- I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org). As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia! Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton. I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times. I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me? My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored. Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.
Monday, April 3, 2017
This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 867
This week, Uncle Sam's in Syracuse finally met the wrecking ball. It was about time; the old building was a disaster, a hazard, a fallen monument to good times long since passed. If left in place much longer, it would have fallen literally, collapsed under the weight of neglect and indifference, its flashing lights dimmed and broken, its kickin' sound system silenced forevermore.
Uncle Sam's is gone. Its memory will remain standing tall for as long...well, for at least as long as I have memory.
I can't say I was ever an Uncle Sam's regular. My first visit there was probably around 1978, when I was 18. It was, as far as I could tell, just a freakin' disco, and I hated discos. What was I doing here? And how soon could I leave?
Well, that viewpoint changed radically once I saw a rock 'n' roll show at Uncle Sam's. On May 24th, 1979, my local fave raves The Flashcubes opened for Joe Jackson at Uncle Sam's, and the show was amazing. I mean, I adored the 'Cubes already, in every crappy or slightly-less-crappy dive I could catch their rampagin' live splendor, but this? The Flashcubes playing in a larger nightclub, on a brightly-lit stage, through a PA that actually let them sound as brilliant as they were?! Revelation. Exultation! Uncle Sam's, I want you!
After that opening set by The Flashcubes, The Joe Jackson Band certainly didn't disappoint, delivering an impeccable set of a-boppin' and a-poppin', highlighted by a then-unreleased song called "I'm The Man" that made my jaw drop and my head swim in delirious abandon. This ain't no disco. I do have time for this now!
I only ever saw a handful of shows at Uncle Sam's, but the delight of those shows remains palpable, immediate, and unforgettable. Just over a month later, on July 6th, a mere five bucks got me in to Uncle Sam's yet again, to see live sets by The Flashcubes and The Ramones, and the debut Central New York screening of The Ramones' movie, Rock 'n' Roll High School. The cathartic effect of that night was incalculable, occurring less than a week after one of my best friends decided his best path in life was to blow his own brains out. The movie was great. The Flashcubes were great. The Ramones were The Ramones! No one even minded hearing Joey Ramone forget where he was, and announce from the stage at Syracuse's Uncle Sam's, It's great ta be back in Schenectady and it's great to see you all here--take it, Dee Dee! Close enough!
(That night was also the first time I ever heard the song "Chinese Rocks;" The Ramones hadn't released their version yet, and I wouldn't hear any recorded version of the song until I bought a copy of The Heartbreakers' Live At Max's Kansas City '79 on Staten Island the following November.)
I returned to Uncle Sam's to see The Pretenders in 1980, with The Necessaries opening. The Necessaries' lead guitarist was the legendary Chris Spedding. Spedding had been in The Wombles, he'd worked with The Sex Pistols, he'd released a bunch of records of his own (including "Pogo Dancing" backed by The Vibrators),and he'd turned down an opportunity to join The Rolling Stones. I ditched my characteristic shyness enough to go up and talk to Spedding between sets. I asked him why The Necessaries didn't perform any of his great songs, like "Boogie City" or "Motorbikin'," but he politely waived the question away, insisting No, this band is The Necessaries, and it wasn't supposed to be a vehicle for him to play his own catalog o' gems. He autographed a Dead Ducks flyer for me, and we bid each other well. The Pretenders were also terrific, though Chrissie Hynde did get pissed at one guy in the crowd, who was hawking a local rock tabloid called The National Rag by going up to the stage and yelling, Chrissie! Do you work for The National Rag? Okay, maybe she had a right to be pissed....
Cash flow woes led me to pass on a chance to see Foghat at Uncle Sam's in '79, and to miss seeing the 'Cubes open for Pat Benatar there on New Year's Eve. I moved away from Syracuse, so The Pretenders' show was my final visit to Uncle Sam's. By the time I returned in 1987, Uncle Sam's had become The Country Club, or Suburban Park, or whatever they were calling it that week. I only went there once, in the early '90s or thereabouts, to see Tommy James. James was very good, but he only played for twenty minutes, with no other act on the bill. Luckily, the bar was open. And so we drank.
I never again set foot in the former Uncle Sam's. In the back of mind, I harbored a fantasy that it could re-open some day, that it could reclaim its lost glory, that it could once again be the rock 'n' roll heaven that helped save a lost nineteen-year-old whose world seemed to teeter on the brink of oblivion. The front of my mind knew better, I guess. But that spark of memory never faded, and my gratitude remains. As the physical evidence turns to dust and debris, the memory remains independent and unbowed, and cherished still. It's great to be back in Schenectady. And it's great to see you all here. Uncle Sam's, we salute you.
Oh, by the way: we got a radio show.
This week's extravaganza includes awesome new tunes by Lisa Mychols, Ruby Free, Captain Wilberforce, The Outryders, and The Britannicas, new archival gems from Michael Slawter and Artful Dodger, and the nonpareil array of irresistible rockin' pop you expect from The Best Three Hours Of Radio On The Whole Friggin' Planet. And the whole shebang begins with a three-song salute to Uncle Sam's. Raise a Firecracker, 'cause this is what rock 'n' roll radio sounded like on a Sunday night in Syracuse this week.
This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl streams live on Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, exclusively at www.westcottradio.org
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TIRnRR # 867: 4/2/17
THE RAMONES: Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio? (Rhino, End Of The Century)
THE RAMONES: Rock 'n' Roll High School (Rhino, Loud, Fast Ramones)
THE PRETENDERS: Kid (Sire, The Singles)
JOE JACKSON: I'm The Man (A & M, Steppin' Out)
SWEET: Fox On The Run (Capitol, The Best Of Sweet)
ARROGANCE: Praying Mantis (Gaff, The 5' 11" Record)
POP CO-OP: Feint Of Heart (Silent Bugler, Four State Solution)
LISA MYCHOLS: He's Got Me Dreaming (CD Baby, single)
THE JAM: Beat Surrender (Polydor, Direction Reaction Creation)
THE LEGAL MATTERS: Short Term Memory (Omnivore, Conrad)
PAUL McCARTNEY: My Brave Face [demo] (Capitol, Flowers In The Dirt)
PACIFIC SOUL LTD.: We Go High (Karma Frog, The Dance Divine)
HOLLIS BROWN: Ride On The Train (Alive Natural Sound, Ride On The Train)
CIRCE LINK: I'm On Your Side (circelink.com, The Pop EP)
OTIS & CARLA: Knock On Wood (Atlantic, OTIS REDDING: The King Of Soul)
ANDY BOPP: Lowe (andyboppusa.com, Blisters And Thorns)
CLOCKWORK FLOWERS: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (theclockworkflowers.com, Colours Vol. 3: Yellow)
THE MONKEES: Words (Rhino, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd.)
THE CURE: Grinding Halt (Rhino, The Cure)
THE OUTRYDERS: Piangi Con Me (& Live For Today) (joealgeri.bandcamp.com, single)
DR. FEELGOOD: She Does It Right (Parlophone, Down By The Jetty)
CHUCK BERRY: Promised Land (MCA, The Anthology)
X-RAY SPEX: I Am A Cliche (Sanctuary, Germfree Adolescents)
THE COASTERS: Charlie Brown (Warner Music, Yakety Yak)
THE PRETENDERS: Cuban Slide (Rhino, The Pretenders)
CAPTAIN WILBERFORCE: Everybody's Talking To Themselves (Kool Kat Musik, Black Sky Thinking)
RAY PAUL: Pretty Flamingo (Permanent Press, Whimsicality)
ROXY MUSIC: Dance Away (Reprise, Street Life)
THE FLOWERS OF HELL: Mr. Tambourine Man (Optical Sounds, Odes)
THE BYRDS: Here Without You (Columbia, Mr, Tambourine Man)
THE MONKEES: Me & Magdalena [Version 2] (Rhino, Good Times! [digital version])
RUBY FREE: Start Of Something Big (SodaStar, Shades)
THE PENETRATORS: Keep On Rollin' (Stones) (Fred, Legacy)
THE ROLLING STONES: Connection (Abkco, Between The Buttons)
THE NERVES: Hanging On The Telephone (Alive, One Way Ticket)
THE FLASHCUBES: She (7a, VA: Listen To The Bands)
THE BANGLES: The Real World (Omnivore, Ladies And Gentlemen...The Bangles!)
MICHAEL SLAWTER: Obvious (Futureman, An Assassination Of Someone You Know)
THE BEATLES: I'm Happy Just To Dance With You (Apple, A Hard Day's Night)
VEGAS WITH RANDOLPH: Women In Airports (vegaswithrandolph.bandcamp.com, single)
CREAM: I'm So Glad (Poltdor, Those Were The Days)
ARTFUL DODGER: Follow Me (Real Gone Music, The Complete Columbia Recordings)
THE FACES: Stay With Me (Warner Brothers, Stay With Me)
THE BRITANNICAS: Real World Time (joealgeri.bandcamp.com, single)
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: Here She Comes Now (Polydor, Peel Slowly And See)
BADFINGER: Got To Get Out Of Here (Warner Brothers, Wish You Were Here)
DAVID BOWIE: Hang On To Yourself (Virgin. Bowie At The Beeb)
THE ANIMALS: It's My Life (Abkco, Retrospective)
THE WHO: The Kids Are Alright (MCA, My Generation)
COTTON MATHER: The Book Of Too Late Changes (Star Apple Kingdom, Death Of The Cool)
BIG STAR: September Gurls (Big Beat, VA: Thank You, Friends)
CHUCK BERRY: Berry Pickin' (Chess, After School Session)