Tag Archives: New York City

#153 – Heart of Glass

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#153 – Heart of Glass by Blondie

Blondie

– I’ll go ahead and claim to have developed at least some semblance of New York City street smarts by the time we closed out the 1970’s. That’s a brave statement considering I’d only lived in the city for a couple years. It was basically the result of a make-it-or-get-out survival technique learned from moving to the city while it was stuck in the seediest era of its modern history. With lots of time riding the subways and a job at Broadway theaters that included making night deposits of large sums of money in the seediest of all the seedy neighborhoods, Times Square, I picked up a defense mechanism that native city dwellers are born with:

Keep my eyes open and my senses on alert.

I was never near being as street as the punks and new wave rockers that hung around the seedy clubs in The Bowery and Manhattan’s Lower East Side. For one reason, that scene never appealed to me. I can understand later generations glossing it over as 1970’s urban poverty rock and roll chic thanks to the great music that came out of clubs like CBGB and The Great Gildersleeves. But I was more inclined to hang around neighborhoods where I didn’t have to pay too close attention to anyone walking behind me when I went out to buy a newspaper or cup of coffee.

There was no way I would fit in with that scene’s hard core street smart society.

Debbie Harry

By the time I arrived, the bands that had made it out of the Bowery clubs were a bit older and had moved onto bigger stages. That would include The Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie, just to mention the upper tier of famous. What was left behind seemed to be mostly teenagers and early twenty-something wannabe’s who gravitated to what was still a seedy neighborhood after the now-gone rockers had given it some notoriety.

Is that where Heart of Glass takes me for this episode of The Classic Rocker?

To be honest, not really. As mentioned, I wasn’t part of the downtown scene where Blondie and the others had paid their dues. But it didn’t mean I wasn’t aware of what was going on.

I had heard of Blondie by the time the song came out in the winter of 1979. Anyone with an interest in pop music living in Manhattan would have to. But I don’t remember the song or band being anything close to ground-breaking or the new thing everyone always seemed to be waiting for. Heart of Glass was just one of many catchy songs getting a lot of play on the radio and in clubs where we would hang out.

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But it wasn’t ground-breaking or a new thing to rock my subconscious when I woke up with it in my head on October 26th. It was on my digital playlist and I had just heard it before heading off to my mind’s Club Dreamland. So with a flair of street smarts, I’ll shove it into the recent memory category.

Not too seedy for me

Even though I don’t recall anything specific when listening to Blondie’s Heart of Glass, it inspires me to dredge up images of the other New York City club scenes we hit while this song was riding the music charts. I never ventured inside CBGB, though I did rock to a few bands in the neighboring Great Gildersleeves. For the most part, the places we hit didn’t need an extreme teenaged punk attitude or dangerous look to fit in. But a sense of street smarts didn’t hurt.

I’ll name-drop a few.

Studio 54 was still a hot spot for the disco-scene wannabe’s, even though it was on its last legs the couple of times I went there. I don’t remember having any problems getting by the legendary velvet rope doorman, but once inside my interest was mainly just to look around, have a couple drinks and dance to a couple songs.

It was also cool to have some bragging rights just to say I had been there (and done that). And that’s what I just did (thanks for reading and being so impressed – ha!).

Next…

Doesn’t look like a Sunday night

My pals and I also hit Max’s Kansas City on (usually) Sunday nights. It was considered an “off night” based on crowds that packed the place on Fridays and Saturdays, and we could always get a seat at the bar. For a Blondie connection, Debbie Harry used to be a server at Max’s. But she had left for the music charts by the time we rolled in.

The third club I’m reminded of from this era was another legend, The Mudd Club which was located on White Street in Lower Manhattan. Since the TriBeCa district was a long haul for my gang of non-punks who were centered in Midtown Manhattan near Gramercy Park and Union Square, we only sprung for the taxi fare when it was a planned destination.

And since the venue was earning a major destination reputation for the rock and new wave scene in 1979, we made the field trip a couple of times just to say – once again – we had been there (and done that).

In case you’re not familiar with The Mudd Club and its reputation, check out the Talking Heads song, Life During Wartime.

“This ain’t no Mudd Club, or CBGB, I ain’t got time for that now.”

So yeah, I’m talking about THAT Mudd Club. And I have time for that right now…

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Our first visit was almost a major disappointment. After my then-girlfriend and two buddies got out of our cab on a dark White Street sometime after midnight, we saw the line to get in stretched around the block. There was also a velvet rope type of atmosphere with a large bouncer not letting anyone in until he felt like it.

At least that’s what it seemed like. It also seemed like he was not going to feel like letting us in.

The Mudd Club

Since my girlfriend wasn’t the type to stand in line and had born-in-her street smarts as a native New Yorker, she led the charge to find an alternative entrance. While sneaking through an alley behind the club, we spotted a door. We thought it could be a back door to The Mudd Club, but there was no way… And if it was, there was no way it would be unlocked…

And… surprise! It was.

One of us pulled the door open and walked into a dark room just behind the bar. We peeked around a corner and saw we weren’t far from the dance floor, so an on-the-spot plan was made to dance our way into the club. The goal was that we would easily blend in since it was crowded and the music was loud.

And… surprise! It worked.

We stayed in The Mudd Club for at least an hour, but it didn’t live up to our heightened expectations. Instead of the celebrity rockers featured on Page Six of The New York Post as they pretended to hide from the paparazzi (while paying publicists to make sure they were seen, photographed and featured) it didn’t seem any different than any other rock club. The best entertainment factor was all the girls looking like Debbie Harry and guys looking like Keith Richards.

My main memory is The Mudd Club looked like a sea of bleached or black dyed hair and black leather jackets. So, it really wasn’t our scene.

But… surprise! We tried it again.

Only this time we didn’t have an easy access pass…

After another cab ride we used our street smarts to bypass the line outside and headed down the familiar alley to our secret back door entrance. With my girlfriend acting like she had the cool of Debbie Harry and me assuming an attitude not even close to the cool of Keith Richards, we opened the door.

It was dark and loud, but not enough to miss seeing what was standing in front of us.

One of the Keith’s?!

Obviously, the back door entrance was not a secret anymore and we were face to face with a large bouncer. His job – also obviously – was to deter street smart deprived wannabe’s like us from skipping the line and paying a high cover charge to enter a club where you might actually see the real Debbie or Keith blending in with the wannabe Debbie’s and Keith’s.

Our not-so-friendly bouncer’s appearance certainly opened my eyes and heightened my senses – thus raising my New York street smarts aptitude.

Since I’m not afraid to exaggerate certain situations, let’s just say the bouncer was twice my size, had arms bigger than my legs and I saw flames coming out of his nostrils. He also sounded very punk rock-ish when he emphasized the “F-Bomb” when asking us, “Where the f**** do you think you’re going?

And… surprise! That was the end of our conversation and final destination journey to The Mudd Club.

Heart of Glass? Maybe the song was playing at the club that night, but I would’ve never heard it since my concentration was on getting us a cab and back to our less-seedy neighborhood. But even if I’d had enough street smarts to get past the back door bouncer and into The Mudd Club and Debbie Harry was actually hanging out avoiding the paparazzi, it’s doubtful I could’ve picked her out from the sea of bleached hair hanging out with the sea of Keiths.

Here’s the “official” video of Blondie performing Heart of Glass

 

 

To purchase Blondie Greatest Hits with Heart of Glass 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 2019 – North Shore Publishing

 

#155 – On The Road Again

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#155 – On The Road Again by Willie Nelson

– My wife Cowgirl Debbie and I are sitting next to each other at a table on Willie Nelson’s tour bus. Yeah, that’s pretty cool in itself. But to make the scene even cooler, sitting across from us is Willie Nelson himself. I’m kind’a fumbling around for something to say that will keep him interested in our conversation. I hit on something, his face lights up and Cowgirl Debbie says…

Okay, now that I might have you somewhat interested, we’ll go back a couple decades before continuing with this scene.

In the late 1970’s I had a pretty cool apartment in New York City. I’ve talked about it before in these Classic Rocker ramblings, but to be brief it was in the Gramercy Park neighborhood, had three levels and a small terrace. For NYC it was living in style. However, since I was still basically a just-graduated college student trying to figure out what I was going to be when I grew up, most of my funds went into paying rent.

The furnishings consisted of whatever my parents didn’t want anymore and how much of it I could stuff into a station wagon for my move from Ohio.

My first big splurge of spending money for pure enjoyment was a subscription for Manhattan Cable Television. It’s now sort of a laughable starving artist memory since the only television I had was another parental castoff small enough to be balanced on my stomach while lying in bed. It also scores high on the memorabilia meter since it can be described by another castoff term – black and white.

As Ralph Kramden often said in a black and white sitcom classic called The Honeymooners: I was living in the lap of luxury. And as another piece of memorabilia for dedicated NYC television viewing veterans from the era, that show was aired every weeknight at 11 pm on Channel 11.

I know, because I watched.

HBO’s Finest!

With my cable television subscription, which included an extra length of cable in case I wanted to put the television on a table next to the bed instead of on my stomach, came a relatively new network called Home Box Office (HBO). This was revolutionary since movies and special features (comedy and music concerts come to mind) were broadcast without any commercials.

Hey, if they could land a man on the moon only a decade earlier, why stop there? Commercial free paid television was the next logical step.

After a few years of progressively improving personal finances I eventually had a color television in the living room with added cable networks like MTV, ESPN and Cinemax. But HBO was still the go-to for watching movies if you didn’t feel like heading out to a theater and paying an exorbitant seven dollar ticket price for a first-run feature.

But HBO didn’t seem to have an exorbitant amount of feature films at that time. In other words, they seemed to air the same movies over and over and over

But that was okay if the movie was really good or – even better – if it was really bad. The frequently run HBO classics that immediately come to mind during the early 1980’s fitting both requirements were Can’t Stop The Music with The Village People (and Bruce Jenner!), Thank God It’s Friday with Donna Summer and Honeysuckle Rose starring Willie Nelson.

Yeah, there were others. But this trio of music flicks were aired so often during my insomniac late nights they’ve been burned into my lasting memory.

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Two of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock – history!

The Beatles In Cleveland:

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

Available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

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

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Speaking of memory, On The Road Again joined the subliminal category of this Dream Song list on October 21st. There’s no other explanation for its inclusion other than my burned-in memory since I don’t own a copy and probably haven’t heard it since we saw Willie Nelson in person the evening we sat with him on his tour bus.

To connect all the dots between the movie memories and our in person Willie Nelson experience…

Real life Honeysuckle Rose

On The Road Again was the Academy Award nominated theme song written by Nelson for his 1980 movie Honeysuckle Rose that seemed to be on HBO over and over and over… And of course, the title of the movie was also the name of his tour bus both in the movie and real life.

Got that? Okay, then one final classic movie note…

Not only was Willie Nelson the romantic lead in this “on the road” country-music-flavored film, but his co-star was one of my favorite American actors, Slim Pickens. Yeah, I know, a quirky choice on my part. But he made my personal all-star list with roles in the films Dr. Strangelove (riding on an atomic bomb into glory), Blazing Saddles and 1941. After playing these burnt-into-my-mind roles, I found it a bit unreal to watch ol’ Slim as a guitar player in Willie’s band, which is probably another reason I found it impossible to switch on a different cable channel whenever the film came on HBO during another late night round of sleepless viewing.

Two decades later, in 2002 to be exact, I wasn’t quite grown up yet (I’m still working on that) but was doing something I could’ve never dreamed or predicted when I made the long ago decision to splurge on Manhattan Cable Television. I was writing a weekly country music column for a newspaper in northern Ohio. Again, I’ve mentioned this in past Classic Rockers and how it gave me a fresh outlook on music I hadn’t paid much attention to previously.

Press Pass

It also brought me face to face with the country legend and star of Honeysuckle Rose on his tour bus. And though I’m not sure his 2002 updated traveling home shared the same name, I’ll go ahead and say it did just to keep you somewhat interested.

With two review tickets for Nelson’s July 22nd concert in Cleveland and a confirmed post-show interview, Cowgirl Debbie and I were psyched for a somewhat interesting evening. Debbie’s reason was based on her being a big country music fan (hence the name) and me because…

Well, come-on. I’m sure you’d also think it’s pretty cool to meet Willie Nelson.

Willie and his band played all his classic hits, but I somehow felt disappointed Slim Pickens wasn’t standing next to him playing guitar. On a sad note, Slim passed away almost two decades before in 1983. On a techno-psychological note, that shows the lasting power of cable television on the human brain.

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After Willie walked off stage following an encore or two, we flashed our media passes at a security guard and were escorted behind the outdoor venue to a closed off parking area and a large bus. Another guard stood outside protecting the open door.

After checking our passes, he told us to go inside and have a seat.

Willie’s living room

The front section of the bus was a living room that included a table with booth seating big enough for four people to have dinner or a card game. Then there was a closed door dividing what I assumed were private sleeping quarters in the back. The decor (if I remember correctly) included wood paneling and dark red curtains over the bus windows.

After just a few minutes the closed door opened. Willie Nelson walked in, said hello and sat at the table with us.

Doing my best Ralph Kramden impression from The Honeymooners, I probably started my newspaper interview with, “Homina, homina, homina…” BTW – veteran Honeymooners fans will know exactly what I’m referring to.

But as I should have expected, Willie Nelson was very cool. Soon we were talking about the concert, his tour, music and… well, it could have been somewhat more exciting than that. It was obvious to both of us I was asking – and he was answering – questions he’d heard countless times before.

So I went with something else:

What would you have done if music didn’t work out?

Willie looked at me, smiled and said, I’d like to be a professional golfer.”

Willie Nelson & The Classic Rocker

That takes us back to the beginning of this epic rambling story. Cowgirl Debbie, who had been uncharacteristically quiet (trust me on that) up to this point, saw his face light up and said…

On what? The Senior Circuit?

Okay, obviously Willie didn’t look like a teenager – even back in the days of filming Honeysuckle Rose. But Cowgirl Debbie’s remark was like a sucker punch to his funny bone. Willie started laughing and might have pretended to be offended by her age-related joke. But it didn’t matter since the timing, delivery and his reaction had all three of us cracking up.

After that ice-breaker the rest of the interview goes down in my memory as fun time. Willie was a genuine nice guy with a great sense of humor. And I’m sure if we had asked, he would’ve let us ride on Honeysuckle Rose with him to the next tour stop.

Okay, probably not. But the idea of us on the road (again?) with Willie Nelson might have kept you somewhat interested enough to read this far.

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Thanks for reading – and keep rockin’!

Here’s a 1983 video of Willie Nelson performing On The Road Again.

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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 2019 – North Shore Publishing