Tag Archives: college

#142 and 143 – Walk On The Wild Side

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#142 and 143 – Walk On The Wild Side

#142 & 143 – Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed

I had a college roommate I didn’t like very much. That’s okay, because I’m sure he didn’t like me at all. We only shared a room for one quarter of a school year, which was enough. The guy moved out and I never saw him again. But that doesn’t mean my adventures with his “family” were over.

I can’t remember why we antagonized each other. It was never to the point where we had heated arguments or even close. It’s just that he was as annoying as I was, and we got on each other’s nerves. It’s no wonder I had the best grade point average of my entire college career during that quarter because I spent more time in the library than I did in our room.

So, what’s the connection between one of my many (maybe I was the problem?) college roommates and Lou Reed? I don’t think there was any really, if you know anything about Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol. But there was a common denominator:

Walk On The Wild Side.

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Andy Warhol and Lou Reed

This song joined the Dream Song List twice on December 26 and almost a year to the day later on December 24. This gives Walk On The Wild Side a very special status – and I’m not talking about a December holiday theme. If you’ve read about how this countdown works, the more times a song appears causes it to rank higher on the list. Every song up to now has been a one-hit, one-wakeup wonder.

Walk On The Wild Side is the first repeat, which gives us new meaning to the term – Deuces Are Wild. It’s also wild I hadn’t heard it in a while, unlike during the time we shared a room. I’ll explain that in moment, but for right now it joins the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

I’m not going to make any allegations my former roommate walked on the wild side. At least not in the way Lou Reed describes it. And as a college freshman, I didn’t either, unless it involved draft beer and cute girls.

But I found out a couple years later his “family” did.

The reason I’m writing about this lost college connection (I honestly can’t remember his first name) revolves around his late night radio habit. He would fall asleep listening to music, which means I did too.

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Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

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I’m not complaining about the bedtime tunes since this Classic Rocker was a rocker before these songs were considered classic. In fact, the only fun memory of this guy is having his radio on and hearing Walk On The Wild Side every night before falling asleep. And when I say “every night” I mean it. The station we listened to had this on heavy play rotation during that entire school quarter.

Even decades later when I hear the song, I can immediately picture every detail of our room including bunk beds, desks, chairs, closets and one phone hung on the wall. I used it every Wednesday at 6 pm to call home and say hello to my family.

It became obvious to me later that my family was much different than his “family.”

Okay, I don’t want to make any allegations or give you the wrong idea when I write “family.” It wasn’t like The Godfather or… Oh wait. Yeah, I guess it was.

A year or two later I took a week-long summer road trip to New England’s Cape Cod with one of my best friends, who was also a college fraternity brother. We camped out on sand dunes, ate seafood and hung out at the beach. At night we looked for clubs with draft beer and cute girls.

In retrospective, it was sort of like being in summer school.

In a wild twist of fate, it turned out my ex-roommate’s older brother had attended our same college and was also a member of our fraternity. I had never met him since I was younger, but my pal did. Since he lived close by at his “family” home in Connecticut, a phone call was made and we were invited to the house for an overnight stay.

To be honest, I was a bit worried about the reception I’d have waiting for me, but it turned out very cool. The older brother asked why we hadn’t gotten along, and I answered honestly. I said he annoyed me, and I annoyed him. That was good enough and we had a good laugh. It was also helpful that the brother in question wasn’t there with us.

We ended up having a big Italian dinner with our frat brother, his parents and a few other family members. Then, I’m not sure when the subject came up, but I’ll go ahead and say it was helped by a few glasses of red wine with our pasta. The real family name of our hosts was the same “family” name of a notorious New York Mafia chief.

No lie. But wait. It gets better… Or scarier, if you prefer.

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The notorious gangster who was the real life uncle to the family we were staying with that night had been in the news not too long before. It wasn’t for a big trial, big heist or big insider story. He had been gunned down by a rival “family” on a sidewalk in New York’s Little Italy district.

Yeah, let’s make that scarier rather than getting better… If you prefer (I do). Talk about taking a walk on the wild side…

But to be honest, I’ll stop with the dramatics. I actually felt quite safe even after knowing the “family” connections. I thought if there was any trouble during the night, this group would know how to “go to the mattresses” (Godfather reference for movie novices) while my pal and I could sleep safe in an upstairs bedroom at their large house.

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Looking cool?

We had decided the next day to make a quick trip into New York City before heading home. I was reminded by our host that I had talked during dinner (and wine) about wanting a black, pin-striped suit. We had seen the movie A Clockwork Orange during a rainy afternoon on Cape Cod and for some reason, I thought Malcom McDowell looked cool wearing one.

Tony (our host’s real name, but I’ll keep the last name to myself to avoid needing a witness protection program) walked us to our car and handed me a folded piece of paper. I opened it and saw an address on Mulberry Street in Lower Manhattan’s Little Italy neighborhood. He said to go to the address and tell them he sent us. They’ll take care of me.

Okay…

We drove into Manhattan and found the address on Mulberry Street. It was a men’s clothing store, so we walked in and announced that Tony had sent us. All of a sudden, we had another new “friend” who seemed to be the owner or guardian (or tailor?) of the store. I asked about a black pin-striped suit and he showed me a really nice one in my size. The problem was that it had a very expensive (at least for a college student) price tag. It’s hard to remember exactly, but I’ll guess it was in the $300 range, which was a lot of money for a college student – especially all those years ago.

I told him thanks but no thanks. I couldn’t afford it. But he didn’t seem to be the type of guy who would take no for an answer…

“No problem,” he said, and came down on the price. I still couldn’t do it, so he lowered it again – and even again, if I would pay cash. Our negotiations – me saying no and him coming down in price – continued until we hit $99. Even me (as a college student) knew that was a good deal, but then something happened.

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The head of the family

I must have assumed some of the cockiness Malcom McDowell had in A Clockwork Orange and thought I could get him to cut the price even more, so I refused again. That’s when I realized my assumed movie character was negotiating with one that was closer to Marlon Brando’s in The Godfather.

I remember it started to get a little scary. Don Corleone… or the tailor… began losing his temper and was mad about wasting his time. I had a feeling he was about to “go to the mattresses” and his sights would be aimed at me. I thought the best deal for me was to get out of there – in a hurry.

I turned, walked out of the store and headed toward our parked car. I think there were a few choice words aimed in my direction, but at least I felt a little safer outside, until realizing the head of the “family” where we had stayed the night before might have felt the same way on a Little Italy sidewalk – until bullets started flying in his direction. I also realized $99 was a darn good price for a new suit.

My friend agreed. But in his case, he might have been thinking of my purchase as a peace offering and personal protection, rather than me looking stylish.

I handed him the money with instructions to go back buy the suit. He did, telling Don Corleone… uh, the tailor, that his friend (me) was an idiot to pass up such a deal and that he wanted to buy it for himself. He came back, handed me the suit and I tossed it into our car. Without looking back, we made our getaway uptown where we spent a much calmer afternoon walking around Rockefeller Center before starting the long drive back to our home turf.

I can’t remember where I ever wore the suit, since being stylish in college meant bellbottom jeans and nothing resembling anything seen in A Clockwork Orange or The Godfather. But I can still picture it in my mind looking cool hanging in the closet as a reminder of my Walk On The Wild Side.

Here’s a video of Lou Reed performing Walk On The Wild Side at Farm Aid in 1985.

To purchase the Transformer LP with Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed, visit Amazon.com

Have a comment? I’d love to hear from you. Thanks – and keep rockin’!

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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 2021 – North Shore Publishing

#144 – Ding Dong, Ding Dong

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#144 – Ding Dong, Ding Dong by George Harrison

George Harrison

For a Classic Rocker like myself, this song has become more of a New Year’s tradition than the previous chart-topper of New Year’s tradition songs, Auld Lang Syne. That one was geared for our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Then again, this George Harrison singalong probably already has that same reputation with generations younger than the boomers.

It’s funny how age will do that. And it’s a guarantee – like turning the pages on a calendar.

Even though I remember reading Harrison wrote this to be a New Year’s “ring out the old, ring in the new” celebration song, I don’t quite remember getting that message when it was included on the Dark Horse album that came out in December 1974. There had been a lot of excitement the month before over Harrison’s (and any Beatle) first solo tour of North America and the the LP’s first single, also called Dark Horse. Ding Dong, Ding Dong seemed to be a hidden gem only heard after purchasing the album.

In other words, I don’t remember this being a radio hit. At least not during the 1974 holiday season.

Harrisongs in concert

I purchased the Dark Horse LP when it was released. But the bigger excitement was scoring tickets to one of Harrison’s two concerts at Richfield Coliseum (Cleveland, Ohio) that was supposed to take place on December 2, 1974. I say supposed because both shows were cancelled due to a major snowstorm. They were never rescheduled – but that’s not even the worst part of this sad story…

On the day of the show, my girlfriend and I had at least a two-hour drive from our college to the Coliseum. And that would be with no snow covering the highways and back roads. We listened to radio updates all morning with deejays reporting roads were almost impassable, but the concerts had not been cancelled. Harrison would be on stage whether we were there or not.

So we took off in my Chevy Vega station wagon, which was great for hauling stuff to college, but not exactly known as an all-weather vehicle. An hour into our drive we were still only about ten miles from campus, but the radio reports were egging us on. Finally, the announcement came.

Harrison couldn’t get to Cleveland and shows were officially cancelled.

Making a U-turn on a snowy and slippery road, my trusty Vega slid into a ditch. In the days when cell phones were nothing more than a space age wristband in a Dick Tracy cartoon, we sat and waited until a tow truck – obviously making emergency runs up and down the highway – stopped and pulled us out. We eventually made it back to campus in time to declare our concert night would now be transformed into a frat party night.

————————————————————————

Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

+

The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

*

Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

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And if it adds to the story, this was the only time in my life I had grown a beard. I doubt it looked good at all, but it was 1974 which was an era stuck post-Woodstock and pre-disco. With that excuse in mind, a beard seemed like a good fashion statement at the time – right up there with leisure suits and platform shoes.

So, to “protest” (yes, that’s the term I used after only one or two beers) the delay in cancelling the concert, I shaved the beard off that night. I’ve never had one since.

What I have had since are plenty of Dream Songs and this one joined the list on July 17th. Yeah, I know – far from New Year’s Eve, but I have no control over the just-waking mind. I sometimes wonder if I even have any control over an already-awakened mind, but that’s another mental concept I’ll need to drag from my personal ditch in the future.

But I am conscious enough to admit I own a copy of Ding Dong, Ding Dong and adhere to no seasonal restrictions when adding it to a digital playlist. In other words, I had just heard the song, so it enters this Dream Song List in the recently heard category.

Since there have been references to New Year’s Eve in this Classic Rocker rambling, it seems only fair there should be a corresponding memory. Okay, here’s one…

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About two and a half decades following the release of Dark Horse and Ding Dong, Ding Dong I was managing the top comedy club in New York City. Based in the West Side Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, we were only a couple blocks from Times Square where – if you know anything about New Year’s Eve in Manhattan – thousands of partying tourists gather to watch the ball drop at midnight.

A Beatle at the NYC Improv

Dick Clark and a whole slew of celebrities make it a celebration while nightclubs, like The Improv comedy club where I had been hired to maintain some type of control, were packed with sold-out audiences.

I won’t mince any words in saying I view New Year’s Eve as “amateur night.” I know you’ve heard the term and I won’t take any credit for making it up. I just lived it too often and learned through experience I’d rather work in a nightclub then try to live up to everyone’s party expectations. I always had just as much fun (probably more) and was paid to do it.

After this particular New Year’s Eve 3-show comedy club extravaganza, I locked the front door and looked forward to heading downtown to my Gramercy Park neighborhood for late night hanging out with friends. In NYC a special holiday license allowed bars to stay open until 8 am on New Year’s and my fellow working pals would just be getting together a few hours before that. So we would have plenty of time to ring in the year at our local watering hole.

Along with my girlfriend (a different one from above) and a best pal I had invited to be my guests for the late comedy show, we stood on the corner of West 44th Street and 9th Avenue looking for a taxi. BUT since the Times Square thousands were also looking for rides and carried a well-earned, decades-old reputation for being more than a little inebriated after hours of partying in the streets, taxis were not picking up anyone.

As each red light turned green, countless cabs drove past us with their “Not In Service” lights turned on.

“Yo taxi!!”

It looked like we were going to be in for a long night / early morning wait for a miracle cab. It was either that or riding a packed subway with booze-saturated amateurs or making a long cold walk downtown. None of these choices would be a great way to kick off a New Year.

Then my adopted New York street smarts took over…

During the umpteenth red light with mobs of tourists filling the streets with the same objective, I went for broke. I ran out into the intersection and slapped a twenty dollar bill on the windshield of an off-duty taxi. I yelled through the window at the driver, “This is yours on top of the fare AND a tip!

He looked at me and said, “Get in.

I jumped in the back with my two companions and laughed as we drove off, leaving everyone without New York street smarts behind. We made it downtown and hooked up with more friends in plenty of time for our own New Year’s celebration and great advice for anyone desperate to find a taxi in an overcrowded city.

Ding Dong, Ding Dong. The lyrics, “Ring out the old, ring in the new” is the message in this song. But sometimes old traditions make a lot of sense. In this case the age-old advice simple:

Money talks.

Here is the first music video George Harrison ever made for one of his single records:

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To purchase the Dark Horse LP with Ding Dong, Ding Dong by George Harrison, visit Amazon.com

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

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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 2021 – North Shore Publishing