Category Archives: Gramercy Park

#144 – Ding Dong, Ding Dong

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#144 – Ding Dong, Ding Dong by George Harrison

George Harrison

For a Classic Rocker like myself, this song has become more of a New Year’s tradition than the previous chart-topper of New Year’s tradition songs, Auld Lang Syne. That one was geared for our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Then again, this George Harrison singalong probably already has that same reputation with generations younger than the boomers.

It’s funny how age will do that. And it’s a guarantee – like turning the pages on a calendar.

Even though I remember reading Harrison wrote this to be a New Year’s “ring out the old, ring in the new” celebration song, I don’t quite remember getting that message when it was included on the Dark Horse album that came out in December 1974. There had been a lot of excitement the month before over Harrison’s (and any Beatle) first solo tour of North America and the the LP’s first single, also called Dark Horse. Ding Dong, Ding Dong seemed to be a hidden gem only heard after purchasing the album.

In other words, I don’t remember this being a radio hit. At least not during the 1974 holiday season.

Harrisongs in concert

I purchased the Dark Horse LP when it was released. But the bigger excitement was scoring tickets to one of Harrison’s two concerts at Richfield Coliseum (Cleveland, Ohio) that was supposed to take place on December 2, 1974. I say supposed because both shows were cancelled due to a major snowstorm. They were never rescheduled – but that’s not even the worst part of this sad story…

On the day of the show, my girlfriend and I had at least a two-hour drive from our college to the Coliseum. And that would be with no snow covering the highways and back roads. We listened to radio updates all morning with deejays reporting roads were almost impassable, but the concerts had not been cancelled. Harrison would be on stage whether we were there or not.

So we took off in my Chevy Vega station wagon, which was great for hauling stuff to college, but not exactly known as an all-weather vehicle. An hour into our drive we were still only about ten miles from campus, but the radio reports were egging us on. Finally, the announcement came.

Harrison couldn’t get to Cleveland and shows were officially cancelled.

Making a U-turn on a snowy and slippery road, my trusty Vega slid into a ditch. In the days when cell phones were nothing more than a space age wristband in a Dick Tracy cartoon, we sat and waited until a tow truck – obviously making emergency runs up and down the highway – stopped and pulled us out. We eventually made it back to campus in time to declare our concert night would now be transformed into a frat party night.

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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

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The Beatles In Cleveland:

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

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Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

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

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And if it adds to the story, this was the only time in my life I had grown a beard. I doubt it looked good at all, but it was 1974 which was an era stuck post-Woodstock and pre-disco. With that excuse in mind, a beard seemed like a good fashion statement at the time – right up there with leisure suits and platform shoes.

So, to “protest” (yes, that’s the term I used after only one or two beers) the delay in cancelling the concert, I shaved the beard off that night. I’ve never had one since.

What I have had since are plenty of Dream Songs and this one joined the list on July 17th. Yeah, I know – far from New Year’s Eve, but I have no control over the just-waking mind. I sometimes wonder if I even have any control over an already-awakened mind, but that’s another mental concept I’ll need to drag from my personal ditch in the future.

But I am conscious enough to admit I own a copy of Ding Dong, Ding Dong and adhere to no seasonal restrictions when adding it to a digital playlist. In other words, I had just heard the song, so it enters this Dream Song List in the recently heard category.

Since there have been references to New Year’s Eve in this Classic Rocker rambling, it seems only fair there should be a corresponding memory. Okay, here’s one…

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About two and a half decades following the release of Dark Horse and Ding Dong, Ding Dong I was managing the top comedy club in New York City. Based in the West Side Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, we were only a couple blocks from Times Square where – if you know anything about New Year’s Eve in Manhattan – thousands of partying tourists gather to watch the ball drop at midnight.

A Beatle at the NYC Improv

Dick Clark and a whole slew of celebrities make it a celebration while nightclubs, like The Improv comedy club where I had been hired to maintain some type of control, were packed with sold-out audiences.

I won’t mince any words in saying I view New Year’s Eve as “amateur night.” I know you’ve heard the term and I won’t take any credit for making it up. I just lived it too often and learned through experience I’d rather work in a nightclub then try to live up to everyone’s party expectations. I always had just as much fun (probably more) and was paid to do it.

After this particular New Year’s Eve 3-show comedy club extravaganza, I locked the front door and looked forward to heading downtown to my Gramercy Park neighborhood for late night hanging out with friends. In NYC a special holiday license allowed bars to stay open until 8 am on New Year’s and my fellow working pals would just be getting together a few hours before that. So we would have plenty of time to ring in the year at our local watering hole.

Along with my girlfriend (a different one from above) and a best pal I had invited to be my guests for the late comedy show, we stood on the corner of West 44th Street and 9th Avenue looking for a taxi. BUT since the Times Square thousands were also looking for rides and carried a well-earned, decades-old reputation for being more than a little inebriated after hours of partying in the streets, taxis were not picking up anyone.

As each red light turned green, countless cabs drove past us with their “Not In Service” lights turned on.

“Yo taxi!!”

It looked like we were going to be in for a long night / early morning wait for a miracle cab. It was either that or riding a packed subway with booze-saturated amateurs or making a long cold walk downtown. None of these choices would be a great way to kick off a New Year.

Then my adopted New York street smarts took over…

During the umpteenth red light with mobs of tourists filling the streets with the same objective, I went for broke. I ran out into the intersection and slapped a twenty dollar bill on the windshield of an off-duty taxi. I yelled through the window at the driver, “This is yours on top of the fare AND a tip!

He looked at me and said, “Get in.

I jumped in the back with my two companions and laughed as we drove off, leaving everyone without New York street smarts behind. We made it downtown and hooked up with more friends in plenty of time for our own New Year’s celebration and great advice for anyone desperate to find a taxi in an overcrowded city.

Ding Dong, Ding Dong. The lyrics, “Ring out the old, ring in the new” is the message in this song. But sometimes old traditions make a lot of sense. In this case the age-old advice simple:

Money talks.

Here is the first music video George Harrison ever made for one of his single records:

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To purchase the Dark Horse LP with Ding Dong, Ding Dong by George Harrison, visit Amazon.com

Have a comment? Please use the form below. Thanks – and keep rockin’!

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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 2021 – North Shore Publishing

#145 – Footloose

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#145 – Footloose by Kenny Loggins

 – I couldn’t even imagine what my favorite memory about this song would be when it came out in 1984. Let’s just start by saying I was pleasantly blindsided by Footloose, and it only took a little over three decades for it to happen.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Movie fans will know Footloose was the title song for the 1984 Kevin Bacon star-maker movie of the same name. Okay, I know he earned a lot of notice for supporting roles in Animal House and Diner, but this is the one that put him on posters hung in teenaged girls’ bedrooms and convinced a lot of shy guy teens that dancing could be a way to get noticed by those girls. For the boomer generation it would be comparable to the beach party movies of the 1960’s. The main difference was the costume designers were inspired by Stetsons, jeans and boots, rather than bleached hair, bikinis and baggies (for you surfer dudes).

He’s a dancing machine!

But Footloose wasn’t just a hit for the rural teenage crowd. I remember seeing it with my girlfriend at a theater in New York City and enjoying the music and energy. It wasn’t a classic like Animal House and Diner, but it was a fun night out. There’s also a good chance we went line dancing in an urban club afterwards.

The song by 80’s hit-maker Kenny Loggins was on every jukebox in New York City during the winter of 1984. And if no one sacrificed a quarter to play it, chances were good you’d still hear it. Since MTV was actually a music video station at the time, television sets hanging over every bar would rely on the channel for a background soundtrack. Since the Footloose music video was in heavy rotation, you could look up once or twice every hour to view clips of Loggins lip-syncing and Bacon boot scootin’.

The song scooted through my mind on the morning of January 27. I didn’t own a copy at that time even though I do know, thanks to the explanation why coming shortly. But I couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard it, so this 80’s dream-maker joins the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

Looking back three decades, I always felt January in NYC was the dreariest time of year. I loved the holiday decorations that filled the city with lights and a festive mood through December and until after the New Year’s celebrations, but January is when they all came down. Along with everybody’s celebratory spirits.

Christmas in the city.

Okay, that’s not true because there was always something exciting to do in the city. It just seemed good to write that to raise the dramatic effect for my following story.

So, to continue, when the Christmas lights came down it signaled the start of a long cold wait until spring.

I was never a fan of that mood shift and did my best to prolong the season and avoid the dreary. I’m pretty sure my best effort was during the winter of Footloose. At the time I was managing and bartending at a cozy restaurant in Gramercy Park. And since I had some, very slight control over the place, I told the staff to leave the Christmas lights up a little longer than usual.

In fact, if I had my way Christmas lights would be a year round decorative mainstay.

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Have you finished your holiday shopping?

Give them 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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When you think about it, they pretty much are when you visit tropical island resorts – whether in the tropics or Manhattan – or even as summer lighting at many outdoor restaurants today. Wish I could take credit for that, but I doubt our place in Gramercy Park would qualify as an inspiration. Plus my request didn’t last as long as I wanted. When the owners were calling the shots during one of my days off, I came back to work to find the only exciting light came from MTV videos on the television over the bar. The decorations had been packed away in the restaurant’s basement for another year.

But that didn’t prevent me from making my point at home.

We had celebrated Christmas with a real tree in my apartment on East 22nd Street. After it had dried out enough to be declared a fire hazard, we took off the lights and decorations and moved it outside onto my small balcony. I felt it gave us a forest view rather than an urban view when looking out of the window. Plus, it looked great after a snowfall. Another bonus was as a guaranteed conversation starter if we had guests or when any of my friends felt like shouting three floors up from the sidewalk with jokes about my outdoor decorating skills.

A little too late

That particular Christmas tree lasted until May when it became too obvious enough was enough. Spring had sprung in the city and it was time to sweep off the dried needles and get the hibachi and a couple of chairs ready for summer.

It was time for the disposal…

Manhattan bars and restaurants could stay open until 4 am, which is when my shift would start to end. I say “start” because that was when the regular customers had to leave. I would need to close up, count the money and clean up (a bit anyway), while making sure I kept a few friends’ glasses full, so I’d have late-night company. It was a cheap way to avoid being in a dark Midtown Manhattan bar alone. On this particular night, my girlfriend was part of this posse since we still had another job to do later.

We knew garbage pickup was that morning and we needed to have our final Christmas relic off the balcony and on the curb.

We walked up to 22nd Street and she waited on the sidewalk while I took the elevator upstairs. I opened the sliding door to our balcony, grabbed the tree (if I forgot to tell you it was large – it was), and dangled it over the metal railing. I waited for her to give me the “okay” sign and when she signaled no one else was in sight, I let it go.

The tree fell three floors and hit the sidewalk with a soft explosion of dried pine needles.

I took the elevation down and dragged it to the curb where we left it resting on top of the building’s garbage pile. Then laughed for a few weeks imaging the faces on the pickup crew. They had to be at least a bit confused wondering what kind of misfits would wait until May to throw out their Christmas tree.

Ho, ho, ho!

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Okay, fast forward three decades.

The movie Footloose was turned into a Broadway musical in 1998. It’s gone on to be a favorite production in theaters around the world. In 2016 it was being produced as an Equity (that’s the actor’s union and a big deal) show in a large outdoor venue near us. And as luck would have it, our son Paul was cast as Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon’s role). I’m sure my wife Dancin’ Deb and I weren’t there for every show, but we came pretty close. We also dragged as many family and friends as possible to watch his star-making, and Equity-card earning performance.

And as chance would have it, Kevin Bacon and his band The Bacon Brothers had a gig one evening just a few miles away. No, don’t get your hopes up for a BIG surprise because he didn’t make an appearance. Of course, I still can’t figure out why since I sent him a personal invitation via Twitter to check out the new kid who was getting the dancing ban lifted in Bomont, Texas. If you know the movie or the show, you know what I’m referring to. I’m also sure Bacon didn’t know me, but since The Classic Rocker is so…

Okay. On second thought, maybe he didn’t see the tweet.

The bottom line is as an over-enthusiastic and over-proud stage dad, The Classic Rocker not only owns a copy of the song Footloose, but also the entire Broadway show soundtrack. And as a small admission of guilt that only those of you reading this far will know, my playlist includes our son’s live performance. It’s lucky we have recording devices small enough to fit in a dad’s pocket and not noticeable to theater ushers.

Unlike a Christmas tree on a New York City apartment balcony in May.

For my own entertainment purposes, I’ll throw in an extra video. Below is the Kenny Loggins / Kevin Bacon 1984 MTV mainstay. Following that, I hope you’ll stick around long enough to enjoy an energetic curtain call as Paul makes his bow memorable during his reign as Ren more than three decades later. Yep, just call me an over-enthusiastic and over-proud stage dad.

Here’s a video of Kids Gone Wild from the movie Footloose. Oh yeah, vocals by Kenny Loggins:

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And for an energetic curtain call, here’s son Paul as Ren McCormack about three decades later:

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To purchase the movie soundtrack with Footloose by Kenny Loggins, visit Amazon.com

Have a comment? Please use the form below. Thanks – and keep rockin’!

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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