The Wayback Machine — The Rock n Roll life

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll at 4:50 pm by George Smith

The inestimably lousy Morning Call newspaper has seen fit to put all my old writings on-line. When I wrote for it I developed an entertainment feature called Nightclubbing, mentioned yesterday. I changed the entire tone of entertainment coverage, employing a slightly gonzo style that relied heavily on the absurd and proper use of superciliousness.

The reports were slices of life in dive bars (and the occasional arena) in southeastern Pennsylvania, from weekend nights spent in wooden fighting pits to the Hegins Pigeon Shoot, where shot up birds fell from the trees. The archive of pieces, in no particular order, is what-it-was-like in point of view, focused as much on the sense of place and people as whatever art was taking place. Nightclubbing also made no distinctions between the stars and the locals. Both were covered in equal measure, with equal regard — or disregard, as the case often was.

The object was something quirky, personal and interesting to read, not stenography.

These are far from everything I wrote for the newspaper but they do represent a major slice of the live reviewing gigs done all over southeastern Pennsylvania. (The Morning Call, then owned by Times-Mirror and now Tribune, never had a free-lance contract. The newspaper’s publishing these pieces to the web is a paradoxical but now all-too-common example of corporate America’s practice of stealing labor when it can, even if it’s over decades later.)

From November 1989, on the horrid comic, Howie Mandel:

Nightclubbing: Mandel Amuses At Stabler

“So, my wife has been in labor for eight hours experiencing incredible pain and in walks a nurse,” said comic Howie Mandel last Monday at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem. “She says, ‘Would you like an enema?’ ” The estimated crowd of 3,000 Lehigh students and assorted yuppie types roared with laughter at the lame joke. And that was about as funny as things got.

Coming on stage to the strains of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the howls of his admirers, the Canadian-born comic opened his set with a few minutes of the inarticulate barking that he passed off as dialog in the movie “Walk Like a Man.” Then came some chuckles on the joys of using a “rectal microphone.”

As Mandel shook, rattled and rolled around the stage his fans repeatedly called out his name. He answered, using them as a significant part of his show by asking their names or occupations and then proceeding to make mocking fun of the spluttered replies.

Most of the time this worked. However, it backfired when Mandel called on someone named “Zeke” who said he was a member of the “idle rich.” Mandel misunderstood him to say he was an “idol.” Taken aback by this perversity, the comedian moved on hastily. But throughout the night, fans cried out for “Zeke” from the upper decks.

Full disclosure: I was “Zeke” and had a front row seat. Mandel’s show relied on embarrassing members of the audience so he walked right into a fair turnabout when he picked me out. And that mistake crimped his performance for the rest of the night when the audience laughed at him instead of “Zeke” in the front row.

Nightclubbing: Bonham Sticks It To Music Hall Audience
“I bought a headache!” Paul Westerberg of The Replacements sang a number of years ago, referring to a show he’d attended at a Minneapolis arena. Listening to Bonham last weekend at the Airport Music Hall in Allentown was a similar experience.

The crowd of roughly 800 young girls and alcohol-befuddled men in black concert T’s lobbied continuously for drum solos from the quartet led by Jason Bonham, the son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer. Bonham only delivered a boggy, flatulent songs reminiscent of those late-’70s high priests of AOR in Survivor. Somewhere, Robert Plant was snickering.

The Front preceded Bonham and was the night’s one shining moment. Despite equipment failure, vocalist Michael Franano rallied his troops and pushed them through an energetic set of Cult-ish bombast minus the posing that is Ian Astbury’s trademark. However, the little girls at the stage front remained non-plussed, even when The Front broke into the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant.”

Rightfully buried at the bottom of the bill was East Brunswick, N.J., lite metal band TNA (T & A – ha-ha, what a sense of humor). The foursome’s set was hookless and annoyingly contrived. “I see some pretty girls from East Brunswick who’ve come all the way to the Music Hall to see us,” cried TNA’s vocalist near the end of the show. “Whadda ya think of them, Allentown?”

“They’re idiots!” someone shot back from the balcony.

The audience laughed.

Full disclosure: It was my friend, Byron Guzman, who spoiled their moment.

Gwar Wrestles With Garish Material At Wally’s
Mexican horror wrestling took the stage, in the guise of gladiator-rockers GWAR, at Wally’s in Bethlehem last Saturday. Before a crowd of about 110 converts, bodies flew through the air, monster aliens lurked, paper-mache heads rolled, gooey fluids spurted wildly and a scantily clad dancing girl wearing a spiked bra pranced lasciviously – just about what you’d see on the odd Saturday afternoon watching a Mexican horror film on the Spanish cable station.

The members of GWAR have elevated this somewhat dubious pleasure to a plane of even greater silliness, if that’s possible. It’s a grand spectacle but pales after about 20 minutes. The realization dawns about then that the musicians are only tyros barely capable of providing the necessary atmosphere for their wacky skits.

Robosphere, a local white-bread hardcore punk band, supplied nearly 50 minutes of generic Izod-shirted anger.

Real letter to the editor, added for seasoning, February 1990

To the Editor:

I would like to compliment you on your Entertainment Section. Your coverage and reviews of local concerts and local bands have been right on the mark. In particular, the writing of George Smith has stood out among the usual fawning reviews and unenlightening interviews. It is refreshing to see a reviewer not cater to the whims of a public with obviously low expectations, both of the music they buy, and the music they go to a club and listen to.

The music scene in the Valley has gone steadily downhill since its heyday in the late ’70s and early ’80s. If more local bands took Smith’s accurate — and acerbic — commentary to heart, perhaps the listening public would have more, and better, music to go out and see. And maybe more clubs would feature live bands. Only one question — why is George Smith a free-lance writer? Someone with his wit and facility with language should be writing on a more permanent basis!

Pearls before swine, was the reason.

Nightclubbing: All Ages Rub Elbows At The Four G’s Hotel

There were high-school age girls in fresh denim, leather fringes and white go-go boots chattering away while a young boy worked the soda fountain. There were people in their late 30s who looked like members of a local PTA. There were even a few grandmothers in attendance.

Was it a pre-summer picnic? A belated Easter-egg roll? No and no.

It was the first all-ages show last Sunday at the seedy Four G’s Hotel in Bethlehem. About 65 thirtysomethings, teeny-boppers and pensioners looked on in slack-jawed astonishment as three youthful bands wheeled out teen entertainment ranging from the pop-rock of Druid to the mock-occult heavy metal of Apostle Void to the caveman stomp of headliner Salty Dogs.

Call me a fuddy-duddy, but if I were some young buck (or buckess) in a rookie band, I’d be mighty uncomfortable if my grandparents — heck, even my parents — would show up at one of my performances. It would be real tough to act like a “supreme rock dude,” make twisted faces while playing guitar, or swear and say “Yeah!” in a deep, commanding voice with authority figures in the audience.

Why, mom and pop might get me in my room after the gig for a serious cross-examination about what all that parent-purchased musical equipment was actually used for.

Workplace colleagues might question my sanity. Or worse … they’d all laugh. And that would mess up everything. After all, everyone knows rock ‘n’ roll is serious bizness.

January 1990 — At Wally’s, A Swimming New Year’s Eve Party

Water poured from the ceiling because the roof leaked. Couples huddled around space heaters because the heating system failed. People threw punches in an alcoholic haze. It was your typical New Year’s Eve party — at Wally’s in Bethlehem anyway.

Despite all the folderol, about 50 well-insulated fans ignored the ice, which held Bethlehem in its frozen grip, to munch on carrots, radishes, cheese and ring bologna and hear three Allentown hard-rock and heavy metal bands doggedly celebrate the arrival of 1990.

Veteran heavy metal band Kraken got things off to a grinding halt. The foursome was as lethargic and somnolent in the waning hours of 1989 as it has been since the middle of the decade. The band’s desire to continue is surely a tribute to blind optimism.

Next up was Nasty Nasty, which took the stage at midnight. After a wobbly start because of equipment problems, the hard-rock band gave the audience a dose of what passes for contemporary heavy metal — in the N.Y.C./N.J.-metro area. Alternately plodding, grinding and noxiously fiery, the quartet played all the selections on its recent demo tape, including a boot-stomping version of its own “Just Around The Corner.”

As the group’s set built to the powerful climax of “Corner,” guitarist Tony DiLeo jumped onto the dance floor, nimbly dodging a sudden downpour from the ceiling. Unfazed by imminent disaster, bassist Kris Kunkle pumped away on stage, adding a friendly aura to potentially Nasty Nasty situation.

When The Blissters began the closing set at 1 a.m., singer Scott Fehnel cracked, “We can play as long as we like. I just bought this place for 50 cents.”

The Allentown trio, an on-again, off-again assembly for the last decade, has a reputation of being able to supply tipsy, unpretentious, smash-mouth rock ‘n’ roll on a good night. At Wally’s, The Blissters were as “on” as a band could get, from the sole original song, “The Outlaw,” to the closing bars of ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses.” Much of the credit goes to guitarist Doug “Smash” Roth who’s as close to an American version of AC/DC’s Angus Young as they come. (That’s a compliment, mates!)

The litmus test for a successful night of listening to The Blissters is if the crowd engages in fisticuffs by the last song. This was a very successful night.

The Monday after the show officials from the city of Bethlehem, who had read the review, visited Wally’s and formally condemned the building.

Ah, journalism.

February 1990 — Kid Stuff And T.t. Quick At Airport Music Hall

It was a night of big-time shmoozing last weekend at the Music Hall in Allentown.

Roughly 600 fans turned out to see metro-Jersey band T.T. Quick make still another appearance in the Valley. It was readily apparent that the one-time heavy metal kings are long past the heyday of their 1985 “Metal Of Honor” LP on Island/Megaforce Records.

So rather than listening to the hard-rocking headliners, the young crowd took the evening into its own hands, turning the concert into a mixer and showing off its fancy rock ‘n’ roll duds.

If you were male, there were plenty of opportunities to appreciate spike-heel pumps, tight white skirts and what went into them. If you were female, there was black leather, tight jeans, big hair and (thanks to Guns ‘N’ Roses) tattoos aplenty to gaze upon.

Nevertheless, T.T. Quick gamely ground it out under the lights, performing selections from “Metal” and the recent independent release, “Sloppy Seconds.” Rasping vocalist Mark Tornillo (who sounds like AC/DC’s Brian Johnson) led his three henchmen through an hour-long set of clenched-fisted, concussive (and tuneless) power rock. Although the band was revved up, the material was empty and devoid of heat.

As gaily chattering teens began drifting toward the exits midway through the band’s show, it was sadly apparent that time has kissed T.T. Quick good-bye.

December 1989 — Two Prize Fowl Among Turkeys At Music Hall

It was the day after Thanksgiving and at Allentown’s Airport Music Hall, many of the Lehigh Valley area’s stripling hard-rockers had the run of the house. It was billed as the “Double Header Tour.” (Where did the bands tour, from the men’s room to the snack bar?) The eight-hour concert featured Fantasy, Accepted Wish, Fatal Agression, Acacia, The Jolly Rogers, Salty Dogs, Hard Knoxx and Yungblud. (The bands also were recruited to sell tickets for the event.) Throughout, the crowd waxed and waned.

Considering the bands’ youth and inexperience, suffice to say that the majority still need considerable seasoning. However, the Salty Dogs, a foursome from Coopersburg, proved a rare find. Vocalist Jules Mittel rambled about the stage like someone who’d lost his marbles. In the background, the band cranked out a series of shamblingly good-natured originals with quizzical titles like “Bucketseat Baby,” “Triangles” and “Friendly Joe, The Street Wino.” (Wonder where these guys got the idea for the last one. Not in Coopersburg, I’ll bet.)

The high point of the Dogs’ set came when Mittel produced a harmonica during the closing bars of “Summertime Blues” and bleated out a bit of zany embellishment.

The Salty Dogs – Mittel, guitarist Brian Silvoy, drummer Ron Herczeg and bassist Gary Hinkle – count Cream, Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin and The Monkees as influences. Not bad for youngsters.

Another band to watch is The Jolly Rogers. Although the original compositions were forgettable piffle, enthusiastic covers of Ted Nugent’s “Free-For-All” and Pat Travers’ “(Boom Boom) Out Go The Lights” had the crowd on its feet. Fashion advisory to The Jolly Rogers’ lead guitarist: wearing Spandex in public is a hard-rock faux pas.

July 1990 — Pain And Pleasure At Jeff’s City Line Pub
Comedy can be painful. It was for a short while at Jeff’s City Line Pub, Bethlehem, during Thursday night’s deluge.

Jeff Weinsmutz, a stocky figure who claims a starring role in shlocky Troma Films’ upcoming “Kabuki Girl,” started the evening off by throwing out his routine when confronted by a table of drunken hecklers.

As Weinsmutz engaged the jackanapes in a series of filthy “can you top this” jibes concerning matters unprintable in a general circulation newspaper, tension began to mount.

Teeth ground together as Weinsmutz chundered on for eight minutes that seemed to last for eight days. Had any of the less reserved in the crowd been armed, the Manhattan comic would probably be the proud possessor of a burial plot somewhere in the Lehigh Valley.

Finally, he stopped. Was he a comic or some crank off the street? Hard to say.

A petrified Nina Klein then took the stage. The almost comatose funny woman seemed wary of the hostile audience. She wasn’t very funny, but neither was she offensive. The crowd was kinder, and even chuckled a few times. Klein’s best line: “When I have insomnia, I count the lousy lovers I’ve had. After all, they put me to sleep the first time.”

Mitch Fertile seemed able to ignore the previous carnage. The feisty 23-year-old took control of the crowd by telling a long joke about a foul-mouthed kid playing with his train set. He followed with quips about gay pride, the welcome proliferation of black TV shows –“`In Living Colour,’ `Cosby,’ `227,’ `America’s Most Wanted’ … ” — and pot smoking –“Ever notice how you all of a sudden become a master chef?”

T.J. McCormick, who’s slated to be on MTV’s “Comedy Half Hour” this fall, built on the good will Fertile had generated. He told of terrorizing children with “Rockabye Baby,” sayings like “Don’t let the bed bugs bite,” and prayers like “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.”

He drew laughs telling of landlords speaking in Shakespearean tones, how he “gave up any backbone I ever had” when he became serious with a girl, and eating in an Indian restaurant (“Ghandi, what am I lookin’ at here? Goat intestines? Sheep spleen?”)

Sheena, a dancer who resembled a weird cross between “Saturday Night Dead’s” Stella and disco diva Phoebe Legere, was the capper. Dressed like Cher on Halloween, she sang to pre-recorded music, sounding like Edith Piaf after vocal lessons from Lou Reed. She performed bizarre high-camp versions of three songs, including “One After 9:09” and “Hotel California,” gesturing lewdly at the dumbstruck audience.

The comic who raised the ire of the crowd had a routine that, unbelievably, consisted of gay-baiting jokes. He didn’t realize until very late in his routine that Cityline Pub was a gay bar. Flop sweat.

April 1990 — At Stabler, Joan Jett’s Hit List Includes Washed

Elliot Saltzman was not amused. Joan Jett’s road manager, who was backstage for the Blackhearts’ “Hit List” tour-ending date at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem on Wednesday night, proved less than the perfect host to local act Washed, who had been placed on the concert bill as support. Industry insiders know that it’s like backing into a whirling table saw should you incur the wrath of the man fondly referred to as “Attila The Road Manager.” And for some unexplained reason, Washed did.

Backstage, Jett, who was a little under the weather, was surrounded by her showbiz family. Long-time manager/producer/mentor Kenny Laguna and his wife Meryl, along with their pre-teen daughter and Epic Records publicists, posed with her for photos in the catering area. It was their party and Washed’s presence on the bill had become unwelcome. As a result, the Valley pop-metal quartet unwittingly came a cropper — getting the bum’s rush first by being thrown hastily onstage and then having the house lights brought up 15 minutes into their set.

However, once Joan Jett hit the stage, all strife was pushed into the background –bludgeoned aside by the atomic bomb power of her performance and the gigantic sound system. The Blackhearts opened with the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant” from “Hit List” and shelved Jett’s slower material until late in the 90-minute show. Young men could be seen frenziedly tearing their chairs to pieces during “Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap” and a bombastic, strobe-backlit cover of the Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today.” As she has several times over the last decade, Jett supplied the goods to a Valley audience, this time about 1,300 strong.

Philadelphia’s Britny Fox played a hard-hitting abbreviated set highlighted by “Girlschool” from the quartet’s self-titled debut album and covers of Nazareth’s “Hair Of The Dog” and Kiss’ “Shout It Out Loud.”

After the show, Jett signed autographs from the front of her tour bus. Does she have male groupies? Yes. And, if the ones at Stabler were representative, they look like the same guys you might see at monster-truck exhibitions with a case of Blatz beer under one arm.

August 1990 — Improbable Adventure At Flagstaff Resort

“Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for 1972.”

“O.K. Mr. Peabody, but where are we going this time?”

“To a fraternity-style beer bash at Flagstaff Mountain Resort in Jim Thorpe. There will be rock bands, booze, limousines — it will be fun. So take off that `fanny pack’ purse, no wimps allowed!”


“Who’s that onstage, Mr. Peabody?”

“That’s The Blissters, Sherman. Notice how the band members are tossing plastic flagons of whiskey and beer on themselves and the patrons?”

“Yes, I see. The patrons like it! Boy, they’d never get away with that at The Sterling. Now look! One guy is whirling his guitar around his head! Look out!”

“Sherman, what’s in the courtyard?”

“Geez — two limos, just like you said. A real long white Caddy that The Blissters are getting into and another blue Mercedes.”

“That is rented by the headlining band, Daddy Licks, Sherman.”

“Look at that funny guitarist from The Blissters. He’s getting into the Daddy Licks limo and serving fans with the liquor from their private stock. I bet they’d be mad if they saw him do that.”

“Angry, Sherman, not `mad.’ Heh-heh.”

“Why is the singer in the next band so huffy?”

“Well Sherman, his band — The Armadillos — are sometimes said to look like The New Kids On The Block by rivals like The Blissters and in newspapers.”

“Who are The New Kids On The Block?”

“Very wealthy young boys who sing pop songs and are adored by 14-year old girls.”

“What’s wrong with that, Mr. Peabody?”

“I don’t know, but it surely galls him.”

“Now look closely at Daddy Licks, Sherman. The night is drawing to a close.”

“Why are those people walking down the hill, Mr. Peabody?”

“They’ve had too many plastic flagons of beer. But they’re good citizens, they know it’s best never to drink and drive.”

August 1990 — Blue Oyster Increases Its Cult At Flagstaff

Little did anyone know that in the waning days of the 20th century, Earth was being observed by creatures bent on interplanetary conquest. Captain Grebble and First Lackey F’Need, nocturnal humanoid beings from the war-planet, Na’tsi, were on that scouting mission. It took them to many interesting places …

“F’Need, you snivelling worm! Where are we?”

“The sign said Flagstaff Resort, sir.”

“Yes, apparently this is what the puny humans call a rock concert. Look at all of them! There must be close to 1,000 here! Now, we will see what they are made of!”

“The interplanetary survey didn’t mention that Earth was a desert planet, sir. Yet the humans surely are drinking a lot!”

“F’Need! Why are you stumbling about? Na’tsi warriors are supposed to be light on their feet!”

“Please, sir, it can’t be helped. The floor is littered with smooth cylinders of brown glass which the humans are kicking around. The footing is treacherous, and — ouch! — sometimes they hurt my toes!”

“Courage, F’Need! It will take much to get the hang of these strange human customs. But look, leaders of this rabble, onstage!”

“Its a group of humans known as Blue Oyster Cult. They must be very powerful. Look how the underlings shake their fists in salute!”

“F’Need, I am becoming worried. These Cult-men appear to know of us. They sing songs about `Extraterrestrial Intelligence’ and the `Stairway To The Stars.'”

“Perhaps we should flee, sir?”

“No, you spineless wretch — we must observe whether these Jim Thorpe-men and their leaders, Blue Oyster Cult, are a dangerous military unit capable of defeating our brave warriors.”

“It is possible that they are not, Captain Grebble. Many of them appear unstable on their feet. They could hardly be crack shots.”

“Perhaps you are right, F’Need. Maybe there is a reason these beings are called Homo sap-iens.”

Serious power drunks show.

April 1990 — Murphy’s Law Plays By The Rules At Music Hall

“Sit home and rot! ROT! Sit home and rot! ROT!” bellowed Jimmy Gestapo of Manhattan hardcore band Murphy’s Law last weekend at the Music Hall.

If you were over 18, you’d have done well to heed Gestapo’s advice, because this show was one strictly for the young.

About 600 boys in Army boots, flannel shirts and baseball hats (with upturned brim) crowded the stage, butted heads and engaged in a little smoochy-smooch with girlfriends as several punk-rock bands went through their paces.

Murphy’s Law caused near Beatle-esque hysteria when it took the stage around 11. But although the kids were ecstatic, the endless ramalama, punctuated by occasional flatulent bursts of reggae, was distinctly mediocre. Only the personality of the gooned-out Gestapo kept the band afloat as he guzzled beer from a funnel and landed flat on his back during a kidney-smashing hand flip.

Mucky Pup, a metro-New Jersey quartet, was entertaining for only as long as it took to size up its ursine lead-singer as just another sodden clod in a Blair Academy Wrestling sweatshirt willing to shake his stomach at the audience.

Beer funnel show.

November 1990 — Fleetwood Mac Shakes The Stabler Arena Rafters

Fleetwood Mac got off to a shaky start last night at Stabler Arena, but by the end of a two-hour show the rafters were shaking during a thunderous version of “Go Your Own Way.”

This version of the quintessential album rock band, supposedly the last round for featured vocalists Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie, was anchored by diminutive lead guitarist Rick Vito. Vito, acquired for his rep as a Los Angeles super session man, stepped up to the lip of the stage early in the show and said hello to some friends from a school he spent some time in — Kutztown University. Then he leaned back and led the band through a version of “Stop Messin’ Around” that would have made departed Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer proud.

Throughout the two-hour show, Vito acted as musical director, capering happily around the stage, as he cajoled more effort from Nicks, who appeared to be a bit sandbagged. But his real secret weapon was his wicked, molten slide guitar licks which framed an atmospheric “Waiting In The Shadows” and the rocking “World Turning.” Vito used his slide prowess not just for punctuation but also as a heavy, powerful tool for evoking controlled bursts of feedback in complete harmony with the music.

As an added treat, the band pared itself down to a modest trio — Vito, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie — during a haunting rendition of “Black Magic Woman,” a tune lost member/band founder Peter Green wrote for Mac in 1969.

Of course, the gangly Fleetwood got his spot out front during a drum break in “World Turning.” Eyes rolling crazily, the Fagin-esque Fleetwood strolled to center stage and banged insanely on his famed African talking drum during a solo that went on for about three minutes too long.

Stevie Nicks was in strong voice during “Landslide,” which she performed with rhythm guitarist Ricky Burnette. By the close of the concert, a group of extremely enthusiastic women had been worked into a frenzy of admiration for Nicks, who thanks to a substantial weight gain now looks more like Dolly Parton than the California waif pictured on “Rumours.”

One woman fan brandished a pair of aluminum crutches wildly; others stormed the rim of the stage bearing stuffed toys and assorted gifts. One befuddled young man sprinted up from the back of the stage, managing to touch Nicks before being hauled away.

June 1989 — Cycle Sluts From Hell Just Want To Have Fun

Since when does a Manhattan-based cult act routinely sell out rock venues up and down the East Coast?

When that act is called The Cycle Sluts From Hell, of course.

The band, which plays tonight at the Green Pine Inn, Allentown, started out two years ago as little more than a drinking club in the basement of New York’s Lismar Lounge. The whimsically named Queen Vixen, Venus P., She-Fire, and Honey 1% assembled a backing group led by a guitarist with the nom-de- plume of Lord Roadkill and began establishing themselves as a rabid draw at such Lower East Side Manhattan hang-outs as the Cat Club and U.S. Blues.

With song titles like “Conqueress,” “High Queen of Love” and “Taste the Flesh,” The Sluts appear to aim squarely at the more puerile heavy metal contingent. So it’s a pleasant surprise to find that the girls confess readily to a strong “Spinal Tap” influence. In a recent interview, Queen Vixen (sometimes known as Raphaela) admitted this and quickly added, “We don’t want to be anything like Midnight Oil, where every moment of your recording life is totally straight.

“I’ve always been a fan of comic book women like Vampirella (of the early-’70s horror serial of the same name) and the she-devils on wheels portrayed by Russ Meyer in the movie ‘Faster, Pussycat’ – people who are larger than life or fantastic. If you will, we portray women who don’t really exist.”

Obviously, when you’re the Cycle Sluts From Hell, you risk being taken less than seriously. To that end, the Sluts put themselves directly in the line of fire by appearing on Morton Downey Jr.’s talk show – not once, but twice. Of this, Vixen comments, “It was chaos! It didn’t matter what happened; people were just shouting at each other. Mort really liked us, though – he was a real gentleman.”

Onlookers at tonight’s concert should be convinced of the act’s legitimacy. Recent appearances on Manhattan stages have revealed a stage show with the bazooka-blast immediacy of a Motorhead set. “Everyone who’s seen us comes away impressed,” Vixen concludes. “Maybe we’ll even do some old T. Rex or Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ – biker rock!”

Two years later, debut album release and 1989 show recap:

The Sluts played Allentown about two years ago. Just prior they’d been yakking on Morton Downey about stupid things like rock censorship, and the PR machine went into high gear, portraying them like most American men secretly want their women to look like: leather and chrome-bolted strumpets. So the bar was packed with an army of flannel-shirted, slavering tough guys just waiting for an eyeful and maybe a little more. And then the Sluts came out and delivered what the disc delivers — a broadside of thrash metal with four mean-looking wimmen jeering like magpies at majorly bummed locals who had, perhaps, expected a dirty version of The Go-Gos. Most of the bikers grumbled and recoiled, but one, the Schnecksville Creeper, approached the spotlight in a stagy attempt to grab a handful of one of them. Suddenly, a Slut signaled peremptorily and three roadies seized the Creeper — tossing him onto the macadam of the parking lot. This disc’s the same as that, a sonic rabbit punch to the nape of the neck punctuated with glints of dumb cunning like “Speed Queen” with the lyrics: “Bay-bee, if you want to use my washing machine first you gotta buy the detergent!!!” I doubt if it will sell.

True story. I knew the Creeper.

April 1990 — On Jack Tempchin, opening for Joe Walsh at the Stabler Arena

Jack Tempchin, a graying West Coast songwriter who’s been responsible — along with The Eagles’ Glenn Frey — for songs like “You Belong To The City” and “Smuggler’s Blues” opened for Walsh. Although Tempchin’s acoustic versions of “Peaceful, Easy Feeling” and “Already Gone” were well-received by the crowd, his inane joking on stardom in California wore thin.

Two examples of Tempchin’s humor: “The Eagles gave me a big check for that song, and so I had to forget all my old friends — that took about a week,” and “I wrote this one (`The Shut Up Blues’) while sitting in the hot tub with Linda Ronstadt.” Ha-ha.

April 1991 — George Thorogood’s Good And Bad Points

“We ain’t leavin’ ’till we’re heavin’!” — motto on Elizabethtown College student’s T-shirt at last week’s George Thorogood concert in Philadelphia.

Although the puny stature of the E-town frat boys belied the, um, braggadocio of their spring break T-shirts, it did give a good idea of the kind of atmosphere one should always expect from George Thorogood and the brutish Destroyers.

Returning to “The Philly-delphia Air-Conditioned Spectrum” after an absence of two years, Thorogood plowed into “Hello Little Girl” and put his size-13 foot through the wooden floorboards for the next two hours. And this had its good and bad points.

For guitar boogie purists it was great. Thorogood has a grand tendency to extend everything to 13-minute length. The guitars blast, the rhythm section humps like chromed-steel valve-lifters riding 450 cubes and George sings, “There we were, sittin’ at the bah-r.”

This goes on for another 15 minutes or so. Your foot is beginning to wear out from all the stamping. George growls, “There I wuz, sittin’ at the bah-ur drinkin’ Budweiser be-uhr.”

The crowd howls in delirium. The Destroyers stamp-dance their way around the stage in a kind of endearingly cloddish choreography.

But if you’re a wimp and mebbe like a little variety, a little “culture,” with your “blooz” (rhymes with snooze), perhaps George’s brand of entertainment strikes you as being a little too much like “profeshunal wrasslin'” or a monster truck pull.

That’s O.K. I understand. But it’s supposed to be that way, dummy.

Tommy Conwell, bare-chested and coonskin capped a la Ted Nugent c. “Tooth, Fang & Claw,” opened with a 30-minute set of doltish hard rock.

The difference between the headliner and Conwell is that while Thorogood seems to be a clod, too, his audience knows it’s just an act. It’s a subtle distinction that Conwell has always had trouble grasping.

July 1990 — Locals stick it to Prong

Witnessing thrash-metal acts Prong and Flotsam And Jetsam at the Music Hall in Allentown last weekend was about as much fun as watching a herd of pigs squabble over garbage scraps.

Halfway into Prong’s hour-long set, guitarist Tommy Victor growled, “C’mon Allentown, show us what you’re made of!” The local welcoming committee did just that, pelting him in the face with a Coke. Another soon followed. Victor backed away from the lip of the stage. “C’mon,” he whined, “take out your frustrations on each other, not on us.” Again the crowd of 350 or so took his sage advice. A gaggle of skinheads were soon exchanging dukes with a troop of metalheads. The fracas careened across the Music Hall floor and petered out under the balcony.

It was even more exciting out in the lobby, where a woman in the ticket booth was giving directions to some out-of-towners. The tourists, coolers of beer in hand, had worried looks. They thought the Music Hall was Erv’s BYOB, the strip joint next door, and that they’d been flim-flammed by the management who had substituted heavy metal music in place of the usual exotice dancers. Not to worry, they made it to Erv’s.

When Flotsam And Jetsam finally hit the stage, the quintet did an imitation of the jackhammer crew working on the Hess’s parking deck in downtown Allentown. A sizeable portion of the audience fled, perhaps having run out of Coke while shelling Prong.

Late December 1989 — Hard Rock, Hard Knocks At VFW Christmas Party

It was a mostly hard-rock Christmas celebration at V.F.W. Post 13, 1349 Hamilton St., Allentown, last Saturday night. About 100 holiday revelers turned out to make merry and enjoy the (sometimes bitter) musical fruit presented by four local bands which had volunteered their services for the evening.

Steve Kennedy And The Rock And Roll Originals (never mind that the band played mostly covers) got the evening rolling with teary yet heartfelt versions of The Box Tops’ “The Letter,” Roger Miller’s “King Of The Road” and Neil Young’s “Down By The River.”

In a twist of unfortunate billing, a heavy metal act known as Bloody Corpse played next. (Perhaps a transitional band along the lines of America or The Eagles would have been a better choice.) The Corpses played fierce and mean covers by Judas Priest and Humble Pie. The audience responded enthusiastically, even when the act blew its tough demeanor by telling everyone that their guitarist’s name was “Scooter.”

Up next was another metal band whose identity was never established. The band didn’t introduce itself, and party organizers still had no idea what the group’s name was this week. This outfit, led by a lead guitarist who looked like Prince might if he had 20,000 volts run through him, opened with a series of Led Zeppelin covers.

The women in the crowd heckled the group relentlessly. After a time, the young ax-slinger lost his cool and hurled his guitar at his tormentors, bringing the set to an abrupt end. A short but sharp scuffle then ensued between the band and members of the audience who disagreed with this breach of club etiquette.

Dance band Anxious ended the night on an up note, although many in the audience had fled during the melee.

August 1990 — Drumming Up a New Name
Jimmy Degrasso, drummer for northern California-based hard-rock band Y&T, has changed his name … again.

As a Lehigh Valley denizen and former Liberty High School grad, he was Delgrosso. Then as an Ozzy Osbourne sideman/Y&T member, Delgrasso. Now, on the new Y&T album, “Ten,” it’s Degrasso.

“Yeah, I had to change my name in the phone directory,” said the drummer, alluding to the price of even modest success in the music business.

But Degrasso doesn’t mind such minor inconveniences. In fact, in a recent interview, he’s predicted even greater success for Y&T. Degrasso touted Y&T’s new album as one which would build on a fan base that is mainly the result of years of journeyman touring throughout the States. “We have been able to play sold-out arenas as well as smaller clubs, which is nice,” he said.

“In the smaller places it’s great to be close to the fans, but there’s nothing like hearing the bass drum through a big P.A. in the arenas!”

The former Bethlehem resident also reflected on the ups and downs of the hard-rock business which has taken him from performing in dive bars with Valley-based cover acts like Magnum to working West Coast studio dates to doing a short stint backing notorious pigeon-eater Ozzy Osbourne to subbing with the obscure pop-metal of Ireland’s Mama’s Boys to playing the garden-variety hard rock of Y&T.

* On Magnum: “They’re still around?! Heh-heh. One of my former students called me the other day and said, `Guess who I’m drumming for now?'”

* On Ozzy: “Ozzy was a great guy to work with. The nicest guy, but when he drinks … Everyone knows about those problems.”

* On the vagaries of stardom: “The funny thing about the business is that, sooner or later, you always wind up opening for someone who opened for you. And everyone treats everyone lousy.”

* On Y&T: “It’s a good situation. The organization is real good about letting everyone do work outside the band between albums and tours.”

Y&T was formed in the Bay area in the mid-’70s as Yesterday & Today by singer/lead guitarist Dave Meniketti. The name was shortened to Y&T after two albums of likeable, if oafish, hard rock. (Sample lyric from the first album song, “Alcohol”: “After a while, I had a few drinks/ My head got fuzzy, I couldn’t think!/ Alcohol, alcohol — tomorrow morning I’ll be climbin’ the wall.”)

Over the course of more than a decade, the band hopped labels, from London to A&M to Geffen, with Degrasso joining in 1987. Degrasso said that Y&T was relieved to be free of A&M and with a label committed to breaking the band.

Regardless, critics have not been ladling the milk of human kindness onto “Ten” and, as of now, the LP is not in the Billboard charts.

October 1990 — Quireboys Forced To Face The Music

The Allentown ambush.”

It’s a term coined by local media types to describe what happens to touring rock stars who surprise area fans with excellence and/or something new and are rewarded with a less-than-enthusiastic welcome.

The latest ambush victims were The London Quireboys, who performed at the Airport Music Hall last weekend.

The Quireboys put on a rough-and-tumble show that mixed subtlety, tunefulness and hard-rock spite with a peck of well-chosen Rolling Stones and Faces influences. The band even played an ace version of Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Koochie Man,” not that it mattered to the 250 or so who turned out.

At least half of the fans (and I use the term loosely) camped in the upper balcony to spill cheap beer on each other and curse like sailors. Most of the men seemed to be there with one objective: to hit on the ersatz blonds garbed in black “cheap tart” bondage-style raiment.

Down below, the under-21 crowd stood mute and transfixed — about as willing and able to dance to the rolling beats as a department store dummies.

En route to the Quireboys tour bus, one of two fans who had made a long drive from Philadelphia to see the Englishmen commented, “You don’t hear many bands that sound like the early Stones any more.”

Inside the bus, Quireboys piano player Chris Johnstone wearily but graciously met well-wishers and autograph seekers. Band members trudged back and forth, apparently too wrung out by the challenge of Pennsylvania audiences to indulge in any stereotypical bacchanalia. Someone noted that the group’s next appearance would be in New Cumberland, near Harrisburg. This was met with ominous silence.

Outside, road manager Richard Cole — described by Johnstone as “a thin, bearded man who swears a lot” — was battening down the hatches. Cole, one-time right-hand man to Led Zeppelin’s feared Peter Grant, forced a smile but seemed more than eager to get the Quireboys on their way.

April 1990 — Molly Hatchet Flirts With Disaster At DJ Bananas

“Y-e-e-e-hah!” was the most common word in the English vocabulary Tuesday night at DJ Bananas in Whitehall Township.

Molly Hatchet had returned to the Lehigh Valley and about 260 sweltering fans, looking mostly like refugees from the pages of Outlaw Biker magazine, had turned out to toast their long-lost heroes.

And as the whiskey-chuggin’, fanny-pattin’ good ol’ boys and beer-guzzlin’, pool-playin’ good ol’ gals pumped the air with their fists, their heroes — a little worse for wear –finally appeared.

Bobby Ingram and cigarette-smoking Duane Roland’s chomping boogie guitar riffs were hotter than the beer carton that accidentally ignited on the club’s charcoal grill. But vocalist Danny Joe Brown was out to lunch.

As a diabetic, the bear-like Brown has always had a tough row to hoe. In the late ’70s, he quit as Hatchet vocalist because of the rigors of touring. Now slimmed down — he looked more like a grizzly than a Kodiak — but very weak, Brown’s singing was almost inaudible.

Brown apparently blamed the soundman for his woes, and at one point, the frustrated singer ran to the side of the stage, arms swinging, and took a couple of swipes — easily dodged — at the hapless knob twirler.

Ingram and Roland jammed relentlessly, attempting to compensate, but Brown stomped off and the show ground to a halt.

After an unplanned five-minute break and some tinkering with the monitors, the band returned, its enthusiasm somewhat diminished.

Brown attempted to better his initial effort — even grabbing a harmonica during a hell-raising version of “Whiskey Man.” However, the crowd noticed not a whit. During Gregg Allman’s “Dreams I’ll Never See,” as Roland and Ingram did the heads-down-no-nonsense boogaloo at the lip of the stage, fans screamed in ecstasy.

For “Gator Country” and “Flirtin’ With Disaster,” it didn’t matter that Brown was incapable — the transfixed rowdies supplied the words.

Molly Hatchet plowed on for a full 65 minutes, and if I were more whimsical I’d say the band was still boogiein’ at the club at this moment. But having left during the first encore, I’m not really sure if that’s true.

August 1990 — Mitch Ryder, Musikfest ’90

Imagine Jack Nicholson fronting hard-rockers Guns N’ Roses. That, in a nutshell, was Mitch Ryder and his backing band of Detroit gangsters at Musikfest’s Kunstplatz last night.

Starting with a sledgehammer version of “Money,” the flame-thrower-voiced singer led his band through 40 minutes of stoked, iron-fisted rock ‘n’ roll as a capacity audience looked on in slack-jawed astonishment.

From the third row, the stage volume of guitarist Rick Binick was withering. Some of the older members in the crowd appeared pained, as if their hair were about to catch fire. But many in the audience waved their fists in time to the music.

High points of Ryder’s set included a righteous version of The Rolling Stones’ “Heart Of Stone,” during which the singer let loose with a string of nerve-shattering shrieks and a cover of Prince’s “When You Were Mine” that smoked the original.

Ryder closed with his benchmark single, “Devil With A Blue Dress.” It sounded just as brash in 1990 as it did in the mid-’60s.

September 1989 — Cleaning up the Dump

“It’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world!” Or at least that’s what James Brown said a while back. However, times have changed and you’d risk a swipe upside the head if you’d spring that old claim on Los Angeles-based L-7, an all- female punk rock act scheduled to appear tonight at the Khyber Pass in Philadelphia with Catt Butt and Scab Cadillac.

A similar bill headlined by L-7 originally was scheduled for tomorrow night at Wally’s in Bethlehem as the second of two shows this weekend kicking off the reopening of the controversial Valley nightspot. (Electric Love Muffin was to perform tonight.)

Owner/manager Alvin Karnofsky canceled the events when it became apparent that the club still would be in violation of a number of ordinances discovered during a Sept. 15 inspection by the Bethlehem City Health Department.

“The present violations include inadequate painting and holes in the bathroom,” Karnofsky stated. “We’re replacing a front door with shatterproof material and making sure that the men’s latrines are fully functional. It should be about a week and a half till we’re ready.

“We’re moving slowly, trying to be reasonable and fully cooperative. Over the last two years we’ve held at least 100 shows without incident. That’s not a bad record. As an educator (Karnofsky is a professor of nuclear physics at Lehigh University), I feel an obligation to provide something for the kids.”

Bethlehem Health Department official Glenn Cooper confirmed that the proprietor’s efforts to achieve compliance were continuing. “When we first inspected the establishment on Aug. 8, we found quite a bit of wall damage, particularly in the bathrooms. In addition there was a large amount of combustible trash littering the place, tiles missing from the dance floor, and a leaky drain in a sink within the men’s room which was damaging the floor.

“When we went back in on Sept. 15, we found the club in much better shape. Much of the work in the restrooms had been completed. There were still a few floor tiles missing and there remains a question about a leaky roof. But there is nothing within the room that two people couldn’t fix up in a day or two,” he said. (The leaky roof was never fixed and when I wrote about it again the city condemned the place.)

The date at Wally’s would have been the second Valley show for L-7. They played about a year ago at the now-defunct Oliver J’s in Allentown. In the intervening months, distaff hard-rock bands became a certified trend – “don’t-hate-us-because-we’re-beautiful” Vixen was the most successful in a field that included No Shame, Girlschool and Precious Metal. Now, however, bands marketed by gender are seen as little more than trite novelties.

So L-7 is in the position of any other underground act: pounding it out on the dive club circuit, hoping that the endless ordeal of playing to handfuls of generic committed fans will lead to a big break – or at least that next album.

A tough, sometimes churlish bunch, the band – guitarists Suzi Gardner and Jennifer Finch, bassist Donita Sparks and drummer Anne Anderson – recorded its first record a year ago on the small independent Epitaph label, which is also home to hardcore icons Bad Religion and NOFX.

The record was a primitive slice of dirge rock much in the vein of The Stooges’ first offering for Elektra back in 1969 – in fact, L-7’s “Let’s Rock” is an almost note-for-note swipe of Iggy’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” (Covers of this particular number are in vogue these days.)

In a telephone interview from California, Finch explained the evolution of L-7’s sound: “A babysitter turned me on to The Stooges, The Ramones, and Motorhead. That progressed to a liking for Los Angeles bands like The Circle Jerks, Black Flag and Fear when I became old enough to start going to shows.

“I love to play dirges. We sound best when we’re sludgy and grungy. I love to get you in the groin with that heavy humping beat.”

Of her songwriting she remarked, “Most of my songs are stream of consciousness things. ‘Ms. 45’ (on the first album) is from a cult movie. I’ve also written one about a skinhead who’s addicted to paint fumes. A lot of our current material is more to the orthodox ‘metal’ side of things.”

Finch concluded with a hissing description of the band’s live approach. “We’re rawer than on record; we’re untamed and untainted. We’re not interested in major label contracts.” It figures.

January 1990 — Pure Hell Paints Punk Metal Black For The Third Time

Living Colour, Bad Brains and 24.7 Spyz. Before any of those black hard-rock bands gained fame came Pure Hell, an all-black Philadelphia-based punk-metal act that will perform tonight at the Airport Music Hall in Allentown.

Back in 1977 Pure Hell billed itself on English tours as “America’s Only Black Punk Rock Act” (discounting Detroit’s equally obscure Niggers). Now, however, the distinction’s an anachronism.

Drummer Michael Sanders (stage name: Spider Blaze) claimed in a recent telephone interview that he had at one time performed with the New York Dolls. “Jerry Nolan, the Dolls’ drummer, was out for six months with hepatitis and I filled in. That was back in 1975.”

Fans of that seminal Manhattan band, hailed as America’s answer to the Rolling Stones before crashing and burning in the mid-’70s, may remember that in 1975 the Dolls were managed by a pre-Sex Pistols Malcolm McLaren. Shortly thereafter, the Dolls became a dead letter.

Sanders then backed Johnny Thunders briefly on a European tour. Thunders’ heroin habit became too much, so Sanders headed back to the States and re-formed Pure Hell, a band he had started in 1972.

“Pure Hell played in Europe extensively with such bands as the U.K. Subs and Wilko Johnson,” said the drummer. “We returned to New York and played with Sid Vicious a week before he died. In 1978 we made a European single, `These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ ‘ backed with `No Rules.’ ” The record charted briefly in England, but Pure Hell broke up in 1980.

Sanders went to seek fame and fortune in Los Angeles, but by 1985 he was back in Philadelphia. Two months ago he again put together Pure Hell with guitarist Chip Morris, vocalist “Stinker” Starr and bassist Jerry Dredd.

“We grew up with the music of Black Sabbath, Iggy Pop and Ronnie Jim Dio. That’s the kind of material we do now,” said Sanders.

Also on the bill is a local band of hard rockers with the interesting name, Vic Missy. Was the name inspired by the man responsible for the “Green Acres” theme, Vic Mizzy?

During a recent interview, band leader Todd Heft, who in real life is WZZO’s rush-hour DJ for the “Red Dog Saloon” show, insisted that there was no connection and that the band won’t be performing tributes to Arnold Ziffle. Then he abruptly changed his mind. “Yeah, you can say that we’re named after him,” said the equivocal ‘ZZO jock.

In addition to Heft on keyboards, the band features lead singer Nathan Detroit, guitarist Greg Lipsky, drummer Tony Dalmas and bassist Stacey Feit. “We do psychedelic-glam-death metal,” Heft added, apparently serious.

Followers of the Valley music scene may remember Heft from The Mating Index. The band achieved a small measure of notoriety after being driven from the stage during a Ramones show at the Music Hall several years ago.

Rounding out tonight’s bill will be Jolly Roger. Led by singer/truck driver/Slatington resident Dan Frantz, the band resurrects such numbers as Ted Nugent’s “Free-For-All” and Grand Funk’s “We’re An American Band.”

Tomorrow night at the Music Hall, the parade of local hard-rock talent continues with Hard Knoxx, The Salty Dogs, Snow White and Acceptable Wish.

Coopersburg’s Salty Dogs are worth a look-see. Performances are often marked by the stage-ramblings of vocalist Jules Mittel, who comes off as a harmonica-wielding version of Ryan O’Neal in “What’s Up Doc?”

Drummer Ron Herczeg, bassist Gary Hinkle and guitarist/Philadelphia Conservatory of Music student Brian Silvoy round out the band. “Since Brian and Jules are both away at college now, it’s tough for us to get together regularly,” Herczeg said in a recent interview. “But look out in the summer!”

Herczeg said that his parents support The Salty Dogs but that their tastes run more toward local light-metal than his band’s own brand of Blue Cheer-like brutality.

What does Herczeg think of that? “Yikes!”

December 1989 — Bad English, Saraya at the State Theatre, Easton

She walked, she talked, she crawled on her belly like a reptile!

Sandi Saraya, singer for the Polydor hard-rock band that bears her last name, was quite a sight Thursday night at Easton’s State Theatre, where Saraya opened for Bad English.

She changed jackets three times. She wound herself up like a flapper from the Roaring ’20s. She bared her nice-looking midriff. And still she managed to lead her band through a fair 45-minute set of rock. What a gal! The Charo of rock ‘n’ roll!

Saraya’s show wasn’t all hard-rock peaches and cream, however. The quartet from the N.Y./N.J. metro area eschewed the wisest strategy for opening acts: hit ’em hard, hit ’em fast and get off the stage. Instead, Saraya opted for verbatim renditions of plodding midtempo tunes found on the band’s self-titled debut LP.

Saraya didn’t kick into high gear until near the end with the double-time gallop of “Runnin’ Out Of Time” and a fun (but almost unrecognizable) cover of Peter Frampton’s “(I’ll Give You) Money.” The band closed with its satisfying FM signature tune, “Love Has Taken Its Toll.” The 600-strong audience responded, but without the enthusiasm needed to merit an encore.

As soon as headliner Bad English hit the stage, every small child and junior-high school-age girl in the theater let out a high-pitched keening noise. Parents and security men flinched.

Bad English, which played at Allentown’s Airport Music Hall a few weeks ago, delivered just what this audience craved: wimpy and meaningless lite-metal fluff. It was just what you’d expect from this unholy fusion of former members of The Babys and Journey.

June 1991 — Enuff Z’ Nuff — Allentown Main Gate

Yes, once again, the dean of the college of hard-rock knowledge has been persuaded to don the steel-toed boots of retribution for one more stab at reviewing entertainment which various lumpen proles occasionally wish on us.

Only this time, Enuff Z’Nuff, a glam quartet from Chicago, showed an anemic audience of a few hundred at Allentown’s Main Gate that it is a band that is definitely worth a reasonable amount of your cash money.

Loud as hell from the start — actually too loud, the guitars blew down the vocals all night — Enuff Z’ Nuff seems to be the handiwork of singer Donnie Vie, a man seized by a convincing John Lennon fetish. With granny glasses and Rickenbacker guitar to match his hero, Vie sang “Magical Mystery Tour” — a ballsy move considering most hard-rock acts won’t touch any Beatles hit with a 10-foot pole. And then he did the next best thing — drawing the logical connection between the Beatles and Cheap Trick with a version of “Live At Budokan’s” “Ain’t That A Shame.” Get Bun E. Carlos!!

The rest of the show was consistent, following the de rigueur heavy metal crowd-pandering with an overlong, stripped-screw, two-chord thud blooz and some senseless guitar soloing that featured Derek Frigo doing the Eddie Van Halen-thang until the sweat-slicked punters in the front were satisfied.

Then it was time to play a real song once again, finishing with the great “High On A New Thing,” which became one of those “sort-of” video hits for the group in early ’90.

Other high points included “Long Way To Go” — a side-ways cop of “Route 66” — and “Baby Loves You,” from the band’s latest CD, “Strength.”

At the end, most fans were in the parking lot drinking, shmoozing and scamming dates. Since admission was free, courtesy of WAEB-FM, there was no novelty in watching out-of-towners.

December 1989 — brief interview with Public Affection, before they were renamed and became famous as Live.

Another band from central Pennsylvania, Public Affection, a York-based foursome, will make its Bethlehem debut tonight at The Funhouse.

The group’s 18-year-old singer is known to his bandmates and fans as “Zedd.” Why this is so became apparent at the outset of a telephone interview on Tuesday, when singer Ed Kowalczyk answered, “Hello, this-iz- zed.” He explained that his new wave-ish nickname came from his habit of slurring together his surname when answering the phone. “Plus, Kowalczyk seemed, uh, a little too ordinary for this line of work,” said Zedd.

The band will be showcasing some songs from its independently launched “Death Of A Dictionary” cassette. Represented by David Sestak, president of the Easton-based booking agency Media 5, Public Affection is one of that organization’s first forays into the realm of original alternative music.

Zedd describes the music of Public Affection as “white soul.” “Our music is searching,” he said. “We’re soul-searchers – truth seekers with new music. We’re trying to rebel in the same sense that the hippies did, but in an ’80s kind of way.”

White soul, soul searchers and truth seekers. Indeed.

August 1991 — interview with Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter talks with the kind of Texas drawl that makes you think he’d be a good neighbor, the kind you could share a beer with.

The tall, pale guitarist says that he had recorded a song about drinkin’ for “Let Me In,” his new disc on Point Blank, but he decided to leave it off because … well, you know how that kinda thing got George Thorogood in hot water.

Winter said he’s never heard Thorogood’s “If You Don’t Start Drinkin’ (I’m Gonna Leave).” “But I’ve heard plenty about it,” he laughed.

Asked if he thought that anyone would have made a fuss about this song if it had been recorded five years ago, Winter said he didn’t think so.

Which makes one think about what’s going on with rock ‘n’ roll these days. Don’t rock bands advertise beer? And where do you often see them perform? Smoky bars, right? And what’s served in bars? Think about these things too much, and your head will throb.

So it’s time to move on and say why Johnny Winter’s opening for George Thorogood at the Allentown Fair tomorrow night. Mainly, it’s in support of “Let Me In,” as fine a rock record as you’ll hear this year.

It should be a good show. After all, there’s lots of cool stuff from the disc that Winter can play. For instance, “Barefootin’,” which was a great cover when Brownsville Station performed it as the B-side of “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” many years ago. It still sounds pretty good on “Let Me In.”

And one could yell for “Sugaree,” where Winter plays some lowdown stop-‘n-start guitar boogie riffs that sound real fine in the summer time.

There’s plenty of blues on the record, too, so the purists that regularly rag Winter about whether he’s a rocker or a bluesman can still get their bile pumpin’ over whether “Let Me In” is more “blooz” or more “rock.”

“I was getting s— about that in the ’60s,” said Winter. “I don’t really understand it — you’ll always have someone who isn’t comfortable unless there’s a title on it. But it’s just the way I play.”

Which brings to mind his last album, “Winter of ’89.” Produced by Terry Manning, some of it had a ZZ Top throb to it that made the purists scream blue murder. Actually, the record wasn’t bad — there was the usual helping of fierce playin’ and singin’ that you can find on just about every Johnny Winter album.

“It was an attempt to be more commercial,” said Winter. “But it wasn’t that good an experience. I did my part and left and then the producer did his. I like to get more involved in the recording, so we didn’t get along too well.”

Why does Winter have to be “more commercial”? It’s hard to figure out, considering the big draw he was in the ’70s with records like “Still Alive And Well,” “Second Winter” and “Saints And Sinners.”

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Winter recorded for Alligator, an independent blues label for most of the ’80s. You do that kind of thing too much and businessmen start calling you uncommercial.

But Winter made his first and only video for Alligator. And then it went and got aired on MTV, but it was hard to tell if that helped much because fans of Winter apparently don’t watch MTV.

Although it’s up to Point Blank, his new label, Winter said he’d like to make another. “The one I did was fun. We found a guy who hadn’t done any videos, just commercials, and he agreed to do it. I couldn’t bitch. I don’t know anything about it.

“He’d say, `Walk over here,’ and then I’d do what he said.”

Which seems like a sensible way to make a video when you take a gander at those on MTV –most of which are “tasteless and horrible,” according to Winter.

It is indeed hard not to like Winter. You can listen to his guitar-playin’ of which much great stuff has been written. You can remember when he used to wear a neat top hat, or you can recall that he’d been laboring in Texas backwaters for 10 years before one paragraph in Rolling Stone magazine made him “the next big thing” more than two decades ago.

It was just a short blurb and, Winter said, “It surprised me to death. It was just what this one guy said. I couldn’t believe it; it still seems impossible.

“And then the same record company people that I’d been trying to talk to for 10 years were all calling me at once.”

December 1990 — Woogie-filled Boogie

Yessireebob, it sure is nifty to see an act like Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen — a band with such unfortunate physical attributes that a solitary gander is enough to knock the proverbial vultures off the manure wagon.

There was the Commander — looking just like a walkin’, talkin’ ham hock. There was guitarist Peter Walsh whose unique bald-head and back-shag combo scared my date while at the same time neatly dispensing with the need for a toupee.

But last weekend at The Hearth in Pipersville, the 160 folks in the sellout crowd didn’t pay good cash money to see pretty boys. It just mattered that the entertainment was entertainin’.

And The Lost Planet Airmen were certainly that, blowin’ more than two hours worth of woogie-filled boogie up the noses of the flannel-shirted crowd.

Billy C. Farlow, the only member of the Airmen who doesn’t look like a truck’s dragged him a mile on a concrete road, supplied the Elvis impersonations on “Flip, Flop and Fly” and the occasional quack-tweet from a pocket-sized mouth harp.

Walsh sang “the world’s saddest song,” “Seeds & Stems (Again).” The drummer, whose name I forget, brandished his sticks crazily at the rest of the Airmen. I do believe he was the same guy who pounded the tubs for Mitch Woods earlier this year, bless his heart.

The Commander did Meade Lux Lewis imitating Bo Diddley, if such a thing could be said to happen, on “It Shoulda Been Me.”

They peddled T-shirts, too! Give these guys complimentary passes to next year’s Labor Day pigeon shoot!

Opening for The Airmen was an unknown solo guitarist who badly wanted to be David Bromberg. Before he even played a single note, a new-fangled tuning device eluded his grasp and smashed in two on the floor. Panic filled his eyes; his knee jigged nervously. He smiled thinly and began to play, but it was all over as far as the audience was concerned.

January 1991 — Vassar Clements in New Hope

It was just like being in a Manhattan night club at the Vassar Clements performance recently in New Hope. Lemme describe John & Peter’s for ya, and you’ll see the similarities: poor parking, low-ceiling, stifling hot, little seating. And a real wallet-burner — a first round of beverages for myself and my two comrades came to just under $15. That was on top of the $12 entrance fee.

I briefly wondered if George Thorogood spends that much when he drops by.

But you wanna know about the fiddle-player from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, right? Well, Vassar is still pretty spry for a dude in his 60s; there’s no arguing with the fact that the man can play.

However, Vassar and his New Jersey road band came off as little more than jazz Nazis bent on slicing and dicing bluegrass, newgrass, country, New Age and blues for the lion’s share of the first hour-long set.

“What’s that Hawaiian-like noise?” complained one of my pals during a cover of “I Know You Rider.” It was pedal-steel player Steve Dye doing his best New Riders imitation.

Dye was a smooth, fluid musician, indeed — but in the end, almost Lawrence Welk-ian. And while I’m picking on him, Dye could have stood to liven up his stage demeanor, too. If he had been any more still and emotionless, his mates would’ve sized him for a pine box.

By the last two numbers, Vassar and harpist Brian Muldoon had managed to inject some excitement into the proceedings. As Muldoon capered about, Clements led the band through a number of intense jams which put hair on the walls.

And to think that some people think I’m only tough on hard-rockers.

August 1991 — The Four Horsemen “Nobody Said It Was Easy”

You know that toothless, grinning biker who stands in the back of every roadhouse you’ve ever been in, slowly rocking from side to side, his mind turned to toast from gobbling one too many hits of meth-doped acid? The one that yells out “Fray-bird!” while the band plays on, the one that gets tears in his eyes when he hears that Mountain song about the “painted wagons” and then empties his chow all over his long-suffering girlfriend’s shins? Well, Def American’s found him and his name’s Frank C. Starr! And they went and made him what he always should have been: the leader of a rock and roll band. Frank’s hep, he thinks up cool titles for songs like “Rockin’ Is My Business (And Business is Good)” and “I’m a Wanted Man” and “I Need A Thrill In the Morning to Get Me Up” and yells them about 90 times or until the band is done playing, whichever comes first. The real musicians do a laudable AC/DC impression and an even better one of Status Quo. True, it’s somewhat tuneless, but it makes for a disc almost as “kozmik” as Quo’s “Dog of Two Head,” which to my mind is worth any five of Dylan or Petty’s but to yours — well, maybe you ought to go see them first.

August 1989 — Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers/The Replacements — Allentown Fairgrounds

The “old” Replacements showed up to open for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers at the Fairgrounds last night. From a purist’s standpoint it was great rock ‘n’ roll, from a Petty worshiper’s view it was maddening and if you were in the band . . . it was understandable.

However, it didn’t start out that way. The ‘Mats seemed genuinely charged up when they hit the stage, opening with “Tommy Got His Tonsils Out” from “Let It Be.” “Color Me Impressed,” “Bastards of Young,” and that other song from “Let It Be” (which can’t be mentioned in a family newspaper) followed. Singer Paul Westerberg then downshifted into the poignant “Skyway” as the show unraveled.

Visibly annoyed by the crowd’s constant screaming for the headliner, the band transformed “I’ll Be You” from “Don’t Tell A Soul” into a two-beat crawl. The audience failed to see the novelty and The ‘Mats wrapped with a ragged version of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” which was brought to a grinding halt when Westerberg spiked his guitar into his amplifier and drummer Chris Mars kicked his kit off the stage.

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers were great rock ‘n’ roll too, but for different reasons. The band’s obvious strengths are maturity and an arm load of great songs. However, The Heartbreakers live go way beyond that. After being around for more than a decade, Petty still carries it all off with an air of freshness and wonderment that belies his massive reputation.

Opening with “Refugee” from their landmark album, “Damn The Torpedoes,” Petty and company supplied the hits the crowd wanted to sing. Highlights? There were many. Mike Campbell’s guitar sound was impeccable, planting Petty’s tunes and allowing the rhythm work of the singer’s own guitar, bassist Howie Epstein, and drummer Stan Lynch to pack a wallop that made the materials’ disarming hooks all the more engaging.

The songs from the recent “Full Moon Fever,” which got the best reaction, were “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Yer So Bad.” Many in the audience seemed to reach a kind of personal epiphany during Petty’s solo rendition of “The Waiting” from the “Hard Promises” LP. And that’s all The Heartbreakers could have asked for.

January 1990 — Out Of The Blue Goes Quietly Into The Night

There was something cooking at Yesteryear’s Inn in Schnecksville last weekend. It was Out Of The Blue’s goose.

Problems began for the Trexlertown-based cover band the when the inn’s owner and his chef apparently became concerned that irate neighbors might complain about the rock band.

Out Of The Blue struggled manfully to comply with the demands for quiet. Drummer Ed Sojtore dampened his kit with duct tape. Soundmen all but turned off the lead vocals of keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Tom Nosal. (This turned out to be a small favor. The Gregg Allman look-alike sang flat more often than not.)

As a few good ol’ boys hooted in the background, Out Of The Blue turned in a respectable covers of The Allman Brothers’ “Dreams I’ll Never See” and Bad Company’s “Ready For Love.” Some in the audience of about 50 were getting excited, even having fun. Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” followed, with bassist Bruce Nosal, the real talent behind Out Of The Blue, grooving away in his pork-pie hat.

Suddenly from behind the bar came the owner, his head bobbing angrily, distressed that a band would play rock ‘n’ roll louder than the clink of bar glassware. Soon the bar’s white-hatted chef joined the fray.

Wilting under this assault, Out Of The Blue sadly turned down its amplifiers. Some in the crowd glumly remarked that the bar’s jukebox was twice as loud as the band.

There is a happy ending to this story. Out Of The Blue has been asked to return to Yesteryear’s Inn next month. Maybe the band should bring along Maxwell Smart’s cone of silence.

January 1990 Pig Roast Promised in Bath

It was an entertainment switcheroo Thursday night in Bethlehem, as a trio of young long-hairs played ’70s-vintage rock ‘n’ roll at the Four G’s Hotel on the city’s South Side while a quartet of bearded baldies toyed with teeny-bop rock at DJ’s Pub at the city line.

Legend, three Freedom High grads who’ve played together for two years, got things rolling at the Four G’s with a set of distorted, knuckle-dragging blues riffs. The band covered territory halfway between Lynyrd Skynryd redneck thump and Blue Cheer-ish acid-grunge.

It’s a lead-pipe cinch that when guitarist Jack Romaine starts singing in the shower at Lehigh University, his classmates run for cover. But his guitar work was worth the admission price. Romaine didn’t flinch from excess as he threw confabulated “Hey Joe”-like solos into everything from Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” to Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care Of Business.” Drummer Joe Schiavone and bassist Jim Touchton seemed all too content to remain in the background — way in the background.

Asked why they prefer the grubby look instead of the effeminate pose practiced by many of their hairsprayed local peers, Schiavone and Touchton sneered, “All the bands do it! Who would want to be like that?”

Over at DJ’s Pub, waxy-pated Mistaken Identity was jubilantly attacking glammy Poison’s “Talk Dirty To Me.” Some in the small crowd danced merrily to the music supplied by thirtysomething guitarists Jay Blank and Jim Eckert, bassist Chris Henry and drummer Jim Wolfe, all of Bath. Others sat glumly on stools near the door while a few women petted a German shepherd that trotted about. At one point, former Fuzzy Bunny member (and Lou Gossett Jr. look-alike) Emmitt Harris clambered on stage to sing a respectable version of The McCoys’ “Hang On Sloopy.” Mistaken Identity then slammed through ZZ Top’s “Sharp-Dressed Man” and “La Grange” before breaking.

During intermission, group members displayed their tattoos for any who cared to see. One hatted biker type said bigger things are in store for Mistaken Identity. “In June, they’ll have a pig roast in Bath!” If you can’t wait until then, Mistaken Identity will play tonight in (where else?) Bath at The Fox.

October 1989 — Love and Rockets/The Pixies at Villanova

The best part of last Saturday’s Love And Rockets concert at Villanova University was opening act The Pixies. The Boston foursome, if the reaction of the very young audience is any indication, is at the right place at the right time, opening for the currently hot Limeys and handing them a challenge to which they aren’t equal.

Previously considered a “college noise band,” the Pixies jettisoned most of the Steve Albini/Big Black influence of the “Surfer Rosa” LP in favor of tight, mesmerizing mantras a la “Where is My mind?” Singer/ guitarist Black Francis’ fingernails-on-chalkboard screaming was in fine form on songs like “Debaser,” from the band’s latest, “Monkey Gone To Heaven” LP on 4AD/Elektra.

Headliner Love And Rockets was – as many U.K. imports are these days – horrible. Plodding dirges about the joys of “motorbikes” and Anglo ennui delivered by spike-haired anorexic men do not an enjoyable concert make. As palatable as being force-fed wet cement.

August 1990 — Ax and Teeth-Grinding

The shrill squeal of over-amplified electric guitars, a sound capable of torturing dogs, filled the smoky air of DJ’s Pub in Bethlehem on Tuesday night. As a liquored-up rabble of roughly 100 fans cheered their favorites on, the Lehigh Valley’s “best” guitarists took the stage to prove, mano a mano, who was the fittest.

Strange Angel’s Chris Fullenwinder was first. Although reserved and studious looking, Fullenwinder filled the air with a nonsensical noise punctuated only by a moment when he placed his tongue on the strings. Oink! At the end of his 10-minute slot, he turned off like a machine whose time was up. Friends cheered wildly, strangers quailed in fear.

The Hunger’s John Frazier and Moulin Rouge’s Keith Patrick were similar, varying only in speed. Patrick seemed to take a slight advantage by quoting from “16th Century Greensleeves” but abandoned the track when it seemed like the audience was enjoying it.

When Blisster Dougie “Smash” Roth’s turn came, he could not be found. Minutes ticked by. Finally, the worried-looking guitarist jumped on stage, began riffing crazily and broke a string! Helpers scurried about helplessly as Roth tried to regain his place. Finally, he twisted another guitar between his legs and finished with a low-down blues riff that left the crowd cheering.

Chris Green of Poker Face then grabbed the spotlight and wouldn’t let go. The oddly-costumed Green assaulted the crowd directly, jumping onto the floor and gesticulating wildly as he charged through ludicrous body-building poses and root-canal-pain-inducing riffs. Shell-shocked patrons clucked and gabbled angrily among themselves as they quaffed beer after beer.

Then, a Sam Kinison look-a-like named Jim Alfano began his slot by again quoting from “16th Century Greensleeves.” But the meat wagon was driven over the cliff as Alfano abandoned form and scrabbled wildly about on the floor, generating a din so fierce it resembled a high-pitched whir.

Michael Giarrizzi of Hazleton band Kartune finished the exhibition, but most seemed not to notice.

Finally, fans got to shout their approval for the entries. Roth was the favorite, but some patrons, anguished and insulted by his brief, unorthodox set, grumbled loudly.

Before accepting his $100 cash prize, “Smash” ran to the stage with a flagon of gin, pouring a quarter of it into his mouth. He then ran back and forth between the stage and bar, downing shots in triumph.

November 1989 — Gorky Park, Nyet!

The only word that came to mind watching Soviet rockers Gorky Park stumble through the first three numbers of its set at the Airport Music Hall in Allentown last weekend was pathetic. Before a very young and desultory crowd of about 150, the Russians learned the hard way what to expect when you’re a lousy “big hair” act, the kind you can see most any night at a local taproom.

The band’s material was poor not because its members were inept musicians, but because they were trying to interpret a phenomenon that is quintessentially American. American “big hair” rockers like Bon Jovi are succeed because they know exactly what’s going on in the heads of their target audience: 12-year-old girls. The Soviet rockers haven’t a clue.

Extremely nervous from the outset, Gorky Park struggled manfully to excite, but failed. The high-point of the show was a thrash-metal interpretation of “The Volga Boatman,” which the band obviously relished. But it was into the pit of mediocrity again with a meaningless, unrecognizable cover of The Who’s “My Generation” and a laughably stilted version of “Jailhouse Rock.” Final verdict: Nyet!

January 1990 — RealEyes get Crossed Up

A slight young man with long, wispy blonde hair was throwing darts at a board in a dimly lit corner of the room. People glanced nervously, protecting their arms and legs as the darts hit the board, bounced off and fell to the floor, one after the other. The going wasn’t any easier for those listening to the band mucking about on stage, local rockers RealEyes.

About 50 young-ish leather-clad rock ‘n’ roll fans turned out at DJ’s Pub in Bethlehem Thursday night to dance to a band who thought that converting Led Zeppelin riffs into a “Stars On 45”-type medley was a bright idea. It wasn’t.

The foursome stumbled from “Rock ‘n’ Roll” into “Black Dog,” “Whole Lotta Love” and “Dazed & Confused” — and back again — until the audience didn’t know which end was up.

In its next set, RealEyes attempted to trump the Led Zep-medley debacle with a semi-original number, “Agent X,” which sounded like Spencer Davis’ “Gimme Some Lovin'” played at half-speed. Incredibly, RealEyes sandwiched the song between moldy snippets of Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther Theme” and “Peter Gunn.” In the background, an off-key alto saxophone tootled away. This outfit, which reportedly has been together for 10 years, deserved to be wrapped in Owens-Corning fiberglass. A ruinous cover of “I Saw Her Standing There” underscored a level of ineptitude only hinted at earlier in the evening. At least the errant dart thrower hit the bull’s-eye once or twice.

September 1990 — Crimson Country Takes Its Best Shot (At the Hegins Pigeon Shoot)

It wasn’t quite the party that the locals hoped it would be at the Fred Coleman Labor Day Pigeon Shoot in Hegins, an event which is supposed to be, according to patrons, festive.

But the gild was off the lily after protesters led by activist Steve Hindi scuffled with locals and a legion of state troopers shortly after noon. By 1:30, a good ol’ boy quartet called Crimson Country had set up on a stage in the center of the picnic grove.

As birds bounced and fluttered weakly from trap boxes and the ack-ack of continuous shotgun volleys spread their feathers over the playing fields of Hegins, Crimson Country launched into “Wipe Out” by The Surfaris.

Over the next couple of hours the four-man band played creditable covers of tunes by Randy Travis and Hank Williams Sr. and Jr.

Around 3, as the pigeon body count escalated, Crimson Country played the Elvis Presley standard “Don’t Be Cruel.” Few seemed to notice the Grand Guignol irony of the selection, perhaps not even the country boys themselves.

While all this was going on, people selling T-shirt commemorating the shoot were doing a brisk business. Some shirts bore the sayings: “Shoot pigeons … not drugs,” “Let feathers fly and freedom ring!” and “Save a pigeon … shoot a protester.” However, the hottest title was a stark black number emblazoned with a bastardization of the 82nd Airborne’s motto: “Kill them all, let God sort ’em out later/I survived the 1990 Hegins Labor Day Pigeon Shoot.”

Those went fast. Most prospective purchasers had only one choice of size — triple-X. “I got one!” yelled a happy camper, his shirt hanging almost to his knees.

As some fans hunkered in the bleachers overlooking the range and others circulated by the food and beer stands in the grove, a grim atmosphere hung over the park. Children played obliviously on monkey bars and merry-go-rounds.

Occasionally, a dead pigeon would tumble out of the branches overhead.

The end.


  1. Bill said,

    April 8, 2013 at 7:15 am

    Thanks. Good stuff. I still remember your Stryper/Styx review in Spin back in the 80s.

    You guys probably didn’t work in an office together, but you must’ve met Spin-mate Byron Coley. What’s he like?

  2. George Smith said,

    April 8, 2013 at 8:31 am

    I never knew him, just his work. I was just a free-lancer for Spin.

  3. George Smith said,

    April 8, 2013 at 8:32 am

    I guess I should state Byron Guzman was a different Byron.