Category Archives: Singers

#189 – Copacabana (At The Copa)

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

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

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

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

Singer song-writer

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

I rest my case.

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

And you know what?

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

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Yeah, I know.

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

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

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

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

Barry and his Bette

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

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

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

Barry and his mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

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

 

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#193 – Mysterious Ways

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#193 – Mysterious Ways by U2

 – Based on the title of the album and band, it’s funny (to me, anyway) I associate Achtung Baby and U2 with Southern California. We’re not talking about surf music here kids. This was the group’s move away from possibly taking themselves a little too seriously (according to music critics) and into a more industrial dance-groove that I’ll go ahead and trace back to David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy (Low, Heroes and Lodger) with producer Brian Eno. I’ve always associated that crunchy sound as coming out of recording sessions in Berlin Germany, where U2 also created tracks for this LP.

It’s also when lead singer Bono created his rock star parody character The Fly, which lasted through a couple albums and tours (Zoo TV). But what does this have to do with Southern California?

That just happens to be the locale where I started grooving on U2.

The Fly

I call Achtung Baby an album, but there was no vinyl involved with my ownership. I actually had it on cassette. When it came out in late 1991 I was almost a year into my move to Los Angeles from New York City and the song Mysterious Ways could be a theme song for the culture shocking experience. I know the song is about a woman’s mysterious “moves” since the video and live performances featured exotic belly dancers, but after more than a dozen years as a Manhattan resident (east coast as opposed to west coast Manhattan Beach), LA was different enough to be mysterious.

The biggest shock was having to own a car.

I essentially ditched driving after moving to NYC following college and hadn’t been behind the wheel of a car for little more than a handful of times since. Taxis, subways, buses and my feet were the only means of transportation necessary for city life. Car payments, insurance costs, gas prices, parking and road rage were non-existent for me. And if there was a Manhattan traffic jam while sitting the backseat of a taxi or during a subway delay, a quick walk down a couple city blocks would always find a different scenario or route to get me where I wanted to go.

It was never that way in LA. It was all about cars…

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I made the move to the Pacific Coast as a passenger during a cross-country drive by a pal. With a couple suitcases I was dropped off at another pal’s (who happened to be an ex-girlfriend, but we’ll save that saga for a future Dream Song) rented basement apartment in the Hollywood Hills to begin this new adventure.

And the first thing they both brought to my attention was that I was car-less.

Not quite walking distance

There was no walking in Los Angeles unless you were exercising or car-less. And since this was happening in the days pre-LA subway and my employment sights were set on Hollywood, I could either be the healthiest guy on my career path by adding miles and hours to my tired feet every day walking from The Hills, or buy a car.

I opted for motorized transportation.

But I wouldn’t settle for any car like I might have on the east coast. This was Hollywood and my goal was to fit into what I considered Southern California cool. I needed a convertible and with that in mind, I went shopping.

Since I knew nothing about cars, this perception of what I needed to drive (simply based on a coolness factor similar to The Fly) pretty much stamped the word SUCKER on my forehead. In hindsight I can still see the used car dealers I spoke with, who were all typical of the comedy stereotype used car dealers, salivate when I came walking onto their lives.

Did I bring someone with knowledge to look under the car, check the engine and ask all the right mechanical questions?

Nope.

I was the new kid in town and my close pals were still back in NYC buying subway tokens and hailing cabs. I just wanted to know if the convertible top worked, if it had a cassette deck (did cars have CD players in 1991?) and if I looked Fly sitting behind the wheel.

Looking cool?

Within a few days of first discovering my shocking need for a car, I purchased a 1983 used Mustang convertible. The guy that sold it to me probably only stopped salivating long enough to run behind closed doors to pop open a bottle of Champagne and hire an expensive escort for the weekend after I paid in full with cash. Yeah, it had helped the bank account in NYC by never owning a car and never worrying about payments, insurance, gas prices and parking. Now these newly discovered options were staring me in the face along with another cost-fueled stress factor:

Repairs.

I had purchased what they call in comedy terms a lemon.

This piece of crap car broke down on the average of about once a month. I learned more about the different neighborhoods in Los Angeles by waiting for and then riding in tow trucks taking me and my lemon to various garages for repairs. But when it was running, at least the convertible top and cassette deck always worked.

So what does this have to do with Mysterious Ways?

Worth a comedy paycheck

On the positive side of my fish-out-of-water adventure to the west coast, I had landed my dream job in Hollywood. I talk about comedy terms because it was in the comedy industry as a talent coordinator (talent booker in simple terms) that was even more Fly than my pre-conceived expectations. With my first paycheck I went to a flea market off Melrose Avenue and bought a piece of Beatles memorabilia – a framed plaque containing a one inch square of bed sheet slept on by John Lennon at Detroit’s Whittier Hotel in 1964.

I know what you’re thinking… Are you kidding me?

Hey – I saw a 1964 clip of the hotel manager hawking this fan souvenir (for profit) in The Complete Beatles video a few years earlier and my comedic sense wouldn’t allow me to pass it up for only twenty-five bucks. I splurged what was left of my second paycheck on an Achtung Baby cassette.

And believe me when I say splurged. Adding regular repairs to the newly burdening costs of owning a car and renting an apartment in the San Fernando Valley, buying a new cassette was a luxury. Come to think of it, so was eating.

Music Science Class

The song that sold me on the cassette was One. When I first heard it I needed to own it. The fact that the entire album was great was a bonus. But like most music fans I had my favorite songs. One was… well, one. Another was Mysterious Ways.

Unlike a CD or with digital music, you couldn’t just punch in a number and play the track you want to hear. With a cassette it meant fast forwarding or rewinding and hoping you stopped near the beginning of the desired song. With both One and Mysterious Ways, I actually had it down to a musical science of mentally counting the seconds of fast forwarding or rewinding until hitting play for another listen.

Yeah, the things we had to do in the old days as music fans…

Mysterious Ways hit this Dream Song List on June 27th. Of course I own a copy – and have even moved up in the techno musical world by long ago ditching the cassette and adding the song to my digital playlist. But I hadn’t heard it in awhile. If you’ve been paying attention at all to any of these past Classic Rocker ramblings, that places it into the subliminal category.

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My Los Angeles car experience

So even though one of my best Southern California experiences was finally selling that used lemon convertible, Mysterious Ways and the Achtung Baby LP bring back better memories of driving from North Hollywood, into Studio City and through Laurel Canyon to my job in Hollywood. The car top was down, the volume was turned up, the weather was warm and sunny, and I was mentally counting the seconds of fast forward or rewind to hear them over again.

Of course that only happened on the days the car was running and I wasn’t using foot power to find another pay phone (pre-cell folks!) to call the next tow truck driver to give me a lift to the nearest garage. And in hindsight, I’m sure they never missed reading the word SUCKER stamped on my forehead. It was truly an era of mysterious ways for a big city guy in the sprawling Southern California Land of Angels…

Complete with a gyrating belly dancer, here’s a video for Mysterious Ways by U2 performed live during the Zoo TV Tour stop in Sydney, Australia.

 

 

To purchase Achtung Baby by U2 with Mysterious Ways visit Amazon.com.

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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

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