18 June 2010

The Great Pretenders

Thinking back to the concert times of the 80s, and to a previous post, and not sure how to put this in typing, I’ll just cue up a couple of songs from the wonderous mp3 library and let things roll. There was a band, and a damn good band at that, from the Pommy land called The Pretenders (well the singer was from Ohio). They started as an almost punk slash rock band that kind of fell into the “New Wave” label. They were likely the most popular band of that time with a female fronting them. They played a show in 1981 or 82 at a little hall in San Bernardino, California, called the Orange Show Pavilion. The show was originally supposed to be at the historic San Bernardino Swing Auditorium but in an odd bit of intrigue, on September 11 of 1981, a plane crashed into the Swing Aud and damaged it beyond repair.

Now here is a bit of trivia that someone might have to look up, but in this old brain I seem to remember that the Swing Auditorium was the site of the very first Rolling Stones concert in the USofA. Hendrix played there. The Dead played there. I saw Journey (blech) and Thin Lizzy play there in ’80. I was supposed to see the Pretenders there, but the plane, and well, you know. Anyway, they moved the show to another building in this National Orange Show Fairgrounds, a nice big quonset hut quickly renamed “Orange Show Pavilion.”

The ride from where I lived to San Bernardino was about 60 miles and about 100 years from Long Beach. San Berdoo, as I will call it, was still a largely a rural farming and dairy area…kind of a redneckville at the end of the LA Basin. It was hot there, and they caught our smog as the ocean breeze cleared the skies of Long Beach. The National Orange Show Fairgrounds were just that, home to one helluva county type fair. Yee haw! Like I said, that 60 miles was a long way from LA. So realizing this was probably not going to be a huge crowd to see the Pretenders, it was a worthwhile road trip. There was limited seating on the sides of the quonset hut, and the floor was a 1981-ish mosh pit. We started the show about 20 feet from the stage and as the crowd rolled during the shows, we would go from center to stage left, then eventually back to stage right, a mass of peoples being swirled around by some unseen force.

The show opened with a remarkable set by this cool cool band from Jolly old called “Bow Wow Wow.” Now I’m thinking most of yous have heard “I Want Candy,” and like me, a few of yous have puked to this song. Sadly, as with many bands, the one song that goes charts is likely the worst song they ever put to tape. Bow Wow Wow just freakin rocked. They had this girl singer who could flat out dance like no one else, and she had a mohawk. By the time the show was over, I was smitten. Seriously. Unfortunately San Bernardino was not ready for a band like Bow Wow Wow. Songs like “Louis Quatorze,” “C30, C60, C90, Go!” “W.O.R.K..N.O.” and the like weren’t well received by the locals. The hard jams of guitarist Matthew Ashman, bassist Leigh Gorman and the bad ass Burundi drumming of David Barbarossa was amazing, and the dancing and singing of the beautiful Annabella Lwin was incredible…

After their set, the Pretenders took the stage with a vengeance. To be within 10 feet of Chrissy Hynde was amazing. The opened loud and fast, and after their first song, Chrissy told the crowd, “I want to thank our opening act Bow Wow Wow,” and you could hear some of the non-believers booing, to which Chrissy said, “And to those of you who didn’t like them, you can fuck off!” Away they went into a masterful set, playing loud hard music. It was a night…yes…it was.

In the years after, the guitarist and bass player for the Pretenders, James Scott and Pete Farndon both fell to the excesses of their trade. RIP. And the guitar player for Bow Wow Wow, Matthew Ashman, died from complications of diabetes at the far too young age of 35. Seeing them play live when they were at their best was great. It was a night to remember. And that was the night I fell in love with Annabella Lwin. She still doesn’t know.. 🙂

In later years, listening to that windbag Limbaugh, I felt almost insulted that he would use a song by the Pretenders as his theme on his daily 3 hour propaganda show. “Blasphemy!” as Alex said when they used Beethoven as his soundtrack. But then to figure the song was written by a single mom and played by two young fellows who overdosed themselves to death, it is the perfect song for that fat hypocrite, the Drugster. Well, maybe “The Adultress” would even be better…

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 1:07 am

1 Comment »

  1. I was at that show- the venue had been an airplane hanger and the floor was covered in old motor oil- my shoes were toast afterwards. I seem to remember one side of the building being covered with a big tarp rather than a wall. It’s funny you mentioned Chrissie’s reaction to the audience booing Bow Wow Wow (who were great that night). I remember it as her saying they could eat shit, but “fuck off” could be right. I did manage to snag one of James Honeyman-Scott’s guitar picks.
    Thanks for the memories. . .

    Comment by Alex — 15 June 2015 @ 17:26 pm

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