Sunday, October 23, 2005

Having A Rave-Up

Certain musical performances have an ability to remain vivid in one's memory- they may not have been by the most polished act, or even especially good, but they have a certain characteristic that makes an indelible impression. As a lad of 15, my musical heroes were the English band The Yardbirds. Listening to their music now, I'm struck by how crude, how raw and almost unformed in structure it was.

Because retailers were beginning to realize the profitability of targeting the huge teen market, our city's largest department store (Dayton's) decided to hold a series of summer concerts in their auditorium. The third concert in the series was The Yardbirds, and my friends and I were giddy with anticipation. We purchased our tickets and waited for the Saturday afternoon concert.

The day came and when we traipsed through the housewares to the auditorium, we discovered that the show was sponsored by Yardley's of London- I suppose they thought that the crowd would be filled with screaming girls. Instead, it was about 90% young male guitarists. There was a local band opening, playing cover tunes from top 40 radio. A model/spokeswoman from Yardley gave a sales pitch to the bewildered crowd and handed out samples to the 40 or so girls present. Then the lights dimmed, the curtain opened and...

We were used to seeing bands with electric guitars, an amplifier for each, and a polite display by young men in suits. Jeff Beck, the lead guitarist, had mountains of amplifiers, a scruffy leather jacket, and was LOUD. Our minds were suitably blown.

Later on, of course, all rock music was loud, with feedback and distortion; it was played by toughs, and later still, by punks and even a few psychopaths. But The Yardbirds were the first. We were a little disappointed for the regular bass player had been replaced. By some young upstart with the name of Jimmy Page.

By Professor Batty


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