Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Following My Heart (Or At Least My Pacemaker)

An edited version of the following piece was originally published in my hometown daily newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch, in a column called "First Person" in 2007.  "First Person" was (and still is) an attempt by The Dispatch at participatory journalism.  Readers send in 700-1000 essays on a topic of their choosing that they think will be interesting to fellow Columbus readers.  At my most forgiving, I find it a nice, inclusive gesture on the part of the newspaper.  At my most cynical, I consider it a really cheap way for the editors to fill up column inches without having to pay an actual columnist.
After perusing the first couple of months of "First Person" – which largely featured stories about people’s beloved pets or what they considered amusing anecdotes about their children – I decided that if I couldn’t contribute anything better I had no business criticizing the submissions.  Once I got involved in the process I discovered that The Dispatch was highly editing and, in some cases, largely rewriting the submissions they received from readers.  They flattened out the prose, I suppose to conform to some eighth-grade reading level they aspired (despired?) to.  (I will say, though, somehow they wound up not taking out my three best one-liners.)  The whole experience left me wanting to apologize to all the previous "First Person" authors, for thinking they were unimaginative white-bread writers, when in reality all along The Dispatch was watering us all down from the same editorial fountain.
The following is my original version.....
I’m writing this in a Cheesecake Factory restaurant in an upscale suburban Washington D.C. mall.  It’s a Sunday evening and I’m surrounded by well-to-do families.  I’m wearing jeans and a black t-shirt and clearly do not belong here.  Where I belong is Columbus, Ohio, working a warehouse job and dreading the upcoming work week.

I’ve worked a lot of warehouse jobs in my life – Service Merchandise, Buckeye Mart, Gold Circle, K-Mart, Ross Laboratories, to name a few.  Some of them were temp positions, most were full-time 40-hour-a-week jobs.  The Service Merchandise job alone accounted for 16 years of my life.

I liked those jobs. I had completed three years of college before I ever set foot in a warehouse and I think for a time I believed it was a short-term thing.  I played guitar and I was headed for the big time.  (Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.)  Maybe I fancied myself like that character Tom in A Streetcar Named Desire, writing poetry on boxes.  After 20 years of unloading trucks, stocking, receiving, and shipping merchandise, it occurred to me that this might not be such a temporary existence.

My father worked in warehouses.  I think that might have been another reason I thought of warehouse work as sort of a romantic way of life.  I looked up to my father.  He taught me everything I know about work and life.  He grew up in Chicago during the Depression and left school after the eighth grade to start working full time.  He was the supervisor of a Columbia Gas of Ohio warehouse in 1970 when he died of a heart attack at age 56.  I was 17 years old.  He had always wanted to travel.  He never got the chance.

By January 2000 Service Merchandise had gone out of business and I was working for a (now defunct) record store chain, Camelot Music.  One Thursday night I was lying on my couch reading when a voice came very clearly into my head, "Hey, check your pulse."  My pulse was 38 beats per minute.  A couple of weeks later, following a lot of tests and after various monitors had been applied to my person, a cardiologist informed me that my heart was stopping entirely for 5 or 10 seconds at a time while I was sleeping.  To make a long story short, by the end of that week I’d had a cardiac pacemaker implanted.

Awhile before that I had opened a show for a rock & roll act out of New York City named Hamell On Trial (aka Ed Hamell).  We hit it off and I would tag along when Ed played gigs around Ohio, pretending to be a guitar tech, but always returning to Camelot Music for the day shift.  In fact, two days before the pacemaker surgery was performed my soon-to-be wife Debbie and my cardiologist barred me from working a Hamell show in Bowling Green, Ohio, because they were both convinced I would have a fainting spell while driving home and be killed.

Three weeks later, after winding around the south and through Texas, Hamell finished that tour with a date in Cincinnati.  I drove down for the show.  It was my first big outing after the surgery and recuperation.  I walked into the club and said proudly, "Wanna see my incision?"

That night Ed told me he’d just been booked as Ani Difranco’s opening act for a two-week tour of California.  He told me the tour was in three weeks, asked if I could I get off work to go along. I have always been the kind of person to play it safe, to protect myself, to not color outside the lines, to work in warehouses.  Against all odds I said, "When do we leave?"

I’m writing this in a nice restaurant in an upscale mall outside Washington, D.C., because it becomes much easier to make decisions once your chest has been sliced open.  Over the past seven years as a roadie I have seen this country, from sea to shining sea as it were.  We started one tour in Atlanta, Georgia, and traversed the entire nation in a rented Ford to wind up in San Francisco, California, by way of New Orleans, Austin, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas, among others.  Everywhere we visited I pointed out sights to my dad that I think he would have liked, if he'd ever had the chance to travel.

When I was a child I believed I would never leave the state of Ohio, ever, in my life.  By the grace of God and rock & roll I have.  I will someday die of a heart attack, as did my beloved father. But not before I saw America, and not today.

(c) 2012 Ricki C.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Punk Rock, 1976 (Bonus Video Friday)

I fell hard for punk rock in 1976, there’s just no two ways about it.  I had dabbled with the margins of punk as early as 1974, sending away for Patti Smith’s mail-order-only single, "Hey Joe" b/w "Piss Factory."  Then in ’75 I got Willie Alexander’s "Kerouac" b/w "Mass. Ave." (complete with a nice personal note from Mr. Alexander, reproduced below).  (I also sent away in ’75 to Ork records for the first Television single, but on receipt my reaction was, "Christ, MY bands are better than this."  I found "Little Johnny Jewel" slapdash, amateurish & arty in all the wrong ways.)  And I have to admit, the concept of sending away for a single through the mail really threw me.  My rock & roll world was built on million-sellers.  I believed in rock stars.  I loved the concept of Number One hit records.  I wanted the bands I played in to have their pictures up on little girls’ bedroom walls.  I was raised on Paul Revere & The Raiders and The Lovin’ Spoonful, baby; nothing short of the top of the charts for this populist rocker.

But by 1976 Mott The Hoople and The New York Dolls had broken up, Elliott Murphy was on his second record label in three years (soon to be on his third) and disco & Peter Frampton ruled the charts and airwaves.  Where was a West Side rocker supposed to turn?  What could a poor boy do, ‘cept to play for a punk-rock band?  By 1976 I had completely bought into the entire Year Zero concept that changed New York City’s Joseph Hyman into Joey Ramone and London’s Joe Mellor into Joe Strummer & John Lydon into Johnny Rotten.  (I’m not even gonna dignify John Ritchie’s transformation into Sid Vicious in this grouping.)  (While we’re on the topic, why was everybody in punk named John or Joe?)

My biggest problem with punk was the sheer, rampant unprofessionalism rife in the movement. An oft-stated maxim of this blog is: All of my standards of rock & roll professionalism are based on The Who in 1969.  Given that stance, punk-rock circa 1976-1978 was gonna present a whole host of problems.  Two cases in point…..

1) I’m pretty sure it must have been the summer of 1978 when I went to see local Columbus band Screaming Urge, who were then the darlings, if not reigning kings, of the local punk-rock scene.  They were playing an outdoor show on the Ohio State University campus, I believe for some hemp-related Legalize Pot movement.  (Which was problematic to me right from the start: What was a punk band doing playing a hippie fest?)  They were pretty sloppy, pretty ramshackle, the songs weren’t great; they weren’t exactly The Clash in matters of tightness or cohesion, if you get my drift.  And then, maybe a half hour into the set one of the guitar players broke a string.  I expected at that point for a roadie to come out with a spare six-string, fix the primary and return it next song.  No, there was no roadie, there was no spare guitar, there was no string changing, the guy just continued short-stringed on his axe.  Two songs later, the OTHER guitar player broke a different string.  Now there was a few minutes of serious head-scratching and conferring between the band members on how to continue.  Their solution, which boggles my too-analytical, too-professional, too-OCD mind to this day in 2012, was for the two guitarists to TRADE GUITARS!  For the life of me I couldn’t and still can’t imagine what that swap was supposed to accomplish.  Both guitars were seriously out of tune from the slack of the missing strings, what possible purpose could trading them have served?  The band limped through three or four more ever-increasing out of tune songs until the bass-playing lead singer couldn’t pitch his voice anymore to the "chords" the guitar players were discordantly bashing out.  They would have been better off taking a string off one guitar and putting it on the other just to have ONE normally-strung instrument, and played as a trio.

And that’s when I realized; I was trying to apply 1960’s solutions to 1970’s problems.  Your band can’t play in tune?  Just say, "We’re anti-tuning, man."  Drummer can’t play in time?  Just adopt the stance; "We’re incorporating free jazz into our music, man." Lead singer can’t sing? Sneer and intone in a haughty faux-English accent, "We’re into atonality in our vocals, man, get with the times."  Witnessing the sonic debacle that was Screaming Urge that night, who were supposed to be the "top-of-the-heap" Columbus punk, just further validated my then new-found affection and committment to Romantic Noise.  (Willie Phoenix’s "punk" band, who were actually probably more power pop.)  (Much, much more on Romantic Noise and Willie Phoenix in future segments of Growing Old With Rock & Roll.)   

2) My ex-wife Pat and I visited Boston the summer of 1977.  I was really totally in love with the Boston punk scene.  To this day I think it was far superior to any of the other nascent, burgeoning punk scenes, easily topping New York City and even London, England.  (And Los Angeles?  Please.)  I had sent away (there’s that mail-order thing again) for the Live At The Rat double album as soon as I read about it in New York Rocker (the paper that replaced Creem magazine as my mid-to-late 70’s rock & roll bible).  This was to be my first visit to the Rathskeller Club that gave the album its name and the Boston punk scene its locus.  So here’s the thing; I had been going to the Columbus Agora, my hometown’s flagship venue, for shows since 1968, after discovering it on a class field trip to the Ohio State campus conducted by my journalism teacher, Sister Ann Mary.  (See blog entry Linda Finneran and Scoring Heroin.)  The Agora was a 1300-person capacity club and it was packed every time I went.  Even before being signed to a major label deal with Casablanca Records (home of Kiss, among others) local heavy metal band The Godz could sell out the Agora pretty much any Friday or Saturday night they chose to play there.  In short, the Agora was my template for rock & roll success.

So Pat and I wound up wandering up and down Kenmore Square (an area I knew well from previous Boston trips to visit Dave Blackburn as far back at 1971) looking for the Rat.  I had the address written down, but we walked right past it twice because I was looking for a venue capable of holding 1300 people; my thought process being, "If Columbus, a town of under one million residents (at that time) supports a club like the Agora, a city of Boston’s population (four million, in 1977), has to sport a comparable venue."  Oh, how very, very wrong I was.  Pat and I finally stopped in the Kenmore Square Strawberries Record Store location and asked where the Rathskeller was.  The counter guy just looked at me like I was from Mars, "It’s right there," he said, pointing out the window to the left.  "Where?" I persisted cluelessly, still looking for a movie marquee-sized sign advertising that night’s bands.  "Right THERE, right where those stairs are," he shot back, totally frustrated with my Midwest naïveté.

Pat and I walked down the short flight of stairs into a basement club that couldn’t have held more than a couple hundred people.  The only employees there were a janitor mopping the floors and a guy stocking bottles behind the bar.  The Columbus Agora had a dedicated, fully-staffed box office all day, every day.  "We’re not open yet, whattya need?" the bartender asked. "Uhhh, we were looking to get tickets for the show tonight."  "Tickets? You don’t need tickets, it’s Third Rail playing tonight, doors are at nine o’clock, just show up after that."  "What if it sells out?" I replied.  (Third Rail were one of the bands featured on the Live At The Rat album and fairly popular in town if I were to believe my Boston fanzine reading.)  The guy actually laughed, "It’s NOT gonna sell out, believe me. Come back after nine."

We dutifully returned right at nine, paid our cover and settled in at the Rat.  By 10 pm there were maybe 20 other people in the place.  A camera crew of some kind was setting up in one corner and about 15 minutes before showtime Richard Nolan, the lead singer & songwriter from Third Rail, was going from table to table telling people that a news crew from one of the local T.V. channels was filming a feature about punk-rock for that night’s news segment.  Further, he asked if we could, in his words, "Whoop it up and act really punk," that night for the cameras.  Now, let’s delineate just the top problems I had with this interaction: 1) On my rock & roll planet the lead singer of the headlining band does not come out and rub shoulders with the audience.  I fully realized that punk was supposed to be leveling the playing field and bringing rock & roll back to its roots, but Jesus, let’s try to keep a little magic and mystery in the presentation.  I found glad-handing the paying customers more suited to middle-school cheerleader tryouts than to aspiring rock & roll stars.  2) Should the lead singer have to ASK the audience to "whoop it up and act punk?"  Wasn’t it HIS FUCKING JOB to get us to that state?  3) What was "acting punk" supposed to mean, anyway?  Were we supposed to spit on him?  Throw up on the floor?  Pogo?  I thought punk was supposed to be throwing away restrictions, now it was already becoming just a play-acting fashion show.  4) Why were there only 20-some paying customers at what I thought was a popular club presenting who I thought was a popular band?

As it transpired, Third Rail’s performance was shaky at best.  Nolan was a self-involved junior-league Lou Reed-wannabe and I walked out of the Rat that night with a fuckload of my punk-rock preconceptions seriously shaken, if not obliterated.  How could the top punk-rock club in Boston, Massachusetts, not be much bigger than the bar area of my beloved Columbus Agora?  What did this mean about CBGB’s in New York City?  (Which I had imagined must hold around 3000 people, given N.Y.C.’s population of 8 million.)  Did this mean that maybe punk-rock was not the broad-based, fanatical fan-supported movement that was going to wipe the likes of Styx, Journey and Foreigner from the airwaves and stages of America?  Was punk-rock just the invention and wishful thinking of a few big city rock critics?

The answer to that last question is, of course, "Yes."  Looking back, I have to figure that The Sex Pistols probably played to less human beings in their entire 18-month "career" than Eagles or Fleetwood Mac did in just one of their late-70’s stadium sellout shows.  The Clash fared somewhat better until that built-in "regular people aren’t supposed to like us, just a fringe element of really smart people we would like to have as friends" aspect of punk-rock reared up and fucked with Joe Strummer’s head, the same way it would decades later with Kurt Cobain's.  Punk-rock ghettoized itself away from "real rock & roll" more and more completely as time wore on – its own clubs, its own haircuts, its own rituals – devolving into the inevitable "alternative rock."  I wanted 1976 punk-rock to wipe the planet free of Led Zeppelin, Queen, and disco music.  Instead I was rewarded with synth-pop, hair-metal and (dare I speak its name?) MTV.  It was not a good trade-off.  So where does that leave us in 2012?  On the one hand we’ve got pop stars Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.  On the other we’ve The Black Keys and Kasabian.

God help us.

postscript; I never stopped loving punk, of course, as it settled into its little rock & roll niche, especially Boston punk.  I was playing the CD compilation I made from my records by The Real Kids just this morning as I was showering.  And The Neighborhoods and Mission Of Burma are seldom far from my turntable or CD player.  But from 1976 through 1978 and a lotta years after that Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band and Aerosmith certainly rocked umpteen more hours of mine than Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, Lydia Lunch or James Chance.    

© 2012 Ricki C.

The Patti Smith Group simultaneously honoring and expanding the 60’s on Saturday Night Live, 1976.  I've come to believe that this period of the mid to late-70’s was the last gasp of the 1960’s baby boom rock generation.  Either you made the leap to punk & new wave and rode that crest through the 80’s with REM and The Replacements and then onto someone like Alejandro Escovedo in the 90’s; or you hunkered down and became comfortably numb with endless repeat listenings of Pink Floyd, The Allman Brothers and The Grateful Dead, sucking at the teat of classic-rock radio for your 100,000th fix/repetition of Bob Seger doing "Turn The Page" from Live Bullet.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hamell On Trial Gets Up Close & Personal in Dayton, Ohio

It was November 2003, in the midst of a Midwestern swing on Hamell On Trial’s early 2000’s Never-Ending Tour.  My friend Kyle Garabadian, Ed and I headed out for Dayton, Ohio.  It was a Saturday night gig at the Canal Street Tavern, only an hour and a half away from my home base of Columbus.  Canal Street was consistently the best-attended and definitely the most congenial of Ed’s Ohio venues.  Owner Mick Montgomery was (and still is) a prize and a prime example of that thinning breed of rock club owners; a good guy who knows and cares about music and takes great care of the acts he books.

The show that night went great except Ed was being heckled by one really drunk middle-aged woman.  She was evidently a fan/associate of the opening act and kept yelling for them to come back on.  After awhile I found it necessary to tell to her to shut up.  She eventually drank herself into a stupor under the watchful, approving gaze of her husband and grown son.  (I think they also wanted her to shut the fuck up.)  Hubby went to get the car at some point and I wound up having to help her kid walk/carry her out of the bar.  In the process, all three of us fell down the steps.  Just another Saturday night in Ohio.

We left Canal Street way too late because it was always just so damn easy to hang out with Mick and his staff and lose all track of time.  It was between 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning when we hit a BP gas station on the outskirts of Dayton for provisions.  (Some combination of Hostess cupcakes, milk, microwave food, potato chips, coffee and Mountain Dew were essential for late night drives when 24-hour diners were unavailable.)

The only other customers of the gas station in those pre-dawn Sunday morning hours were four drunk teenagers cruising for microwave burritos.  And I mean young teenagers, 16 or 17 years old tops, no way were they anywhere near legal to buy alcohol.

We’d gassed up the car and Kyle and I are sitting in it waiting for Ed, whom we last saw in line at the microwave.  Kyle said to me from the back seat, "Hey, I think Ed fell down."  I looked up from opening my orange cupcakes to see Ed straightening up and rushing over from the other side of the gas pumps.

"Did you fall down?" I asked as I pulled away from the station island.  "No, I didn't fall down," Ed replied, "I got in the wrong goddamn car."  "What?" Kyle and I chorus as I paused at the station entrance to check traffic.  "I came out of the gas station and got into those drunk kids' car by mistake." Ed explained.

Kyle and I were now laughing so hard I had to pull back into the station because I couldn't drive.  "I'm glad you both think this is so amusing. I could have gotten shot."  Ed said testily.  "But you didn't get shot,"  Kyle comforted, "If you had gotten shot we probably wouldn't be laughing so hard."  "How did you get in the wrong car?"  I asked, tears in my eyes from laughing, "There were only two cars in the whole place."

It turned out Ed was concentrating hard on his microwave sandwich, saw a car with a driver and somebody in the back seat he claimed looked like Kyle and plonked himself down in the passenger seat.  He never looked up from unwrapping his sandwich for what must have been at least 30 seconds, until the kid in the driver’s seat said simply, "Dude."

Ed looked up into a stranger's drunken 16-year-old face and realized he was in the wrong vehicle.  He bailed out fast, stumbled getting out, pulled himself up and that's when Kyle thought he fell down.  I'd have paid a huge sum of money to have a video camera on that kid's face as a bald, dressed-head-to-toe-in-black Hamell On Trial invited himself into his car and settled in for a late night snack.  I bet Ed scared the fuck out of those poor drunk kids.  No wonder all the driver could manage was a monosyllabic "Dude."

"I could have been killed, you know." Ed said, as Kyle and I tried to stop laughing, regain our composure and furrow our brows pensively to feign concern.  It's my sincerest hope to this day that Ed gets hugely famous and someday those boys see him on the Grammy Awards, recognize him and tell all their wives, kids and/or friends, "One time in Dayton at a gas station at 3 o’clock in the morning that guy got in our car by mistake."

Their friends and families will never believe them.

postscript – Two months later in Birmingham, Alabama, Ed and I were leaving a movie theater at midnight and Ed AGAIN started to get into a strange car, which this time, just by luck, was unoccupied.  "That's not our car." I said nervously, because we were not in a nice neighborhood.

"Yes, it is." Ed replied and sat down in the passenger seat.  "No, it's not," I insisted, standing well clear of the vehicle and speaking quietly through the open driver's side window, "our car was locked and the windows were rolled up.  And where did all those beer bottles come from since neither of us drink?"

I stepped away, waiting for shots to ring out and bullets to start hitting us and/or the car.  Ed surveyed the liquor-strewn interior of the car and exited calmly but quickly.

I worry about Ed when he tours by himself nowadays, I really do.

© 2012 Ricki C.

Hamell On Trial / Canal Street Tavern / Dayton, Ohio

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Guitar / The Band / Dave Blackburn (Bonus Video Friday)

The Guitar, The Band, and Dave Blackburn are condensed, Reader’s Digest versions of the third, fourth and fifth installments of A Life Of Rock & Roll.  Refer to The Bathtub and The Transistor Radio earlier in this blog for installments one and two…..

The Guitar

My dad bought me my first guitar for Christmas in 1968.  A guitar was not the kind of present given in my family.  I think Dad was so heartened by the fact that I wanted something which inferred an interest in the outside world and the people in it that he would probably have bought me a Gibson Les Paul if I had asked for one.

That first Christmas guitar was a fairly cheap acoustic.  The next summer, when the neck separated from the body of the acoustic from constant use and Dad could see I was really serious about playing, he bought me a second-hand white Kalamazoo electric guitar. It looked just like the Fender Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock, only cheaper.  My brain exploded. It was more than I ever could have hoped for.  Dad rewired an old World War II vintage radio we had in the basement so I could use the huge built-in speaker as an amplifier. I was in seventh heaven . I was in sonic heaven.  I was alive and amplified.

I sat in that basement for months, playing along to the radio or to the 45-rpm singles I bought at the Lazarus department store or Marco Records in downtown Columbus.  I know I must have eaten and slept and gone to school during that period, but I have no clear memory of those things.  I got good.  But there was no such thing as solo rockers in 1968.  There were folk singers, but I really wasn’t interested in that scene, ya know?  Even at that early date, Pete Townshend and Keith Richards were my inspiration, my heroes, my gods.

I had to find a band.

The Band

Late spring, 1969: Dennis O’Dowd sat next to me in first period history class our junior year at Bishop Ready High School.  He was the bass guitarist in one of the bands that played at the school functions I was still lurking in the dark corners of.  One Monday morning after they played a Saturday night dance I turned to him before class started and said, "You know, I play better than the guitar player in your band."  He stared back at me for a moment and replied, "I didn’t know you could even talk."  (That abject shyness thing was still going on, but was very soon to change.)

We started talking about guitars and bands we liked and after class Dennis told me to come to his house Wednesday night.  He’d have the guitar player stay home and I could try out.  The rehearsal went great.  I blew the guy out of the band in one night.  That was how things happened in those garage band days.  I don’t even remember his name.

We played out the next weekend, at a party in a well-to-do classmate’s rec room.  I already knew all of the songs from those months in the basement.  We went over great.  Between sets people talked to me.  They smiled at me and asked me if I knew songs they wanted to hear.  They asked me if I needed a Coke and wanted to know when and where we were playing next.  Girls wanted to make out with me.  Wait a minute, let me repeat that sentence – it’s important to the story.  GIRLS WANTED TO MAKE OUT WITH ME.  I didn’t at first because I had no clear idea what I was doing in that department, but eventually I fell into line.

Quite literally overnight I went from being completely invisible to immensely popular.  I had to invent an entire new personality just to talk to people, just to deal with that recognition.  Later, of course, I came to resent those people for treating me differently simply because I had a highly-amplified piece of wood with steel strings on it hanging around my neck, but that was at least a year away.  At that point I just smiled and basked in the warmth of learning the game.

Over time I became the lead singer of that band, partly because they got an even more hot-shot guitarist than me and partly because the old lead singer couldn’t remember enough lyrics to play three sets a night.  I had already started to write lyrics, mostly by putting new words to songs we already played, but nobody in the band wanted to write music to my lyrics so we could play originals.  Even in those days you could get more gigs and make more money playing covers than by writing and playing your own material.

I didn’t like singing lead.  I wanted to play guitar.  And I wanted to create songs nobody had ever heard before.

It was time for a change.

Dave Blackburn

Dave Blackburn and I met halfway through junior year in English class.  I think we hit it off immediately over our love of books, but I don’t really remember talking about music all that much at the beginning.  I knew Dave played in the school marching band and was big in the Drama Club – he was the lead actor in at least one of the plays produced that year – but I didn’t know he was into rock & roll.  I remember him at a couple of dances and parties we played through the summer of ’69 (insert Bryan Adams joke here), then just before senior year began, late in August, we ran into each other at the aforementioned Marco Records.

I had just finished talking to a couple of girls from our school.  I must admit, by that point I had started to enjoy the attention and status that playing in a band afforded.  I don’t think I had quite reached the arrogant point, but the painfully shy kid of a year earlier was long gone.  I nodded, "Hi," to Dave and he said, quite simply and quietly, "You know, that band you’re in is shit."  I thought about that for a second and admitted, "Yeah, I know."

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

There’s a song for and about Dave on my demo CD entitled "If All My Heroes Are Losers" in which I state that everything I know about music I learned from Dave.  That is precisely and entirely true.  I knew one little window of rock & roll covering maybe 1958 to 1969.  Dave knew classical music, he knew jazz, he knew Broadway show tunes, he knew blues, and he knew where they all fit into rock & roll.  He taught me how to LISTEN to music.

We would lie on the floor of Dave’s room on the West Side of Columbus, Ohio, at the end of the 1960’s, with our heads pressed between the record player speakers because we couldn’t afford headphones and Dave would show me things: Like how John Cale’s viola IS the heroin shooting up Lou Reed’s veins in that Velvet Underground song.  Really, try it at your house; cue up "Heroin" and listen from 4:18 until the end of the song as the smack of Cale’s viola slides up Reed’s spine to a center in his head.  I could have listened to that song for twenty years straight and would never have arrived at that kind of insight without Dave’s guidance.  I listen to music differently to this day because of those sonic tutorials.

Before all that could happen, though, I had to split from the cover band.  One night in early September, at a birthday party gig in some girl’s basement, during our last set of the night, somebody requested The Beatles’ "A Day In The Life."  The band knew the song but I had repeatedly told them I couldn’t and wouldn’t sing it: Couldn’t because John Lennon’s vocal was way too high up out of my limited range, and wouldn’t because even at that point in time I knew the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album was an overrated, pretentious slab of vinyl that would forever doom, displace and ruin the raw, primal rock & roll I loved.

One of our classmates in the audience volunteered to sing the song and Gary, the rhythm guitarist and founder/leader of the band, told him to come up.  I told Gary and Dennis that they had better make sure the guy knew all the lyrics to all the rest of the set, because if he set foot on the stage I was leaving.  The band thought I was bluffing.  They were wrong.  I walked off the makeshift stage and sat at the top of the basement steps long enough to make sure that the band and their impromptu lead vocalist truly butchered the Beatles classic.  And sure enough, they did. I smiled at the resultant musical train wreck, ignored the tearful pleadings of the birthday girl to finish out the party (I truly had become a prick by that point), walked out of her house and into the night.

Dave and I started writing songs the next day. I wrote the lyrics, Dave wrote the music.  We finished about 13 songs in the first week.  It was that kind of firestorm of creativity you can only command in your teens, in that first burst of finding your true voice and the best friend you’ll ever have.  It was symbiosis.  It was synergy.  I’d start a verse and Dave would finish it with just the perfect chord.  We wrote songs like you take a breath.

I’ve tried to think as I’m typing this if I’ve ever in my life met a more intelligent or more creative person than Dave was at that point.  I haven’t.  I’ve never met a funnier person either.  (That includes Hamell On Trial and that is saying something, high praise indeed.)  Dave could take the bleakest hour of your life and somehow have you laughing through it.  He taught me that humor could both defuse or ignite any situation.  And that combination of intellect and humor guaranteed a scathing swath of between-song banter at gigs.

Dave sang lead and played guitar, keyboards, and saxophone.  I played lead guitar and sang the songs Dave played sax on.  Dave was the star, I was the sidekick.  (For most of senior year I was referred to as "the guy with Dave" much more often than I was called by my given name.)  I was finally exactly where I wanted to be: On the side of the stage, bashing out chords, anchoring the sound for a truly gifted lead singer, on songs I helped write.  It was no accident that the best band we had together was called Crash & Sideshow.  I was Sideshow.

We sounded like The Kinks backed by The MC5. Dave brought the smart, inventive melodies, I brought the rock & roll rama-lama testimony.  We went through a succession of bass players and drummers who either never quite got what we were saying or who simply couldn’t keep up.  We were hippies for about 20 minutes.  We were working class kids and it was hard to take The Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead seriously when you could be blasted by The Stooges in a small college auditorium one town over.  We kept it together through 1972.  Then Dave (purposely) flunked out of Ohio State University and moved first to Boston to play music and then to New York City to become an actor.  I stayed in Ohio and played guitar.  Someday when my rock & roll memoir is published you’ll read all about it.  For now, let me just say this: Crash & Sideshow was the best band that you never saw.  Dave, all of this is for you. I salute you, my brother.

half of Crash & Sideshow, 1970

© 2012 Ricki C.

As mentioned above, in the 1960’s, we – Dave Blackburn & me and all of our friends – were hippies for about 20 minutes.  It was hard to be a hippie on the West Side of Columbus, Ohio, back in the day.  But while we were hippies this was our band. Damn, but it’s hard to remember that Stephen Stills and Neil Young were once good-lookin’ bad-ass guitar-slingers and singers.  (David Crosby, of course was always a useless hippie/zero.)  If anybody should’ve died in a plane crash the day before their 30th birthdays it was all these guys.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Current Events – The 2012 Grammy Awards

This is our first foray into current events in Growing Old With Rock & Roll, largely because I haven’t seen any concerts or shows yet this year, or bought any good records.  Participants are my lovely wife Debbie and my good friend Kyle Garabadian, who, in the words of Hamell On Trial, "knows a fuckload of shit about rock & roll."  Sound credentials.

8:01 pm – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band open the festivities with a new tune, "We Take Care Of Our Own."  Given my natural cynicism, I fully realize this is a ploy by CBS to hook aging baby boomers like myself into the telecast, but I really don’t care.  Bruce and the band are great, they don’t play "Born To Run" or another retread hit (as Pete Townshend would undoubtedly have done, given the current moldy oldies act that The Who have become), I’m perfectly happy.  I notice that Clarence Clemons’ old stage position has been taken over by bassist Gary W. Tallent.  This seems like a sound tactic.  For long-standing E Street band diehards, there is no way Bruce can simply replace Clarence with another player.  Kyle relates that word is the band will take an entire horn SECTION on the road with them this spring, therefore making an end run around cheapening the hallowed saxophone spot.  Bruce Springsteen did not just fall off a turnip truck into rock & roll, ladies & gentlemen.

8:07 pm - Lady Gaga is shown in the audience sporting a veil very much like the ones my sainted Italian mother wore to Mass and novenas at St. Aloysius in the 1960's.  Who knew my Mom was so fashion-forward and ahead of her time? 

8:11 pm – Initially I think that Bruno Mars and his band are channeling any number of old Prince videos, then realize they’re going all the way back to James Brown, whom Bruno acknowledges during the number, a fact I’m enormously heartened by and which may help change my opinion of Mars.

8:26 pm – Chris Brown slaps around both Rihanna AND Chris Martin of Coldplay during his dance routine before being bitch-slapped and laid low by Gwyneth Paltrow.  (Kyle’s comment about Brown's performance, "Since when does everybody have a Garth Brooks headset to sing into?")  (ps. I do not believe for one nanosecond Brown was actually SINGING during his little 21st century Gene Kelly routine.)  (Later in the evening Debbie wonders aloud how much tape both Rihanna and Gwyneth employed to keep their dresses in place.)

8:36 pm – Fergie from The Black Eyed Peas takes the stage as an award presenter in a dress designed to hide her now de rigueur onstage catheter.

8:47 pm – Dave Grohl (rocking a Slayer t-shirt) proves himself the luckiest drummer ever on the planet, for having his lead singer die and leaving a hard rock/alternative hole he could fill with The Foo Fighters.  (ps. I genuinely LIKE The Foo Fighters but every one of their songs is two minutes too long.)

8:57 pm – Quote from Debbie, "Oh, that wasn’t Rihanna’s backstage warm-up outfit, that’s her ONSTAGE outfit."  (Later, of course, she loses the ragged vest to reveal something appropriately clingy and revealing underneath. This IS, after all, modern R&B.)  Kyle is gratified to see that Rihanna has made it to the Grammy festivities this year sans black eyes.  Kyle further suggests that we make every gratuitous mention of "Whitney" during the artists’ performances a drinking game, even though we’re all only drinking pop.  (Or, in Debbie’s Jersey girl vernacular, soda.)

9:17 pm – Maroon 5 kicks off The Beach Boys tribute.  Please God, take me now.  Lord, bring me to your kingdom.  Kyle’s comment, "I’m so glad Whitney Houston didn’t live to see this."

9:23 pm – Mike Love falls down onstage, breaks a hip and the vaunted Beach Boys reunion comes to a mercifully quick end.

9:41 pm – Taylor Swift dresses down, decks her band out in Depression-era duds, rocks a banjo at punk-guitar just above the knee-level and I still love every second.

10:11 pm – The Grammys promise to return after a commercial break with a "loving" tribute to Glen Campbell.  What, as opposed to a hateful tribute?

10:35 pm – Bon Iver wins Best New Artist award and delivers his acceptance speech sporting the WORST haircut I have ever seen in what nowadays passes for rock & roll.  In the immortal words of David Minehan of The Neighborhoods: "Today’s bands are like a school of fish / When I see a star I’ll make my wish."  This means you, Mumford & Sons. 

10:57 pm – Deadmau5 appears, Walt Disney stirs in his cryogenic chamber and commences several lawsuits.

11:05 pm – Nicki Minaj’s performance makes me fervently wish I’d joined Whitney Houston in that Beverly Hills Hilton bathtub.  (ps. You think Catholic bishops currently have a problem with President Obama? Wait’ll they get a load of Nicki’s stage act.)

11:24 pm – Paul McCartney ends the Grammys as Bruce Springsteen began them; warming this baby boomer’s heart by NOT rocking a heard-one-hundred-thousand-million-times-on-classic-rock-and-oldies-radio Beatles tune but instead choosing the last section of the concluding Abbey Road medley.  Just before New Year's I roadied a show my friend Joe Peppercorn mounted, wherein he and a crack band he assembled for the night played every Beatles album in order, in a row, WITH NO BREAKS!  It was grueling, monstrously difficult, ambitious and lovely.  It also gave me a whole new appreciation of The Beatles’ canon and especially of the Abbey Road medley.  Thank you, Sir Paul, for not finishing with "Let It Be."

postscript; Oh yeah, Adele’s 21 record sold millions of copies this year and won all the Grammy Awards, perhaps suggesting that people just might want to hear real songs about true emotions sung by actual human beings who do not rise and fall by the machinations of Auto-Tune.

© 2012 Ricki C.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fighting with Ric Ocasek (Bonus Video Friday)

It was sometime in the mid 1980’s. My then-girlfriend Mary Jo and I jetted to Boston on People’s Express (see January blog entry; The Neighborhoods) for a week’s vacation. Our second day in town, a Saturday afternoon, we were hitting the racks in Newbury Comics’ (Boston’s preeminent indie record store) original Newbury Street location (they’ve branched out since then). Leaning on the counter shooting the breeze with the cash register clerk was a guy with long straight black hair, sunglasses and a black suit. I said to Mary Jo, "That guy at the counter is doing the best Ric Ocasek impression I’ve ever seen." Then I thought a little bit and realized The Cars studio, Synchro Sound, was right across the street from Newbury Comics and that it WAS Ric Ocasek. I had loved The Cars when they first emerged in 1978, loved their first two albums, loved reading about how Ocasek had put them together from the ground up to achieve maximum rock stardom. I had learned a lot from reading about them, I really had, so I wanted to at least acknowledge my big fan status.

At that time Mary Jo and I both worked in Columbus, Ohio, at Ross Laboratories, which was right up the street from the Columbus College Of Art & Design, where Ocasek had attended school in the early 70’s. Also, Ocasek’s ex-wife was still living in Columbus and one of his sons was delivering flowers for the flower shop where my ex-wife worked. None of this was particularly noteworthy to the national rock press but it was fairly common knowledge in Columbus rock & roll circles. Plus his other son had recently spoken to a DJ friend of mine in a bar and brought up his famous dad to try, in her viewpoint, to get a little attention/notoriety/play. So, not wanting to just walk up to Ric Ocasek and start slobbering out a typical fan-boy greeting like, "Oh, Mr. Ocasek, I love your music and I just wanted to say hello." I led with, "Hi, I’m from Columbus, Ohio, and I work just up the street from where you used to go to school."

Ocasek looked down at me (that cat is TALL) from under his insect sunglasses and droned, "Who said I went to school in Columbus, Ohio?" I was a little taken aback by his tone, but pressed on with, "You didn’t go to the Columbus College Of Art & Design in the 70’s?" He replied in the same haughty, deadpan drone he started with, "I’ve never even HEARD of Columbus, Ohio." Okay, so then I was angry. And the problem was, in those days when I got angry I would completely lose my temper. I fully realize that maybe Ric Ocasek didn’t want to deal with fans bothering him when he was "off-duty," but then why was he hanging out in a record store on a Saturday afternoon in full Cars rock star regalia? There was just no reason, in my mind, why he would treat a fan that way.

Since I was mad, and since I knew from the rock press that Ocasek was touchy about his age, the next sentence out of my mouth was, "Oh, so then I guess you don’t have an ex-wife and two grown kids in Columbus, Ohio, either then?" Now Ocasek is pissed. "I don’t know what you’re talking about," he says, his voice going up a little from the deadpan drone. "I’m talking about the fact that you don’t want anybody to know you’ve got a kid at least 16 years old and that you’re almost 40, Mr. Rock Star," I spat back. Now we were both getting loud and people in the store were starting to pay attention. We went back and forth at each other a little more and then EVERYBODY in Newbury Comics was gaping at us. I glanced off to the side and Mary Jo, who hated conflict and public attention of any kind, was literally holding her face in her hands and shaking her head. (I KNEW I was gonna be in trouble there.)

Finally, Ocasek said, "Why don’t we take this outside?" Now, where I grew up, on the West Side of Columbus, "Why don’t we take this outside?" means nothing else, or less, than a challenge to a fight. At that point I hadn’t been in a physical fight since 1978 and I was thinking, "Oh my God, I’m going to have to fight Ric Ocasek." So we wound up on the sidewalk out in front of Newbury Comics and now we were SCREAMING at each other. I realized then that Ocasek had just wanted to take our "discussion" away from the prying ears of the record store crowd, but that idea backfired badly, because not only did the Newbury Comics people follow us outside, but we had also drawn a whole new group of onlookers from passersby on Newbury Street.

We were both yelling back and forth, spitting mad; at some point I threw in something about Ocasek’s other kid trying to pick up my DJ friend in a bar; there was a circle of at least 20 onlookers in a circle around us; it was getting intense; it was BAD. Finally Ocasek had had enough, spun on his heels, walked across the street into Synchro Sound studios and you could hear the sound of the lock being thrown from all the way across Newbury Street. People were laughing and cheering, one guy clapped me on the back and said, "Man, that was great. That guy is always hanging around here being kingshit rock star asshole." The victory was short-lived, however. Mary Jo would not speak to me for the rest of the day. (Though truthfully, that was not always the punishment she intended it to be.)  And that night I went to see The Neighborhoods at the Channel club solo. But hey, it was The ‘Hoods in Boston on a Saturday night in the summer, how was that NOT gonna be a good time?

postscript; Two weeks later I was back at home in Columbus and my ex-wife called up to put in an order for baby formula. (My ex had remarried and started a family since our split and during the time I was employed at Ross Laboratories I obtained cut-rate or free baby formula for her. It was the least, really the least, I could do after the way I had treated her during our marriage.) She asked what I had been doing and I said, "I went to Boston for vacation." "How’d that go?" she asked. "It was okay," I said. "Oh hey, I almost got in a fight with Ric Ocasek," I added, recalling my close encounter of the Cars kind. There was a long, pregnant (no pun intended) silence on the other end of the phone. "Are you there?" I said. "I should have known," she replied, sighing. It turned out that Ric Ocasek had called his ex-wife in Columbus after our little tête-à-tête and threatened to cut off her alimony and child support for the boys, as there was some kind of confidentiality agreement in their divorce settlement, and none of them were supposed to talk about Mr. Rock Star Dad. He had somehow gotten the idea the kids were giving interviews about him on the radio when I brought my DJ friend into the fray. "I should have known it was you," my ex said, "you can’t get along with anybody." So, totaling up, that was two women pissed at me over the same incident, in which I was only trying to pay a rock star hero of mine a compliment. That was definitely NOT just what I needed.

post-postscript; Fully five years later, and not even knowing who he was, I almost got into a fight with one of Ocasek's sons outside a rock club in Columbus.  I had not one altercation with any other human being in that intervening five years.  There was just some kind of weird blood feud going on with me and those Ocasek boys.

© 2012 Ricki C.

I am not suggesting in any way, shape or form that this video is from the same night I've blogged about above, but then again, I have no real way of knowing that it isn't.  And, at any rate, I'll take just about any opportunity to upload The Neighborhoods on Bonus Video Friday.  inspirational verse; "Tell me a story / 'Cause if I find the truth / I'll tell the world." - David Minehan, 1982 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Exchanging Pleasantries with David Johansen

It was sometime in 1979, I was a roadie for The Buttons, Willie Phoenix's second-best band EVER, after Romantic Noise.  (Much more on them in a later post.)  Willie & the boys were hot in Columbus right then, they were the go-to band for opening slots at the 1300-person capacity Columbus Agora when the club booked "punk" or "new wave" acts.  David Johansen and his band were touring their first or second album, David was an ex-New York Doll, they were big, it was a great opening opportunity.

We loaded in right before Johansen’s soundcheck and got to stay around.  (Back then, not every band would let you watch their soundcheck.  Some of them cleared the club entirely.)  Johansen and his band were a BLAZING live act during that period.  Their SOUNDCHECK was better than 90% of the rock & roll shows I saw in those nascent synth-pop days.  First rule at the Agora for opening acts was "Don’t fuck with the headliners."  We were pretty much instructed not to even SPEAK to them, let alone try to pass off demos or stump for opening gigs in other cities.

But, as I was setting up Willie’s amp and such, David Johansen walked over to me and asked in that foghorn-rasp-Staten-Island-by-way-of-Brooklyn accent of his (for the uninitiated, rent that Bill Murray movie Scrooged, or check out a Johansen interview on YouTube), "So, we gonna have a rockin’ show tonight?"   I told him I thought we were.  He said, "These guys any good?" nodding over at Willie, Greg Glasgow, John Ballor and Dee Hunt, who were huddled in the wings, watching me ignore the rule about not talking to the headliners.  I told him, "Yeah, they’re great, they might actually give you guys a run for your money."

Johansen laughed skeptically but graciously at that and, emboldened by the fact that he spoke to me first, I carried on the conversation with, "Ya know, I saw you play here in Columbus at Vet’s Memorial with The New York Dolls in 1974."  Johansen stopped laughing, got instantly serious, looked me up and down and said, "Really? You don’t look like a faggot."   I was pretty taken aback by that reply and managed to stammer out, "Uhhh, I’m not, actually."  Johansen continued with, "Well all I remember coming back to the HO-tel after the show in Columbus at Vet’s Memorial in 1974 was faggots."  We both cracked up laughing at this, he high-fived me, told me to have a great show, spun around and conducted a perfect rock & roll star exit.

I had long hair on the West Side of Columbus, Ohio, in the 1960’s; I played in punk-rock bands on the West Side of Columbus, Ohio in the 1970’s; I was no stranger to being called a faggot.  That instance with David Johansen was by far the coolest.

© 2012 Ricki C.

Friday, February 3, 2012

a people’s history of rock & roll; part one, The Sixties (Bonus Video Friday)

From the ages of 0 to 12 years old all I cared about was World War II. No, wait, I cared about comic books too. (In fact, I taught myself to read with them at age four, probably beginning with Sgt. Rock in Our Army At War because they were about World War II and then extending out from there. And yeah, for those of you scoring at home, I was just as OCD about comic books as I was later about rock & roll.) Then in 1964, when I was 12, The Beatles hit America and that was all she wrote. From their very first Ed Sullivan show appearance in February 1964, let’s just say this; I was one hooked little West Side boy

Then, really soon after that I saw The Dave Clark 5 on Ed Sullivan. Truthfully, I kinda liked them better than The Beatles. For one thing, The Dave Clark 5 had better suits than The Beatles. (More on suits below.) The DC5 were just so cool; the drummer was way out front, Mike Smith was a KILLER lead singer, and they had a saxophone player. (My Uncle Joe on my mother’s side of the family played saxophone in an Army Veteran’s band and to that point he was the only live musician I had ever seen, or known personally.) (True story: One Thanksgiving or Christmas, probably 1965, The Dave Clark 5 were on a holiday special and Denny Payton took a wicked sax solo on a song that escapes my memory. Somebody in my family said, "Can you play like that, Joe?" And before he could open his mouth to reply my dad said, "If Joe played like that his saxophone would melt." It got a huge laugh from the family. You’ve gotta understand, adults in my family did NOT make jokes at the expense of other adults. Uncle Joe did not laugh. He was not a happy camper. But I digress….)

I also saw The Animals and The Rolling Stones on Ed Sullivan but really didn’t like them that much. First off, they didn’t wear matching suits. Matching suits were very important to me in those early rock & roll days, probably because of superhero comic books in which The Fantastic Four and The X Men, both of whom I loved, had matching outfits and all my World War II heroes wore uniforms. (That attitude has lasted to this very day. It’s one of the reasons I loved The White Stripes when they first came on the scene. Even The Strokes kinda had your basic black leather jackets and black jeans almost-matching outfits down.)

Anyway, the thing about The Sixties that always floors me in retrospect is HOW FAST the music advanced. The Beatles hit America in early 1964. By 1965 The British Invasion was in full swing (all the aforementioned bands plus The Kinks, The Searchers, Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Who, The Zombies, etc., literally too many to mention) PLUS American garage bands had already begun to spring up. The very first live rock & roll band I ever saw was a group of rich Upper Arlington kids that played in the ballroom of the Scioto Country Club. My mom was a waitress (and later a hostess) there and called my sister to drive me up there to see them. I had to watch from the kitchen (God forbid, kids of the help would mingle with the members) but man, it was just so great to see a rock & roll band up close and in person. I have no idea what band it was but they had a killer version of "Gloria," years before Patti Smith or Willie Phoenix ever got ahold of it.

By 1966 Bob Dylan had burst out of folk music to bring an entirely new lyrical consciousness into rock & roll and folk-rock bands like The Byrds, The Lovin’ Spoonful and Buffalo Springfield arrived. (In many ways, 1960’s folk-rock remains to this day my very favorite form of music. Give me The Leaves, give me The Beau Brummels, give me Tim Buckley’s first album and I am in 12-string guitar heaven, pal. Folk-rock music always sounds like autumn to me and my brain thinks like autumn feels, so you do the math.) By 1967 Haight-Ashbury began to take over, Flower Power bloomed and suddenly all the garage-rockin’ guys & girls were donning kaftans & beads and grooving to English psychedelic bands like Pink Floyd when Syd Barrett could still function. The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and suddenly everybody got lofty and pretentious as a way of rock & roll life. The Beatles even got The Rolling Stones to play their game and the result was Their Satanic Majesties Request, a severe musical misstep if there ever was one. No more fun 45’s, overnight everyone started recording weighty, ponderous, cosmic concept albums.

In 1968 acid-rock reared its ugly head as San Francisco’s Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead made 20-minute jams the norm and I sadly waved goodbye to my beloved 3-minute rock & roll song. Goodbye Standells, farewell Paul Revere & The Raiders (again, great outfits!), adieu Turtles. (At one show in this time period my best rock & roll friend Dave Blackburn sidled over to me in the middle of yet ANOTHER 20 minute jam by some lame local band, put a coin in my hand and said, "I’ll bet you a quarter this song ends someday.") The Doors from L.A. and The Jimi Hendrix Experience from N.Y.C. by way of England were some help, some relief, some succor, but hardly made up for the loss of all the great one-hit wonder combos from Anywhere, U.S.A. (R.I.P. Count Five, Syndicate Of Sound, Chocolate Watchband.)

By early 1969 country rock tipped its laid-back cowboy hat as the first records by The Flying Burrito Bothers and Poco were released. All of a sudden every wannabe-hippie had to "get back to the country." (At that juncture Dave Blackburn asked very cogently, "If we all get back to the country and there’s no electricity, where are we supposed to plug in our amplifiers?") Thankfully, for us in the Midwest, The MC5 and The Stooges soon roared outta Detroit to save us from that cocaine cowboy fate. Confessional singer-songwriters like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Crosby, Stills & Nash eased into our hearts & minds, trying to heal some of those end-of-the-60’s blues. (Whenever my peers or, more problematically,whenever younger kids that I run into at gigs get all dewy-eyed about the peace & love 60’s I feel compelled to remind them: John F. Kennedy, assassinated; Bobby Kennedy, assassinated; Martin Luther King, assassinated; Malcolm X, assassinated; all the men & women, black & white alike, killed during the civil-rights movement; 50,000 dead soldiers in Vietnam.) Heavy metal music stormed in from England with bands like Black Sabbath providing the dirge soundtrack to all that mayhem. Woodstock wafted into our conciousness in August 1969 and by December 1969 all of us became witnesses at Altamont. You could go from light to dark just that fast in the 60’s.

All of that rock & roll history took place from 1964 to 1969. The Beatles evolved from A Hard Day’s Night to Sgt. Pepper’s in THREE YEAR’S TIME. (Plus they recorded and released their two best records ever; Rubber Soul and Revolver, as well as some stand-alone singles, in between.) By three years after Sgt. Peppers they had put out Magical Mystery Tour, the double-record set White Album, Abbey Road and Let It Be. Nowadays everybody from major pop and rap stars down to your average piddly little jagoff "alternative" band routinely takes three years between albums.
It was the 1960’s. You shoulda been there.

© 2012 Ricki C.

The Move on English T.V. in 1967. The Move were kind of a junior-league Who in 1967. (They smashed up televisions and sometimes cars onstage instead of their gear.) They were one of those English bands that just never quite crossed over to America. (But you know Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick had to have loved them.) When bass player Trevor Burton succumbed to LSD mania (how come those limey lads like him and Syd Barrett couldn’t handle their acid?) he was replaced by Jeff Lynne. Lynne later booted founder, lead guitarist & main songwriter Roy Wood out of his own band and went on to front the terminally lame Electric Light Orchestra, who enjoyed enormous success in 1970’s America with their disco-besotted pop-crossover drivel. (He atoned for some of that with The Traveling Wilburys, though.)

ps. I fully realize it's kinda blonde on blonde for me to hype a blog hyping my blog, but Colin Gawel of Watershed and The Lonely Bones has a great piece plugging Growing Old With Rock & Roll on his website, It's great, you should check it out.