Some little news tid bit popped up today telling me that as of this day forty-five years ago CBS released Iggy Pop’s “Raw Power”. I don’t remember the day but I do remember that only a few months later I was to be exposed to this album. Thinking about this time brings back a flood of memories that I will try to capture here.
My family was living in the Los Angeles area and were friends with another family whose father worked for CBS Records, I don’t know what he did but his kids always had an amazing collection of records and it is at their house in the hills that I found Iggy in a pile of records the kids had. The family had two sons, one older was into the heavy metal so he would pick the albums first and pull the Black Sabbath and such out for himself. The younger brother was my age, we didn’t like to listen to the music his older brother so we picked whatever was opposite and that was just by looking at the album art because, who knew?
On the cover “Raw Power” featured a semi naked Iggy with makeup and a snarl, good start. The other album was the equally crazy looking “New York Dolls” which was first released only two months later. We took the albums to the huge console record player and listened to both. They did not sound like the brother’s Black Sabbath and I knew both he and my parents hated them so we were good on the main points.
So both albums were only a few months old when I discovered them in a huge pile of promo discs and I immediately liked both of them as I do today. Good start if I do say so myself but sadly this was not my start as I already had a record collection and was allowed to use the family record player where my kid sister had to make due with her “close and play”.
The first record I bought with my own money and I think I bought it a J.C.Pennys was a 1960s live recording of the Beach Boys. I also had a copy of “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon” by Paul Simon and quite coincidentally also released in 1973. This album is a classic and likely has sold many times the total of both previous one but not as raucous and revolutionary as either. I think this one was a gift from my grandmother who was living in California at the time.
I also got to go to a few concerts in those years in California, my friend and neighbor had his birthday party at a local amusement park with included a concert at the park. We got to see Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, yep that Kenny Rogers except all dressed in a pastel jumpsuit. Seeing “Just Dropped In” live must have done something to me, I know it did to the band as this was their last performance.
I also remember getting taken to other shows, we went to the Hollywood Bowl for a Classical performance but can’t place the piece or players. Then there were the Christmas performances of the opera and ballet at the Shrine Auditorium but it wasn’t until we returned to Canada that I started to go to concerts of my own choosing.
Five years later in 1978 my dad moved us to the country where I rode the school bus with pig farmers kids and went to a high school with more pregnant kids than I’d ever seen in my life. I had two friends and a girlfriend the whole year. One of the friends was a kid who reconized me from the school I went to the previous year, he knew it was a bad scene and he spent every moment trying to get back to Toronto so I didn’t see much of him. The girlfriend was crazy, and the other friend was totally into rock and roll.
I got myself a job at the local record store that had just opened, my job was to assemble the displays and hook up the stereos. The owner knew nothing about such things and paid me off in records and promo items. I also was in charge of the weekly hit lists, a large poster would arrive in the mail which I’d tape to the front window and a stack of smaller printer ones I’d put half on the counter and half take to school which the other kids liked and brought business to the shop.
It was this year that I got to go the first concert of my own choosing and boy what a choice. The school had an open arrangement where if enough students wanted to go to a concert they would set up a ride, on the list I saw that they were willing to take a group to see the Tubes. I signed up with only three other students and a teacher drove us down and dropped us off in front of the Maple Leaf Gardens with the instructions that we were to meet him parked on the street a block north of the building.
The Tubes were amazing, the band was in their super theatrical stage with many costume changes for this highly sexualized show. Warnings were issued about the show too but luckily none had filtered down to my rural school, the singer was said to appear naked and to have simulated sexual acts on the stage. The dancing girls would appear for one number in cheerleading costumes and the next in leather bras and panties, Fee splashed himself from a bucket and rub it all over one of the girls it was crazy and I loved it. I was bitten and had to see more live shows.
The next year we moved back to the city where I had access to the subway and a myriad of clubs and concert halls. Being a fan of CFNY from living in Brampton two years ago I knew what kind of music I liked but being on the fringe of the antenna could no longer hear them and had to make due with some late night shows on CHUM-FM until they got a stronger antenna.
It was listening to these late night shows that I won tickets to the two most important shows to hit Toronto. This is going to sound crazy but I called in both times and answered questions live on air for the tickets and I remember how it went in both cases. Announcer says they have tickets, in this case the Clash at O’keefe Center. First person who guesses the current album gets them. I shout out “Give ’em enough rope” and run for the phone, about twenty minutes later and dozens or wrong answers I win them. Totally crazy show, imagine the Clash at a fancy opera house? I’d call it a DIY mosh pit where the fans try to make a pit from rows of seats. There’s video online of the aftermath, my radio station seats were close and I could see it but it didn’t look like the damage afterward. All I have to say is the band was encouraging it to happen by being so damn good.
The other show was The Ramones at the New Yorker on Yonge St. Now the Ramones had been to Toronto a number of times by now and the New Yorker a few times plus they had released a few albums so you’d think the biggest rock and roll station would have some knowledge of what and who they were but no. Announcer, “First three callers with the right answer gets pairs of tickets to the Ramones, What do the Ramones and Paul McCartney have in common?” Same thing, a bunch of callers get it wrong for like half an hour. I get the second pair and the announcer gets tired and gives the third to a joke answer about the amount of grease in their hair. McCartney also used the last name Ramone.
I must have won a pair of tickets but I went alone, I don’t remember anyone at the time liking this music, I don’t even remember selling the extra ticket. I just remember the Ramones and hanging this poster on my locker door in high school.
There was one other kid in my high school who liked to talk about strange and unknown bands, he was two years older and we only met during his last year there but he had a great influence. I’m sorry I don’t remember his name but he was not a punker, he was more into progressive and art rock and spoke about other bands like Gong, Soft Machine and David Allen.
This high school was a tech school and had a lot of different shop and music and art classes which made it fun to go there but it drew kids from a wide area so there was not the closeness of a school where everyone lived in the neighbourhood. This student was also a real oddball, he was known as the smartest kid in the school and he openly spoke about LSD making you smarter so he was a real pain in the ass to the school who wanted the grades but not, well everything else about him including the way he dressed only in black and wore a long coat everywhere.
We talked about music, I didn’t do LSD and I finagled meeting up with him for a few shows he was going to and these mark my first trips to The Edge in Toronto. I don’t remember which was the first show but we went to see Pere Ubu and on another night Mink DeVille. We didn’t drink, well he just didn’t drink and I was two years underage and without him ordering beers I wasn’t going to risk getting kicked out which I only later found out was pretty hard to do there. The one time I was with a group of guys who got kicked out we had to get caught pulling down and ceiling and breaking up the pieces and even then they were strangely reticent and only officially kicked out one guy and we mostly left to give him his jacket since it was snowing.
The next year I met my now very dear friend Jeff, at the time we’re still underage but bold enough to try to get in to the clubs. Places like The Edge were open all day and served food so we’d go early buy food, make sure there were beers on the table at shift change and we not only get served but we’d dodge the cover charge which went to buying more beer. Wayne County was one of my favorites. There weren’t a lot of people going to these shows so very quickly you’d recognize people and they’d recognize you so if there was a question of your age you could quickly shout out and people who didn’t know you would vouch for you, like community.
I’ve seen all the acts in the above poster. This particular Viletones show is the one were Jeff almost got beaten up by Leckie because Jeff was trying to talk to him while the guy was pissing. Leckie grabbed him and said “Why are you trying to look at my dick?” then the band rushed in and said he couldn’t beat up Jeff because they had to go on stage and off they ran with Lecking shouting that he wanted to meet him there after the show. We didn’t.
Here’s another show we were at, opened by the Demics who we liked as they were formed from another band we would go to see at Larry’s and that was Crash Kills Five. The thing about these early shows was that not only were the clubs run down and stank but you weren’t always sure you’d get a show at all. The Viletones would often cause fights and just not play but not this night, they were killer. “Oh there’s no hope for me!”
If I think of anything good I’ll write more, maybe something about this and the cops…