The Vinyl Dialogues Blog

Stories behind memorable albums of the 1970s as told by the artists

Tag: Borgata

‘Stairway to Heaven’ is nowhere near the greatest makeout song ever

Peter Beckett of Player, center, rocks out to "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin, during the encore with Elliot Lurie, left, and John Ford Coley, right, at the Yacht Rock 2019 show Aug. 23 at the Borgata in Atlantic City.  (Photo by Mike Morsch)

Peter Beckett of Player, center, rocks out to “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin, during the encore with Elliot Lurie, left, and John Ford Coley, right, at the Yacht Rock 2019 show Aug. 23 at the Borgata in Atlantic City.
(Photo by Mike Morsch)

I do not like the music of Led Zeppelin. I never have. 

It all goes back to when I was a teenager in the 1970s. I had a girlfriend who liked to make out to Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” I was 16 years old, just starting to car date, and was dealing with raging hormones that many of us were experiencing at that age. I liked making out with her. I just didn’t like making out to “Stairway to Heaven.”

I had no interest in Zeppelin’s music then, and that’s the way it is now, some 40-plus years later. Sure, I know a couple of their tunes, and can probably sing a couple of verses to some of their songs. But I do not have any Zeppelin in my vinyl or CD collections and don’t plan on adding any.

But the discussion over whether “Stairway to Heaven” is the “greatest makeout song ever” still follows me today. It just so happens that The Blonde Accountant considers it at the top of the list of makeout songs.

“How can you not like making out to a long song like ‘Stairway to Heaven?’” she will say to me. “It’s the greatest makeout song ever.”

Elliot Luris of Looking Glass, the writer and lead singer of the iconic hit "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)." (Photo by Mike Morsch)

Elliot Luris of Looking Glass, the writer and lead singer of the iconic hit “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl).”
(Photo by Mike Morsch)

I may be old, but I’m not dead. I still like making out. But “Stairway to Heaven” is not the greatest makeout song ever. It is, however, the greatest impotence-inducing song ever.

Oddly enough, it is in this context that we attended the Yacht Rock 2019 show at the Borgata in Atlantic City Aug. 23. The show featured Walter Egan (“Magnet and Steel”); Elliot Lurie of Looking Glass (“Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl”); John Ford Coley of England Dan and John Ford Coley; Peter Beckett of Player (“Baby Come Back”); and Ambrosia, which backed all the other artists that evening, in addition to performing their greatest hits.

I can say without question that there are at least three songs from the artists in that group that are better makeout songs than “Stairway to Heaven”: the aforementioned “Baby Come Back” by Player; “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” by England Dan and John Ford Coley; and “How Much I Feel” by Ambrosia. 

In fact, I can make the case that this group of artists has even more songs that are better makeout songs than “Stairway to Heaven.” Walter Egan wrote “Magnet and Steel” because of his infatuation with Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks. Ambrosia’s “You’re the Only Woman (You and I)” and Player’s “This Time I’m in it For Love” fall into that category. I’d put “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne” and “Nights Are Forever Without You” by England Dan and John Ford Coley on the list of songs I’d make out to before “Stairway to Heaven.”

John Ford Coley, of England Dan and John Ford Coley. (Photo by Mike Morsch)

John Ford Coley, of England Dan and John Ford Coley.
(Photo by Mike Morsch)

And we heard all of those songs Saturday night. If I was ever going to be in the mood to make out, it would have been after that setlist.

Now there is another aspect of this story that ties it all together. Within the past year, I have taken to rushing the stage at some concerts. To clarify, I don’t actually “rush” the stage at this age. I kind of limp and stumble my way down to the front of the stage. I had never gone down to the stage for all these years, content to stand at my seat for encores. But I’ve had some seats recently that have allowed me easy access to the stage and I have taken advantage of that. It gets you up close and personal with the artists and I can shake a little booty more freely without being boxed in by my row. Plus it makes for some great photo opportunities, which I can use in the next volume of The Vinyl Dialogues. 

Because our seats were in the sixth row for the Yacht Rock show, I had to only get past two people to the aisle, where I could step-and-a-half it the 25 or so feet to the stage. Which is exactly what I did.

Walter Egan, who wrote the hit single "Magnet and Steel," that was inspired by Stevie Nicks. (Photo by Mike Morsch)

Walter Egan, who wrote the hit single “Magnet and Steel,” that was inspired by Stevie Nicks.
(Photo by Mike Morsch)

“C’mon, let’s rush the stage,” I said to TBA. She declined to join me. 

For the final song of the evening, all the artists reappeared together to perform . . . “Rock and Roll.” By Led Zeppelin. To close a yacht rock show. Go figure.

Certainly I had heard the song and was familiar with it. I just didn’t know the name of the song or that it was a Zeppelin tune. Still, I rocked out with the rest of stage rushers. 

“I just want you to know that you rushed the stage for a Led Zeppelin song,” said TBA after the show, as I hummed the song all the way back to the parking garage.

I know, I know. The irony was not lost on me. But it didn’t change the fact that “Stairway to Heaven” is nowhere near close to being the “greatest makeout song ever.”

Ambrosia, featuring original bassist Joe Puerta, right. (Photo by Mike Morsch)

Ambrosia, featuring original bassist Joe Puerta, right.
(Photo by Mike Morsch)

The Beach Boys and America: As close to a perfect evening as possible

Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys performs at the Borgata in Atlantic City. (Photo by Mike Morsch)

Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys performs at the Borgata in Atlantic City.
(Photo by Mike Morsch)

While waiting for the Beach Boys/America concert to start in the ballroom of the Borgata in Atlantic City Saturday evening, April 18, a little old lady came in and sat down beside me.

I don’t think she was from Pasadena. Atlantic City is, after all, a long way from California. (Beach Boys fans will get that joke.)

She was quiet throughout the hourlong set by America – Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley – who sound as good today as they did 40 years ago when they were making their fifth studio album, “Hearts,” which will be featured in “The Vinyl Dialogues Volume II: Dropping the Needle.”

America has always been one of my favorite bands, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to see them live. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how good these guys are and how much I love their songs. So it’s no surprise to say that I enjoyed their performance.

When America finished its set, closing with “A Horse With No Name,” the first hit single for the band, which was released in 1971, the little old lady turned to me and said, “Was that the Beach Boys? Is that all?”

I explained to her that it was the band America that we had just seen and that the Beach Boys would be coming out next.
“Oh, I wasn’t sure. Those guys didn’t sound like the Beach Boys,” she said.

After the Borgata show, we got to meet Bruce. That's daughter Kiley, Bruce and the author.

After the Borgata show, we got to meet Bruce. That’s daughter Kiley, Bruce and the author.

No, they didn’t sound like the Beach Boys to me either. For one thing, they’re younger, a joke that Beach Boys frontman Mike Love made himself later in the show. But Bunnell will tell you that he and Beckley love the Beach Boys, that they did influence America and that members of the two bands have been friends for decades and have performed on the same bill many times over the years.

The Beach Boys and America – they are the fabric of American music – provided much of the soundtrack of my life when I was growing up in the Midwest in the 1960s and 1970s.

This was a special concert for me for a couple of other reasons as well. I was accompanied by my oldest daughter, Kiley, who grew up with this music. We have a special bond that is linked in part by Beach Boys music. I did feel somewhat bad stealing her away from her husband on a Saturday night, but only for a little bit. From a selfish standpoint, she’s still my little girl. But as an adult, she’s great to hang with and she appreciates the music.

Dewey Bunnell, left, and Gerry Beckley of the band America sound just as good today as they did in the 1970s.  (Photo by Mike Morsch)

Dewey Bunnell, left, and Gerry Beckley of the band America sound just as good today as they did in the 1970s.
(Photo by Mike Morsch)

It was also a special evening because we were the guests of Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys. Bruce provided a great interview in “The Vinyl Dialogues” detailing his role as producer of David Cassidy’s first two solo albums after Cassidy’s TV show “The Partridge Family” had ended its run. I hope to interview Bruce again for Volume II, this time about a Beach Boys album.

It wasn’t the first time I had met Bruce. In 1986 at a Beach boys concert in Rockford, Illinois, I was part of a media contingent invited to a pre-concert “Beach Party.” Bruce was the only band member to appear at the event, so he was inundated by the media. There is a photo of me standing next to Bruce, pen and reporter’s notebook in hand, and sporting a full head of curly hair.

The Beach Boys themselves – the Mike Love/Bruce Johnston group – still rock. There is still an energy coming from the stage that can make one forget that these guys are in their 70s and that they’ve been doing this for more than 50 years.

For the record, I don’t get into all that offstage Beach Boys hoo-ha. I love Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and that band. And I love Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and that band. I loved that they were all together for a series of 50th anniversary shows a few years ago and that I got to see one of those shows with my daughter.

But for me, it’s only about the music and what it means to me.

We were fortunate to meet Bruce after the show. He was gracious, signed a few autographs – including the photo of him and I from 1986 – posed for a photo and chatted a bit.

“I’ve been coming to Beach Boys concerts since I was three years old,” my daughter said to him.
“Me too,” said Bruce.

It was as close to a perfect evening as it could be.

Oh, and the little old lady? Without saying a word, she just got up and left about two-thirds of the way through the Beach Boys’ set.

Maybe she was headed back to Pasadena after all and wanted to get ahead of the traffic.

Hall & Oates leave them wanting more at the Borgata

You know that old adage, “Always leave them wanting more?” I’m pretty sure that just about everyone in the sold-out Borgata ballroom in Atlantic City Friday night, June 20, 2014, would have been happy to sit there for a few more hours and listen to Hall & Oates.

The recently inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famers performed a tight, 90-minute set, that included two encores, and certainly left me wanting more.

The thing that strikes me about Daryl and John at this stage of their careers is that they genuinely seem to still be enjoying what they do. And, no breaking news here: they’re very good at it.

Of course, all the hits were there:

“Maneater” – No. 1 from the “H2O” album (1982).
“Out of Touch” – No. 1 from “Big Bam Boom” (1984).
“Do It For Love” – No. 114 (and should have been higher) from “Do It For Love” (2002).
“She’s Gone” – No. 7 (Editorial comment: How can this not be a No. 1 song?) from “Abandoned Luncheonette (1973).
“Sara Smile” – No. 4 (Editorial comment: How can this not be a No. 1 song?) from “Daryl Hall and John Oates” (1976).
“Do What You Want, Be What You Are” – No. 39 from “Bigger Than Both of Us” (1976).
“I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” – No. 1 from “Private Eyes” (1981).
“Rich Girl” – No. 1 from “Bigger Than Both of Us” (1976).
“You Make My Dreams” – No. 5 (Editorial comment: How can this not be a No. 1 song?) from “Voices” (1980).
“Kiss on My List” – No. 1 from “Voices” (1980).
“Private Eyes” – No. 1 from “Private Eyes” (1981).

But the highlight of any Hall & Oates concert for me is anything they do from the “Abandoned Luncheonette” album. Friday night’s performance of “She’s Gone,” a song they admit they’ve played at every show for the past 40 years or so, was outstanding. As good as that song is on the record, it was simply chill-inducing to hear live at the Borgata.

The other song from “Abandoned Luncheonette” in the set list was the Oates-penned “Las Vegas Turnaround.” It’s become a favorite of mine because of the backstory that John tells about the genesis of the song, a story that’s retold in the “Abandoned Luncheonette” chapter of “The Vinyl Dialogues.”

The song is kind of a prequel to another famous Hall & Oates song that would be written by the duo and released in 1976, three years after “Las Vegas Turnaround.” If you’ve read the book or know the story, don’t give out any spoilers. If you don’t know the story, pick up a copy of “The Vinyl Dialogues.” I’m biased, but it’s the coolest story in a book full of cool stories about memorable albums of the 1970s.

So here’s my idea to enhance the Hall & Oates experience, and it’s completely selfish from a fan’s viewpoint: Make the first hour of a Hall & Oates show the “All The Hits Hour.” Add another hour to the show, and call it the “Deep Album Cuts” hour (I’ll take “When The Morning Comes” and “Had I Known You Better Then” from “Abandoned Luncheonette” as well as “Camellia” from the 1975 “Daryl Hall & John Oates” album.)

Then after a couple of encores, bring three chairs on stage – one for Daryl, one for John and one for me – and I’ll interview them. Then we’ll all go for beer afterwards. All 5,000 of us. We’ll let Todd Rundgren pick up the tab as payback for overproducing “War Babies” and making it sound like a Todd Rundgren album.

Just a thought. But that sure would eliminate the whole “leave them wanting more” thing, huh?

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