Category Archives: Bands

#148 – Bitch

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#148 – Bitch by The Rolling Stones

The Stones!

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

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

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

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

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

Life is a…

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

But I hadn’t heard it in a while.

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

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

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

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

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

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

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

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

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

So, if you want the memory…

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

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

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

So why am I bringing this up?

Not The Stones, but this is a diving board!

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

Embarrassing?

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

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

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

Have a comment? Please use the contact form below.

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

 

To purchase the classic LP Sticky Fingers with the song Bitch, visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2020 – North Shore Publishing

#150 – Bus Stop

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#150 – Bus Stop by The Hollies

Waiting for a bus?

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

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

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

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

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

A boomer box office smash hit!

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

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

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

So, The Great Race was on…

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

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

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

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

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

————————————————————————

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

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

Finally, I hit on a different idea.

Our ride

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

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

If only…

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

A long HOT wait!

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

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

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

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

Not going anywhere!

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

Yeah – you’re right. It really sucked.

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

In fact, it really sucked.

The State Police

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

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

Rescue mission arrives!

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

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

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

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

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

 

To purchase Greatest Hits by The Hollies with Bus Stop, visit Amazon.com.

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

Copyright 2020 – North Shore Publishing

#151 – It’s a Little Too Late

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#151 – It’s a Little Too Late by Tanya Tucker

Country Rocker

I’ve had my own personal music debate going on for quite a while. First of all, there’s rock music. There’s also country music. When you mix them up and give it a few shakes, that turns into country-rock.

To me, that makes three different styles of music.

But, is there really that much difference between rock and country? I tend to think so, but sometimes one can almost appear as the other, which leads us to another question:

Is Tanya Tucker a classic rock artist? 

Not really, but she can certainly rock.

Is she a country artist?

Heck, yeah.

So, what is she doing on this list by a Classic Rocker? Easy explanation…

The Classic Rocker woke up with Tanya Tucker on his mind.

Alright, I actually wrote that so it would seem like I was having dreams about Tanya Tucker. I’m not saying that would be a bad thing, but it wouldn’t be an honest thing. Her song It’s a Little Too Late was what was actually going through my mind on the morning of October 28th. And thanks to that subliminal musical message, accurately stated as such since I hadn’t heard it in a very long time, it means The Classic Rocker’s favorite Female Country Rocker has finally made the Dream Song list.

Walking with Tanya Tucker!

And I’m mighty glad she’s here, y’all. But as always, there’s more to the story than just waking up with a song in my head. In this case, it includes a memory of walking with Tanya. And it wasn’t just a dream.

Sometime during the summer of 1993, I made a deal.

I saw a notice in our local newspaper looking for weekly entertainment columnists. I don’t remember exactly what the ad said, but it called for three or four writing samples previewing or reviewing concert events. Since I was newly relocated from Los Angeles, had a background in the entertainment business and was searching for a new career, I whipped up a few I thought were descriptive, entertaining and most of all, humorous.

I applied for the job.

After sending in my submission, I received a phone call from the newspaper entertainment editor to set up an interview. We met in the publisher’s office and to my surprise, it turned out the job I had applied for was as a weekly columnist about country music.

Since y’all might not have figured it out from reading these ramblings, I’m a Classic Rocker and not a country music aficionado.

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I was anxious to start my professional writing career, which I never saw coming at me until reading the newspaper advertisement, but also wanted to make the job interesting for me personally. So, I suggested a deal. I’d be happy to write about country music, but since I could better be called a comedy aficionado (where did I come up with that word anyway?) I’d also like to do a second weekly column on comedy happenings in the area. And for that second and very separate column, I made an offer to write it for half of what they were going to pay me for my new regular country music column.

Throwing money at newspaper people works.

I got the gig writing two weekly columns for the salary of one and a half weekly columns. Let’s just say negotiations were not my strong point in this career effort.

The dual columnist gig came with media passes and review tickets for most of the shows my wife, Cowgirl Debbie and I wanted to see. In addition to writing about these events, I also scored interviews with many of the country artists and comedians.

Yeah – it was very cool.

During one day’s mail delivery, I received an invitation to attend a pre-concert soundcheck for a country music concert. To be honest, I don’t remember all the performers on the bill except for Allison Kraus and Union Station and the headliner.

Tanya Tucker.

Black Velvet Whiskey

Somewhere during her long career, which started when she was thirteen and had a hit record with Delta Dawn, Ms. Tucker had earned a reputation for being a bit of a wild child. Now, I don’t have any specifics, nor can I make any accusations. I honestly don’t know how that term even became associated with her. But by the time I rolled onto the landscape with my little weekly column, she was not only one of the reigning queens of country music but also one of its biggest headliners.

And by that, I mean headlines – as in supermarket tabloids and gossip magazines.

Again, I can’t dredge up any specifics. I’m only pulling up memories that might have been on my mind when I learned I’d be meeting Tanya Tucker – which is one of the very cool things that’s possible when you’re armed with a media pass and invitation to a pre-concert soundcheck.

This was an afternoon rendezvous at a sports arena in Toledo, Ohio. I’m sure there were more than a few other performers, but other than sitting in the bleachers near Alison Kraus and Union Station (a polite group of bluegrass musicians) I only remember Tanya Tucker.

When she walked on stage to test sound levels with her backing band, it seemed like everyone – even the bluegrass’ers – paid attention. I couldn’t tell you all songs she sang, but I know a couple were off her 1993 album Soon and A Little Too Late from her latest Greatest Hits album released only a few months before.

How do I know this for certain? Because I went out and bought both the next day.

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HOLIDAY SHOPPING!

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

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

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

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

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

————————————————————————

As she left the stage and headed to her dressing room it was my job to represent my loyal country music column readers by saying hello. Flashing my media pass, I opened a gate and somehow (what are the odds?) found myself walking next to Tanya Tucker. Keeping up with her stride for stride, I had time for a quick introduction (quick because I only had to introduce myself) and ask a couple questions about her latest tour and album that have slipped from my mind over the decades.

But asking questions really wasn’t the fun part.

Like many of the country stars I’ve interviewed, Tanya was much nicer than any supermarket tabloid writer would have prepared me to expect. It didn’t seem to bother her at all that I was from a smaller market newspaper or that she had never even set eyes on me before we were walking together through an almost deserted sports arena.

And there certainly was nothing about her that advertised wild child until…

Tanya Tucker & The Classic Rocker

I had a small 35mm camera and asked if we could take a photo together. She stopped, said “sure” and put her arm around me like we had been best friends forever. Was I thrilled? Heck, yeah.

After all, this was Tanya Tucker.

And that was it. I thanked her for answering my questions, for being so nice and – especially – for two very cool photos. Now, if I had wanted to gain a little national notoriety by slipping them to a low-class newspaper tabloid just to see my name in print without the salary-earning “by” line in front of it… Well, that was never a thought or an intention. They were just for my readers…. AND me!

Well, sort of…

After the photos appeared in my weekly column, I made a point of leaving the newspaper in a place where Cowgirl Debbie might “somehow” see it and “somehow” realize how lucky she was. After all, it was pretty clear that Tanya Tucker looked happy hanging out with me – so obviously, I should be considered a hot commodity as a husband.

But honestly, what are the odds something like that would happen? I’ll tell you right now from Cowgirl Debbie’s and – I’m assuming – Tanya’s point of view.

Nada.

Instead of added extra leverage for me in case of any misunderstandings or mishaps that could be directly – or even indirectly – related to being, my fault, my hoped for status as a hot commodity would come back to haunt me. In other words, Cowgirl Debbie was not impressed. For weeks after when the circumstances were not in my favor, her ending rallying cry would be:

“Why don’t you call your girlfriend Tanya to see if she’d put up with this?”

That might have interested a supermarket tabloid, if only it were true…

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Thanks for reading – and keep rockin’!

Here’s a video of Tanya Tucker performing It’s a Little Too Late.

 

 

To purchase Tanya Tucker’s 20 Greatest Hits with It’s a Little Too Late visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing

#152 – How Many More Times

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#152 – How Many More Times by Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin

– I might be in a time warp because I can’t think of any other song that has switched-up decades on me like this one. I know that statement might leave you a bit dazed and confused, but this 1969 blast of hard blues rock has morphed Led Zeppelin into one of my favorite surf groups of the 2000’s.

Yeah, I know. I’m a very confused – and a bit dazed – Classic Rocker. But there is a reason…

How Many More Times was the final track on side two of Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut album. Then again, their first four albums were all self-titled with ascending numbers to help us keep track of which one we were listening to. And though this wasn’t officially assigned a Roman numeral, it still goes down as Led Zeppelin I.

And it still goes down as this Classic Rocker’s favorite Led Zep album.

I can put the needle down on track one and let it go though both sides until the end. Led Zeppelin IV would be my second fav with Stairway To Heaven and II after that with Whole Lotta Love, but there are tracks on both those LPs where I’d pick up the stereo needle (I’m doing vinyl memories here) and skip to the next song.

I never had to do that with Led Zeppelin I.

Signed, sealed, delivered

My introduction to the group happened when I was in high school and hanging around my best friend’s house. I was waiting for him to get ready so we could go out and do something when his younger brother – who was actually closer to me in age – told me he had just bought this new album by this new band. He said I needed to hear one of the songs because it was “really scary.”

I don’t remember any “really scary” rock or pop songs before 1969.

I’ll guess guitar feedback solos from Jimi Hendrix could stretch imaginations to the dark side, though they never did with me. His top songs, Purple Haze and Foxy Lady were standards at school dances along with Herman’s Hermits and The Beatles.

Also Jim Morrison’s lyrics with The Doors were supposed to be sinister in some way, but again they never took my mind there. The group was more pop at this time with Hello, I Love You, Touch Me and others that made Morrison more of a pop star than the Lizard King legend that grew up around him later.

————————————————————————

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

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

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

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

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

————————————————————————

So we sat down in his living room, he dimmed the lighting for visual effect, and cranked up Dazed and Confused. And yeah – it sounded “really scary.” I remember sitting on the couch examining the album sleeve cover with the Hindenburg Zeppelin exploding. On the back there was a photo of the four band members staring at the camera. That was my introduction to Led Zeppelin and my friends and I really had no clue they would go on to become one of the biggest rock groups ever.

Surf’s Up!

How Many More Times joined this list on October 27th. But as you might remember from the dazed and confused remark I made to open this Classic Rocker rambling, it wasn’t a “really scary” scene going through my head that morning.

It was somewhere around 2005 and instead of a dimly lit living room, there was bright sunshine over sand and waves at Florida’s Cocoa Beach. And instead of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, my ten-year old son Dangerous Paul and sixteen-year old nephew Battling Blake were competing in a surfing contest.

And no, this Spring Break family adventure didn’t include a cover version of Led Zeppelin I being given the surf treatment by The Beach Boys or Jan & Dean. It was the original album I had been introduced to in my friend’s “really scary” darkened living room decades earlier, now blasting out from concert-sized speakers loud enough for sea-soaked surfers and sun-drenched beachcombers to hear over crashing waves, screeching seagulls, amplified announcements and a cheering crowd.

The surfing contest itself was also different.

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There were heats for the professionals and amateurs, but the event we were there for was the “first-timers.” The only rule to enter was that you had never surfed before. The winner would be the one that most impressed the judges while actually standing on a board and riding a wave.

Dangerous Paul and Battling Blake fit the novice requirements and along with a few others, were given a quick surfing lesson on the beach. Then they were set loose in the waves as Led Zeppelin I provided the soundtrack.

Not him – but close enough!

Both guys did better than expected with Dangerous Paul, thanks to a couple years of competitive gymnastics and a show-off attitude, trying headstands on his board. He came close a few times before wiping out and it was worth the cheers from the crowd seated in the stands on the beach.

Both finished in the top three out of… well, I don’t remember how many competed, but it didn’t matter. They each won a medal, special “water shirts” with a surfboard brand logo, and bragging rights for winning a surfing contest without knowing how to surf.

Very cool.

So depending on whether I’m sitting in a darkened living room or in bright sunshine somewhere near a beach, How Many More Times and can fit the soundtrack for both. And if that doesn’t leave me dazed and confused, I don’t know what else will.

Cowabunga dudes – and keep rockin’!

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Here’s a 1969 Led Zeppelin television appearance performing How Many More Times.

 

 

To purchase Led Zeppelin I – The Classic Rocker’s fav Zep LP – visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing

#153 – Heart of Glass

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#153 – Heart of Glass by Blondie

Blondie

– I’ll go ahead and claim to have developed at least some semblance of New York City street smarts by the time we closed out the 1970’s. That’s a brave statement considering I’d only lived in the city for a couple years. It was basically the result of a make-it-or-get-out survival technique learned from moving to the city while it was stuck in the seediest era of its modern history. With lots of time riding the subways and a job at Broadway theaters that included making night deposits of large sums of money in the seediest of all the seedy neighborhoods, Times Square, I picked up a defense mechanism that native city dwellers are born with:

Keep my eyes open and my senses on alert.

I was never near being as street as the punks and new wave rockers that hung around the seedy clubs in The Bowery and Manhattan’s Lower East Side. For one reason, that scene never appealed to me. I can understand later generations glossing it over as 1970’s urban poverty rock and roll chic thanks to the great music that came out of clubs like CBGB and The Great Gildersleeves. But I was more inclined to hang around neighborhoods where I didn’t have to pay too close attention to anyone walking behind me when I went out to buy a newspaper or cup of coffee.

There was no way I would fit in with that scene’s hard core street smart society.

Debbie Harry

By the time I arrived, the bands that had made it out of the Bowery clubs were a bit older and had moved onto bigger stages. That would include The Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie, just to mention the upper tier of famous. What was left behind seemed to be mostly teenagers and early twenty-something wannabe’s who gravitated to what was still a seedy neighborhood after the now-gone rockers had given it some notoriety.

Is that where Heart of Glass takes me for this episode of The Classic Rocker?

To be honest, not really. As mentioned, I wasn’t part of the downtown scene where Blondie and the others had paid their dues. But it didn’t mean I wasn’t aware of what was going on.

I had heard of Blondie by the time the song came out in the winter of 1979. Anyone with an interest in pop music living in Manhattan would have to. But I don’t remember the song or band being anything close to ground-breaking or the new thing everyone always seemed to be waiting for. Heart of Glass was just one of many catchy songs getting a lot of play on the radio and in clubs where we would hang out.

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But it wasn’t ground-breaking or a new thing to rock my subconscious when I woke up with it in my head on October 26th. It was on my digital playlist and I had just heard it before heading off to my mind’s Club Dreamland. So with a flair of street smarts, I’ll shove it into the recent memory category.

Not too seedy for me

Even though I don’t recall anything specific when listening to Blondie’s Heart of Glass, it inspires me to dredge up images of the other New York City club scenes we hit while this song was riding the music charts. I never ventured inside CBGB, though I did rock to a few bands in the neighboring Great Gildersleeves. For the most part, the places we hit didn’t need an extreme teenaged punk attitude or dangerous look to fit in. But a sense of street smarts didn’t hurt.

I’ll name-drop a few.

Studio 54 was still a hot spot for the disco-scene wannabe’s, even though it was on its last legs the couple of times I went there. I don’t remember having any problems getting by the legendary velvet rope doorman, but once inside my interest was mainly just to look around, have a couple drinks and dance to a couple songs.

It was also cool to have some bragging rights just to say I had been there (and done that). And that’s what I just did (thanks for reading and being so impressed – ha!).

Next…

Doesn’t look like a Sunday night

My pals and I also hit Max’s Kansas City on (usually) Sunday nights. It was considered an “off night” based on crowds that packed the place on Fridays and Saturdays, and we could always get a seat at the bar. For a Blondie connection, Debbie Harry used to be a server at Max’s. But she had left for the music charts by the time we rolled in.

The third club I’m reminded of from this era was another legend, The Mudd Club which was located on White Street in Lower Manhattan. Since the TriBeCa district was a long haul for my gang of non-punks who were centered in Midtown Manhattan near Gramercy Park and Union Square, we only sprung for the taxi fare when it was a planned destination.

And since the venue was earning a major destination reputation for the rock and new wave scene in 1979, we made the field trip a couple of times just to say – once again – we had been there (and done that).

In case you’re not familiar with The Mudd Club and its reputation, check out the Talking Heads song, Life During Wartime.

“This ain’t no Mudd Club, or CBGB, I ain’t got time for that now.”

So yeah, I’m talking about THAT Mudd Club. And I have time for that right now…

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Our first visit was almost a major disappointment. After my then-girlfriend and two buddies got out of our cab on a dark White Street sometime after midnight, we saw the line to get in stretched around the block. There was also a velvet rope type of atmosphere with a large bouncer not letting anyone in until he felt like it.

At least that’s what it seemed like. It also seemed like he was not going to feel like letting us in.

The Mudd Club

Since my girlfriend wasn’t the type to stand in line and had born-in-her street smarts as a native New Yorker, she led the charge to find an alternative entrance. While sneaking through an alley behind the club, we spotted a door. We thought it could be a back door to The Mudd Club, but there was no way… And if it was, there was no way it would be unlocked…

And… surprise! It was.

One of us pulled the door open and walked into a dark room just behind the bar. We peeked around a corner and saw we weren’t far from the dance floor, so an on-the-spot plan was made to dance our way into the club. The goal was that we would easily blend in since it was crowded and the music was loud.

And… surprise! It worked.

We stayed in The Mudd Club for at least an hour, but it didn’t live up to our heightened expectations. Instead of the celebrity rockers featured on Page Six of The New York Post as they pretended to hide from the paparazzi (while paying publicists to make sure they were seen, photographed and featured) it didn’t seem any different than any other rock club. The best entertainment factor was all the girls looking like Debbie Harry and guys looking like Keith Richards.

My main memory is The Mudd Club looked like a sea of bleached or black dyed hair and black leather jackets. So, it really wasn’t our scene.

But… surprise! We tried it again.

Only this time we didn’t have an easy access pass…

After another cab ride we used our street smarts to bypass the line outside and headed down the familiar alley to our secret back door entrance. With my girlfriend acting like she had the cool of Debbie Harry and me assuming an attitude not even close to the cool of Keith Richards, we opened the door.

It was dark and loud, but not enough to miss seeing what was standing in front of us.

One of the Keith’s?!

Obviously, the back door entrance was not a secret anymore and we were face to face with a large bouncer. His job – also obviously – was to deter street smart deprived wannabe’s like us from skipping the line and paying a high cover charge to enter a club where you might actually see the real Debbie or Keith blending in with the wannabe Debbie’s and Keith’s.

Our not-so-friendly bouncer’s appearance certainly opened my eyes and heightened my senses – thus raising my New York street smarts aptitude.

Since I’m not afraid to exaggerate certain situations, let’s just say the bouncer was twice my size, had arms bigger than my legs and I saw flames coming out of his nostrils. He also sounded very punk rock-ish when he emphasized the “F-Bomb” when asking us, “Where the f**** do you think you’re going?

And… surprise! That was the end of our conversation and final destination journey to The Mudd Club.

Heart of Glass? Maybe the song was playing at the club that night, but I would’ve never heard it since my concentration was on getting us a cab and back to our less-seedy neighborhood. But even if I’d had enough street smarts to get past the back door bouncer and into The Mudd Club and Debbie Harry was actually hanging out avoiding the paparazzi, it’s doubtful I could’ve picked her out from the sea of bleached hair hanging out with the sea of Keiths.

Here’s the “official” video of Blondie performing Heart of Glass

 

 

To purchase Blondie Greatest Hits with Heart of Glass visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing

 

#156 – Smoke on the Water

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#156 – Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple

Deep Purple

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blurred by 3.2% beer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, real teen spirit stuff.

They were on a mission!

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

Then Smoke on the Water came to the rescue.

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

End of conversation.

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

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

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

To purchase The Very Best of Deep Purple with Smoke on the Water visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing

 

#157 – All By Myself

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#157 – All By Myself by Eric Carmen

 – It was never a definite thing, or as we would’ve referred to it in college as a lock. There were no promises or guarantees made, but if the planets aligned in a positive way there might be a very slight chance I could meet a Beatle.

Okay, I didn’t. But for this Classic Rocker it still turned out to be a pretty cool experience. Here’s the scoop – and yeah, I mean that with ink-stained, newspaper lingo.

In 2000 I was writing entertainment columns for a newspaper in northern Ohio. It wasn’t the big one in Cleveland, The Plain Dealer, but it still came with decent-enough credentials to score interviews and concert review tickets for most of the music and comedy shows I wanted to see. But there was one road block when it came to the music I really enjoyed. I wasn’t the official the pop-rock journalist, since that was how another writer earned his paycheck. I was the assigned country music expert, even though I knew nothing about real country music before accepting the gig.

What do I mean by real country music?

I’m talking about the original artists out of Nashville, Bakersfield and other locales south of my northern locale. When it came to my personal country playlists, they were limited to most of the tracks Ringo was assigned on Beatles albums and the occasional Rolling Stones efforts at twang on songs like Wild Horses and Far Away Eyes.

But I gained an appreciation while reviewing concerts and interviewing Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Tanya Tucker and quite a few others. And as a bonus, my country column also allowed me to hang out backstage one night with The Everly Brothers since the newspaper’s too-young, pop-rock reporter wasn’t classic rock savvy enough to realize Don and Phil were rock star royalty.

That was also a pretty cool scoop on my part.

I’d always feel a bit like a lottery winner whenever my writer colleague’s personal opinion that classic rock wasn’t really happening worked to my advantage. That’s also how I scored review seats for Paul McCartney and an invitation to a private rehearsal by The Monkees.

Ringo + All Starr Band 2000

I had a system going within my local newspaper gig when it came to classic rock and I played it like an all star.

So, I was more than psyched to learn Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band would be playing in Cleveland that summer. A quick call to my editor confirmed our pop-rock guy had no interest and I started polishing up my media pass for the concert.

I grabbed a press release sent to the newspaper and immediately called Ringo’s publicist. I was politely told I would be sent review tickets, but the former Beatle would only do one newspaper interview in each city. Cleveland’s belonged to The Plain Dealer’s legendary journalist (and my friend) Jane Scott.

Okay… so one win and one loss. I could live with that.

But then came a big score I didn’t see coming. The publicist told me one of the All Starr’s had a north coast connection and asked if I would be interested in doing a phone interview with Eric Carmen.

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Are you kidding me? My answer to that question was easier than the lock I’d had once on a college exam when the teaching grad student gave me the answers in advance.

Sign me up!

Let’s get this out of the way right now. I’m a major Eric Carmen fan as both a solo artist and member of The Raspberries. I can attribute this to a few things. I grew up near the band’s launching pad of Cleveland and even though I’ve never met any of the members, it almost feels like I know these guys. The nucleus of the group (without Carmen) were well-known throughout the area as The Mods, then after changing their name to The Choir scored a hit song in 1966 with It’s Cold Outside.

It was one of the songs that always brought together the guys and the girls from opposite sides of the school gym to dance during our junior high dances. And yeah, I have a copy on my digital playlist.

The Choir + Eric Carmen

Eric Carmen was in another area band in the early 70’s called Cyrus Erie. By this time, we were in high school and old enough to drive. That also meant we were old enough to hang out in teen dance clubs. I remember seeing them in a club west of Cleveland that was also called Cyrus Erie, but with an added tag of “West” to separate it from a same-named club on the east side.

Another memory of that long-ago night in Cyrus Erie West was when a cute girl with a flower painted on her cheek asked me to dance. And to really show off my memory, she said her name was Sunshine. I mean, really – how could any sixteen year old guy ever forget that?

The Choir and Cyrus Erie somehow merged, resulting in The Raspberries and international fame. Their brand of power-pop music was the needed alternative to (in my opinion) a rock scene that was getting too stuck in alternative music.

I seriously could not listen to twenty minute drum solos, over-long guitar improvisations or some guy blowing on a flute. Give me two to three minutes of rock and roll and I’m happy. And I know my college frat house pals would agree since our parties with sorority girls would’ve never been the wild times we still reminisce about if we hadn’t had everybody on their feet and dancing to Go All The Way, Tonight and I Want To Be With You.

Eric Carmen – The Choir

Then sometime during my college daze The Raspberries broke up. But my fandom was saved when Eric Carmen released his self-titled solo album that opened with All By Myself. It was one of the rare LP’s I could listen to all the way through without picking up the stereo needle and skipping any songs. It was also the go-to soundtrack at the end of our college parties with sororities when the lights were low…

All By Myself was also a go-to for my waking mind when it joined this Dream Song list on the morning of September 27. Of course I own a copy (duh), but surprisingly hadn’t heard it in awhile. I must have been rocking to The Raspberries or It’s Cold Outside that week instead. So for that reason, welcome to the subliminal memory category.

My phone interview with Eric Carmen to promote the Ringo and his All-Starr Band concert was scheduled and confirmed. I was psyched. Maybe a little too much…

I wish I could say the interview was one of my stellar moments as a music journalist, but that’s not how I remember it. I had done quite a few interviews previously with artists I consider to be heavyweights in the entertainment biz, but with Eric Carmen I very quickly morphed into fan-boy.

Remember the Saturday Night Live bit where Chris Farley interviewed Paul McCartney? All he did was tell the pre-Sir Paul how great he was and asked if he remembered all these great things he had done. If you don’t, here’s a reminder…

 

 

It was just like me talking to Eric Carmen.

Okay, maybe it turned out to be a bit more than that. I reminisced about everything mentioned above, including Cyrus Erie, The Raspberries, my college parties and his solo work. He was extremely polite and a nice guy, but all he really had to reply was, “Yes, I remember” and “Thank you.” Then I was onto my next memory.

Eventually we talked about the tour and performing with an ex-Beatle. So the article was salvaged and ran in the newspaper. I also saw a link to it on his website years ago, but in a recent search for this particular Classic Rocker rambling I couldn’t find it online.

It’s probably just as well – at lease for my journalistic reputation.

At the end of our talk I mentioned that my review tickets usually included a pass to go backstage after the concert. If it was cool, I’d like to say hello. He said that would be fine and if there was an opportunity, he might be able to introduce me to Ringo Starr.

Say what?! Call me fan-boy x2 and sign me up!

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The outdoor All-Starr concert was a major blast from the past with Carmen performing All By Myself and Go All The Way and Ringo singing his fab-twang classics. After the encore I temporarily ditched my wife Dancin’ Deb and our friends for a possible rendezvous with my hoped-for new best friends Eric and Ringo backstage.

As mentioned at the beginning of this rambling fan-boy confession, it didn’t happen.

Alas (do people still use that term?), my newspaper and name wasn’t on the list and I couldn’t talk my way past the strong-armed security guard road-blocking the backstage entrance. I’m sure I stood looking longingly (do people still use that term?) as Jane Scott and other VIPs walked through the gate and joined the far away inner circle that I could only imagine included Ringo Starr and Eric Carmen.

But in the long run, I can still claim to have had a very cool experience.

I rejoined Dancin’ Deb and our friends to share reviews of our favorite moments from the show. And if my more recent memories are correct, we ditched playing a Ringo CD during our drive home and turned up Eric Carmen. That’s called hometown loyalty.

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Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

Here’s a video of Eric Carmen performing All By Myself on The Midnight Special television show from the 1970’s. This is the complete song – and not the edited version released as a single for radio play.

 

 

To purchase the album Eric Carmen with All By Myself visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing

#158 – Stay With Me

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#158 – Stay With Me by Faces

Faces

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

You had to be there.

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

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

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

In the Navy!

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

It was pretty serious stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Badfinger

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

Faces fronted by Rod Stewart were the complete opposite.

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

We roared our approval.

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

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

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

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

Not as cool as this!!

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing

#159 – Fun, Fun, Fun

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#159 – Fun, Fun, Fun by The Beach Boys

 – Though I’m tempted, we won’t go all the way back to 1964 and when we first heard this one. In fact, there’s no reason to even focus on just the 1960’s since Fun, Fun, Fun has lived on through the decades. It’s still almost impossible to visit a beachside bar, diner, ice cream stand, or fast food joint where sand could be called a condiment, without hearing this classic rocker on the sound system.

By the way, if we were returning mentally to the 1960’s I’d have to change that statement to read “jukebox.”

Fun, Fun, Fun is one of the Brian Wilson and Mike Love collaborations that defined the Southern California lifestyle many of us could only imagine while growing up in the Midwest. For the boys of summer, it was year-round sunshine, surfing, riding in convertibles, and hanging out with girls at the beach (listed not necessarily in preferred order). For me personally, it only took a few decades after The Beach Boys started sending us these messages via Top 40 AM Radio that I finally surfed into the 1990’s and was living in Los Angeles.

But it wasn’t quite the easy fun, fun, fun that they had promised.

After a cross-country drive from New York City, I crashed with a former girlfriend who after a few years of Splitsville had morphed into the close friend zone, in The Hollywood Hills for a month and began my California lifestyle. The first non-fun shock was having to buy a car and pay insurance after years of subways, taxis, buses and walking. The next step was embarking on a career move, which took a while but eventually turned out pretty good. But the move that was the biggest hassle was a physical one. When the rich girl that owned the house where I was crashing learned an extra person (me) was sharing the large basement apartment (I had my own room, just to make the arrangements perfectly clear) she decided to double the rent.

The California Sound

It’s too bad because it was cool starter space while I tried to figure out Los Angeles. And though we called it a basement, it only fit that description if you looked at it from the front of the house. From the back it was just another ground floor space with lots of full windows and a private entrance.

It also came with a bit of star power.

The renter before us had been the actor Randy Quaid who was still getting junk mail sent to him at that address. My close friend zone roommate also told me our rich landlord, who was a semi-famous model, actress (with a very famous New York sports legend father) and lived in the upstairs house, was dating one of The Eagles. I took her word for it, though I never saw him and can’t remember which one. But we also assumed she was dating the actor Andrew Stevens since we looked out our window one day and he was mowing the back lawn.

Fun, fun, fun in The Hollywood Hills.

With the threat of raised rent meaning I’d have to start paying my fair share, I felt it was a fair idea to get my own place. Through the connections of an actor pal who had also made the move from Manhattan to Hollywood, I sublet a super-fab condo in the Silver Lake neighborhood (with a mountain view looking down at Dodger Stadium) for the summer. The owner, who was also an actor no one had ever heard of, scored a gig touring the country doing regional theater and for a fair price I would take care of his place and his cat. Fair enough.

But he had one stipulation: no one else was allowed to live in the condo with me. Okay…

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I moved in on a Saturday as he was leaving for the airport. A couple hours later my best rock and roll pal from NYC (imagine Steven Tyler and you’ll be close) who was also making the move to Southern California, arrived at the same LAX Airport. I picked him up in my Mustang convertible and moved him into the condo’s off-limits spare bedroom.

Okay, not exactly fair as a renter – but a great way to kick off a Southern California summer of fun, fun, fun.

Inspiring Place

Being a Beach Boys fan, one of my first goals was to find a Foster’s Freeze. If you’re not familiar with the legend of the song, these are well-known ice cream stands (and restaurants) with locations around California. Supposedly Brian Wilson and Mike Love were hanging around the F.F. on their home turf in Hawthorne when they spotted a girl drive by in her daddy’s car and looking like she was having too much fun.

It inspired the 1964 song.

For a couple guys from NYC making this new turf their new home, I thought it would be a symbolic way for my Steven Tyler-ish pal and I to kick off the fun, fun, fun. We may not have made it all the way out to Hawthorne, but we found one not too far away in The San Fernando Valley and toasted with what we referred to as A Bucket ‘O’ Shake. In other words, the Foster’s Freeze milkshakes were SO huge that a steady diet would have us looking like Brian Wilson in the 1970’s. Not a pretty thought, so we kept ourselves on a strict limit.

And speaking of the song, Fun, Fun, Fun joined this list on September 23rd. Of course, I own a copy as any wannabe sun drenched rocker dude should, but since the beaches where I live now are closed by Labor Day, I hadn’t heard it for quite a few sunsets. It surfs its way into the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

Finding a Foster’s Freeze held promise of a Beach Boys inspired summer, but then reality set in.

Beach Boys Landmark

Since Silver Lake was nowhere near a beach and we discovered it was a long drive to the sand and surf. One of our first potential beach bum lessons learned was if you didn’t arrive before… oh, let’s say eight o’clock in the morning – regardless of the day – good luck finding any parking within an hour or two walking distance. In our seemingly endless desperate searches for an open parking space, we spent more hours cruising packed streets and full lots from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach than the amount of time the girl in the song spent behind the wheel of her daddy’s T-Bird.

More often than not we’d scrap the idea of meeting any California beach girls and hit a Foster’s Freeze where we’d make plans to find an apartment with a swimming pool and reserved parking spaces when my sublet was over.

But we were still enterprising guys from New York cruising into our first summer in Southern California. If we couldn’t get to the party, we’d bring the party to us.

When I had hit Los Angeles a few months earlier, I immediately – and I’m talking within the first week – got involved with an acting group and an improvisational comedy troupe. The benefits of both were not only as creative and performing opportunities, but also a fast track to make new friends. The acting group actually cost money to belong since we rented a weekly rehearsal space and occasionally a small Hollywood theater to showcase audition scenes for agents and casting directors. The improv troupe performed in bars and clubs on the weekends, but our “pay” usually consisted of chicken wings and beer. So neither could be considered a get rich quick showbiz deal. In fact, it turned out to be the opposite.

But the real payoff was fun (fun, fun).

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The majority of my friends have always been creative people. And who would be more creative than actors, writers, comedians and rock and rollers? Right… I can’t think of any either. So instead of stressing out about making early morning beach treks hoping for nonexistent parking opportunities and if we were lucky, enough empty space on the sand for a beach towel, we decided to throw Saturday night parties in my condo sublet and let the fun happen on its own.

At least a few of these might still be legendary for our Southern California guest list attendees. The condo would be standing room only packed, with the overflow filling our backyard patio. My Steven Tyler-ish pal (who shall remain nameless to protect any possible identity crisis) gave the rocker girls someone to drool over and there was never a shortage of alcoholic beverages that were either brewed and iced or blended and decorated with tiny paper umbrellas.

The laughs were loud and the music was louder. And the only time the parties would end was when my New York actor pal, who had turned me on to the condo in the first place and lived upstairs with his wife, would appear somewhere in the early morning hours and politely suggest it might be time to shut everything down.

Out of respect to our good pal, we would. Some partiers would hit the road while most crashed on whatever piece of furniture or empty floor space was available. The next morning would resemble an outtake from the movie Animal House, but no one was allowed to leave until the place was clean, spotless and damage free.

It’s the least I could do after promising no one else would inhabit the condo. And yeah, I know… not fair at all. But at least I got away with it.

Or thought I did…

After an amazing summer and a growing crowd of creative friends, the landlord’s regional theater tour was coming to an end and my Steven Tyler-ish pal and I had to vacate the premises. We put our Foster’s Freeze planning sessions to work and scored a large two bedroom apartment in North Hollywood with parking and a swimming pool and moved out. But before we left there was a major and thorough (at least we thought) cleaning of the condo. Everything was left looking just as it did the day we moved in.

But when you’re dealing with actors, writers, comedians and rock and rollers, there’s always the unexpected.

SomeTHING like this…

About a month after our North Hollywood relocation I received a call from the actor who had sublet me the condo. He was sitting on the couch watching television when his hand slipped between the cushions. He felt something funny, so he reached in – and pulled out a rubber human hand.

Needless to say, he freaked out – at least a little bit. But on the good side, he thought it was funny.

As mentioned, our crowd was creative. And though no one aspired to be Carrot Top, there was no shortage of gag gifts, stupid decorations and a general sense of craziness at our parties to keep everyone entertained. I don’t remember what improvised excuse I came up with for the rubber hand in the couch, but I had the feeling he knew I hadn’t been living the lifestyle of a solitary monk all alone in the condo taking care of his cat.

That was the last conversation we had.

Of course, those weren’t our last parties in Southern California as we shifted our focus into making North Hollywood more fun (fun, fun) than sitting in beachside traffic jams. And though we didn’t have the same Hawthorne experience as cousins Brian and Mike decades before, I remember hanging out at a Foster’s Freeze in the San Fernando Valley creatively coming up with a theme and guest list for our next Saturday night hit.

Have a comment?

Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

Here’s a video of The Beach Boys from 1964 performing Fun, Fun, Fun.

To purchase Sounds of Summer: Very Best of The Beach Boys with Fun, Fun, Fun visit Amazon.

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

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing

#161 – Sultans of Swing

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#161 – Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits

 – For some, moving to New York City can be like relocating to Ork. Now, if you get that reference you’ll want to continue reading. If not, go for it anyway and you’ll understand…

I was looking through photos of Manhattan taken in the late 1970’s. There was the famous skyline with The Empire State Building and Twin Towers of The World Trade Center, along with the various neighborhood highlights of theaters, diners, restaurants, stores and parks. It was everything I love about New York City.

But there were also photos travel agents from that time would never choose for a tourist inspiring vacation brochure. I’m talking about abandoned buildings, crime-ridden areas, graffiti everywhere, sinister looking gangs and scenes of poverty only a short walk away from wealth and luxury. Many city blocks looked dark and ominous, while the subway looked dangerous and filthy. Streets were jammed with traffic and sidewalks were filled with people.

These shots made the city image look dark, dirty and crowded. But without benefit of any brochures that might have changed my decision, I knew New York was the only place I wanted to live. So, in May 1977 I walked off a train in Penn Station with a copy of The Village Voice apartment listings and went looking for adventure.

I found it and it lasted for more than thirteen years.

My first vivid sense memory walking along West 34th Street between Macy’s and Gimble’s and into Herald Square was the strong smell of urine. It was a little offsetting for a Midwestern-raised guy in his early twenties to see homeless camped out in the park while at the same time people were leaving the department stores with big shopping bags.

Welcome to New York.

NYC 1979

Following advice from my cousins on Long Island, I focused apartment hunting to the Eastside of Midtown. But after three days of walking and disappointment I couldn’t find anything I thought affordable, even after a solid year of working and saving after college. I was mentally giving up and resigning myself to a permanent return to Ohio when walking on East 22nd Street to the subway I passed a renovated building with an “apartments for rent” sign.

As a last-ditch attempt, I went into the rental office. After being shown a small triplex with a very small terrace and located around the corner from Gramercy Park, I asked how much and held my breath waiting for the bad news. I’ll just call it The Miracle on 22nd Street because it was within my budget.

I signed a lease and moved in.

Okay, without any previous city life experience my budget planning wasn’t exactly accurate. I would’ve been broke by the end of summer, but I hustled through a few jobs and made it work. And the payoff was worth it and almost immediate in giving me a real New York City experience. Within the year I had lived through The Summer of 1977 Blackout, The Blizzard of 1977-78 and a garbage strike.

Yeah, I became a real New Yorker real fast.

Mindy & Mork

The first few months my budget was tight. There were lots of frozen dinners and staying in watching shows like Charlie’s Angles, Happy Days and Mork & Mindy on my small black and white, pre-cable television. Why did I just mention these three shows? Well, Angels was on when the blackout shut down the entire city, I thought The Fonz was cool, and Mork will play a part in this story.

But that’s coming up later…

For me, New York has always been two very different cities. There was the daytime with people rushing around with their nine-to-five jobs, packed subways and traffic jams. Then there was the nighttime, which is what I gravitated to right away.

By the fall of 1977 I was already into my pattern of working in theaters, bars, restaurants and nightclubs. And on my off-nights I started performing in the small folk music clubs in Greenwich Village. I had a close and growing circle of friends, made decent money and by that spring had a steady girlfriend.

In other words, life was pretty exciting and I loved New York – especially at night.

These late 1970’s memories come back whenever I hear Sultans of Swing, which is my excuse for this rambling sense memory since the song was running through my mind on September 20th. I hadn’t heard it in awhile, so it moves into the subliminal category of Dream Songs. And it reminds me of this special time in my city life because it was on just about every jukebox in just about every club we hit (and we hit quite a few) during the winter of 1979.

The song also reminds me of my girlfriend at the time, who for one night got to play Mindy to Robin WilliamsMork. But first, that claim needs to be set up…

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Most of my favorite memories of New York are on the dark side, but that’s only because we inhabited the night. I’d normally leave for work in the early evening and finish in the middle of the night. Then more often than not, that’s when we’d go out and meet up with our friends. Clubs and bars were open until 4 am (and later if you knew where to go), there were plenty of 24-hour delis and diners, street lights kept everything from being too dark and ominous, and you could always find a taxi.

My girlfriend was from New York, which made her very different from the girls I’d dated in Ohio. Growing up in the Bronx, she had street smarts and also wasn’t afraid of adventures. Her goal was to be an actress, which meant she also worked in a restaurant. And by the way, that’s an inside joke meant for fellow creative artists. I’m sure you’ll get it.

We decided we could make more money working in television commercials, so during winter 1979 we took a course together in Midtown Manhattan. We learned how to read copy (words), audition, and work on camera. I actually booked a few local commercials, but nothing that earned enough to quit my night job.

Outside Grand Central Station 1979

Our weekly class was the last one on Friday afternoons, so afterward we’d kick off the nighttime in a dimly-lit bar located on a grimy-looking block under the traffic overpass on the north side of Grand Central Station. I have no memory of the name, but it had a fun vibe with locals and commuters and happy hour prices.

It also had Sultans of Swing on the jukebox.

But every night couldn’t be a hanging out night and I still had rent to pay. So, three nights a week I bartended at a place just two blocks from my apartment. One off-night, which means a Sunday in Manhattan, I was stuck behind an empty bar while my girlfriend went out for adventures with her girlfriends. Sometime around midnight she called me on the bar’s payphone, which is a term today’s youngest generation will find confusing. Not only were we still decades away from cell phones, but public telephones still had rotary dials and cost a dime to make a call.

Where are you?” I asked.

At The Improv comedy club hanging with Robin Williams,” she answered.

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Even though I was still only working on my second year as a transplanted New Yorker, I had learned you never knew who you’re going to run into. Especially at night. But I just didn’t think the star of television’s top sitcom filmed in Hollywood would be hanging around a local club on an off-night. I was still a few years away from finding out how often that actually happens.

Yeah, right,” I said before added a healthy dose of sarcasm, “now tell me a western.”

The Fonz and Mork

Yeah, that’s exactly what I said. It was a cool put-down line going around in 1979, basically meaning you’re making it up and I don’t believe you. As comedy fans we had been to The Improv on West 44th Street and I didn’t doubt she was there, but hanging with the star of Mork and Mindy? Maybe he was in NYC and had performed on stage, but the hanging out part seemed to be stretching the story a bit.

Then about half an hour later…

I was standing behind a still-empty bar on East 20th Street when the door opened and my girlfriend walked in.

Behind her was Robin Williams.

Thanks to earlier budget conscious evenings in my apartment I had seen a few episodes of Mork & Mindy. But that shouldn’t have been an excuse for acting like a… well, I guess Orkan would fit this situation. That’s probably the best term because I stood at attention and flashed Robin the Nanu-Nanu hand gesture he did on the show as the alien Mork from Ork.

Yeah, I know… But I couldn’t think of what else to do. Let’s just say I was a little surprised.

No jokes,” he said.

Okay,” I answered, relieved I didn’t have to embarrass myself anymore.

They sat down at the bar and I gave my girlfriend a beer. Robin asked for club soda.

1979

Then we hung out and had a regular conversation. We talked about the actor’s strike going on at the time, which shut down production on Mork & Mindy. Rather than hang around Hollywood, he flew to New York and was doing sets in comedy clubs. We also talked about other stuff, but that’s what I specifically remember. He was heading downtown, shared a cab with my girlfriend and came in to prove she hadn’t been writing a western.

It was all very normal for New York City nighttime, which is my way of saying the experience was far from Nanu-Nanu. We hung out for about half an hour and then he had to leave.

Since the restaurant was deserted, the three of us walked outside to Third Avenue. It was cold being winter in NYC, but also nighttime so Robin had no problem hailing a taxi. It was one of the big, yellow Checker Cabs that used to be as synonymous with the city as the Brooklyn Bridge but were phased out in the 1980’s. We said good night and he climbed into the back seat.

That was when the entertainment portion of our program started.

Robin Williams

Rear seat windows on NYC cabs only opened halfway. While the driver waited for the red light to change, Robin rolled down the window, stuck the upper half of his body outside and presented us with a LOUD Robin Williams comedy shtick (for lack of a better term). This included facial expressions, different voices and accents, wildly swinging arms and a glimpse of Mork from Ork. The light turned green and my girlfriend and I stood there laughing, not only in disbelief over what was happening but also because he was very funny, as the cab took off down Third Avenue and eventually out of our hearing range.

Even though it was a Sunday night off-night in The City, I remember my pals and some customers coming in later to hang out at the bar until last call at 4 am. And I had a pretty good story for them.

You should’a been here earlier.

And I also remember Sultans of Swing. It was 1979 and was on just about every jukebox in just about every club, including the one where I bought Robin Williams a club soda and actually saluted him with Nanu-Nanu. Yeah, I’m such a nerd… Uh, I mean Orkan.

Have a comment?

Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

Here’s Dire Straits with Sultans of Swing, providing a soundtrack for 1970’s nighttime in NYC.

 

 

To purchase The Best of Dire Straits with Sultans of Swing visit Amazon.

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

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing