Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Career 1

January−March 1978


When I return from the Deep South in January 1978 after the Sex Pistols’ disastrous, but ultimately wonderful, US tour, the world has changed.

Sweet soul ‘77 has died and taken a piece of me with it. Nothing again in pop will prove to be as pretty and witty and wise as those tatty ‘77 showmen from the Clash to the Damned who could’ve danced all night (excuse the mixed musicals). Punk was the sunshine that gave pop an incurable melanoma.

Now everywhere you look there are passionless, prosaic, quasidodo bands, indiscreet and out of time. I’m a ‘77 boy looking for adventure. There’s some serious money to be made in music for shrewd brains sharpened by ‘77 steel and I want to have me some.

But, first, I have a piece of winter ‘78.


I duck out of the Pistols US tour in Memphis.

This is a rare one −  my entire trip is financed by Record Mirror  because the band’s  record company, Virgin, shrewdly didn’t offer any press trips, confident in the knowledge that every Fleet Street paper would send their boys over the top at their own expense to get all the hot Stateside Pistols poop.

The money is running out so I jump a plane to New York where CBS kindly agree to set me up for a week in a fine Manhattan hotel overlooking Central Park in return for a few features in Record Mirror.

Record labels foot all your bills, including room service and the mini bar, and then arrange a couple of interviews with some of their newer, juicier acts. They often fly you to another city in the US and pay for everything there as well. Coverage in the UK weekly music press is the holy grail because of the vast readerships involved. They carry a lot of clout and the staff writers are in the front line, hoovering up ligs and freebies and 24-carat trips. I’m anybody’s after a slap up-meal, a river of vintage red and a few lines of Charlie. Throw in a hotel suite in a big foreign city and you can tie me to the radiator for a gangbang.

Yep, you could say the music business has given me some tainted love.

So, first up, Blue Oyster Cult. Step inside, loves.

A car picks me up at the hotel for the ninety-mile drive to Poughkeepsie where the Cult are performing at the Mid Hudson Civic Center.

I don’t know much about them, but I do know they ain’t your average US hard rock band. There’s a certain whimsicality in their make-up coupled with a peek-a-boo intelligence. Their biggest hit, ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’, was a pussycat of a record when compared with the clenched fist mojo marathons of so many of their airhead contemporaries.

I’m intrigued, but not enough to look forward to the show. Punk has petrified my ears. Three minutes is enough for any pop song and punk is the real deal of the late seventies. The pedestrian pomposity of rock bands in leotards is obscene by comparison. I’ve learned to love my music in single shots; a rapid brainbust bursting with chaotic guitar and violent drums is infinitely more exciting than the contorted skulduggery of windswept rock played by a penis in blue jeans.

But tonight, the Cult napalm the place, then douse it with hosepipes, then napalm it again. But they do it all with a smile. A Blue Oyster Cult smile. A sly grin behind the amp, a snigger in the solo.

Okay, they're loud. But it's a smoochy, candlelit dinner blast. Wild, woolly and wonderful.

And then there's the lasers.

Razor sharp green beams carving elaborate patterns on walls, colliding with rotating crystal balls strategically suspended from the ceiling and cascading into the hypnotised audience like electric rain.

Lasers shooting out of the accusing finger of sinister Eric Bloom like the Green Lantern. Lasers like barbed wire where the shreds of a Donald Roeser guitar solo hang like ripped clothes. This is close- encounter ray-gun rock.

A Blue Oyster Cult concert cuts you open and bandages you up at the same time.

And then it happens.

The band actually, really, no jiving, the truth now, blow a fuse and all the lights and all the heat and all the can-openers go bang in Poughkeepsie, New York State, on Wednesday, 11 January 1978.

A smoke bomb has dissolved and the Cult had just begun to disseminate 'Born To Be Wild' when it happens. A fitting finale ’cos they'd pumped enough volts into that Civic Center on that icy cold night to blow the minds of an army of Frankensteins encased in ice.

‘In unenlightened days, a VD victim had to be bombarded with what was then referred to as 'Heavy Metal' drugs. Unfortunately they were so heavy that they turned the poor bastard’s gums blue. Then penicillin and all types of cunning device drugs came along and your gums didn't turn blue any more.’

The Cult are the blue behind the squeaky clean red. Your girlfriend will never know. How's your gums?

Blue Oyster Cult drummer Albert Bou­chard tells the blue story as he inhales the mindsteam, breathes out oh-so-slowly, and talks about his wife, life and the blues.

I like these guys although that could be something to do with the wonderful smoke I have in the back of a limo with BOC founder member Albert, en route to Manhattan after the gig. We talk for ninety miles and I can feel the smooth engine and soft leather. Life can’t possibly get any better than this. Can it?

I bid Albert and the chauffeur goodnight and watch the Cadillac head off towards Central Park. The floor is sticky with hard snow and my smoke-filled feet make heavy weather of it. But when the doorman smiles I feel fine and the walk to the elevator isn’t nearly so desperate.  The minute I open the door to my suite – yep, suite − I switch on the TV and fall into bed. Not only am I getting paid for doing this, I also get expenses.    

I pick up the phone, dial long distance – Islington – and amaze my mum with the six-hour time difference, the proliferation of TV channels, the size of my room, the snow, the food and the whores on 42nd Street. Then the old man gets on and I repeat it all to him. The bill will be astronomical. But, shit, it isn’t public money and CBS would have to pay a lot more for a double-page ad because that’s the space they were getting from me in a paper that sold 160,000 copies a week.

So, naturally, after I hang up on London I dial for a little TLC from my room-service man – steak sandwich, salad, fries and a bottle of red. I have a half-pack of Marlboro, twenty-five channels on the TV, snowflakes on my windowpane and a couple of joints. Who needs women at a time like this?

The next day in Room 5C on the thirteenth floor of the immense Black Rock CBS centre in a snow covered New York City, Cult keyboardist Allen Lanier sugar-sweet waits for me with a couple of glasses of red wine and an interesting selection of words.

‘People are always ready to come up to your expectations when they're dazzled,’ he says intellectually. ‘There's this great cathartic experience at rock shows – a very necessary ex­plosion of inner sensi­bility and feeling. A chance for the inherent anarchic senses to be released.

‘There's got to be some phenomenon that gets a big crowd together and then sends the whole lot of  ‘em raving. The kids smoke, drink, get wiped out and explode the pressures. Religion has its escapes too − like revisionist meetings.’

Lanier actually looks intelligent, which is sometimes difficult when you've got long hair, these days.

The Cult have just completed their most successful ever tour and are hitting Europe next month. Interest has been rejuvenated, thanks to their first hit single in six years, '(Don't Fear) The Reaper'.

Allen Lanier is a highly articulate man who likes to get drunk now and again. His lady also happens to be Patti Smith − but we can't all be perfect. Just kiddin', Allen.

‘The Sex Pistols won't make it here,’ he says. ‘For starters, no radio, they won’t get the airplays. Second, no hardships to play on. America is doing quite well thank you. We had the Vietnam war, we killed all the Indians. Hiroshima is our Dachau. We've had all that.

‘Rock ’n’ roll was all about a frustrated generation of kids hating their mothers and fathers and getting wrecked. But those revolutions have been won and it now reflects in the music − soft and radio playable.

‘The greatest rock ’n’ roll records I remember being raised on were flamboyant, youthful, energetic, yet with the expertise of old musi­cians. One of the weaknesses of punk rock is the fact that they don't have a Charlie Watts.

‘You don't understand the temptations you face in this business. You can have a lot of ideals − but they can vanish in a champagne and caviar onslaught.

‘I ain't a real extravagant guy − except in the sense that I spend all my money.’

Blue Oyster Cult play cruiserweight metal – it’s flightier than its heavier counterpart but still packs a seismic punch.

Another night in New York, another new fango dango. And all I have to do is interview some band called Meat Loaf the next day. Apparently no other UK journalist has met them. In fact, nobody knows much about Meat Loaf in January 1978… 


© Barry Cain 2013


No comments:

Post a Comment


About Me

My photo
London, United Kingdom
I'm your Flexifriend blogger for all your Flexipop! needs.....