A Gillan Show – Recollections and a Reposting of the Western Front
We continue celebrating ten year of the Wild West and the Western Front. What follows was originally published back on December 12th, 2005 and focuses on some recollections of the a Gillan show from a long time ago that largely started all of this.
Again, enjoy. . .
A continuation of the post from December 11th, exploring three shows, two from December of 1980 and the other happening on December 14 (2005) at Don Hills in New York.
This post looks at the show that took place on December 12th 1980. A show that took place at Emerald City in Cherry Hill NJ, right across from Philadelphia. The band was Gillan.
And if you don’t have the patience to read all of this, just go to the music. . .Click here to check out a sample of the actual December 12th 1980 Gillan Show! (Sorry no longer available.)
Nothing like the crowd that Thin Lizzy brought in. A week ago we were part of crowd of 500. There was no room to move and we felt the surge of the crowd when Lizzy took the stage. The 12th was a cold and icy night, with maybe 100 people there, maybe. In place of the punk band we had a reggae band warming up. No hint from anywhere of what we were going to see, just a few more Michelobs as we waited.
We knew little of the material. There was no Gillan being played on the radio, and this was before MTV, much less the Headbangers Ball or anything else. A few songs were recognized during the set – Smoke on the Water, Lucille, and maybe Trouble. The rest were new to the small crowd.
Gillan was front and center, wild long hair, which he loved to whip around in between verses, but always a gentleman in between songs complete with a bit of English wit. And then you had the band-not your typical band. You had Colin Towns on keyboard. He seemed to be the musical leader, the conductor of the night’s festivities. Mick Underwood on the drums, a solid drummer.
The other two, however, were the more interesting, maybe a dash of menace, . First off, there was John McCoy, the bass player. He was and is a big man, with a shaved smooth head and a beard. Remember it was 1980 and aside from the drummer in Spirit, I can’t name many performers sporting that look back then. Maybe he had some shades on too.
Lastly, there was Bernie Torme, the guitar player in this long gray suit jacket. At least I think he was in that outfit. Many of the photos of him from that vintage have him in such a jacket and I think I recall it on him. Bernie himself has referenced it as something out of Dickens. He did definitely did have your shoulder length peroxide blond hair and his Stratocaster guitar. Keep in mind that everyone who came was thinking Deep Purple and all knew that Ritchie Blackmore was a player of such guitars. So the Strat was required, but by the end of the night I had forgotten such requirements.
The music was heavier than Deep Purple but with these melodic preludes. You had Towns’ keyboards, primarily piano and synthesizer, that would often start out the tunes, providing these musical interludes, and then the band would tear into high gear with these pounding rhythms provided by McCoy and Underwood. So you had the tension of those two extremes, and then Bernie with his Strat, which would compete with Town’s keyboards for the solos. But the thing that intrigued me was how he made up for the shared solo time with these amazing whammy bar fills all over the place. I have yet to see anyone abuse a Strat and its whammy bar like him, nor get the sounds out of it that he did. And on top of all this chaos you had Gillan with his amazing vibrato, He is one of the few singers in rock to use vibrato. And to turn to another show for a second, you will never hear Ozzy use vibrato in those opening verses of War Pigs! So Gillan could go from this flowery vibrato in his voice at times to his infamous screams. Gillan the singer and Gillan the band were all over the place!
Now you take this music and this band and you have them performing it on one stage – it was an amazing scene. You had Gillan front and center who would go from a little quiet conversation with the audience in between songs to screaming and truly just headbanging up there, to John McCoy who was working his bass and just had a certain sinister look, and Bernie, who was just wild with the peroxide blonde hair, the jacket, and the constant abuse of his Strat.
So that is what I recall. You have to figure, I have been hyping Mr. Torme for the past three years so who knows what is actually real. I am pretty sure that the above is accurate but it has been 25 years. Luckily, I was given awhile back a recording of this Gillan show at Emerald City, so no need to rely upon my fading memory. Check out the MP3 of Smoke on the Water complete with Bernie doing a lovely little intro right here – Click here to check it out! (Again not working. . .). Regarding the recording, it turns out that one of the folks next to me had smuggled a cassette recorder in and and recorded the show. Enjoy and we still have one more show to cover-that is happening on Wednesday, December 14 2005.
A little about how this came about. . . I was at dinner talking about how I came to this obsession with all of this, so I figured, let me put it down on paper. Also it is offered as I do wish that Bernie Torme was included on Ian Gillan’s New CD set celebrating his solo work, which Mr. Torme did not contribute to.
Next-the third of the three shows. . .To be continued. . .
This is my photo. I was the drummer for the Front St. Runners and we had played the upstairs room at Emerald City the Thursday before the Gillian show. Our manager worked for Emerald City ( I still have my permanent pass) and they needed someone to open the next night for Ian Gillian so he volunteered us to open. We were NOT a reggae band. We were just kids. I do remember there were only about a hundred people there too. I worked in a record store at the time and I remember mentioning to one of the members of the band that we did not have the Gillian record in our store. (Sound Odyssey- Cherry Hill Mall). He was a big bald dude with a beard. He pushed the Polydor rep up against the wall of the dressing room and read him the riot act . The local Polydor guy was not happy with me. I felt bad for these guys because Emerald City could hold something like 1,500 people and it was crickets that night.
Yeah it was a month or two later that I found the album at my local store. Thank you for the details and all. I am sorry if I miss-classified your band. That said it was an interesting selection for Gillan but then no one knew what the hell Gillan was about anyway. Never did, never will over here. Keep in mind i was a 17 year old kid listening to deep purple and the like. And yeah I can picture John McCoy that bald dude with the beard doing that. He kind of scared me back then.
Was a cool place. Saw Thin Lizzy the week before, and went a few times for other acts. I remember Alice Cooper there too.
Anyway, rock on!
Hey I am not seeing the photo. . .