Wednesday 29 January 2014

November 1978

The highway's jammed with broken heroes

After the show at the Capital Centre in Maryland, Bruce Springsteen walks into the room backstage with a towel draped over his shoulders, like a boxer who’s just gone the full nine yards. He looks different. His hair has been slicked back and it makes him seem leaner but not meaner.

This feels like a great honour.

He’s extremely polite and has an almost childlike demeanour. He’s genuinely surprised that he’s popular in Britain.

‘I try to do as much as possible,’ he says, of the gruelling nationwide marathon tour. ‘The kids want to hear Born To Run so I sing it. I’ve got some new numbers so I sing them.

‘We originally started off with a two-hour set. But when the tour got under way, we found it impossible to restrict it to that. It’s hard for me to leave anything out. So now I play as long as it feels right. Some nights it’s too long and others it ain’t long enough. Tonight was one night they were about ready for a double dose!

‘I guess most of the songs are pretty durable -- at least, from the reaction they still get, they seem to be.’

Darkness On The Edge of Town is a lot bleaker musically and the trademark cinematic lyrics make way for blue-collar blues.

‘It’s been a real progression,’ he says, in mellifluous five-o’clock-shadow New Jersey tones. ‘The characters on Born To Run and Darkness could be the same people in the same town only years down the line. You can see the difference. It’s, like, older. Some people have called it a depressing album. That’s untrue. It’s just that when you have one successful album people tend to expect the same format for the next one.’

Ah, now seems like the appropriate time to probe. I wonder if his work is autobiographical.



‘Oh, sure, some of the characters on a track like Rosalita are people I’ve come across in my life. But my songs are fantasies. Should a song reflect imagery or the performer? You can’t get away from the fact that you’re making the statements -- but then again, is it the song that does that? There comes a point where the song becomes more and more like a movie. And when that happens you cease to become its creator and assume the role of director. You have to be so many different characters and it’s better to let them have lives of their own.

‘My songs have a kinda drive-in quality about them. They may be about factories, they may be about something else. I’m just there, quietly directing.’

So all those songs about crazy gangs in city streets and fights and drinking – you never lived any of that?

‘Not really. I was always pretty much on my own. I didn’t hang out with a crowd or anything. See, ever since I was fourteen I was playing. Clubs, YMCAs, high-school dances, you name it. As a result I felt okay playing to people but not actually being with them.

‘And I’m still like that. I am by myself. If there’s one other person around, well, that’s okay. You tend to find that attitude in most rock ’n’ roll musicians.’

Never in a gang. Wow, and I’d always thought this was one hell of a heavy dude. Er, how about the drinking, then, Bruce?

‘I haven’t taken a drink in around two years.’


‘I guess I don’t really have the time. I never did drink much. Oh, there was one time. For a while I used to hang out with this really big guy -- I mean really big, y’know. And together we’d head out to the bars. I was under age but nobody guessed or cared. We’d really shake those bars down. I had a great time with this big guy. But then I never saw him again.

‘I had time on my hands. Now, I suppose if I wanted to get drunk I’d go to a bar on my own. But I wouldn’t want anybody else to see.’

And what about those early sexual − uh – travels?

‘I was fourteen when I first made love. And when I’d done it I didn’t know if I’d done it or not!’ He starts to laugh, all shy and secretive. Well, at least he’s done something he can sing about.

Funny how preconceived notions get their noses rubbed in the dirt. No matter. This guy could never be a letdown. For starters he’s too sincere and, besides, somebody with a show like he’s got could give an interview with a mouth full of marbles and still gain my respect.

The Asbury Park apparition found himself alone in the rundown seaside resort when his parents upped and headed west to California.

‘I was around eighteen at the time and still at high school. I decided I didn’t want to go with them. I had a local reputation as a musician and I didn’t intend losing that. I tried to live there for a very short time but I soon found out the place held nothing for me. Musically I preferred what was going down in New Jersey. I didn’t need a job to get by ’cos I could make enough money playing in the clubs.’

Jon Landau wanders in. He looks a little perplexed. The wrinkles in his brow suggest it’s time for us to head back to the hotel.

The moment Bruce emerges into the chilly night hundreds of kids who’ve been waiting patiently for a glimpse go berserk. ‘Give me a kiss, baby -- sign this, pleasepleaseplease?’

‘I’ll always love you, Bruce. Ain’t he just so damned cute?’’

He signs everything flashed in front of him. And that smile’s not false. He loves it.

We climb on the luxury tour bus that boasts a colour TV, sofas, beds and built-in stereo and head for the hotel. ‘Hey, ain’t it just amazing?’ he says. ‘I came out on this tour ’cos I wanted to enjoy myself again. I never dreamed it would turn out like this. I’ve done eighty-eight shows, we’ve got thirty-three more to do, and everywhere the reaction is the same. You get the young kids from the suburbs and they’re such a great audience. It’s funny . . . At the start the girls would jump on stage, then, after realising what they’d done, just stand there and freeze. But now they’re getting used to it − and so are their tongues!

‘I like running among the audience while I’m playing, and the other night I thought I’d take a little trip up into the balcony. But as I got in the foyer about ten fifteen-year-old girls hit me. They just grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. I guess they’re more demonstrative at that age. They even come around to my house and wait for hours outside. I got a kid sister back in San Francisco and when she tells her friends who her brother is they go wild. Ain’t it just amazing?’

Bruce still lives in Asbury Park. ‘It’s still the same as it always was. If you got enough gas in your car you carry on to Atlantic City. If not, then Asbury will just have to do. But it’ll always be my home. I like Arizona and Holland. London’s pretty cool too. My first show at Hammersmith three years ago was tough but the second one was great. I guess I’ll never leave Asbury, though . . .’

During the long encores at every show, Bruce asks for the houselights to be turned on, and they stay on till the end while he goes through his usual rock ’n’ roll medley fare. ‘When you see all the people, everybody, right up to the back, it’s such a great feeling.

‘It’s their night. You may get sore, you may get hoarse, but when you see all those kids out there it’s like the first show all over again. They may not have seen you before and they may not see you again, so you’ve always got to make it something real special. If you think like that every time you walk on stage you’ve got it made.’

And, boy, has this guy got it made.

Jon tells everybody to look out of the windows.

‘Willya take a look at that?’ shouts Bruce. The coach is being escorted back to the hotel by a convoy of cars stretching as far as the eye can see. And each car is stuffed full of screaming kids screeching horns, singing Springsteen songs and, of course, chanting, ‘Broooce, Broooce, Broooce.’

‘Wow, that’s never happened before,’ says Bruce.

But it's gonna happen again. And again. And leave us running burned and blind chasing something in the night. . .

I start chasing something in the night when I return to London. Tim and I check out an office in Mount Pleasant. We’re weeks away from unveiling the Farringdon Agency.
Next: Devo in Liverpool

Adapted from the book Tell Me When by Barry Cain
© Barry Cain 2013

Check out Barry’s new novel, Wet Dreams Dry Lives:


www.wetdreamsdrylives.com www.facebook.com/wetdreamsdrylives

Monday 27 January 2014

November 1978
Broooced and battered

Photographer Chris Gabrin and I are invited to the CBS offices in Manhattan by executive Perri Chasin to watch a video of Bruce Springsteen in concert, singing ‘Rosalita’. I’ve loved him with a passion since first hearing the Born To Run album. This guy was serious shit.

‘Would you like to see him play?’ asks Perri.

Would I like to live for ever?

‘We’re flying you and Chris down to Washington tonight to catch the show in Maryland,’ says Perri, ‘and we’re trying to arrange an interview, but it’s proving to be a little difficult. See what you guys can do when you get there.’

We can do a lot as it turns out.

Christ it’s hot in here.

The guy behind me is pawing my neck with his heavy on the onions hot dog breath. The fulsome closed circuit system above my head revels in zoom-a-loom close-ups. You can almost see the microbes getting it on in each sweat droplet racing down Bruce’s face.

It's a 15,000 humanwatt heat, fulminating on stage, unleashing microwaves that permeate the cavernous Capitol Center in Largo, leaving the snow covered outside untouched but burning the shit outta them pumping organs grinding away inside.

A smile has been super glued on each and every face. No matter how hard you try it won't peel off. You're stuck with it for three hours. Then you realise there's something wrong with your legs. You know you should sit down because the stewards keep telling you, but they won't respond. It's a three hour clockwork wind up and if you force them they'll snap.

Your eyes refuse to leave his face. The lids won't close because you'll miss something if they do. You're waiting, just waiting to respond. The song climbs to its climax. You're straining to shout. Not yet. Not yet...

"I am a prisoner of rock 'n' roll," he screams.


A Springsteen show is a joyous celebration of rock ’n’ roll the way it should always be played, with huge dollops of elation and passion. Its extravagant length is the fulcrum, its black magic secret the E Street Band, especially saxophonist Clem Clemons, a veritable Empire State of a man dressed in one those fer-lashie white pimp-pusher suits found in Dirty Harry movies.

But when he pumps up that sultry sax swing, it's like you've caught a glimpse of heaven.

The songs mean so much more when you see them performed live. Like you've spent all your life with only one eye and they've just given you another for Christmas wrapped up in starry paper. If they told me I was dying, I'd spend the rest of my life watching Bruce Springsteen.

Thirty minutes after the fourth and obviously final encore hardly anyone has left. That Pythonesque sheep shearing Christian name chant continues long after the show has finished, ‘Broooce Broooce, Broooce,’ and even an announcement over the tannoy that there will be no further encores fails to quieten them.

I’m hanging out with the ‘Broooce’ brigade on the off-chance of grabbing an interview, though it looks a pretty remote possibility. I’d be surprised if the man is still standing, such was the intensity of his performance.

Fourteen-year-old girls queue up at the backstage door armed with photos of their idol and handkerchiefs soaked with tears.

It seems strange that a twenty-nine-year-old New Jersey urban cowboy who talks of love and death and streets of fire should attract the hordes who’ve been playing Andy Gibb records at home before the show.

But it’s the kids who Bruce sings about. It’s their town that rips the bones from their backs, their town that’s a death trap. When he pleads, ‘Get out while you’re young,’ you know he really means it. Suddenly Chris grabs my arm. ‘I think we’re in.’

I follow him to a backstage door, which a mean-looking dude lets us pass through. Chris is one helluva blagger. Three floors up we’re led into a room. We sit down and I frantically write down some questions as we wait for the man to appear…

Next: The interview

Adapted from the book Tell Me When by Barry Cain
© Barry Cain 2013

Check out Barry’s new novel, Wet Dreams Dry Lives:




Saturday 18 January 2014

November 1978
Guys & Dolls

In a bar on 42nd Street I bump into ex-New York Doll David Johansen and assure him I don’t want to talk about the New York Dolls because, let’s face it, the New York Dolls are dead. Kaput. And what’s the use of reminiscing? What’s the point of checking out that whole sordid, Biba-stained past?  
I mean, who wants to remember all that?

I’m sure the geezer serving cold beers in this bar the size of a high-street barber’s couldn’t give a toss. In fact, he I’m sure he couldn’t give a toss about anything, the way he bangs the bottles on the counter.

I’m sure David Johansen doesn’t care that much either. Just because he happened to front the band don’t mean to say his needle nose is stuck in some gluey groove revolving on a time warp turntable. He’s got a band of his own now anyway. This lonely-planet boy is back to the front.

David has a squashed face but it’s a subtle kind of squashiness, like blancmange. This naturally makes him all the more interesting because every time he opens his mouth you expect his cheeks to wobble. They don’t, of course. Not even a raspberry ripple. Funny how some people make you think of food. I see Johnny Rotten and pilchards spring to mind. Bob Geldof brings visions of meat pies, Kate Bush gherkins, Freddie Mercury walnuts, Elvis Costello peas.

With David Johansen it’s definitely blancmange. I guess that’s what makes him attractive to sweet-toothed women.

He’s often likened to Jagger, but in fact he’s better-looking. Jagger is like a half-eaten jaded jelly. Johansen is pristine blancmange.

‘I’m an unassuming, rambling kind of guy.’ He smiles. ‘I went to high school in Staten Island.’

Seeing how this guy never says ‘er’ or ‘y’know’ or ‘yeah’ but proceeds with a perfect line in spiel, I’m going to take a short break while he, with the aid of untipped cigarettes and an endless stream of Carlsberg, tells a bewitching tale.

See you in a wee while …

‘We lived in a residential area, rather like a part of London, on the Island. There were six of us. My father used to sing Gilbert and Sullivan stuff when he was young before joining the air corps and going off to war. We lived in a real working-class neighbourhood. I remember eating tuna fish a lot, sleeping in a warm place and selling Kool-Aid on the street when I was about six. In those places the most you can hope for is a nice jacket, two or three pairs of pants, a pair of shoes and a job in a grocery store earning fifty bucks a week. There’s a good community spirit.

‘All the guys used to hang out in gangs. My gang consisted of the nuttiest guys around and all the other gangs used to like us because we were so crazy. I never used to fight much; it wasn’t my scene. But I did hang out with one bunch whose warlord used to beat up three guys at a time in a rumble and throw them over his head.

‘I used to listen to Bob Dylan and when I was fourteen I joined a band playing school dates. Sometimes, just for a laugh, we’d throw a musician in because we were pretty bad. I also had this mad girlfriend and we used to write poems to each other.

‘School dragged on. I still get this recurring dream. I’m sitting, breathless, in my old classroom. That’s all it is but it’s a fucking nightmare. See, I used to set the alarm every morning for eight thirty, get up, take a shower at eight thirty-two, dress, shake my hair, dash out, catch the bus, travel the two miles to school and arrive at eight forty-four. 1 got everything down to a fine art so I could sleep till the last minute.

‘But as I got older I just couldn’t get up and my mother would come home around eleven thirty a.m. and I’d still be in bed. I’d just wander round Greenwich Village. School didn’t seem important.

‘Around this time me and another guy used to play acoustics and harmonicas for the Madras crowd. Those guys had check shirts and desert boots and used to hang out at ice-cream parlours. My pals used to find out where we were playing and come around to beat up the Madras mob ’cos they were pretty namby-pamby. They also used to beat up the New Jersey guys who trespassed on Staten Island territory, drinking pints of Tango and pop wines.

‘I was working at a supermarket as a cashier making fifty bucks a week, which was cool. I gave my mother twenty and spent the rest on clothes − T-shirts, black leather jackets and roamers, which were boots that came up to the ankle and made to last for no more than two months. All the girls used to dye their hair black too.

‘Then I moved to the city and joined Fast Eddie and the Electric Japs. We won a battle-of-the-bands contest cos we had a Puerto Rican drummer and a black bassist. The night we won I knew I wanted to be a star. I walked on stage and started singing. Then I closed my eyes ’cos I thought they were going to kill us. But they cheered . . .

‘People said we were the best band around −but that’s ’cos we were the worst. We were entertaining. Bands, that time, made everything look so boring, taking everything so seriously. We stood out because of our conspicuous consumption. Then the New York Dolls. Right?’

Whoops. I’m back.

‘Our lifestyles in the Dolls didn’t radically alter − we always used to stay up all night before we were in the band. I think one of the main things we achieved was to get a lot of record companies interested in bands they would never even have considered before.’

After the band disintegrated − an appropriate word − David was not interested in making any records. ‘I just wanted to sit around and dig myself for awhile.’

It was while he was digging himself he met drummer Frankie LaRocka on the Staten Island ferry and the David Johansen band was born.

He smiles incessantly, like the Joker. He’s a professional raconteur gently unfolding stories that tell you more about the city than the man.

‘This is my life − it doesn’t really change. I’m happy with this band and confident about the future.’

But will it ever attract mass interest?

‘Who knows? But I know one thing − I’d rather be popular in New York, the Shanghai of the States, than anywhere else in this country. This place has more of a creative spirit, streets ahead of any other town.

‘These days, if you’re the hottest band around you have to be homogenised ’cos you’ve got to be hip with the people that eat white-bread sandwiches. Yeah, it’s true. There are actually people in certain States that grill two slices of white bread and then slap another piece of white bread covered in margarine in between and eat it as a sandwich. Who in their right mind wants to be popular with them?’

(David has since appeared in several movies, most notably as a taxi-driving ghost in
Scrooged and alongside Mick Jagger in Freejack. He has toured with a re-formed version of the New York Dolls and has contributed songs for movies including The Aviator. Check out this unusual interview between David and Johnny Thunders outside CBGBs when they look forward to touring with The Pistols and The Clash in the UK on the ill-fated tour in 1976. http://youtu.be/R3jIUjjvjqE )

Next: Bruce Springsteen in Maryland
Adapted from the book Tell Me When by Barry Cain

© Barry Cain 2013

Check out Barry’s new novel, Wet Dreams Dry Lives:


Saturday 11 January 2014

October 1978
Thomas the Tank Engine
Within a week of returning to London, I head off to Toronto with PR Alan Edwards and photographer Chris Gabrin in search of a nice Pere…

Pere Ubu cling to Cleveland, the spot that spawned them, nurtured them, and will probably kill them.

David Thomas, singer and co-composer, is a walking Billy Smart’s with eyes that curl away from you like a Victorian fire-eater's moustache. The rest of the band look like they missed the 5.45 special out of Woodstock and have been waiting for the next bus ever since.

They’re gathered in the Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto.

I still can’t figure out on which side of the city the bar is situated because one part of Toronto looks very much the same as another – shops, offices, Dub Housing, roads with cars, people (but not at night). It’s undistinguished, achromatic, and the nearest major town to Niagara Falls.

The Tavern reflects its mother.

Thomas and company amble on stage. The Big Top looks uncomfortable in an ill-fitting suit that covers his six-foot-two-inch 20-stone frame – it’s a pair of silk pyjamas on a rhino. His brow is perpetually creased, but it’s a feigned seriousness, as is the passion of his pleas to the audience.

Thomas is a unique performer. He looks terribly uncomfortable on stage, like he knows every movement, every word, is a hideous faux pas. Yet you know it’s an act. The guy’s been doing it too long for it not to be.  
It appears the audience are diehard Ubu fans and they actually call out requests. ‘Hey David, what about some Chinese Radiation?’ ‘We want Drinking Wine Spodyody!’ ‘Blow Daddy-O.’ And when it’s all over Toronto dies again.

There’s no doubting Pere Ubu possess a morbid sensibility − each song is like the dismembered victim of a sex murderer. A leg in the long grass, a head in the hedge, an arm near an arch. All mean nothing until gradually pieced together on the bloodstained pathologist’s slab. lt takes time, but the cadaver begins to resemble somebody, somebody you’ve known in the past, somebody who might have meant something. Long ago.

Backstage, Thomas sucks grass fumes from under a glass, up, up into the wide blue yonder. Almost immediately he has a coughing fit that renders him incapable of speaking. His face puffs up, turns crimson and his eyes bulge. You can just see the whites, which ain’t as white as maybe they should be. He finds a chair and flops, still wheezing. We all take no notice and form an orderly queue behind the grey fume-filled glassful of grass.

The dressing room is tiny and, with Thomas the tank engine in it, positively claustrophobic. He’s wearing a cheap blue mac that’s as ill-fitting as the suit underneath. He looks like a character in a Samuel Beckett play.

‘I was a high-school drop-out,’ he says and, right away, the eyes begin their darting movements -- movements that persist throughout our little tryst. ‘It didn’t seem to make much sense staying on. Everyone appeared to be pretty uninteresting. I was going to be a teacher like my father, but that lasted six months. Then I started writing for a music paper. I wrote under the name of Crocus Behemoth. But I got tired of writing about music. I wanted to go out and do it.’

The room is getting smokier, the Mac is getting bluer, the body bigger, the ceiling lower. I feel like Alice after drinking the shrinking potion.

‘We’re described as an industrial band but that’s wrong. I can understand when some people say our music has nightmare qualities but we’re really a folk band. We approach the whole thing like one. The Velvets used to be described as a folk band.

‘I can’t imagine ever being popular. It would be fun if it happened − I’ve nothing against making it. But I still can’t really see it happening.’

‘Industrial rock is nothing more than a hook. In the early days we used to talk about it and its relevance to Cleveland. But it’s just not important. What is important is getting away from Joe Public expecting something from a show just because he bought a ticket. That’s old thinking. He’s as much part of the show as the artist, of equal importance in fact. I have a job to do, the audience has a job to do.

‘I’ve never gone to a show and expected something. Whether I’m listening to a record in my room, or having some friends round, or watching a western, I never expect to have a good time. That causes too much trouble because then it starts getting into "Am I having a good time or not?" and that’s a waste of time.

‘The only thing I ever expected was to get accepted in Cleveland. I just hoped that at some point, some day, Cleveland would come around. I was wrong.’

(Pere Ubu – named after Père Ubu, father Ubu, the protagonist of Ubu Roi, Ubu the King, a play by French writer Alfred Jarry – have disbanded and re-formed on several occasions, and David Thomas remains the one constant. In 2013 they released the album The Lady From Shanghai)

We stay at a five-star Toronto hotel for three nights during which I get three calls from a local escort service someone keeps contacting in my name, as a joke, requesting a girl. On the third night the very sexy-sounding voice warns me, after I deny yet again booking a girl, to ‘stop pestering us or we’ll have you thrown out of the hotel’.

Alan denies making the calls but his hysterical laughter is a total giveaway.

The three of us then head down to New York for interviews, photos and fun…

Next: David Johansen in New York

Adapted from the book Tell Me When by Barry Cain
© Barry Cain 2013
Check out Barry’s new novel, Wet Dreams Dry Lives:

Friday 3 January 2014

October 1978

The Quest For Blondie Part 2

McSorley’s Old Ale House starts to empty like the glasses and the band decide to move on to CBGB’s.

In the contrived decadence of the club, about as meretricious as the iceberg wino Jimmy Destri mentioned earlier, the four guys disperse, checking out the − uh − depravities and emaciated faces. Someone I’ve never met before hands me a huge bag of coke, which I take with me to the toilet.

‘Hey, I’d like to introduce you to a coupla friends of mine,’ says Clem, when I emerge from the cubicle. He ushers me to the bar and interrupts a conversation between two typical electrical-appliance American housewives. ‘This is Mary.’ She wears golden glasses to match her long, straight hair. Her eyebrows are the same shape as her top lip, which gives her face a strange symmetry.

‘Hi.’ ‘And this is Marge.’ She’s heavily tanned and her skin has suffered slightly. Her smiles are a little tired. ‘Hi.’ ‘They’re the Shangri-Las!’ I have visions of waking up in a hospital bed with a nurse above me full of re-assurance and comforting words: ‘You're okay now. You've just been in a state of shock for awhile. Take it easy . . .’

When I was twelve the Shangri-Las had epitomised everything that was dirty and sexy. Libidinous teenage punkettes inhabiting a voodoo vestibule where jailbait languished on stained plastic sofas. I remember seriously starting to think about thighs when I saw them singing 'Remember (Walking In The Sand)' on Top Of The Pops one Fireworks Night. I’d never heard a song quite like it before. Time kills. To be confronted by these thirty-year-old women makes me suddenly a mite depressed.

And, believe it or not, they're making a comeback. Well, just these two, Mary Weiss the blonde in the brunette pack, and Margie Ganser.

Maybe Mary’s singing voice still overflows with that rub-sucking venom. ‘We broke up originally,’ says Mary – straight voice, like the steam from the spout of a kettle – ‘because we were young and there were too many people out there trying to squeeze every last drop of money they could get their hands on out of us. That left a really bad taste in our mouths.

‘For a long while we've been running away. But now it's time to face the music. Besides, the business was much more dangerous in those days. There's a child in my soul and I don't want it to die. I can't let it perish. When that goes you're dead.

‘I really got screwed up when the band split. I was nineteen. I'd never been out with anyone while I was on the road. Christ, I'd been a rock ’n’ roll star at fifteen and I was only just getting over my first period.’

Margie tries to talk over the band on stage (it was audition night and they were playing 'God Save The Queen' like they were a Woolworths cover job or a too-dark Xerox). ‘We never knew what was going on. How could we at that age? We got to do things 15-year-olds never dream of. It started off with high school dances - we were younger than the punters - and it just escalated. We played parties where the kids used to make their own wine because we were all under age.’

Mary looks tired. She offers to drive me back to my hotel. In the car she says they met with little success at New York record companies. ‘They expect us to be completely punk. Y’know, they say things like "How does it feel to be the Queen of Punk?" And one guy wanted us to be the female equivalent of the Ramones. I’m twenty-nine years old. I’m serious about my music. I don’t care for punk that much.’ I say I’ll call her for some more gen. She says okay. I say goodnight. She says seeya.

‘Hey, what happened to you last night?’ says Clem the following evening, straightening his collar in the dressing room at My Father’s Place. ‘We had a real great time. After we left CBGB’s we all went on to Max’s Kansas City and met up with Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. Real nice guys.’

My Father’s Place is a club on Long Island about forty minutes’ drive from Manhattan, and Blondie are playing two shows tonight. It’s a converted bowling alley and the long tables where the punters sit are the original lanes. Pin-table pyrotechnics with free pizza thrown in. Backstage the Greenwich weirdos are out in force. It’s all prurience and strawberry-blancmange brasses eager to lavish praise on what looks like becoming New York’s creamiest cult band.

Debbie doo-doos past in white culottes, takes a seat opposite a reporter from the strike-ridden New York Times and churns out the same old spiel while doting dykes strain their ears. A guy comes to the door and asks a sound man for Debbie’s autograph. As he says the words ‘Debbie Harry’ his hand automatically reaches down to his crotch and he mimes a jerk-off, smiles and leaves.

Blondie are as big in the States as they were in the UK a year ago − in other words, they ain’t big. My Father’s Place seats about five hundred, all diehard fans who gasp the moment Debbie appears looking like Sandra Dee on sulphate. Blondie’s three-minute bam-bam is the ultimate in pop perfection. Sanguine satisfaction in every root-e-toot-toot nuance, in every aphrodisiac phrase.

The set is predictable. Highlights from the first two albums, a substantial segment of Parallel Lines and the obligatory ‘Get It On’ encore. The only real difference is the slight corpulence around Chris Stein’s stomach and jowls. The second set is the same, except for Debbie’s loose-fitting orange dress. But the audience is cut by half, and most of them are the first-set patriots. Still, The World About Us was never like this. And they’ve already found their Shangri-La in the verdant pastures of the English charts. But will they ever make the ‘Leader of the Pack’?

I have a drink with Debbie at the bar after the gig and she tells me she loved my interview and thought the Venus in blue jeans line was neat. I think I’m in love.


Next: Pere Ubu in Toronto

Adapted from the book Tell Me When by Barry Cain

© Barry Cain 2013

Check out Barry’s new novel, Wet Dreams Dry Lives http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00H0IM2CY



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