Musical Epiphanies will be a new feature in the re-launch of Growing Old With Rock & Roll. They will recount Ricki C. rock & roll moments that changed the course of my musical history, the emphasis being on moments. Not conclusions that I came to gradually (The Eagles suck really badly, I wish Pete Townshend had died before he got old, I hate all music recorded after 1979, etc.), but moments that crystallized an entire change of attitude or direction in my rock & roll history.
The choice of this story for part one is entirely arbitrary; by no means was Rosie and Richard & Linda Thompson either my first or a particularly lifechanging musical epiphany, but it popped into my head yesterday after I drove past Alrosa Villa, so I'm writing it down.
I didn't always have good taste in rock & roll.
Mostly I've been right about on the money: I knew almost from the beginning that the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club album by The Beatles was an overproduced, pretentious slice of vinyl that was going to forever kill off the three-minute blasts of garage-rock nonsense that I SO dearly loved. (i.e. I'll take The Bob Seger System's "2+2=?" over "Within You Without You" any day of any week. And Pink Floyd's "See Emily Play" bw "Scarecrow" single is better than Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall COMBINED.)
But really, if you stay in rock & roll long enough, revisionist history is bound to kick in and make it look like you've always had good taste. I know for a fact I didn't like The Velvet Underground at the beginning when my high-school best friend & musical taste mentor Dave Blackburn tried to turn me on to them. I found them dark, frightening & icky and thus declined to see them at the (now legendary and soon to be reproduced as part of The Velvet Underground & Nico box set) Valley Dale Ballroom show in 1966. I fully admit it; The Velvet Underground SCARED me back in the day. I was physically afraid of them and of New York City. (Of course it probably didn't help that I read Hubert Selby Jr.'s Last Exit To Brooklyn right around that time. I'm afraid of New York City TO THIS DAY from reading that book.) The Lovin' Spoonful was much more my speed as New York City bands went in that era. But now, here in 2012 I've loved the Velvets for so long it seems I always have.
I further admit that I fully championed such hippie ephemera as Pearls Before Swine. And at entirely the other end of the spectrum from Earth Opera and Hedge & Donna I also later loved Starz and other truly heinous hard-rock/candy metal bands of their ilk. (I sometimes think that was my over-reaction to the punk revolution devolving SO QUICKLY from The Patti Smith Group, The Ramones and The Clash to Joy Division, Black Flag and all those jag-off New York City art bands like Teenage Jesus & The Jerks. I was, after all, a West Side boy, born & bred, and I dearly LOVED me some Aerosmith.)
(Ricki, focus, the blog today is Rosie, Richard & Linda Thompson and 1983.)
Okay, okay, okay. So by 1983 I'd already lived through The British Invasion, Garage Bands, Psychedelia, Country-Rock, Heavy Metal, the Singer/Songwriter boom, Prog-Rock, Corporate-Rock, Punk & New Wave and had been deposited on the shores of bad English Synth-Pop. I had been either a performer or roadie in rock & roll since I was 16 in 1968. I hadn't stayed home on a Friday or Saturday night, I firmly believe, in all of those years. (Except possibly for a few weekends from 1974 to 1978 when I was married, before rock & roll ultimately ended that union.)
One of the places I spent a lot of those Friday or Saturday nights was a bar on Sinclair Road in Columbus called the Alrosa Villa. (National rock fans will know of it as the place Dimebag Darrell of Pantera and Damageplan was shot to death onstage in 2004.) The Alrosa had been a quiet Italian restaurant before starting to book rock bands on weekend nights in 1979 for some extra cash. I was there the very first Friday night to see Black Leather Touch, one of my favorite Columbus bands ever. If you ask any Columbus, Ohio, music tastemakers like Curt Schieber, Ron House, or anybody else who ever got drunk at Larry's on campus, they will tell you that Black Leather Touch were West Side trash and an affront to music in general. I would endeavor to remind those individuals that The West Side Is The Best Side and that BLT rocked like motherfuckers. (Plus they were funny to boot, kinda like The Dictators.) Someday in this blog I will rerun a review I wrote in a local Columbus music rag called Focus about Black Leather Touch blowing an enormously questionable edition of Steppenwolf (whose line-up did not include John Kay) off the stage at a place called Cafe Rock & Roll in 1978. (By the way, BLT bass player Jerry Blinn's daughter Erica Blinn is currently tearing up stages all over the eastern third of the nation with her own brand of "whiskey rock from the rust belt." You should go see her when she plays in your town.)
(Congratulations, Ricki, you've reached 767 words without yet getting to the point of the blog, I believe that's an Olympic record.)
Alright, alright, so by 1982 after my divorce was final I had moved to an apartment on the North Side of Columbus: partly to heal up, partly for a change of scenery, partly just to escape some of the more glaring "I was born in a small town / And I live in a small town / Prob'ly die in a small town" aspects of the West Side. I had quit drinking in 1980 but I was still smoking pot and because it was such a short drive away I found myself at Alrosa Villa way more often than I used to and way more often than I cared to admit, even to myself. The campus bars just seemed SO FAR AWAY all of a sudden and there weren't that many campus bands I wanted to see.
The kings of the Alrosa scene at that point was a band called Rosie. Rosie had been formed by guitarist Mark Chatfield of The Godz, Columbus' golden boys of mid-70's metal. (Think The MC5 with quaaludes, firearms & raunchy biker sex replacing acid, politics and free love - that was The Godz.) Rosie really weren't bad, they had one really good song called "Sorry, I Forgot Your Name." (Check YouTube, it's probably on there, along with every other song in the universe.) They also essayed a heavy-metal cover of "Hungry" by Paul Revere & The Raiders, the 1960's rock band that dressed like Revolutionary War soldiers, and I LOVE Paul Revere & The Raiders to this day. Rosie also had the distinction in Columbus of playing EXACTLY THE SAME SET FOR THREE YEARS IN A ROW at one point.
At that same time I had started listening to people like Richard & Linda Thompson, Billy Bragg and T. Bone Burnett. I had also started dusting off old acoustic favorites like Townes Van Zandt and Ian Matthews, artists I thought had been forever left behind and rendered irrevelant by the Year Zero onslaught of punk-rock back in 1977. So one Friday night I was supposed to meet a bunch of my rocker friends at Alrosa Villa and I was smoking a joint in my car at the UPS warehouse across the street from the club. (You had to be crazy or WANT your car to be broken into if you actually parked in the Alrosa parking lot.). I was listening to a cassette I had made of Richard & Linda Thompson's 1982 masterpiece, Shoot Out The Lights, and a thought came very clearly into my head: "What the FUCK are you doing, going into that lunkhead metal bar to watch Rosie play the same set they've been playing for YEARS with a bunch of stoned, drunk assholes you don't even like anymore?"
I put out the joint, started the car, drove carefully home, put Richard & Linda Thompson on the turntable and fired the joint back up. I'm not saying there were no more Friday and Saturday nights out in bars to see the rock & roll after that night. (I believe at least a couple of ex-girlfriends of mine would attest to that.) But I am saying this: In my second 30 years on the planet there's been a lot more nights at home with quality rock & roll on the stereo than there has been lame live bands in bars.
© 2012 Ricki C.