Category Archives: Radio

#183 – Rock Your Baby

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#183 – Rock Your Baby by George McCrae

 – This song is a snapshot in time. In my case, I’m not sure it’s one I want to look back on. To put this in perspective, some of you with short memories or worse yet, have kids that enjoy making fun of what you were like as a kid might come across an old box of photos.

You’re like, “Hey, check this out. Here’s a photo of me when I was really little. Look how cute I was…

But no matter how hard we try, nobody ever stays as cute as they were as a little kid. Maturity has a habit of doing that. So now your kids – or your short memory – continue to dig through the box of old photos documenting your personal aging process. There’s visual evidence of middle school and high school – including your prom and graduation photos. And when it comes to baby boomers, eventually everyone lands in the mid 1970’s.

Did we… really?

For those of you that lived through it, you already know what I’m talking about.

For younger boomers, this was the first time many of us were on our own. We were out of the house and away from any parental supervision and school dress codes that might have influenced the way we looked. Granted, some of my good friends were serving in the military where government regulations commanded a conformed look with uniforms and haircuts. But for a lot of us on college campuses or as members of the workforce, all hell was breaking loose when it came to what we looked like thanks to mid-1970’s fashion sense.

If you’re having a hard time following this verbal rambling (and I’ll get to the song in a moment), here’s what you need to do. Depending on where you fit in the boomer age scale, if you were at least eighteen and younger than thirty in 1974, dig through your old photos from that era. For those younger or older looking to have a good laugh at our expense, do an online search for 70’s fashion trends.

I’m sure you’ll run into a few memorable snapshots in time…

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In our defense we were cool, or at least thought we were. But the visual evidence of our once misconstrued beliefs can sometimes be a bit cringe worthy. For guys we’re looking at big hair, mustaches and bellbottoms that were skin tight down to our knees then would flair out to cover our platform shoes. For girls… well, it was the same – hopefully without the mustaches.

The look!

For an immediate mental visual, think mid-70’s Tony Orlando, Michael Jackson (or better still, Jermaine) and Farrah Fawcett. Yeah, now you’ve got the picture… or snapshot from our time.

And for a soundtrack, think Rock Your Baby by George McCrae.

During the summer of 1974 there was no escaping this song. It hit number one on the music charts and since a lot of us college-aged boomers were relegated to only AM radio in our cars, it was heard constantly on every Top 40 station’s playlist. Disco was firmly settling in for a long run and if your car wasn’t equipped with an 8-track to supply the need for rock, you were force-fed the trend during every road trip.

As a confession, I followed the 70’s fashion trend. In fact, I can’t remember any of my friends that didn’t. We were in our late teens or early twenty’s and just like the generations before us, we did our best to look cool.

Too bad the old photos do nothing to prove that fact. I had been told more than a few times I looked like Tony Orlando and it never bothered me – until that fact was pointed out decades later when looking at my old college photos.

Rock Your Baby disco’d (not rocked) onto this Dream Song list on July 31st. Loosely comparing its inclusion to a line Groucho Marx once delivered about shooting an elephant in his pajamas, “How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

That’s how I feel about this song disco’ing (not rockin’) through my mind as I woke up – in my own pajamas. I don’t really know why…

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Was it ingrained into my memory because it was such a huge hit during my college years? Yeah, I guess so. Did I like it? Not really. Did I dance to it? Well… yeah – who didn’t? But it definitely goes into the subliminal category since I’ve never owned a copy and haven’t heard it since… well, probably 1974.

In the name of research to make these Classic Rocker ramblings more meaningful than cringe worthy, I went online to look at a video of McCrae performing Rock Your Baby. Unfortunately, it dredged up another memory and the result is another confession.

Fashion sense

I once owned a leisure suit.

I’m positive it was given to me as a Christmas gift by my mother, who did her best to stay current with fashion trends. But the blame ends there – because I wore it. The two piece leisure suit was made with a brown, suede-like material and had a short-cut jacket and bellbottoms that were tight to my knees, then flared out over my high heeled (not platform) shoes. To complete the ensemble I wore a shiny silver shirt and a wide belt with a big buckle.

Cool?

Since I wore it around the time George McCrae was topping the charts with this disco classic I might have thought so. Since then I’ve done my best to push it out of my memory – except it keeps coming back like a bad dream.

So is there anything else I need to say about this song? Nothing from my personal point of view. I’ve already admitted too much. Instead I’ll crawl back into my Classic Rocker mindset and try and ease the pain of embarrassment from using Tony Orlando as a fashion icon and knowing a leisure suit once helped shape my college image.

But I’m also not someone who knocks music others might love and bring back great memories. As mentioned, Rock Your Baby was a huge number one hit in the summer of 1974. It sold over eleven million copies, making it one of less than forty singles to have ever sold more than ten million or more copies. Obviously for some boomers it was the song of the summer.

But let’s keep that for long memories rather than short.

If you want to look cool today, make sure none of your kids ever discover a leisure suit hanging next to a pair of bellbottoms in your bedroom closet. I suggest maturing boomers store these memories someplace hard to find – like in boxes with your 70’s photos and posters of Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson (or Jermaine) and Tony Orlando.

For your own leisure suit memory, here’s a video of George McCrae performing Rock Your Baby.

To purchase Rock Your Baby – The Very Best Of visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2018 – North Shore Publishing

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#185 – Turn! Turn! Turn!

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#185 – Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds

 – It’s unreal how young many of us were when the 1960’s music scene started changing our lives. And if we really stop and think, it’s mind-boggling how fast everything was changing. It seemed we were being exposed to new sounds and looks on a weekly basis.

When The Beatles kicked open the floodgates with their February 1964 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, it was more than the music. It was also the visuals – how they looked. It was considered pretty shocking and for many of the boomers, also very cool.

The younger boomers had been too late for the original 1950’s rock ‘n’ rollers who brought a sound and look that earned them dangerous and rebellious reputations – mainly from the older generations. But our firsthand adolescent exposure in the early ’60s was through clean-cut male crooners in letter sweaters and girls in party dresses and bouffant hair. To emphasize my point, The Singing Nun had a number one song in late 1963 with Dominique.

Believe me, there was nothing dangerous, rebellious or shocking about that.

So The Fab Four with long hair, tight tailored business suits and high-heeled Beatle boots made a definite impression. But by 1965 that visual was practically clean-cut compared to what was happening. The second wave of The British Invasion included The Rolling Stones, who were considered the anti-Beatles with longer hair and a dislike for matching suits.

And on this side of the Atlantic the new wave included The Byrds.

The Sound

They were different. Of course it was visual, which is the direction this rambling is headed. Like The Stones they ditched matching suits and grew hair longer than a mop top. When I first saw them on television singing Mr. Tambourine Man in early 1965, the only one that seemed to have eyes visible beneath his hair was Jim McGuinn (who didn’t change his name to Roger until 1967). And when I stop and think about it, I’m sure his eyes were only noticeable due to the rectangular “granny” glasses he pioneered into one of many teenage fads of the 60’s.

Musically they were also different. The Beatles were at first considered rockers and The Stones were bluesmen. The Byrds were folkies. Mr. Tambourine Man was a Bob Dylan song while their second number one, Turn! Turn! Turn! was written by Pete Seeger. And even though George Harrison was playing a 12-string electric Rickenbacker guitar when recording the soundtrack for A Hard Day’s Night, it wasn’t considered the main “Beatles sound.”

Still, it was enough to influence a former folkie. With McQuinn the 12-string “Ric” became the basis of The Byrds sound and kicked open the floodgates for folk rock.

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The electric guitars and harmonies of McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby made Mr. Tambourine Man very different from the Bob Dylan solo acoustic version. Add the visuals that came along with The Byrds, including longhairs Michael Clarke and Chris Hillman, and the whole package could be pretty shocking for older generations and original folk music diehards.

But for many of the boomers, that’s what also made them very cool.

The Look

The Byrds released Turn! Turn! Turn! in early October 1965. Decades later when I woke up with the song “jangling” through my head on July 28th, it was still very cool. But what’s uncool is when I admit there are other Byrds songs on my digital playlist, but I don’t own a copy and hadn’t heard it in a long time. Maybe I could count the original 45 rpm vinyl since I rode my bike to the local record store in 1965 to buy it, but it would take an archaeological dig through my stored archives to find it. So I’ll just admit to my current lack of coolness and add it to the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

And speaking of digging through the past…

For my end of the baby boomer generation, we weren’t even teenagers yet when The Beatles, The Stones and The Byrds were changing our lives. We were still kids playing with our friends, who were also kids. Televisions had been earning a reputation since the 1950’s as the first electronic babysitters, but that didn’t mean we sat around all day watching cartoons and reruns of I Love Lucy. We had every inch of our backyards memorized and had explored all the woods, fields and creeks within walking distance of our neighborhood.

We did sports; we built forts and we played war. That might even be a decent title for a folk song if anyone wants to borrow it. And though I’m a dedicated peacenik who is stunned beyond disbelief that government madmen have control of nuclear warheads, many of us as kids in the 60’s were blissfully unaware of similar Cold War dangers. Of course that changed fast when we hit our teenage years and the escalating war in Vietnam was broadcast nightly on television news.

That was definitely uncool.

But as young preteens we’d choose sides to hit, pass or shoot a ball. If we were playing war, we might launch a sneak attack on a group of foreign neighborhood kids that might be playing too close to our assumed realm of influence. We’d battle with words and bravado, or during more immature standoffs throw chunks of dirt. If one of our foes landed with a hard chunk and your friend took off crying, the goal was to win the race to his house and tell his mom how brave he’d been in the heat of battle, and then race home before we all got in trouble.

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We built tree houses as high up in the trees as we’d dare to climb. On the opposite extreme we’d sometimes dig a large hole in the ground, cover it with plywood and use dirt, sticks and leaves to camouflage our underground forts. We also made tunnels, which were ditches covered with boards and dirt that were only big enough for us “little kids” to crawl through and keep out the “big kids.” We also believed “big kids” wouldn’t know where these bunkers were located because we could disappear in a small hole and end up crawling in a direction unknown to them.

And yes, as a kid it was all very cool.

After digging and covering one of our underground forts in the fall of 1965, a few of us were inside hiding out and listening to our favorite Top 40 AM radio station. I remember we had an old rug covering the ground so we weren’t sitting on dirt and a battery powered lamp so we also weren’t sitting in the dark.

The deejay announced the new Byrds song and played Turn! Turn! Turn! And when it finished, he shouted in his hip Top 40 radio deejay voice, “That was so good, let’s play it again!” And he did. We immediately heard the song a second time! I’ve always remembered that because it was the first – and only – time I’ve ever heard a song played twice in a row on the radio.

At that moment the deejay seemed dangerous, rebellious and shocking – and also very cool.

The Hit

But what became even more dangerous and shocking (I’ll skip rebellious since it was completely unplanned) during this second spin through Turn! Turn! Turn! the roof to our underground fort started caving in. Fearing we were about to be buried in a pit, we screamed, shouted and flew through our escape tunnel in record crawling time.

Popping out of the ground we saw a neighborhood “big kid” standing on the sinking ground with a stunned look on his face. He had taken a shortcut home through the woods and since we had been good at camouflaging our location, walked on top of our fort. The plywood boards cracked and popped and dirt started falling through the cracks. Stepping off before a complete collapse, he probably gave us some type of “big kid” lecture about making dangerous traps in the woods and then continued his walk home.

He turned, turned, turned (sorry, I can’t help myself) our fort into just another hole in the ground. If we had been playing war, we were the losing force.

A final note about Turn! Turn! Turn!

When Pete Seeger wrote the song he took the lyrics from the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes. And I’m not sure where I read this, but for that creative reason it holds the record as a number one song – with the oldest lyrics. Now there’s a sound visual…

To check out the song and shocking visuals, here’s a video of The Byrds performing Turn! Turn! Turn!

 

To purchase The Byrds – Greatest Hits with Turn! Turn! Turn! visit Amazon.com

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

Copyright 2018 – North Shore Publishing

#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!).

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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

 

#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’!!