Category Archives: Gramercy Park

#189 – Copacabana (At The Copa)

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#189 – Copacabana (At The Copa) by Barry Manilow

 – Flash, glitz, disco dancing, spinning mirror balls and the steady South Beach Brazilian influenced beat churning up the nightlife. And no, I’m not describing the actual Copa nightclub or even Studio 54 in the 1970’s.I’m just guessing what it must have been like visiting Barry Manilow’s house during this high point in his career.

There’s no way The Classic Rocker can knock Barry Manilow.

Okay, he may have crossed the line into more Las Vegas glitch than the serious song writer-singer stereotype he fit into when first grabbing our attention with the hit song Mandy in 1973. But he morphed into a glitzy showbiz entertainer that has awarded him with a longer career than most of the other serious song writer-singer troubadours from that era.

Singer song-writer

And he wasn’t that outrageous at first. At least not compared to some of the other entertainers that were glimmering up their stage presence in the early 1970’s. If you need a reminder, check out videos of Mick Jagger, Elton John and David Bowie during that time.

I rest my case.

In comparison, Manilow has been called more nerdy than cool. But in addition to his musical talents he’s a performer – and his fans love his performances. He was popular enough to host his own network television specials and the songs Mandy, I Write The Songs (that Manilow didn’t write) and a host of his other hits are great examples of mid-1970’s AM radio pop music.

And you know what?

It was obvious he was having fun and didn’t mind to be fun(ny) at the same time. His 1978 hit Copacabana is the perfect example. I honestly was never into the song, but Manilow performing it on television in a puffy shirt is somehow burned into my mind. That’s probably how it wound up on this Dream Song List since it was catchy and memorable. Did I like it? I didn’t dislike it, but it was too far removed from my rock ‘n’ roll playlist to ever own a copy. But you would’ve never known that the morning of July 12th.

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Yeah, I know.

The dedicated rockers hooked on three-chord riffs, heavy metal, power pop and head banging grunge will accuse me of losing my edge. But as often used in my defense, I don’t get to choose what songs make this list. I just report on what’s going through my mind and Copacabana is a subliminal category example of the extreme. I just didn’t know my waking mind was capable of a hot Latino beat so early in the morning.

For all practical purposes I could end this Classic Rocker rambling right now.

I don’t have any specific memories attached to Copacabana other than watching Manilow perform it on television. And as far as the already mentioned song Mandy, one of my college pals had a girlfriend with the same name when it came out in 1973. He acted like it was written for her, but as guys we ignored his ramblings and wrote him off as any competition for the single girls.

Then again, The Classic Rocker has never been called practical, so this rambling will continue…

Barry and his Bette

Barry Manilow is from New York City. I remember reading his bio somewhere when he first hit the music charts and learned he wrote commercial jingles (for State Farm Insurance and McDonalds to name only two). He came up as a singer-songwriter in the local club scene and was the piano player and musical director for Bette Midler. By the time I moved to NYC in the late ’70s he was headlining tours and making television specials.

So I never ran into him. But I did meet a close connection – his mother.

Edna Manilow lived in my neighborhood and occasionally in the late ’70s or early ’80s would stop by the restaurant I managed for a glass or two of wine. Since Barry is older than me, his mom was… well, a lot older. She was pleasant and talkative, but more with the older business crowd that would frequent the place after work and treat me more like a kid than a manager. But since I was still in my 20’s it was a stereotype I couldn’t break away from.

Barry and his mom

They all knew Edna was Barry’s mom and lived in his apartment not far from Gramercy Park. I’ll guess it had to be somewhere in the upper East 20’s (streets) on either 2nd or 3rd Avenue. One afternoon she took her new friends (not including me) to see the apartment. When they returned I was told about all of Barry’s stuff that was still there including clothes, albums and photos. I’m sure they also mentioned a piano, but no spinning mirror balls.

Okay, that’s about it. Well… except for this…

After only a couple months of being around, Edna left the neighborhood. I don’t recall any specific conversation on where she was moving, but the next time there was a Barry Manilow special on television (I’m guessing the early ’80s) we had it on in the restaurant. Again, I don’t recall if someone had advance notice, but there was an opening scene that included Edna with Barry. It was actually pretty cool and it looked like she was having a blast. I’m sure she enjoyed her son’s celebrity status and the one thing I remember during the short time she was part of our neighborhood scene, she was very proud of him.

And finally, that’s really it. Well… except for this…

Here’s the video that must have burned Copacabana into my mind – puffy shirt and all.

To purchase Ultimate Manilow with his greatest hits including Copacabana, I Write The Songs and Mandy visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

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

 

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#191 – While You See A Chance

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#191 – While You See A Chance by Steve Winwood

Steve Winwood

– Even though this song carries very distinct memories, I couldn’t remember exactly to what year they were sending me back. So like all dedicated researchers (rememberers?) I checked out the song facts online and am a bit amazed at how the timeline for this one played out from my personal point of view.

If you’ve followed any of these Classic Rocker ramblings, you’ll already know it’s not just about “song facts.” Yeah, the artist and year are important. But like anyone else that can hear a song and be swept back to a certain moment in our lives, each one is like a movie soundtrack.

It’s what was playing while our scenes were playing out.

Arc of a Diver

While You See A Chance was the hit song from Steve Winwood’s album, Arc of a Diver. I already knew that. What I didn’t know was the release date of the LP was December 31, 1980 and the song hit its highest peak at No. 7 on U.S. charts in April 1981. That’s a four month episode in my personal timeline made up of numerous scenes. And the first scene I was playing out in real life that particular New Year’s Eve could best be titled:

While You See A Chance

I’m sure this has been mentioned in past ramblings, but along with my cronies in New York City we had started calling New Year’s Eve amateur night. It’s like St. Patrick’s Day when normally laid-back people or ones that don’t even go out that much think it’s The Night to party like a rock star. Expectations for a good time are abnormally high, which is also true with “special event” overpriced cover charges promising free midnight Champagne toasts, cardboard hats, plastic Hawaiian leis and noisemakers. Bars and streets are packed (those Times Square celebrants have to go somewhere after the NYE ball drops) and the craziness can go on for hours after the usual 4 am closing times with a “special holiday” liquor license.

Okay, I’ve had my share of good ones, but also a few duds sprinkled in where expectations didn’t match up to what actually played out. But that doesn’t mean I’m a “bah-humbug” kind’a guy who doesn’t enjoy a good holiday. But when it came to amateur nights, we had learned through experience to use Other Nights to party like rock stars.

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By 1980 I knew working in a New York City club on New Year’s Eve was a lot more fun and profitable than making expensive reservations at someplace I’d never normally go. So on this night I didn’t mind bartending in our local Gramercy Park hangout where I was also the manager. That’s where my friends were planning to be at midnight anyway, and for the ones that fell under the spell of high cover charges and expectations, I knew they’d also be there hours before last call.

So on the release date of Arc of a Diver, I was working behind the bar when a group of about six girls walked in. Obviously they were new to the neighborhood because I hadn’t seen them before. And obviously they were cute because my guy friends all took notice. I can still see their eyes looking up at the girls with renewed expectations for this New Year’s Eve.

Something like this…

One beautiful girl with long blonde hair caught my attention more than the others. The place was loud and crowded, but we could still talk while I poured drinks and played cheerleader by keeping classic rock on the jukebox at high volume and the Times Square ball drop on television. It turned out the girls were flight attendants for United Airlines (actually still called stewardesses at the time) and were newly based in New York. They lived in a “crash pad” a couple blocks away, which meant there were about ten girls sharing the rent on an apartment, but only a few would be living there at the same time while the others were flying around the country.

While You See A Chance may not have been playing on the jukebox at the time, but it’s the soundtrack in my mind’s picture. I flirted with the blonde, she flirted back and before New Year’s Eve fizzled out for the amateurs, I had taken a chance and we had a dinner date for the next night. And though I’ve been known to mention names as The Classic Rocker, I’ll keep this private. She was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known and in no way should anyone assume she was “easy” because we met in a loud and crazy bar and started dating the next night. She just happened to walk in with friends that also wanted to do something besides sit in a crash pad on New Year’s Eve. We hit it off, had a lot of respect for each other, laughed a lot and became a close couple.

So how did the rest of this personal movie episode play out with a Steve Winwood soundtrack? Here are a few memorable titles and scenes from that winter into spring 1981…

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The Year of the Cat

We spent one winter Saturday afternoon shopping and laughing (as we did a lot) around West 34th Street at Macy’s and Herald Square. With a load of packages we decided to take a taxi back to our neighborhood with a quick stop at another couple’s apartment to feed their cat. They were on vacation and unwisely put me in charge of caring for their feline. In digging around my pocket for cash purchases or to pay the cabbie, I had lost their apartment key. Afraid the cat wouldn’t last until our friends returned, I shelled out $125 for a locksmith to let us in. When my friends returned a day or two later they were at first shocked their key didn’t work (I had left a note!) followed by more shock I had paid that much money. That’s when I learned cats would be okay for a few days when they have lots of food, water and a litter box. This cat had all three. Lesson learned the hard way.

Playboy After Dark

Yeah, this was her…

It had also been only a year before when Playboy Magazine came out with an issue featuring flight attendants (stews!) in a nude layout. My girlfriend was not the type to bare all – but one of her roommates in the crash pad was. And to make this scene even better, she was the magazine’s covergirl and centerfold for that month.

Of course my guy friends were wild over this.

If any collectors still have the magazine you can look up her name. But since I’m not into name-dropping during this verbal time capsule, I’ll just say she was also nice, into establishing a modeling career and gave me all the Playboy joke books the company had sent her. Every once in awhile she joined us for drinks and appetizers at the bar-restaurant and yeah, I can still see my friends eyes looking up with high expectations whenever we walked in together.

Ha!!

In fact, one of our older friends carried that issue of Playboy with him for months hoping he’d see us and get her autograph. What made that extremely funny was every time she was with us, he would walk in immediately after she’d left. It was good for a lot of laughs telling him he had just missed her again… and again… and again…

The End

And in the end…

Somewhere around four or five months after our relationship started, it ended. I won’t go into any details, except being 20-somethings in NYC with crazy schedules, hours and lifestyles came into play. But I will say it happened just as quickly as our first meeting and taking a chance on a first date. We both felt bad, but followed our own timelines by going separate ways.

But I always remember this life’s episode as being way above any expectations I could’ve ever had for that New Year’s Eve and the months that followed. When You See A Chance is the soundtrack that brings it all back. It joined this Dream Song List on June 30th and since I don’t own a copy anymore and hadn’t heard it in forever, it goes into the subliminal category. I’ll also throw in a fun category for this one.

But wait…

Is there an alternate ending or coda to this story? Well, I did mention feeling amazed at how While You See A Chance played out on my personal timeline during this life’s episode…

Coda

It was around the end of this 1981 love story when another good friend asked if I wanted her vinyl copy of Arc of a Diver. She was a true music fan who also happened to have a surplus of money. If she felt an album had been overplayed and a new one was necessary for the stereo needle to pick up all the sounds imbedded in every groove, she would simply give away the used one and upgrade to new.

I happened to be the beneficiary of Steve Winwood’s latest hit record.

I had gained a new album but lost a close friend at the same time. Not a good trade-off by any means. But in the long run, it was the soundtrack to signal the end of another scene and the beginning of more to follow.

Here’s a video of Steve Winwood performing While You See A Chance. A cool fact from the recording? Steve wrote the song, sang, produced and played all the instruments. That’s a lot of talent to share…

To purchase Arc of a Diver with While You See A Chance visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

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

#194 – You’ve Got A Friend

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#194 – You’ve Got A Friend by Carole King

 – I only have one Carole King story, but I think it’s pretty cool…

Sometime between 1986 and ’89 there was a country-western themed bar/concert club in New York City. It was somewhere in the upper East 20’s and either on Second or Third Avenue. I want to say it was called the Buffalo Roadhouse, but I can’t be sure. After an internet search I found a few places with the same name, but none seem to have once been located in that neighborhood. But rather than dwell on this, the one thing I’m positive about is that it was a short walk north from where I lived in Gramercy Park.

The place was one of the last Manhattan hold-outs from the Urban Cowboy fad that ran through the country during the early 1980’s thanks to the movie of the same name. That may not have been unusual for anywhere west of the Hudson River, but in New York City it represented another world. Where Studio 54, CBGB’s and the Mudd Club were the hot spots blasting out disco, punk or rock, now urbanites thought it was hip to line dance in cowboy boots, jeans and Stetsons, and actually attempt to ride mechanical bulls. But only after a few drinks of course.

One other fact I’m positive about is that I’ve never been on a mechanical bull in my life. The NY Subway was thrilling and untamed enough for my Urban Cowboy fix.

On the streets of Manhattan?

I remember the bar because it wasn’t a bad place to hang out and drew a big crowd on the weekends. But being seasoned New Yorkers, my crowd avoided the weekend rush and usually hit the cool places on off-nights. This particular memory goes back to a Sunday night.

The bar was big and what set it apart from the other cowboy wannabe establishments was a GIANT full-sized stuffed Buffalo that stood over the bar. On our first visit it was so high over the liquor shelves that we never even noticed it for the first hour or two. Then someone glanced up and said, “Look-it that!” As an animal lover and peacenik it definitely was the type of decoration that today would cause me to find fun in a different location. But with that seasoned late 1980’s New York mentality we had learned if you wanted to play pretend cowboy you had to hang out with the real cowboy trophies. And this was the closest we’d ever get to a real cowboy bar, even though the hired hands serving drinks and waiting tables spoke with New York accents.

In a separate large room behind the bar was a cowboy style night club with a wooden stage for live bands. There were also long wooden tables, wooden chairs, wooden walls and wooden “fences” leading to the bathrooms. The only thing I remember not being wooden were the toilets, which thankfully continued the New York trend for porcelain.

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On this Sunday night there was a cowboy band on stage made up of young guys who might have once been rockers, but were now playing electric guitars that amplified more of a “twang” than anything resembling a Keith Richards riff. Don’t get me wrong because they weren’t bad. In fact, with hindsight it’s possible to see they might have been a bit ahead of the coming trend that saw Garth Brooks and others really rock up the country genre during the 1990’s.

I was seated at a wooden table with a certain blonde who was my steady at the time, along with a few others from our usual entourage. I don’t recall having a problem carrying on a conversation over the live performance, but it was a show rather than just background music so we paid attention. At one point the singer announced their “manager” was in the audience and invited her up to sing a few songs.

The manager turned out to be Carole King.

A cool “chain” of events…

Now, I honestly don’t know if Carole King ever really “managed” a band. I’ve read her book, A Natural Woman: A Memoir, and never noticed this career position mentioned anywhere during her life story. So either it was not worth noting, forgotten, or possibly an inside joke among the musicians with Carole being more of a friend or supporter. The bottom line is it doesn’t matter. While we sat there sipping cold ones through longneck bottles, the legendary singer-songwriter walked on stage and sang a few songs with the band.

Of course we all recognized her from photos and television appearances. But with more honesty, I didn’t recognize the songs until the last one they performed, which was the classic Chains written by King and her former songwriting partner and husband, Gerry Goffin. I knew it because The Beatles covered Chains on their first album, Introducing The Beatles (in the U.S.) or Please Please Me (in the UK).

So this was a big deal.

I still remember her curly hair bouncing up and down as she bounced around on stage singing. And yeah (yeah, yeah) I’m sure we all sang along. When she finished, King sat down at a table with her entourage and as seasoned New Yorker’s we went back to our conversations.

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End of story? Yeah, but like I said it was pretty cool.

As for our Dream Song, King didn’t perform You’ve Got A Friend that night, but my waking mind was performing it on the morning of June 17th. My notes say I hadn’t heard it in awhile, which I find hard to believe because it’s one of the most played songs on my digital playlist. So even though a claim can be made it’s chained to my memory (apologies for a bad pun) we’ll add this one to the subliminal category and leave it at that.

They’ve got a friend

King’s version wasn’t the first I’d heard. That scoop goes to James Taylor who also released the song as a single in the spring of 1971 and scored the most radio airplay. Both were recorded with the same musicians, including King on piano and Taylor on acoustic guitar.

And for a little more honesty, I really didn’t care for the song when it first came out. The acoustic troubadour ballad singers were a little too laid-back for my personal tastes after the earlier excitement of Crosby Stills Nash & Young and John Lennon’s Working Class Hero. By ’71 I was ready to rock again with The Who, Led Zeppelin, Sly & The Family Stone, Rod Stewart and The Faces, and other artists that knew what a volume nob on an amplifier was meant for.

The biggest influence that year had to be The Rolling Stones who were in the midst of a “golden era” that blasted us with Gimme Shelter and Brown Sugar.

So it wasn’t until many years later I finally calmed down and listened to Carole King’s 1971 album, Tapestry. And the song that caught my attention most was You’ve Got A Friend. It may not be the only reason why the Broadway show based on King’s music is titled Beautiful, but that description certainly fits.

Chains was the memorable choice for a Manhattan country bar that Sunday night. But if she had sat down at the piano and given us You’ve Got A Friend, I’m sure there would’ve been more than a few urban cowboys and cowgirls putting down their longnecks to sing along. And the mechanical bull could’ve waited until she finished.

As mentioned, it’s a beautiful song. And for a beautiful rendition by Carole King, check out this video.

 

To purchase Carole King’s classic LP Tapestry with You’ve Got A Friend, visit Amazon.com.

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

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