Category Archives: Detroit

#170 – Purple Haze

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#170 – Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix Experience

Jimi Hendrix Experience

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

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

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

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

At least for the people that were there.

Let me stand next to your fire!

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was hooked.

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

I bought it.

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

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

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

I bought it.

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

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I had a cool room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was only one way to find out.

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

OUCH!!!!!

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

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

Like chewing aluminum foil.

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

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

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

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

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Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

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

To purchase Are You Experienced with Purple Haze visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2018 – North Shore Publishing

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#177 – Stop! In The Name Of Love

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

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

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

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

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

Top tier Motown talent

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

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

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

It was called Quiz Bee.

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

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

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

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

The Fab Shoreham

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

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

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

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

We invited the girls over for a party.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh yeah… I almost forgot about The Supremes.

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

So a plan was set in motion…

Jean Terrell and Supremes on Tom Jones TV show 1970

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

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

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

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

And speaking of The Supremes and our adventures…

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

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

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

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

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

 

 

To purchase The Supremes: The Definitive Collection with Stop In The Name Of Love visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2018 – North Shore Publishing

#178 – Sir Duke

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#178 – Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder

 – Motown was everywhere in the 1960’s. If your transistor radio could pick up a Top 40 station, regardless of where you were located, you heard the hits coming out of Detroit scoring big-time on the music charts. Even in the midst of The British Invasion deejays would spin new releases by The Supremes, Temptations and Four Tops as often as they did The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five.

My claim to being a pop music know-it-all and future Classic Rocker didn’t fully gel until Ed Sullivan introduced us to The Beatles on February 9, 1964. But the roots had already been digging in. When I was about nine or ten years old I had a friend who lived across the street. And he had something I didn’t:

A teenage brother.

Per tradition when it comes to teenagers dealing with younger siblings and their immature friends, we as little kids were not allowed to go in his room or touch any of his stuff.

And of course as little kids, that’s exactly what we would do when he wasn’t home.

The 12 year old genius

A magnet for us would be his record player and collection of 45 rpm disks, usually scattered around his bedroom floor. The ones I remember most were Big Bad John by Jimmy Dean (1961) and Fingertips Part 2 by Little Stevie Wonder, released on Motown’s Tamla label in 1963. He was billed as “The 12 Year Old Genius,” which told us he wasn’t a teenager either.

On the few occasions we were caught red-handed in his room and subject to firsthand demonstrations of Big Time Wrestling moves until we could break away and run out of the house screaming for parental intervention, I never thought of using this age gap as a self-defense weapon. Why the heck were little kids banned from this treasure trove of infectious music when the teenager himself was a fan of The 12 Year Old Genius?

I answered that for myself a few years later when as a teenager I ordered my little sister to stay out of my room and never touch my stuff. If these age gap rules weren’t followed, her punishment would be the same Big Time Wrestling moves I had learned the hard way while listening to Big Bad John and Fingertips Part 2.

And in case you’re wondering about the title, the live recording was too long to fit on one side of a 45 rpm vinyl. So like the classic Isley Brothers’ rocker Shout, Fingertips was edited into two sections. Part 1 was actually the A-side of the single. But thanks to Stevie’s hyper-excited close to the live performance and his “Goodbye, goodbye” ending chorus that we hoped would go on forever, deejays played the B-side and that’s the title that hit number one on the music charts.

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As time will do with all of us, we grew older over the years. But unlike with my circle of teenage friends during the mid to late 1960’s, Stevie Wonder was making hit records. He also dropped “Little” from his billing and by the end of the decade he was a mature artist blazing a trail through funk and soul music. I guess that also earned him enough rock ‘n’ roll cred that he flew directly into my realm of fandom via a rock concert. It was during my final year as a teenager when he opened for The Rolling Stones during the legendary Exile On Main Street Tour in July 1972.

This was four years before the release of his mega hit double LP Songs in the Key of Life with the song Sir Duke, but his creativity had already been taking him in that direction. His latest album prior to The Stones’ tour was Music of My Mind and his next single would be Superstition.

We’ll get more into that concert experience in a moment, but first…

Songs in the Key of Life

Sir Duke joined this Dream Song list on August 12. I’ll call it Big Band Funk since it was a tribute to Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong (Satchmo) and others mentioned by name in the song and stands as one of the many highlights from Songs in the Key of Life. But since my vinyl copy is stored in the Classic Rocker Archives and I can’t recall hearing it since my son Paul’s junior high jazz band performed the song as an instrumental during a school program, it funks its way into the subliminal category.

Of course I had been a Stevie fan since Fingertips Part 2, but once he entered the Superstitious era I appreciated his genius even more. It had become a Christmas tradition that I would be gifted with an album. It started with Beatles ’65 in 1964 and Rubber Soul the next year (which I hijacked and started playing a couple weeks before). I remember The Stones’ Let It Bleed made the list, along with George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and The Concert For Bangladesh.

In 1976 it was Songs in the Key of Life. The entire collection of songs, along with Sir Duke made both LP’s mandatory listening throughout the winter.

But now let’s return to the summer of 1972…

A new era

At the time Stevie Wonder seemed to be a strange choice to open shows for The Rolling Stones. With their roots in the blues, it was never a surprise when artists like B.B. King, Muddy Waters or The Ike and Tina Turner Review kicked off the concert experience. But Stevie Wonder didn’t seem that far removed from his 1960’s Motown hits and the once descriptive adjective “Little” before his name.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier Classic Rocker, my pals and I saw the Exile On Main Street Tour at the Akron (Ohio) Rubber Bowl on July 11th. It was outdoor, festival seating – meaning you arrived early to find a good seat and stake claim to it. By the time we got to the outdoor stadium we were relegated to space halfway up in the stands and about a fifty-yard rush to the left side of the stage. Fortunately it was the first concert I had ever been to that had huge screens on both sides of the stage and we had close-up views of everything happening under the spotlights.

Also from our vantage point, we had no problem seeing a lot of what was happening below us on the football field that was jammed packed with fans.

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Keep in mind this was 1972 and things were different. The concert scene had been going through some recent changes…

The screaming teens that had turned Beatles and DC5 appearances into short pop music events had matured into The Woodstock Generation. If you didn’t at least try to look like a hippie with longer hair, bellbottoms and concert t-shirt, you probably looked out of place. Most Stones fans were also old enough to purchase alcohol, (3.2% beer if you were at least 18 in Ohio) and the smell of marijuana wafting through the air was as much a part of the scene as the music.

But that didn’t mean this entire scene was all that acceptable to the older generation.

One of my most vivid memories of this concert happened during Stevie Wonder’s opening set. We had all read about the violence and mayhem that followed The Stones on this tour. There were stories of violence and injury reports at almost every stop and there was no reason why Akron would be different.

Stevie and Mick Exiled on Main Street

Sometime during Stevie’s opening set a large contingent of policemen gathered at the end of the football field facing the stage. We all noticed – and all started watching. Then forming in a long line, they pushed and shoved their way through the crowd like they were zeroing in on a certain group. Again, we were all watching – only this time everyone started booing the cops.

About midfield they stopped and – apparently – tried to drag out a few hippies. We could only speculate it was a drug bust and it took everyone’s attention away from what was happening on stage. We could see it turning into a brawl and fans near the action were throwing bottles and whatever at the cops. I distinctly remember seeing blood on the top of one officer’s bald head.

Eventually the cops retreated. And as far as I remember, there were no arrests – at least on the field during the concert. The fans cheered as the cops withdrew and all eyes and ears went back to Stevie Wonder. And they stayed that way after the sun went down, the stage lights went up and the images of Mick and Keith kicking into Brown Sugar were projected onto the large screens at both sides of the stage.

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Here’s a video of Stevie Wonder performing Sir Duke.

 

To purchase Songs in the Key of Life with Sir Duke visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2018 – North Shore Publishing