Michael Walker was one of the fans in 1973 when 3 bands embark on tours of unprecedented proportions: The Who, Led Zeppelin, and Alice Cooper. The tours support Quadrophenia, Houses of the Holy, and Billion Dollar Babies, respectively. I was at two out of three of these concerts, and I would have been to all three but somehow Alice Cooper skipped our town. I was very curious to know more about what went on behind the scenes, and Michael Walker provided that information and put it all in context.
In the introduction he starts dropping 70’s pop cultural references like hot, blue & righteous (The Title of a ZZ Top album released that summer) potatoes. This could get irritating, like disco and leisure suits, if he keeps up this barrage for much longer. Thankfully, it is just an opening salvo intended to get you in the proper frame of mind to appreciate the era of excess that was the early 70’s.
I was at The Who concert in San Francisco’s Cow Palace where Keith Moon collapsed and Townsend called for a volunteer drummer from the audience to finish the show. No less than 2 drummers who kicked themselves for not getting up were in my entourage. One of them was so into The Who that he had tripped out on too much acid, locked himself in his room listening to Tommy over and over, and refused to come out. His family committed him to Agnews State Hospital, the insane asylum. He recovered enough to be released, but was still a total lunatic. He could play like Keith Moon, though. What if he had gotten up there? I bet he is still asking himself that question.
Anyway, I had a lot of questions about that show. The Who were such a great band, but there was a lot of tension between the members. Townsend seemed very frustrated that he wasn’t getting the reaction he wanted from Quadrophenia, giving long unnecessary introductions to the songs instead of just letting the music speak for itself. Walker’s book was very enlightening about the dysfunctional family dynamics behind the scenes. Lynard Skynard opened, by the way.
Keith Moon was an incredible drummer, but he had deep problems. It seemed like it was all just a big joke until it wasn’t funny anymore. Another drummer with major talent and deep problems was John Bonham. He was a sadistic bully who was protected from any consequences by Peter Grant, the band’s manager, and Richard Cole, the road manager, who were also sadistic bullies. Again, another great band, but behind the scenes dysfunctional family dynamics. Very illuminating. I guess I wasn’t at the concert where Bonham, Cole, and Grant beat up one of Bill Graham’s staff members and were arrested after the show, but I was at the Houses of the Holy concert in 1973 at Keezar Stadium.
I didn’t get to see Alice Cooper, and wonder how that didn’t happen. I was a big fan of the Bob Ezrin produced albums: Love it To Death, Killer, and Billion Dollar Babies. One of my first girlfriends, the beautiful and fashionable Sylvia Higashi, got me into them. To me it seemed like the band had been together since High School days in Arizona, and under the tutelage of Bob Ezrin they came up with some amazing music. Alice as a solo performer never gelled for me. I think it was the band and the producer, and the singer, that was the magic formula. Why was there so much trouble in paradise?
So, you can see that this book was of enormous interest to me. It covered the business of touring, promotion, recording and performing music, as well as the backstage antics of Rock Stars and what they actually did on the road to relieve the tension and boredom. It covered some very interesting bands that I had been intensely interested in.