Category Archives: pop music

#187 – Saturday In The Park

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#187 – Saturday In The Park by Chicago

– I’m using an absence of total recall to put the pieces of this puzzle together. It’s not pretty since it’s a tale involving both youth and… well, the stupidity that comes with youth. Then again, when many of us look back at our teenage years, there’s a good chance a lot of growing up experiences fit those adjectives. In many ways, that’s what growing up is all about.

This trek into the past was stirred by the release date of Saturday In The Park. I couldn’t find a definitive date other than sometime in the month of July 1972. But the exact date doesn’t matter since boomers will remember songs were premiered on AM radio in advance of release date. Deejays would hype their insider reputations by announcing exclusive broadcasts of potential hit songs before they were available in stores. The excitement would build and listeners couldn’t wait to hit their local record bins to buy a song they had to have after days or even weeks of only being able to hear it on the radio.

Chicago 2

So regardless of the exact release date, it’s a good assumption that even before we were into the month of July that year, Saturday In The Park was in heavy rotation on our car radios. And though I don’t have a specific memory relating to this song, I recall when it was Chicago’s latest hit – which puts us into the summer of ’72. This was also my last summer as a teenager and making experiences that overwhelmingly fit the above dumb and dumber related adjectives.

The mental journey this song takes me on is a road trip. And based on that memory, it would take a 19-year old road warrior to pull off this type of adventure and not be worse for wear and tear. If I was to do this today… well, with age comes wisdom. Maybe I could, but I know enough to not even try.

The first memory exercise comes with placing dates and certain events. In looking at a calendar from 1972 and exactly where I was on specific days, I’m more than dumbfounded my good friend Gary and I even had time to put this adventure together. On Monday, July 3rd a bunch of us were at The Akron (Ohio) Rubber Bowl for an outdoor concert by Rod Stewart & Faces with Badfinger. Then eight days later on July 11th we were at the same stadium for The Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street Tour.

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In between The Faces and The Stones, we made a teenaged road warrior trip

Roughing It

Starting from the shores of Lake Erie west of Cleveland, we drove Gary’s hatchback car to visit our best pal Tim in Albany, New York. This is what we were calling a camping trip because Gary had purchased some type of tent contraption that fit over the back of his car when the hatchback was in the up position. The seats would fold down and the car would have enough room for our sleeping bags. It was easy, fast to set up and for teenagers, very cool.

Oh, did I forget about the stupidity part? That’s coming up…

In 1972 the legal drinking age was 18. In our home state of Ohio, that meant we could buy beer containing a lower 3.2% alcohol. But in New York you could buy anything, including high-potent booze that could make remembrances of stupidity impossible the next day.

Tim had moved with his family to Albany shortly after high school graduation. The three of us couldn’t get together as often, so the goal was to do a quick overnight visit before Gary and I made a sharp right on the highways and headed south to Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And since we were in New York State, we thought (stupidly) it was a good place to fill up our beer cooler with stock more potent than the 3.2% we were only allowed to buy in Ohio.

This is the stuff!

While roaming through a beverage store pretending we were smarter than we really were, Tim pointed out a high-potent local beer called Maximus Super. I just looked it up online and the alcohol content is 8.9%.

We were a long way from Ohio.

Tim told us about polishing off a six-pack before a Humble Pie concert earlier that summer. He claimed to have finished the last one just as the band came on stage, then remembers nothing else until waking up in the backseat of the car as his friends were dropping him off at home. He claimed it was impossible to drink that much of the brew without passing out. Using the full mental power of a 19-year old college student and frat boy, I accepted the challenge and grabbed a six-pack for our trip south.

Our first night in Virginia Beach was spent at a place call the Cherry Motel. I remember this detail because of a photo taken next to the pool with the sign in the background. We did tourist stuff by visiting Colonial Williamsburg and Roanoke Island. Our next stop was Nags Head, North Carolina where we set up the car as our tent in a camp ground surrounded by sand dunes.

This was also a very cool destination.

I still have total recall of buying a green t-shirt that said “Peabody’s” that I wore for years, until it finally just fell apart. We also hit a local seafood restaurant where a staff of very cute waitresses served us platters of crab legs (mostly free because I’m guessing they also considered Gary and I were cute) while we went through pitchers of low-potent draft beer.

During one of our sand dune camping days we hit the beach and made plans to hit the town for another night in another seafood restaurant. But before we set out on that adventure, we sat down at a picnic table near our car-tent to have a few beers out of the cooler. I decided that was a good time to take the Maximus Super challenge.

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This is what I remember specifically, because I’ve told this part of the story many times since. I wish I had told it more as a warning for other mentally embarrassed 19-year olds, but it’s mainly been as a confession of stupidity worthy of a few laughs at my expense.

After a couple hours of sunshine, laughs and current Top 40 hits from a portable AM radio – and I’m assuming Saturday In The Park was on the playlist – I finished the sixth and final can of this Maximus brew. I remember standing on the picnic table declaring our friend Tim was a “wimp” and…

The next thing I remember is the bright morning sunshine waking me up.

I was in my sleeping bag, but under the picnic table instead of in the back of our car-tent where Gary was sound asleep. I staggered over, woke him up and asked what the heck had happened. It turned out I was the wimp. After making my tabletop declaration, I was no more coherent than Tim had been during Humble Pie and quickly made my mental and physical exit into the sand under the table. Gary ditched me to go out for something to eat. When he returned he tossed me my sleeping bag and left me to sleep it off in the sand for my recovery process.

As for my learning process, I won’t confess to being an angel because of this incident. But I will admit the rest of this trip was dry as we headed up the coast to New York City for a quick visit with my cousin, one more overnight in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and back in time for a July 11th date with The Rolling Stones in Akron.

1970’s Maximus Offer

Saturday In The Park? I won’t use that song as a soundtrack to describe my road warrior episode since it was fast, furious and along with a brief lack of memory, anything but a calm and simple walk in the park. But on the morning of July 17th when it joined this Dream Song List in the hasn’t-been-heard-in-a-long-time subliminal category, it jump-started my thoughts back to that summer of ’72. The concerts, the friends and the road trip were great. And as for that one night in Nags Head… well, it’s probably best not to be remembered.

But wait. Did this youthful episode of stupidity end my relationship with Maximus Super? Yes – to be specific, it did. But not with the beer’s source.

A dozen years later I visited the Matt Brewing Company in Utica, New York where this brew is brewed. Utica was the hometown of my steady girlfriend of that moment and her pre-NYC job had been as a tour guide and model for the brewery. She gave me the tour and a few extra sample tastes of different beers.

With total recall I’m proud to say I passed on anything that might have had the word Maximus in the name or the alcohol potency to black out an entire Humble Pie concert or a night on a sand dune. So let’s just say… lesson learned (the hard way!).

Comment? Please use the contact form below.

Thanks for reading – and keep rockin’!!

Here’s a video of Saturday In The Park by Chicago – beer not included

 

 

To purchase Chicago’s Greatest Hits with Saturday In The Park 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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#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’!!

 

#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’!!

#192 – Sweet Caroline

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#192 – Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond

 – There are a few pop culture bandwagons I’ve been happy to miss. I’ve never owned a pet rock; could care less if anyone ever solves a Rubik’s Cube, and was never into the cult of Neil Diamond.

Now don’t get me wrong. I get it for the legions of fans who are.

Diamond has sold multi-millions of records, is one of the top pop songwriters of all time and his concerts still sell out. He’s also been inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Songwriters Hall of Fame.

I get it.

I also loved the dedication and humor sent his way in the film Saving Silverman and the characters’ tribute band, Diamonds in the Rough. Neil made a cameo appearance, which definitely made him a cool guy in my mind. And way back in 1966 I loved Cherry Cherry and was thoroughly impressed when I learned he had written the classic I’m a Believer for The Monkees.

But when it came to my personal tastes in 1969, Neil and Sweet Caroline were nowhere to be found. The music scene was splitting off into different extremes ranging from Woodstock rockers (Classic Rocker preferred) to bubble gum schlockers (Classic Rocker avoidance). Diamond didn’t seem to fit into either category. To my ears, his songs were aimed for a crowd that would now be called Adult Contemporary and not played on the FM rock stations I preferred.

But as I’ve written before, not too many cars in 1969 were equipped with FM radios. And since my pals and I were sixteen years old with newly earned driver’s licenses, AM Top 40 was still our cruisin’ music and we could only hear the current pop chart hits.

Not so sweet memories

One of the songs we heard constantly over our car radios in the fall of 1969 was Sweet Caroline. It definitely has a catchy tune, which seems to be a requisite to land on this Dream Song List, and has obviously stayed with me. Since I’ve never owned a copy and can’t remember the last time I’ve heard it, waking up with this tune running through my head on the morning of June 28th definitely places it into the subliminal category.

And yes, it brings back memories. But they’re not the best…

I was one of the younger members of my high school class and almost all my friends had been driving for months before I was even old enough for a temporary license. That meant I spent a lot of time hanging out at home waiting for rides. Fortunately, my best pal Kevin was as psyched as most sixteen year olds about driving and could always be relied on to be my chauffeur.

Cruisin’ around together gave us plenty of time to talk about a lot of stuff, including who was (or in my case, who would be) the better driver. We even made a bet which one would be the first to have an accident. Yeah, it’s the kind of stuff sixteen year olds would talk about, but at least we were cool enough not to bet on ourselves.

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When I finally scored my driver’s license we were two weeks into August 1969. That made life very different, even though I was still working the same job I’d had since turning ten years old. Don’t worry; we’re not dealing with unlawful child labor when I say that. My job was the chief dishwasher, bread slicer and floor sweeper at our family bakery. As baby boomers will know, parents and grandparents were allowed to put the kids to work so we could pay for our own record collections. For me a was a good deal because while the other kids were sleeping in or watching Saturday morning cartoons, I was collecting a pay envelope and peddling off on my bike to buy the latest Top 40 vinyl releases.

So on a Wednesday morning about two weeks into August 1969, my dad asked me to take my mom’s car to pick up a vacuum cleaner from a local repair shop and drop it off at home. I not only looked at the opportunity as a break from shoving baking pans into an overheated washer, but also a chance to drive.

I was psyched, but you already know what’s coming… right?

I was almost home when I thought I saw one of my younger neighborhood pals walking along the sidewalk. What could be cooler than a “older” sixteen year old pulling up and offering him a ride? Yeah, I thought so too – but when I looked out the passenger window it wasn’t him.

Too bad I wasn’t looking at the road instead.

This was a residential section, so fortunately I wasn’t going more than 25-30 mph. But even at that non-freeway snail’s pace things can happen fast. When I turned my attention back to driving, I had a few split seconds to realize the car in front of me had stopped to make a left turn.

Cue the sound effects!

Okay, let’s take a moment here to imagine your favorite comedy movie where the idiot behind the wheel drives off a cliff or high bridge. The film goes to slow motion and you see everyone in the car go bug-eyed with their mouths hanging open and in a low, slow-mo sound effect they all go, “OH $#$%%#!!!

In my case I envision a Blues Brothers car chase. The cowboys, Nazi’s and police in hot pursuit of Jake and Elwood demonstrate that slow-mo movie look and sound as they fly through the air, hurl off a road, or spin through a mall upside down.

That’s how I still picture my slow-mo self at that moment: “OH $#$%%#!!!”

CAAA-RASSSSH!!!

I’ll interrupt this driving moment to make it clear no one was hurt in the making of this non-comedy movie real life action sequence. As for my mom’s car… Well, that’s another story.

Something like this.

Her car came to a sudden, crunching stop embedded into the rear of the car stopped in front of me. In slow-mo I can still see the front hood of her blue Oldsmobile Cutlass flying up in the air and landing on the road next to me. Then without any notice or fanfare, the engine dropped out with a crash accompanied by the sound of broken glass (or could it have been broken metal?). In an era before airbags, I’m sure my steel grip on the steering wheel and locked arms bracing for impact kept me from a face plant on the dashboard.

The guy I rear-ended happened to be a kid I had been going to school with since about third grade. He jumped out of his car and delivered one of the most famous lines you’d hear during a similar scene in a Hollywood movie:

“WHAT THE $#$%%#??!!!” 

At that point I figured I should probably get out of my car too. The only problem was the doors were jammed shut, so I crawled out of the window. I definitely did not feel as cool as Jake or Elwood.

Wait ’til mom hears about this!

The car was totaled. In fact, the only part that was salvageable was the AM radio, which was still playing while we waited for the police and a tow truck. And just in case you’re wondering, it was not playing Sweet Caroline.

That memory is still coming up…

Within a hour my dad had picked me up in his car and I was back at work to finish washing pans and sweeping the floor. Fortunately, my parents took it all quite well and were happy no one was hurt. And with insurance my mom got a new car.

So business as usual? Well, not quite…

My punishment would be handed out during a date in traffic court a few months later. But the real punishment that hit home for me as a sixteen year old psyched about driving came as advice from the police and even the judge, who were all frequent visitors in the family bakery. They mentioned to my parents it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to drive before traffic court, just in case I saw another neighbor walking along the street.

So until I had to face the Judge in his courtroom, rather than in our bakery, I was back to hanging out at home waiting for friends – like my pal Kevin – to drive me somewhere. It was also a good stretch of time to lose any skills a sixteen year old might continue to develop while sitting behind the wheel of a car.

Sweet Caroline? It’s coming up…

When I finally went to court, which was only about half a block from the bakery and probably with a box of our donuts in the outer office, the judge just gave me a talk about being more careful. That was it. Then I asked the BIG question: when can I start driving again?

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017 – Westlake, Ohio

Thursday, September 7, 2017 – Willoughby, Ohio

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He said I could have been driving the entire time.

Say what? “OH $#$%%#!!!” And no – I didn’t say that, but it probably ran through my mind. And with so much time away from driving, it was almost like starting from scratch. At least that’s what it felt like.

My instructor in “learning to drive again 101” was my dad. My backseat driving coach was pal Kevin. The first step was to cruise around some country roads until I got the hang of it again, so the three of us took off in mom’s new car.

I have to admit to being a bit scared. Totaling a car will do that to someone. On the two lane back roads we had some laughs with my instructor and coach joking about sharp corners, stop signs and oncoming cars. But at one point as we went under a low bridge and around a corner, a large truck was coming from the other direction. I put a steel grip on the wheel, went over the right side edge lines and slowed down to a crawl as the truck blew past us. They faked being scared (at least I hope they were faking!), but I broke out in a slight sweat. Driving wasn’t as cool for me as it was when I first got my license.

And looking back, that’s a good thing. I actually learned to be a more careful driver rather than a psyched sixteen year old with a license.

BUT – and here it is…

The song playing on the AM radio at that moment the truck blew by us? The Top 40 hit Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. And yes – it’s true. I remember that, which is why the song still carries that memory for me.

BUT there’s another part of this story that also has a steel grip in my memory bank. Remember the bet I made with my pal Kevin?

There were only a couple weeks until school started when I wrecked my mom’s car. That same evening we had marching band (very cool – don’t ever doubt that) practice at the high school. I called Kevin with my non-comedy sorrowful tale of on road destruction and asked him for a ride. Since the main attraction of being in the band was hanging out with girls, an assorted group of us piled into Kevin’s car (actually his mom’s car) after practice and…

Well… You already know what’s coming – right?

Wait ’til your mom hears about this one!

We drove to a local restaurant for something to eat. When we were leaving, there were about four or five kids crammed in the backseat and three of us – Kevin driving, me in the middle and another pal Rob riding shotgun – sitting in front. Kevin made a sharp right turn out of the parking lot that caused all of us to lean left. In fact we leaned so far left that

CAAA-RASSSSH!!!

Kevin was shoved against the driver’s side door with his arms locked in place. He yelled out something to the effect of a slow-mo, “OH $#$%%#!!!”

Everyone else sort of screamed. The car scraped over a concrete curb causing a stream of sparks to fly up in the air around us, smashed through a landscape of bushes, and dug a couple donut shaped ruts in the front lawn of the restaurant before coming to a stop. Once again, no one was hurt except for another mom’s car. But this time all it took was a tire change and a slow unsteady drive home.

As you can tell, Kevin won the bet, but only by a few hours. And I became a more careful driver at the age of sixteen because to tell the truth, two accidents in one day was “$#$%%#!!!”

Back to Sweet Caroline? Yeah, I know it’s a standard at Boston Red Sox Games and an uplifting, healing song for The Boson Marathon after runners and supporters were attacked by cowardly militant scums (or in more polite terms, $#$%%#!!!).

I get it.

But for me, I’d rather for-get the experience of Sweet Caroline and my sixteen year old driving experience. Hail, hail public transportation!

Here’s a video of the great (I get it!) Neil Diamond performing Sweet Caroline.

To purchase All-Time Greatest Hits by Neil Diamond with Sweet Caroline 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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Tuesday, July 11, 2017 – Mansfield, Ohio

Thursday, July 27, 2017 – Plymouth, Ohio

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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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August 15, 1965 – The Beatles At Shea Stadium

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– It started earlier than you might think…

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Sid Bernstein

During the winter of 1963 Sid Bernstein, a New York producer and entrepreneur, decided to expand his horizons by taking a course in Political Science. The instructor said if students wanted learn about democracy they need to study Great Britain, so Bernstein trekked down to Times Square every week and bought the British newspapers.

After reading updates about the government, he turned to where his real interests were – the entertainment section. He noticed the name of a pop group called The Beatles. At first the articles were small, but each week they continued to grow in size. They also included two words about their performances that caught Bernstein’s eye:

SOLD OUT!

To his producer’s way of thinking, these were the same words that described fame-predicting appearances by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, two of the BIGGEST names in showbiz. Since expanding his horizons could also mean taking a chance, he located the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein and booked the group – then unknown in the U.S. – for two shows in February 1964 at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Epstein Beatles

Brian Epstein and “The Boys”

When dealing with Epstein there were always stipulations. If The Beatles were not getting radio airplay in the U.S. by December 1963, the deal was off. It was a long wait, but as history tells us they made the deadline. I Want To Hold Your Hand broke the airwave barrier, they were scheduled for three February appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – and Bernstein SOLD OUT both shows at Carnegie Hall.

Following the Beatles summer and fall 1964 tour of North America, Bernstein took another chance and scheduled them to appear in the brand new, state of the art Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. Again there were stipulations that included no advertising without a paid deposit, but Bernstein made a bold guarantee and backed it up by selling 55,600 seats through word of mouth. Once again…

SOLD OUT!

Nothing on this scale for a pop concert had ever been attempted before. Elvis had performed a handful of stadium shows leading up to his army induction, but the largest had been in front of 26,000 fans at The Cotton Bowl. The Beatles had to more than double that number to fill Shea Stadium.

Dressing Room

Away from the crowd

On August 15, 1965 The Beatles landed on top of a building at the neighboring New York World’s Fair and were delivered into Shea Stadium via a Wells Fargo armored truck. The dressing room was crowed with visitors including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and future kingpin business manager for Apple Corp and three of the four Beatles, Allen Klein.

If only Brian Epstein had known…

Their entire visit to New York, beginning Friday, August 13th through Tuesday, August 16th, was filmed for a Beatles In New York (not the title, but the idea) television special. Only backstage and concert footage was used for the final version.

Introduced by Ed Sullivan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr ran to a small stage set up over second base on the baseball playing field and performed ten songs in about thirty-seven minutes. Whether anyone heard them depended on where they were seated, if they were screaming – or if they were next to someone screaming. Many of the male fans thought they sounded great. Many of the female fans don’t remember.

Shea on stage

Never before in the history of popular music…

Filmed in 35mm, the quality of the concert footage is similar to blockbuster Hollywood movies of the era. For comparison, The Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock movies were filmed in 16mm.

The resulting television special, The Beatles At Shea Stadium, was planned for holiday (Christmas) airing in December 1965. One member of the Beatles inner circle approved the version submitted by Ed Sullivan Productions, while five others didn’t. A secret recording session took place in January 1966 to correct the sound and the special wasn’t broadcast in the U.S. until a year later. By that time fans were only weeks away from the release of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever by a mustached, psychedelic-clothes-wearing, pre-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The film has been restored, color-corrected with both the overdubbed and original audio remastered for mono and stereo. It has yet to be released.

But on television that January evening in 1967 they were still the mop-topped Fab Four riding high on the release of their summer 1965 film, Help! And they played, sang, laughed and sweated during a hot New York August night in front of a SOLD OUT audience of 55,600 fans.

It was 50 years ago on August 15, 1965.

It was the birth of stadium rock.

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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 2015 – North Shore Publishing

 

February 9, 1964

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I was taken by complete surprise. Well, almost.

Jack Parr

Jack Parr

I had heard of The Beatles before February 9th only because my mom let me stay up late the night Jack Parr aired a brief clip during The Tonight Show on January 3, 1964. It had to be a Friday night and not a school night, but I’m not sure. And it wasn’t because we knew The Beatles were going to be on. Again, I had never even heard of them. We just enjoyed watching Jack Parr. For me it was his sense of smug humor (for lack of a better term). I always thought it was a bit risqué to watch his show because I was still a preteen and he was for adults. It reinforces my opinion that my mom was a little more with it than other parents who wouldn’t let their children stay up late to watch when Parr was host of The Tonight Show.

I also thank her and my dad for taking me to a Beatles concert. Again, I’ve heard too many stories from other young fans “under parental control” who were not allowed.

Other than Parr’s brief clip I have no memory of hearing anything else about The Beatles until February 9th. There was too much other “stuff” going on. I’ve been very clear about my recollections of this time in past Classic Rocker columns and my books The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. We were still dealing with a very bleak time in our country’s history following JFK’s assassination in Dallas on November 22nd. We watched the funeral and news updates on television and heard discussions at home and in school about The Cold War and The A-Bomb. Even my neighbor had a bomb shelter and as a preteen baby boomer it was obvious things had changed very quickly.

I often describe my memories during these days as being in black and white. That probably comes from remembering and still seeing reruns of newsreels and television shows from that era being broadcast in black and white. The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Patty Duke Show. You know the ones I’m talking about, so no need to mention them all. All the shows were in black and white which undoubtedly affects my memories.

I didn’t even know anyone who owned a color television in February 1964 – not even my neighbor with the bomb shelter. But having a color television wouldn’t have made a difference. The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast in black and white.

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Rehearsal pre-fab

My dad, mom, little sister and I had been on a four day family vacation that started on Wednesday, February 5th. It was a driving trip to Washington, DC and we arrived home in the early evening of Sunday February 9th.  I had no plans to do anything except eat dinner and avoid doing any homework until the last minute. As we did just about every Sunday at 8 pm we all sat down in front of our only television (“The black and white one,” as John Lennon described A Hard Day’s Night at their legendary Shea Stadium concert about a year and a half later) to watch The Ed Sullivan Show.

Dad, mom and sis were on the couch. I sat on the floor with my back against the couch. I remember it as vividly as where I was when my fifth grade teacher announced to the class President Kennedy had been shot. There are a few dates you’ll always remember if you were alive at that time. These are two of the earliest for me.

It would be cool to say we watched because of The Beatles, but don’t remember it that way. We always watched Ed Sullivan. Like for many of us in the U.S. he was part of our television family on Sunday nights.

As the first performers, he announced The Beatles.

Beatles Ed Sullivan

A moment in time

For myself at that moment and for millions of others watching, our world immediately went from black and white to color. It was that dramatic. To use a comparison from my book The Beatles In Cleveland it was like the film The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was swept away from a black and white Kansas and unexpectedly dropped in colorful Oz.

And The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast in black and white!!

Beatles music has been listened to, analyzed, discussed, broken down, recreated, and even taught and studied in universities since. There’s no need for me to do that now. The influence is still felt over half a century later.

But it wasn’t just the music. They had an image unlike anyone else before them. You can talk about how shocking Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince appeared twenty years later, or even more recently with Lady Gaga, Lil’ Wayne and Miley Cyrus. In February 1964 the Beatles’ “look” was shocking compared to what was considered “normal” at the time.

To put it into a baby boomer context based on our television viewing habits. No man in 1964 had hair like that except for Moe from The Three Stooges.

John Lennon MarriedInstead of letter sweaters and slacks, the Beatles wore business suits with tight pants, skinny ties and boots with pointy toes and high heels (Cuban heeled Beatle Boots). It was shocking! And I only learned their first names because they were flashed under their individual shots on the television screen. The music was lively and happy, the Beatles bounced in time and the girls screamed. Then it was over.

Well, not quite for me. Where we lived in northern Ohio, the dividing line between Eastern Standard Time and Central Standard Time in 1964 was drawn between Cleveland and Toledo. That meant we had two separate television markets airing shows an hour apart. At 8 pm EST I watched the Beatles live on The Ed Sullivan Show. An hour later at 8 pm CST I tuned into the Toledo CBS affiliate and watched it again. I did that for each of their three appearances that month.

Beatles Ed 2

Long haired rock’n roll

I was able to watch their U.S. debut on The Ed Sullivan Show twice that same night. It was also rerun later that year, but then I never saw it again until buying a bootleg videotape on 8th Street in Manhattan more than twenty years later. Now like many other fans, I own a legit DVD copy of The Ed Sullivan Show appearances and pretty much have every moment memorized.

The very next day it was also obvious things had changed.

On the Wednesday before, I had left school early for our drive to Washington, DC. There had been no mention of The Beatles in my classroom or anywhere that I can recall.

On Monday morning following The Ed Sullivan Show most of the girls in my fifth grade class had Beatles fan magazines hidden in their desks and their television debut was the main topic of conversation. The guys tried to act cool about it – or at least that’s my perception because we weren’t supposed to be attracted to them like the girls were. They were in love and lust. But I remember listening to their conversations and know some of the guys, me included, wanted to be like The Beatles. It seemed a lot more fun than kicking a ball around the playground.

I’m sure it was also within that first week one of the guys in my class came to school with a Beatles wig. I bought one myself and still have it. There were also a lot of Beatles trading cards, photos, magazines and other merchandize brought to school that would be considered valued collectors items today.

Beatles Bowing

From black & white to color

Of course, there was the music. By the Saturday following their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show I owned the LP Introducing The Beatles as a gift from my parents after listening to me beg for a week. The next Saturday (after more pleading) I had a copy of Meet The Beatles. Somewhere within that time frame I came up with the sixty cents (somewhere in that $$ neighborhood at that time) for the 45 rpm record I Want To Hold Your Hand b/w I Saw Her Standing There.

The floodgates were open and haven’t been closed since. It was February 9, 1964. It all changed that evening and nothing was ever the same again. Thank you to John, Paul, George and Ringo. It’s been a memorable journey to say the least.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and the author of The Beatles In Cleveland and The Beatles At Shea Stadium

Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com at THIS LINK.