(editor’s note: It’s not exactly a state secret around the Pencilstorm offices that Ricki C. occasionally goes off the deep end about his beloved “rock & roll.” The phrase “Ricki’s in a mood” is often bandied about as a whispered warning among writers & staffers, as an alert that all is not well. I believe this piece is going to reflect Ricki’s more SNL Drunk Uncle leanings than his usual more careful, controlled, measured prose leanings. It’s gonna be long, it’s gonna be scattered, and there’s gonna be profanity. Proceed at your own risk and keep the kiddies away from the blog.)
This is not the way rock & roll was supposed to turn out. I’m 66 years old. I’ve been listening to and loving rock & roll since I was 5 years old, sitting in the backseat of my sainted Italian father’s 1952 Oldsmobile, drinking in the sounds of “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly or “Yakety Yak” by The Coasters as my much-older sister & brother punched the dial of the radio in the front seat. (Actually, it’s more likely I was STANDING UP on the back seat listening, because I was too little to see over the front seat otherwise, and I wanted to see where we were going. Car seats for the little ones? I don’t THINK SO, mister. Not in 1957 Columbus, Ohio, America, anyway. We had one car that had an oscillating fan with no cover over the blades ON THE DASHBOARD. Forget just hitting your head on the metal dash in case of a sudden stop – and this was YEARS before seat belts became mandatory, or even common, in cars – in the case of that car your FACE was gonna literally hit the fan.)
But I digress………
Colin asked me a coupla weeks ago to write a blog about the umpteenth “reunion” tour by The Who, who will be performing with (God help us) symphony orchestras on their upcoming Spring tour. That topic – along with Nick Jezierney’s KISS Tacoma Dome blog, JCE’s Glorious Sons piece, and Colin’s Bohemian Rhapsody post – have kinda conspired to put me train-round-the bend about rock & roll in 2019.
KISS was not supposed to still EXIST in 2019, let alone still be touring. Bands like The Glorious Sons who – let’s face facts – are unlikely to EVER get much bigger than playing small clubs on their own, or opening slots for slightly more popular “alternative” bands’ theater shows, will NEVER get the opportunity to develop into the upper ranks of rock & roll because the Dinosaur Relics of the 1970’s are STILL clogging up the arenas in the Upper Echelons of rock & roll. And Queen should not be permitted to just enlist some fuckboy American Idol has-been loser singing lead and some faceless bass player and still CALL THEMSELVES QUEEN AND PLAY ARENAS.
But they will, because – rubes that some of us are – we will still plonk down our hard-earned money to see them. Are we SO HARD UP for entertainment out here in Trump-country that we will get in our cars and drive to the Enormo-Dome to see Queen? I mean come on, this is a band that hasn’t put out an album in DECADES and whose (admittedly genius) lead singer Freddie Mercury hadn’t performed in public since 1986 (33 years ago) and died in 1991 (28 YEARS AGO!).
But that’s kinda the point, really, isn’t it, that ALL we have left is our memories? Our memories of when rock & roll was a thriving, vital force in our lives, not an adjunct – and truthfully not a very LARGE adjunct, compared to pop & rap – of the music business or of – God help us – SHOW BUSINESS.
This is not the way rock & roll was supposed to turn out. Rock was supposed to roll itself over every ten years or so: Buddy Holly & Chuck Berry & Elvis Presley were supposed to give way to The Beatles & The Rolling Stones & The Who, who (pun intended) were supposed to give way to Led Zeppelin & Queen & KISS, who were supposed to turn everything over to The Ramones & The Clash & Elvis Costello; only somewhere in there in the mid-1970’s, rock & roll became lucrative enough an industry to get the attention of the Big Money Men of Show Business. And that was pretty much The Ball Game; my baby boom brethren and the Curse of Classic Rock Radio ruined EVERYTHING.
Rock & roll was never supposed to be show business: Bob Hope & Doris Day & John Wayne & Frank Sinatra & maybe even The Beatles were show business, The Rolling Stones & The Kinks were rock & roll; The Osmond Brothers & Warren Beatty & Ali McGraw were show business, Lou Reed & Bruce Springsteen were rock & roll; Britney Spears & The Dave Matthews Band were show business, The Strokes & The White Stripes were rock & roll. And right there – in the Ricki C. universe – is where rock & roll STOPPED.
I’m now gonna attempt to tie all this up in a pretty little bow, before I hit 1000 words. I have MY memories of rock & roll. Some of them are of Mott The Hoople, whom Queen was supposed to OPEN for at Mershon Auditorium here in Columbus in 1974, but Queen didn’t open, because apparently Brian May contracted hepatitis and they had to blow out part of the tour. Mott The Hoople will be embarking on a “1974 Line-Up” reunion tour in early April. Mott The Hoople was – and IS – one of my five favorite bands of all time but I won’t be going to see them this spring.
Why? Mostly because I’ve seen Ian Hunter – Mott The Hoople’s main songwriter & front-man – as a solo act probably a dozen times since 1976, most recently in 2013 in Kent, Ohio, at Kent Stage, one of my favorite Midwest venues. Hunter consistently records new material, his most recent CD - 2016’s Fingers Crossed - was great and his Rant Band is a killer live assemblage. At the other extreme, the entire rhythm section of the original Mott The Hoople – bassist Overend Watts and drummer Dale “Buffin” Griffin – passed away in 2017 & 2016, respectively, and the two other members – lead guitarist Ariel Bender (Luther Grosvenor) and pianist Morgan Fisher – joined Mott The Hoople in 1973 & 1974, leaving Hunter the only original Mott The Hoople member from the band’s 1969 debut.
Do I begrudge Ian Hunter the cash he’s gonna make from a sold-out Mott The Hoople run? Not on your life, it’s not exactly like Ian became a millionaire from his Hoople association. And the halls Mott The Hoople have sold out on this tour seem to be in the 2000-seat range, they’re hardly Madison Square Garden. It ain’t like Pete Townshend & Roger Daltrey of The Who, Don Henley from The Eagles, or Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley from KISS dragging the rotted, bloating corpses of their original bands ‘round The Colonies for one more cash-grab reunion tour.
I have great memories of live Mott The Hoople. And I’m gonna keep ‘em.
This is not the way rock & roll was supposed to turn out. – Ricki C. / March 3rd, 2019
MOTT THE HOOPLE / 1973
MOTT THE HOOPLE / 2018
(He’s one of my five biggest heroes in ALL of rock & roll, he still looks & sounds great, but what the FUCK is Ian Hunter doing with an ACOUSTIC GUITAR at a Mott The Hoople reunion show? Get out the old Gibsons & Guilds, mate.)