Tag Archives: Modern English

Of Concerts Past: Roxy Music at the Tower Theater, 1983

Too often, especially as we age, the waves of time wash over the sturdy landmarks of our youth like the ocean during high tide; and, when the water recedes, what’s left are merely dull fragments of a once-sharp image. Such is the case with this, the second-ever concert I attended. Much of the night remains a vivid, Technicolor wonder; but much more has been carried away by the receding tide of time.

First: As I mentioned in my remembrance of the previous week’s Kinks concert, the show was originally scheduled for the Spectrum in Philadelphia, but was relocated to the Tower Theater in Upper Darby at some point. I don’t know why, but imagine poor ticket sales were to blame. The Spectrum held upwards of 18,000 for concerts; the Tower fit about 3000. An event isn’t downsized that dramatically except to avoid a sea of empty seats.

The change in venue made the trip to the show that much more arduous from my neck of the woods. In today’s world, one could hop on the turnpike, exit at Mid-County and take the Blue Route and West Chester Pike. Maybe a 45-minute (to an hour, depending on traffic) trip. But back then? I didn’t drive much, and wasn’t behind the wheel – a friend with his father’s car was – but imagine we took 202 to West Chester Pike, with the 202 portion of the ride likely taking forever. Another friend was with us.

I say “likely” because I don’t remember it. What I do recall: Walking into the Tower and being amazed by the decked-out guys and girls milling about. Everyone was dressed to the nines in (stereotypical) New Wave fashion except for the three of us, who wore the typical suburban attire of jeans, button-down shirts and, given that it was a chilly night, light jackets. It was as if we’d stepped into a Duran Duran video, in other words. Our seats were on the balcony, a little less than a third of the way back, where the D-Squared vibe continued unabated.

To the show itself: the British band Modern English, who’d caught fire in the U.S. thanks to MTV placing “I Melt With You” into heavy rotation that spring, opened. My only memory of their set is of that song, their last of the night. The moment it began, many on the floor spilled out from their seats and danced in the aisles.

The reason we’d traveled to the Tower, of course, was Roxy Music. Maybe they had to downsize the venue, but whatever disappointments Bryan Ferry & Company had didn’t show in their performance. The band and backup singers came out dressed like many in the audience, like fashion models, and opened with the funky “The Main Thing” from Avalon

One highlight: “Can’t Let Go,” a song from Ferry’s 1978 solo album, The Bride Stripped Bare, which Roxy had just released on the live High Road EP.

Another: “My Only Love,” which – given that I’d been playing the High Road EP for much of the month – I knew like the back of my hand. It’s still a thing of genius.

Another: “Love Is the Drug,” the band’s lone U.S. hit.

Another: their take on Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane,” which saw a wind machine add to the stormy mood on stage. In its eye: Bryan Ferry, playing it cool; Phil Manzanera, tossing off guitar licks; and Andy MacKay, who wailed away on the sax in lieu of Neil’s swirling guitar solo. The back-up singers provided the proverbial icing on the cake.

“Editions of You” rocked:

The night ended with their cover of John Lennon’s classic “Jealous Guy.” It was the perfect cap to a great concert.

The next morning, in my desk calendar, I noted that “the Musique Roxy were fabulous. It was better than the Kinks!!”

One other memory: After the show, my friend at the wheel inadvertently ran a red light while trying to figure out where he was supposed to turn. Bubble lights from a police car flashed behind us and, within a few minutes, a bulky cop was leaning inside our car with a flashlight, scanning for any signs of intoxication. What he saw instead: three very sober, and very nervous, suburban kids. He let us go with a warning.

The likely set:

  1. The Main Thing
  2. Out of the Blue
  3. Both Ends Burning
  4. A Song for Europe
  5. Take a Chance With Me
  6. Can’t Let Go
  7. While My Heart Is Still Beating
  8. Impossible Guitar
  9. Tara
  10. Avalon
  11. My Only Love
  12. Dance Away
  13. Love Is the Drug
  14. Like a Hurricane
  15. Editions of You
  16. Do the Strand
  17. Jealous Guy

 

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Today’s Top 5: Songs From Valley Girl

vg_first_cdThe 1983 movie Valley Girl is not a five- , four- or even three-star effort, yet it’s fun with a capital F. It ably captures the flavor of the early ’80s while unreeling a plot shared by many a teen flick: a girl (Deborah Foreman) falls for a guy (Nicholas Cage) from the wrong side of the tracks.

The DVD bonus features are cool, too. Nicholas Cage sits down with the film’s director, Martha Coolidge, for a fascinating conversation; and there’s a documentary that hones in on the acts whose music filled the totally tubular soundtrack. The singer from Modern English, for example, recalls how the band was playing to, at most, 200 indifferent club-going folks a night in England when “I Melt with You” – thanks to MTV – became a major hit in the States. They flew to Florida for their first gig (dressed for cold weather, no less), and found themselves playing to a crowd of 10,000 screaming fans who knew all the words to all their songs.

moremusic_vgIn addition to Modern English, that soundtrack included songs from the Plimsouls, Flirts, Josie Cotton and Bonnie Hayes. At the time, though, licensing issues prevented its release on vinyl – a real shame, as it likely would’ve helped some of them graduate from “struggling” to “successful.” It wasn’t until a decade later, in fact, that two CD collections “inspired” by the flick hit the store shelves. (Some of the songs weren’t in the movie, but are representative of the era.) So, for today’s Top 5: Music From Valley Girl. Some are true lost treasures.

1) Modern English – “I Melt With You.” I saw Modern English in May 1983, when they opened for Roxy Music at the Tower Theater. My main memory of their performance: kids spilling into the aisles to dance when they played this song.

2) The Plimsouls – “A Million Miles Away.” Never saw the Plimsouls, but I did catch Peter Case at Dobbs one very-late night in 1989 on his tour in support of his The Man with the Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar album. Good show.

3) The Flirts – “Jukebox”

4) Josie Cotton – “He Could Be the One”

5) Bonnie Hayes with the Wild Combo – “Girls Like Me”