A tweet from Rolling Stone I saw earlier this morning reminded me it’s been four years since we’ve lost Tom Petty, who passed away on October 2, 2017 at the age of 66. If you’re a more frequent visitor of the blog, you probably know how much I dig Tom and how much I miss him, both as a great songwriter and as a no BS artist.
How many other music artists can you name who battled their record company over an attempted price increase for their album (Hard Promises, 1981) because the label thought music fans would simply absorb it? Tom resented the “superstar pricing”, which would have raised the price by one dollar – admittedly, a small amount, especially from today’s perspective. But it rubbed Tom the wrong way and he pushed back, literally practicing what he would sing eight years later: I Won’t Back Down. Eventually, the label abandoned the plan!
Tom has penned so many great songs that it’s hard to pick one. Here’s You Wreck Me, co-written by him and Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell. It’s from Tom’s second solo album Wildflowers released in November 1994. He was backed by all members of the Heartbreakers except for drummer Stan Lynch. Instead it was Steve Ferrone on the skins, who would become the band’s official drummer in 1995.
When I left Fakefest on Saturday evening, the first music festival I attended in close to two years, I was a happy camper. Listening live to three top notch tribute bands felt amazing. I had a real blast and knew this was likely not the last time I had come all the way to Atlantic City for this free annual open air event. What I didn’t anticipate was the timing of my return the very next day.
After all, I had been on my feet for close to five hours, so the thought of chilling on Sunday and reliving my Saturday at the event by writing a post about it sounded pretty attractive. Even after I had put together the post in the morning and scheduled it for yesterday, spending a quiet Sunday still was my plan. Then I took another look at the lineup for that day and all for sudden I felt, ‘damn, why wait until next year to have more fun.’ Plus, every great concert needs an encore, so here are some impressions from the final day of Fakefest.
The Gimmer Twins
This Rolling Stones tribute from Philly in and of itself would have been enough of a reason to return to Atlantic City. I’ve seen this band various times over the past four years. Adopting the nickname of the songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the group is led by Keith Call (vocals, harp) and Bernie Bollendorf (guitars, vocals), who bring to life the sound and looks of Jagger and Richards in the ’70s. While the additional musicians don’t resemble the other members of Stones, they sound fantastic: Michael Rubino (guitars), Bobby Corea (drums), Rob Ekstedt (bass), Rocco Notte (keyboards), Valorie Steel (vocals) and Bobby Michaels (saxophone, flute, organ). For more information, check out their website.
Some of the tunes The Glimmer Twins performed included Brown Sugar, All Down the Line, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Gimme Shelter, Happy and Tumbling Dice. Here’s their rendition of Let’s Spend the Night Together, which the Stones first released as a double A single together with Ruby Tuesday on January 13, 1967. The song was also included as the opener of the U.S. version of Between the Buttons, which appeared a week later.
Here’s another Stones classic that I think has one of the best lines in rock & roll: It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It). The was the lead single of the It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll studio album released in October 1974. I like it, yes I do!
Refugee were formed in New York in early 2014 by six musicians who according to the group’s website “have a deep love for the music of Tom Petty.” Who can blame them? Their members include Mike Epstein (lead vocals, guitar), Dominick Rosato (lead guitar), Andrew Nadien (keyboards, vocals), Hillary Epstein (vocals, harmonica, percussion, keyboards), Chris Arrigo (bass) and Niles Hughes (drums).
Refugee’s set featured I Won’t Back Down, Free Fallin’, Even the Losers, Refugee, Last Dance With Mary Jane, You Wreck Me and American Girl, among others. Here’s the opener You Got Lucky, the lead single of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers‘ fifth studio album Long After Dark from November 1982.
Let’s do another one: Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around. Co-written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell for Stevie Nicks, the song became the first single of her debut solo album Bella Dona that came out in July 1981. The recording also featured Petty and all of the Heartbreakers except Ron Blair – the bass part was instead performed by Donald “Duck” Dunn.
Unforgettable Fire were formed on New Year’s Day in 1995 and, according to their website, were “one of the very first U2 tribute bands to ever perform in America.” In addition to playing songs spanning U2’s entire catalog, the group also recreates the looks of the Irish band. In particular, I’d like to call out lead vocalist Anthony Russo who bears a striking resemblance to Bono. The band’s other members include Mick Normoyle as The Edge, Craig Kiell as Adam Clayton and George Levesanos as Larry Mullen Jr.
Some of the tunes Unforgettable Fire performed featured I Will Follow, With Or Without You, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Pride, Mysterious Ways and Gloria. Here’s Beautiful Day, followed by Vertigo, from the October 2000 and November 2004 studio albums All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, respectively.
The last track I’d like to highlight is Unforgettable Fire’s rendition of One. U2 recorded that tune for their seventh studio album Achtung Baby from November 1991.
Yes, driving three hours back and forth from my house to Atlantic City two days in a row was a significant amount of time spent in the car. But I had a blast, so I feel it was worth it!
I rarely blog back-to-back in the same category, but yesterday’s post about Red Rocks Amphitheatre was so much fun that I decided to do another one. And the Hollywood Bowl certainly isn’t just any place, at least not in my book.
The first time I heard of the legendary Los Angeles entertainment venue was in connection with The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl. It was one of the very first Beatles albums I got on vinyl. I must have been around 12 years at the time. I still own that copy!
Then, in 1980 as a 14-year-old, I got to visit the actual venue (though not for a concert) during a summer vacation in the U.S., which included L.A. – my first visit to this country. Also my very first time on an airplane! I still have so many vivid memories about this trip. Seeing the Bowl where The Beatles once played remains one of them.
I suppose the trip planted the seed that led me to come back years later to study in America and eventually stay here for good. My girlfriend I met during my studies, who I’m happy to call my wife for now 20-plus years, also had something to do with it! 🙂
Back to the Hollywood Bowl and a bit of history before we get to the ultimate thrill. It all started 101 years ago in 1919 when the Theatre Arts Alliance asked William Reed and his son H. Ellis Reed to find a suitable location for outdoor performances. After the Reeds found and selected the natural amphitheater because of its amazing acoustics and convenient proximity to downtown Hollywood, the Community Park and Art Association began construction of the facility.
The Bowl began as a community space rather than a privately owned venue. The first events were held there in 1921. Proceeds from the early performances were used to finance construction of new elements, such as a stage, seating and background, which were added in 1922, 1923 and 1924, respectively. Initially, the Bowl served as a venue for concerts by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as a community space for Easter services, the Hollywood Community Chorus and younger musicians including children.
In 1926, the first band shell was constructed but it was considered unacceptable from both a visual and an acoustics standpoint. Lloyd Wright came up with the now-familiar concentric ring motif and the 120-degree arc in 1928. But his wooden construction was destroyed by water damage and replaced the following year by a shell with a transite skin over a metal frame. That structure stood until 2003 and evidently was the one I saw in 1980.
In the early ’80s an inner shell made from large cardboard tubes that had been there since the ’70s to improve the acoustics was replaced by large fiberglass spheres designed by Frank Gehry. Eventually, in 2003, the 1929 outer shell was replaced with a new, somewhat larger, acoustically improved shell. Initially, a curtain served as a backdrop until a proper back wall had been constructed, which was first revealed in 2005. I suppose that’s the structure that stands to this day.
Now on to the real fun. Those who’ve visited my blog more frequently won’t be surprised what comes next: The Rolling Stones – just kidding! I love the Stones, but the first clip must capture my favorite band of all time. And, yes, there is historic YouTube footage.
The Beatles played the Hollywood Bowl twice, in August 1964 and in August 1965. Here’s A Hard Day’s Night, the title track of the corresponding studio album, which as usually was credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. This version is from the August 23, 1964 gig, an impressive illustration of “Beatlemania.” According to The Beatles Bible, all 18,700 tickets had been sold for the show. A Hard Day’s Night was the second-to-last tune of their 12-song set.
Are you ready to set the night on fire? On July 1968, The Doors did just that. Their performance that evening was captured on Live at the Hollywood Bowl, the band’s third official live album released in May 1987. A VHS version of the concert also appeared at the time. In October 2012, the full version of the show came out on CD, LP and Blu-ray as Live at the Bowl ’68. Credited to all four members of The Doors, Light My Fire originally was included on the band’s eponymous debut album from January 1967. Man, watching this footage gives me goosebumps, especially Ray Manzarek’s extended organ solo – even though by definition it doesn’t have any vocals! 🙂
Let’s get it on with a nostalgic piece, as Elton John called it during his September 7, 1973 gig at the Hollywood Bowl: Crocodile Rock. That show was also filmed, for inclusion in a documentary by English film director Bryan Forbes, Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye Norma Jean and Other Things. Co-written by John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin, Crocodile Rock was first recorded for John’s sixth studio album Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player, which came out in January 1973. Now, that’s the Elton John I dig. You also gotta love the guy behind John in the crocodile outfit playing what looks like a Vox Continental keyboard!
Before jumping to the current century, let’s go to October 2, 1991, and a gig by Sting during his Soul Cages Tour that year. The show at the Hollywood Bowl also coincided with his 40th birthday. Here’s The Soul Cages, the great title track from Sting’s third solo release that appeared in January 1991. Like all songs on the album, the tune was written by him.
Next are two clips from the current century, for which it is easier to find YouTube footage. Let’s kick it off with The Rolling Stones and what according to Setlist.fm looks like the first of two dates played at the venue in 2005: November 6. There was another show there two days later. Both concerts were part of the Bigger Bang Tour. I caught the Stones for the first time during that tour on October 1, 2005 at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa. I realize Satisfaction is the most overplayed Stones song, but unfortunately, it was the only complete clip I could find from their Bowl gig. Co-written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction became the first no. 1 for the Stones in 1965 and was also included on the American version of their fourth studio album Out of Our Heads released in July of the same year. Hey, it may be over-exposed, but it’s still one of the coolest guitar riffs in rock & roll! When watching Jagger in this footage I noticed he was still moving like this when I saw the Stones again last year – unbelievable!
The final clip I reserved for an artist who has been near and dear to me for many years. Unfortunately, he’s no longer with us: Tom Petty. The following footage is from his final show with The Heartbreakers. This gig at the Hollywood Bowl on September 25, 2017 marked the triumphant finale of the band’s 40th anniversary tour. You can watch the entire concert here. I’ve done it twice and have to say it’s just amazing. For this post I’d like to highlight the final two songs of the night: You Wreck Me from Petty’s second solo album Wildflowers (November 1994) and the classic American Girl, off the November 1976 eponymous debut by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Sources: Wikipedia; The Beatles Bible; Setlist.fm; YouTube