A Questionable Sting

August 29, 2016 at 1:51 pm (Waxing Nostalgic)

Well, it’s time once again for Unsolicited Reviews of Bands We Once Loved. Tonight’s target of affection: The Scorpions.

Back in 1979, when I worked at Day & Night Grocery on Broadway and Jefferson, (what was the store area is now the back dining room at Higgins) I was three blocks away from the Paramount Theater. I knew the stage manager, a stoned-out Kato Kaelin-turned-biker-type named Dan Hunt, and an occasional quart of beer or a joint got me special treatment, like sneaking into an Outlaws/.38 Special show. Dan spoke of bands I wasn’t familiar with. Some guys from Ireland called U2. They sold out the Paramount, though nobody (meaning me) had ever heard of them. There was lots of excitement over that one.

I had heard of Judas Priest, and would love to see them, but their show happened on one of my work nights. Being the responsible young adult I was, (laughing, now straight face) I went to work, and about 11 PM three members of Judas Priest walked in. They purchased five cases of Budweiser, making the groupies carry it back to the hotel. I was starstruck!

But nobody cared about them. They were all talking about Judas Priest’s opening band, The Scorpions.

I cruised the used record stores. Animal Magnetism and Lovedrive. I would rarely buy new albums of bands I hadn’t heard. I’d heard Loving You Sunday Morning on KGON, and decided they were worth a listen.

Then I heard The Zoo. THAT is a rock and roll song. I was down for both albums. Animal Magnetism had that ‘dangerous’ sound to it. Would their shows be scary riotous affairs, like Slayer would become? They became synonymous with the power ballad, which was cool at first, but devolved quickly into cliche.

A few years later, their last good album (IMHO) Blackout was released. It was the perfect drinking album. I was getting hammered every day, living with a coke dealer and a hooker on Sandy Boulevard, doing all the things a 22-year-old was told by mom not to do. Blacking out was a common, though not-often-achieved goal. I spent a lot of daytime in strip clubs, chasing skirts at night. Make it real not fantasy!

My roommate, the coke dealer, was also into snorting heroin. His was a cautionary tale, and the main reason I don’t do coke anymore. (OTOH, I watched him maintain on heroin, so my goal for abstaining until 71 is still there.) He loved The Scorpions, but he also loved Billy Squier. (That’s the only reason I don’t miss him more.) He found Jesus, then committed suicide after thinking “they were coming to get him” through the vents in the bathroom. Cocaine is bad, mmmkay?

So when the Scorpions came to town in March 1984, we had tickets in our favorite spot, just to the side of the stage in front of the speaker wall. When the day of the show came, our ride had been dismantled. Mom had called a church elder friend to disable the car until after the show, because she didn’t want my sister exposed to the evils of rock and roll. This is after okaying Black Sabbath as a first concert, and having no porblems with biblically-named bands. Judas Priest? Twisted Sister? Nazareth? Go have fun! Alice Cooper? “Isn’t he a fag?” “No mom. That’s the group’s name. The longhaired guy is Vince!” And so it went, but the Scorpions were on the naughty list. Those dirty krauts!

Sadly, it did nothing to improve my opinion of their musical stock. We were excited as all get-out when Love at First Sting was released, but it deflated quickly when we realized this was just another even-weaker collection of songs about the travails of being a whiny rock-and-roll star. Where was their China White? There were no scary songs. This was soda pop with a volume boost. Then they did that song about when the Berlin Wall came down that I don’t even want to say the title of, or it’ll be stuck in my head all fucking day. Yeah, that one.

But in the year of our lord 2016, The Scorpions are going back out on tour. It inspired me to burn up the month’s allotment of Hoopla albums on The Scorpions albums I loved back then, Lovedrive, Animal Magnetism, and Blackout. (But you gotta say it “Bleccch-out,” like you’re puking.) After two or three listens, I’m ready to put them away for another few years. Same with Bad Company. I’m sorry Johnny-the-rock-and-roll-star is dead, but his kid is older now than Johnny was when he died, and sounds better to boot!

Rock on, soldiers.

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