Monday, January 30, 2012

From the Whisky A Go Go to International Acclaim:
Paul Weller, Blondie , Ramones and more


Paul Weller, whom I first saw perform with The Jam at the Whisky A Go Go in 1977, is releasing his eleventh solo album, entitled Sonik Kicks through Yep Roc records on March 26.

Paul will return in the spring for his only scheduled appearances in North America this year. Weller and his band will perform at a two-night stand at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square, New York on May 18th & 19th. Tickets will go on sale this Friday, February 3rd at Noon EST and can be purchased from Ticketmaster or the Box Office. The Best Buy Theater is at 1515 Broadway.

I used to work in that building, for VH1, where for many years, "punk" was a word not spoken... then, lo and behold, a series here and there, a decade retrospective or two, and we were programming the likes of Blondie and The Pretenders.

kid congo at jam SMALL
The Jam headline over Johnny Cougar at the Whisky a Go Go in October 1977. Highlighted is the future Kid Congo Powers, right at the edge of the stage

Click to watch the video for "Around the Lake," the first song released from Sonik Kicks. The track is set to a sequence from a short film called "24hrs, Pavey Ark" directed by Mike Moloney & John Hooper, and word is that Paul is "massively into" this film. Well, its great that artists are still making promotional films (music videos) even though channels that purport to play them play them fewer and father between (but do definitely check out MTVIggy, which is worldwide and forward-thinking, thank you very much Nusrat Durrani!).

The Jam at the Whisky in October 1977 was just a couple days in 365 that seemed to be a year where everyone who played on that stage broke through and is still working today. Take the aforementioned Blondie...

Debbie-Waving-Whisky

There was a week in February of 1977 when I saw Blondie and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on the same bill and for the next two nights, Blondie again with The Ramones. They're all in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame!

It was a week of leather jackets and sunglasses at night (not at all in the conspicuous hipster way), fast, furious music and a vibe that things were once again exciting and fresh. The friend who accompanied me to see the Ramones - well, we screamed for them just as the girls in A Hard Day's Night screamed for the Beatles. And as Blondie drummer Clem Burke says, The Ramones are punk rock's Beatles. (They did get their shared name from Paul McCartney's nom du hotel). In retrospect, there was a LOT of pop (as in pop music, popularity and vox populi) in the Whisky a Go Go that week in February 1977.

Blondie waved the Girl Group pop music flag that signaled their future success and on the bill with them the first couple nights, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers showed they were already a well-oiled machine versed with facility in rock, pop and that almost country sound we now refer to as Americana.

tom petty whisky 77

But that week in February, it was the Ramones who were the most anticipated presence on the stage at the Whisky a Go Go. It would be their second Sunset Strip appearance (they made their LA debut at the Roxy, just up the street six months earlier, after conquering London on the 4th of July, shooting some inspiration into London's early punk rock scene. Almost everyone in the audience formed their own incredible band afterwards. Just ask Johnny Rotten and Mick Jones, to name but two.)

Joey Ramone 1977

February is the shortest and coldest month in a huge chunk of the world (it is the shortest month, regardless of where you are, true...), but that winter of 1977 was hot for the staying power of popular music.

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