Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Willie Phoenix & The True Soul Rockers vs. Frat Boy Friday Night

Sometime in the 1980’s Willie Phoenix and his then-current band The Shadowlords had become wildly popular among the frat boy scene at Ohio State University.  (I sometimes dubbed this the "Otis Day & The Knights Syndrome" after the Animal House movie band.)  As a result sometime in the early 90’s Willie & The True Soul Rockers got booked for a joint fraternity/sorority semi-formal dance at a banquet hall on the North Side of Columbus.  The entire scene was just really, really bizarre.  The guys were all in suits & ties, some actually in tuxedos, the girls were in floor-length formal gowns.  I remember remarking that I bet any ONE of those dresses cost more than the combined total the five-man True Soul Rockers spent on clothes in a year, and I still think I’m right.

The deal for the dance was that the audience was brought in by bus in from O.S.U. campus either by the university or by the caterers, Sanese, and once they were inside the catering hall, no one could leave.  They could, however, drink at the open bar to their heart’s content, and man did they ever.  Willie and the band were contracted for three sets and by the second set the crowd of frat boys and sorority girls were so trashed it was truly and completely out of hand.  I walked into the men’s room between the second and third sets and the whole room was literally two inches deep in water backing up out of the clogged toilets, spilled beer, wine & alcohol, and vomit.  There was a kid passed out on his back in that muck.  He was wearing what I bet was a rented tux.  Four or five of his ostensibly concerned frat brothers were standing around him as he made wet, gurgling noises.  "Hey, you better roll that guy over on his stomach so when he throws up he doesn’t choke on the puke," I said. "Yeah, yeah, we should do that," one of the slightly more sober brothers said, "that guy’s with the band, they know about that choking stuff."  As I left the restroom they were rolling the kid over, now face down in that indeterminate liquid.  I really, really felt bad for him, and for whoever had to pay for that tuxedo.

I got back to the stage and relieved the other roadie who was guarding the gear and the rented P.A. towers from getting knocked over by drunks.  A couple of minutes later two of the guys I had just seen in the bathroom came up to me and asked if they could make an announcement over the microphones.  "No, you cannot," I said, figuring we were in for just a stream of drunken obscenities, "What’s the announcement?  I’ll make it."  It turned out they just wanted to let comatose bathroom tuxedo-boy’s date know to come and collect their fallen comrade.  I didn’t particularly want to make that announcement, so I put the most sober of the group on the mic.  "Hey, could Mike Sullivan’s date come up to the stage?  Mike’s all passed out in the bathroom and stuff and she should come and get him," he bellowed to the crowd.  "Do you really think anybody’s going to admit they’re his date after that?"  I asked the kid.  He just stared back at me, glassy-eyed and confused.  As predicted, no one came to claim their lover-boy.

Just before midnight, at the conclusion of the third set, the band had just steamrollered into "Gloria," Willie’s longtime set-ender.  There were probably 150 college boys & girls up dancing, celebrating, having a rave-up good time when a security guard walked up to me at the side of the stage and yelled in my ear, "The buses are leaving."  "What?" I yelled back, not able to hear or understand her.  I guided her down the two steps that led from the stage to the kitchen where we could converse and she said, "The band has to stop playing, the buses are leaving."  "What buses?" I asked, thinking she meant city buses.  "The buses that brought the kids from the campus, they’re leaving at midnight.  The band has to stop playing right now."  I replied, "Do you really think the buses are going to leave with over a hundred kids still on the dance floor?  The band will be done in about five minutes."  (Truth be told, Willie’s rendition of "Gloria" easily topped the 20-minute mark a lot of nights.)

"NO! They have to stop playing RIGHT NOW!" the woman yelled back at me and right at that point she was genuinely pissing me off.  "The buses aren’t going anywhere, the band will be done soon, just go back to wherever you came from and wait," I yelled back.  She stomped off in a huff and I walked back up the steps to my station at the side of the stage.  While Willie was down front exhorting the crowd to more madness, Mike Parks, the True Soul Rockers’ lead guitarist, walked over and asked me what the problem was with Security.  I filled him in quick, he laughed and said, "We’re nowhere near done," as he leaned back into the riff.

A couple of minutes later somebody brushed past me heading for the center of the stage.  As I recovered my balance I realized it was the security guard and she was headed for Mike’s microphone.  I walked out, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back off the stage.  "What the fuck is your problem?" I yelled and she yelled back, "The BUSES ARE LEAVING.  I have to make an announcement."  "You don’t EVER walk out onstage without asking," I yelled back, "this is my job."  (Years later I wondered where Dimebag Darrell’s roadies were that deadly December night in at Al Rosa Villa here in Columbus.)  She started to walk past me again, headed for the stage and as I grabbed her arm her momentum spun her around and she fell down the two steps leading to the stage.  "YOU’RE GOING TO JAIL!!!" she screamed up at me, red-faced and livid as she strode off toward the offices.  Of course, just at that moment the band bashed out the last chord of "Gloria" and finished the set.  "What did you DO?" Mike, the only band member to witness the fracas, said to me, "Did you throw her down the steps!?!"  "No," I said as the rest of the band gathered around, "I grabbed her arm and she FELL down the steps."  We all agreed in a hurry that she was probably coming back with real policemen and something had to be done.  "Do you live close enough to here to walk home?" Willie asked.  "Yeah," I replied.  "Then I suggest you go out that door right now," was his reply, pointing to one of the rear doors of the banquet hall.  I stepped out into the night and was gone.

By the time the security guard returned with two of Columbus’ finest the band was already innocently and intently packing up their gear.  They denied all knowledge of my existence, said nobody that matched the security guard’s description worked for them, that they’d like to help, but that they didn’t know what she was talking about.

Nobody got arrested and I think they even paid me later for the gig.  It was a good night.


© 2012 Ricki C.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Willie Phoenix

blogger's note: This blog entry has been replaced by a longer, more comprehensive
and (hopefully) better-written series of postings,

The Ballad of Willie Phoenix: 
 part one - Romantic Noise and The Buttons, 1978-1980 (12/3/2013);
part two - The A&M Band, 1981-1982 (12/9/2013);
part three - The Shadowlords and The Flower Machine, 1983-1989 (12/21/2013);
 part four - The True Soul Rockers & beyond, 1990-2013 (12/29/2013).   

Please revisit the blog for that Willie Phoenix four-part series. - Ricki C. 12/3/13 


Friday, May 25, 2012

Elliott Murphy in Piermont, N.Y.


 (This piece written Sunday night, May 20th, 2012, 9:30-10 pm.)


It makes no rational sense, really. I drove 600 miles yesterday - from Columbus, Ohio, to Tenafly, New Jersey - to see Elliott Murphy perform tonight in Piermont, New York.

It's cool, though, gasoline is under $4 a gallon and I’m staying at my wife's parents' house in Jersey, so no hotels.  For those of you who find crashing with the in-laws iffy, let me say this: I started dating in 1968 at age 16.  From then until 2012 I've dealt with a LOT of parents.  (When I was 17 years old an irate father, who was profoundly disturbed by my ties to rock & roll and radical politics and who was deputy sheriff of a small Ohio town west of Columbus, actually pulled a gun on me.  And he wasn't joking around.)  None of the succeeding parents have been as easy to get along with as Debbie's dad, none has had a better sense of humor than Debbie's mom.

It makes no rational sense, really, that Elliott Murphy is playing at The Turning Point, which, while it is a great little listening room, has a capacity of 55 people, with seats for 36.  I came from Ohio, but Elliott came from Paris, France, for Chrissakes.  It makes no rational sense, really, because Bob Seger notwithstanding, rock & roll DOES forget.  It forgets that Elliott Murphy was once just as much a "New Dylan" as Bruce Springsteen until "Born To Run" roared into amphitheatres & stadiums and "Drive All Night" ran off the road into a ditch.  (Elliott deals with this disparity with a great one-liner during the show: "Bruce and I agreed years ago to divide up the venues, he took the 60,000 seat arenas and I chose the 90-seat clubs.")

But really, let's face facts, we're all adults here.  Elliott and his lovely wife Francoise did not fly across the Atlantic just so Elliott could play The Turning Point tonight and Rockwood Music Hall in New York City Monday.  They made that trip to witness their son Gaspard graduate from SUNY Purchase College, just a little ways over the Tappan Zee Bridge from Piermont. (Elliott’s one-liner for Gaspard’s graduation; "That cap & gown he wore is the most expensive piece of clothing I’ve ever bought in my life.")

It makes no rational sense, really, that by some wild coincidence I decided back in Columbus to bring my original Aquashow album cover from 1973 for Elliott to autograph and now discover in Piermont that he’s playing that classic slice of wax (my favorite album of all time, see The Best Of Everything blog entry, January 2012) all the way through in sequence to open the show.  And man, do those Aquashow songs sound great solo acoustic here tonight, almost 40 years after their release date.  I can’t really say there’s one dated concept or irrelevant lyric present here on this evening in the 21st century.  After the show I’m standing on The Turning Point stage telling Elliott goodbye and saying, "Can you believe it’s been 40 YEARS that I’ve been listening to these songs?  I don’t feel like a day older than 21 when I hear them.  They could have been written yesterday."

It makes no rational sense, really. I just drove 600 miles for a rock & roll show.  But that rock & roll show is by Elliott Murphy, an artist whose music I have loved for almost 40 years, since I first bought Aquashow at the Discount Records on the Ohio State University campus when I was 21 years old.  So right now it's 9:30 pm on a gorgeous spring Sunday evening in Piermont, N.Y., I'm leaning on a guardrail by a gazebo, underneath lovely starlight looking at the Hudson River running to the sea and the blinking red lights on the Tappan Zee.  It makes perfect sense, really.



© 2012 Ricki C.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Elliott Murphy “Caught Short In The Long Run” (Bonus Video Friday)

It still relatively amazes me that, courtesy of YouTube, I can watch anything, from my favorite California garage folk-rockers The Leaves performing "Hey Joe" on some SoCal teen show IN 1966 to a performance from Elliott Murphy not even two weeks ago in a Swedish city I have no idea how to pronounce. This week my rock & roll weekend will consist of road managing my good friend Colin Gawel and his band The Lonely Bones on Friday night, then setting out Saturday morning to drive solo to the East Coast to catch Elliott Murphy in from his home in Paris for a couple of rare shows this side of the Atlantic. Sometimes it’s just so cool to be an American with a car.




inspirational verse; "They say, romantics run free in the darkness / Oh, but come the light, they’re the first to kneel." – Elliott Murphy, 1976

© 2012 Ricki C.

Friday, May 11, 2012

At the Laundromat in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with Hamell On Trial “Halfway” > “John Lennon” (Bonus Video Friday)

Following yesterday’s Donald Ray Pollock blog and in keeping with the week’s theme of books and their relationship to the working class, a little story from the road:

August 25th, 2006 - Ed Hamell and I were in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the town of Ontonagon to be exact, for an outdoor festival gig.  Checkout at our hotel was at 2 pm, the show wasn’t until 7 pm, so we decided to kill some of the downtime doing laundry.  Ed was asleep in his car in the laundromat parking lot, I was inside reading and tending to our mélange of black jeans & t-shirts.

While I was waiting, a bottle-blonde single mom came in and threw a load of skimpy pink outfits & soiled baby clothes in one of the washers.  She was cute, favored Kaley Cuoco from that T.V. show Big Bang Theory, and couldn’t have been a day over 19.  She said, "Is that a book?"  I looked down at my copy of Doghouse Roses by Steve Earle, chuckled, replied, "Yes," and she said I must be in town for the music festival.  I said I was and she told me the name of the club where she was dancing that night and suggested I should stop in.  I thanked her for the info but told we were leaving right after the set to get to the next show.  She continued with, "Is that your buddy outside sleeping in the car?"  I said, "Yeah, it is."  She asked, "Why is he sleeping in the car?"  I replied, "Where else would he be sleeping?"  That pretty much ended our conversation since we then appeared to her to be penniless, and therefore incapable of mustering the cost of a lap dance.  A pudgy friend of the blonde stopped in with more skimpy pink clothes to throw in with her load.  She stopped, looked at me and said, with a touch of wonder and disbelief in her voice, "Are you reading a BOOK?"  "He’s with the music festival," the first girl broke in before I could reply, "he’s not from here."  The second girl nodded, that seemed to settle the discussion for her.  The entire encounter was now veering dangerously close to Bill Hicks’ "Waffle House waitress ‘What you readin’ for?’" routine.

"Will you watch our clothes while we make a beer run?" the blonde asked as she and her friend counted out, with no small effort, a bunch of crumpled one-dollar bills between them.  "Sure," I said.  I think my literary endeavors had convinced them that I was an alright guy, somebody who could be entrusted with the task of providing security for their stage attire, such as it was.  "There’s a guy asleep in his car out in the parking lot," the second girl said as they walked towards the door.  "Yeah, he hasn’t got any money either and he probably reads books, too," the first girl replied.  They both got into a beat-to-shit Camaro and drove away.  I miss being on the road.


I crisscrossed these United States for ten years as road manager for Hamell On Trial.  I toted the guitar seen in this video from sea to shining sea, as it were, guarding its safety always.  From small clubs all over New York City to theaters up and down the California coast, and everything in between (punk-rock dives, gorgeous listening rooms, an art gallery or two, outdoor festivals, and your garden variety bars across America) Ed and I drove the miles and made the shows.

inspirational verse; "I see you on the cover of Rolling Stone or one of those other corny music magazines, that’s just an excuse to sell fashion or bullshit, but occasionally sticks in a good writer or political story so at the board meeting they can ease their conscience that the majority of their readership has the IQ of a Creed fan." – Hamell On Trial, 2005



© 2012 Ricki C.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Donald Ray Pollock

Last night I attended a book reading by Donald Ray Pollock, the Ohio-born author of Knockemstiff, a book of short stories about life in small town America.  It’s pretty great, you should read it.

Pollock was a high school dropout, then spent thirty years working in a paper mill in Southeast Ohio, finally winding up as a published author in his 50’s.  As he spoke about that evolution at the book reading (including an admission during the question & answer period that "he started writing when he quit drinking in his 30’s, because he needed something to fill up his newfound free time") it struck me that Pollock and I had almost opposite literary and working lives.  Essentially I spent 19 years as an intellectual, then 40 years in the working class.

As a child all I did was read.  My brother and sister were ten and seven years older than me, my parents both worked two jobs, I was a really shy kid who was no good at sports, it was a pretty solitary existence, so reading seemed to be my ready remedy.  I taught myself to read with comic books when I was four years old.  It mystified me when I got to kindergarten and the other kids had to be read to by the teacher.  What was wrong with my classmates?  Where was their literary independence?

Anyway, as time and school went on I just sank deeper and deeper into books, they became my whole world.  Then in 1964 when The Beatles and the British Invasion hit I just added rock & roll to my short list of obsessions.  I took all college prep courses in high school and dutifully commuted to Ohio State University from my West Side home for three years.  My father had died of a heart attack in April of my senior year of high school, so Social Security was paying for my higher education, an expense my mother couldn’t possibly have afforded.  However, the catch was that Social Security would only pay for school if I lived at home.  And living at home was becoming increasingly problematic.  My mother - who at the best of times displayed what would today be politely referred to as "anger-management issues" - never fully recovered from the death of my father, and there were battles, every day or every night, or both.

I did three years of college before taking off to Boston to be in a rock & roll band with my high school best friend.  When that band crashed & burned and starvation set in I returned to Columbus, got my first apartment, and my first real job.  That job was in the warehouse of a catalog showroom called Service Merchandise.  Since I had three years of college under my belt the store manager hired me in at a higher job description and higher pay rate than my co-workers.  (Warehouse workers at Service Merchandise in 1974 did NOT routinely have three years of college on their applications.)

My first days and weeks at that job were a nightmare.  All I knew were books and rock & roll, I’d never done manual labor in my life and my co-workers resented me for being promoted over them.  I was in so far over my head that it wasn’t even funny.  My first day on the job the guy training me (who was a coupla years my senior) told me to move a pallet of merchandise from one place to another in the warehouse.  I got the pallet jack under the pallet, but didn’t know how to lock it to get it to raise up.  "What’s the matter, college-boy, don’t know how to operate heavy machinery?  It’s a pallet jack, for Chrissakes."  He shoved me aside, locked the jack, pumped it up, moved the pallet and sneered over his shoulder, "Don’t think you can learn everything you need to know from books."  I knew I was in for a long adjustment period.  And it wasn’t like we were gonna be discussing Proust in the lunch room.

I worked in warehouses at Service Merchandise and a few other places from 1974 until 1998 when, with a small financial cushion from an inheritance from my mother, I finally switched over to working in record stores.  In those 24 years I worked with a fair amount of low-life assholes.  I worked FOR a lot of petty middle-management bureaucrats.  But I also worked with a variety of brilliant, caring, giving men and women, many of whom hadn’t finished a book since their high school days.  What I want to thank Donald Ray Pollock for is giving a voice to those people, for inspiring hope in something greater later in life, and for making it crystal clear that you just never know how truly brilliant that person working next to you at the paper mill really is.



© 2012 Ricki C.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band “Thundercrack” 2012 & 1973 (Bonus Video Friday)

I’m not a computer guy.  And I lack a certain discipline.  If either or both of those facts weren’t true, more of these blogs would get done.  It was much easier to retreat to my basement computer lair to write and compose when it was 35 degrees outside in January (hence 15 blogs that month) than it is in May when it’s sunny and 75.  (Actually I largely began the blog as a way to stave off my yearly brush with Seasonal Adjustive Disorder.  I don’t get suicidally depressed like some of my winter-hating brethren, but man it helped to have a project to take my mind off not being able to go outside.  And we had a non-snowy, really pretty warm winter this year in Ohio.  I take full credit for that in starting up Growing Old With Rock & Roll.)

But as usual, I digress…..

Today’s blog is about Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band and about whiny-ass pussies in rock & roll, and how never the twain shall meet.  Your whiny-ass pussies in rock & roll would be your Gotye, your Bon Iver, your Mumford & Sons, your Fleet Foxes, your whoever is the next band I see on Saturday Night Live and/or Austin City Limits with wispy beards and acoustic guitars.  And yes, I totally understand that those bands are just the 21st century generations’ equivalent of my generation’s Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young or James Taylor, but that doesn’t save them from being whiny-ass pussies.  (Even CSN&Y could rock an "Ohio" once in a blue moon when they put their minds to it.)  To paraphrase David Johansen of the mighty New York Dolls in 1973, "I don’t know how you kids get it up these days."

Wait, no, that’s not what today’s blog is about.  Today’s blog is about me not being a computer guy and having no discipline.  Often when I sit down at the computer to knock out a blog I instead find myself going on YouTube to watch rock & roll videos.  And what amazes me as a non-computer old guy is that virtually (pun intended) EVERYTHING is available online, and faster all the time.  Last Sunday I casually typed "Bruce Springsteen 2012" into YouTube and there are already complete current tour E Street Band shows online.

I’m not sure, as a non-computer old guy, how I feel about that.  I certainly like watching shows I’ve already missed and will never get to attend, but will it take something away from the experience when I DO get to attend a Bruce show, as I almost certainly will sometime later in this tour?  (I have been lucky enough to witness every Bruce Springsteen tour since 1975.  Some of those shows have been among the greatest of my life, I really don’t plan on stopping or dropping out now.)

Anyway, here are some of the questions brought up by the 2012 Madison Square Garden rendition of "Thundercrack."  1) How great is it that Bruce would have the E Street Band work up a version of that tune, which was written in 1973 and not released on record until the Tracks box set in 1998?  2) Do you think any of the whiny-ass pussies in the rock & roll Class Of 2012 are still going to be playing music, let alone at Madison Square Garden in 2051?  3) How would Springsteen know or divine or trust his audience enough to risk holding the mike down at the 6:37 mark of the video and hope that the person on the other end would have the knowledge and chutzpah to say "Baby’s back," in a Clarence Clemons basso profundo voice?

Classic.




Bruce Springsteen - Thundercrack Live 04/09/12 Madison Square Garden, NYC Complete




Bruce Springsteen-Thundercrack



ps. I fully realize that not everyone is going to have the time or inclination to watch 20 minutes worth of Bruce Springsteen singing "Thundercrack" at one sitting, but that’s why we have Bonus Video Friday. Have a rockin’ weekend.

pps. R.I.P. Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons




© 2012 Ricki C.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Shows I Saw In The 1960’s, part one; Bob Dylan & The Hawks, 11/19/1965

My sainted Italian father worked two jobs for the entire span of my consciousness, from when I was five years old to his death from a heart attack when I was 17.  His main day job was a warehouse supervisor for our local gas company, Columbia Gas of Ohio.  (No surprise that I later spent 20 years working in warehouses after leaving college to chase The Great American Rock & Roll Dream.)  His second job - nights & weekends - was selling tickets for Central Ticket Office, a kind of very early forerunner of Ticketmaster.  It was founded and run by one of my dad’s friends and almost exclusively staffed with his Italian running buddies.  My godfather was one of dad’s co-workers.  (Any of this sound like a vaguely familiar Italian story?)

It’s hard to remember in these credit-card, online-ordering, iPhone-paying times, but in the 1960’s EVERYTHING was a cash business.  Very few people, other than those who were then referred to as "the fabulously well-to-do" by West Siders like us, had American Express cards, and you could only use them a few places if you were fabulously well-to-do enough to get one.  Consequently, dad and his buddies (you will never hear me use the word "cronies") handled truly sizable amounts of cash while selling tickets to sporting events, circuses, a couple of the big downtown Cinerama movie houses (think IMAX of the 60’s), etc.  When they came out with extra money, they divided it up equally.  When they were short, they chipped in to cover that shortfall.  It was the Italian Honor System.

When rock & roll hit big in 1964 and national touring bands started coming to Columbus it was a natural process for dad to get me into the shows for free.  (I think very few relatives or friends of the CTO, shall we say, Mafia, ever paid full price for shows, if they paid at all.  The world was a simpler and infinitely more wonderful place in those days, at least for me.)  By the time I was 16 in 1968 I had seen The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Janis Joplin & The Full Tilt Boogie Band, Bob Dylan & The Hawks on their first electric tour in ’65, etc.

I also saw a slew of other bands that rock & roll history has not been as kind to as those mentioned above.  I saw Neil Diamond in his "Solitary Man/Cherry Cherry" days down the bill on a show by The Turtles, who were killer and won me over as a Flo & Eddie fan to this day.  I saw The Standells and Paul Revere & The Raiders probably three or four times apiece and I’m gonna tell you, although you’re not gonna believe me, both of them were better than Cream when I saw them in 1968.  (Even as a child I could tell that Baker, Bruce, & Clapton wanted to be ANYWHERE but little Podunk Columbus, Ohio, on a Sunday night in ’68.  They blew and I hold it against Clapton to this day.)

Did seeing all of those shows in my formative years have an effect on the rest of my life?  I’m writing this blog at almost 60 years old, aren’t I?  Did seeing artists of that caliber ruin me for rock & roll later in my existence?  Damn straight.  You think I was gonna take REO Speedwagon seriously?  I saw Jimi fucking Hendrix when I was 16, for Chrissakes.  Could dad ever have known what he was doing for me in those long-ago times?  No, but I bless him for it to this day.

This is part one of Shows I Saw In The 1960’s:


BOB DYLAN & THE HAWKS / VETERAN’S MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM, COLUMBUS, OHIO / FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19th, 1965

I was in eighth grade when this show took place.  I was smart and I read a lot of books but I was also so shy, so socially backward, that some of my classmates regarded me as mentally retarded.  I think dad brought me to those shows just because he was gratified that I took an interest in anything that happened outside of books or outside of our home.  The only two songs I knew by Bob Dylan at that moment were "Like A Rolling Stone" and "Positively 4th Street."  As such I was TOTALLY unprepared for and mystified by the solo acoustic opening half of the show that Dylan performed.  At that point I didn’t even know Dylan ever WAS a folksinger.  Plus I could not for the life of me figure out why I couldn’t understand ANYTHING that Dylan was singing about. From later record-buying research I know that he performed "Gates Of Eden" and "Desolation Row" that night.  I could clearly understand every word being sung, but I couldn’t parse what any of the songs were about.  At that point I had my little Dave Clark 5 and my Lovin’ Spoonful singles: I KNEW what those guys were singing about, but what was THIS?

By time he finished with "Mr. Tambourine Man" (which I at least recognized from The Byrds’ version, but where did all those extra verses come from?)  I was actually frozen in my seat, physically afraid of what had just transpired.  Plus the people sitting all around me were not the usual teenage fans of rock & roll shows, they were the wispily-bearded college boys and girls with long, straight, ironed hair: the proto-hippies whose ranks I would join much later in the 60’s.  That night - to my eighth-grade self - they were just alien, scary and weird.  Dad would usually come to check on me at the intermission of shows.  That night - as he related to me later - I wouldn’t even look at him when he came to say hello.  "Are you okay?" he said after I stared straight ahead through his greeting and attempts at simple communication.  "Yes!" I said, a little too loudly & quickly for the question.  "Is something wrong?" dad continued, genuinely concerned about my obviously nerved-out state of being.  "No, everything’s fine," I insisted, even though it was painfully obvious it wasn’t.  "Do you want to leave?" Dad asked.  "No," I said quietly, finally looking up at him, "the show's not over yet."

Dylan and The Hawks started the second half of the show BLARING, it was completely epic and TOTALLY DEAFENING.  (I didn’t see a show that loud again until The Who in 1969, and I haven’t heard a show as loud as those two right up to this day in 2012.)  They opened – again in hindsight, I couldn’t possibly have known it then – with "Tell Me, Momma" and it was the greatest fucking thing I had ever heard.  Finally, THIS is what I had come here for, this was the rock & roll.  So imagine my further confusion when people in the audience started yelling and throwing things at the stage and walking out in droves.  And I’m serious about droves, it wasn’t one or two people walking out, I would say I saw at least two dozen people leave and I was in the 13th or 14th row.  I have no idea how many people from the balcony left.  (Here’s another thing I should mention at this juncture: Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium held 3174 people at that point in its history.  Of all the shows I’ve mentioned – The Doors, Hendrix, Cream – not ONE of those shows sold out Vet’s Memorial.  If the show sold out, dad couldn’t pull me a ticket.  At that point in the 60’s there just simply were not 3000 rock & roll fans in Columbus, Ohio.  Of course after Woodstock in 1969 EVERY show sold out because people came just to get high and/or make the scene.  Before that August, only people who were interested in the actual music attended shows.)

There was no functioning rock press in November, 1965, to clue me in that fans of Dylan’s earlier topical folk-song period were upset that he "had gone electric" and - in their folkie-cataracted eyes - "had sold out."  For the moment I just had to remain perplexed that ANYONE could walk out on this sacred din.  Things I remember like it was yesterday: During Robbie Robertson’s solos, he and Dylan would stand practically nose to nose while Robertson snaked, snarled and slashed out those spark-spitting lead breaks that unfortunately he would never touch on again in the later days of the ever-so-much-more polite The Band.  Also, on the subject of those leads, to this day I believe Dylan stood like that because he wanted the audience to think HE was playing lead guitar.  Even at 13 I had been studying John Lennon and George Harrison’s hands long enough to know who was playing rhythm and who was playing lead.

Further great memories: Drummer Levon Helm (or was it Bobby Gregg that November evening, different Dylan tomes tell me conflicting stories) bashing away so hard on his high-hat cymbal that it kept sliding away from him all through the show and he would have to reach out and yank it back mid-tune; Dylan having a nicotine-inflicted coughing fit between tunes and informing the audience that he was "just getting over a slight case of leprosy"; having no earthly idea WHAT it meant when Dylan sang, "Baby, let me follow you down," with The Hawks POUNDING out rock & roll behind him, but simultaneously knowing, as the good little eighth-grade Catholic boy that I was at that moment, that whatever it was, it was totally wrong & evil, almost assuredly a mortal sin, and that I wanted to do it too.  Some day, when I was older, so much older than that day.



© 2012 Ricki C.