Boring Old Fart Ramblings

December 2, 2010

Elvis and me (1977 – present day)

Filed under: Gigs 1975-1980 — Tags: , , , , , — boringoldfartramblings @ 4:17 pm

1977 also started a 30+ year on and off love affair with another man. Nothing “gay” ever entered into the relationship – how could it, even if I had such tendencies (which I don’t) we never got closer than the 20 feet we were apart in 1977.

Elvis Costello had been around the block a couple of times before he hit “the Big Time” in 1977. “My Aim is True” with the singles “Less than zero” & “Alison” had been released early in 1977, so by the summer his star was rising fast.

cover for "less than zero"

Single sleeve for "Less than zero"

It seems so amazing now but Elvis and the Attractions signed on to do a residency at a pub in London for late summer – The Nashville Rooms in Kensington was primarily (if I remember correctly) a country and western hang-out, but they did serve real ale, Fuller’s ESB!

I was starting university in Nottingham in September so as almost my last “London gig” I got tickets for and went to see Elvis early on in the residency. (I know now that it was early because as the story goes the gigs proved so popular that later on the police closed the pub down for overcrowding.)

He had such menace in his eyes and voice at this time and the band were incredibly tight behind him despite having only played together for a month or so. He ran through the first album and then into the as yet unreleased second one – including “I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea”, which he almost physically spat out. “I don’t want to go to Chelsea – know what I mean?” (For some historical perspective it was around this time that there were almost running battles every weekend between punks and teddy boys up and down the Kings Road in Chelsea.)

The rest of the gig is pretty blurry in my memory although I believe I was really close to the front, it seemed as though he was just in front of me – I consumed vast volumes of ESB and actually remember this as maybe the first time that I DON’T remember how I got home!

I’ve seen Elvis a couple of more times since 1977 and have followed his career pretty closely, buying most of his “popular” albums and intentionally avoiding some of his more esoteric offerings.

My wife and I caught him in August 1989 at the Garden State Arts Center in New Jersey – there had just been a thunder shower before the start of the gig and he came on amid a smoldering New Jersey summer evening and succinctly welcomed us to “the New Jersey Sauna”. I seem to remember it as very much a greatest hits type of show with most people in the audience familiar with “Alison” but not much else.

Next time we have to jump forward to 2005 when we saw him at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. This was just after “The Delivery Man” album was released – in my opinion the best of all his recent releases and was highlighted with a rousing “Monkey to Man”, him introducing David Hidalgo (of Los Lobos) as a guest guitarist, Steve Nieve playing an instrument that didn’t require him to touch anything (!) and of me nearly getting into a fight with the guy behind because I was STANDING UP & DANCING!! Not many oldies (other than “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love & Understanding) he stuck pretty firmly to his later releases.

On and off over the years stories had surfaced about Elvis’s prickly behavior. There was the famous story of his drunken tirade when he called James Brown and Ray Charles, “Ni**ers”. I had heard that he had people removed from a gig in New Orleans for smoking – this before smoking was banned. Add to this his general persona and he just came over as a bit of a blowhard.

Some of this was confirmed when I scored free tickets to a taping of his Spectacle cable TV show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NYC, in 2009. Not that he was rude but he never stopped talking and trying to impress us and his guests about how clever he was and how much he knew about obscure artists from the 1950’s. The only song he sang was very a demo he had made in 1976 when he was trying to emulate some unknown country singer. The guests that we saw (John Prine and Lyle Lovett) were great but they hardly got a look in, and just couldn’t compete with his ego.

October 21, 2010

1977 – I want a riot of my own!

Filed under: Gigs 1975-1980 — Tags: , , , , , , , — boringoldfartramblings @ 4:27 pm

Looking back now it seems strange that one year could have ended up meaning so much but its almost impossible to underestimated the impact that 1977 had on the face of music – not just in the UK but worldwide. I know that 1976 is often named as “UK Punk Rock Year Zero” but 1977 was the year it all came together.

Although “New Rose” had been released as a single by The Damned late in 1976, the LP “Damned, Damned, Damned” wasn’t released until February of 1977, whereupon which it became an all-time personal favorite on my pathetic stereo system.

Damned, Damned, Damned album cover

So my first “punk” concert was set – the Damned were playing at the (now) legendary Roundhouse in Camden in April – close to what must have been my 20th birthday. The support acts were The Adverts (after “One Chord Wonders” but before “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes) and Motorhead (!), the rational being that at the time all were on Stiff Records.

I don’t remember much about the Adverts other than they were quite fun, but Motorhead made a huge impact – especially on my ear-drums! In fact they were so loud I had to go outside of the concert hall and listened to the rest of their set through the wall, along with about half of the audience!

The Damned were fun – if I remember correctly it was the first appearance of Captain Sensible’s tutu, but individual numbers don’t really stand out.

Before they became the “Only band that matters”, the Clash were regarded in certain circles as failures and second-strings to the Sex Pistols before they even released a record. That changed with the release of, first the single “White Riot” in March of 1977 and then their 1st LP, “The Clash” in April.

The Clash album coverI remember buying the single while on the King’s Road in Chelsea – then the epicenter of punk activity. I don’t know why I didn’t buy it locally – it just seemed more significant to buy it in Chelsea! The “White Riot” tour hit London in May 1977 with a stop at the Rainbow in Finsbury Park. Also on the bill were the Buzzcocks, Subway Sect and for the Rainbow show, the Jam. I do remember the Jam playing in front of what looked like a large sheet with the words “The Jam” spray painted across it.

The Jam live

Next up were the Ramones who had played the year before and almost single-handedly got the UK punk movement started.

Ramones album coverWhen they returned to play the Roundhouse in June of 1977 it was as conquering heroes sweeping aside all pretenders to their crown. The support act that night was the Saints from Australia who had a minor hit with “(I’m) Stranded” and who with their long hair and jeans looked very out of place amongst the London punks. But the music was raw enough and they started and finished with “Stranded” which seemed to please everyone.

(I'm) Stranded

Actual single cover!

The Ramones were, of course, fabulous. No introductions, just every song starting with “wuntoothreefore” and each lasting no more than 1 minute or two. I think the gig was over in about 30 minutes! But 30 minutes of the highest energy ever put into one session.

Years later after reading a biography of Joey Ramone it became clear that they were as much in awe of their reception in the UK as we were of them. Apparently they were quite concerned with being beaten up by the “fans” and most of their famous fans were scared that this “gang” from New York were going to leave bloodied bodies in their wake!

June 18, 2010

Harrow Tech – 1975-1977

Filed under: Gigs 1975-1980 — boringoldfartramblings @ 5:34 pm

Another momentous thing happened to me in 1975 – I graduated from high school (Finchley Grammar School as was) and not really knowing what I wanted to do with myself I signed up for…Art School! (I had failed to get into the RAF on medical grounds – wow, just think about that for a minute, me in the RAF!).

I wasn’t terrible at art – I did have an art “A” level in my back pocket and there was a local college that offered Foundation Art and, at least anecdotally, had 3 times as many women as men in the Art School. So I went to Harrow School of Art, part of Harrow Technical School (or as we would say – ‘arrow teck) and down the hill from the much more famous Harrow School. (Years later, telling people that I went to Harrow elicited some very strange responses!).

I found out two things pretty quickly:

1. I was crap at “real” art that required you to be either a) amazingly creative or b) unbelievably hard working and fastidious.

2. There really were 3 times the number of women there – at least in the Art School if not in the main student body.

Half way through my first year at Harrow the President of the Student’s Union quit and a special election was held for a successor. Long story short – I won and very soon I was dropping art classes to spend more and more time working in the student’s union.

This long preamble is building up to the fact that Harrow Tech used to host gigs every couple of weeks that were open to both the students and the local public. And the President of the SU was de facto in charge of booking the bands and organizing the concerts. Promoters from up & coming bands called ALL THE TIME trying to get their bands a gig. I inherited 3 or 4 months worth of gigs that had already been booked and were generally awful, being mostly populated with second rate “heavy metal” bands who were admittedly extremely popular with the local headbangers.

One of the first gigs I remember had a reasonably well know artist called Gordon Giltrap (who is still going by the way). Gordon played guitar – long, “impressive” guitar solos, played by a seated Mr. Giltrap! Yes – sitting down! Even the local greasers / Hell’s Angels, who were unfortunately “employed” as bouncers, thought it needed livening up – they set up in front of the stage and threw beer glasses back and forth across the front of the stage. We eventually put a stop to it and by the falling term had let the Hell’s Angels know that we didn’t need their “security”.

Art School had now finished for me and I was able to put all my efforts into the SU, so for the school year 1976-77 I was pretty much in charge of who played there. Naturally I picked as many of my favorites as possible including both the Fabulous Poodles and Burlesque (see other post). This was all put of my vision of making the gigs more FUN and less serious. These types of bands definitely attracted the Art School crowd – also part of my plan. Years later I found out that Simon Le Bon (of Duran Duran fame) was at Harrow School of Art – a year behind me so would have been there while I was putting on these gigs. Was I responsible in some small way for the majesty of Duran Duran? I can’t claim that but its nice to dream…

Things got pretty serious at one gig by one Lou Lewis, who had previously been the harmonica player for Eddie & the Hot Rods. The contract gave them a flat fee (probably £100) unless the attendance was over a certain amount in which case they got a percentage of the door proceeds. Needless to say – their head count was way bigger than our actual ticket sales and they demanded payment at the higher rate, money we just didn’t have. Fortunately my new head of security was a big black kid (who looked a little like Frank Bruno) and he wasn’t about to buckle to some skinny white guys. In the end they took the £100. Soon after this Lou Lewis was arrested and sent inside for his part of an armed robbery! Maybe if we had paid them the extra money he would have stayed on the straight and narrow?

We really tried to mix up the bands that we put on – with an emphasis on fun and away from serious musicality. We even put on a funk band a couple of times – completely unheard of at the time, especially with the denim-clad Status Quo fans!

There was a band that “got away” during this time. As I said we got calls non-stop from promoters pushing their acts. One such promoter had a sure-fire act for only a £100 – only problem was that nobody had ever heard of them, so we said no. The band’s name – The Sex Pistols.

My biggest success was towards the end of my tenure. We had booked The Motors some months earlier, as all the tours were planned way in advance. As they arrived at Harrow their first single “Dancing the night away” was just poking its way in the charts – we got them just as they were getting a little famous, so the attendance was huge that night. They played “Dancing the night away” twice – first to start the show and then as their encore. Much fun had by all!

Amazingly not much has been written about The Motors – I could barely find any references or photos. Anyone with more info let me know and I’d be happy to post it here.

May 14, 2010

1975-1976 Pub Rock

Filed under: Gigs 1975-1980 — Tags: , , , , , — boringoldfartramblings @ 10:24 am

In 1975 I was 18, of legal drinking age ( not that that mattered too much, I’d been drinking since I was 14 or so) and finding my way around London in a similar manner to my father – from pub-to-pub-to-pub.

I can’t tell you how much I hated the whole “ROCK” scene around this time. Led Zepplin, Deep Purple, Yes, ELP, Pink Floyd, etc, etc – I hated all the overblown theatrics, the 20 minute songs and worst of all…the drum solos! And as much as anything else the concerts were getting more and more expensive.

Enter the exciting world of Pub Rock – bands of all persuasions playing pubs across London for almost nothing, other than the joy of playing music. I saw so many bands at this time that its all gone a bit blurry in my head – plus the amount of Real Ale we drank dosen’t help the situation!

Here are just some of the bands I remember seeing:

Roogalator – a really great American influenced band, playing boogie and R&B dance songs to packed houses

The Fabulous Poodles – or the Fab Poos as they became to be known as, were another kettle of fish all together. Frenetic and frantic on stage coupled with some of the funniest and dirtiest songs you ever heard (“Convent Girls”, “Tit Photographers Blues”, etc)! As is common with this type of band their recorded output never quite matched their stage shows – I came across one of their singles in my collection the other day and quite frankly I was a little underwhelmed – but the memories still linger!

Fab Poos

Burlesque – another of my favorites from this time, we followed them like little boy-groupies to gigs all over North London. Now described as “Art-Rock” they were a wonderfully crazy fusion of styles fronted by a saxophonist and a guitarist with the shortest strap in the world so his guitar was just under his chin.

Burlesque

One favorite was “Quando, Quando, Quando” which often led to congo lines around the venue. Also they wrote these lyrics that still stay in my head 35 years later:

“Another day, another dollar, another sweat stained starched white collar. I need a super creep that I can model – into a star that will be all mine. I’m eager to finger that old pound sign”. Shear brillance!

Some of their music can still be heard at Myspace and its nice to see that the guitarist (Billy Jenkins) is still playing. Burlesque were one of the bands that I managed to book for Harrow Tech (see next post).

As 1976 blurred into 1977 many of the pub rock bands got swept up (and many got swept away) by punk. I remember two bands in fairly quick succession of each other at the same venue in Harrow;

Eddie and The Hot Rods – they’d been around for a while when we went to see them and they had a reputation for hard and fast R&B based rock (similar to Dr Feelgood to whom they were often compared). I was hyped up to see them and of course…they were AWFUL! I remember thinking that they really needed to go and learn their instruments before they commited to playing any more gigs. Within 6 months they had a #1 with “Do anything you wanna do!” still probably in my top 10 singles of all time.

Eddie_hot_rods

Literally within a couple of weeks at the same venue I went to see Graham Parker and the Rumour. Unlike Eddie and the Hot Rods, GP and the Rumour were polished musicians and they sounded great! I remember that it was a huge band – four or five in the band plus a horn section, all squeezed onto a tiny, tiny stage designed for a compact four-piece band. They were unlike most of the bands of that era playing with a real soul-groove with HORNS!

graham_parker

Here’s a cool link to a page of videos of various Pub Rock bands including both Eddie and the Hot Rods and GP and the Rumour.

May 3, 2010

Elton John, 1974

Filed under: Gigs 1970-1974 — Tags: , , , , , , — boringoldfartramblings @ 6:21 pm

If Rod Stewart was at no. 1 of my internal rock n’ roll hierarchy, then Elton John came in as a very close second place. In 1974 he seemed to be everywhere. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” had been released in late 1973 and I’m happy to say now that I knew every word of every song on the album. Single after single came off the album and he never seemed to out of the charts.

Elton made a big deal about his love for Watford Football Club – his local club when he was growing up. When he announced that he’d be doing a benefit concert there in May of 1974 I bought a ticket. I was very much the solitary concert go-er at this stage of my life – so buying one ticket didn’t seem such an issue. I took the train to Watford Junction (the end of the line then) and without knowing where the ground even was I followed to crowds.

I think the bands played under or close to the main stand with people hanging out all over the pitch. There was no one in the stands – remember in those days there were no seats so it was better to sit on the grass than on the concrete.

True to form I don’t remember too much about individual songs. I do remember one of the support bands that day was “Nazareth” who had just had a hit with “This Flight Tonight” – about the closest to a heavy metal band that I’d ever come to.

Eventually Elton bought the club and became Chairman. It was the tradition in those days for the players to take a communal bath after the game and I clearly remember the reports of EJ sharing the bath with his players after the game. Smiles and good time all around!

Maybe 12-18 months later when Elton confirmed that he was gay / bisexual the communal baths stopped pretty quickly! I wonder why?

Later in the year I got a chance to see Elton again. He announced that he was playing a gig at the Hammersmith Odeon on Christmas Eve, 1974. As was our wont, we bought the cheapest tickets in the house – standing room only tickets at the waaaay back of the hall. The kicker was that those tickets were only 50p (about 75 cents at today’s exchange rate, maybe $1.25 at the prevailing rate in 1974) and when we got there people hadn’t turned up for their seats in front of where we standing so we moved down and had seats anyway! The concert was being broadcast live on the BBC for the “Old Grey Whistle Test” and Elton was joined on stage by both Gary Glitter (I kid you not!) and…gasp…Rod Stewart. I remember lots of fake snow and much falling over by Messrs. Glitter and Stewart.

There’s a video on YouTube of the concert here and another blogger reminisces here.

Because of the TV deadline the show finished around 11pm and my friends and I got on the bus back to Stonebridge in time for midnight mass at our church – known to all as “Father Murphys”.

March 12, 2010

Roxy Music at The Rainbow, 1973

Filed under: Gigs 1970-1974 — Tags: , , , — boringoldfartramblings @ 9:24 pm

Roxy Music were another of my favorites – another band that my friends just didn’t get. I guess I already had art school aspirations and they were the epitome of an “art school band”, very avant garde, but also “glam”. Their first album had been released the year before and I remember thinking it was very cool that the single “Virginia Plain” wasn’t on the album as if they wanted to make different statements.

Roxy MusicI saw them in 1973 just after their second album was released – “For Your Pleasure” also didn’t include the single “Pyjamarama”.

Of course I don’t remember any specifics about the gig itself – too long ago and too far away. But what I do remember is what I was wearing! I had bought a wonderful blue satin jacket with stitching to make it look as though it was quilted. I remember standing outside of the theater really thinking that I looked the part! (It would have been around this time that I also wore sneakers with all the rubber parts painted silver!) I loved that jacket (my father particularly hated it but not as much as some of the stuff I wore later) – but it just wasn’t made to last and it soon disintergrated after getting wet too many times.

February 25, 2010

Rod Stewart and The Faces, Oct 1972

Filed under: Gigs 1970-1974 — Tags: , , , , — boringoldfartramblings @ 9:09 pm

I was a huge Rod Stewart and The Faces fan. I used to wear a Stewart (Stuart?) Tartan scarf (actually still do!) to school and everywhere else.

The Faces embodied every possible schoolboy fantasy of what it must be like to be in a rock and roll band. Hard drinking, womanizing, impossibly funny good times.

The Faces

In September 1971 Rod released “Every Picture Tells A Story” which contained Maggie May, Mandolin Wind, Reason to Believe, etc. Then in November The Faces released “A Nod Is as Good as a Wink… to a Blind Horse” which contained “Stay with Me”. Stay with Me – still has the best drum solo and rock n roll screaming anywhere! My friends and I were in heaven – all probably with huge man crushes on Rod.

We all went to see Rod and The Faces in October 1972 when they played at the Wembley Empire Pool (before it was the Wembley Arena). The Faces were great, of course, from what I can remember, but the most memorable part of the entire evening was their choice of support act – The New York Dolls!

The New York Dolls

The Dolls were at the height of their glam/depraved existence and arrived on the stage in feather boas, high heels and lots & lots of make-up. They were amazing – or at least I thought so. My friends thought they were awful and actually left the auditorium during their set. I sat there and soaked it all in not really knowing what was going on (the birth of punk?) but enjoying it greatly.

February 23, 2010

BBC In Concert, Queen – Golders Green Hippodrome

Filed under: Gigs 1970-1974 — Tags: , , , — boringoldfartramblings @ 10:29 pm

Early 70’s, I was a schoolboy at Finchley Grammar School and took the bus everyday from Willesden to Finchley and back again. Lots of the buses used to stop at Golders Green and we’d have to change buses to get home. During a stop at Golders Green we discovered the Hippodrome, an old theater used by the BBC for orchestra concerts and the like. They also used it for the occasional rock concerts and the tickets were free – you just never knew who was going to be on.

Golders Green Hippodrome

This must have been 72/73/74 when I would have been 15-16. I can’t remember how many bands I saw there but I know the list includes Supertramp and The Average White Band. (more to follow as I remember them)

All of the bands we saw at the Hippodrome were either just starting out or had new releases to promote and because these concerts were for radio only they never bothered too much with niceties like stage presence or much banter with the audience. Get in – play the new tracks – get out.

There was one big exception – the night we saw Queen! The band came on with a full stage show, lights, Freddie Mercury preening and thrusting with the microphone stand. They were awesome and all my friends hated them! “Hairs too long!” “They were wearing makeup!” etc. I know that there is a now famous “Queen Live at the Golders Green Hippodrome” album/cd recorded on September 13 1973 but when I look at the tracks it really isn’t how I remember it. I could have sworn they played “Seven Seas of Rhye” but it doesn’t appear on the track listing.

Queen - live at the Golders Green Hippodrome

It’s funny because after they became famous I really went off Queen for quite a few years and when I told people I had seen them back in 73 they were always a lot more excited than I was. Now I guess I love them again but think much of the post-Mercury death adulation is just hype to sell more records and “We will rock you” tickets.

February 22, 2010

My first gig – the Temptations, April 1972.

Filed under: Gigs 1970-1974 — boringoldfartramblings @ 9:48 pm

The first gig I can remember going to was the Temptations at the Royal Albert Hall. I was 14 at the time, just about to turn 15. (Thanks to Alex Collinson at the Royal Albert Hall for confirming the dates of the gig and for general background info)

.

Here is the information that the RAH sent me about the show:

The Temptations were here once, according to our records.

This was on Monday 10th April 1972.

The programme has the following information in it, but unfortunately does not list the numbers performed.

PERFORMERS

Conductor – Cornelius Grant

Solo Voices – Carla Thomas; Jimmy Helms

The Temptations

            -Melvin Franklin

            -Richard Street

            -Otis Williams

            -Damon Harris

            -Dennis Edwards

Temptations Orchestra

Cornelius Grant

Mel Brown

Bill Neale

Joe Harris

John McFlair Band

I wish I could relate how wonderful the gig was or give you a set-list but of course I don’t remember that much about it! I know that I got probably the cheapest tickets available which put me up “in the Gods” as the seats at the very top and back of the hall were known.

Maybe more interesting was why I went to see the Temptations rather than rock royality who were playing at the same time (Led Zepplin, Deep Purple, etc.). I HATED all of them and going to see something as potentially schmaltzy as the Temptations was my way of pushing against the norm. This would raise its head again when punk exploded a couple of years later. And I loved Motown and all the fantastic R&B groups of the time.

I was living in Willesden (NW London) at the time and I guess I should be thankful that my parents didn’t think it was too strange for a 14-year-old to take the bus halfway across London to see a “rock” concert. It put me on the path that I didn’t get off for many years.

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