Monthly Archives: February 2012

I’ll meet you at the station

Monkees’ singer Davy Jones, who died of a heart attack at the age of 66 today, played Youngstown on June 9, 1976 at the Tomorrow Club as part of Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart. The group was made up of former Monkees Jones and Mickey Dolenz along with the original song writers of the ’60s hits Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. At this stage, the band (or what was left of it) was just beginning to dip its foot into the nostalgia pool. The full second Monkees explosion wouldn’t happen for a decade when the old ’60s TV show enjoyed huge ratings on MTV.

This concert tour was not totally about nostalgia though. Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart were supporting an album. It wasn’t well received by the public, but earned a smattering of critical praise.

WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: Here’s a clip of Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart performing the Monkees’ hit “Last Train To Clarksville” on TV in 1976.

 

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Chuck Berry at the Elms

Chuck Berry’s career was really picking up steam after he returned to Youngstown on September 16, 1955 for a show at the Elms Ballroom. In less than a month after the Copa Club show here, he was thrust on a bill which included the jazz greats the Buddy Johnson Orchestra and his sister Ella, doo-wopers The Nutmegs, Four Fellows, The Spaniels, jazz singer Arthur Prysock, R&B singer Al Savage and “The Queen of the Quiver and Shake” Queenie Owens.

Berry had just come off a seven day, 38-show run at Brooklyn’s Paramount Theater. The shows, promoted by Alan Freed, grossed $154,000 according to Variety. In the book “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” by Bruce Pegg, the shows were said to carry an attendance of about 80 percent white teens and 20-somethings. Right after that successful stint in Brooklyn, Berry was booked on a seven week tour of one-night gigs across the country. The Elms show was one of those.

An ad similar to this one caused the show set for Sept. 15 in Pittsburgh to be rearranged. The superintendent of the building where the concert was initially set to go off reacted in horror over the sexualized appearance of Queenie Owens in the ad. The local promoter switched the show to a much smaller venue (a movie theater) to avoid a total loss.

The Elms, built in 1922, was best known as a top venue during the Big Band era. It was located at 529 Elm St. on what is now the campus of Youngstown State University. The building was razed in 1965.

 

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Hello daddy, hello mom

Direct from Hollywood, California, Kim Fowley’s band of jailbait rock queens The Runaways opened their first national tour on July 18, 1976 at the Tomorrow Club. This was only the second gig the band had played outside of California (the other being one brief stop in Texas in Feb. 1976). This was the real deal, however, as the band was playing in support of its debut self-titled album released on June 1, 1976.

The band consisted of Cherie Currie (age 16) on vocals, Joan Jett (age 17) on vocals/guitar, Lita Ford (age 17) on lead guitar, Sandy West (age 17) on drums and Jackie Fox (age 16) on bass. Currie wrote extensively about her first show experiences on tour in her memoir Neon Angel, but this one is not mentioned. Instead Currie talks of a show at the Celebrity Theatre in Cleveland as being the first gig on the tour. That’s incorrect, though. The Runaways played the Cleveland Agora on July 19, 1976 (I’m not as familiar with Cleveland rock history, but I never heard of the Celebrity Theatre). Everything Currie writes in the link I provided above, could be about the Youngstown gig.

There’s probably a good chance she forgot or was just told Youngstown was in fact Cleveland. A 16-year-old on tour for the first time probably wasn’t too concerned with details nor were her handlers.

As for the setlist, it likely consisted of California Paradise, Cherry Bomb, Take It Or Leave It, Secrets, You Drive Me Wild, C’Mon, Blackmail, Wild Thing, Don’t Use Me, Rock and Roll, Is It Day or Night?, Johnny Guitar and Dead End Justice in that order.

This show would not be the band’s last here. The band would play dates in 1977 and 1978 at the Tomorrow Club as well.

WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: WMMS recorded the next night’s show in Cleveland. Just Google it. There are lots of places to download it. It’s worth it. Here’s a peak of the show closer “Dead End Justice”. Allegedly it included some theatrics during the song (bullets and blood), but no film or video footage of it exists.

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Canceled because of coal strike

On March 10, 1978, the band America, famous for hits such as “A Horse With No Name” and “Sister Golden Hair”,  was supposed to play a set at the Beeghly Center, but the Bituminous Coal Strike got in the way. The strike did end on March 19 after 110 days.

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Let There Be Rock

Although AC/DC formed in 1974, it took three years before the band got around to touring the United States. In the summer of 1977, the band hit the club and theater circuit here in support of the Let There Be Rock album. Let There Be Rock was the first of the band’s albums to be made available for purchase in the United States. Several Australian-only releases (High Voltage, TNT and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap) preceded this one, yet the band was not playing a lot of the songs that would later become concert staples (most notably “Dirty Deeds” and “TNT”) on this tour.

The stop in Youngstown on August, 21, 1977 at the Tomorrow Club was the 18th date on the summer tour. The CBGB’s house band from 1975 to ’77 Mink Deville was actually given top billing in the ads that ran in the Vindicator in the days before the show.

AC/DC, made up of Bon Scott, Angus Young, Malcolm Young Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams, probably played a very brief set which included the songs “Live Wire”, “She’s Got Balls”, “Problem Child”, “The Jack”, “High Voltage”, “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “Rocker”.

AC/DC would graduate to playing arenas the next year and would release three more albums with Bon Scott on vocals before his death on February 19, 1980.

WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: The very next day, WMMS recorded the concert at the Cleveland Agora. It was later released as the bootleg Burning Balls.

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Tomorrow Club list of shows 1974

Below is a link to Tomorrow Club shows from 1974. There were some gaps in the Vindicator record, but it seems pretty complete due to it being only open for roughly two months during that year. Big acts appearing in that time frame include: Bob Seger, KISS, Ted Nugent, Parliament Funkadelic and the Michael Stanley Band.

List of Tomorrow Club shows and events from 1974

 

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Beautiful dolls

It was the end of the line for the band known as the New York Dolls when they limped into Youngstown for a show on June 6, 1976 at the Tomorrow Club. Having had a promising start to a career just a few years before, the band collapsed in 1975 due to drugs, internal conflicts and mismanagement by the late Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren.

On the ticket and in ads for the show, the band is referred to as the New York Dolls. In reality, original singer David Johansen and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain were calling the band The Dolls by that point. It made sense too. The punky swagger that former lead guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan brought to the band was absent in the new version of the band. The band, made up of Johansen, Sylvain, Pete Jordan on bass, Bobby Blaine on keyboards and Tony Machine on drums, probably played no songs off the first two classic New York Dolls studio albums. I could not locate a setlist for this show, but a show the next day in Cleveland was mainly made up of stuff that would grace Johansen’s 1978 solo debut album.

Johansen and Sylvain would return to Youngstown to play with the New York Dolls 35 years later when the group opened for Motley Crue and Poison on July 29, 2011 at the Covelli Centre. The group did play its well known hits that time, but it was not with the personnel which made for the outstanding run of reunion shows from 2004 to 2010. Notably missing that time were lead guitarist Steve Conte and bassist Sami Yaffa. They were replaced by the much older Earl Slick and Kenny Aaronson for the Poison/Crue tour.

WHAT DID THE SHOW SOUND LIKE: There’s not much recorded material available from this version of the Dolls, but there is a decent bootleg of the band from a May 21, 1976 show in NYC on Youtube.

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Heart full of napalm

This is the front of a T-shirt sold at that show.

In light of the news of MC5 bassist Michael Davis dying at the age of 68 on Friday, I couldn’t help recall the time MC5 guitar player Wayne Kramer showed up to play a gig at Cedar’s Lounge on Sept. 16, 1999.

By this time in his career, Kramer was on the straight and narrow after having battled through years of drug problems and tussles with the law. He did three studio albums for Epitaph Records from 1994 to 1997 and was supporting a live album for the label when he played Cedar’s. On that night, his backing band was the excellent Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs out of San Francisco.

I remember the Cheetahs played a set without Wayne first and received a fairly enthusiastic response. They took a break and Kramer, in his early 50s at this point in his life, sauntered on stage a few minutes later clad head-to-toe in this blue denim get-up. Every one in the joint was immediately drawn to his legendary presence and he took control of the room without much trouble.

A particular highlight for me was his version of the MC5 classic “Rocket Reducer No. 62”. He had the usually jaded patrons up on their feet joining into the various sing-a-long parts (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa) to this song. It was a much different dynamic than what was heard on the Kick Out The Jams album and if you closed your eyes you could probably imagine what it was like at the Detroit Grande Ballroom back in ’68.

In 2004, Kramer reunited with the remaining members of the MC5 (Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson and Michael Davis) for a tour. I saw that reformed band play in Cleveland, but it was not as good as the show Kramer put on in Youngstown. I think a lot of had to do with the presence of the Cheetahs. Those dudes knew their role and were committed to harnessing the powerful sound of that era the best they could. It also helped that they were young and willing to push Kramer to his limits.

This is the back of the T-shirt sold at that show.

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Tomorrow Club list of shows 1976

Below is a link to a list of 1976 shows at the Tomorrow Club. The list is rather extensive, but not complete. It was compiled by using information from advertisements in the Vindicator. More annual lists of shows at the Tomorrow Club will follow in the future.

Tomorrow Club shows from 1976

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Picture’s only begun

On October 27, 1974, KISS rolled into town five days after releasing the Hotter Than Hell album. The band – comprised of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley – was on the seventh date of its 55-date tour to support that album. The venue was the old State Theatre on Federal Plaza. By this juncture, the old movie theater was roughly four years removed from its life as a cinema. Renovated and renamed the Tomorrow Club, the theater would showcase some of the best acts from rock, jazz and country for the next decade.

KISS was one of the first major acts to be booked there. According to an ad in The Jambar on Oct. 22, 1974, the first preview show at the venue was October 20 with Focus and Gentile Giant. Golden Earring and L.A.W. played on Oct. 23. In the Vindicator ad in the week to the run-up of the show, the Michael Stanley Band is listed as playing on Friday. A children’s Halloween show follows on Saturday with KISS and opening act Cannonball on Sunday. The Duke Ellington Orchestra is listed as playing the Grand Opening of the Tomorrow Club on Nov. 1, 1974.

KISS was not the band of cartoonish, kid-friendly comic book stars at that point in 1974. The band played with a darker edge and centered its song-writing around the seedier side of life in New York City. The stage show was evolving as more pyrotechnics were added and stage tricks perfected. The setlist was likely composed of: Deuce, Nothin’ to Lose, She, Firehouse, Strutter, 100,000 Years, Let Me Go, Rock and Roll, Cold Gin, Let Me Know, Got to Choose, Watchin’ You and Black Diamond.

WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: An excellent soundboard recording of an East Lansing, Michigan show on Oct. 21, 1974 is as close as you’re going to get.

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