there was nothing subliminal about it since this classic Elvis movie title track resides on my digital playlist and I had just heard it the day before. Welcome to the recent memory jackpot winnings.

Cash in your chips and buy that pink Cadillac!

Las Vegas has been a long time favorite destination for The Classic Rocker. The lights, excitement, weather and no clocks are the main attractions for someone who does his best to never travel anywhere without sidewalks and taxi service. But there’s no need to worry about dialing 1-800-gambling problem, thanks to Mrs. Classic Rocker. Her only casino fun comes from penny slot machines and if we’re not on a trend to win or at least break even, we can be found avoiding a losing streak tanning next to a pool or in a showroom.

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And yeah, we’ve seen Elvis impersonators in Vegas. How can you go there and not? Since I talked in a past Classic Rocker about seeing the real deal not long after his second Vegas debut, you can bet it’s never as good. But it’s still a lot more fun than sitting at a penny slot machine if the trend is a losing one.

The first time I hit Vegas there were no Elvis impersonators since the original was still up and running. It was just after summer 1976 and my pal Gary and I were bored. We realized it was time to viva things up and we scored a package deal through a travel agency for a few nights at the once legendary and now (also) gone Dunes Hotel.

The Las Vegas Strip was glitz and glamor for the era, but nothing like it is today.

For a couple of college guys, we weren’t too smart. My first memory after landing at the Las Vegas airport has us both agreeing The Strip didn’t look that far away. So lugging suitcases in the days before some genius (and future millionaire inventor) added wheels to make lugging luggage obsolete, we decided to save money by walking to our hotel. That was the first time I truly understood the meaning of desert mirage. We probably walked about a mile in desert heat before realizing the hotels didn’t look any closer than they did when we started out.

A taxi – or a camel – would’ve been the smarter choice. We made a U-turn and lugged our luggage back to the airport for a ride.

Hitting the Dunes casino filled with one arm bandits, no clocks, and free drinks from cocktail waitresses in low-cut tops and short skirts meant boredom wouldn’t be in our immediate future. We walked around with big plastic cups filled with coins and played nickel slot machines until we noticed the sun was up. I don’t remember if we won or lost, but we had a blast.

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We also had filthy hands from scooping dirty coins out of the machines before shoving them into different ones. Today Vegas gives us a much healthier option thanks to paper vouchers the machines spit out when hitting the “cash out” button. Now if there was only a guaranteed option that could make us much richer…

As mentioned before, gambling was part of the experience, but never the focus. We were also tourists and wanted to check out the sights, other hotels and other casinos. But falling victims to the dreaded desert mirage syndrome that included stifling and airless desert heat, we decided once again to walk. Each hotel appeared closer than it actually was and immediately became an air-conditioned destination to cool down before trekking off to the next.

From memory I’ll say we hit The Frontier, The Sands, The Riviera, The Sahara and at the time, the brand new and entertaining Circus Circus. We were amazed at the live trapeze artists flying above us in the casino.

We also made a direct connection with Viva Las Vegas. While the real Elvis was filling jumpsuits and live performance venues outside of Vegas during our brief visit, his movie costar (and rumored off-screen love interest) Ann-Margret was headlining The Hilton Hotel showroom. For her show we took the money we’d saved from free drinks, cashed in a few buckets of nickels, bought advance tickets and traveled in the back of an air conditioned taxi.

Review?

Viva Las Vegas AND Ann-Margret!!

Again, for a couple college guys we weren’t too smart. Her performance was a lot more than what we had expected. Ann-Margret had played the Conrad Birdie obsessed teenager Kim McAfee in the hit movie musical Bye Bye Birdie. But since that flick was even older (by one year) than Viva Las Vegas and predated The British Invasion (also by one year), we somehow thought she was a holdover from the older generation. After all, she had played Roger Daltry’s mother in the boomer obsessive movie musical Tommy in 1975, which also happened to be one year before our Vegas excursion.

Tommy can you hear me?

So we thought she was old enough to be Roger Daltry’s mother – right?

Wrong! That only happened thanks to movie magic.

This was my first Las Vegas show and the one I can still measure all others against. It was an evening of high energy singing, dancing and Vegas glitz from a knockout performer who reinforced my idea that showbiz could be a career. Less than a year later I was living in New York City and building one.

And I’ve been an Ann-Margret fan ever since.

As for Elvis, he was gone in (also) less than a year. It was quite a shock and no matter how hard the impersonators and computer-imaged simulators have tried to replace him, there was and will only ever be one. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and the city of Las Vegas may seem now like they’re one and joined at the (swivel) hip, but in 1964 when much of the boomer generation was looking toward Britain for a jolt of entertainment, Elvis and Ann-Margret were rockin’ it up Viva Las Vegas style.

For an original entertainment jolt, here’s The King performing the title song from Viva Las Vegas.

To purchase the deluxe edition of Viva Las Vegas starring Elvis and Ann-Margret visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

 

 

#190 – Strutter

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#190 – Strutter by KISS

KISS in NYC

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

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

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

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

Rock ‘n’ roll all night!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The late Eric Carr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that all changed the moment KISS hit the stage.

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

But I had NEVER seen anything like this!

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

KISS comes alive!

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

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

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

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

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

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

To purchase KISS Alive with Strutter visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

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

 

They say it’s your birthday (again)!!

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11885210_10206750047483724_1164378672389296806_n – Guess I should have saved my past birthday posts after the number of years writing The Classic Rocker. It would’ve been like another mini timeline of where, what and what the heck was I thinking! With today being this year’s birthday, here’s the experience (and it was a good one!)…

This really happened and even I wouldn’t dare make this one up.

Today is my birthday. Last night at 11:30 pm I’m standing in line to buy beer. No one in front of me was carded. I got to the counter and the guy asked for my ID. I told him I was “flattered” and it was my birthday.

I also checked to make sure there were no hidden cameras and I wasn’t being “punked.”

The guy said something about my hair (still got it!) and something else. I wasn’t really listening because I was pumped up and psyched-out about this newsworthy anti-aging event. I gave him my driver’s license.

Seriously – his eyes popped out and he goes, “Holy shit!!

He asked about health tips and I told him to only drink light beer. But then he rang up the beer and charged me for it?! I reminded him it was my birthday! He said I still had 30 minutes before the big day, so I (happily) paid up.

I’m good for another year… ha!!

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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 2016 – North Shore Publishing