Somewhere back there in time . . . I think it was long about ’67 or so, I went to The Who? concert in my hometown. Right in the middle of the event, as they were singing raucously about the existential crisis of growing up in my g-generation, suddenly Pete Townshend’s up there swinging his guitar around like an axe, tearing up amplifiers and microphones and actually wrecking the whole stage.
It felt like a wild dream. Maybe the ’60’s were a dream; I don’t know. As to whether they were a good dream or a bad one, I guess it would depend on whether you had to go to Vietnam, or not.
This Who memory returned to me yesterday, along with a host of other old episodes, drug up from the vaults of time.
A few days ago, my friend Fred loaned me a book, Richard Perry’s autobiography, Cloud Nine, about his life and his many years producing records with famous and and infamous rock stars.
There was no mention, so far, in his book of the Who’s infamous in-concert destruction, but the trail of memories that Richard retrieves from those halcyon days is quite a trip, if you catch my drift.
After putting the book down for a few minutes, with my mind full of those old rock memories, I felt like Guy Noire, pondering life’s persistent questions.
Questions like . . . who the heck was Billy Shears?
Well gollee, y’all. Richard Perry answers that question in his book!
So I was reading Cloud Nine while whizzing through a cloud at 30,000 ft. This musically trained kid in Brooklyn had, during the course of his lifetime, finagled his groove through Brooklyn and Detroit, Los Angeles and beyond, into a high-flying career, the recollection of which makes for some interesting reading.
The guy started his career before Elvis even had a hound dog. Through his retelling of those long-gone days, I learned who was responsible for naming the new musical trend, rock ’n roll. . . where the new vibes had originated (Cleveland) and the DJ guy who coined the phrase that Freed our g-generation to go hog wild with the twist and the frug, the watusi and the whatsittoya, instead of us being confined to the ancient foxtrot.
It pays to read books, y’all! You can learn stuff from them.
This world is about much more than what’s gleaming at you through online pixels and phony phone spells.
Remember my prediction here, kids. There will come a day when you discover that ancient manuscript, the Book!
Richard’s book turned me on to the backstories of Dave Brubeck changing the world with 5/4 time, how Streisand got her groove back when she came to a stony end, how Fats Domino made a comeback, the struggle that Nilsson had with his quest for love, which is tragic but I guess that’s just the way the story goes.
And there are so many stories out there, y’all!
In the mists of Cloud Nine we catch backstory glimpses of a half-century of grooves and boob-tube whooswhos . . . we hop on an irregular magical mystery tour, including the behind the scenes breakups, shakeups and wakes of that Act you’ve known for all these years and . . . who the heck is Billy Shears?
But seriously, so much happened back in the 20th-century and you may remember a lot of it with a little help from your friends.
We might even all get up and dance to a tune that was a hit before your mother was born, though she was born a long, long time ago.
If y’all catch some ole rock ’n roll memory trails, you can thank Alan Freed for rock ’n roll, and before him there was Bo and Satchmo, Fats, BB, Chuck, Sam Cooke and Dave and Barbra and even Ed Sullivan and the act you’ve known for all these years, along with the lovable Billy Shears!
So go read a book! Learn some stuff.