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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Basic Biittner: Reliving the Good Old Rock 'n Roll Days

Thursday, September 20, 2007

As most regular readers of this column - all 3 of you - know, I am a long-time Rock and Roll fan. I got "hooked" early, right near the start of the era, in 1956, when I purchased Elvis Presley's 45 rpm record (kids - ask your parents or grandparents what those were) titled "Too Much." It wasn't too much, though, it was just the beginning of 45s - and later LPs, 8-tracks, cassettes, and CDs (again, ask someone older if the first two terms are foreign to you).

Cutting to the chase - I was totally absorbed by "The Top 40," as played on KIOA 940, and when I got a little older, I got a Kay guitar and eventually went electric and formed a band with some classmates.

I went to my first "Rock 'n' Roll concert" at age 17, as my friend Wart and I traveled all the way to Buena Vista College's Schaller Chapel to listen to The Strawberry Alarm Clock play their first - and as it turned out, their last - hit record, the totally indecipherable "Incense and Peppermints" (don't ask - it was the 60s). More concerts followed, including Paul Revere and the Raiders at the Sioux City Auditorium, and of course, dances with the Rumbles, the Flippers, and other "semi-famous" bands at the Cobblestone Ballroom in Storm Lake and Roof Garden Ballroom at the Lakes.

Though my recorded music purchases have slowed down over the years- honest!- I still enjoy making "mix" CDs, and occasionally downloading songs and exchanging homemade CDs with my brother in Arizona.

I still try to catch favorite popular acts in concert if they're in the vicinity, though, and have been fortunate to see such favorite artists as The Association, Three Dog Night, The Beach Boys,The Turtles, Paul Simon, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Elton John, Billy Joel, the Righteous Brothers, and Paul McCartney in concert. My daughter and I were also fortunate enough to be able to stop off at Cleveland and view the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the year after it opened.

I have been able to add two more Rock and Roll highlights to my experiences in the last two weeks, and I will tell you about them briefly.

On Labor Day Weekend, my wife and were in far northern Minnesota, in the Mesabi Iron Ore Range, visiting my future daughter-in-law and her parents.The "womenfolk" had womenfolk activities to attend to on that Saturday, and my son and his future father-in-law made the mistake of asking if there was anything I'd like to do that afternoon. Well, actually ...

I have known for 30-plus years that Bob Dylan, nee Robert Zimmerman, was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, and you'd better believe that when I discovered that Hibbing was a fairly short distance - 20 miles or so - from our location, I asked if there was any kind of Bob Dylan Museum or Hall of Fame in Hibbing. I wasn't surprised that no such institution existed, since Dylan has never expressed any overly fond memories of his hometown. There is, however, a small, old-fashioned diner in Hibbing called "Zimmy's," and that's where we three guys had lunch on September 1, 2007.

Though "Zimmy" himself has no ownership of the restaurant, neither has he apparently tried to stop its existence, and, according to the souvenir menu I picked up, "Zimmy's" mom has visited the restaurant at least once, and "found it a hoot." I don't know about that, but it does have decent food (I had a chicken sandwich myself), with a lot of menu items carrying names associated with Dylan tunes ("Knockin' On Heaven's Door" Pastas, "Gotta Serve Somebody" Steaks, "The Times They Are A-Changin'" Specialties, et al.), and a lot of memorabilia on the walls. All in all, a unique and memorable afternoon.

The other experience took place on 9/11, which used to be known as September 11th, when a grandstand full of people including my wife and I and several others from Cherokee County - were able to see, hear, and sing along with a band which has been around for 40 years and produced 30 albums, Chicago (originally known, briefly, as Chicago Transit Authority). I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but believe me, the nearly two-hour Chicago concert ranks up there with McCartney and the John/Joel concert as the best I've been privileged to attend.

Chicago was originally a sextet, then a septet, and is now an octet, with three horns, two keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums. Four of the eight members have been in the group all 40 years, while one joined in 1981, two in 1991, and the "new guy" in 1998 - nearly 10 years ago. They are a musically tight group, as one might expect.

Original member Robert Lamm welcomed the crowd and told us to "bundle up" (it was a cold evening), because they had brought 40 years and 30 album's worth of music with them, and would be playing "for a long time." Indeed, the group seemed to perform every single they released over a thirty year period, and only a couple of "new" songs - just the way us "Baby Boomers" like it.

One of Chicago's goals from the start of their career was to keep a low profile and not have any one group member stand out. Guess what? They have achieved that. Even yours truly, "Mr. Music Buff Trivia Man," didn't know much about the group membership prior to the concert.

I can tell you now,though, that all eight members of the group are excellent musicians. They had only a five-minute break in two hours, and the music never stopped - or a least the rhythm didn't, as the drummer pounded out a good old-fashioned drum solo to fill out the entire break, thus providing another Sixties memory flashback - "the drum solo." Thank you, Iron Butterfly.

For forty years, rock music critics have looked down on Chicago, and have excluded them from discussions about potential members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - an honor for which they have been eligible for more than ten years.

I can tell you, after hearing them in person, that these guys definitely ROCK!

Chicago is just one example of a very popular artist being snubbed by the Hall of Fame voters,and The Doobie Brothers are another example. At one point, the so-called experts didn't care for the Eagles, Bee Gees, or Fleetwood Mac either, but these rock icons eventually managed to get inducted into the Hall anyway.

I think it's high time for the elitists who select the Hall of Fame members to make room in the Hall for artists who they may not personally like for some reason, but who are obviously popular with others, as evidenced by millions of dollars taken in through the sales of their recorded music and concert tickets.

Sometimes, some of these artists get taken for granted, until one sits back and really takes a look at their output. More than one concert attendee at the Clay County Fair was heard to say after Chicago's show, "I didn't realize I knew so many Chicago songs".

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner