Monday, December 24, 2012

Fairytale Of New York - Christmas Rock & Roll, part six (Bonus Video Christmas Eve)

Quite simply: The greatest rock & roll Christmas song EVER - hands down, no contest.  I have never - from the first time I heard it in 1988 until listening to it with a Bailey's in my hand earlier this evening - heard this song without it bringing tears to my eyes.  There's something about the way Kirsty MacColl sings the line, "Well so could anyone," in reply to Shane MacGowan's muttered, "I could've been someone," that has always and forever well and truly broken my heart.   

inspirational verse; no way to separate out any one element, I consider every word,
every sublime sweep of melody in this song to be a masterpiece. 

Merry Christmas, everybody.....and raise a glass to Kirsty MacColl 1959-2000
"some people left for heaven without warning" - Shane MacGowan, 1985

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Strummer's In Heaven (SoundCloud Bonus Tune & Bonus Video Saturday Night)

Joe Strummer - spark-spitting lead singer/resident rock & roll genius of The Clash, The Latino Rockabilly War and The Mescaleros - died ten years ago today, three days before Christmas 2002.  I can't believe it's been ten years, it seems like no time at all that we lost Strummer's force-of-nature rock & roll.  I was in New Jersey for Christmas with my lovely wife Debbie and her family when I heard the news in the car.  I remember staring uncomprehending at the radio.  How could Joe Strummer be dead?  How could that be true?  Strummer was then wholly, completely in the midst of a career renaissance.  He and his crack rock & roll crew, The Mescaleros, had cooked up a fearsome ganja-fueled brew of world music and Joe's punk-rock roots, without ever once losing sight of Memphis, Brixton or New Orleans.  On the albums Global A Go- Go and what would become the posthumous release Streetcore in 2003 Strummer was writing some of the best songs of his life.  He and The Mescaleros were a blazing live powerhouse, scorching stages all over the world.  And then he was gone.  I was still actively touring with Hamell On Trial at that time and I remember Ed calling me in Jersey and us commiserating for an hour in disbelief at the loss of Strummer.

I said back then to Hamell, "How will his family ever celebrate Christmas again?" and perhaps formed the basis of the tune below.  But later I realized that's just the point; somehow you find a way to move through pain and function in this life.  You take the inspiration and the power the person you lost has given you and try to push the resulting love & faith out into the world.  I realize Growing Old With Rock & Roll has gotten kinda heavy these last two blog entries - dealing with my dad's death and now with Joe Strummer's - and I don't intend it to, but I think the Christmas season is about remembering lost loved ones just as much as it is what we're getting under the tree. 

I sang this song onstage last night, opening a show for Colin Gawel & The Lonely Bones, and got a crowd of people to shout along with the resounding "9-9-9-9-9" refrain.  Ten years after his death the words of Joe Strummer survive in the hearts, lungs and minds of living, breathing people.  His lyrics are shouted out into the night, are bounced around all the frequencies in space, a tribute to the eternal life we are given by God and by all the gods of the rock & roll.  I'm not gonna say rest in peace here, 'cuz I know that somewhere right this very moment Joe Strummer is somewhere in this universe rockin', not resting.    

inspirational verse; "And I'm not here to mourn Joe Strummer. I'm here to try - however palely -
with this acoustic guitar to honor his memory, to try to be worthy of his legacy,
to beg for just a bit of his bravery, to try to escape the slavery of all that which is not righteous,
of all that which is not the rock & roll" - Ricki C. 2003

inspirational verse; "We'd like to sing about one of THE most important things in life,
in modern life today and that is; takeaway food." - Joe Strummer November 17th, 2002  

for that humor, for that heart, for that soul, for that Lion of Judah of rock & roll;
raise a glass tonight

(author's note: Hey kids, if you're looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for a rocker
on your list, I wouldn't quibble with your choice of The Future Is Unwritten,
a truly great, heartfelt DVD tribute to Joe, directed by Julien Temple.)

blog © 2012 Ricki C.
song © 2003 Ricki C.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town - Christmas Rock & Roll, part five (Bonus Video Wednesday)

I haven't had a shred of good advice since I was 17
My father died that year; Get the picture?
I'll set the scene....."

from "Today Is Father's Day" - © 2000 Ricki C.

My sainted Italian father was the greatest man I ever knew; he completely, entirely made me what I am today.  He bought me my first guitar for Christmas 1968, when I was 16 years old.  He got me in free to all the 1960's rock & roll shows I've detailed in this blog when he worked for Central Ticket Office.  He encouraged me in every way - when I was still a painfully shy child and later a hopelessly withdrawn teenager - to escape the confines of our little house on Sullivant Avenue on the West Side of Columbus, Ohio, and to get out into the world.  When he died of a heart attack at age 56 in April 1970, I was 17 years old and it was effectively the end of good advice in my life.  I am not in any way discounting the role of family and friends in my existence the last 43 years, but I am saying my personal guiding light went out that April day in Mount Carmel West hospital.

What does this all have to do with Bruce Springtseen you might ask?  Just this: The first Bruce Springsteen record I ever bought was The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle in 1974.  (I'd heard tunes from Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. in various record stores and nominally on hippie FM radio stations previous to that and certainly enjoyed them, but Elliott Murphy was easily the more significant of "The New Dylan's" to me at that point.)  When the needle on that vinyl reached "New York City Serenade" and somewhere around the 3:42 mark - while Springsteen was doing his best Van-Morrison-channeled-through-smalltown-New Jersey impression - Bruce sang the lines, "So walk tall / Or baby, don't walk at all."  And just at that moment an entire world, an entire range of possibilities opened up to me.  I could hear my dad's advice when I was a child coming back to me from that record.  I'd largely been drifting those four years from '70 to '74; shuffling in shadows, aimless, absent, not engaging the world I existed - not lived - in.  Bruce Springsteen, echoing the words of my father, put me back in that world.  Thank you, Bruce.  Thank you, dad.

So walk tall, or baby, don't walk at all.  Nine words, and all I needed to know.

Okay, enough with the suicidally depressing holiday musings: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band were placed on this planet to bring joy and solace to everyone residing on it.  Their rendition of "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" is the second-greatest Christmas rock & roll tune of all time.  (Number One is coming up on Christmas Eve. Wait for it.)

inspirational verse; very nearly every word I've ever heard come out of the man's mouth.

© 2012 Ricki C.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Still Love Christmas - Christmas Rock & Roll, part four (Bonus Video Thursday)

Lotta Watershed and Colin Gawel & The Lonely Bones gigs coming up to close out December, here's the rundown;

1) Watershed broadcasting from CD102.5's Andyman-A-Thon, an annual charity event running at least 48 hours from Friday December 14th at 7 pm until Sunday December 16th at whenever it ends.  Watershed will be live on the air from CD105's Big Room at midnight Saturday night.  Call in and pledge money, it's all for the kids.

2) Watershed, 9 pm. at the concert closing out the Andyman-A-Thon festivities at The Bluestone, 583 E. Broad Street.  Doors at 5 pm.  Also on the bill: Miranda Sound, Los Gravediggers, The Girls! and Two Cow Garage.   For more details on the concert, click here.

3) Colin Gawel & The Lonely Bones, December 21st, happy hour 6-9 pm at the Rumba Cafe, 2507 Summit Street.  (author's note: Some solo acoustic guy named Ricki C. is opening that show, those of us here at Growing Old With Rock have been told he's kinda good.)  For a really good rundown on all these gigs, visit Colin's website.

inspirational verse; "And I want you to know I still love Christmas / I want you to know the spirit is near / I want you to know I still love you / Even if I don't show it this year" - Colin Gawel & Joe Oestreich, 1998

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2000 Miles - Christmas Rock & Roll, part three (Bonus Video Tuesday)

From the pride of Akron, Ohio - Chrissie Hynde (easily my second-favorite female rocker after the 1970's-era Patti Smith) - continuing our rock & roll Christmas tunes series, one of two contenders for our loveliest song entry....

inspirational verse; "2000 miles is very far through the snow / I'll think of you, wherever you go" - Chrissie Hynde, 1983

Friday, December 7, 2012

Shows I Saw In The 1960's, part two; The Who, 11/1/1969 (plus 2012 Gift-Giving Guide, part one)

2012 Gift-Giving Guide, part one

apropos of The Who, there are two new Who-related items in the 2012 Christmas gift-giving season:

1) A double-CD set called Live At Hull, the show The Who recorded the night after Live At Leeds, long-rumored to be even better than the Leeds show.  (Personally, I have serious doubts it's actually better, but that's the kind of stuff that rock band aficionados and music industry insiders always come up with just so they can hold over our rock & roll rank and file heads that they have something better than us that we can't have.  I call this the "nyah-nyah-nyah effect.")  (Actually, come to think of it, I do that all the time myself, mostly with obscure 45's from late-70's to mid-80's Boston punk-rock bands and live stuff by The Neighborhoods.)  Anyway, Live At Hull never came out before because there were technical problems recording John Entwistle's bass tracks, but with 21st century technology they flew in the tracks from Live At Leeds or some such sonic voodoo, so it's finally being released.  It's kind of a bullshit move.  I prefer my live albums actually being live, not doctored 42 years after the fact, but since when are live records live anyway?  (As proof, play Get Your Ya-Ya's Out by The Rolling Stones next to the Live'r Than You'll Ever Be bootleg from the 1969 tour.  Then we'll talk about post-concert overdubs and live album "sweetening.")  (Or maybe just ask Colin & Joe from Watershed.) 

The Ricki C. gift-giving recommendation: I haven't actually heard it, it's on my personal Christmas wish-list, but The Who circa 1966-1972 were the greatest rock & roll organism that ever stepped onto a stage (see following live piece), it's almost GOTTA be great, so buy it for yourself or for The Who fan on your list.  (Further, maybe buy it for the Arcade Fire, Muse, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Black Keys, etc. fans on your list, so they can hear what a REAL rock & roll band sounds like.)  (Yeah, I know that's a boring old fart, close-minded, classic-rocker kinda sentiment, but this IS Growing Old With Rock & Roll, after all.  I'm entitled, nay, almost required, to be all of those things.)

2) The Pete Townshend autobiography, Who I Am, that just came out.  Those of you who know me well or who have been reading this blog for any amount of time are well aware of my philosophical problems with Pete Townshend.  In a nutshell: all of my standards of rock & roll professionalism are based on the 1969 Who and today Pete seems to have forgotten most, if not all, of those standards; Pete Townshend was my ultimate rock & roll hero from the first time I saw them on Shindig in 1966 until probably 1973 when the boring, over-blown, over-hyped Quadrophenia double-album convinced me that Pete had lost the rock & roll plot; then worst of all, in 1978 when Keith Moon died of an overdose of sedative medications and Townshend opted to continue The Who.

Quite simply, ladies & gentlemen, The Who WERE Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon.  No one else.  Not then, not now, not ever.  It took four mighty turbines to make that most exquisite of rock & roll engines, The Who, roar into life.  Those four turbines - Roger, Pete, John & Keith - not Kenney Jones, not Rabbit Bundrick, not Simon Phillips, not Pino Palladino, not Zak Starkey.    (For Chrissakes, even Led Zeppelin had the good sense and, more to the point, the integrity to break up after John Bonham died, and he wasn't even as integral to Zep as Keith Moon was to The Who.)  When Keith Moon departed this mortal coil it seems he took with him any sense of fun, any sense of humor and any acknowledgment of joy that Pete Townshend ever possessed in his miserable existence.

Only your biggest rock & roll heroes can let you down as badly as Pete Townshend has me: the endless "farewell" tours, commencing in 1982 and continuing to this day (I believe only The Eagles and Kiss have conducted more farewell tours than that rotting, bloated corpse masquerading as The Who that Townshend & Daltrey haul around the world every few years);  selling out The Who's greatest songs to any highest bidder, be they computer companies, SUV manufacturers, or whatever edition of the C.S.I. television franchise needs a helping of baby-boomer rock pablum.

Plus it seems to me that for someone who professes great love and devotion to a Spiritual Master, Meher Baba, Pete Townshend seemed really committed to alcohol and adultery and did an awful lot of cocaine.  And I'm not being a prude, we're all adults here.  Townshend is a rock star, but let's stop kidding ourselves; very few true spiritual seekers have copious quantities of kiddie-porn on their computers when the cops come knocking. 

The Who was a great band for the 1960's and early 1970's but were rendered rather redundant once the rock & roll audience shifted its pharmaceutical preferences from enlightenment and transcendence to simple obliteration.  It's only teenage wasteland, indeed.  (Forget about attaining nirvana, let's just kill a few million brain cells with 'ludes.)  Pete Townshend could easily have moved on to a brilliant solo career and somehow come to terms with those changes, challenging his audience rather than continually pandering to it.  Instead he chose to make The Who into an oldies act, rehashing Tommy or Quadrophenia year after year, tour after tour, whenever a balloon payment on his and Daltrey's English mansions are due.  I realize it's harsh, and rather obvious, but I wish The Who had died before they got old.

The Ricki C. gift-giving recommendation: Skip buying the book, get it out of the library (what a quaint notion in these Nook and Kindle-ridden days) and read as much as you can stand without throwing the book across the room.  (Don't get me started on how cavalierly Townshend treats the deaths of Keith Moon or the eleven Who fans at the Cincinnati show in 1979.)  Proceed at your own risk.

The Who / Veteran's Memorial Auditorium, Columbus, Ohio / Saturday, November 1st, 1969    

First things first: This was the greatest rock & roll show I have ever witnessed in my 60 years on the planet.  Hands down, no contest, the number two show - Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, September 1978 (see The Best Of Everything blog entry, January 2012) - doesn't even come close.  On a scale of 1-100, The Who in 1969 rates 100, the Springsteen show, killer as it was, was maybe a 78, like its year.  I saw Bob Dylan's first electric tour in 1966 (see Shows I Saw In The 1960's - part one, blog entry, May 2012), I saw The Doors in 1968 in their prime, I saw Cream that same year in their declining period, I saw The Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968 and 1969, I saw Janis Joplin & The Full Tilt Boogie band in '69, etc.  and NONE, NOT ONE of those bands came anywhere close to The Who I experienced that November night.

From the very first chord of "Heaven & Hell," Townshend & company were magnificent.  And Jesus, were they fucking LOUD!  I was four rows from the back of the main floor of Veteran's Memorial, a 3000 seat auditorium, and I swear the entire audience's heads were blown back simultaneously by the first blast of sound off the stage.  And they played at that full volume for almost three hours without a break.  I couldn't hear properly for three days after the show.  I went to high school for those days in a kind of muffled haze that had nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with the grand redemptive POWER of painfully over-amped rock & roll.

But back to that opening number; while still recovering from and adjusting to the extreme volume coming off the stage (Keith Moon's bass drums sounded like the "booms" you hear at a fireworks display, you could actually FEEL the vibration in your chest, it was glorious) I realized that the opening verse of "Heaven & Hell" was being sung by John Entwistle and my heart dropped.  Where was Roger Daltrey?  I'd been waiting, ACHING to see The Who live since the first time I saw them on the Shindig T.V. show in 1966, and especially after watching them smash their gear in numerous disapproving establishment documentary newsreels of the time, and now three years later I was gonna experience them without their lead singer.  (It's kinda hard to conceive of for modern audiences, but 60's bands regularly played shows without key members; I saw The Beach Boys without Brian Wilson, The Left Banke without Michael Brown, Ray Manzarek of The Doors sang lead on at least three or four songs at The Doors show while Jim Morrison was, let's say, "indisposed."  I've read that The Velvet Underground routinely did shows without Lou Reed or John Cale being able to perform.  That was just the way it was in the 60's, you did what you had to do to make the gig, the show must go on.)

Anyway, just as I was adjusting to the idea of a show with a three-man Who lineup, the second verse of "Heaven & Hell" kicked in and Roger Daltrey came striding out from between Entwistle's amps and Moon's drums, all blonde curls and barechested in that buckskin fringed jacket, swinging the mic chord and laying into the "AND DOWN IN THE GROUND IS THE PLACE WHERE YOU GO IF YOU'VE BEEN A BAD BOY, IF YOU'VE BEEN A BAD BOY" second verse.  It was, quite possibly, the greatest rock & roll entrance I've ever seen by a performer.  And then Daltrey, Entwistle and Townshend hit their mics for the "Why can't we have eternal life and never die?" chorus and my fucking brain exploded.  I was in that heaven.  I had never heard anything like that raging, sacred din.  I'd never seen anything like it.  It was like being at a four-ring circus, you didn't know where to look, didn't know who to watch: Townshend windmilling and leaping about doing scissor-kicks; Moon pounding the shit out of his drums, bouncing sticks off his kit twenty feet into the air; Daltrey singing his ass off and mic-twirling during every vocal interval; Entwistle anchoring the entire maelstrom and NAILING every one of his vocal parts, both bass and falsetto, something I don't think he ever gets enough credit for when people write about The Who.

So by the end of the first song I was brain-battered and semi-exhausted, I'm not precisely sure I'd taken a breath yet and without the slightest pause, the band blasted into "I Can't Explain," and it was even BETTER than "Heaven & Hell."  It was unbelievable, the sheer exhilaration coming off of that stage.  The Who used up more energy in the first two songs of their set than Cream had managed their entire decrepit show less than a year earlier at the same venue.  The first time my mind could form a thought clearly, possibly in the short interval between "I Can't Explain" and "Young Man Blues," that thought was, "Man, this is gonna be a short show, they can't keep this up, they can't play like this for long."  BUT THEY DID!  The whole show had to go well over two hours; they did about 35 or 40 minutes of older songs ("older" at that point meaning two or three years, not like today when "older" means 45 years), virtually the entirety of the then-brand new Tommy album, easily 45 minutes after that and the energy level never flagged ONCE.

Prime extra-musical moments in the show included Daltrey getting his microphone cord wrapped around one of Moon's cymbal stands during a twirling interlude and pulling over roughly half the kit, Moon continuing to hit thin air for about thirty seconds before realizing the left side of said kit was missing until a roadie could right things.  Another striking thing about the stage set-up was how close together The Who were onstage.  Bands that appeared at Vet's Memorial in those days tended to spread out, just to fill up the grand stage expanse.  The drummers were always up on a riser, and when The Doors appeared I bet there was twenty or thirty feet between Ray Manzarek and Robbie Kreiger with Jim Morrison ranging in between.  The Who were packed together like sardines, Townshend and Moon side-by-side, close enough to banter back & forth during songs as they played wildly off against each other the entire night.  The weakest musical link in the show was the vocal harmonies, given the fact that in 1969 monitor speakers hadn't been invented yet.  I just can't imagine how Entwistle, Daltrey and Townshend could POSSIBLY have heard one another's vocals with anything approaching clarity through the constant ear-splitting surge of sound from those HIWATT amps.

I remember quite clearly - after the band careened through "We're Not Gonna Take It" at the conclusion of Tommy - Townshend standing onstage with his hands on his hips, watching as droves of audience members collected up their coats and exited, convinced that HAD to be the end of the show, thinking the band couldn't possibly continue.  I'd have to say at least a hundred of the audience had gone when Townshend stepped up to the mic and said, "Okay, has everyone left who's leaving?  Good, here's the second set then."  And with that they launched into "Summertime Blues" and somehow impossibly lifted the show and the energy even HIGHER than all that had preceded.  It was quite unbelievable, it truly was.  I was exhausted and I wasn't even DOING anything beyond bearing mute witness to this paean to raw power.

They ran through "Shakin' All Over" and bashed their way into "My Generation," reprising a good bit of the Tommy finale in that tune.  The nascent beginnings of "Naked Eye" also got their first airing during the extended instrumental codas of "Generation," along with one or two other tunes that would later crop up in The Who catalog.  And here's something I've never heard mentioned in any Who-related literature I've devoured in my 50-plus years of reading rock journalism; in the course of that "My Generation" finale, the band were so spent that one or the other of them would stop playing entirely for 30 or 40 seconds at a time just to rest for brief precious moments.  All three of the instrumental players - Townhend, Entwistle, Moon - took those rest breaks. Daltrey, as lead singer, got lots of long breaks during the protracted instrumental flourishes.

And then it was over, it was in the books.  It was the greatest rock show I ever saw and, at my advanced age, I can't imagine I'm ever going to see a better one.  I can close my eyes and SEE, remember every moment of it.  It really was quite magnificent.  Roger, Pete, John, Keith; thank you, from the bottom of my rock & roll heart.

For the young, or for the uninitiated, the best representations of The Who live at their peak 1969-1970 period are the Live At Leeds Deluxe Edition double-CD and the somewhat questionable but best-we've-got Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 DVD; neither of those representations, in my humble opinion, comes anywhere close to the show I witnessed in Columbus, Ohio, but really it was the sixties, you kinda hadda be there.       

© 2012 Ricki C.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Father Christmas - Christmas Rock & Roll, part two (Bonus Video Tuesday)

What can I say about The Kinks that hasn't already been said better somewhere else?  That they're my third-favorite English rock & roll band behind The Who and The Rolling Stones, but ahead of The Beatles?  (see blog entry, The Best Of Everything, January 2012)  That Ray Davies is a genius rock & roll songwriter?  That "You Really Got Me," "Waterloo Sunset," and "Celluloid Heroes" are three of the greatest rock & roll songs of all time?  That "Too Much On My Mind" from the 1966 Face To Face album might be one of the five best rock & roll songs that you've never heard?  (One day in 1969, when I was 17 years old, I was sitting in the newsroom of our high school newspaper listening to "Too Much On My Mind" and the 14-year-old kid sister of my then-girlfriend said wistfully, "This is exactly how my brain  feels."  How world-weary could we have been at 17 and 14?)

notable video moments: Ray Davies wearing what appears to be a League Bowlers shirt in the video; The Kinks giving up any notion of actual lip-synching at the 1:50 mark (wait, I just realized, that's the footage from the bridge flown in from the 2:24 mark later in the song - why would Top Of The Pops edit like that?); drummer Mick Avory's Santa get-up;

inspirational verse; "The last time that I played Father Christmas / I stood outside a department store / A gang of kids came over and mugged me / And knocked my reindeer to the floor"


"Have yourself a Merry Merry Christmas / Have yourself a good time / But remember the kids who got nothing / While you're drinking down your wine" - Ray Davies, 1977

neatly encapsulating that dichotomy of simultaneously funny and heartbreaking that has characterized Ray Davies' writing though the years from 1965 until the most recent song he wrote.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Run Run Rudolph - Christmas Rock & Roll, part one (Bonus Video Saturday)

Today, December 1st, begins the Ricki C. Growing Old With Rock & Roll Christmas Gala.  This will include videos of my favorite rock & roll Christmas tunes because the incessant carols playing in every store I enter and all the local radio stations’ non-stop Christmas coverage RARELY touch on rock & roll.  It will also detail some holiday gift suggestions and possibly some seasonal Ricki C. stories.  (Providing I can get signed clearances from family members indemnifying me from defamation suits.)

We begin, as so many things in rock & roll do, with Mr. Chuck Berry of St. Louis, Missouri.....

inspirational verse; "Said Santa to a girl, 'Child, what would please you most to get?' /
'A little baby doll that can cry, sleep, drink and wet.' / And then away went Rudolph,
whizzin' like a Sabre jet" - Johnny Marks & Marvin Brodie, 1958

(author's note - Until I started to research what year Chuck Berry released "Run Run Rudolph" I had NO IDEA he didn't write the song, that it was written by Johnny Marks, the same guy who wrote "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" for Gene Autry, "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" for Brenda Lee and "Holly Jolly Christmas" for Burl Ives. (Yeesh.)  Mr. Marks was also the brother-in-law of the guy who wrote the original story of Rudolph.  (Man, what CAN'T you find on the internet.)  But let's face facts, people, I seriously doubt Marks or Brodie wrote that guitar intro or established that absolutely killer rock & roll rhythm groove, without which The Rolling Stones would not exist.)    

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Three Easy Pieces: Black Leather Touch, The Neighborhoods, Lloyd Cole & Michael Penn (Bonus Video Tuesday)

My career in rock & roll journalism was protracted, but not particularly productive.  It started in the mid-1970’s when, inspired by rocker-turned-critic Patti Smith and critics-turned-rockers Lester Bangs, Charles Shaar Murray and Mick Farren, I decided to try to get into print to hype whatever band I had going at the moment.   My first endeavor was in 1976, a punk fanzine called Teenage Rampage (after the song by The Sweet, the guys who did “Blockbuster,” "Ballroom Blitz," “The 6-Teens,” and "Fox On The Run," all KILLER power-pop songs).  Teenage Rampage  was produced in the warehouse of my day-job at the time, Service Merchandise, when we discovered how to turn the counter on the store copier back one entire digit; I’d run off roughly 300 copies of the ‘zine, then turn the counter back to 30.  (Our store manager at the time would constantly inquire/complain, “Why are we always out of copy paper, but we never make that many copies?”  My co-conspirator Rob, whom I’m friends with to this day, and I would just shrug our shoulders and mumble.  I never did figure out why they put the copier in the warehouse rather than the store's front office.)

Teenage Rampage ran roughly 10 issues until I signed on with Focus, Columbus’ local rock weekly in 1978.  It’s hard to explain to youngsters nowadays that Columbus, Ohio, could have supported a weekly paper roughly the same size as today’s Other Paper that was ENTIRELY devoted to rock & roll, but that’s just the way it was.  Music mattered.  (By the way, I was roundly castigated by the Columbus "punk community" - which numbered maybe 35 people at the time - for "selling out" when I moved from the fanzine to a real magazine.  The way I saw it, I could reach thousands more people with Focus than with Teenage Rampage.  I wanted to be a rock star, not a punk loser/legend.) 

When Focus went under in 1979 (see blog entry AC/DC - My Lunch With Angus, March 2012) I think I did one or two articles for its Columbus successor, The Monthly Planet.  My tenure there came to an abrupt halt one evening when the editor insisted I sit down with him while he edited my latest piece, the cover story of the next issue.  I had to sit there and watch as he went through the article, red-penciling all of my best lines, re-arranging the prose into the most boring formulation possible, and essentially rendering my Lester Bangs-fueled rock & roll screed into pap prose even Rolling Stone would have been embarassed to run.  (Kathy Reed, my first and best editor at Focus, had largely let me run roughshod over many, if not all, of that paper’s oh-so-boring copy rules.)  Finally, after one too many edits by hippie-bespectacled Monthly Planet editor-guy, I scrunched up my article,  ripped it in half, jammed the halves in the pockets of my leather jacket, said, “I’ve BEEN to high-school, pal,” and exited the newsroom, leaving the paper with no cover story for that week.  “You’ll never work in journalism in Columbus again,” he yelled after me as the newsroom staff stifled giggles.  Truer words were never spoken.  A lamer threat has seldom been hurled.

Following are three articles I wrote for various publications over the years; one each from the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s.  They’re not necessarily the best three, just three random examples I’m somewhat proud of, or which crystallize a particular era for me.  (I was sorely tempted to update the entries, sharpen the prose, do some creative editing, but decided to leave each piece as it was originally written, warts and all.  It only seems fair.)


Steppenwolf and Black Leather Touch / Café Rock & Roll, Columbus, Ohio / April 19, 1978

reprinted from Focus magazine, May 1-15, 1978

New Wave, Old Wave, Permanent Wave, the Perfect Wave, who cares?

Black Leather Touch are not a New Wave band.  They are a rock & roll band.  A biker-band.  A bar-band.  A classic rock & roll band.  Anybody who can walk out on a stage in 1978 and rule that stage by sheer force of personality, music & guts is a classic.  These guys ain’t pretty, definitely.  They ain’t no suburban-educated street-punk-by-association posers.

They’re playin’ songs about sex, drugs and rock & roll to an audience that pretty much look like they’re getting enough of all three.  (And two out of three ain’t bad in a pinch.)  They’ve got this really ugly singer/guitarist who toward the end of the set is shakin’ his hair and beard around and the sweat is flyin’ off his head into the beers of the people in the front row, and you know they can’t be happy about that.  But who cares, this is rock & roll.

“It’s Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It),” “Wild In The Streets,” “Go Away,” a coupla Lynyrd Skynyrd, Uriah Heep’s “Stealin’,” “Cat Scratch Fever” all get played, the hits just keep on comin’.  This ain’t no copy band though, friends, this is command.  Black Leather Touch takes those songs and makes ‘em kick, punch, bite, shout, and work it all out.  When’s the last time you’ve heard and seen rock & roll this close up?  You didn’t see it with The Godz at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.  You don’t hear it on the radio in Columbus.

Toward the end of the set they start pullin’ out every bar-band trick in the book; playing lying down on the floor, playing behind their backs, behind their heads, playing each other’s guitars from behind, you name it.  This ain’t entertainment, this is fun.  This ain’t laid-back diddley-bop space-rock squat, this is rock & roll.

Right before the band closes with Mr. Charles Berry of St. Louis, Missouri’s “Bye Bye Johnny,” they treat us to the Mickey Mouse Club theme song crossed with their own “Disco Sucks,” (which includes some frenzied hillbilly get-down disco-dancing from the bass player).  Everybody in the place is clued in on the joke except possibly two disco honeys on the dance floor in full Bombay Yacht Club regalia, sparkly knee-length Saturday Night Fever dresses and all.

My friend John leans over to me at one point and yells over the music, “I forgot bands like this existed.”  So had I. I felt like I was in Detroit back in 1969.  (And I was never in Detroit in 1969.)  I felt like Mick Farren from the New Musical Express.  I felt as good as you can feel on a Wednesday night in Columbus, Ohio and not get arrested or become unconscious.  I kept thinking, “How could I have considered staying home and watching Starsky & Hutch when I could be doing this.”

This is rock & roll.

As for Steppenwolf, as far as I could tell only one original member of the band was present, and that was the organ player, and what did he ever do for us anyway?  I at least expected John Kay.  So the order of the night was to trot out all the old big hits, turn ‘em into long boring guitar jams and then collect a paycheck, Jack.  “Sookie Sookie,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” “The Pusher,” “Born To Be Wild,” etc. all got played, but during the whole show I got the nagging feeling I was in the nightclub scene from an old 60’s movie.  Or in an episode of The Mod Squad where someone doses Julie with a hit of acid at the teen club and she has a bad trip and Pete & Linc gotta come in and rescue her while the strobe lights beam.

Wednesday April 19th, 1978, the night belonged to Black Leather Touch.  Check ‘em out at your earliest opportunity.  West Side Rock rules OK.

(author’s note, 2012 – The bass player of Black Leather Touch mentioned in paragraph six, whose name I didn’t know at the time, was Jerry Blinn.  His daughter, Erica Blinn, today performs a truly kick-ass form of rock & roll she dubs “Whiskey Rock From The Rust Belt”  roughly everywhere east and south of the Midwest.  Check out the video here,, and tell me I’m wrong.  It's a sobering thought, but I am now watching the daughters of my rock & roll contemporaries command stages.  Growing Old With Rock & Roll indeed.)


The Neighborhoods / Stache’s, Columbus, Ohio / May 24, 1986

reprinted from The Noise fanzine, July, 1986

On Friday night I went to see the Columbus Clippers play baseball.

On Sunday afternoon I stood in the Hands Across America line.

In between I saw The Neighborhoods.

I felt so American.

David, Lee and Michael came into Columbus on an on-again/off-again, no publicity, is this show gonna come off or what? basis, took the stage in front of an audience totally unfamiliar with their music and proceeded to generally kick ass, kill, maim and destroy.

Kicking off with “Fire Is Coming,” The ‘Hoods powered through “Arrogance,” “WUSA,” and “Think It Over” from The High Hard One, detoured over to the first L.P. for “Heatwave” and “It All Makes Sense” and dropped in a brace of new songs before veering off to left field with covers of The Nervous Eaters’ “Just Head” (lead sung by Lee Harrington) and a killer song about Johnny Rotten I didn’t catch the name of.  (author’s note 2012 – I now realize this tune was “Tommy” from the then-unreleased Reptile Men album, and is NOT about Johnny Rotten.)

Prime extra-musical moments included Michael Quaglia singing out of one side of his mouth while smoking a cigarette out of the other and bassist Lee Harrington’s selection of P. Townshend scissor-kicks.  And who couldn’t love a guitarist who matches the color of his socks to his guitar?  (Both red, incidentally.)

I never usually bother in reviews to mention how the sound is at the shows because I figure that’s for the guys with $3000 stereoes whose mothers were scared by a transistor radio when they were pregnant with them, but I gotta hand it to The Hoods’ soundman.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better drum sound in a small club and Harrington’s bass cut great jagged slashes through the expected Minehan guitar onslaught.

So the band runs through some audience requests (“Shake”) and ends with a song I don’t know.  First encore features an unidentified roadie singing lead after an intro of David playing The Carpenters’ “Close To You” and telling the audience about getting kids to quit drugs while answering phones at the suicide prevention center.  (I’m quite serious.  I guess you had to be there.)  Second encore is “Prettiest Girl,” which they dedicated to my girlfriend Mary Jo, and which we thought they never play anymore under any circumstances, so that just made it especially sweet.   

The show concluded with David diving into the audience for a final solo and dumping his red Strat onto a patron’s table for the last crash chord.  And it’s history.

It’s in the archives.

It’s The Neighborhoods.

It’s rock & roll.

(author’s note 2012 – This review ran in The Noise, a killer Boston fanzine I subscribed to all through the 80’s, and occasionally contributed live reviews to when Boston acts played Columbus.  The editor, T. Max, was truly a rocker of the first order.)


Michael Penn and Lloyd Cole / Phantasy Theatre, Cleveland, Ohio / June 30, 1990

The Phantasy Theater is a run-down former movie house on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio.  Michael Penn and Lloyd Cole are songwriters of some wit, style and intelligence currently on tour together.  So how does each deal with a sweaty rock & roll club on a Saturday night in Cleveland?

Lloyd Cole and band pull out all the stops, turn the amps up to ten, drop (most of) the ballads and let the feedback rain down.  If you don’t already know that Cole writes great lyrics you’re not going to discover it here, you can’t understand a word.  Ordinarily this would bother me but the three-guitar strong Cole group sound great.  They pummel the mid-level songs into submission and when they hit an all-out rocker like “I Hate To See You, Baby, Doing That Stuff” they pound like fever.  

I keep asking myself, “Why hire a mathematical guitar genius like Robert Quine just to bury his leads in this over-amped wall-of-guitars mix?”  And I keep telling myself to walk back in the theatre to check if the sound is better balanced farther back (proper pro rock critic procedure) except I can’t get myself to leave my sweat-soaked, ear-blasted stagefront position for even three minutes because this music is taking my breath away.

Some critics I’ve read compare Lloyd Cole to Lou Reed.  I’ve never been able to hear it myself, Cole is far too lyrical and romantic for that comparison to fly, but comparisons to The Velvet Underground on this night are unavoidable.  Flat-out sonic attack supporting lyrics like “She looks like Eve-Marie Sainte in On The Waterfront.”  Really, what more could you ask for?

And how is Michael Penn going to follow this?  He does it with a semi-lengthy set-change, allowing the Cole-energy to diffuse and then proceeds to pull off a perfectly-paced and played set of modern alternative pop.  Where Lloyd Cole & company opted for straight-up power, Penn chooses understatement and intelligent charm for his live presentation.  Which is not to say the Penn group doesn’t rock, especially with drummer D.J. Bonebrake (formerly of X) providing the missing link of pop drummers between Ringo Starr and Keith Moon.

And Penn had great one-liner song intros: “This next song is not about Italian fashion designers or cats in the funny papers,” to clarify the Romeo in black jeans and Heathcliff references in “No Myth.”  Or “There was a big fire last week in Santa Barbara.  The police say it was arson.  I just thought I’d mention it,” to introduce a song containing the line “I’ll be burning canyons for you.”  Subtly and perfectly delivered.  I think the 1966 John Lennon would have been proud.


Stacy lives in Cleveland Heights.  She’s a nanny.  (On the west side of Columbus, where I hail from, we call that a babysitter.)  Her father took her to see The Beatles when she was five years old.  He bounced her on his shoulders while they played, so she could see over the crowd of screaming girls.

She’s never even heard of Lloyd Cole and the only song she knows by Michael Penn is “No Myth.”  She has brown eyes and red hair, which is perfectly done, as is her make-up.

She’s dressed really nicely, although at least five years behind what currently passes for rock & roll fashion.  The blonde suburban teenage mall-rat fashion victims seated behind her make fun of her, but I don’t think Stacy noticed.

I have no idea what she’s doing here alone on a Saturday night at a rock & roll show.

And then Michael Penn comes on.  Stacy’s up and bopping around and when the band plays “No Myth,” Stacy actually screamed.  As Penn sings, "Maybe she’s just looking for someone to dance with,” Stacy’s dancing all alone, oblivious, off in another, very likely better, world.  Maybe she’s back seeing The Beatles when she was five, bouncing on her father’s shoulders.  Wherever she is pop music’s promise gets kept there.

I’m thinking about rock & roll, I’m thinking about the past tense, I’m thinking about rock & roll when it had some innocence.

I’m watching Stacy dance.

(author’s note 2012 – I would think I submitted this piece to the Cleveland Scene entertainment weekly.  I doubt that it ever ran, but I still like it.)

Was this entire exercise just an elaborate set-up to insert a Lloyd Cole & The Commotions video into this blog?  No, it wasn't, but I couldn't resist including one of my five favorite songs from the 1980's into the proceedings.  inspirational verse; "At the age of 10 she looked like Brigitte Bardo, Sophia Loren and also Marilyn Monroe, very big stuff....." - Lloyd Cole 1985.  Wasn't Lloyd pretty?  Weren't The Commotions a great band?  And wasn't 1984's Rattlesnakes very nearly a perfect folk-rock album in the middle of bad English Frankie Goes To Hollywood-ilk synth-pop?

© 2012 Ricki C.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ian Hunter "When I'm President" (Bonus Video Wednesday)

In honor of President Barack Obama's re-election: Ladies & gentlemen, I present Mr. Ian Hunter.....

inspirational verse; "I'm gonna lean on the 1% / When I'm president" - Ian Hunter, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Election 2012 and the Rock & Roll

I’ve been away for awhile.  There were no blogs in October for a number of reasons: I was concentrating on songwriting, and somehow when I’m working on songs I can’t crank out any prose, apparently my brain can only work one way at a time – stories or lyrics.  Then I was hung up on the fact that the 60th blog entry should be special since I’m now 60 years old, and the 60th at 60 should be some kind of epic, but I never happened on the right Big Subject topic.  (Or perhaps I’m just abjectly lazy.)

At any rate, I never really wanted to inject politics into what is essentially a rock & roll blog, but I now feel as if it’s necessary and on-subject to do so.  (And really, for anybody who loves The MC5 as much as I do, why SHOULDN’T I mix up politics and rock & roll?)

This blog was partially inspired by my good friend Colin Gawel of Watershed who has a great 2012 election piece out right now at his website,  I agree with at least 97% of all that he wrote.  (Plus you should read it because, as I’ve stated countless times throughout the years I’ve known him, Colin might be the most naturally funny person I’ve ever met.)  But I had one additional comment to make that Colin didn’t touch on, largely because he wouldn’t have known of this last minute campaign announcement.

There’s a lot of things I could say: I could say that it’s unbelievably insulting to me that the Republican Party can think that America’s memory is so short that we don’t remember it was their party that ran two wars on a credit card on top of a tax cut for millionaires & billionaires who then undercut the entire banking system and plunged the United States into a recession/depression and massive deficit that they now blame entirely on President Obama.  I could say that I don’t understand how any woman in this nation could vote Republican after the truly insulting and degrading outpouring of sentiments on rape & abortion that have issued from Republican legislators in recent weeks.  (And these are not just average citizens coming out with these ignorant pronouncements, ladies & gentlemen.  This is not Bubba the Drunk Guy down the bar in Bumfuck, Alabama.  These are highly-educated men of enormous lawmaking power who have, from all that I can see, ZERO respect for their female constituents.)  I could say I deplore the utter mendacity of the Republican Party.  I could say I’m appalled by the billions of dollars spent by BOTH parties on endlessly repetitious attack ads when that money could have been used to feed the poor, provide housing for the homeless or improve our schools.  I could say that I want that little twerp Josh Mandel to get stomped at the polls like a narc at a biker rally.  (And why does it appear from his innumerable campaign ads that he married his sister, a first cousin, or some other close relative?)

I could say a lot of things, but this is all I want to say: Tomorrow, Monday November 5th, 2012, in his final campaign appearance in Battleground Ohio, President Barack Obama will be accompanied by Bruce Springsteen and Jay Z at Nationwide Arena.  On that same day, at Lane Aviation near Port Columbus, Governor Mitt Romney will be supported by the Marshall Tucker Band.  Really, seriously, the Marshall Tucker Band?  In 2012?  Could Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, or even whoever or whatever constitutes Lynrd Skynrd these days really be that busy?  It’s that stunning breadth of imagination and forward-thinking attitude that I’m looking for in the next president of the United States.  What else do I need to say?

Friday, September 28, 2012

When I Kissed Teresa

a mid-90's song, with the short story that grew out of it.....

(editor's note; This blog and the previous entry, If All My Heroes Are Losers, contain songs.  Readers who subscribe to this blog by e-mail should go to Growing Old With Rock & Roll to hear the tunes.) 


When I Kissed Teresa

Teresa was an actress
Junior Theater Of The Arts
I was a scruffy West Side boy
In from unknown guitar parts
We were both 18 years old, the world was clear and plain
When I kissed Teresa at the corner of Front & Main

Teresa and I started to go out in the winter of 1971.  We had met the previous summer when she was co-starring in a play with my best friend Dave.  I would tag along to help with the music and lights.  It was the summer between senior year of high school and the beginning of college, that summer when anything can happen, when everything seems possible.  Dave and I would hitchhike to the play rehearsals, then walk across a big field to the convent where the outdoor production was being staged.  Teresa would catch sight of us and run across the field to meet me, throw her arms around my neck.  There was a commercial back then, I cannot for the life of me remember for what product, where a young couple would run across a field of flowers in slow motion and embrace in the center.  I thought Teresa was just joking around, spoofing that commercial.  Later, I realized it was no joke to her.  I was a prime recruit in the army of the clueless.

Teresa was a tiny girl
She was just one breath of air
Orphan smile, sad behind her eyes
From another time, Renaissance fair
We were waiting on her bus for home in an on and off drizzling rain
When I kissed Teresa at the corner of Front & Main

I wrote Teresa a letter on a lonely, murky Saturday night sometime the next winter.  The letter wove a convoluted set of circumstances that would result in us getting together the next week on the Oval of the Ohio State University campus, running across the green grass to meet, just like the summer before.  I tended to do things like that back then.  I knew where Teresa lived, I could easily have looked up her telephone number and simply asked her to meet me, but I never did anything simply in those days.  Teresa called me the next week.  She had quit college, was working at a doctor’s office downtown, couldn’t make the romantic rendezvous.  She completely called me out on the over-the-top machinations in my letter, asked me to meet her at the Junior Theater Of The Arts building the next Sunday afternoon.  She was helping with a children’s show there. I hung out at the rehearsal, marveling at Teresa’s smooth grace with the kids.  I walked her to her bus stop.  It was on the corner of Front & Main.  We kissed on that freezing afternoon, in a cold rain that was more like sleet.  Teresa had to put her arms around my neck and pull herself up to kiss me.  She was just shy of five feet tall, weighed maybe 96 pounds.  She should have been a ballerina.  Just as the bus doors opened and the kiss ended, Teresa looked straight up into my eyes, grinned “Thank you,” wheeled, and bounded up the bus steps.  It was a heartbreakingly charming exit.  Teresa was a born actress.

Teresa did a lot of drugs
From hurt too deep in soul
She asked me why I never did any
All I needed back then was rock & roll
We were watching the bad end of the 60’s spiraling down the drain
When I kissed Teresa at the corner of Front & Main

Teresa was possibly the saddest person I have ever met, that kind of deep-seated sadness that music, love and/or drugs just couldn’t touch.  She was the adopted daughter of an incredibly well-to-do family in Bexley, a swank suburb of Columbus.  I could show you the house sometime.  I never actually entered that house, but we drove by it one night on our way to a movie at the Drexel, the local art house theater.  I was a West Side boy from a solid lower-middle class, blue-collar neighborhood.  I don’t think Teresa was in any great hurry to introduce me to her adoptive parents.  I am not in any way suggesting that Teresa was slumming, or that she was ashamed of me, I'm just saying I don’t think she thought the meeting would go well. For my part, I wasn’t that crazy about meeting any parents.  The year before, in high school, a girl I’d had one date with introduced me to her father.  He happened to be the chief of police in the small town west of Columbus where they lived.  He took me aside in the kitchen, showed me his service revolver and told me he’d kill me if he ever saw me with his daughter again.  He told me that he would make it look like an accident and that no one would ever be the wiser.  It was the end of the 1960’s, just after the Manson Family murders.  I had long hair.  I played in a rock & roll band.  I took him at his word.  Those were different times.

I loaned Teresa my Beau Brummels records
I loaned Teresa my Beau Brummels records
To say I miss Teresa, that would just be words
Would just be words

Teresa ached to find the birth mother who had given her away 18 years before.  Given that baggage she was an easy mark for that end-of-the-60’s/early 70’s cocktail of eastern mysticism, nascent new age philosophy, cheap highs, Jesus freaks, phony prophets, Rod McCuen poetry & The Grateful Dead.  Teresa was doing maybe five different kinds of drugs – pot, acid, prescription valium & painkillers she’d purloined from her adoptive mother, plus some speed just to balance the equation.  She was genuinely amazed that I didn’t do any.  At that juncture my viewpoint was that, from everything I could see, drug use led to listening to and actually enjoying the music of Santana, something I just could not abide.  I had my guitar and I had my records, and that was all I needed.  Teresa asked me to loan her one record that was better than drugs.  I gave her my all-time favorite record (of that week, at least), an album called Magic Hollow by The Beau Brummels.  It was folk-rock. It was lovely.  It wove spells.  It worked.  Teresa flushed the pills, for at least a week.  Things were great, for at least five minutes. We were poet/punk/hippie kids running the streets.  We went to arty movies.  She came to my halting solo gigs in church basements.  She would listen to me prattle about being a rock star.  Teresa read me her poetry.  In those moments there was a calm in her eyes I saw at no other time.  It didn’t last.

Teresa wrote me poetry
I keep it in my guitar case
To this day I can read her words
And I can see her lovely upturned face
I have a heart-memory portrait of her burned into my brain
From when I kissed Teresa at the corner of Front & Main

Over the course of those long winter weeks things went gradually, but steadily, downhill.  We were children, both still living in our parents’ homes.  Teresa started back on pills.  Teresa would phone in the middle of the night, mush-mouthed on downs, babbling about the problem of the day.  She took to showing up at my mother’s house on the West Side at all hours of the day and night.  Normally this would have been problematic but my mother, still reeling from the death of my dad the previous year, recognized in Teresa a crazed, kindred spirit and loved her.  Loved her certainly more than I did.  Sometime in March Teresa started talking about running away from home.  Every time something went wrong, big or small, she was going to run away from home.  One night it came up one too many times and I snapped, “Teresa, stop talking about running away and just do it, all right?  Stop talking and do something for a change.”  As she stared at me with tears in her eyes I thought of the way her eyes looked the afternoon of that first bus stop kiss.  How does moon-glow fade to grey, dead dawn?  How does the first morning in May turn become coldest winter midnight?  How fast can three months fly?  Teresa called me from the Greyhound bus station the next morning, crying, asking me to come with her to Boston.  I thought she was bluffing, told her to go home and call me that night, hung up and went to school.  She wasn’t bluffing.  The Bexley police were waiting at my house that evening to question me about her whereabouts.  My mom was not amused.  Have I ever been crueler to anyone who deserved it less than I was to Teresa?  Only once.

Teresa ran away from home
And I put my guitar to bed
I stand on this street corner tonight
And I watch the lights change from green to red

In 1995 a buddy of mine was playing an acoustic gig on a Saturday afternoon at a new cultural arts center in downtown Columbus.  It turned out that the center was in the same building as the old Junior Theater Of The Arts.  I bet I hadn't stood at the corner of Front & Main in the intervening 25 years.  It was still a bus stop.  As I put my hand on the bus stop sign the entire weight of the sky fell on me.  I could see Teresa's eyes glistening after the kiss.  I could taste her.  I could feel the ghosts of our 18 year old selves haunting that corner.  I pushed it all away, shook it all off and went to my friend's show.  It was dusk when I left.  The ghosts were waiting for me.  I stood with them on that corner for close to an hour, watching the traffic light change from green to red, until it was full dark.

song lyrics © 1995 Ricki C.
story © 2007 Ricki C.

© 2012 Ricki C.