California Dreamin’ – VIDEON

Santa Monica, CA – 1983

I always loved music and films, so at some point, I decided that working in a music store would be better than working at a restaurant. I applied at several around Los Angeles and got an interview with a chain called Music Plus. They sold albums, tapes, videos, and concert tickets. I remember acquiring tickets to see David Bowie on his Serious Moonlight tour from there! But that’s another story.

Here’s another author’s memories in regard to Music Plus:

https://www.championnewspapers.com/opinion_and_commentary/chino_memories/article_4d1201f6-23d7-11e8-88aa-9faa52530da0.html

They liked me well enough but told me they didn’t have anything available in their music stores. But they were opening a flagship video store on Lincoln Blvd. in Santa Monica.

I knew that VHS and Beta were emerging in the home video market and thought it would be a cool job. Music Plus was a retail chain around LA, and since video was growing they decided to designate a whole store to just videotape sales and rentals.

It was a great idea at the time and the owner was truly a visionary for coming up with the idea. (We all know what happened in the coming years with the arrival of Blockbuster, but this was at the very beginning of the home video craze.)

VCR’s cost over $1500 back then and were the size of old electric typewriters. They weighed a ton and I think Beta was the only format in the beginning. Sony invented Beta and VHS but Beta was the better format. More compact with a simpler mechanism with better sound and video. They sold off the rights to VHS because it was inferior. But more companies bought it up and started making VHS VCRs like crazy. VHS ultimately won out in the format wars simply because more companies manufactured the machines and they were more available to the public. Funny, how the superior format failed to the inferior one simply based on availability. Man-made selection at its best!

I was 20 years old and just happy to not be working in a hot, sweaty kitchen in a bar and grill until midnight every day. This was a cool, clean job in a new industry.

The day manager was this super French guy who was easily well into his forties. He knew a lot about film and especially foreign films so that was cool. In the evenings they had another manager named Renee who was probably around twenty-five. She was short with brown hair and eyes. Kind of cute, but that was ruined by her bitchy personality. She seemed over her head in the position and was always short-tempered and stressed. She was always scheduling me to close with her because she liked me. Even though she was cranky a lot of the time, I knew she dug me. She would always ask me to smoke a joint with her out in the parking lot after work. I obliged because I figured maybe she’d be nicer if I hung out with her.

One night that parking lot smoke turned into a bit more and we ended up back at her place. I was young and didn’t possess the moral compass I have today. (Come on… who am I kidding? You’ve read this blog.)

There was one other girl who worked there most days with me, who was the quintessential 80s girl. (Think one of the members of the band The Go Gos) She was after me as well. Where were all the available men in LA back then? Nothing ever happened between us because I just wasn’t that into her. She seemed weird.

We had a good time working there and it was fun being around all of those movies all day. I learned a lot about film and the video industry working there. The whole store was arranged by studio, not by subject. So we had a section for Warner, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, etc.

The best part was, at lunch you could go in the back and watch a video while dining on your sandwich.

But here’s the interesting part. This was a legit spin-off from a big music store chain. Everything was above board. For the most part.

You won’t believe what the home video experience cost back then. It was a fledgling industry and everything was new, so that means expensive. The machines were a fortune, and the tapes were really pricey as well. Most videotape movies started at $59.95 to purchase. But we did have a rental program. It was $100 to join and to rent a movie it was over $20 and you had to leave a huge deposit on your credit card every time you rented some movies. Isn’t that crazy? It was like renting an automobile!

I remember when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out on videotape. It had made so much money worldwide, they released it for $39.95 on VHS and Beta. This was unheard of. A groundbreaking low price for a blockbuster film.

Next was the making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and the music video all in one tape. That was released for only $29.95. The lowest price ever offered for a home videotape ever. We sold the hell out of them.

There were NO Disney titles of any kind on VHS and Beta. I think they were waiting to see what the NEW format would do for their stockholders. (Now they own everything!)

We didn’t have hundreds of copies of popular movies back then. Most of the films available were from the past. So everything in the store was from the 70s and back. New movies were in the theaters and it would be years until they landed on video. But there were plenty of great films to watch. But the only place I could check out titles was during lunch in the back.

But here’s the twist to this upstanding business called VIDEON. We sold the occasional tape to some wealthy people who wanted to own some quality films to show their friends and family.

Home video was in its infancy and it was like the wild west back then. Here’s what they did at VIDEON. Say, someone rents a few films. They watch them and return them after the 3 day allocated time. We take that tape in the back room. There is a table with a spool of shrinkable cellophane on a roll and an industrial blow dryer. We rewind the tape and rewrap it in our own little shrink wrap. We sear the creases on the spool so it seals the wrap. We then hit it with the blow dryer and that shrinks the wrap so that it clings to the original box with the tape in it. Does it look brand new? Does it look like it came from the factory? No. But do the customers know that? No.

So basically they were renting movies all the time and then repackaging them and selling them as new to unsuspecting customers. I wasn’t comfortable with this practice because it just didn’t seem right. People were tricked into thinking they were buying something brand new and paying the top retail price. But in actuality were being sold a used product. That smells like fraud to me. It had to be illegal. But like I said, back then it was the wild west. I was getting a paycheck every week so I never said anything about their diabolical criminal enterprise.

The way to tell was, I knew what the rewrapped shrink wrap looked like, and if you looked through the window on the tape, the tape on the spool was slightly uneven. When they’re new, this is not the case.

I don’t know what happened to that company, but I’m sure they were devoured by Blockbuster some years later. (It was the last job I had before leaving California)

It’s funny how when something’s new, it costs a fortune and feels so exclusive. But in a few years, it’s all cheap and available to everyone. Now, it’s all gone. You can simply stream everything. DVDs aren’t even a thing anymore.

But it was a fun job and a peek at was to come in the world of home video in the future.

I recommend you watch the documentary The Last Blockbuster on Netflix. Very interesting. The best bits are about the business and corporate end of that industry. The rest is just a bunch of self-absorbed clowns talking about their love for Blockbuster and home video.

But I will say this one last thing. I do have some wonderful memories of picking up my little daughter on a Friday night and heading over to the local Blockbuster. We’d pick out some movies, popcorn, and candy for the weekend. It was a fun ritual that just about everyone I know once did together.

Check out my latest book on Amazon!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Tales of Rock – Who Invented Speed Metal?

Speed metal is an sub-genre of heavy metal music that originated in the late 1970s from NWOBHM and hardcore punk roots. It is described by Allmusic as “extremely fast, abrasive, and technically demanding” music.

Motörhead is often credited as the first band to invent/play speed metal.[1] Some of speed metal’s earlier influences include Deep Purple’s “Fireball” and Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” (which was eventually covered by the thrash metal band Metallica), from their 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack,[2] and Deep Purple‘s song “Highway Star“, from their album Machine Head. The latter was called ‘early speed metal’ by Robb Reiner of speed metal band Anvil.[3] Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown“, first released in January 1969, could also be said to be an early template for speed metal as mentioned in Mac Randall’s.[4]

Speed metal eventually evolved into thrash metal.[5] Although many tend to equate the two subgenres, there is a distinct difference between them. In his book Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy MetalIan Christe states that “…thrash metal relies more on long, wrenching rhythmic breaks, while speed metal… is a cleaner and more musically intricate subcategory, still loyal to the dueling melodies of classic metal.”

I’m going to have to say, Queen’s song, Sheer Heart Attack from their LP News of the World does it for me. It’s a mix of punk and metal played at breakneck speed. It is an absolutely furious song that I used to jam out to in my bedroom on my guitar.

Listen to this tune and prove me wrong.

Get my latest book here!

You can check out all of my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every week.

LAWNDALE – The 312 Magee Avenue Playlist

The Lawndale book is just one week away from being published!

While writing the Lawndale book I started to think about all of the music we listened to growing up in the house on 312 Magee.

There was always some sort of music playing somewhere in the house at any given time. Whether it was my mom listening to Andy Williams on the record player in the dining room while she did her housework, or us kids listening to our records.

My father always loved music and would listen to classical and operas in the basement while he worked or read his books.

We had the jukebox on the porch that had been loaned to us by a couple that my dad was friends with and we loved that thing!

There was the the 8-track player in the 1969 VW minibus that we all rocked out to on trips on the road with dad.

We listened to the radio in the kitchen and would hear all the new popular songs of the day.

I would sometimes bring a little record player to the dinner table and sit it on the seat next to me. My dad wasn’t home, and it would be just my mom and my sisters. I would put little 45 rpm records on and we would all sing to them. It was a riot!

I got into listening to some of my favorite songs and bands recently on Spotify and thought about creating a playlist of all the music we heard in our house growing up as kids. Not just the music we owned, but all the theme songs from our favorite shows that were on TV in the 60s and 70s.

At first I thought it would be cool to share it with my sisters for nostalgic reasons. But then I thought, wouldn’t it be great to share it with all of the people who might remember some of these songs from their past as well.

So I’ve decided to add to the anticipation of the Lawndale book coming out next week and share it with everybody as a soundtrack to the book.

Some of the songs you may not recognize but some will make you smile and take you back to a simpler time. This is an eclectic mix of music and themes from the 60s and 70s that were alive in our house at 312 Magee growing up.

I hope you enjoy it, and maybe you’ll listen to it in the background while reading my book! (Don’t worry if you don’t have a Spotify account. It’s free and you can just go on and check it out!)

Here it is! The 312 Magee soundtrack!

https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/5nQ0QYz4dBIphiU7hiIZR4?utm_source=generator

I hope you all enjoy listening to this as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I’d also be happy to add any songs I may have forgotten!

Enjoy!

LAWNDALE the book will be available on Amazon next Tuesday on August 9th!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, comment, and most of all, FOLLOW Phicklephilly! I publish every week on Tuesdays.

Tales of Rock: Who’s Libretto?

Philadelphia, PA – 1968

My uncle Jack used to work for Columbia Records back in the 60s. He was a well-known producer and had lots of connections in the music industry. When I lived in Los Angeles in the early 80s he was out there on business and called me to meet up with him for lunch.

I was happy to meet up with him. It would be nice to not only see a member of my family because it was my first time far away from home. But also because he was my favorite uncle. He was a brilliant guy with a lightning-fast wit. He was an easy-going dude that everybody liked.

I drove out to Century City in my 1969 VW minibus to meet him for lunch. We were joined by the former president of Columbia Records who was a buddy of my uncle’s. I remember it was cool to hang out with these guys and listen to their stories of the glory days of popular music in the 60s.

During his time in the business, my uncle met many musicians and celebrities like Andy Williams, and Barbra Streisand.

One story that stand out in my mind is when his buddy told a story about how the Jefferson Airplane had recorded a demo for Columbia and they didn’t like it and turned it down flat for a record deal. He said one of the guys in the band urinated into the planter in the corner of his office upon hearing the news. He said they later signed with RCA Victor and got an unheard of $25k advance to get on board with them. (which was a fortune in 1965)  “They were a bunch of crazy people.” he said about the band.

Anyway, I always loved my uncle and still miss his wry wit to this day. But back to the story at hand.

Because my uncle was in the industry he would be given lots of vinyl demo albums to check out and review. Anything that was popular or mainstream he could relate to, but when he was given anything relating to classical music or opera, he would give them to his brother.

Which was my father. My dad loved classical music and opera and it was probably his favorite kind of music. Since my uncle was clueless to that kind of music he’d pass them to my dad to give him the lowdown on each orchestra and album.

This went on for many years and my dad got loads of free music to add to his collection. As a kid, I always wondered why on many of his record albums there was always a red stamp on the back. It read: “Not for Sale. This album is for demonstration purposes only.” Those were the ones my uncle gave him. If for some reason there was some unknown rock band in one of the many albums he gave him, my dad would pass it to me. Even as far forward as the late 70s. I remember my dad handing me the soundtrack to the animated film, Heavy Metal based on the comic magazine. It’s where I first heard the song, Mob Rules by Black Sabbath. There was even a record that consisted of a collection of songs by different artists, and one of them was a really old recording from the German metal band Scorpions (Whom I loved) it was a song called “Am I Going Mad?” from the album Lonesome Crow, which I didn’t even know existed back then.

Anyway, back in 1968, my uncle was chatting with my dad about music, and an interesting question came up. He said he had a buddy over at Decca Records that was working with a somewhat popular band from the UK. The group had been generating some buzz as an up-and-coming mod/rock band. They were trying to find their voice and identity and had released a few small hits.

Back in the 50s and early 60s, bands and singers only released singles. Short songs that were never longer than 3 minutes long. If that artist had generated enough popular songs in a period of time, the label l would put the songs out as a collection on an LP.

But the Beatles changed all that when they started to release albums of all-new material. No longer would albums be collections of hits but bonafide creative works of music.

But the main guy in the band over at Decca was a brilliant songwriter and wanted to take his band’s music to the next level. He came up with a unique concept. He ran the idea and played a few songs for his producer. It was a groundbreaking idea for an album that hadn’t ever been done before.

The producer over at Decca ran the idea by my uncle to get his thoughts on the subject. He of course spoke to his brother, (my dad) about it. My father listened intently to the idea and gave him this response:

“Do they have a libretto?”

“A what?”

A libretto. Every opera has a libretto. It’s the text and the substantive ideas that inspire the composition, including the dramatic structure, characters and scenario of the opera.

“Okay…”

“Well, tell your friend that if this band is going to do some kind of opera, they’ll need a libretto so when people buy the record they can read along and know what’s going on with the story of the songs even if it’s in a different language.”

So my uncle goes back and tells all of this to his buddy over at Decca, and he tells the guy in the band who’s writing the album. He loves the idea and they decide to include a libretto with the new album. My uncle tells my dad and he’s happy he was able to help out based on his expertise with classical music and opera.

“By the way, Jack, what’s the opera about?”

“It’s about a deaf, mute, and blind boy who is abused as a child and becomes an incredible player at the game of pinball.”

“Okay, well that seems a little weird, but I hope they have success with that. Glad I could help.”

My dad obviously got a free demo copy of the album before it came out and turned me on to this incredible band and their music.

So my father had something to do with the creation of Tommy by The Who.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Tales of Rock – Black Sabbath & Me

Manhattan, New York – 2007

These were my final day in New York. I had moved up there in 2005 for the company I was working for. By this point, I was working as a consultant for a firm that cleaned up smaller banks and credit unions. My office was at the corner of 34th and 5th Avenue, across the street from the Empire State Building.

My friend Duncan, who I’ve been friends with for over 20 years now, found out that Black Sabbath would be kicking off their latest tour at Radio City Music Hall.

Black Sabbath are the godfathers of heavy metal.

I’ve written about their guitarist, Tony Iommi before in this blog. It’s quite interesting and will give you insight into how the Sabbath sound was accidentally created. Check it out!

Black Sabbath began in the late 60s and played with singer Ozzy Osbourne for most of the 70s. But when Ozzy became too drunk and drugged out he was kicked out of the band. He was replaced by Ronnie James Dio another godfather of metal.

I love the early Sabbath albums. The first four to be specific. But two of my favorite albums the band ever made are Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules made with Ronnie. They’re perfect bookends of the Dio Years.

The band was reuniting with Ronnie for a special tour called The Dio Years and we had to attend. The tour of North America would debut in Manhattan and that show would be recorded for an upcoming live concert DVD to be released in 2007. But they had just released a CD to refresh the memories of the fans of the Dio years.

One of the things that Duncan and I have always had in common was our love for hard rock and heavy metal. You can find our stories here.

He bought the tickets and flew up to the city and stayed at my apartment in Jersey City. We met up and hung out in the city. We went out to lunch together and even flirted with some old ladies in the restaurant. We were just being our usual mischievous selves. Two metalheads wandering around the city.

But by nightfall, we were gearing up for the show. After several drinks and Duncan smoking from a little one-hitter I got for him, we were ready to rock.

We went to the show and to be honest it wasn’t like any metal show we’d ever been to. Most shows we attended were a sweaty, drunken, drugged-out mess. I mean, we were always well behaved and just banged our heads in metal fury, but this was Radio City Music Hall. Security was super tight, and there was no smoking in the theater. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to RCMH but it’s a nice place. Really nice. Great acoustics to play and record a live show, but there would be no monkey business at that show. So the crowd was subdued.

Whenever the band played anything from Heaven and Hell or Mob Rules we would rock out. But if they played anything else they did with Ronnie, that was my cue to go get us two more beers.

The show was great and we had a great time as always. We got out of the concert exhausted. Of course, Duncan had a strong case of the munchies and immediately headed for a food cart. I stayed away from street meat but Duncan wasn’t hearing it. He proceeded to devour a couple of kabobs.

We made our way to the PATH train to get back to Jersey City, where I was currently residing. I was surprised how many people were on the same train at that hour and we were sausaged in there with a ton of other people.

We finally made it back to my house, and it was a race to the bathroom for Duncan. I told him not to eat food from a Roach Coach, knowing this could happen. But he was fine.

He crashed at my place, and the next morning he was to head back to Charlotte, North Carolina where he lives. I asked him if he could stay longer because the band was going to be at Best Buy in two days to do an album signing.

But Duncan being the consummate employee to the bank where he’s worked since 1993, said he had to go.

But, I was determined to go back to Manhattan and meet the band if possible.

Two days later, I headed back over to Manhattan. When I got there, the line of fans went out the door of the store, around the corner, and down the street. I got at the end of the line around 5 pm.

The great thing about having to wait in a long line to see your heroes is, you get to meet and chat with a bunch of other people that all have the same thing in common. We are all there for the same thing. So it’s not boring because you can trade stories and talk about the band’s music. It was a nice day, so I was happy to be there with my rock n’ roll brethren. I wished Duncan had stuck around but I really wanted to see if I could meet them.

After about an hour or so, I finally got inside the store. The limit was 3 copies of their new album. So, of course, I bought 3. When I finally got up front I took a couple of photos.

Of course, once I was in the eye and earshot of the band I made sure they heard me say in my best Dio impression, “I’ve been waiting so long to see you guys, I feel like I’m the last in line!

(That’s a line from a Ronnie James Dio song and I got a laugh from the band!) Yes!

 

No photo description available.

No photo description available.

No photo description available.

But the best part was actually meeting the godfathers of heavy metal. When it came to my turn, I had all of the CDs open and had pulled out the liner notes to get them signed. I dropped them onto the table in front of Tony Iommi. I put out my hand and he took it to shake.

“Thank you for 40 years of joy, Mr. Iommi.”

“Your welcome. It’s been my pleasure.”

I was so caught up in the moment of meeting one of the gods of rock, I wasn’t paying attention to where my liner notes they were signing went. I looked down and they were gone.

“Hey, where’s my stuff?”

A voice came from the man sitting next to him. “I think they’re moving down that way.”

BLACK SABBATH | Black Sabbath: The Dio Years Autographed

I looked over, and those words came from the mouth of the man himself.

“Thank you, Ronnie James Dio!” I shook his hand and it was a glorious moment to stand before the golden voice of all British heavy metal. He looked really old and small, but I knew in my heart that tiny gnome held great power. He signed my stuff and passed it down to none other than Geezer Butler! The man who wrote many of the great Black Sabbath songs.

I shook his hand as well and thanked him for all of the joy he and the band had brought my friends and me over the last four decades. Vinnie Appice had replaced drummer Bill Ward for health reasons so it was no big deal to meet him. (Sorry, Vinnie)

I walked outside with a guy I had met in line, and we carefully held all of our liner notes out to let the sharpie signatures dry. We headed over to a bar and shared a laugh and a beer.

It was a beautiful few days in my life and a nice cap to my time in New York. In two months I’d be living in Pennsauken, New Jersey with my ex-mother-in-law. But that’s another story.

But there’s more… keep reading!

Philadelphia, PA – 2010

I was living in Philadelphia by now and working at Philly.com. I was doing well, had a beautiful girlfriend and everything was right in the world. (As much as it could be)

I heard that Ozzy Osborne was going to be at the Borders book store at the corner of Broad and Chestnut. (Now a giant Walgreens) After work, I headed over there. I bought a copy of his new book and got in line. It started on the first floor and went around the store and upstairs. Ahh… always a line to see the gods of rock.

Here’s some stuff about him from the blog.

When I finally got up to meet him, I couldn’t believe I was standing there in front of the amazing OZ! I handed him my copy of his book.

“Thank you for 40 years of joy, Mr. Osbourne!”

(Mumbles) “Your welcome.”

And security pushed me along so the next fan could get their book signed.

Not as great as seeing his former bandmates and Dio three years earlier, but  I was at least happy to get his book and autograph. I did get some better pictures at this event though.

No photo description available.

No photo description available.

No photo description available.

 

This band made so much great music over the years I’ll listen to their records until the day I die.

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

An Evening With James – Part 1

James and I have been friends for over 10 years. I met him one night with my then-girlfriend Michelle at a fashion show at the 23rd Street Armory. He worked for a local talent agency as a talent coordinator. We both loved movies and film in general and kept in touch on social media.

Then he went off to LA for a few years and I rarely spoke to him. But he came back a few years ago and we re-connected.

James has been a great friend and we’ve had some great times together. We both have busy schedules, but we hang out together at least once a month.

You can read about him here:

https://atomic-temporary-111921946.wpcomstaging.com/2017/07/24/james-2012-to-present-modeling-agency-mogul/

https://atomic-temporary-111921946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/08/13/james-southgate/

https://atomic-temporary-111921946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/08/20/james-at-the-drive-in/

Recently, James broke up with his girlfriend of 7 years. He’s now 34 and has been out of the dating game for years. A lot has changed but some things stay the same. I’ve helped him with his online dating apps and offered whatever advice on navigating the treacherous waters of the dating world. He’s been doing well and going on lots of dates.

But like my friend Duncan, who after his divorce wanted to go to a gentleman’s club to blow off some steam, James was ready to do the same.

I wasn’t too keen on the idea because I associate those kinds of places with losers who can’t talk to women in the real world, cheaters, and unhappy married guys.

But he had never been to the supposed “best one in Philly” so he wanted toexDrive-In-girlfriend long-tim6 pm, every day go one night. I reluctantly agreed. I didn’t know exactly when we were supposed to do it, but I knew it was looming on the horizon.

We were supposed to hang out on Wednesday but I had to postpone because I was buried in commercial writing assignments. But the next week cleared and we locked down the next Wednesday to go out.

When the day arrived, James texted me to confirm and we were a go. But in his text he suggested I come to his house, and then we’d jump in a Lyft and head out for the night.

This never happens. He usually drives down into center city or takes a Lyft down here and we go out. This was a first. So I knew it had to mean one of two things.

  1. He wants me to come to his house so I can see how he’s fixed it up and redecorated since the exit of his girlfriend. Then make be a few delicious, potent cocktails to get a base coat on and save money. Then, we both hop in a Lyft and return to center city-girlfriend long-time reading Jamereading James6 pm, every day reading JamesDrive-In for a night of fun, frolic, and frivolity. OR…
  2. He wants me to come to his house, ply me with lethal cocktails and coerce me to go to the local gentleman’s club with him to see a bunch of strippers.

It was the latter.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I had finished my last big writing assignment the day before so it was my first day off in over 3 weeks. I went to breakfast at Rachael’s Noshery and then went for a nice long walk to get some exercise.

5.6 miles later I came home and chilled out for an hour. I then proceeded to write about Lin and a few other subjects. You’d think after writing non-stop for 3 weeks I wouldn’t want to touch my keyboard. But it just felt good to write about things I wanted to write about. My blog!

We were set to hang out at 7 pm that night so I wrote for about 5 hours and knocked off around 6 pm. I had been to his house before so I knew just how to get there using public transportation. It was a nice mild day, and I gave myself plenty of time like I always do. My dad always taught me to leave early to avoid any unforeseen delays and I’ll always arrive relaxed at my destination.

So, I left my house and headed over to Broad Street. I walked up to Locust Street because I knew there was a train station there on the corner. I walked down the steps to the station, swiped my key card, and headed down to the platform. There was a train sitting there and I happily hopped in. Just to be sure, I asked someone on the train if this train stopped at Huntingdon and they said it was a local express train. So, it wouldn’t. They then told me to get off that train and wait for the regular one that comes on the track just on the other side of the platform. I thanked them and stepped off the train and waited on the platform.

Within minutes, the other train arrived. I hopped on and off I went. After a while, I was wondering when the train would come up out of the subway and become the elevated line. It seemed to be taking a long time. I looked out the window and saw that the train had stopped at the Fern Rock Station.

Where the heck was I? Had I missed my stop? What’s going on?

I asked another passenger and she tried to explain. The train was noisy and she struggled with her English and she was wearing a mask.

Thinking quickly, I exited the train to get my bearings. It was only 6:30 at this point so there was plenty of time to make any necessary adjustments.

I walked over to the ticket office and spoke with the nice lady working inside it behind the bulletproof glass. I couldn’t hear a word she was saying so she stuck her head out the door.

“Hi. I’ve lived in Philly for over 12 years and I think I got on the wrong train.”

“Where are you trying to go?”

“Huntingdon stop in south Kensington.”

“Oh… you’re way off.”

“Where am I?”

“You’re way far up into North Philly right now.”

“Oh. Can I just go upstairs and call a Lyft and leave from there?”

“Ain’t no Lyft coming to this part of town, honey.”

“Really? Why not?”

“It’s pretty busy up there.”

“Busy?”

(Looks me up and down) “You shouldn’t go up there. It’s not a good kind of busy up there.”

“Ohhh… What do you recommend?”

“Go down that flight of stairs over there and get back on the southbound train. You were on the Broad Street Line. You need to take the train south down to 8th and Market and switch to the Blue Line and then go north to Kensington. You’re way west of anywhere you want to be right now and you do not want to go upstairs into that part of town.”

“Okay. Got it. Thank you!”

I scamper down the steps and wait for the southbound Broad Street Line train. What was I thinking…. or not thinking? I’ve lived in Philly for over a decade. I know where everything is and I’m an authority on public transit. Am I getting dotty in my old age? Has senility finally come to call?

No. I just had a brain fart and got on the wrong northbound train. I need to fix this, but I’m not going back to 8th and Market.

The train arrives and I’m the only caucasian on that train. I’m the minority and look a bit out of place, to say the least. I’m a little nervous but it’s 6:30, still light out and there are plenty of people around. I hatch my escape plan as the train roars south.

I’m listening to Rockbar on Sirius radio on my earbuds and it was almost a joke when the next song comes on. It’s Welcome to the Jungle by Gun’s ‘n Roses. Just as the train pulls into the Cecil B. Demille stop I hear Axl Rose scream into my ears…”Do you know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby… You’re gonna DIE!!!!”

Oh, the cruel, yet the hilarious irony of this journey.

I hop off the train because I know this stop is the one above Girard Avenue and based on my geographic skills I figure I’m just slightly northwest of my destination. I climb the stairs and come out on the sunny sidewalk. Again, I am the minority and feel the weight of how out of place I am at this moment.

I call a Lyft and wait alone on the corner of Cecil B. Demille and Broad to wait for it.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of this little saga…

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Rock – Ola

Philadelphia, PA – The early 70s

My dad had this couple he was friends with back in the late 60s and early 70s. He met them through the bank where he worked in Northeast Philly. They were a cool sort of hippie couple in their 30s. That period in our history was a great time of change in this country. But my dad liked them and they were nice people. They turned him on to the counter culture of music, film, and of course marijuana.

I remember going over to their house when I was a kid and they had a lot of cool, artsy stuff around the place. One of the things that struck me was this old-time jukebox. It was an actual working antique even back then. It was chock full of over fifty 45rpm records from the 50s and 60s. Cool!

My sisters and I were captivated by this massive cabinet full of flashing lights, swirling colors, and loads of great songs inside. It was an incredible piece of technology. It must have weighed over 500 lbs and made of solid oak. The front door swung open and you could see how it worked. You could also watch the operation through a little window in the front of the unit. The 45 rpm records were all stacked on metal plates and when you pushed the play button, would swing out and a little turntable would rise and pick up the platter and it would meet the stylus and play the record. Neat to watch. The heavy sound blasted out of a 15-inch woofer in the front.

Check this out:

My dad’s friends were going to be moving to a smaller place and told him that the jukebox was just too big to fit through the door of their new home. They asked if they could loan it to him and keep it at our house. Of course, my dad agreed, much to the joy of my sisters and me.

It sat in the corner of our enclosed porch at the house at 312 Magee Street for the rest of the 70s. We slowly began adding new 45 rpm singles that we had bought so we could listen to our music in this booming beast.

This will give you an idea of what it was like even though this one in the video is a little different from ours. (But we did have Jailhouse Rock in ours and played that song often. I think Treat Me Nice was on the B side of that single)

It was almost like we had this big entertainment robot living on our porch. Any of the kids could just push a button and music would come on. The girls could dance and the boys would simply rock out to the tunes.

I think the most memorable time of having this jukebox in our family was on Halloween. We’d have it lit and playing music, and when kids came to the door trick or treating they would all see it. No one had ever seen anything like it and they were all amazed at the sight of this technological musical marvel.

We had it on loan from them for over 40 years. It went to the shore house in North Wildwood in 1979 and remained there until a few years ago. The grown son of the couple wanted the jukebox back. In my opinion, after having the jukebox in our possession for over 40 years that it was rightfully ours. Possession being 9/10s of the law. But the right thing to do was to give it back to the family. We were no longer interested in the unit and it had been on loan to us that was an agreement my father had made with them back in the 70s so my sister wanted to honor that decision.

So it’s been gone for a while but I sometimes think back to all the fun we had listening to our music through that booming beast from a bygone era.

There I am in the early 80s next to the Rock-Ola!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Base Camp

This was the only photo I could find online of what our little tents looked like, but you get the idea.

Philadelphia, PA – 1976

One of the things we used to like to do was to make tents in our backyard. This was accomplished by finding some large sheets and old blankets.

Back then many people had a washer in their basement but not a dryer. My mom would hang our clothes to dry on lines strung across the front of the basement, and in nicer weather, she’d hang them on the line in the backyard.

The clotheslines were always up in the backyard in the warmer months. I don’t remember who came up with the idea of fabricating our little tent out there. We located a few old raggedy sheets and blankets and went to work. We hung the edge of one sheet to the clothesline and clipped it in place with clothespins. Then we did the same thing on the other side with another sheet. Now with both securely fastened to the overhead line, we spread them out and drove broken wooden clothespins into the corners on the sheets into the ground. Once tacked down securely we had ourselves a tent. We spread a couple of blankets on the grass on the tent floor, and we were good to go.

Like the forts, we used to build back the tracks and in the woods nearby, I think we just liked having our little places to hideaway. Kids like getting into little shelters and dens. I think it’s almost instinctual for humans to find and build shelters.

I brought out a transistor radio and we were all set. We just hung out in there, listening to the radio and smoking cigarettes.

My friend Michael and I asked our moms if we could sleep out there all night. The yard was fenced in, but anybody could come along and open it at any time. But the idea of sleeping outside all night intrigued us.

When you’re a kid you always have guidelines put forth by your parents regarding the clock. You always had to be home at a certain time for dinner, and if you were out at night you had to be in by the time the streetlights came on.

But this was an opportunity to not go inside that night. We would be free when the whole neighborhood was inside their homes asleep in bed. We’d be outside all night and didn’t have to go to bed if we didn’t want to. We could stay up all night if we wanted to.

Everybody enjoyed listening to the radio back then. Especially the two rock stations in Philly. WYSP 94 and WMMR 93.3. FM was king and other than having an older sibling it was the only way we found new music back then. I think anyone from that era can attest to the fact that they found their favorite bands and songs on FM radio on one of the aforementioned radio stations.

But kids and teens mostly listen to the radio during the day. What sort of music was played on those stations late at night? Well, whatever the overnight DJ wanted to play. So we discovered some new music that night but one struck us a little harder than any of the others.

The late-night DJ had said they were going to play an entire album by a band called Pink Floyd. We had only heard the song, “Money” on the radio. We didn’t know much else about the band. But now we were going to hear the whole Dark Side of the Moon album at midnight.

It was really quiet at night being outside, and frankly, it was a little spooky. Just the sound of crickets chirping and the occasional bark from some lonesome canine in the distance.

The DJ started the record at midnight and we were amped to hear some Floyd. If you’ve ever heard that record, and I’m assuming you have, it starts very quietly. So we turned up the radio to hear the song a bit better. It starts to build and build until it’s that rotating metallic sound and then that scream happens.

Well, that completely caught us off guard and terrified us. We were already spooked by the general vibe of the night and our imaginations were running a bit wild. But then the song settles down into the song, “Breathe” and we chilled out. It turned out to be an amazing experience even though neither of us had ever smoked marijuana and wouldn’t even try it for another year or so.

We were out there for hours through the night and really couldn’t and didn’t want to fall asleep. It was just fun to be up and doing what we wanted with zero parents or rules.

But then we heard some strange noises coming from the east. It sounded like something crunching or being broken, and it appeared to be coming from somewhere up the block from us. Then we heard some voices. We put our sneakers on and went to investigate. By now it was around 4 am.

We quietly exited the tent and opened the gate. We crept down the driveway and out to the street. It was eerie to be standing out on the sidewalk in front of my house at this hour. The whole neighborhood was as quiet as a morgue.

We heard the noise again and started to walk up the block towards Oakley Street. By the time we got up there, we saw the fire department had arrived and it looked like the Zerbach’s garage was on fire. They were putting it out and I wondered why I never heard any sirens. But I figured they addressed the problem and didn’t want to wake the whole neighborhood.

The authorities were really surprised to see a couple of boys out there at that hour of the night. We told them we had been sleeping in a tent out in my backyard, heard the commotion, and came to check it out. We told the firemen what we had heard but I don’t think we were much help. (When I think about this now, I’m glad we weren’t blamed for whatever happened!)

We eventually went back to our tent and laid down inside, talking about the events of the night. We never found out what or who caused the fire but it was the topic of conversation around the neighborhood for about a week after that.

I don’t think we ever slept the entire night. Mike went home at daybreak and I went into my house too. (My mom left the backdoor unlocked in case we bailed during the night and I wanted to come in.)

My mother was awake and in the kitchen. I told her what had happened and she asked me if I wanted to go up to my room and sleep. That was exactly what I wanted to do because I was exhausted from staying up all night.

We pitched a few more tents like that through the Spring and even made one in Mike’s neighbor’s yard one night. (We couldn’t do it in his yard because they had a big above ground pool) His neighbor Mr. Hersch was nice enough to let us camp in his yard for the night.

I went to Wildwood for the Summer and we didn’t make any more tents in the yard anymore after that, but I’m glad we had the experience.

Just stuff you do as a kid that’s all part of experiencing life.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Tales of Rock – The Best Band You Never Heard – Southern Culture on the Skids

I love this band!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Culture_on_the_Skids

 

Wanna be a better guitarist? Click this link to learn the secret!

https://beginnerguitarhq.com/guitar-exercises/

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Tales of Rock – Spooky Rock ‘n Roll Stories

Ah, who doesn’t love a good horror story? Especially if it involves your favorite rockstar? Ghost sightings may be a tad overrated (almost everyone claims to have seen or felt some mystical presence and there’s hardly any proof) but it’s still interesting nonetheless. Could legendary rockers be trying to contact the living? Did they really try reaching out to former bandmates and colleagues? Do they have any unfinished business or some messages they want to send?

Is it even true or just a product of someone’s overactive imagination? But to be fair though, strange, tragic and unexpected deaths occur commonly not just in rock ‘n roll. So it’s not exactly far-fetched to think that there are restless souls just wandering around maybe in cemeteries or recording studios.

This list is a compilation of all those horror stories. Keep in mind that these are nothing but claims, there’s no way we can verify any of them. So, are you ready?

P.S. Try to keep the lights on.

10. Elvis Presley

 

He was only 42 years old when reports came in that he died of sudden heart failure. There were plenty of speculations surrounding his death though and some say the cause is polypharmacy due to the number of prescription drugs found in his system.

It was devastating for fans. And until today, there are still people who believe he’s still alive. But the thing is, there are various ghost-sighting claims of him in the hallways of his Graceland Mansion. Another story goes that in the old building (which used to be the RCA Records Studio but was converted into a TV production facility) where Elvis Presley recorded “Heartbreak Hotel,” strange things would happen when Elvis’ name is mentioned.

“Well, the human being is one thing. The image is another. It’s very hard to live up to an image.” – Elvis Presley

The crew members in the studio claimed that during a show, when someone mentions The King’s name, the sound system would produce an unexplainable noise or the lights would turn off – you know, stuff that happens in horror movies.

9. John Lennon

John Lennon’s death was nothing short of tragic. Even today, speaking about it is both spine-chilling and heartbreaking. And so, it’s not exactly “impossible” for his restless soul to wander around the earth. And there are not one but two accounts of his supposed visits to the living.

The first one is from the remaining Beatles who got together in 1995 for a studio session. George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Paul McCartney were recording “Free as a Bird” and when they posed outside for a photograph, a rare white peacock was included in the shot at the very last minute.

“I said to the other guys, ‘That’s John!’ Spooky, eh? It was like John was hanging around. We felt that all the way through the recording.” – Paul McCartney

In 2009, John’s son Julian Lennon also claimed he was visited by his father. It was when he was handed a white feather by an Aboriginal tribe elder. Before his death, John told Julian: “If anything ever happens to me, look for a white feather and you will know I am there for you, always looking out for you.” When we think about it, we get major goosebumps.

8. Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison has had a long-standing fascination with shamanism and the spirit world. He even wrote the poem “The Ghost Song.” So him making a comeback to probably scare off his former bandmates is something Jim would do – the man clearly liked to have fun.

The Doors’ Ray Manzarek said in one interview:

“I have a recurring dream. Jim has just returned from France [where he died in 1971] and has accomplished what he went there for in the first place – to rest, get clean, change his rock star lifestyle. We talk about where he’s been and what he’s been doing. I ask him if he’s been working on any new material, and just before he answers, I wake up. When I first told Robbie about it, he said, ‘Yeah, me too!’ He had had the same dream.”

The thing is, if we believe Ray, we’d have to be 100% certain Jim’s really dead because according to some crazy conspiracy theories, he faked his death and is currently living in seclusion. So, which is which?

7. Cass Elliot

This is perhaps one of the most famous ghost stories out there.

While staying at a flat in London, Cass Elliot died in her sleep with her death ruled as “heart failure due to fatty myocardial degeneration due to obesity.” She was 32 years old. Based on the autopsy, there were no drugs found in her system. Four years after that incident, Keith Moon of The Who also died in that very same room.

You’d think that’s the place she haunts but no. Remember the Ghostbusters guy Dan Aykroyd? He claims that Mama Cass’ ghost haunts his Hollywood home once owned by Cass.

“A ghost certainly haunts my house. It once even crawled into bed with me. The ghost also turns on the Stairmaster and moves jewelry across the dresser. I’m sure it’s Mama Cass because you get the feeling it’s a big ghost.” – Dan Aykroyd

Before you dismiss Dan’s accusations, actress Beverly D’Angelo also made the same claim when she bought that house back in 2007. We don’t know what kind of “run-ins” she’s had with Cass though – maybe lights blowing out or small items moving around.

6. Kurt Cobain

So far, all the “ghosts” on this list are from the restless souls of rockstars who died sudden or tragic deaths. If spirits really roam our world because of unfinished business, we’re fairly certain anyone from John Lennon to Mama Cass had plenty of them.

Kurt Cobain falls under the same category. He may have taken his own life but some theories still suggest that he was actually murdered. Still, that doesn’t take away the fact that there were several reports of sightings in a couple of places that even attracted “ghost hunters.” The most well-known haunted spot is a bench. This bench is in Viretta Park in which is across Kurt’s house in Seattle, Washington.

“If there was a Rock Star 101 course, I would have liked to take it. It might have helped me.” – Kurt Cobain

There are plenty of fans visiting the area on a yearly basis and most of them say they could feel Kurt’s presence anywhere near the bench. Some even believe they saw his ghost lingering on it.

5. Gram Parsons

Gram Parsons died of morphine and alcohol overdose in his room at the Joshua Tree Inn. Now, there are claims that the motel room remains haunted. And so, for everyone who’s in for a bit of scare, they would definitely check in to Room 8.

“It’s definitely our most popular room. It’s amazing how much it means to people — people of all ages, really. Some of the people weren’t even born when Gram died here.” – Joshua Tree Inn rep speaking to The New York Times

Just how scary? Well, claims vary but there were those who spotted him walking across the pool at dawn. The staff members also say they see apparitions of the legendary musician.

Country singer Kacey Musgraves shared her experience while checking in at the motel. A painting was in the room high up and when she came back, it was propped on the couch even though no one else went in there but her.

4. Sid Vicious

We all know the tragic deaths of Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.

On October 12, 1978, Sid found Nancy on the bathroom floor of their room in Hotel Chelsea bleeding to death. He was charged with her murder and he attempted to commit suicide several times after that. Less than four months later after completing a detox program, his mother discovered his body – he died of an overdose.

Now, there were reported sightings of him and Nancy at the Hotel Chelsea usually in his own Room 100 and also in the elevator. Some spotted him closing and opening doors. And guests inside Room 100 claim they hear a couple arguing, someone playing loud music, and even temperature changes.

“We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby. Bury me in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye.” – Sid Vicious’ note found in his jacket pocket

The hotel even sells Sid Vicious dolls at the front desk. They aren’t the only ghosts ‘residing’ there though.

3. Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly was only 22 years old when he died tragically. He was a prominent figure in rock ‘n roll and he has influenced several legendary musicians like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and The Beatles. He was killed in a plane crash along with fellow musicians like Richie Valens. Because his body was ejected from the plane, he had fractures, lacerations, and a fatal trauma to his head and chest.

Several residents near the crash site in Clear Lake, Iowa claim that they often see a phantom plane near the area in addition to some ghostly lights.

“I just want to say that one time when I was about sixteen or seventeen years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play … at a Duluth National Guard Armory and I was three feet away from him. … And he LOOKED at me. And I just have some kind of feeling that he was — I don’t know how or why — but I know he was with us all the time when we were making this record in some kind of way.” – Bob Dylan

Apparently, he also haunts his homeroom class in Lubbock High School because there were reports that his music can be heard even if there’s nobody in the building and the door’s locked.

2. Hank Williams

Speaking of unfinished business, oftentimes it’s not really surprising that the souls of these rockstars linger long after they’ve departed our world. The King of Country Music was set to perform at a New Year’s Day concert in Ohio. He was being driven by Charles Carr who stopped at a gas station to refuel. That’s when he realized Hank was dead in the back seat of his Cadillac. The official cause of death was “insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart.”

There were several claims of ghost sightings in various locations but more notably at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN where he made his Grand Ole Opry debut. From seeing a white mist on stage to his voice echoing through the halls – sometimes, the ghost goes so far as stomp around loudly or try to crash some things backstage.

“Hank had a voice that split wood. From his records, it sounded like he was projecting from a completely different place in his body.” – Beck via The Rolling Stone magazine

He’s not the only who haunts the Ryman Auditorium though because the place is pretty famous for being haunted by soldiers and other country artists too.

1. Jimi Hendrix

New Haven, Connecticut has so many ghosts you can actually go on a walking tour and visit various haunted houses. So if you’re looking for a good scare, it’s the place to go. From faint piano music playing from under the lake to demonic dolls, there’s no shortage of spook here. And as it turns out, even our favorite Guitar God has taken up residence here – at least if you believe the stories.

Jimi Hendrix is often “heard” playing at the Woolsey Hall in Yale University. Why there? Well if you can recall, he performed with his band there back on November 17, 1968.

“I like after-hour jams at a small place like a club. Then you get another feeling. You get off in another way with all those people there. You get another feeling, and you mix it in with something else that you get. It’s not the spotlights, just the people.” – Jimi Hendrix

To be honest, though, we’d do anything to hear him play again.

Wanna be a better guitarist? Click this link to learn the secret!

https://beginnerguitarhq.com/guitar-exercises/

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

%d bloggers like this: