It's Tuesday afternoon and I'm minutes away from phoning Matthew Sweet for an interview when I happen to hit Twitter on my phone and see a breaking story that Hank LoConti, longtime owner of the Cleveland Agora has just passed away at age 85.
The news hit me like a ton of bricks because Hank was always a guy who was so full of life that it was hard to imagine that he could actually be gone. He was someone that when you met him, you would be surprised to find out how old he was, because he always looked at least a decade younger than he actually was. And yet he had been sick, battling lymphoma for some time, which I was not aware of.
There are plenty of great stories and tributes that have popped up in the past day offering a proper remembrance of LoConti and what it was that he was all about. For me as a music fan who ended up living in Cleveland, it's hard to even begin to collect the thoughts of all of the many different ways that the Cleveland Agora has made an impact in my life. There were plenty of shows, of course, with my first visit to the Agora happening in November of 1992 to see the Spin Doctors. Say what you will about the Spin Doctors, they were a hell of a band beyond the radio singles and their live performances during that time period were great.
My next trip to the Agora was a free show (!!!) with Brian May of Queen who played a headlining gig at the venue supporting his first solo album Back To The Light. Having missed out on the chance to see Queen back in the day, it was huge getting a chance to see Brian play guitar in such an up close setting, with Cozy Powell on drums, to boot.
As my concert attendance really started to ramp up in 1993, I would spend a lot of time at the Agora starting the following year, first with a gig from Joe Satriani, then Sarah McLachlan (Fumbling Towards Ecstasy Tour), Rollins Band with Therapy, Pretenders (a special "small hall" hometown gig on the Last Of The Independents tour that quickly sold out), Joe Cocker (right after he played Woodstock 94), Crowded House (Together Alone tour, with Sheryl Crow opening), The Smithereens and so many more.
1994 was really the beginning of my music collection coming to life in front of my eyes (something which I was reminded of recently when talking with Journey's Neal Schon, when he talked about his feeling that the reason that today's kids want to see their favorite bands live is that "they don't quite believe that it's real unless they're looking at it.") and I had been to enough gigs by that point to know that if I had the chance to see one of my favorite bands play a club like the Agora, that was where it was really at -- with the chance to get up close and personal with some of the bands that I had spent a lot of time listening to by that point.
There was an experience that came with seeing a show at a true rock club like the Agora that you just didn't get in the same way by attending an arena gig. Sure, I had seen some amazing shows at Richfield Coliseum in that same time period (Peter Gabriel, Aerosmith, Eric Clapton), but having a chance to compare the two, there was no question that the more intimate gigs were better, which is why it was such a thrill to get a chance to see bands and artists like Pretenders, Joe Cocker and Brian May -- folks who I knew had usually been playing bigger places prior to that -- in a place the size of the Cleveland Agora.
To cut to the chase, Hank LoConti was the guy who was driving all of this. He was the man behind the Cleveland Agora, a rock institution that had been around for a long time at that point -- I didn't know the specifics at that time, but when you walked into that place, you could tell that it was a building that had a lot of history. As folks will be quick to point out, the current Cleveland Agora at 5000 Euclid Avenue is not the original location -- which burned down in the mid-'80s, but the Euclid Avenue location, was certainly a worthy successor to the original, housed in a building that had its own important history.
Over the years, I started to unpack the history of the original building as a fan, listening to the various famous concert broadcasts that had been done by WMMS, most of which were from the '70s and '80s. Everybody's got their personal favorite list and many of them can tell you stories about being at the gigs -- since I moved here in 1989, I missed out on that part of things, but the tapes that were left behind certainly tell plenty of great stories. There is of course, the famous Springsteen Agora gig from 1978, a special broadcast celebrating the 10th anniversary of WMMS.
Elvis Costello's 1977 performance is another favorite and when I saw Costello just a few weeks ago, playing a solo show here in town, he had fond memories of playing the Agora, calling it a "smoke-filled den of sin," adding that "sometimes you find true love in a place like that." Costello isn't alone in his memories -- it's a frequent occurrence to hear the legacy acts offer their memories of their first gigs in Cleveland at the Agora -- while performing at Gund Arena on the All You Can't Leave Behind tour in May of 2001, Bono offered his own recollections of an early U2 gig at the Agora.
Bryan Adams played a show at the Agora in 1982 and he would be back for another gig barely a year later in 1983. Both shows were broadcast by WMMS (with the 1982 gig getting a national broadcast via the King Biscuit Flower Hour) and it's interesting to compare the two performances and hear how much Adams had progressed in such a short amount of time. The 1983 performance, which was mixed by Bob Clearmountain, is an unbelievable show from Adams that sounds like a professional live album -- it would make great bonus material for an expanded reissue of the Cuts Like A Knife album someday.
The Police, AC/DC, Bon Jovi....nearly anybody you might want to name off, they all played the Agora at some point. Thankfully, there are so many of those concert memories that have been preserved because they were broadcast.
The Agora is approaching its 50th anniversary and I'm happy that after some rough years, the venue seems to be back on solid ground or at the very least, in a better place. They're back booking a regular schedule of shows again and the shows seem to be doing well. As someone who grew up with the Agora at a time that they had a consistent schedule of shows that made it possible for you to go see live music at the club on nearly any night of the week (and with so much great variety to choose from in those days, too), it means a lot to see the Agora alive again.
As the years went by, I had the chance on a number of occasions to stop and talk with Hank. The first time, I had been sent to the Agora to pick something up. Not knowing Hank, I figured it would be a quick stop to grab what I was supposed to pick up and then I'd be on my way. I ended up being there for a couple of hours, sitting in Hank's office, hearing amazing stories of past Agora shows. That would be the case every time that I stopped by.
He was a walking piece of Cleveland musical history, one of several key leaders who helped to build the Cleveland concert scene as we know it today and he has continuously been one of the people working tirelessly through the years to help maintain it, never afraid to fight for necessary changes. He certainly leaves behind one hell of a legacy. I have no doubt that we'll continue to see that legacy grow in the years to come and hopefully part of that will come in the form of proper releases on audio and video for some of the shows that he was really proud of.
Hey there music lovers! ATV is pleased to bring you a Monday Morning Mix featuring a fine blend of 70s hard rock. 14 killer tunes flowing into what is known on the street as the Stereo Dictator’s 75 Minutes of 70s Volume One. Feast your musical mind on this free prize and give your week a little kick start.
Download the entire mix here.
“I Got the Fire” - Montrose
On the heels of their landmark debut, Montrose released Paper Money, a solid follow-up featuring this burner, which sounds like an outtake from the first album. Ted Templeman’s production keeps it crisp and pounding while Ronnie tears it down appropriately.
“Never Before” – Deep Purple
Deep Purple’s Machine Head was filled with FM hits yet this song was the expected single upon release. Poppy in a rockin way thanks to the muscle applied to the arrangement, on another album it may have stood out and become a chart-topper. An underrated tune that moves well, has memorable lyrics and is very reflective of the era.
“The Rover” – Led Zeppelin
Physical Graffiti arguably presented Zeppelin at their best with this tune letting them do what they do best: blues-based boogie, patented layers of Page guitar, a powerful rhythm section brought way up front by Page the producer, and Plant’s hippie-fied stories about the uncertainties of life.
“Fairies Wear Boots” – Black Sabbath
Paranoid was a ground-breaker and “Fairies” is a song that helped to create the Sabbath template. Whether the song was written in a smoke-filled haze or following an encounter with skinheads is still up for debate. What’s not is the significance of blending blues, metal and jazz with a wailing vocalist in 1970.
“Nobody’s Fault” - Aerosmith
Back when Aerosmith was on a roll, Rocks was the hammer in their catalog. Hard and heavy, it opened eyes as to the band’s ability to throw down a firestorm of rock and roll. “Nobody’s Fault” is perhaps the greatest example. Intelligent, raunchy and wholly satisfying.
“Go to Hell” – Alice Cooper
As the wheels were beginning to come off the Alice Cooper machine in 1976, Alice hit the studio with Bob Ezrin to create one more masterpiece, Goes to Hell. Fortifying the band were twin guitar killers Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, notable for their excellence on Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Animal a few years earlier. “Go to Hell” captures Alice at his sinister, story-telling best.
“D.O.A.” – Van Halen
Van Halen II continued the myth while delivering the goods, including this loose and loud outlaw tale. David Lee Roth is the misunderstood hero while Eddie V pulls out a primal riff and plays the hell out of it. Must-have Van Halen right here.
“Gotta Keep a Runnin” – The Godz
Don Brewer of Grand Funk produced, the band put the pedal to the metal and here it is. A true classic featuring one of the all-time great rock raps courtesy of madman Eric Moore, and a great driving song to boot. It’s too bad that the Godz peaked with their first album, but at least we have this well-worn anthem.
“Motor City Madhouse” – Ted Nugent
Keepin’ your pulse rate runnin’ high is this bit of rock frenzy from Ted Nugent, one of several songs that made his post-Amboy Dukes debut one of the greatest guitar-hero albums of the 70s. This slice of psychosis is like a rollercoaster; you are on, you are moving at full speed, and you are not getting off for four and-a-half minutes.
“Shinin’ On” – Grand Funk
When quad was quad on LP and 8-track, the guitar intro to “Shinin’ On” was prime stereo outlet demo material, with and without headphones for full effect. Producer Todd Rundgren applied a generous helping of heavy-metal sheen to the band’s core sound and struck gold. Shinin’ On went to #5, bolstered by the title track, an FM favorite, and a remake of Little Eva’s “The Loco-Motion,” which became a #1 single.
“Overdose” – AC/DC
The combination of AC/DC with Vanda & Young as producers gave the band an entirely different feel than what was to come later with Mutt Lange. This is groove-based metal blues that allows you to feel a genuine connection to the music. The guitars are truly razor-sharp, Bon Scott is right on top of it, and the whole things rocks. A supergroup to-be at its roots.
“Faith Healer” – Sensational Alex Harvey Band
This hypnotic showpiece is one of the key tracks on Next, the most well-rounded album in Harvey’s eclectic catalog. A glitterized evangelical trip, this is another pioneering moment of the headphone-era that leaves you wanting more. Seek it out and experience more of the brilliance of the SAHB.
“Panic in Detroit” – David Bowie
A raging lead guitar from the legendary Mick Ronson wails over the top of a sometimes walking, sometimes running bass line hopped up by maracas and congas while Bowie name-checks controversial figures, adding to the panic with his somewhat urgent narrative, all the while backed up by female singers. It’s a handful and it’s glorious.
“White Punks on Dope” – The Tubes
A staple of FM radio until the FCC outlawed the F-word, this is quintessential 70s. Producer Al Kooper masterfully weaves together the conglomeration of musical ideas for this tribute to the idle hands of rich suburban kids. The whole thing is so over the top (remember Fee Waybill as “Quay Lude”?) that it makes sense while never losing a real rock edge. Think of it as “Bohemian Rhapsody” for an alternative crowd.
Join us next time for another mix you’ll just have to have courtesy of the Stereo Dictator and AAAAY TEEEEE VEEEEE!
75 Minutes of 70s Volume One
I Got the Fire – Montrose
Never Before – Deep Purple
The Rover – Led Zeppelin
Fairies Wear Boots – Black Sabbath
Nobody’s Fault – Aerosmith
Go to Hell – Alice Cooper
D.O.A. – Van Halen
Gotta Keep a Runnin – The Godz
Motor City Madhouse – Ted Nugent
Shinin On – Grand Funk
Overdose – AC/DC
Faith Healer – Sensational Alex Harvey Band
Panic in Detroit – David Bowie
White Punks on Dope – The Tubes
Download the entire mix now.
Greetings music lovers! It’s time for another trip to the Stereo Dictator’s massive musical archives in search of a show of sonic and social significance to the rock and roll community.
Today’s installment is in memory of a true rock and roll legend, Ronald Belford Scott, better known as the Problem Child himself, Bon Scott.
Bon died on February 19, 1980 at the age of 33 just as AC/DC was becoming one of the biggest international rock acts of its time. Highway to Hell had broken the Top 20 on the U.S. album charts and the band’s back catalog was seeing a worldwide resurgence. 1980 was destined to be a breakthrough year, though it would ultimately happen with Brian Johnson as lead singer.
Those of you that are still putting your pocketbooks back together after picking up last week's new releases, will probably be a tad dismayed to learn that there is a whole new batch of new releases again this week. This week's releases include a new holiday album from Tori Amos, yet another new album from Bon Jovi, and a righteously awesome box set from AC/DC, maaaaan.
For Clevelanders and fans of pop culture in general, the newly released soundtrack for A Christmas Story, unavailable prior to now, is a wonderful holiday gift!
Some other stuff to keep your eyes out for:
Anthrax - Among The Living (deluxe edition) and BBC Live in Concert
Elvis Costello - Spectacle: Season One (DVD and Blu-ray)
David Crosby - If I Could Only Remember My Name (18o gram vinyl edition)
Crosby, Stills and Nash - Crosby, Stills and Nash (18o gram vinyl edition)
Dashboard Confessional - Alter The Ending
Ray Davies - The Kinks Choral Collection - Shouldn't that be The Kinks Khoral Kollection?
Echo and the Bunnymen - The Fountain - Dude, it's the BUNNYMEN!
Flyleaf - Memento Mori - Our buddy Rob is beside himself with excitement about this release. Enjoy, Rob!
The Killers - Live at Royal Albert Hall - live CD/DVD release
Robyn Hitchcock - I Often Dream of Trains in New York (live CD/DVD combo)
Rickie Lee Jones - Balm in Gilead
Kings of Leon - Live at the O2 (DVD)
John Mayall and Eric Clapton - Blues Breakers (24 kt gold CD release)
Meat Loaf - Bat out of Hell: The Original Tour (DVD)
Jason Mraz's Beautiful Mess - Live on Earth
Queen - Absolute Greatest - I'm guessing that we didn't really need another Queen greatest hits album. But perhaps you did?
Sesame Street - 40 Years of Sunny Days (DVD)
Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills (180 gram vinyl edition)
Spandau Ballet - Once More - Those of you that had bets that Spandau Ballet would never make another new album? You lose!
Various Artists: 2012 soundtrack - features a new track from Cleveland homeboys Filter!
This list is a few highlights from the many releases that are coming out this week - feel free to add a comment about these releases, or any other releases that you're excited about!
Oh my God, it's like we opened up the souls of a thousand rock and rolls.....
If the Freedom Rock guys from the 80's were around today in 2009 promoting the new AC/DC rarities box set Backtracks, I'm thinking it would look something like this video featuring Billy and George of AC/DC FanNation.
Prepare yourself kids! Comedian Jim Breuer is set to release his next DVD and Comedy Central special called Let's Clear The Air!
Let’s Clear The Air is a laugh-out-loud stand-up comedy special from Breuer highlighting topics ranging from his Long Island childhood experiences, things he finds funny with his own family, parental responsibility, and anecdotes about his experiences with other comedians (like Dave Chappelle and Tracy Morgan)
Tune in to Comedy Central on Saturday, July 25 at 11:00 pm (ET) to watch the world television premiere of his stand up special. Then, on the following Tuesday, July 28th Breuer will release the DVD version of the special including over 25 minutes of unaired material, photo shoot footage, and a "Fireside Chat With Dad".
In 1995, Breuer joined NBC’s "Saturday Night Live." Since then, he has gone on to star in several movies, tour the country with his "Heavy Metal Man" and "Family Man" comedy tours and host a daily show on SIRIUS Satellite Radio called "Breuer Unleashed." Breuer is best known for his performances as the infamous Goat Boy from "SNL," as well as his stoner character from the cult movie hit Half Baked.
Let's Clear The Air arrives in stores nationwide on Tuesday, July 28 and will also be available here.
Win your very own copy from Addicted to Vinyl!
Drop us a line here for a chance to win a copy of Let's Clear The Air for your personal viewing pleasure. Just put "Jim Breuer DVD" in your subject line, and we'll take care of the rest!!
We got a chance to watch an advance screener copy of the DVD, and it is a RIOT. All of your favorite Breuer-isms are here, and here's a special hint from us - make sure that you let the DVD menu play a little bit before making your selection!
Nab Smoke and Breu, Breuer's previous CD release, if you don't already have it.
The AC/DC routine is still one of my all-time favorite comedy bits!
Here's a great "kid in the candy store" type moment featuring Breuer jamming with his hero, AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson.
Ever wanted to hear Eddie Money cover Train, the Beatles, AC/DC, and the Four Tops? No? Well, he doesn't care.
That's the snarky message that I read from my friend Jeff this morning on Twitter. There is no faster way to get me to buy music than to drop the name of one of my favorite artists, and then tell me in the next breath that they have a cool cover song available, an entire album of covers, etc.
Back in January, Rebecca and I took our fiery redheaded friend Kelly, in town from Los Angeles, to the House of Blues for her first experience, "shakin' it with the Money Man." Eddie rocked and rolled his way through an incredible catalog of hits, and I swear to God, Kelly laughed out loud each and every time she saw Money do the "Eddie Money spin." Those of you that have been to an Eddie Money show in the past 10 years know what I'm talkin' about. It's Eddie's move, the one that makes all the ladies swoon, and back in the day, it was probably the move that got Eddie a lot of backstage friends after the show. For those of you haven't been to see "Ready Eddie" recently, the "Eddie Money spin" is basically your dad or grandfather tryin' to dance a little bit, tryin' to look cool. It doesn't quite work, but it's cute.
As a child of the 80's, I grew up on the Eddie Money hits - mainly "Take Me Home Tonight," "Walk on Water," "I Wanna Go Back," and "Endless Nights" were the ones that hit my ears in my early years of being a music fan. Working at a record store in the 90's (there's that topic again,) I really gained a full appreciation for the Money Man with the acoustic live EP Unplug It In.
Money was already gazing at the taillights of his career, but the acoustic setting really revealed the "artist" of Eddie Money to me, and I was instantly kicking myself for missing Money's acoustic tour stop in Cleveland a year earlier. Whether it is a cover song, or an original, the man can take both and make it an Eddie Money song, as witnessed when listening to his version of "You've Really Got A Hold On Me," and Money's own "Save A Little Room In Your Heart For Me."
Old faces and old places don't bother me
Like they seem to bother you
We've had our day
No more sorrys to say
So when I heard about Eddie Money: The Covers EP: Volume 1, I was excited to hear it. I could picture Money wrapping those road weary vocal cords around "Drops of Jupiter," originally a hit for Train a few years back. Money's version is exactly as you would expect it to sound, begging you to waste a little bit of time on the Money Man. With Joe Cocker already having tackled "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window," it's not hard to imagine Money singing that one, and he delivers a version that doesn't stray too far from Cocker's cover of the Beatles original, and that's fine. The Money Man tackling some AC/DC in the form of "It's A Long Way To The Top" is where Covers really starts to get fun. You couldn't have chosen a better AC/DC track, and Money is drivin' drunk on this one, jerking the rock and roll tour bus around the twists and turns of your audio highway.
Wanna make you cry
Lady do the hard sell
Know the reason why
Gettin' ripped off
That's how it goes
In a rock and roll band
Seriously, let me start the petition for an Eddie Money cover record of AC/DC tunes. Fan-frikkin-tastic!
I didn't want to hear an album of 50s/60s covers from Money, and even though the prospect of country/western versions of Money's own hits was interesting, Covers is really the project that is a knockout, and it's a shame that it's only four tunes. But then again, it does say "Volume 1" as part of the title, so I'll be looking forward to see what might pop up on Volume 2!
Purchase Eddie Money: The Covers EP - Volume 1 from Amazon - MP3 Download
Greetings ATV fans! It is an honor to join you all as an official member of one of the coolest websites on the net hosted by one of the coolest guys I know.
Now that the sucking up is over, let’s get down to it.
I’m Kevin Brennan aka the Stereo Dictator, a lifelong Cleveland-area resident who is old enough to have seen former mayor Ralph Perk set his hair on fire, to have seen the city enter default during the tenure of another former mayor named Kucinich, to have witnessed the transformation of the warehouse wasteland that became the Flats and then to have seen it much of it go to hell again, to have been one of 2,000 people at an Indians game on several occasions, to have experienced firsthand the agony of the Drive, the Fumble, the Shot and many more hideous sports-related meltdowns, and most important of all, to have felt great disappointment as I watched one of the greatest radio markets in the country be swallowed up by owners and consultants whose only reference to rock and roll was the unbelievably restrictive 250 songs that some dumb-ass programmers classified as a “classic-rock playlist.”
Before you think that I’m just another bitter old guy, let me tell you a bit about some of the pleasant musical memories stored inside my swelling, itching brain.
I was there as the “hottest band in the land” – KISS!! blew everyone away at the Coliseum during a snowstorm in 1976. I sat in the 10th row on the floor when Led Zeppelin played Cleveland for the last time in April 1977. When AC/DC came to the Palace with Thin Lizzy in 1978, I stood on a tabletop and sang “The Jack” at the urging of Bon Scott.
In 1979, I was one of 70,000 or so in attendance at the World Series of Rock which featured unannounced opener the Scorpions who seriously rocked, the return of Bon Scott and AC/DC who could have played all day as they won over the audience after their first song, Steve Perry of Journey tripping and falling over his microphone cord midsong, Ted Nugent swinging down from atop a 20 foot tall stack of Marshalls and subsequently playing his ass off, and the well-documented final Aerosmith performance before the first breakup which included a fight instigated by Joe Perry’s wife.
There are many, many more stories about bands, radio stations, record stores, bootlegs, albums and concerts to tell but I can’t give it all away in my first post so I hope you come back to enjoy them with me. Though I have begun with recollections that are older than many of you reading this, know that my posts won’t all be ancient history but they will feature a healthy dose of my “old-school” perspective which, when it comes to rock and roll, is not a bad thing.
Thanks again to Matt for the outlet and remember the mantra: “My stereo, my albums, my choice.”