Monday, April 20, 2009

A Great Photo From My High School Friend Caleb Fischer and Some Memories about Rock and War

Caleb took this great photo (left) and I stole it from his Facebook page. Adam Wolf, Caleb Fischer and I all went to see KISS at the Springfield (MA) Civic Center in 1978. The ALIVE II tour. Adam and I, in the months before the concert, debated the relative merits of Ace Frehley's vs. Jimmy Page's guitar skills. Adam played me the solo in "I Stole Your Love" as his proof. I played him the exquisite introduction to the studio version of "The Song Remains The Same" and rested my case. I tried to hear it. To get excited about a KISS concert. I was skeptical. I was in 9th grade and I smelled bullshit with KISS. They looked fucking great and dangerous, like they would make the best rock you'd ever heard, but I didn't feel that thing kick in on KISS "Alive"or "ALIVE II" that happened when I listened to The Who "Live at Leeds."
This album is still the standard for me. Skip the reissue with the full concert. Find the original on vinyl with all the inserts intact. Especially the iconic black and white Maximum R&B Marquee poster, folded in quarters. This is the only poster that has remained relevant in my musical decor through every period of my life. Only now am I remembering the amazing photo of Pete Townshend in the air in his white painters overalls with what looked like the entire population of the world in the audience and the early 8x10 glossy promo shot of the band looking very serious. Yet teenage. Rock businesmannish boys. Plus all the official paperwork for the business of rock; an incredible glimpse behind the scenes...a bill for smashed equipment among the most memorable documents. Here is a link to all the inserts. "Live at Leeds" was a spoof of a bootleg album. Bootlegs were a recent development. 1970. In the days before the internet, or even CDs, the notion of any music beyond the official releases was unheard of. Unimaginably desirable and unattainable; in the days before the word "download" would destroy the magic of record shopping and tape trading, ironically by making everything everyone wanted instantly available.

There was The Rolling Stones 1969 boot that you had to ask for from behind the counter. It was in a white sleeve with a blue stamp that said "LIVEr Than You'll Ever Be." It blew the official live album "Get Yer Ya Ya's Out" AWAY. It implied that albums were just the tip of the iceberg of rock. I think Rolling Stone magazine made the renegade decision to actually review "LIVEr" the days when it was still an "underground" paper on newsprint. Of course it would be subversive and review the boot. Total cred assurance and an insolent pffffft at the stars. My dad had this record. He gave it to me. I lost it in "the fire." There was also "Wooden Nickle" (a great name for an illicit product) from a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young concert. Also a Dylan one...I think it was called "The Great White Hope." Led Zeppelin "Live on Blueberry Hill," a gorgeous document of the band just prior to the release of Zep III.

These bootlegs were often of negligible audio quality but were incredible as voyeuristic documents of these sacred rituals called rock concerts that pre-teen kids like me could only dream of. At that age, I didn't think of rock concerts as gathering of kids. They were a society of cool adults. Like my dad's college students. The people who knew the truth and smoked pot. They made me want to smoke pot as soon as I could get away with it. The whole scene, as I imagined it, was the more authentic version of society that existed behind the one associated with the man, the word "NIXON," and the version that made me feel proud that my parents had a McGovern sticker on the van, even though I didn't know it was a man's name. I thought it was a snide inside stab at the squares. A combination of Ronald McDonald's frivolity and the anti-cool force that was government. I realized it was a man, a candidate, running against Nixon, when I witnessed an argument between my dad and my uncle who was home from Vietnam for Christmas. We had a "peace tree" in addition to the regular tree. It was decorated with white doves and white lace. My uncle had issues with it. He needed to believe that he was doing something meaningful and saw the tree as anti-war, even though it was his sister's idea. My mom. He and my dad argued about the 1972 campaign. Things don't change much do they? I recall asking my uncle matter of factly if he was going to be killed like the soldiers on TV.

I finally did smoke pot in 1977 with Craig Sandler. The Kiss show would follow in 1978. It was my first concert, not counting Iron Butterfly at 6 years old which I don't recall and David Bromberg which I slept through at 11. After worshiping the KISS ticket every morning and night, a pink background with actual embossed glitter on the raised letters- KISS- with the those jagged NAZI S's, the day of the KISS concert finally arrived.Yeah, I got baked beforehand. And the show was life-changing. But Caleb was almost trampled to death.

To be continued.
Above is a photo from the KISS tour we saw. Gene tripped over his dragon boots coming on stage and two roadies had to pick him up, well before Spinal Tap came out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Actual Embossed Glitter" = great band name.