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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 NewsThe Syracuse New Times, Big Stir magazine, and AHOY Comics.  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.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

VIRTUAL TICKET STUB GALLERY Snapshots: Opening Acts, Part 1

Virtual Ticket Sub Gallery is my ongoing series of concert memories, detailing my recollections of specific rock 'n' roll shows I've seen, and all of my attendant memories of the artists, their careers, my (presumably) relevant circumstances, and what it all meant to me.

Today's post is a sidebar to Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery, briefly discussing a few of the opening acts I saw at these shows. Some of them have already been covered in previous posts, some will still be covered in future posts, and some I may never really see a reason to mention further. I wasn't usually at the venue to see them, after all. But sometimes their presence enhanced the evening.

I'll return to this subject of opening acts in future post. This will not be a comprehensive list of opening acts I've seen...!


My first concert was KISS with Uriah Heep at the Onondaga County War Memorial on December 16th, 1976. My friend Dave Murray (author of House Training Your VCR) was also there, but it was a big crowd, so we didn't actually meet for another twenty-four years. (We met the week Stevie Ray Vaughn died in a plane crash; the first thing he ever said to me was, "Man, shame about Stevie Ray Vaughn," prompting me to reply, "That's what he gets for booking a flight on La Bamba Airlines.") Dave recalls Uriah Heep's 1976 opening set as interminable. It's not like he was much of a KISS fan to begin with, so he wasn't chompin' at the bit waitin' for these British bludgeonmeisters to get off stage awready and make room for the main attraction; he just thought they were boring. He was probably right, but I felt compelled to air-bludgeon along with them. They were technically my first live rock band experience, unless you count the teen band that played "House Of The Rising Sun" at a middle school assembly when I was 12. But, um...when does KISS start?


Pfui. The Winters Brothers Band opened for the equally pfui-worthy Charlie Daniels Band on October 1st, 1977 at Brockport my freshman year in college. Matters weren't helped by my initial (mistaken) belief that these Winters brothers would be Johnny Winters and Edgar Winters rather than a Southern rock combo, but that was nobody's fault but mine. I think I won a ticket from campus radio station WBSU, so at least this didn't cost me anything more than the wasted time I will never recover. I'm sure both bands were fine for those who like this stuff, but I've developed such an antipathy for Southern rock that the pfuis fly freely. I confess that I was a big fan of Charlie Daniels' "Uneasy Rider" as a thirteen-year-old in '73, but that doesn't mean I'm not still trying to figure a way to expunge this show from my Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery permanent record.


I felt like the only one in Brockport who hated Charlie Daniels. By contrast, I also felt like the only one in Brockport who liked Willie Alexander & the Boom Boom Band when they opened for Elvis Costello & the Attractions in the Student Union ballroom in February of 1978. Even my companions hated Alexander, dismissing him as a bad copy of Lou Reed. Me? I was just grateful to hear live music that wasn't Charlie freakin' Daniels. And I adored the Boom Boom Band's heavy (but cool!) cover of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."


One of my all-time favorite groups, but you knew that already. They shouldn't be here, but I sure did see them put on some terrific opening sets for a lot of other acts. I had already seen the 'Cubes a couple of times before they opened for The Ramones and The Runaways during Easter break in '78, but that show remains a vibrant, indelible memory. I saw The Flashcubes open for The Joe Jackson  Band, The FastArtful Dodger, and David Johansen, as well as for The Ramones again, and each time was magic.


British band Charlie opened for The Kinks at Syracuse's Landmark Theater in May of 1978, and that show should be the subject of a full-length Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery someday. My friend Tom Bushnell liked Charlie, but I was, at best, indifferent to them. This was years before I met my future This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio co-host Dana Bonn, but he was there, and he later quoted something he'd read about Charlie, something to the effect that they couldn't decide whether they wanted to be Yes or if they wanted to be Cheap Trick. I only remember two of Charlie's songs. "Watchin' TV" was a rather pedestrian put-down of American television, almost a more self-satisfied, smirking (and certainly much smoother) cousin of The Clash's "I'm So Bored With The USA." But "She Loves To Be In Love" was a pretty pop tune indeed, and it's on my iPod, so I must be okay with it. We'll revisit the subject of The Kinks and Charlie in a future blog post.


I was furious when guitarist Paul Armstrong was dismissed from The Flashcubes in 1979. I stopped going to 'Cubes shows, and transferred my allegiance to Paul's new group The Most, which was fronted by his diminutive girlfriend Dian Zain. I loved The Most in all their varying incarnations, each mixing pop and punk and straight-up rock 'n' roll; they were kinda like Debbie Harry playing with both The Heartbreakers and the Heartbreakers, as in both Johnny Thunders and Tom Petty. Amends were made eventually, and my devotion to The Flashcubes was restored, but The Most remain an underrated, underappreciated act in the history of Syracuse music. The Most's live debut was an opening slot for The Records at Stage East in East Syracuse in late summer '79, and of course I was there.


The Necessaries were a bar band that snagged a gig opening for The Pretenders' first US tour in 1980, and I caught the Syracuse show at Uncle Sam's on Erie Boulevard.  The Necessaries included Ernie Brooks (formerly of The Modern Lovers), but my interest was sparked by the guy who'd recently joined them on guitar: Chris Spedding! I knew Spedding by reputation and second-hand song exposure only; I'd read about his "Pogo Dancing" single with The Vibrators while perusing my cherished tabloid issues of Phonograph Record Magazine back in high school, and both The Flashcubes and The Most had included Spedding covers in some of their live sets. I think I knew that he'd worked with The Sex Pistols, and I may have heard the story of him turning down an opportunity to join The Rolling Stones. I did not know The Wombles. But I was disappointed that The Necessaries didn't include any of Spedding's material in their live set. After The Necessaries had finished, but before Chrissie Hynde took the stage to prove just how great her Pretenders were, I spotted Spedding having a drink alone at a table; discarding my usual shyness, I went over to chat with him briefly. I complimented the band's performance--they had been good, after all--but asked him if they ever did any of his stuff, like "Motorbikin'" or "Boogie City." "No," he replied politely, "this band is The Necessaries," and he stated there was no reason for them to ever do any of his solo material; he was just the guitarist. A missed opportunity, I say, but Spedding was charming and modest. He autographed a flyer for The Dead Ducks (the closest thing I could find for him to sign), and I thanked him. Still wished I coulda heard him do "Boogie City" though.

That's enough for today. We'll return eventually, with tales of opening sets by The Replacements, Sheila E, Exile, Wang Chung, Mary Lou Lord, and "Weird" Al Yankovic. Please take your seats. And let's hear it for our opening acts.

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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin' pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins' BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.

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