Category Archives: Keith Richards

Chuck Berry – Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll

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 – I drove for more than a few miles Saturday evening with my mouth hanging wide open. I had just heard Cousin Brucie announce on his SiriusXM radio show that Chuck Berry had passed away. At the age of 90 we couldn’t expect one of the true originators to continue duckwalking across the rock and roll landscape forever, but it was still a shock.

It’s the end of an era – though the legend will live on.

It’s doubtful I ever go a day without hearing a Chuck Berry riff. As a Classic Rocker with musical tastes never straying too far from the basic three chord rock and roll that excited and influenced every important rocker that followed him, he is still an important foundation for my daily playlists. Chuck Berry was covered and copied by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and way too many others for me to even attempt to list. They handed it down to the next generation and the legacy continues.

If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’” – John Lennon

I’ve stolen every lick he ever played.” – Keith Richards inducting Chuck Berry into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Since The Classic Rocker is about music and memories, here’s one of mine…

As fate would have it, I had just talked about my experiences going back to the roots of rock and roll in the most recent song on this Dream Song List. My album collection in the late 1960’s and early 70’s was being restocked with the originals by Chuck Berry and other members of the first class inducted into The Rock Hall. My goal was to play guitar like Chuck, piano like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and sing like Elvis. It didn’t exactly work out that way, which is why you’re reading these ramblings rather than listening to any of my albums.

During my freshman year in college – and I’m not kidding – my dorm room featured Chuck Berry wallpaper. As a Berry fan, I might have been an originator among interior decorators.

Chuck was playing a show at another college nearby. Of course I would be there, but that’s another story for another song on this list. Especially since I wound up on stage with my hero and had a rockin’ good time. But the buildup had started a couple months before.

I went to my local record store (vinyl you crazy cats!) to check out what was new. I saw a stack of flyers on the counter advertising the concert. I went crazy (cat) right there about my commitment to the greatness of Chuck Berry. The store manager picked up the pile of flyers, handed them to me and said I could hang them up. I was probably guessing correctly he meant for me to hang them up around campus, but since no discount was offered to me on the ticket price or the album I’m sure I purchased that day, it meant the only place these flyers would be hung up were in my dorm room.

I have a photo somewhere of the coolest room on campus that spring, but would need to dig through too many boxes of Classic Rocker keepsakes to find it. Trust me when I say the flyers made the walls both colorful and unique.

Which is also a good description of Chuck Berry’s overwhelming influence on popular music. The exact birth date of rock and roll will always be debated, but it’s a no-brainer to say the fuse was ignited with his first big hit in 1955, Maybellene. The future of rock and roll followed in a direct line behind him. And when you think about it, there’s no higher praise you can give to someone that meant so much to so many.

Rock on Chuck Berry! You will be missed, but not forgotten.

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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

#200 – I Can’t Get No Nookie

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#200 – I Can’t Get No Nookie by The Masked Marauders

masked marauders – I didn’t get completely taken in by this hoax in late 1969, but I’ll admit to being on the fence for a listen or two. It was an era of rock music exploding into different genres and groupings. Cream and Traffic had formed Blind Faith. The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies begat Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The Yardbirds had morphed into Led Zeppelin.

But the biggest supergroup of them all was The Masked Marauders. But then again, not really.

I remember “sort of” a rock and roll revival happening that fall with my buddies that were into music. The big album, of course, was Abbey Road. Paul McCartney’s song Oh Darling was a throw back to a 1950’s sound with pounding piano and raspy voice. I don’t know if that’s what triggered it, but a few of us started looking back to that decade to hear the originators.

It’s important to remember we were at the younger end of the baby boomer generation. The early rock’n rollers had been replaced by the watered down versions being fed to us in the early 1960’s. For example, we weren’t exposed to Little Richard singing Tutti Frutti. Nope. Instead we saw Pat Boone singing his tepid version on our black and white family television shows.

Lennon Jagger

Lennon and Jagger unmasked

I only knew songs like Roll Over Beethoven, Long Tall Sally and many more classics because they were covered by The Beatles. That was also true for releases by The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits and other British Invasion bands. They were reworking American rock and roll hits and bringing them to my generation for “seemingly” the first time. The originals were standards for the older kids who were already teenagers when we were in preschool.

Around the time of Oh Darling and my early teenage years I wanted to know where this music came from.

I had a friend who went by his initials “BS.” He was one of the smarter guys in my high school class, but also an agitator who wasn’t afraid to use his column in the school newspaper to stir up trouble between the “jocks” and the “brains.” His initials stood not only for his first and middle name, but also the slang you might use to tell someone they’re “full of it.”

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The dates are a little out of whack, but I distinctly remember him turning me on to I Hear You Knocking by Dave Edmunds in late 1970. This was a throw back to real, three chord rock and roll from the 50’s while the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and other rock acts at the time were going for more complicated songs, sounds and arrangements. So along with those albums, including Abbey Road and Led Zeppelin I, we were digging through record bins for vinyl by Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis.

But I bring up BS and sharing our rock music research because I distinctly remember him telling me about this supergroup called The Masked Marauders. I hadn’t read the Rolling Stone Magazine article that started the “buzz” but with Blind Faith and CSN&Y the hot groups at the moment, anything seemed possible.

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Keef, Mick & Bob marauding about.

According to rumor, The Masked Marauders were made up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. There were also hints that Keith Richards and Donovan were part of the lineup, but there was no way this could be confirmed. In an era many decades before the internet and social media, all we could rely on were rumors and our ears.

In late fall 1969 or early winter 1970, BS informed us he had a copy of the self-titled Masked Marauders LP and invited us to his house to listen. Three or four of us sat through both sides of the disk with individual reviews of “no… yes… well, maybe?

I’m sure BS claimed it was real, but I left highly doubtful.

I know because if I had believed this gathering of my favorite rock stars had joined forces near Canada’s Hudson Bay (on the liner notes) and recorded an entire album, I would have run out and bought a copy. I never did.

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It wasn’t long after that everyone found out The Masked Marauders was an elaborate hoax from Rolling Stone Magazine. An article satirizing the trend for “supergroups” was a little too believable for many fans of the above mentioned (supposed) members. In taking the hoax a step further, a California based group was hired – along with Dylan, Jagger and Lennon impersonators – to record the album.

The Masked Marauders LP was released by Reprise Records in November 1969. It goes down in history as the only record ever on their just-made-up Deity label.

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I compare it to Orson Wells reading War Of The Worlds over the radio on Halloween in 1938. A lot of people bought into it and caused a panic that Martians were really landing. In 1969 the same “blind faith” almost landed The Masked Marauders onto the Billboard Hot 100 Album Chart.

One of the (many) fun things about writing The Classic Rocker is not knowing where the next song is coming from. If you’ve read the concept and followed any of these ramblings, some songs are from recent memories while others have been embedded in my subconscious and somehow just came out. In this case, the song I Can’t Get No Nookie has to hold the longevity record for being buried under decades of useless information before climbing to the top of my morning music chart. It happened on April 29th and I’m more surprised than anyone to add it to the subconscious list.

I’m sure someone must have played it when we were in college. Otherwise, the last time I heard it had to be in 1969 or 1970. The mind plays strange tricks – and in this case, strange music.

Dylan Jagger

Bob, Mick and Jack

I Can’t Get No Nookie has to be a play on (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. On the MM LP the lead vocal is by the Mick Jagger impersonator. It’s also a catchy tune and with the word “nookie” I’m also sure as teenage guys we sang it for laughs more than a few times in high school or cruising around in cars on weekends.

There’s also another credit I can throw to this fake album.

Using the excuse mentioned above about not hearing the original rock’n rollers until after The British Invasion calmed down, I’ll embarrassingly admit The Masked Marauders introduced me to the classic Duke Of Earl. It was a track supposedly sung by Bob Dylan, but it connected with us as a new song. None of our favorite groups by 1969 had covered it and since there were no oldies stations on our radios at the time, chances were good we hadn’t heard – or remembered hearing – the original by Gene Chandler in 1962.

It made such an impression that for our high school talent show in the spring of 1970, we put together a group to perform the song. On the stage in our school auditorium we had a piano, bass, electric guitar (me) and drums. A few pals stood around one microphone singing back up (“Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke Of Earl, Duke, Duke…“) while our friend Gary did the lead vocals. Not that he was the best singer, but probably because he’s the only one that knew the words.

And before we started, we plugged in a string of Christmas lights draped over the upright piano as our “light show.” Both the lights and our song drew big applause.

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Classic Rock(er)

For the next year’s talent show we went even more retro with our rock’n roll revival adding greased hair, rolled up t-shirt sleeves, cuffed jeans and sunglasses. We called our group Peter Priest & The Rabbis (in good humor) and with two electric guitars, bass, drums and my pal Tim as lead singer, we rocked through loud versions of Blue Suede Shoes and Long Tall Sally.

We did two shows and played “by the rules” for only the first.

During the second show for the younger kids (9th and 10th grades) we decided to keep playing until we were chased off stage. Once we started some of the girls from our class ran into the auditorium and stood by the stage screaming. And after we finished our second song, we kept tearing through three-chord 1950’s rock’n roll until the teachers realized we had no intention of stopping.

The curtain was closed and as our class advisor ran on stage waving his arms for us to stop, Gary (our lead singer from the year before) opened them back up. The advisor ran off in a panic and we kept playing.

Finally he pulled the plug.

Since we were seniors graduating in less than a month and basically good kids, we didn’t get into any trouble. In fact there were more laughs than any supposed punishment over our “hoax” to keep the show going. We never went on to become an undiscovered supergroup, but like the legendary Masked Marauders we had our brief moment in the spotlight.

And it was very rock and roll.

Of course there is no video of the elusive Masked Marauders, but for your listening pleasure…

To purchase The Masked Marauders with I Can’t Get No Nookie 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

Beatles Program

#205 – She’s A Rainbow

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#205 – She’s A Rainbow by The Rolling Stones

Satanic Majesties Cover – Was it just me, or did everyone know the album Their Satanic Majesties Request was already outdated when it was released in December 1967? I don’t mean that as any kind of anti-Stones thing since I’m a huge fan of the group. But seriously, the psychedelic Summer Of Love had hit auto drive with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band more than six months earlier and by Christmas shopping season boomers were coasting into the pre-Woodstock era.

The pop/rock music scene was all over the place as we entered 1968 and The Stones would play a major role as they morphed into “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band In The World,” according to Mick Jagger’s self-proclaiming introduction kicking off one of the greatest live albums of all time, Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out. But with this release at the end of 1967 they were setting themselves up to have their rock and roll guitar licks thrown back in their faces by The Who, The Doors, Cream, Iron Butterfly and Jimi Hendrix. I didn’t even mention The Beatles since they were in a class by themselves. They hit their own speed bump with Magical Mystery Tour as their Christmas product that year, but they were the ones that set the standard with Sgt. Pepper in the first place. They could be excused even when the follow-up LP (in the U.S.) filled up side two with months old psychedelia (Strawberry Fields Forever) but also included future mega classics like I Am The Walrus and Fool On The Hill.

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Back on track

Lucky for all of us The Stones got back on track in May 1968 with Jumpin’ Jack Flash. But at the tail end of Flower Power they gave us Their Satanic Majesties Request with She’s A Rainbow. I’m not going to say it’s a bad song, but along with the album it doesn’t go down as one of the band’s highest moments.

On second thought, it was probably the result of some higher moments. One of the reasons the album didn’t make it into the actual soundtrack of The Summer Of Love was because of the group’s various drug busts, court appearances and jail time. Guess you could say the legal itinerary disrupted their scheduled recording dates and deadlines.

I remember seeing the album in stores that winter and picked it up only to watch the 3D photo on the cover. When you moved it around The Stones’ heads would turn. That was cool for a couple times, but then just as boring as any child’s game and definitely not as cool as the Sgt. Pepper cover.

We also heard the music that way.

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The album scored on the charts, but dropped out of sight fast. I never met anyone in my life that actually owned a copy until I went to college years later. One of my best pals was a Stones freak and owned every album, including the early ones before Satisfaction and Get Off My Cloud pushed them ahead of the other British Invasion acts, but still second tier to The Beatles. I wrote earlier about a road trip I made with college pals from Northern Ohio to New Orleans, through Texas and back in three days with Satanic Majesties as one of our few 8-tracks. We listened way more than a few times and dug it, but after that weekend as a captive audience in a Vega station wagon, my immediate reaction was similar to the music charts.

The album had been a hit for a few days and then done and gone. But not forgotten…

She’s A Rainbow joined this Dream Song List on April 17th. And as mentioned above, I’m a big Stones fan so – of course – I own a copy (but not the album). I had just heard it the day before, so this one goes into the recent memory list.

Steel Wheels Tour

Steel Wheels Tour

Though She’s A Rainbow is probably the best known song from the album, I rank 2000 Light Years From Home as one of my favorite all-time Rolling Stones songs. So it was a thrill to see them perform it live…

After about a decade of hard feelings between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, The Stones regrouped for a new album and tour in 1989 both titled Steel Wheels. Since their solo careers had not reached the same heights as The Stones you could say they were watching each other’s backs (and bank accounts).

I was living in New York City and when it was announced they would play the legendary Shea Stadium not once or twice – but for six concerts – my pals and I joined forces to score tickets. In those ancient times of rock and roll there were no online sales. You went to the nearest Ticketmaster in a neighborhood record store and hoped the line moved fast enough to purchase seats before all the outlets working in combination sold-out.

After the first two concerts on October 10 and 11, they would play four shows in Los Angeles and then back to Shea for four more. With a few of us working Ticketmaster outlets in Manhattan and Queens, we grabbed blocks of seats for three Shea Stadium shows.

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Of course every song at a Stones concert is a highlight and these shows were like a greatest hits rundown. Steel Wheels was a popular LP, so even when they played the new songs we listened. Based on Stones’ concerts I had seen in 1972 and 1975 I never would’ve expected a song from Their Satanic Majesties Request. So when 2000 Light Years From Home was played between Paint It Black and Sympathy For The Devil it really came out of nowhere. Wait… I’ll rephrase that.

With the fog and strobe lighting stage effects it could’ve been from outer space. It was a very psychedelic musical and visual trip back to 1967. All that was missing was a drug bust.

Here’s a video of the live version from the Steel Wheels Tour with added 3D effects.

When The Rolling Stones end a show, no one working today outside of Paul McCartney has a catalog of rock standards that can match. Following Sympathy For The Devil they worked the crowd into a frenzy with Gimme Shelter, It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, Brown Sugar, Satisfaction and (encore) Jumpin’ Jack Flash.

Are you kidding me?? My head almost exploded just typing out the titles of those songs. Put those on your playlist one after another and for dedicated Classic Rockers it’s impossible to sit still.

And it was also impossible to sit still at Shea Stadium in 1989.

For two of the concerts we were in the middle (mezzanine) section. But for one of those classic rock ‘n’ roll nights we were in the upper deck facing the stage. And anyone that’s ever been in the upper deck of a stadium during an important sporting event or rock concert knows, the steel structures act differently in that higher atmosphere.

rolling-stones-1989

Know how to close!

Once The Stones started bringing in the big guns to close the concert, everyone was on their feet and acting like they were Jumping’ Jack Flash. The effect made the upper deck bounce up and down like we were standing on the end of a diving board.

I knew what it was like to stand on the end of a diving board, but I had never felt this effect in the upper deck of a huge baseball stadium until that night. It was really intense, but none of us were about to sit down. But since we were seriously bouncing around so much it was hard to stay balanced and I remember my best pal Chris grabbing onto the back of my jacket to keep me from disaster. I’d grab my girlfriend (at the time) and we all felt like we were on an amusement part ride.

Honestly, I was glad he grabbed me. A few times it felt like we’d rock ‘n’ roll over the railing.

After the concert we were walking to catch the train back to Manhattan and I thanked him for hanging onto me. Then I asked why he would’ve saved me but left my girlfriend (at the time) to bounce around on this major league scale trampoline. “Because I can’t stand her,” he said. We laughed, but as guys we both knew he wasn’t lying.

When she dumped me a few months later (she wanted a wedding ring for Christmas and I probably gave her a Stones album) I knew what he meant. She was gone but we were still buddies. Sort of like Mick and Keith, it was good to know he had my back.

It doesn’t seem The Rolling Stones ever made an “official” music video for She’s A Rainbow.

I searched around online and found one that’s a bit strange, it’s labeled “1966” (release wasn’t until December 1967), but includes the song with video snippets from the band’s entire career. Included are shots of Brian Jones who was still the band’s master musician at this point, but would soon be spiraling out of control and eventually, out of the band and out of this world.

 

To purchase Their Satanic Majesties Request with She’s A Rainbow and 2000 Light Years From Home – which are also both on a lot of Rolling Stones compilation releases – 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 2016 – North Shore Publishing

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.

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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