Waiting on Mitch
Monday, March 27, 1967
I had a crush on my sister’s girlfriend, which ended up getting me a seat at the RKO theater on east 58th street. My sister and her friend were heading into the city to see Murray the K’s Easter show. Featured on the bill was an act I wanted to see: Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Mitch and the boys had a hit that year with Devil With the Blue Dress On. Damn, how I loved that song. Still do. It’s a mainstay on one or more of my playlists.
I need to add a disclaimer here: It wasn’t exactly the crush that got me the seat. It was my mother. She insisted my older sister take me along with her. I could have gone on my own, but the thought of attending the show alone felt kind of sad and creepy. Who’s that creepy kid boogying out all by himself to Mitch Ryder? I didn’t see him come in with anyone. Seems kinda creepy to me. Does he seem kinda creepy to you?
I don’t remember the reason I couldn’t get a friend, or my younger brother, to come along and Mitch-out with me. Maybe I was just alone in my body-shaking fervor over Mitch. But my solution to this was simple. I would go and whine to my mother until she made my fourteen year-old sister drag me along with her and my secret crush.
This is starting to sound like one of those Teen mag stories. And I’m good with that. I wish I had written one back then. How My Secret Teen-Crush Got Me a Ticket to Rock Out! Now We’re Going Steady!
We never went steady. As a matter of fact, when we arrived at the theater my sister and her friend made it clear that I was a wretched thirteen year-old little worm, or something to that affect, and had me sit behind them. They wouldn’t even let me sit in the same aisle lest I cause them some embarrassment with my wretched, wormy ways.
Fourteen year-old girls are an ornery bunch. You don’t want to mess with them. They’ll rip you to pieces right in front of your friends and toss your remains over the schoolyard fence. Okay. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my drift: Don’t ever try to match wits with a fourteen year-old girl. You’ll be eating your own words before you’ve managed to get any out of your mouth. Some sort of sorcery, that. I’m betting all that Salem witch-hunt nonsense started with girls like my sister and her girlfriend. Not all girls, mind you. Just the ones like those two. Let’s move on. This conversation is wilting the secret-crush fantasy I’ve been hanging on to for fifty-two years.
Then again, maybe they were right. I’m sure I did enough ogling and lurking behind every door they ever slammed in my face. Holy fuggin’ hot dogs! Was it me all the time? Me? A wretched little worm? But, as I was saying . Let us move on. Come on, now. Go. On to the next paragraph. Go ahead, push that little return button.
Ahh. I feel better already. Take a deep breath and on with the story.
What I regret most about this concert at the RKO movie house was not having a camera, because, musically speaking, the line-up was historic. But we were completely unfamiliar with some of the bands in the lineup. We were there to see Mitch.
The billing was as follows:
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (who never showed up due to a dispute over billing)
Jim & Jean
The Chicago Loop
Jackie & the K Girls
Extra Added Attraction:
The Blues Project
The Hardly Worthit Players
And Guest Stars for Monday Evenings Performance:
Simon & Garfunkel
A jaw-dropping lineup, to be sure. Just not to us. We were familiar with Wilson Pickett. He was a mainstay on the radio. We heard of Simon & Garfunkel because Sounds of Silence had been playing on the radio for a few months. Though I recall that song being too dark for me at the time. I was more likely to change the channel when it aired. I wouldn’t come to appreciate it until I saw The Graduate in early ’68 and my teenage angst kicked in.
As far as the Cream and The Who go. I was more dumb struck than anything. I had never heard their music. And that may have been because I wasn’t listening to FM radio at the time. I was always tuned to AM commercial stations. Hits! Hits! And nothing but the hits! Don’t touch that dial, kids!
But I sure was fascinated by what I was seeing. All I remember of Cream was not being able to take my eyes off Ginger Baker and his sticks getting downright savage with his drums, and that wild head of red hair rocking every which way. My little brain was much too orderly at the time. Ginger Baker was not my goofy smiling Ringo and his pleasant drum beats. One, two, three, four.
Then there was The Who. And it was chaos. I remember instruments behind tossed about and a lot of smoke afterwards. I look back on it and think of the old saying about youth being wasted on the wrong people. Unfortunately, that wrong person was me. I was feeling about as out of place as Simon and Garfunkel looked; standing center stage in their dull suits and ties. Then Mitch came out to close the show. I can’t remember what he sang, but he sure was a sweaty mess at the end of it all.
It kills me that my memory of it all is so vague. Damn it! I saw Wilson Picket and all I can remember is a black man in a velvet suit singing something or other! I hope it was 6345789. I truly do.
The Who and Cream made their US debut at that RKO 58th street theater that week. I was in on it and didn’t have the ears to appreciate it. It wouldn’t be until ’69 that I loosened up and let it all sink in.
In a perfect world I would have had the foresight to see the greatness here. But, hey, I was only waiting on Mitch — and a girl who thought me a wretched little worm. It’s still a happy memory.
Photo Courtest of Wiki Commons: