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Who Puts Women, Children, and Candy-O First

May 30, 2013

After roughly a year delivering newspapers starting in 1977, and then a few months with my buddy Gary cleaning a downtown law office in late 1978, I got my first “real” job in 1979 at the age of 15.  I was hired as a ticket-taker/usher at the Orpheum movie theater in Ogden, Utah, thanks to the fact that Les, the 18-year-old manager, had been one of my mom-the-teacher’s students in junior high.  Utah law at the time allowed kids to obtain a motorcycle license at 15, even though normal driver’s licenses were not issued until the age of 16.   With my little Suzuki 125 and my $2.47 hourly wage, I was freer than ever to indulge my growing musical obsession.

minimum wage(While the U.S. federal minimum wage in 1979 was $2.90 per hour, the theater only had to pay me a wage equal to 85 percent of the minimum because I was a full-time student and worked only 20 hours per week.)

There was nothing esoteric about my musical tastes when I first began working at the Orpheum.  Besides a backwards-looking appreciation for Elvis and The Beatles, I otherwise shared my peers’ love for Rush, Kansas, Queen, Aerosmith, and other such “mainstream” hard rockers.  I also remained a big KISS fan, although by 1979 that particular proclivity was safely closeted away (as I’ve written about here).  By the time some big corporation bought the Orpheum 18 months later and I went on to new minimum-wage adventures, my aural horizons had expanded considerably.  This was mainly thanks to 21-year-old Orpheum co-manager, professional drummer, and coincidentally my down-the-street neighbor, Rick.  I’ve posted previously about Rick’s generosity in hipping me to the various offerings of guitar hero Ronnie Montrose, but I also have to thank him for Be Bop Deluxe, Tommy Bolin, and Al DiMeola, among many others.

Beyond introducing me to new recorded music however, Rick also served as my initial guide to the joyous world of rock concerts.  Our first shared concert-related experience came soon after we learned that The Who would be playing Salt Lake City in late April 1980.  This was The Who’s second tour following the death of original drummer extraordinaire Keith Moon and, besides a few new songs recorded for the soundtrack of the Quadrophenia movie, the band had not put out any new music since 1978 album Who Are You, on which Moon had played.  Given the dearth of new music, there was a sense that the 1980 tour could be the group’s last and as a result demand for tickets was high.

To ensure we got tickets the morning they went on sale, Rick suggested we grab sleeping bags and warm clothes and camp out overnight in front of the only announced ticket vendor in Ogden, a proposal accepted enthusiastically.  It was thus that we ended up huddled together with about 30 other nut cases in front of the now defunct Toad Tape record store through a cold-as-hell Utah winter’s night in the last week of March 1980.

Ogden City PoliceBetween our 9:PM arrival and the 9:AM store opening the next day, we were treated to both a dusting of snow and regular visits from “concerned” Ogden City police officers who just wanted to ensure none of us died of exposure.  (The repeated ID checks and warrantless rousting of our pockets to check for drugs were simply for our own protection, of course.)

Ill prepared for the plunging temperature, and considerately reminded by the caring coppers that sleeping on a public sidewalk was illegal, we dedicated Who fans sought any distraction we could find toCold take our minds off our exhaustion, discomfort, and impending hypothermia.  Luckily, one among the crowd had a portable tape deck and an extensive collection of two(!) tapes that got played over and over again, providing a welcome rhythm to which we were able to sync the chattering of our teeth.  Although both tapes were new to me at the time, they contained excellent music that I dug then and have continued to dig in the intervening years.

The first tape played by our de facto entertainment coordinator was Van Halen’s brand new album Women and Children First, which had just been released that very week.  I had been a Van Halen fan since their first self-titled record came out in 1978, accompanied by rampant, if ridiculous, rumors among my junior high pals that the band was actually KISS without makeup.  Brushing wet snow off my sleeping bag in front of Toad Tape, I was struck by how much heavier Women and Children First sounded than the band’s first two LPs.  The songs seemed to have more of a bottom end and to be denser than previous VH tunes.  In fact, the new sound fit that cold winter night perfectly as it was easy to envision Eddie Van Halen’s muscular guitar riffing as the soundtrack to a hopped-up, heavy-duty snowplow pushing its way through huge snow drifts on some isolated Alaskan highway.  I clearly remember experiencing “Romeo Delight” as one of the hardest rocking songs I had ever heard.

Van Halen - Women and Children First

Women and Children First would again etch itself onto my frontal lobes two years later when the album happened to be playing in the background when, as a high school senior, I caught an inadvertent glimpse (or two or three) of my super fox neighbor Shelly’s pubes peeking out of her tight cheerleader panties during a senior-class-only sleepover in the school gym.  It’s truly amazing how accompanying music can burn itself so deeply into the fabric of a memory…

Romeo Delight:

In best Monty Python tradition, our musical director’s second offering was something completely different; Candy-O, the sophomore album by The Cars.  As removed from the hard rock riffing of Van Halen as one could get and still be in Top 40And now for something completely different... radio territory, The Cars’ new wave pop rock was not the kind of music a proud heavy rocker would champion in 1980.  Said heavy rock purist would more likely defer such “light” fare to his younger sisters and their bubblegum tastes.

A wintry night with no other options on the menu can lead a music snob to get off the high horse however, and via repeated listenings to Candy-O there on the frozen cement, I was shocked to discover that awesome guitar skills were not the sole purview of the long hairs.  I discovered an album drenched with sweet electric axe workouts; the fact that they were tucked within what then sounded like jittery keyboard chirps and cheery non-Levi’s-wearing robot grooves did not diminish their weight.  I was flabbergasted; The Cars were a guitar band!

The Cars - Candy-O

I bought Candy-O and The Cars’ self-titled first album within a couple weeks of the Who camp-out, and owned a stolen cassette copy of third Cars’ album Panorama soon afterward (thanks to childhood friend Gary who, in hindsight, seems to have had a habit of bequeathing me stolen tunes).  Seeing the Candy-O album cover upon making my purchase was just a happy fringe benefit.

Candy-O:

In the end, The Who unexpectedly turned out not to be my first ever rock concert.  When we finally got to the counter inside Toad Tape after our all-night vigil, Rick pointed to a poster behind the cashier and suggested that we buy tickets for both The Who and some guy named Robin Trower that I’d never heard of.  Trower’s Salt Lake City stop on his Victims of the Fury (!!) tour was to take place a couple of weeks before the The Who show, so Mr. Trower would end up breaking my concert-going cherry.  But that 33-year, 26-album, four-live-show spanning story is for another post, as is the glorious tale of the eventual Who concert itself.

From → Music

10 Comments
  1. Great story and the picture from The Shining made me laugh out loud.

    • Much appreciate it, and yeah, I searched “freezing cold” and about busted a gut myself when that was one of the first images to come up.

      Taking advantage of your comment and knowing you are a fan from the early days, I was wondering if you’ve heard the new Alice in Chains album and if so, what you think of it? I haven’t listened to any of it but am intrigued.

  2. What a cool stroll down Nostalgia Lane!

    I hope I’m not being too intrusive regarding your AIC question, but I feel their new album is a bit of a disappointment, with lots of rehashed riffs and clichéd structures. It still has that quintessential AIC slow-paced heaviness and I have no complaints with the vocals (I’m not one of those Layne-to-the-end fans – I loved ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’), but the album just isn’t as exciting as their past exploits.

    • Not intrusive at all, man. I appreciate the insight. There’s so much on my “to buy” list already and I’m having a hard time deciding whether to add ‘Dinosaurs.’ Based on your comment, I think what I probably need to do is stream it a few times before making a call.

  3. Smithstix was the outlet for tickets for the Grateful Dead concert in Salt Lake. We drove all the way to St. George because we figured the Smith’s there would have no line. We, too, slept on the sidewalk. In pouring rain as it turned out. Sure enough there was no line so we had our choice of seats and chose the front row. We ended up sitting, standing, actually, in front of a fifteen foot high bank of bass speakers and hated the concert. We never made out a single lyric and could barely see the musicians. Something about the best laid plans….

    David

  4. I really enjoyed that. I’ve spent the night in doorways in London several times (unbeknown to my parents) to see bands so i can well sympathise with the chattering teeth.

    WACF is funnily enough the only Van Halen LP I like and I’ve always loved The Cars, perfect guitar pop really.

    I love the way certain LPs can take you back to a time/place/feeling instantly – like Proust but with guitar solos.

    • That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout! Headbangers be cultured, bro!

      “”No sooner had (insert record here) touched my (ears) than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … “”
      — Proust, baby!!!

  5. Any post that manages to embrace guitar rock, Monty Python and Marcel Proust is in a class of its own.

    Great story, beautifully written.

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