Rock & Roll Rewind: A Rock & Roll Fantasy
c d kaplan is a lifelong rock & roller. He’s got stories. Lots of ‘em. Here’s another.
It was the fascination of the moment.
There on a lovely summer’s evening, in one of the town’s nether neighborhoods, at a street fair on a makeshift stage in the middle of the street in front of a few hundred locals was a legit rock & roll Hall of Famer.
It was too sweet.
As for the lore behind Eric Burdon’s appearance (with the estimable Brian Auger on organ no less) in June 2000 on Northwestern Parkway during the Portland Neighborhood Festival, well, we’ll get to that in a moment.
There’s a reason it resonated so deeply here.
As an adult, I’ve always fantasized about hosting a big bash. Inviting all my friends from all walks of life going back to my childhood. Send out invites, advising it would be a dance party, but not revealing who would play.
I wanted it to be a gotcha. Taking in the gasps of the assembled when whoever walked on stage.
At different stages through the years, the daydreaming went to, oh, Springsteen, a doo wop spectacular, Fats Domino, Dion, others.
Came close once. When Joanie the Film Babe and I were going to marry in ’06, she bought in to the grandiose idea. We rented a big room. Started to plan the whole boffo wedding reception like no other.
Featuring the artist who was my major preoccupation, Ronnie Spector, hers the most beguiling voice in rock & roll. We even took a meeting with Billy Hardison and John Grantz, to produce the deal for us.
I couldn’t wait to be standing with my bride, seeing the gasps of our pals.
Contacts were made.
But, reality intervened.
Peripheral issues, family stuff, made it an impossibility. We had to ratchet down our expectations. Considerably.
The fantasy lingers, though the possibility of it actually happening has slip slip slipped away. Plus, Ms. Veronica has passed away.
So, yeah, there I was smiling in the street as one of the seminal marauders of the British invasion was playing on a stage near a corn dog booth in front of folks from the ‘hood, and a few others of us that somehow caught wind of the gig.
Kids are running around with cotton candy on their cheeks. Old folks who grew up with Glenn Miller are sitting in lawn chairs tapping their toes.
The story behind the appearance remains murky.
Somebody had to underwrite this, it’s not like the sponsors of the street fest were flush.
Apparently there was a son of Portland who cherished his ‘hood and had become successful in business. Obviously a rock and roller, he apparently wanted to give back to the place he grew up.
So, as I’ve been told, it was this guy’s moolah.
It seems he’d brought in Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad the year before. Which I learned about only in hindsight. Sigh. Just another miss along the highway.
But I was there for Eric Burdon. I’d come with a couple of skeptical pals, who were
thinking as I shlepped them across town, “Yeah, right, Eric Burdon’s really going to be playing on the street in Portland.” Tsk, tsk, mes amis.
As if often the case, I really don’t remember what Burdon sang. Another pal who was there recalls “Monterey.” It’s one of Burdon’s peace and love tunes from his flower power daze that always make me smile when they come on the box.
A far cry from the gut bucket Rhythm and Blues of the early Animals.
In Portland, he was truly engaged. Apparently advising some that he was reminded of the English neighborhood where he grew up. Where he attended a primary school in Newcastle “jammed between a slaughterhouse and a shipyard on the banks of the Tyne.”
Oh my, that evening on Northwestern Parkway was as fun as it was charming, a fantasy once removed.