Category Archives: Singers

#169 – 25 or 6 to 4

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#169 – 25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago

 – Sometimes there’s nothing like a solid horn section to punch up a great rock ‘n’ roll song. For me that feeling goes back to the early days of Little Richard (though I was too young to actually experience it at the time) when a dirty-sounding saxophone raged over his pounding piano. And even today since a young Little Richard is never too old for the digital age of listening, the volume is worthy of being turned up whenever The Upsetters – his backing horn section – kick it in with him.

The same can be said for Bobby Keys and The Rolling Stones. Brown Sugar would not be the same song without his sax, even if Keith Richards and Mick Taylor had practiced what Keef refers to as “the ancient art of guitar weaving” for the instrumental break.

Saxophone was one of the founding instruments in rock ‘n’ roll. But as also a big fan of rhythm & blues, soul and Motown, a horn section with brass trumpets and trombones are also requirements. I have a feeling any promoter suggesting James Brown, Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye could have cut costs by leaving the horns at home would have found himself with nothing but an empty stage to promote.

But when I was finally old enough to experience what was happening in the world of pop music, it was the beginning of The British Invasion. Other than The Dave Clark Five with Denis Payton on sax, groups featured guitar players. Even when American groups counterpunched with The Byrds and The Lovin’ Spoonful, no one was blowing into anything other than an occasional harmonica – and that includes Bob Dylan.

With a horn section!

In May 1966 The Outsiders caught my attention with Time Won’t Let Me and a great backing horn section. Then later that summer The Beatles released Revolver with the Motown influenced Got To Get You Into My Life. But it wasn’t so much that horns were changing the pop music we were listening to. It was more like pop was borrowing from the other styles to give us a lesson in what a big segment of the youngest baby boomers was missing by only listening to our local Top 40 AM radio stations.

What does that have to do with 25 or 6 to 4? I’ll tell you…

I remember a slight bit of personal confusion when Chicago hit big in 1970. Pop had morphed into rock and the main engine driver was a high-powered electric guitar. Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton were making that notion very clear. Horns could be a great background enhancement, but none of our radio favored bands seemed to have these jazzy players as permanent members.

So with embarrassed hindsight, my perception of Chicago predated the lyrics Dire Straits sang a few years later in Sultans of Swing:

They don’t give a damn about any trumpet playin’ band. It ain’t what they call rock and roll.

But then Chicago changed that.

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Their innovative style as a band in the pop-rock world wasn’t really new. Al Kooper’s original Blood, Sweat & Tears made the scene in the late 1960’s and was the first group I took notice of that had a permanent horn section. But just like the subsequent version led by David Clayton-Thomas, they were too jazzy for my tastes.

It ain’t what they call rock and roll.

Chicago’s first LP under the name Chicago Transit Authority went unnoticed by me. But the opening riff of 25 or 6 to 4 when it was released in June 1970 definitely caught my attention. It rocked. And I don’t think I’m saying anything dedicated classic rock fans will object to, but it struck a rock chord by sounding a lot like Babe I’m Gonna Leave You by Led Zeppelin. And then the horn section came in over the grungy guitar and…

That’s what they call rock and roll.

This sound was coming in through my grungy brain on the morning of September 4th. It rocks its way into the recent memory category because I had just heard it. In fact, this song has occasionally crept into my Top 25 list of Most Played Songs that iTunes so conveniently keeps track of. And by the way, in case you can’t tell from the countdown aspect of these Classic Rocker ramblings, I enjoy that feature immensely.

I should have been more welcoming to the brassy horn sounds of Chicago. But as mentioned, The Guitar Gods had taken hold of the rock scene. I say this because at the time I was a player that could have fit into either section.

My guitar fumbling (for lack of a better term) started soon after The British Invasion – like many other baby boomers. But my skills have never been anything to write home about. I tend to blame that on never having the best guitars. I went more for “looks” (does it look cool?) rather than ease of playing. But trumpet was the opposite. I had access to two very cool horns and a practiced ability to play them.

My interest in the trumpet didn’t start when my parents “told me” that’s the instrument I’d play in the junior high and eventually high school band. It was a tradition on my dad’s side that started with his father and continued with him. And believe me, they were both good players. Especially my dad who played bugle in the U.S. Navy and made trumpet his creative outlet by performing with numerous bands around where we lived. He could play anything from jazz, big band to marching band. I have memories as a very little kid going with my mom to watch his shows. He had invested in a very good (let’s call it expensive) trumpet in the 1950’s and yeah, he looked and sounded cool.

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My grandfather was a lot older than my friends’ grandfathers. He was 46 when my dad was born. I don’t know how young he was when he started playing, but know he had purchased a silver cornet in 1905 and was a member of the town’s concert and marching band. Not only do I still have my dad’s trumpet, but also my grandpa’s silver cornet – and the 1905 proof of purchase receipt.

Yeah, you could say I’ve always been good at hanging on to important stuff.

Herb Alpert & TJ Brass

I alternated between the trumpet and cornet when I joined the school band, but again – I didn’t have much interest. I thought the guitar was cooler. But in April 1967 I watched a television special by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and beginning at that exact moment – by the end of the show – trumpet looked pretty cool. I’m positive that I immediately went to my room and started practicing on grandpa’s cornet. My dad – most likely shocked but overjoyed at the same time – got out his trumpet and started teaching me. Before long we were playing duets and it became a father-son bonding I’ll always have with him.

Another totally shocked victim of my new-found love for brass was our junior high band director. For close to three years I had been languishing in the lower reaches of the trumpet section, barely able to make any type of recognizable musical noise. A few weeks after the Herb Albert TV special we had tryouts for “chair placement” and I aced it.

I still remember him staring at me – smiling – and wondering out loud why this happened “to him” when I’d be moving on to the high school band and a different director in just a few months. My band friends were also flabbergasted (again – lack of a better term) when I propelled past about 30 other trumpeters from the back end of the section to third chair. I never looked – or went – back after that.

Beatles Horn Section

But would I have wanted to be in a rock band like Chicago? Honestly, not in the horn section. As Paul McCartney once pointed out, his first instrument had also been the trumpet – also a gift from his dad – but you can’t play and sing at the same time.

Since that’s what I had in mind when I auditioned for the high school musical – and aced it – my trumpet playin’ band days came to an end. When I took off for college and later New York City, a couple guitars were in the back of my station wagon and the brass horns were left behind.

But they didn’t go unused, since I’ve always been good at hanging on to important stuff. More than a century after my grandpa bought his cornet and half a century after my dad bought his trumpet, my son Paul was playing both in the high school band. But now that he’s a professional singer, they’re both on the shelf waiting for the next generation.

And as for Chicago, they’ve also lasted for a few generations. Sometimes there’s nothing like a solid horn section to punch up a great rock ‘n’ roll song. And since there are still plenty of rock ‘n’ rollers from first generation baby boomers on down, I don’t hear that sound fading out any time soon.

Have a comment?

Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

To watch the original Chicago lineup performing 25 or 6 to 4, check out this video…

 

 

To purchase Chicago’s Greatest Hits with 25 or 6 to 4 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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#175 – Up Where We Belong

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#175 – Up Where We Belong by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes

 – If you were a Boomer in 1982 and involved in any type of romantic relationship, it’s almost impossible to separate this song from the movie An Officer and a Gentleman. The grand finale when Richard Gere walks into the factory wearing his Navy whites and sweeps Debra Winger off her feet is still a highlight in the drama/romance genre and the movie soundtrack played an instrumental version of this song as it was all coming down.

The film was a box office hit that summer and made it a must-see for the romantic generation. I remember lines at the theaters in New York City, where I was living at the time, and if you fit into the relationship category mentioned above, chances are you were standing in one of those lines with your significant other.

But let’s call it what it is (or was). And I don’t mean this as a put-down at all because I actually remember An Officer and a Gentleman being a good movie. But in all honestly, it fell into the category of “chick flick.”

I’m not sure if some Boomer-guy invented that sexist category, but we might as well go ahead and claim it. After all, our generation seemed to put tags on everything from hippies and straights to rock and bubble gum (music – not chewable items). It was because of our generation that movies began to be rated G, PG, R and X. The older folks had to maintain some type of restrictions over what we viewed in theaters and at drive-in movies since they had lost any control over what music we were listening to.

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Again – no disrespect intended.

I just don’t remember any of my guy-friends making An Officer and a Gentleman a “must see” movie. If there was no girlfriend or wife involved, odds heavily favored us standing in lines with our pals to see Rocky III, Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Poltergeist during the hottest months of ’82.

And now that I have that guy-thing out of the way…

Up Where We Belong is really a great song that fits the times. You didn’t even have to attend Ridgemont High to realize that. It’s a soaring, romantic uptempo duet following the trend for power ballads that teased-hair rock groups used to make it onto MTV playlists in the 1980’s. These songs would put stadium audiences into mellow, cigarette-lighter-waving moods before exploding with endings that had everyone on their feet cheering for more.

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If you need a reminder to figure out what I’m talking about, check out Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue, Faithfully by Journey or Keep On Loving You by REO Speedwagon. It was the trend.

Up Where We Belong joined this Dream Song List on August 18th. But I have no reminder to figure out why. I don’t own it and hadn’t heard it in… like… forever. In fact, I don’t think I’ve even seen the movie since standing in line with an ex-significant other in 1982. So we’ll check this one into the subliminal category.

SNL

The teaming of Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes seemed interesting at the time… to say the least. Warnes was new on the scene, but Joe had been a classic boomer favorite since growling through With A Little Help From My Friends at Woodstock in 1969. Though John Belushi did his best to keep the Cocker legend going with a great impersonation on Saturday Night Live – actually performing next to the real deal himself – his star had faded a bit as we got into the 1980’s. Whether Warnes was a friend or a record company-made partnership, it didn’t matter.

This little help from a more recent hit-maker put them both at the top of the music charts.

A gentleman and an officer

Unfortunately, or maybe I should say fortunately for you, this song really brings back no other memories. I don’t even remember the ex-significant other I saw the movie with. I guess it will have to stay that way until my married-significant other decides to include An Officer and a Gentleman on her Richard Gere viewing list.

Since I’ve sat through Pretty Woman with her probably more times than I’ve heard this song, I’ll go ahead and assume it won’t be too long before that happens.

But until then…

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

Here’s a video of Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes performing Up Where We Belong.

 

To purchase The Best Of Joe Cocker with Up Where We Belong 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

#176 – I’d Do Anything

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#176 – I’d Do Anything from the Broadway musical Oliver!

February 9, 1964

– Here’s a little remembered fact about baby boomers. We weren’t all raised on rock ‘n’ roll. Many parents of young teenagers that went wild over Elvis in the 1950’s were also raising infants who would be converted into Beatlemaniacs only eight years later. This older generation, that included the “bobby-sockers” who swooned over Frank Sinatra in the 1940’s, was just as shocked over the rebelliousness of rock ‘n’ roll as many boomer parents (or grandparents) were about rap music decades later.

So a lot of them didn’t listen. And as infant boomers in the household, we didn’t hear a lot of rock ‘n’ roll until we were old enough to discover it for ourselves.

Popular music was family-friendly. Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby and other “mainstream” singers were having hits. And to make my point even clearer, Patti Page had a number one record in 1953 with How Much Is That Doggie In The Window and I’ll bet most boomers born in the 1950’s can still sing it.

But before we took over our own vinyl turntables with disks by Elvis and The Beatles (and many others), we heard our parents’ record collections. In my case it included the above-mentioned singers, jazz, big band, movie soundtracks and Broadway show tunes.

February 9, 1964 Headliners

This was also the music that was popular on television. In the 1950’s and 60’s variety shows earned high ratings for family viewing. On Sunday nights the most influential primetime host, Ed Sullivan, featured the widest variety of them all.

Most of these shows treated rock ‘n’ roll singers as little more than novelty acts for the youngsters. Though Sullivan may have used that billing to schedule everyone from Elvis to The Beatles, appearances on his show could make their careers more than just a passing fad.

If boomers wanted to see the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll, we watched The Ed Sullivan Show. And while we watched, he also made sure to present acts everyone else in the family could enjoy.

As mentioned in past Classic Rockers, I was well versed in Broadway musicals thanks to my mother – a member of the Frank Sinatra bobby-sock generation. But my first exposure to I’d Do Anything from the musical Oliver! occurred the same night Ed Sullivan introduced The Beatles to U.S. audiences on February 9, 1964.

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I’d Do Anything was introduced to this Dream Song list on August 17th. And as proof my digital playlist is as varied as one of Sullivan’s programs, I own a copy from the 1968 movie soundtrack and had just heard it. So place this one into the recent memory category.

So why would a Classic Rocker have this Broadway show tune mixed in with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and others that proved not to be just passing fads?

I’ll get to that in a moment, but first here’s a 1964 fact about this song and a then-future teen idol.

When we watched for our favorite group on The Ed Sullivan Show, it was necessary to watch the entire program. We never had a clue exactly when they would appear. On February 9th Sullivan told us The Beatles “Would appear now and again later in the second half of our show,” which kept us tuned in for the entire hour. On a weekly basis that meant we’d also see comedians, animal acts, plate spinners, acrobats and opera singers while waiting for The Dave Clark Five or The Animals.

Davy Jones as The Artful Dodger

Between the Beatles two sets on their debut night, Sullivan introduced the Broadway cast of Oliver! to perform two songs. The first was I’d Give Anything For You featuring Davy Jones as The Artful Dodger and English singer Georgia Brown as Nancy (who sang As Long As He Needs Me).

Little did we know that two and a half years later Davy Jones would become one of The Monkees. And during an interview years after that, he talked about watching The Beatles from the side of the stage and thinking how much fun that would be as a career. Little did he know

But the real credit for this Oliver! classic making our Dream Songs list goes to my son Paul.

We learned at (his) very young age that Paul loved Broadway musicals. His first exposure came when he was about four years old and we took him to see the local high school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. He sat on my lap the entire time to see over the adults seated in front of us and it was obvious to me he was mesmerized. Days later he was singing the songs – after only hearing them that one time. Musically gifted? As a proud and supportive dad I definitely say yes.

Two years later the high school staged Oliver! and the same thing happened. So before we made a long drive to Florida for a spring vacation, I bought the Broadway cast CD and we listened constantly. On the fun(ny) side (for father and son anyway) his mother almost lost her mind hearing it over and over and over as we sang along. And after each time we’d hear I’d Do Anything, he’d call out from the back seat (since he was still too small to ride in the front):

Play it again!” Being the proud and supportive dad, I always did.

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So my memory is not of Davy Jones on The Ed Sullivan Show, but instead our son Paul as a five or six year old musical prodigy serenading us on a 20+ hour drive to Florida. And adding to the memory bank about the influence this music had on him, he has gone on to graduate from a well-respected Conservatory of Music and onto a career in musical theater. This past year he made the full circle by starring in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. But since he’s in his early twenties and over six feet tall with leading man looks, it’s highly doubtful we’ll ever see him as the youngster Artful Dodger in any revival of Oliver!

The Classic Rocker with Davy Jones

And finally as a footnote for this Classic Rocker’s personal memories about waiting for The Beatles and watching Davy Jones as The Artful Dodger singing I’d Do Anything on The Ed Sullivan Show, I guess you could call this another type of circle.

The first concert we took Paul to – as an infant – was by The Monkees.

I had interviewed Davy Jones for a newspaper column I was writing at the time and being a nice guy, he invited us back stage after the show. We had time to talk and take photos, which was also a thrill for my wife Debutant Deb, who still views Davy as her teen idol from the ’60s. And yeah, we have a photo of him with infant Paul who I know will complete another circle some day soon when he makes his Broadway musical debut.

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Here’s a video of Davy Jones and the cast of Oliver! performing I’d Do Anything on The Ed Sullivan Show

 

To purchase the original Broadway cast recording of Oliver! with I’d Do Anything (sorry, but Davy Jones wasn’t part of the original cast and not on this one!) 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

 

#177 – Stop! In The Name Of Love

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#177 – Stop! In The Name Of Love by The Supremes

 – I’d say there’s about a fifty-fifty chance I heard the word “Stop!” during a concert by The Supremes. The problem was that it wasn’t followed by, “In the name of love.” More likely it was, “Where do you think you’re going?

Alright, I didn’t belong there anyway. But at the time it seemed worth the try.

I’ll get to all that in a moment, but there’s no way to stop Stop! In The Name Of Love from joining this Dream Song list. It happened on the morning of August 16th. There’s a decent selection of Supremes songs on my digital playlist, but this number one hit from 1965 isn’t one of them. That’s strange because I like the song, but just haven’t gotten around to downloading it. Guess I’ll have to take care of that soon. In the meantime, since I hadn’t heard it in awhile, we’ll add it to the subliminal category and use it to bring back a memory that would’ve been better off left in my subconscious.

In past Classic Rocker’s I’ve gone through the valuable music heritage that was coming out of Detroit on a regular basis during the 1960s. There’s no need to repeat any of that here, especially for those of you that lived through it. If you’re of a younger generation, just retrace the roots of your favorite hip-hop, soul, rap and funk artists and you’ll wind up at Motown.

Top tier Motown talent

It’s not a stretch of the imagination to say The Supremes were the top tier of talent for Motown’s founder, Berry Gordy. The trio of Diane (later Diana) Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard (later Cindy Birdsong) set records for consistent chart-topping songs (twelve number one singles) and were favorites on The Ed Sullivan Show and many others that we watched on a regular basis. And it wasn’t just the baby boomer generation that was enamored by The Supremes. Gordy self-guided their career to also include high-end, big-name nightclubs to include an audience of “mature” fans and in the case of Ross, a high-profile movie career in the 1970’s.

The fact that he also fathered one of her children only adds to the legend and why he took such special interest in her career. But that has nothing to do with our Classic Rocker ramblings today. And my rambling into a Supremes performance where I actually didn’t belong also has nothing to do with Ross since she had already split the scene in 1970 for a solo career and was replaced by Jean Terrell.

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The same year Ross split, my friends and I were joining. To be more specific, we into our last two years of high school and were involved. We joined various clubs and activities ranging from ski club to band to the school musicals. I was class vice president and prom chairman my junior year, and on student council as a senior. But that also has nothing to do with Classic Rocker ramblings. I don’t want it to sound like bragging and it’s only mentioned because it sets up the reason why we joined a club specifically meant for the smart kids.

It was called Quiz Bee.

Basically you had a team of students that – together – knew everything. We’d compete against other schools and whichever team answered the most questions correctly would win. There were about twelve of us in Quiz Bee, and we were divided into two teams. The really smart kids were on the A-Team. My closest friends (myself included) made up the B-Team. In other words, we weren’t really that smart. We just joined because we were just smart enough to know we could get out of school early and hang out together while traveling to compete at other schools.

But there was one really cool perk being a member of Quiz Bee. Two schools from each state in the U.S. would be invited to participate in a three-day student United Nations Assembly in Washington, DC. Ours was one of the schools from Ohio for both our junior and senior years.

Talk about a cool perk! But it’s better than that…

The idea was that each team would represent a different member country in a pretend UN session. Our school was given Norway and Malta. Our B-Team was trusted with the fate of the small island country and we prepared for this educational experience as if we were going to an island for spring break.

The Fab Shoreham

I must say this was a very good program to be involved with. We traveled to DC and stayed at the famous Shoreham Hotel, (where The Beatles stayed) and had schedules that included small group meetings, large assemblies (with schools from every state), speakers, debates and voting on (pretend) international policies. But once these were completed by early evening, we were still teenagers away from parental supervision, staying in a large hotel in a big city, and left to our own devices.

I shared a hotel room with my two best friends who had no more business being on the Quiz Bee team than I did. We were just out for a good time. And to add to the devices, our girl friends (two words, so not girlfriends) were staying only two doors down. Occupying the room in-between was our teacher chaperone, but he was old and we knew he’d be in bed by nine o’clock.

Suddenly I’m depressed by that term old. Thinking back, he was probably younger than we are now.

We were all basically good kids, but certainly not angels. We knew how to have fun as long as we didn’t get caught. My buddy Tim and I each claimed one of the two beds and told Gary he could sleep on the foldout cot. But that didn’t concern him at all. What did was the supply of booze he had packed in his suitcase for our B-Team’s wild weekend. Since we were only 17 years old he had gone to the trouble of finding “adults” (probably older kids with fake ID’s) to buy him bottles of whiskey and vodka.

We invited the girls over for a party.

That night got a little too loud with talking, laughing and the radio because we woke up our (teacher) neighbor. He banged on our hotel door and we had to keep yelling “Wait a minute” while hiding the booze and any evidence we were underage kids drinking it. As a preventative against real trouble, the girls stood in the bathtub and closed the shower curtain shut.

Of course we were all caught red-handed. The party ended with the girls being sent back to their room and a promise that all of us would be sent back to Ohio via bus the next day.

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Wisely, Tim, Gary and I woke up early that day and walked or bused our way to the Capitol Building. Either that morning or the day before, a radical group (we didn’t use the term terrorist in 1970) had set off a bomb and blown off a small chunk from the corner of the building. The area was cordoned off by police tape and there were a few guards hanging around. One of us reached over and picked up a small piece of brick. We went back to the Shoreham Hotel and gave this small souvenir from our nation’s historic Capitol as a peace offering to our teacher chaperone.

It must have worked because we continued as the Malta delegation for the rest of our planned weekend.

We attended all the meetings and only left one early on Friday to drop water balloons on our school’s A-Team from the hotel roof as they walked across the street for lunch. Otherwise we kept our fun to the evening hours. And for those two remaining nights we just made sure not to get caught.

I remember most of the other schools were just as adventurous as we were and there was never a shortage of underage kids using fake ID’s to buy booze from the liquor store about a block away. There was a lot of running around the hallways, shouting, laughing and acting like… well, teenagers on booze.

Oh yeah… I almost forgot about The Supremes.

There was a large lounge, or maybe a convention center turned into a showroom in the hotel. Coming back from one of our Saturday meetings, we saw a sign outside saying The Supremes were performing that night.

So a plan was set in motion…

Jean Terrell and Supremes on Tom Jones TV show 1970

Since we had to dress up for our pretend UN Convention, the guys had shirts, ties and jackets and the girls had dresses. We stayed in our “good clothes” instead of our “running around the halls clothes” and waited until the show had started. Then along with my two buddies and our girl friends we put on our best mature attitudes and walked around the velvet ropes and into the showroom.

The place was filled with a mature well-dressed audience that obviously didn’t need fake ID’s to enter. We probably got about halfway in and stopped because we couldn’t see any open tables or seats. The Supremes were on stage (sorry, I can’t remember the song) but that was also when we heard (fifty-fifty chance), “STOP!” I’ll go ahead and add “Where do you think you’re going?” only if you think it’ll enhance the story.

We were quickly escorted out by a few big guys in suits and left to our own devices for the rest of the night.

With no shortage of fake ID’s among high school students from all fifty states, the parties raged on in the hotel hallways for the rest of the night and into the early morning hours. As for The Supremes, our adventure became a good bragging right (“Yeah, we saw them!“).

And speaking of The Supremes and our adventures…

I remember seeing the three girls on stage wearing either white or cream-colored long gowns that sparkled under the spotlights. Mary Wilson would have been the only original member – but it still counts!

We left Sunday morning for the long bus ride back to Ohio. I remember it being a fairly quiet trip for the B-Team as we caught up on our sleep, while the well-rested A-Team probably talked about the educational benefits gained from our extracurricular activity. I also left with knowledge of how the UN works and the importance of countries working together to make the world a better place.

But the main lesson I learned was that teenagers from all fifty U.S. states are not that much different – as long as fake ID’s are involved.

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Here’s a video from 1965 of The Supremes performing Stop! In The Name Of Love

 

 

To purchase The Supremes: The Definitive Collection with Stop In The Name Of Love 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

#179 – Achy Breaky Heart

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#179 – Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus

 – Depending on which side of the fence you’re using to pick sides, this song never fails to stir up contrasting opinions. In some cases, it’s downright confusing. For example, in one poll VH-1 named it one of the 100 Greatest Songs of the ’90s (coming in at number 87). However, with a different opinion, the same VH-1 pollsters ranked it at the number two position of Worst Songs of All Time.

Yeah, I’m confused too.

Achy Breaky Heart stirred up a position on this Dream Song List on August 10th. The reason for my confusion is because of how I went from one side of the fence to the other in my personal opinion. I don’t own a copy and haven’t heard it in awhile, which places it in the subliminal category. But I wouldn’t mind listening to it again. Like almost all the songs on this list, it has a catchy tune that makes it hard to forget.

And I’ll have to admit it brings back some down home memories.

The extreme mullet!

When it made Billy Ray Cyrus a household name in 1992, topping music charts around the world and becoming one of the top-selling country singles of all time, Classic Rockers like myself were more inclined to cringe, rather than dust off our boots from the Urban Cowboy fad a decade earlier and kick up our heels in line dancing extravaganzas. This wasn’t John Travolta giving us Hollywood’s version of country music. This was a new trend that brought a pop feeling to the real deal that was coming out of Nashville at that time.

But it wasn’t just the music that was different. It was also the artist. The days of Rhinestone Cowboys were over and rockers were moving in. Aiming to take country to new heights of popularity were Garth Brooks, Dwight Yoakam, Travis Tritt and Billy Ray Cyrus.

The style was changing.

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And speaking of style, Billy Ray’s mullet made such a confusing and lasting visual impression in 1992 that ten years later comedian David Spade reprised the look for laughs with his character Joe Dirt in the movie of the same name. And believe me, it wasn’t meant to be a flattering impression.

Extreme Joe Dirt

But now that the musical changes, along with the critical and comedic opinions have been aired out, I’ll admit to my residency on both sides of the Achy Breaky fence. When the song was riding high in early 1992 it immediately became a punch line for late night television hosts and more than a few comedians. And since I was working in Hollywood scheduling stand-up comedians for live shows and television, I was laughing along with them. It seemed like the TV show Hee-Haw was being reinvented for our entertainment.

Yeah, I know. It was an opinion not everyone on the opposite side of the fence would have agreed with. And it didn’t matter whether you were boot-scootin’ in Nashville or Hollywood – you couldn’t escape hearing it.

Then in 1993 I also caught a bit of critical flack from some of my comedy cronies by jumping the fence and moving back to my hometown in Ohio. Talk about Hee-Haw being reinvented… Okay, that was meant to be a joke and nothing personal toward my current cronies. Considering my choice of career you’ll have to cut me some flack on the humor side once in awhile.

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Embarking on a second career as a writer, I scored a weekly entertainment column for a local newspaper. I pitched the editor my value as a comedy journalist covering live shows in the area. I wasn’t surprised he went for it and hired me on the spot. The surprise came when he made the deal contingent on me also writing a weekly column on country music.

Guess it was time to dust off the boots.

The down home memories started line-dancing into my life about two months later when I met my future wife Cowgirl Deb and future son Chaos Kevin. Discovering the value of combining my work requirements with a social life, I took Deb to a comedy show on our first date. By our third date I was wearing boots and line dancing to a cowboy deejay.

Both work outings received great reviews in my weekly comedy and country music columns. The social life grabbed my achy breaky heart.

The Classic Rocker & Billy Ray Cyrus

But just like I refer to myself as a Classic Rocker kind of guy, the Cowgirl tag fits the girl. She has the ability to sing along with almost every song that has a twang, while I’m still trying to figure out the lyrics Mick Jagger was singing in the ’60s and ’70s.

Though her county stylings never really rubbed off on the rest of the (future) family, Achy Breaky Heart did find its way onto (then) five-year-old Chaos Kevin’s playlist. It was one of the first songs I remember him singing and dancing (jumping) to around the living room. I guess it was his enthusiasm that rubbed off on me because after only a few listens I was singing it too.

And as for my dancing ability, jumping is a suitable description.

So with all this Achy Breaky fun going on in the household, the next step was to get married – which we did six months later. The five and a half year old Chaotic member of my new family was my best man. We laid the groundwork for our shared ability to surprise his mom when she walked down the church aisle and noticed I had mistakenly pinned my groom’s flower (officially called boutonniere) to his jacket while I sported his pint-sized version on mine.

We also had our own running commentary as she approached the alter:

  • Me: “Who’s the babe?
  • Chaos Kevin: “That’s Debbie.”
  • Me: “Oh yeah…”

Instead of continuing this Achy Breaky family affair into the years where an older Chaos Kevin discovered rap music and I learned the value of closing the door to any room where he was listening to rap music (and soon opening again to tell him he was too young to repeat those lyrics, which for some reason he understood better than I understood Mick in the ’60s and ’70s), we’ll return to my good fortune of combining work with a social life. Rather than acting as a rap music critic at home, it was a lot more fun to have reviewer seats and backstage passes for country music concerts and comedy shows.

Hannah Montana’s dad & The Classic Rocker

I’ve lost track of how many years I did double duty as a comedy and country music columnist, but I’ll say it was at least fifteen. And during that time we saw some heavy duty performers. I could name drop from a worthy list and probably will in the future, but one happened to be Billy Ray Cyrus.

Though I’m sure he toured through our area more than a few times during those years, we saw him twice. The first time I didn’t know what to expect. Achy Breaky Heart and…

Well, I honestly didn’t know anything else.

And you know what? Billy Ray and his backup band gave us a new wave of country that had a backbeat and rocked. Did I give his shows good reviews? Better than that – they were great.

And afterwards, thanks to backstage journalist passes, I was able to tell him in person.

Finally, I’ll return to the Achy Breaky family affair. As mentioned above, this song joined the list on August 10th. By coincidence that date also happens to be Chaos Kevin’s birthday. Was that a subliminal message? It depends on what side of the fence you’re on when it comes to premonitions.

Hannah Montana & dad

And to fast forward through the years, our son Dangerous Paul was added to the family mix. Of course he’s a younger generation with a younger outlook and I have no memory if he was ever into Achy Breaky Heart. In fact, I doubt he knows any of the lyrics other than the title.

But my well-earned journalistic credentials helped me become a big deal during a commercial break on The Disney Channel when he and his young friends saw my photo with Billy Ray Cyrus…

  • Dangerous Paul & friends: “That’s Hannah Montana’s dad!”
  • Me: “Yep.”

At least my time as a country music columnist earned me a limited amount of cool factor with the younger generation. Now if I could just figure out what Mick has been singing all these years I might be able to do the same with my peers in The Classic Rocker generation…

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Here’s the 1993 video of Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus that started the craze.

To purchase The Definitive Collection by Billy Ray Cyrus with Achy Breaky Heart 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.

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