Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Movin' through the Cleveland Heat

Vern Morrison has been doing some extra legwork on the "Precious"/Cleveland Agora question. (See "Agoraphobia".) After reminding us that the verse in question begins:

East 55th and Euclid Avenue was real precious
Hotel Sterling coming into view how precious

Vern writes:

I work for the Cleveland State University Library. Part of my duties involve working at Special Collections, which, among many other things, hosts Cleveland city directories throughout the years. I checked the street directory for 1977 (we don't have one for '78 or '79). The Hotel Sterling was located at 3000 Prospect, one block south and about 25 blocks west of the Euclid/E. 55th intersection. It was, by the late 1970s, a haven for prostitution, gambling, and other illegal activities. It was torn down in 1986 and is a parking lot today. See this article for more information.

The only noteworthy things at or near that intersection during that time were The Hotel Pennsylvania at 5521 Euclid, a State Dept. of Liquor Control Store (no. 137) at 1979 E. 55th, A & A Beverage at 1981 E. 55th, and the Barbary Coast Barber Shop at 2010 E. 55th. This knowledge perhaps muddies the waters more than clears them, but at any rate I don't think [Hynde] was name-checking the Agora in this song.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Double Delivery

I didn't catch the likely source of the line "I am the mighty and the magnificent" in "Button My Lip" from The Delivery Man. (See "I Stand Accused," esp. p. 76-77.) The mighty M. Matos did; in a email exchange, MM also notes that the song was a UK #1 for two weeks in March 1971. Intuition told me EC's line had to be another cross-reference, but my mind was on soul, not reggae. It's worth noting that on The Delivery Man (and live) the line is repeated under dub effects (ala "Senior Service" and so on), which seemed strange for this largely "natural"-sounding album, but now makes sense as a stylistic pointer back to the song's origin.

I've also read that EC used Nick Lowe's "I Love My Label" as entrance music at a recent show in Nashville (where Lost Highway is based). And that he's been covering Lowe's "Heart of the City" (from Jesus of Cool/Pure Pop -- in different versions) on the current tour.

I think you can see how this could get out of control.

St. Louis Blues

This also comes from Scott (see previous post), but it's on a different topic (and it's not a correction):

I was at the Costello show in St. Louis that Mr. Bruno references on page 47. My ticket stub says March 6th, 1979 and calls it “The Armed Funk Tour.” The ticket also references “K-SHE” as the sponsor. K-SHE at the time was the largest FM radio station broadcasting rock music to the St. Louis area. I remember the show as being very brief, and very angry. Elvis let us know he was pretty pissed with everyone, even though the crowd seemed very happy to see him. He said nothing throughout the set, but ended it by saying, “This is for K-SHE,” and then launched into “Radio, Radio.” I remember him saying this with particular venom as if the radio station had personally done something to him that he was disturbed about. This was only about three weeks after the infamous Columbus incident, so maybe he was still fuming over Bonnie and Stephen. Whatever the cause, he clearly registered his disdain with and on all of us.

That's the St. Louis date, all right -- thanks for the eyewitness report. But note that it's nine days before Columbus! (We all make mistakes -- some of us just get paid for them.) I wouldn't bring that up except it's a good indication that the tone of the tour was already going sour. I mentioned these pre-Columbus incidents briefly, but this concert is significant (in Fred Scheurs' RS piece and later bios) as the one which opened with EC dedicating the first song to rival rock station KADI, and proceeding as per above. As Krista Reese's book (much-maligned but still useful for capturing the lurid atmosphere surrounding EC's early career) has it:

"The result was an audible thud as Armed Forces was dropped from KSHE's playlist. The album returned to its 'heavy rotation' schedule on the station after tour manager Alan Frey called to straighten things out."

Update: Here's the version from the Fred Scheurs' RS piece that's probably the source for later biographies (though, no, I haven't looked for St. Louis papers of the time). Thanks to "Ryan" for reminding me:

Apparently somebody had told Elvis that KSHE had been ignoring his albums on their playlist, while the rival KADI was playing his tunes. "But we'd been playing the key cuts of all three albums in heavy rotation to support the show," complained a KSHE spokesman later. Little matter -- Elvis plowed on, introducing "Radio Radio" with: "Now I want to dedicate this song to all the local bastard radio stations that don't play our songs...and to KSHE!"


There are two screw-ups in my entry on The Agora. On p. 6, I give the date of the Columbus show as April 15 -- of course, it's March. (The Cleveland Agora show was four days later, as noted -- but four days later in March. By April 15/19, EC would have been back in the UK.) I'm sorry I didn't catch this in copyediting: the date is given correctly everywhere else, as far as I can tell, and the chronology in the long "Columbus" entry (p. 41-48) is consistent with the going print and online sources.

Second and more substantively, reader Scott Cullen-Benson of Oakdale, Minnesota didn't catch the mistaken date, but writes (in part):

OK, I know this is really picky, but I just couldn’t let it pass. Mr. Bruno discusses The Agora Ballroom in Columbus, Ohio. I am a graduate of Ohio State University and was a student there from 1970 to 1974. Mr. Bruno states that The Agora moved in 1985 “from 24th Street to its current home on Euclid Avenue.” To the best of my personal knowledge the original Agora was located on North High Street (yes, appropriately named indeed). North High Street (State Rt. 23), which is right across the street from the east side of the OSU campus, is where I saw many a music concert (most notably Roland Kirk and Miles Davis) in The Agora Ballroom. In fact, my fondest memory is how The Agora thwarted a mob of rioting football crazies by putting their huge speakers outside and blasting music to the ensuing looting and rioting that occurred after OSU beat Michigan in November, 1970. Every store’s windows were smashed EXCEPT The Agora which figured if you couldn’t beat ‘em (the rioters) you joined ‘em by playing the soundtrack to the show. I certainly don’t know where The Agora is located now, but then, it was on North High Street, not 24th Street. In fact, I think what you have done is mixed up The Agora Ballroom that is currently located on 5000 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland with the one that was in Columbus.

Understandable error, but us native Buckeyes know about such things…..But I could be wrong.

Nope, you've got me: I conflated the Cleveland and Columbus venues, which share a name (and an original owner, Henry LoConti). According to the history at the club's own site, the Cleveland Agora was opened in 1966, moved closer to Cleveland State (on 24th St.) the following year, and after a fire in 1984 moved once again to 5000 Euclid Avenue, where it is today. The Columbus Agora opened in 1970, and has always been on High Street. My misreading probably had to do with conflating the High Streets in the two cities.

To complete the story, the Columbus venue was bought in 1984 and renamed Newport Music Hall, the name under which it operates today. Here's a relevant article from The Lantern at OSU. (Free subscription required.) This article also suggests that the club was up and running by the late-'60s, and moved into national acts with a Ted Nugent show in 1970. Fittingly enough, the Columbus Agora was originally the State Theater, a movie house build in 1922 -- not unlike London's Dominion (see p. 55-56). I'm sure I would have used this to bludgeon home some point about mass entertainment if had I noted it earlier.

Two final notes:

1) I'm doubly ashamed, because Columbus and Cleveland have been a couple of my favorite places to play on tour. I'm sure that if such noted Buckeyes as Paul Nini or Ron House read any of this, they'll be shaking their heads in horror: "We let that guy play at Stache's/Bernie's, and he doesn't even know which city he's in." Same for ex-Clevelander Robert Griffin and that city's Euclid Tavern -- on Euclid, smart guy!

2) Scott also points out that the Cleveland Agora is seemingly alluded to by Akronian Chrissie Hynde in The Pretenders' "Precious": "At 55th and Euclid Avenue, you're real precious."

However, Vern Morrison of Parma, OH writes:

This is the first track on the first Pretenders album, and it came out in 1979. At that time the Agora stood at E. 24th & Payne, & didn't move to the Euclid/E. 55th address until '85 or so, when a fire claimed the E. 24/Payne venue. I admire the old Pretenders as much as anyone but I don't think Chrissie could have alluded to a club which wouldn't be there for at least six more years!

The question now is -- just what was at that intersection in 1979?

If all of my readers are as civil about my errors as Scott and Vern, I'll consider myself lucky. And that Miles/Roland Kirk show sounds amazing.