Thursday, February 23, 2012

HISTORY OF THE DANGERS 4: RADIO CITY



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We played our second show at My Place Or Yours. I don't think we made it to the third show because the club was closing down. As per usual a landlord expected to be paid. Pay was old school.

We empathized with the young club entrepreneur, Bryan, and wondered how a place that had a good crowd and a real stage was already in debt, with the landlord ready to bar the door. We found out our next gig there was canceled the afternoon before the show, but Chris came to an odd conclusion. "It may be too late for this place but if we had these chairs, we could start our own club."

All afternoon and into the evening the band and Chris' brother, Robert, raced through the club loading chairs high into the long bed of a faded yellow Toyota pickup. A week later this moveable punk feast hiked from a relative's garage to a new punk nightclub, The Beat. Conveniently located (if you wanted to be shot) on Highland Avenue in San Bernardino, the former blue-collar tavern The Robins Nest transmogrified into The Beat, our dream clubhouse, and a local joint that embraced new music. HEY DEVO!

The Beat was hot as hell, with sticky black floors, narrow checkerboard walls, a sound board just short of an electrical fire, girl fights, crooked fire marshals, parking lot uprisings, large wimpy bouncers, hallway fights where Kristie would jump three feet in the air to slap Bob K upside his head, late bills stuffed under overdue notices, the worlds most sincere Sixties soul and blues cover band, The Mondo Combo, even more crooked city inspectors and city managers, a solid but crooked stage, Tiny, the Alice Cooper impersonator who begged weekly for us to let him do his show, smoke bombs, 45 Grave, The Stepmothers, Death Patrol, bullets ricocheting off the face of the building, death threats all the dang time and some spectacular rock and roll music from the LA scene, but most often from the house band, The Dangers. MACH SHOW!

At this point The Dangers had played some riotous house parties, including David Lowery's 19th(?) backyard birthday bash in Redlands. UPTOWN! Still, we had had to build ourselves a nightclub to get that third official club gig. A long sweaty time was required to construct the stage and checkerboard bar, and to drag out the remnants of the old Robin's Nest. The more we built the more trash accumulated in the center floor. The Dangers practiced afternoons in the middle of the room on top of that debris. Johnny could balance on a 2x4 and still tap foot and band into the next song. A very young and talented Bob Vennum played stylish bass and carried dry wall like a pro.

In the middle of these sawdust sessions a three-chord sequence got rolling, and Johnny happened on an irresistible riff. Randy Abraham pounded the floor tom and the snare in a jungle beat, and Chris started chanting "Radio City...Radio City." We wound this music like a top and suddenly stopped because we knew we hit on our first genuinely catchy music, and had better write something down.

Racing the fading yellow Toyota to Chris' girlfriend Kim's apartment, REDLANDS! UPTOWN! Johnny and Chris sat cross-legged on the carpet and wrote in a blaze.

Johnny's best line:
" We got girls and beers and cigarettes on the ground."

Chris' best line:
"You got to spend big money for fear of being alone."

Nothing earth shattering here, but in about five minutes RADIO CITY was a done deal. Born on a scrap heap, RADIO CITY was rock with no pretensions and energy to burn. It burns still, this simple song about the power of music, the love of finding it and the dare to make it.

In 10 months our club was gone but the beat went on.
CL

6 comments:

Rebecca Hickman said...

And it still goes on ... Long live the Dangers!

Mike Geoghegan said...

35 some odd years later, and The Dangers are still rockin'! And I can say with pride that I am proud to be a Danger!

kay leboeuf said...

How are the Dangers not a household name?!?

Mike Geoghegan said...

36 some odd years later, and The Dangers are STILL rockin'...and I can say with pride that I'm STILL proud to be a Danger!

Greg Brock said...

Wow! Just found this blog and the memories of a 100 year flood crashed in my room! Never knew that it was "only" the second gig The Dangers had ever played, but remember that show, and the first time I met Johnny Hickman and Chris Leroy. We shared the same stage that night at "My Place Or Yours." That small club with blacked out windows, small stage, and a low acoustical tile ceiling, didn't last long. The friendships made there that night still do! I played rhythm guitar/lead vocals in "The Pictures" a hard working original band from Redlands. We practiced every day (including Sundays) and played anywhere and everywhere from 1976 to 1980. We recorded at West Wind studios in San Berdoo and Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood. I remember watching their set and thinking, "Damn, these guys are good!"
We played next but before we went on our drummer said, "Let's show them how it's done!" I remember that wasn't one of our better nights...and they ran out of beer! After the show, in a tiny men's bathroom, I met Johnny who complimented and asked questions as Chris stood in the doorway. "Who does most of the writing? Lyrics first then music? Music first then lyrics? Where and how do you write your songs?" I replied, "In the bathroom at home with an acoustic guitar." Then I heard, "You play guitar when you take a dump?" I said, "No, I close the lid and play guitar in the bathroom.. with my pants on.. because the acoustics are so good!" Johnny and Chris in unison, "Ohhhhh!"
I would soon leave The Pictures. I worked at Gemco, just down the street from "The Beat" and would stop by after work to support my friends from the men's bathroom. I was privileged enough to get a few desperate phone calls from Chris saying, "tonight's band cancelled ...how fast can you get here?" I'd haul ass from Redlands in my '69 Mustang fastback thinking I was going to get to play with The Dangers! Arriving in world record time, the marquee would read, "Tonight Only- The Hub City Hero's" or "LIVE-American Pop!" Too funny!... It didn't matter though, I got to play with Chris, Johnny, Bob Kjorvestad, and Randy Abraham. I was an "Honorary" Danger... playing at The Beat!

Greg Brock said...

By the way, "Radio City" is still one of the best power-pop tunes of all time!! Second only to..."Diamond In The Rough"!