concert memoirs pt. 2 – the who


The Who w/T-Bone Burnett

10/2/82 St. Paul Civic Center w/John & Eric Ticket Price: Unknown

This was a life changing concert for me. I know that sounds dramatic, but it is true. Seeing this show got me big into The Who and that lead me to punk rock which lead me to even more and varied styles of music. At the time I was listening to mostly crap. Journey, Styx, Foreigner, Boston, yuck! (Although, I must admit a soft spot for some of that crap to this day.)

I wasn’t much of a Who fan at the time. I knew who they were, knew a few of their songs. I knew Pete Townshend had some solo stuff out. The Who’s new single ‘Athena’ was getting some airplay. I thought they were ok and that was all.

In fact, I hadn’t planned on going to the show at all. I was even downtown St. Paul right next to the Civic Center (now the Xcel Center, home of the Minnesota Wild) that afternoon. I was at a comic book shop getting my monthly comic book fix. I hopped on the bus to head home. The bus stop was located right in front of the Civic Center. While on the bus I was accosted by a pothead who worked at the same restaurant at which I was working.

“Hey, Man! Are you going to The Who concert tonight?”

“No.”

“Oh! Man!”

“Sorry.”

Well, I got home and my mom told me to call John right away. I did. It turned out John had bought three tickets to the show, but he hadn’t anyone to go with. He did get one friend, Eric, to go and I would make it three if I wanted to. I did.

I called the restaurant I was working at and told them I might be a little late for my shift that night. I was working the graveyard shift and I did end up being only about 10 or 20 minutes late. No big deal.

This was The Who’s North American Farewell tour and I was glad to risk being a little late for work to see them, because they’d never tour again. Riiight.

This was also the tour that saw The Clash opening some of the shows, but not this one. We got T-Bone Burnett. We had no idea who he was or what he was doing. He did a guitar solo consisting of him plucking one note at one part of the stage and then walking to another part and pluck another note. He did that a few times.

John and I have talked about how we regretted not getting The Clash as the opening act, but if we had seen Burnett after we’d begun exploring and appreciating new kinds of music we might have enjoyed his act more. In doing some research for this blog I found that it was likely Mick Ronson (who had played with David Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust days) was with Burnett’s band at the time. I saw a legend and didn’t even know it until now.

Speaking of legends, there was a headlining act, the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world, The Who. As I said, this was to be their last North American tour and they were promoting their latest album, ‘It’s Hard’. Not a perfect album, it’s no ‘Quadrophenia’ or ‘Who’s Next’ and it does lack the maniac Keith Moon, but it’s not as bad as the critics were making it out to be.

I attended the first night of a two night concert stop in St. Paul. And it was loud. It may be the loudest show I’ve ever seen or, certainly, one of the loudest. Both shows were sold out, packed with boisterous Who fans and I got caught up in it. I found myself shouting and whistling as loud as I could. Cheering for Pete in particular. I’m not sure why, but a connection to Pete Townshend was formed that night and it has never been broken.

I wondered if they would play any of his solo material. They didn’t. It was a Who concert after all. They also didn’t play ‘Athena’, their minor hit at the time. They did, however, feature four or so other songs off ‘It’s Hard’. They played the great song ‘Eminence Front’ and Roger played guitar on this tour. Something he hadn’t done since he took over lead vocals back in the days when they were The Detours.

Their light show featured three sets of spotlights. One set on either side of the stage and one at the back of the main floor. Aimed straight up, they would twirl around and open and close, casting bright white beams of light to the heavens (well, the ceiling of the Civic Center anyway).

Another fun feature of the show was the glow sticks that were sold to the fans. People starting tossing the green glowing objects over the audience’s heads. They looked pretty cool as they sailed over us. Even better was when some fans realized that if they used a lighter (a must have item at concerts) to melt a hole in the plastic container and then throw it high above the crowd, the glowing liquid would sprinkle out. This made for a very fun effect.

John remembers a very lame attempt by me to throw one of the melted glow sticks, spilling the liquid on myself and him. I don’t recall that, but that’s what John remembers.

The Who concert weekend was a pretty big event judging by the excited talk at school that following Monday. It was truly a major event in my life. I was transformed into a monster Who fan. I bought all their albums and bought and read books about them. I was all about The Who and Pete Townshend.

I’ve mellowed some, but not much.

concert memoirs pt. 1 – kansas

This is going to be a lengthy series. I intend to run through what I can remember of the concerts I’ve seen through my lifetime. The idea came from my going through, in a fit of nostalgia, the ticket stubs I had managed to hang onto. There are quite a few. My hope is that it will be interesting to a total stranger. And, at the very least, it will be something for my son to read and see how cool ol’ Dad was in his day.

Now, I only have memory to go on (goon?), memories jogged by the ticket stubs themselves. I did consult my friend, John, with whom I had gone to most of the shows; my brother, Bob; and my wife, Amy, for the later shows. They were of some help on a few of the more foggy points. These recollections go back to more than 25 years ago, so not much of this series is going to be crystal clear on the details.

In fact, some of the ticket stubs don’t bring back anything at all. I look them and nothing comes to mind. Not a thing. This happens quite often with the opening acts. But there are many shows of which I have strong, clear memories.

I must have been pretty selective, because most of the shows I’ve seen had been pretty good. Some were even stellar (how’s that for hyperbole?). A couple were, well, less than inspiring.

Most of the shows were viewed at the legendary Minneapolis nightclub, First Avenue. John and I had become fixtures from late 1984 into the early 1990’s. We were regulars of Kevin Cole’s Club Degenerate, the Tuesday night dance club at which you could dance to the coolest music of the day. Punk, post punk, new wave, industrial, world, local, and Sweet’s ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and anything else Cole wanted to throw at us. But, that’s a story for a different blog.

First Avenue, for us, became the place to see concerts. They were able to book many of the best acts of that era and we could get an excellent view for a decent ticket price.

By the way, there is a documentary about that storied downtown danceteria which, more than likely, no one will see. A filmmaker named Rick Fuller made ‘First Avenue Hayday: 1985 – 1992’ chronicling that wonderful time-period. The time-period which just happens to be exactly when John and I were making the scene at First Avenue. The reason, as far as I’ve heard, that it will be difficult to see the film is because Fuller didn’t have the money to secure the rights to most of the songs featured in the documentary. Pity, I would have loved to have that on DVD. You can see the trailer on YouTube.

I’ve wandered off now… Where was I?

Concerts. Right. I wasn’t one of those concert-going kids when I was in high school. I remember hearing other kids my age at the time talking about going to concerts. On one occasion, there were some stoner kids who made up a big ol’ banner to bring to an upcoming Motorhead concert. Banners were big in those days with local rock stations offering prizes for the best displays (with the station’s logo prominently displayed, of course). Do they still do that?

So, I only went to three concerts while in high school. No money. No interest. No parental permission. I was probably too square. I didn’t really start hitting the concert trail until I was in art school. And it wasn’t until September 5, 1984 when I first stepped foot in First Avenue.

The list will be chronological from the earliest show to the last. I will also include what I can recall of shows for which I don’t have ticket stubs. Those won’t be in order, my memory ain’t that good. I really wish I had kept a concert journal.

So, I’ve yammered enough. I hope you will find this interesting…

Kansas w/Prism
Summer 1982 Met Center w/group of high school friends Ticket price: $11.50

This was my first concert. I went with some friends from school and we tailgated in the Met Center parking lot. (It’s not there anymore. It’s been replaced by the Mall of America.) We consumed Blatz Light Cream Ale and we were underage. Naughty, naughty.

This was Kansas without Steve Walsh, but they still were a soulless arena rock band anyway. I didn’t think that then. I liked a lot of crap in those days.

Anyway, what stands out most is the young woman down the row from our group, in a heap on the floor, sick from way too much beer or something. She was heaped that way through the opening act until the end of the night. She really had a great time.

I also remember getting home, buzzed, and then watching the video of the film ‘Warriors’. “Come out and play!”

where have i been?

I changed jobs back in November. The new job doesn’t give me the opportunity to take advantage of the internet. So, I can’t get to do the blog thing as easily as I could at my previous job. Yep, I’m a workplace internet user and hope to be again. I’m working on it.

I have been working on the outline of a blog series all about my memories of the concerts I’ve gone to over the years. It’s not been easy as I am working from memory. I didn’t keep a journal. I wish I had. These memories go back to 1982.

Anyway, that series will be starting soon.

quigley

That’s him. Quigley. Part Boston Terrier, part Shar Pei. Almost 12 years-old, for a Shar Pei, that’s getting up there.

Quigley left us yesterday.

He had been acting out of sorts for the last couple weeks; peeing in the house, going under the deck, eating less, losing weight, whimpering, growling, snapping, and, worst of all, walking around and around and around. We knew something was up and we figured the end was near.

I was getting very frustrated with him and I was tired of dealing with a dog. That might be how pets prepare you for letting them go. Become annoying. He couldn’t help it. Something was terribly wrong and we couldn’t afford to do much for him. That really added to my frustration. We wanted to help him, but we knew we couldn’t afford any large vet bills. A trip to the vet meant he was going to get put down. So, we’d give him aspirin, extra treats, whatever to keep him comfortable.

But, after an exceedingly difficult night of seizures (especially difficult for Amy, my wife, because she was the one dealing with him most the night while I looked after our son), I brought Quigley to the vet and his pain was ended.

I met Quigley shortly after meeting Amy. Quigley was Amy’s dog for three years prior to that. She had worked at an area Humane Society where Quigley was brought in. Quigley was considered unadoptable because he apparently hadn’t been properly socialized. And he was quite possibly abused. He seemed to like no one, but he liked Amy. He’d get up on his hind legs for her to hug him every time he saw her. She decided she’d take him home.

Quigley didn’t care for many other people. I’m pretty sure he only bonded to half a dozen in all. He would either growl and snap at Amy’s friends or try to hump them. Which is why it was so surprising that he took to me right away.

I thought he was the goofiest dog I’d ever seen. Cute, but goofy. I quickly grew to love that little goofball. He used to stand up for hugs from me, as well. He’d get all excited when we got home from work. He’d run around, stop with his butt in the air and his front legs splayed out, spin in circles and run around some more.

Sometimes, when Amy and I would be cuddling on the floor, Amy would cry out for help and Quigley would playfully nip at my back. I used to love that.

And just like all dog-owners, we loved it when he’d just snuggle up with us on the couch. Heck, until our son came along, Quigley used to sleep in bed with us. Something I didn’t always think highly of.

So, the house feels a little emptier. It’s certainly quieter. We will miss Quigley dearly, but will be forever grateful for his being part of our lives.

Goodbye, boy. We love you.

comic books that changed my life #5

Well, I’m doing it! I’m crossing over into DC Comics territory. I was a Marvel Comics kid who would rarely pick up a DC title back in the early days of my collecting. For some reason, Batman and Superman and all those other DC characters didn’t interest me back then. I took the motto “Make Mine Marvel” to heart in those days. As I got older and more serious about collecting, I worked my way into the DC Universe. That, as they say, is a story for another time.

This was when I mainly bought comic books with exciting covers. But, I also liked the monster stories. (The first title of this blog series was Werewolf By Night, after all.) Because I liked monsters so much, I laid down my hard-earned 20 cents and purchased this DC comic book, The Demon #13 (Oct. ’73).

The Demon was a series created, drawn, and written by the great Jack Kirby. Kirby was king. He was the major talent behind the creation of the language of comic book art. He was a pioneer. He is probably the most influential artist in comic book history and, for years, I thought he sucked.

That’s right. I couldn’t stand his stuff. In my formative years as a cartoonist, I couldn’t understand why he was the king. As I worked to improve my drawing skills, I kept looking at his work and thought it was crap. “He can’t draw!” I would think.

Kirby couldn’t draw anatomy well. Look at the hands he’d draw. How many knuckles does a human hand have? How long is a thumb compared to the fingers? Who has squared off fingertips?

I could go on, but I’m saving my Kirby dissertation for a favorite comic book artist blog series.

Suffice to say, I did eventually come to appreciate the greatness of Jack Kirby’s art.

The Demon #13 might have been the first DC Comics title I’d ever purchased. It was certainly one of the very first. As far as I can remember, I bought it to take on the family vacation. Each year, my family would head out to a lake cabin resort near Spooner, WI for a two week vacation. This issue was one in the stack of comic books that I brought along to kill time during the long drive from St. Paul. I don’t recall any of the other issues.

The Demon is one of my favorite characters and issue #13 is from his original series. This was long before the Demon started speaking in rhyme. That’s the one thing that annoyed me about the later incarnation of the Demon. I like the Hell aspect and that the Demon is kind of evil while still being a good guy. I like his alter-ego’s name, Jason Blood. So cool.

The art I’ve selected from this issue are all full page illustrations, with one exception. In fact, one is a two page spread!

The cover (see above) has an interesting use of color to help direct the eye. Your attention is drawn to the Demon and his two adversaries. The monsters are less significant, but still important. And the Demon’s declaration, “I’m unleashing every terrible thing your mind can think of! Can you take it?” makes one wonder if he talking to his adversaries or is he talking to us? Perhaps both.

The two page spread is chock full of Jack Kirby goodness. Some of his best work is this big drawing stuff. It’s big, spectacular! And Kirby was very good at making sure that the design didn’t leave the reader confused. The storyline continues to flow through the dramatic art.

There’s also that black dotted cosmic fire thing the Kirby was so fond of using. I don’t know if he invented it, but it sure seems like a signature tool of his. And countless Kirby-influenced artists (myself included) have used the same effect.

Incidentally, note the name of the villain, Baron Von Evilstein. That’s fantastic! With a name like that how could you not be evil? That name can’t help but pigeon-hole a fellow. Even if he wanted to be a philanthropist, how could he while named Evilstein?

So, the next page I’ve selected is the first page of chapter two. It introduces “the Monster”. A not so subtle take on the Frankenstein legend. Kirby’s version was created by Baron Von Evilstein.

The Monster is huge. And I love the metal bars that protrude from him. Maybe not quite the same as the flat-headed creature that Boris Karloff brought to life, but the similarities are there.

There’s a single frame that I’ve included that has its focus on the creatures hands. The hands are stretched out imploringly to a woman he sees as a friend. It brings to mind Karloff’s so expressive use of his hands in his portrayal of the Monster. No other actor who played the Monster ever came close to Karloff. Part of the reason for that, I think, is due to the way Karloff used his hands.

Speaking of hands, this brings me to the final piece I’ve included. It’s the first page of chapter three. Kirby sums up the action of the scene while deftly bringing in the Demon. That’s a pretty cool hand there. We’re in for some action!

So that’s the first DC comic of this series. There will be others. The one that convinced me to start collecting DC. The one that hooked me into Batman. The one that got me interested in Superman. And more. But you’ll have to wait.