ROCK AROUND THE WORLD®
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by Kris DiLorenzo
Elton John caused quite a furor in Manhattan when he flew in to guest at friend Kiki Dee's Dr. Pepper Festival appearance. While in town for a few days Elton did some shopping, fell in love with N.Y. disco Studio 54 and bumped his fill at a party thrown by Rocket Records for Kiki at the elegant One Fifth Restaurant (see photos. Mr. John's attire was attention-getting, as always: soccer shirt, white track shorts, sweat sox and "tennies", and a cricket cap.
Dee's concert in Central Park had been pushed back a day due to heavy rain, but the party happened on schedule. There were quite a few name guests at the private affair; besides Elton and Kiki and members of their respective bands were all the members of Blue, Patti Smith, Paul Simon and Shelly Duvall, Shirley Maclaine, John Oates and manager, Carol Bayer Sager, actress/comedienne Madeline Kahn, and assorted record biz personalities including Clive Davis.
Kiki;s performance the nest evening had the audience standing on their chairs, waving signs and cheering madly. Elton showed up to duet on "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" and "I Got The Music In Me". In the audience, of all people, was actor Richard Thomas -- that's John-Boy of Walton fame.
Blue opened the show with a pleasantly-rocking set of Raspberries-like material. the band of attractive Scots performed the best of their new/first album, a collection of good pop songs abounding with rhythmic hooks and occasionally biting riffs. They couldn't energize the audience the way Kiki did, however. Dee possesses one of the strongest pop/rock voices among female performers, and if her guitar players were better, she'd be invincible. Her look was clean and smart, her crowd appeal unquestionable (though her stage moves are minimal). Dee built a well-paced set with songs like "Step By Step" from her first album and a variety from love songs ("Amoreuse") to rock ("Chicago") from the new LP. Her self-penned (the first song she ever wrote) "Loving and Free" was a pretty ballad, and Dee's version of "Chain Of Fools" hinted that she might do well to include more R&B-oriented tunes in her show (after all, Kiki was the first white artist to record for Motown, years ago). Her two hits ("I Got The Music In Me" and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart"), of course, elicited a wild reaction from the audience, who didn't leave when Elton did.
Judging from Dee's gutsy singing and her ability to hold a crowd, there's no reason (if she loosens up) this woman shouldn't go far, except for her only semi-competent band and the fact that as a woman she'll receive less support from record companies and promoters than a less talented male artist. But as one audience member's placard read: Keep Going Kiki.
What's Elton been up to lately? Well, Viking Press will release the official book of Elton photos by David Nutter (with captions by Bernie Taupin) in October at approximately the same time Elton's Greatest Hits Volume II ships platinum. Both events coincide with Elton's induction into the Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame as its first no-sports figure (for Elton's week of sold-out concerts last summer which broke all house records). this honor follows the release of Elton's next single, produced by Thom Bell of Philadelphia fame and due at the end of September. A party to commemorate all these occasions is being planned for the second week in October, and it should be a killer.
For Ripley's Believe It Or Not: Somewhere between their New York (Nassau Coliseum) and Boston (Cape Cod Coliseum) dates, those hard-drinking cowboys from down south, Lynyrd Skynyrd, decided to go on the wagon. Bass player Leon Wilkerson says the band decided their alcohol consumption was interfering somewhat with their performance, and they determined to do something about it. Skynyrd's teetotaling lasted for about one weekend, after which a less sever temporary restraining order was voted into effect: No drinking before shows, just after. There's only one problem with this arrangement: When does "after" stop and "before" begin? Bets are now being taken as to how long the good intentions last. Even as you read this, ol' demon alcohol may once again have claimed the boys in the band. Less dramatic news: Skynyrd keyboardman Billy Powell left the Northeast leg of the tour to fly home to Jacksonville, Florida for the birth of baby Richard to wife Judy.
Warner Brothers' self-billed "Party Of the Year" for Fleetwood Mac after their Madison Square Garden opening night was held at Les Mouches, a private, extravagant disco club in a loft in New York's warehouse district. Guests waited in line outside for an hour before being carefully screened and escorted upstairs by elevator for music, drinking, dancing, eats and conversation. Among the stellar elite (besides the McVie-Fleetwood-Buckingham-Nicks entourage) were George Benson, New York's own "Rag & Roll"champ Cathy Chamberlain (due to open for Leo Sayer in Central Park), Rick Derringer, Bryan Ferry, Marvin ("The Sting") Hamlisch, Kenny Loggins (show opened Fleetwood Mac's tour), and Elliott Murphy, as well as Hall &Oates manager Tommy Mottola, Warner/Atlantic heavies Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun and Mo Ostin, and Pierre La Roche, make-up man for Mick and Bianca. A fairly mellow (for rock 'n' roll, that is) time was had by all.
Pink Floyd's visit to the Big Apple over the July 4th weekend for several Madison Square Garden shows was not without its angst. Their show featured stunning special effects (including the inflated floating pig from their Animals LP cover) and unusual lighting rigs, but all was not well behind the scenes. Apparently American unions prevented the Floyd;s own spot operators from England from working the Garden Dates, and the opening night's encore ("Money") was introduced with a verbal blast from Roger Waters. His comments about the situation had four-letter words ringing out over the crowd, and their sympathetic cheers indicated that with the proper people behind the lights, Pink Floyd's appearance would have been positively explosive.
Speaking of explosive, there was a noticeable change in the crowd's behavior at this concert: every volley of firecrackers set off by audience clowns was roundly booed by the rest of the house. Hopefully that's a sign that the idiotic and dangerous firecracker fad will vanish soon, if concertgoers keep using peer pressure to eliminate it.
It's about time: The D.I.R. Broadcasting Corporation, those people who bring you the King Biscuit Flower Hour, are sponsoring the First Annual North American Rock Radio Awards. These awards will be to artists in various performing categories, to be slated by program directors around the U.S. and Canada and voted on by the public as well (through ballots in Rolling Stone and the like). A Tom Donohue Memorial Award for the FM person who has made a significant contribution to progressive radio is also being established. The Rock Radio Awards will feature a celebrity host and is set for a November air date. Now let's hope they don't turn into a circus like Kirsnher's Rock Awards.
. . . And the Boogie Woogie Flu: Rock's version of the mysterious Legionnaire's disease surfaced in New York City when quite a few writers and publicists who were guests at Little Feat>B's Washington D.C. date returned (or almost didn't return) with cases of everything from infectious hepatitis to viral meningitis (as well as a few common colds). The germ source remains undiscovered -- could it have been the potato chips?
Blackout Stories: Rhetta Hughes, the "black Barbra Streisand", was a nurse in Texas before heading for Broadway and eventually the lead in next hear's "Alyse" (a funky version of Alice In Wonderland). So when the lights went out, Rhetta donned a uniform once again and volunteered for duty at several New York hospitals including Harlem General. Seems everybody's in show biz, but not everybody's a star.
Where Were You When The Lights Went Out?, take two: The first night of Boz Scaggs's run at Avery Fisher Hall was attended by Saturday Night's John Belushi and Phoebe Snow, who both stopped backstage to say hello to boz. His second night's performance was cut short after 20 minutes when the power failed. No one in the hall thought anything unusual was happening (after all, equipment fritzes out sometimes even with the best sound systems), until all the house ushers ran down the aisles to beam their flashlights on Boz while he made the announcement: "Guess what! It's all over New York!" Needless to way, the crowd cheered. Ticketholders were invited back to an added show at the end of Boz's stint to make up for Con Ed's "act of God".
A party for jazzman Bob James at Michael's Pub early this summer brought out George Benson, Phoebe Snow, and super-session men Stuff . . . Herbie Hancock was feted with a private dinner by Columbia Records recently, celebrating his V.S.O.P. album.
Rumbles in The Who camp: Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane (ex-Faces) are working on the album; the tapes should be in New York shortly for sneak previews. The Who will be on tour this fall/winter following the release of their next LP, for which they're rehearsing material in Ramport Studios (London) right now. Another likely eventuality: Roger Daltrey and Keith Moon co-hosting a Saturday Night show this fall. Belushi had better watch out or the Moon is likely to run away with his job.
No, Robert Sitgwood's RSO Records is not going to but Island Records -- Island seems to be having financial difficulty and will be closing their L.A. office soon.
Miscellaneous happenings in the Big Apple: Robert Palmer at Media Sound Studios with Joel Dorn producing, finishing up the album he started in Miami. Seen strolling along 57th Street: Ian Hunter and a motley crew of friends. At the Hall & Oates show in Central Park: members of Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band and John Sebastian.
There's a new band heating up the area that's being compared to The Eagles. There name is East, and among the interested parties: Peter Frampton, Laura Nyro, Hall & Oates, James Taylor, and Carly Simon. Artists as diverse as The New Seekers and Engelbert Humperdinck (!!??) have requested some East songs for their repertoires. East members include veterans of Ruth Copeland's touring band, Ireland's top rock group Chips, and New York's club band Bananas. East recently performed in private concerts for label chiefs and various execs at a 26-acre estate in Westchester County; a recording deal should be signed by the time you read this, and then keep you ears open for East.
Binder Productions is working on a TV special for The Stones' 10th Anniversary party; details aren't available yet, but stay tuned.
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