News & Rambles
The Ramones did it better than anybody, except for the The Beach Boys. The Velvet Underground were pretty good too.
“There is no such thing as an old film.”
Period. End of story.
“Every time I walk on stage I’m dying seven deaths backstage of fear and self-doubt and I’m not worthiness that you can never imagine. All of us do that. The making of you is if you can endure that and still go out and face the music.”
Via the ever-so-awesome Punk documentary on epix.
Dateline: Portland, Oregon. May 30th, 1995.
I’m twenty-three years old – just a few months shy of twenty-four – and spending the evening inside La Luna, an all-ages club in Portland, Oregon. La Luna used to be RKCNDY, which used to be the Pine Street Theater, and on and on. Same building, different times. It’s a coffee house now, apparently.
At any rate, I’m decked out in my thrift store finest, thinking I’m looking pretty sharp and doing my best to look cool for any available ladies out there.
(Cue the needle scratch.)
Have you spotted the problem with this scenario yet? If so you’re about a decade ahead of me. Bravo.
I was trying to look cool.
At a They Might Be Giants show.
Heavens to Betsy. I was such a clueless prat back then. A totally misguided putz. Wrong time. Wrong band. Just plain wrong.
But fear not dear reader, I was about to get my comeuppance. The cosmic controllers of my fate were feeling particularly frisky that evening.
A dose of humility was soon on its way.
One minute I’m watching the show from the back of the crowd, happily buzzed on cheap beer and feeling rather pleased with myself for my working knowledge of the They Might Be Giants catalog.
The next I was slithering past the front of the stage, the unlikely, but not entirely unwilling, participant in a conga line several hundred strong.
Let me tell you something friends, a conga line of any size is enough to knock the cool out of Arthur Fonzarelli; the greater the line, the greater its magnitude. Its cool-deflating powers are increased exponentially. It was biblical.
And, as much as I hate to admit it, it was pretty awesome.
To the fates, to They Might Be Giants. Thank you. I needed that.
Dateline: Anchorage, Alaska. December 5th, 1984.
I’m thirteen years old, a little high, and Ronnie James Dio is laughing at me.
To be clear, this was not an adolescent vision ala The Pick of Destiny. Nor was it an adverse reaction to high-grade Matanuska Thunderfuck.
Both of those options would have been great actually.
No, it was the real deal. Ronnie James Dio – freshly excommunicated from Black Sabbath, devil horns and all – standing not more than six feet away, openly laughing.
Oh, the indignities.
A little backstory may be in order. I grew up in Anchorage, which was something of a cultural black hole at the time. A Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic wasteland, only with snow and a less interesting soundtrack. In the eighties live music in our town began and ended with Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy came to town with enough regularity that seeing him live became something of a rite of passage for all Alaskans, regardless of musical persuasion. (I would pop my Ozzy cherry some eight years later in ’92.)
Sure, there were cover bands and the occasional garage band playing originals, but that was about it. Every once in a great while Anchorage would get a headliner. Ted Nugent was known to play a show here or there closely timed with hunting season. KISS came up in ’73, but as I was two years old at the time, I regretfully had to pass. I’ve heard Blue Oyster Cult played a high school in town once upon a time. The Scorpions came up once, as did Judas Priest.
Sensing a theme here? Anchorage was, and will likely always remain, a metal town.
Not that punk was fairing much better. Someone convinced Suicidal Tendencies to play a show once and I’ve read that D.O.A. made an appearance sometime in ’85. Unfortunately, my punk rock awakening would come a year or two too late to have seen them.
Nowadays the cultural waters flow a bit more freely in Alaska, or at least that’s what I’ve been told by friends still living there. But back in the day, it was the mother of all dry spells.
With that in mind, the chance to see Dio and, to a lesser extent, the opening act, Dokken, live in concert was pretty damn special, even if the bands themselves weren’t all that special to me at the time.
Every stoner, rock and roller, and freakshow from Homer to Fairbanks was going to be there. And, as a budding rock and roll stoner freak, I desperately wanted a piece of the action.
Fortunately, I had an in.
My older brother was going to the show. If I could just convince my mother to let me tag along with him, I was golden. But it was going to be a challenge. My mother was convinced that anything with an amplifier was the work of the devil and I would always remain a wide-eyed seven year old in her eyes.
I begged. I pleaded. I even tried reason.
Somehow it worked. I was going to the show.
I didn’t have that much of a clue about either band to be honest with you. Back then my musical waters filled thimbles rather than vast inland seas. At thirteen years of age the sum total of my knowledge of Ronnie James Dio was Rainbow in the Dark. (It would be many, many years later before I had the Black Sabbath timeline down pat.) As for Dokken, I’d heard Breaking the Chains on the radio, but that was about it.
Still, I there I was, all baby fat and pimples and greasy long hair. I was naïve as all get out, but I was ready to rawk.
The show was memorable for three reasons. As I mentioned before, it was my first concert, a pretty big deal in a young person’s life.
Secondly, I managed to set a guy’s hair on fire. At thirteen I hadn’t quite mastered the fine art of waving a lighter in the air during power ballads and flicked my Bic a little too close to some dude’s mullet. In my defense this was the eighties, the decade of big rocker hair lifted to soaring heights with copious amounts of flammable hairspray. I don’t believe I was entirely at fault here.
As a side note, I did learn that small people can easily and quickly disappear into a crowd of big people when necessary.
The third reason is, of course, Ronnie James Dio laughing at me. Again, the subtleties of proper concert etiquette were lost on me and I may have taken the whole bang your head anthem of the early eighties perhaps a little too literally. I managed to hook up with some of my fellow junior high boneheads and against all odds we managed make it to the front of the stage, where we proceeded to bang our heads against the barrier. With enthusiasm. And impact. Sad little thumps. Sadder little brain cells saying au revoir. We thought were hot shit. That is until I looked up and saw Ronnie James Dio glance over, see us awkwardly rocking out like the morons we were, and start laughing mid-song. He didn’t laugh hard enough to mess up the song mind you, the man was a professional. But there was a distinct shit-eating grin along with a few good shakes.
Good times. Good times.
I soon left the life of a budding metalhead for the more damaged life of punk rock enthusiast. I’m still a punk at heart, as much of a punk as one can be at 47 with a house full of kids. I’ve earned my stains – both literal and figurative. But I’ve always maintained an appreciation for eighties rock. As I get older my appreciation for Sabbath – both the Ozzy years and Dio years – grows exponentially. Heaven and Hell? Don’t even get me started. And Rainbow in the Dark will forever be one kick ass song. That opening. That glorious opening.
In hindsight I could’ve done a lot worse than Ronnie James Dio for my first live concert experience. Given the musical climate at the time, a lot worse. Thanks for the memories RJD.
I managed to find the setlist for the show online.
Dio (w/opening act Dokken) Sullivan Arean 12/05/1984
Stand Up and Shout
One Night in the City
Don’t Talk to Strangers
Egypt (The Chains Are On)
Heaven and Hell
The Last in Line
(followed by “Heaven and Hell” reprise)
Rainbow in the Dark
Man on the Silver Mountain / Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
The Mob Rules
The guitarist, not the politician.
“There’s a philosopher who says, As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos, and random events, non-related events, smashing into each other and causing this situation, and then … then this happens, and it’s overwhelming, and it just looks like … what in the world is going on? And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel. But at the time, it don’t.”
“Dear world, please stop killing off all my favorite people.”
“Dear world, please advise my remaining favorite people to – you know – keep it in their pants.”
I think it’s not particularly necessary to lead a religious life. People progress just as well in music, or art, or math or science or gardening or whatever. It all seems to work as well and the process is good. – Jim Henson