Category Archives: Bands

#195 – Act Naturally

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#195 – Act Naturally by The Beatles

Acting naturally

– I’m going to say something that might just make your country granddad kick over his rocker, summon the hounds and reach for his musket. But before he starts ruffling rhinestones and planning to mount me as a hood ornament on the family bass boat, allow me to plead my case as being sincere. This is coming from a Classic Rocker who still loves his mother, the American Flag and believes Elvis is The King.

The British made country music cool.

Okay, I’m not saying it was totally uncool since The King, Jerry Lee and The Man In Black were all inspired by the country greats. They took it in a different direction by adding their own personal roll from black-owned rhythm and blues to make it rock.

And for a young baby boomer with northern roots and an urban outlook, members of the country branch that the rock and roll originators were listening to had never been played on my vinyl turntable.

Acting unnaturally

What had been fed to us up north through black and white televisions did nothing to help country’s image compared to what we were watching during the swingin’ mid-1960’s. The Ed Sullivan Show, Shindig and Hullabaloo featured British Invasion acts and American pop stars that set the standard for what we found cool at the time. The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five and The Animals were among the first wave of invaders, while Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Byrds, Lovin’ Spoonfull and other U.S. favs did their best to hold the home turf.

That was a big jump over a big swamp when you think about how country’s image was ingrained into our young minds only a few years before. Region was a major factor and television was our only connection.

As a northern boomer I didn’t pine for the sound of a steel guitar. I also didn’t know the roots of other important musical genres like Delta Blues, Chicago Blues or Memphis Blues. There really was no exposure for this type of music until The Stones borrowed our homegrown Bo Diddley beats, Chuck Berry riffs, Muddy Waters howls and Little Walter harp and sold it back to us. But that wasn’t country music. For many of us who were geographically removed from the real deal, our country music education came from television.

And it wasn’t always good.

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Monday June 5, 2017 – Port Clinton, Ohio!

Join The Classic Rocker for a FAB evening of Beatlemania!

Doors open 6:00 pm – show time 6:30

FREE admission – reservations suggested

Tuesday, June 6 – Lexington, Ohio at 6 pm

Thursday, June 8 – Perrysburg, Ohio at 7 pm

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My earliest memory of country music was courtesy of Cousin Ernie. Even today with reruns of I Love Lucy moving into its seventh decade, Tennessee Ernie Ford playing Lucy’s cousin remains a preserved image of how sophisticated people (Lucy and Ricky lived in the modern metropolis of New York City) saw country folk. Cousin Ernie hemmed, hawed and whined his way through bumbling country bumpkin, fish-out-of-water situations, before laying his corn-fed wisdom on the Ricardos and (Fred and Ethel) Mertz resulting in a countrified happy ending.

Cousin Ernie

And to top it all off, the couples would dress up in American Gothic style complete with bib overalls and Lucy’s blackened out front tooth in joining Cousin Ernie to sing a yee-haw hootenanny of a song.

By 1964 did any of us really want to grow up to be the Cousin Ernie we were watching in reruns? Not if we could be one of The Fab Four in A Hard Day’s Night instead. And I won’t even mention The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and a few years later the classic cornball humor of Hee-Haw.

Except I just did…

These television shows were not the best images of where The King and his court of rockers first gained their love of music.

And to throw even more salt into a generation gap wound (call off the hounds gramps) our television inspired perceptions could be extreme. On a typical Saturday evening with only three networks to choose from, you could watch The Porter Wagoner Show featuring a big-haired, big-country, big-everything Dolly Parton (I saw her in concert many years later and fell in love with her) or The Lawrence Welk Show. Based on their urban or rural leanings, grandma and grandpa were fans of one or the other. Since I have no recollection of what could possibly have been on the third channel, I’m guessing a lot of the boomer generation in my neck of the woods spent the hour outside riding our bikes and creating adventures.

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The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special

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Years later we used these adventures as worthy excuses to tell our kids to quit sitting in front of the TV and go outside. But I won’t mention that.

Except I just did…

“I don’t need rehearsing.”

By 1965 the original rock ‘n’ rollers had been put out to pasture and wouldn’t really return until the rock ‘n’ roll revival shows later in the decade. The Beatles were a pop group that gently led us into rock ‘n’ roll. The Rolling Stones were a blues group that dragged us there. But they knew something we didn’t. They thought country music was cool. And for many of us our first eye-opening television exposure to this phenomenon happened on Sunday, September 12th when Ringo Starr sang Act Naturally with his own buckaroo backup band on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The song naturally appeared in my waking mind on June 6th. The reason, outside of being a very catchy tune, was that I had just heard it the day before. I can’t help thinking how funny the mind works as I herd this into the recent memory category of Dream Songs.

Fans in the UK had already been countrified by this song in August 1965 when it was included on side 2 (the non-soundtrack songs) of the album from the Beatles’ second film Help! Since the U.S. version included the (non-Beatles) instrumental background tracks and only songs included in the movie, we hadn’t heard it.

Well, okay… most of us hadn’t heard it.

Max Volume

The Beatles performed Act Naturally during their earth-shaking appearance in front of 55,600 fans at New York’s Shea Stadium on August 15th. That crowd had never heard it either and wondered what song the band was playing. And with girls screaming at max volume, many could leave the concert and still say they hadn’t heard it.

After Shea it was replaced by the more familiar I Wanna Be Your Man for the rest of the summer tour.

My first impression that night watching Ringo sing his first and only solo on The Ed Sullivan Show was that John Lennon and Paul McCartney had written a special number to promote Help! The film had been released in August and we all knew Ringo was the featured Fab being chased by an Eastern cult.

They’re gonna put me in the movies!

That wasn’t the case. Act Naturally was written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison. It was a hit for Buck Owens & His Buckaroos in 1963, reaching No. 1 on the country charts. Buck later became one of the co-hosts for Hee-Haw and the circle continued.

To check out Buck singing Act Naturally in 1966, visit this LINK on YouTube.

I Love Cousin Lucy

The Beatles’ version definitely had a country twang that separated it from the rockabilly they also favored with songs like Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby and Honey Don’t. And by the way, let’s thank the countrified roots of the great Carl Perkins for penning both those classics.

Act Naturally was definitely country, but with the limited exposure we’d had with Cousin Ernie and Uncle Jed, combined with The Fab Four’s 1965 pop star status residing in the stratosphere, it was tough to pin down that genre after only one listen – even without the screams experienced at Shea Stadium. When it was released as a single two days later on September 14th on the B-side of Yesterday, I went outside, hopped on my bike and bought my first country record.

And it was a lot cooler than Cousin Ernie and Cousin Lucy (with a blackened out front tooth) had made it seem only a few years before.

Here’s what fans may have heard – or might have missed depending on their seating section’s scream level volume. Ringo Starr & His Beatles Buckaroos singing Act Naturally during a very hot summer evening at Shea Stadium on August 15, 1965.

 

 

To purchase the UK version of the Help! movie soundtrack with Act Naturally 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

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The Classic Rocker Featured Book Review

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Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!: My Adventures in The Alice Cooper Group by Dennis Dunaway and Chris Hodenfield

Rating: FIVE Classic Rock Stars

Killer Entertainment

The title is not misleading as any Alice Cooper or classic rock fan will know. But along with the simulated ways to destroy their lead singer on stage every night, what makes this a very enjoyable book is the inside story of how a group of talented young guys (and girls) created a monster that turned into one of the best-selling rock bands of the 1970’s.

Unlike the title, it wasn’t all about the on stage theatrics and props. Dennis Dunaway, co-author and bass player for the Alice Cooper group was at ground zero from the beginning and makes the story more entertaining than even their diehard fans should expect. An unlikely friendship between two high school jocks, Dennis and Vince (later the solo artist Alice Cooper) took them on stage as the “comic relief” poking fun at The Beatles during a talent show. The unexpected response started them on a long and winding and very weird road to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Dunaway states upfront that his memories are accurate and from his detailed accounts, that’s a believable claim. The writing is lively and keeps the pace moving. You feel as if you were present as they crossed paths with peers and heroes such as Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and many others on their way up the ladder of fame. You can practically smell the rooms, venues, vans and desperation. You can feel the confidence and occasional fear as they confronted or escaped from red neck audiences that wouldn’t tolerate hippies, let alone the innovators of glam rock with longer hair and more makeup than their girlfriends. KISS, The New York Dolls, Ziggy Stardust and the string of glam-bands that came later in the 70’s and the hair bands of the 80’s owe a debt of gratitude to the Alice Cooper band.

The boys in the band (Dunaway far left)

If you weren’t around during their biggest years or only familiar with the solo artist Alice Cooper, this is the account you need to read. It was a band effort and even though the breakup was both unexpected and unavoidable, this book takes you from the very beginning to the very end of the group effort. Dunaway avoids any bitterness or sour grapes over the abrupt ending of his superstar status and writes with pride of their achievements as a band and continued friendships.

You don’t have to be an Alice Cooper fan to enjoy this book thanks to the entertainment value. But if you are, consider it a must read. I’ve been a fan since hearing the song Eighteen when I was 18 years old – and “I like it” so much I’ve read the book twice.

Want to know what Alice Cooper was all about? Then get ready to freak out by going back to the original band featuring Dunaway on bass performing this classic…

To purchase Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!: My Adventures in The Alice Cooper Group visit Amazon.com

#196 – Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

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#196 – Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 by Bob Dylan

 – When this song was marching out of our AM transistor radios during the spring and summer of 1966 the deejays would announce the real title, but most of us referred to it as Everybody Must Get Stoned. It sounded like Dylan and his backup musicians were having a rollicking good time in the studio while once again throwing out confusing lyrics that we knew – somehow – had to mean something.

We just weren’t sure what that something actually meant.

When it was released as a single that March I was still a few months away from becoming a teenager. And as the result of growing up in a sheltered community in northern Ohio (we’re not talkin’ The Inner City Hood here folks!) the word stoned was a main source of my confusion.

Being that sheltered age in the baby boomer year of 1966 my knowledge of stoned only had two possible meanings. With the hindsight of decades, the first undoubtedly would’ve come from ancient Biblical stories we’d heard at Sunday School. People that crossed the powers that be were often stoned. We’re not talkin’ gettin’ high here folks. They were actually cornered or tossed into a pit and hit with stones and rocks until they were dead.

We’re talkin’ about capital punishment…

So why was Dylan singing about stoning people? With more hindsight on the composer and the era, it’s easy to follow in that direction. Dylan had been labeled a protest singer when folk singers were still the rage prior to The British Invasion in 1964. He had only gone electric in 1965 (with much protests from his dedicated followers) but still wasn’t a bonafide cover of Sixteen Magazine pop star like The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five and other mid-60’s chart toppers. Dylan’s songs were much more complex than just wanting to hold someone’s hand or feeling glad all over.

So my original thought with Dylan still being a protest singer makes sense when listening to his lyrics. Racial tensions were high and ready to explode that summer with riots in cities across the U.S., so “Trying to keep your seat” could be interpreted as African Americans refusing to sit only in the back of a bus in a racist society. In the south they risked being dragged off buses, beaten and worse. As Dylan sang, “They’ll stone you.”

Other thoughts…

Dylan wrote protest songs against the growing war in Vietnam and against young American men being drafted to fight: “They’ll stone you and then say you are brave. They’ll stone you when you are set down in your grave.”

Newport 1965

And as mentioned above, he caught a lot of flack when he ditched his solo acoustic sound and walked on stage with an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965:

They’ll stone you when you’re playing your guitar.”

For me the song took the ancient meaning of stoned, but made it more verbal, physical and even political abuse, rather than actually throwing rocks. And with hindsight, that’s not a bad lyrical translation from a sheltered preteen in 1966.

The second and lesser meaning involved alcohol – getting stoned. With all the laughing, yelling and general rollicking going on throughout the song by Dylan and his musical cohorts, it certainly sounded like they were drinking something stronger than water or soda. Some of the writings about this song say Dylan insisted they get drunk before recording, while others (and some of the musicians) deny this. And to prove they were sober, it’s pointed out there were other songs for Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde album recorded during the same session and after Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 was completed.

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The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special

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

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

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And again as a young preteen I had heard the word stoned referring to someone being drunk – and most likely heard it on television. Being sheltered I have no memories of being around any adults intoxicated enough to be called stoned. And on the rare occasion when there was an “adult party” (parents) with alcohol, I was relegated to one of the bedrooms with my cousins and friends to play board games until the festivities ended. This would usually only happen on New Year’s Eve, except I do have a memory of a Halloween party where we laughed at how silly the adults looked in their costumes, before heading off for a marathon game of Monopoly.

And of course the third definition would involve marijuana. Pop music fans all know about the importance of weed when it came to the 1960’s pop/rock stars. Supposedly Dylan turned on The Beatles during their first visit to New York City in 1964, though deep research by a favorite author turned up evidence the Fab Four may have toked a few puffs during their marathon sessions in Hamburg or Liverpool.

But playing the sheltered hindsight card again as a Midwestern preteen, I don’t recall ever even hearing the word marijuana before or during the time we were listening to Rainy Day Women #12 and 35. That mental enhancement didn’t find its way into our vocabulary until the rumors were written in reference to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band during the summer of 1967.

I never even smelled it until a Three Dog Night concert around 1969. I had to ask my best friend what was filling the air at Cleveland’s Pubic Auditorium that night and he said, “Pot.” Then I wanted to know how he knew that since he was as sheltered and naive as I was.

Turns out it was just an accurate guess.

It was no guess that Rainy Day, etc. was weeding its way through my mind the morning of May 30th. Yeah, I’m a Dylan fan and yeah, I had just heard it, so yeah – it goes into the recent memory category of Dream Songs.

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Another great thing about this rollicking (and I’ve never used that word to describe anything before this) song is remembering how it could irritate the older generation. That was important information during the days when the generation gap obviously divided the younger Dylan, Beatles, Stones teens and preteens from the oldster’s that demanded we cut our hair and turn down our music.

They’ll stone you when you listen to ‘that noise’…

While writing about an earlier song on this list I mentioned the novelty record They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! by Napoleon XIV (Jerry Samuels) that was riding the AM Top 40 charts during summer 1966. And as if that song wasn’t annoying enough for the older folks, the flip side of the 45 rpm single was the same song – only backwards.

For my cousin, best friend and myself (ages 15, 14 and 13 once I hit that magical teenager mark) a great summer adventure was when my mother would drop us off in a nearby city and let us find our own way back. It’s not as bad as it sounds – we weren’t being abandoned. We were just given the entire day to be on our own for exploring, shopping, eating, catching a movie and then buying a bus ticket to our home town. From there we’d walk to one of our houses to spend the night.

Teenagers – March 21, 1966

Remember, I’m talkin’ about the 1960’s – so think Ozzie & Harriett land.

During one of these adventures we stopped in a diner for lunch. We were kids among the old folks giving us the evil eye. You know, as in “Children should be seen and not heard, unless they’re teenagers and then we don’t even want to see them.”

So thanks to the bad vibes and if I remember correctly, not the best service from an annoyed server we used Rainy Day Women #12 and 35, They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! and the flip side, !aaaH aH ,yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er’yehT (go ahead – I dare you to listen!) to let them know we were in the building. We shoved our quarters in the jukebox and played all three songs a few times while we ate our lunch and the older side of the generation gap simmered. For good measure we put in another quarter for three plays and punched in the same songs again before walking out the door.

Brats?

Naw… we were good kids. But mischievous would be a better adjective. I’m sure we hit a matinee movie afterwards, each bought an album or single at a downtown record store, then made it to the bus station in time for the last ride home. These are lasting memories of growing up during an era when Bob Dylan could take a word give it enough worthwhile meanings that it still means something to all of us today.

Dylan never made an “official” music video for the song, so here’s an interesting live version performed with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for Farm Aid in 1986.

 

To purchase the classic double LP Blonde On Blonde by Bob Dylan with Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 visit  amazon.com

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Beatles Program

 

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

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

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

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

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

3 plays 4 a quarter

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

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

The three of us decided not to order the ham.

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20% OFF Author Signed Copies!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special

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

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

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

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

Detroit Suburbs? Just a guess.

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

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

The title says it all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nasty Stuff!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They had a blast!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Beatles Program

 

#198 – Funky But Chic

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#198 – Funky But Chic by David Johansen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College pin ups?

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

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

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

Now let’s fast forward about a decade…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Holley from Wings with The Classic Rocker

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

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

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

Cheers Buster!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Beatles Program

 

#200 – I Can’t Get No Nookie

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

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

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

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

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

Lennon Jagger

Lennon and Jagger unmasked

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

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

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

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

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

Stones Dylan

Keef, Mick & Bob marauding about.

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

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

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

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

masked-marauders-news-clipping

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

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

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

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

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

Dylan Jagger

Bob, Mick and Jack

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

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

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

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

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

david-1971

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

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

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

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

Finally he pulled the plug.

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

And it was very rock and roll.

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

To purchase The Masked Marauders with I Can’t Get No Nookie visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Beatles Program