Friday, November 22, 2013

Michael Stanley Band - Stagepass

OK, so as far as official Rock Snob Cool Points go, just mentioning this album is like minus 100, taken off your final weighted score.  So what?  I'm from around Cleveland, and that means that pretty much from 1977 - 1980 every party I went to included at least one entire spin of all four sides of this record.  Most rides in cars meant at least one run through Stagepass, too.  That's okay, too.  So what if I've heard this more times than I've had a glass of water?  I think it's just a part of my DNA and there's not much I can do about it.  Blame WMMS and suburban teenagers.

The thing is, Michael Stanley never really made it big outside of Cleveland.  People here loved the guy, and even Joe Walsh covered his song, Rosewood Bitters so it always seemed like any minute you people out there would think he was okay and Cleveland Youth would be vindicated.  It never happened and the direction he went after this double live album is definitely south, but this record is really pretty okay.

Hell, in 1978 I took it to North Carolina with me on 8 track and people vacationing with me and enjoying some fine Gold were asking me what album I was playing and they seemed to like it.  I know one guy came and visited me the next spring and he even bought this to take home to Illinois or Indiana, wherever he lived.  I guess it's not as bad as Mike Hudson of The Pagans would have you believe.  In fact, I'd guess if you find one in your city, it would be really, really cheap and I think you'd like some of it.  Parts of it a pretty generic Midwestern Rawk, but there's a few songs that are a notch above the usual dreck.  I still think One Good Reason and Nothing's Gonna Change My Mind are better than average, and even today I like to hear them.  When I was 15 I'd drop everything to pay more attention to Nothing's Gonna Change My Mind.  I really loved it to death.  I think the guy that wrote and sang that song, Jonah Koslen, left the band shortly after this album and started his own band, Breathless.  They went just about as far as Michael Stanley, but I think they screwed up and should have kept working together.

I went and saw Michael Stanley twice.  Once was when he sold out Blossom Music Center three nights in a row.  That's like 70,000 tickets, and they went fast.  I don't remember that, I just went for the party.  The other time was at Richfield Coliseum.  I was in Belkin Concert Club and I used to write them notes about the tickets I ordered.  Belkin were the big promoters here, and for like 20 bucks a year you could join their club and get really decent seats.  I told them I just wanted a comfortable seat and give some die hard my killer seat for MSB.  They gave me a great, first row of the upper side level where the sound was good, no one could stand in front of me and I even had a place to set my drink.  It was very comfortable, and while I felt like an old man kinda, I also felt it was kinda the way MSB made me feel anyway.  Comfortable.

This record just oozes Cleveland.  It was recorded at the old Cleveland Agora.  I used to go there, and I thought it was the coolest bar ever.  I still say it's one of the greatest Rock Clubs that ever happened.  The stage was big and it was up high enough that you could see the band.  The house PA fucking killed it!  Everybody sounded great in there.  The crowds were totally cool.  There was some kind of weird shag carpet on the floor (don't ask me why), and it stuck to your feet because of a weird mixture of fire retardant stuff and spilled beer and vomit (I saw Jane Scott get barfed on in there, and I don't think she noticed!).  But it sounded great and Bruce Springsteen and Todd Rundgren played there as well as cover bands on Mug Night.  You bought a 19 ounce mug for like three dollars, and then you got in free every Wednesday night and refills of whatever draft they had (I swear I drank Schlitz and Stroh's in there) were a quarter.  Even after mug night ended they'd let me in for free cuz I raised a stink about buying their dumb mug.  I've still got it, too.

The damned staples of WMMS and M105 here were what everyone always wanted to hear at parties (and still want to hear on the Classic Rock Saturday night request show), but I always liked side three with their cover of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, and a nice song called Waste a Little Time on Me.  It's kind of mellow stuff, which is usually not my bag, but I just liked these a lot.  The bad thing was that side three had some utterly shitty song called Pierette on it, and lemme tell ya, you have heard few snorefests as snorey as this stupid song.  I have a feeling they left it off the tape versions.  Either that or tape decks just automatically fast forwarded through it.  Maybe that's why I like the other two songs on side three so much.  I bet no one ever played that side!  Which can't be true because the side ends with "The first song, from the first Michael Stanley album, and it goes like this," then they play Rosewood Bitters.   And that's a really great song.  It really is.  I mean, it's good enough that I'd buy this record for that song alone if I had to.  In spite of one of the worst songs ever recorded, side three remains my favorite.

Which gets us all the way to side four.  I think anyone that grew up here thinks side four is pretty much one song.  That's how often radio played it like that.  Hey, DJ's gotta shit, too.  I get it.  They could call it a triple play or album side.  It didn't matter, but they got to hit the can!  I'll mention Let's Get the Show on the Road here because it's kind of like Bob Seger's Turn the Page when it comes to wistful songs about fame Clevelanders seem to really get.  The correct way to listen to this song is to hold your beer high, swaying to the slow music, with your eyes mostly closed.  Even if you're driving (that's why we sell single cans at the gas station).  Much as I make fun of it, I think it's a pretty fucking great song.  I mean, "Today's for sale and it's all you can afford, and by your own admission the whole things got you bored" is just a great line.  Much great Midwestern Rawk ensues and it's just fun.  The last song, Strike Up the Band is something everyone seems to love, but it's pretty mediocre if you ask me.

Now, my record is in pretty terrific shape (like I said, they're cheap and no one knows who they are outside of Cleveland and that's where I got mine).  It is on energy crisis recycled vinyl and I can see a piece of label in the playing area that won't come up, but it never makes a sound going over it, so I don't care.  Both records are nice and flat and if you were a teenaged boy where I grew up, the cover is iconic and it's nice that mine's not shot to shit with cigarette burns and beer stains on it.  Both records are nice and flat and it's nice to have this, seeing as how I still live around here.  people actually ask if I have it, sometimes just to look at it and hold it.  It's weird.  I get it.  I don't want to get it because I like being the Rock Snob I am, but I get it.  I really do.