Archive for the ‘Stevie Ray Vaughan’ Category

IMG_0154Thirty years ago this week, I was working full-time hours (or close to them) at my part-time job. Although I attended the Penn State mothership in State College, between semesters – and even a few weekends during the semesters themselves – I punched a literal time clock at the Abraham & Straus department store in the Willow Grove Mall in Willow Grove, Pa.

The big movies, this month, were Rocky IV, Spies Like Us, The Color Purple and Out of Africa. NBC’s Thursday-night lineup of The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court and Hill Street Blues ruled TV – though, for my part, I barely watched anything beyond the Flyers and Miami Vice while at school, and the latter was because a buddy watched it.

I’ve covered this same basic time frame in past Top 5s – Summer 1985, October 1985 and January/February 1986. It was, dare I say, a fun time in my life aside from one not-so-fun fact: I had a cold this week that was getting worse by the hour. The cold did not, however, keep me from my appointed rounds – I selected my Album of the Year, which was Lone Justice’s self-titled debut, as I did (and do) every year.

I also named a runner-up, which is something I rarely did at the time: the Long Ryders’ State of Our Union:

IMG_0155Anyway, this issue of Record features Bryan Adams on the cover; I didn’t care for his music then, and still don’t care for it now. What excited me the most: a Q&A with Jane Wiedlin, who talks about leaving the Go-Go’s and recording/releasing her solo debut, which came out in October.

Q: Did leaving afflict you with the usual fear and loathing?

A: It was complicated. There was this enormous sense of relief to be out of the horrible things that were happening, but at the same time there was this sense of throwing away years of work, a pretty good income and a certain amount of fame in one fell swoop.

1) Jane Wiedlin – “Blue Kiss.” In the back of the magazine, a review of her debut by one Chris Morris says: “She proves to be a sweet and spunky lead vocalist, and the record boasts a number of strong pop ballads which showcase her vulnerable side – “Blue Kiss,” “I Will Wait for You,” “My Traveling Heart.” The review concludes with: “While the production is occasionally overwrought and some of the song choices are improbable or strained (“Somebody’s Going to Get Into This House” and the awkward protest number “Goodbye Cruel World”), Jane Wiedlin is in the main a touching, perky and likable first bow.”

“Blue Kiss,” the lead single, is a sweet pop confection that, to my ears, sounds like a Go-Go’s outtake; all that’s missing is Belinda Carlisle singing lead. And, if Belinda had sung lead, I’d wager it would’ve made the Top 10 instead of stalling at No. 77.

IMG_01562) 10,000 Maniacs – “Scorpio Rising.” The major-label debut of 10,000 Maniacs, The Wishing Chair, is reviewed in this issue. Critic Ted Drozdowski writes: “10,000 Maniacs are crafty devils, stewing folk, bluegrass and art rock into a style that begs comparison with R.E.M. and Fairport Convention, but carries enough mutant genes to sound daring and original. These western-New York Staters write songs that are wistful, romantic, sometimes elegiac, soaring on fragile melodies and fortified by manic rips of Robert Buck’s guitar.”

3) Hall & Oates with David Ruffin & Eddie Kendricks – “The Way You Do the Things You Do/My Girl.” Philly blue-eyed soul meets Motown in this fun track from Hall & Oates’ Live at the Apollo album. The review by James Hunter isn’t super-kind: “The record hints that it’s about Hall and Oates’ connection to soul music, but it’s not. It’s about the best-selling pop duo in history, capable of looking so sharp one minute and utterly vacant the next, turning their live show into the sleekest possible disk. For hardcore fans only, minus the Temps.”

Like I’ve said elsewhere, I’ve never been much of a Hall & Oates fan – I like(d) some of their hits, but never enough to buy anything beyond their Rock ’n’ Soul, Vol. 1, collection. That said, you have to give them their due for sharing their love of Motown.

IMG_01684) Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Touble – “Change It.” Stevie Ray and Soul to Soul, his third album, receive a glowing tribute. “Stevie Ray Vaughan is about nothing but music, which sets Soul to Soul dramatically apart from its cohabitants on the 1985 album charts.” So says writer John Swenson, at any rate. The piece, which includes quotes from the blues guitarist, says this track “combines Vaughan’s best structural playing with the finest vocal he’s ever recorded, and Eric Clapton would undoubtedly be impressed by the way Stevie rewrites Freddie King on his solo.”

5) Marshall Crenshaw – “I’m Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee).” Ira Robbins (late of Trouser Press?) says of Crenshaw’s third album, Downtown, “Affecting, unaffected singing supported by sharp, spare rock backing and succinct production make this as fine a record as any he’s made, and the perfect antidote to the synthesized dance-pop so prevalent nowadays.” Perhaps. Perhaps not.


I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Moody Blues fan. Yet, on a late afternoon in the fall of 1983 – October 21st, to be exact – I found myself riding shotgun in a boxy Renault with a college pal heading to the Philadelphia Spectrum to see them. “Nights in White Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” “Questions” and whatever other of their songs played on WMMR and WYSP were the extent of my knowledge of their repertoire.

Oh, wait – and “Go Now,” their first hit. I knew that one, as Denny Laine sang it. And he, of course, sang it on Wings’ world tour in 1976, as documented on the 1977 Wings Over America triple-LP set and the 1980 Rockshow concert film.

But, after Laine left the band in ’66, they traded the blues for something a tad more airy. Some might call it progressive or “art” rock; I tend, these days, to call it dull. Back then, however, I liked what I’d heard on the radio, though not enough to buy anything by them – and given the rate that I bought music in those days, that’s a statement in an of itself.

In fact, I likely wouldn’t have shelled out the $12.50 for the ticket except for the opening act: bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan and his band Double Trouble. I’d yet to pick up their debut LP, Texas Flood, but it was on my list of things to get. (If I’d been aware of it, I may have skipped this concert and gone the night before to see them at Ripley’s on South Street.)

What I remember: Stevie Ray sauntering out to a half-filled house and, despite most folks paying him no mind, putting on a damn good show. It may seem bizarre that he was ignored given the lore that now surrounds him, but he wasn’t well known at the time; and, too, he was paired with a group that appealed to a very different audience. What I most remember: him playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” while sitting on the edge of the stage. At least, I think it was “Mary”; it may well have been one of the set’s other treats, such as “Pride and Joy” or…I’m not sure. My memory has blurred the non-“Mary” tunes into one long, mesmerizing guitar solo. (As Neil Young says, “It’s all one song!”)

Anyway, after he finished, the Spectrum filled with people, the lights dimmed and a roar of approval from the crowd filled the arena as the Moody Blues appeared on stage. Well, less a roar and more the simultaneous clicks of thousands of Bic lighters. By evening’s end, the secondhand marijuana smoke was so thick that everyone, whether or not they’d wanted to, had inhaled multiple times.

We were high in another sense, too, due to our second-level seats; the folks on the first level and floor looked like ants. What I most remember: those ants streaming toward the concourse whenever the band launched into a new song and then, just as it ended, streaming back.

The Moody Blues were a band trapped by time, in a sense. The audience consisted primarily of yuppies (and wannabe yuppies) reliving the carefree nights of their youth; fanatical followers who fawned over the band’s Mellotron-driven mysticism of yore; and young stoners yearning to trip through time to the group’s prime. Few, if any, cared about the new material. (That’s a fairly common phenomena faced by many veteran acts.)

Of course, it doesn’t help when the new material consists of things like “Blue World,” the lead single from their then-current LP, The Present. It’s far from the cosmic candy the group doled out in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, or even ’81, when they enjoyed some success with the Long Distance Voyager album.

Also in attendance: wide-eyed kids like me, taking it all in as if at a circus sideshow. And on that note, another memory: a yuppie (or wannabe) a few rows in front of us dozed near the set’s end. While “Nights in White Satin” boomed through the arena, his snores echoed through our section until his date/girlfriend/wife nudged him. He jolted upright, rubbed his eyes…and by song’s end was out again.

The final memory: the sound. Stevie Ray’s set was clear, but the Moody Blues’ was not. They became the Muddy Blahs. Their instruments blended together into one velvet-covered sludge (as opposed to sledge) hammer and, at times, the vocals were inaudible.

Yet, I enjoyed the show. Not the best concert, but not the worst. In my desktop calendar, I summarized up the night as thus: “Had a good time listening to the Blues’ made-for-mellowing-out music. Stevie Ray Vaughan opened and was electrifying.”