Cameron Carpenter – Rock’n’Roll Rewind – I Want You To Read Me, I Need You To Read Me

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This week we rewind to June 8, 1978. If I am not mistaken this was the first story I was ever paid for (and looking back they paid far too much). It appeared in the debut issue of The New Music Magazine which arrived in mailboxes across the country in August of 1978. It was produced by the CHUM radio chain and I was fortunate to write in every issue.

Century Theatre

Harvey Weinstein (1)This concert took place at the Century Theatre in Buffalo and was presented by Harvey & Bob Weinstein and Corky Burger a/k/a Harvey & Corky. Harvey & Bob would take the profits from their successful promotion company and start a little film company called Miramax.


After the show the bar we went to was world famous Anchor Bar and it was my first taste of their amazing wings.


It was also the first time I legally drank in an American bar (the New York state drinking age was 18 at the time, I was 4 days away from turning nineteen). The local promo reps were Gayle Sparrow and John Sykes. Both Tuxedo Jacketwould be key players in the formation of MTV and VH1, and John would become my boss at Chrysalis Records around a decade later. John is currently the President of Clear Channel. Harvey & Corky gave us all cool white tuxedo jackets with the REO and Cheap Trick logos on the back (which I still own).

I was pretty excited to see the story in print but our limo driver “Bill” was a tad upset as he was in fact long-time friend Brian Stutz. It’s still an on-going joke between the two us. Brian and I would end up working together at Quality Records a few years later. I still love Cheap Trick but can’t say I have listened to REO Speedwagon since about 1981.  Here goes.


“I had just returned home with a copy of the new R.E.O. Speedwagon album, You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish, after an incredibly long day when the phone rang, My editor’s voice came through the Buffaloreceiver and asked if I wanted to go to Buffalo.

‘Buffalo! What the hell have I done?’

‘Nothing. CBC Records just phoned and they want one of our writers to go down to review a concert.’

When I asked which concert, I was surprised by the replay – R.E.O. Speedwagon. The voice went on.

‘Oh yeah, Cheap Trick is opening the concert and you get to go down in a limo.’

I was already packed.

Cheap Trick 3

The next day I went up to CBS and waited for the other members of the entourage to arrive: Wilder from the Toronto Sun; Bill from Q017; Joe, Marty and Terry from CBS; and Bill, our limousine driver. We started our journey to the U.S. of A. but when we reached Hamilton everyone agreed that a stop was needed. Joe phoned to tell our dinner party that we would be a bit tumblr_mtc05laCuf1rdzuduo2_250late. The rest of us went into the restaurant. Terry decided that it was the perfect time for a cheeseburger and a Pepsi so he went behind the grill and started cooking. As it was getting late this was not such a good idea but at that moment my stomach was saying a cheeseburger was more important than a Cheap Trick. However, it wasn’t until after the show that I learned that Cheap Trick was the best band in the States and that my cheeseburger was the worst meal in Canada. We made it across the border without all the hassles and by seven o’clock we were in downtown Buffalo. We found the restaurant we were supposed to eat at but checking the clock we realized that there was only time for salads and Jack Daniels. At eight o’clock the party was over and the prospect of being part of a Buffalo audience was before us.

Cheap Trick 2

When we arrived at the Century Theater, Cheap Trick was into their second number. Suddenly, all my fears about Buffalo audiences were gone. This was due to at least one of two things: A) Jack Daniels and/or B) Buffalo has one of the greatest rock’n’roll audiences in North America. There were no Frisbees, firecrackers, flying beer bottles of fights. All these kids wanted to do was party. I also felt like partying so I ran up to the stage and started to dance and sing along to all Cheap Trick’s songs, looking like a bona-fide Cheap Trickster in my bow-tie, jacket, buttons and official Rick Nielson/Cheap Trick guitar pick.

Cheap Trick gave an incredible concert. Rick Nielson is their slightly crazy guitar player who owns sixty-nine guitars, twelve of which he keeps on stage and twelve at the side of the stage. He plays two at one time, wears funny get-ups which include baseball caps and cardigans, can flick a pick as far as twenty or thirty rows on a good night and executes leaps which would make Pete Townsend throw in the towel. On top off all of this he is the KING of power chords.

Now let me introduce the rest of the band. Bun E. Carlos is the chain-smoking power percussionist who looks like a cross between Fred Mertz and your grade eight History teacher.

Tom Petersson is the bassist who distinguishes himself in being the only man alive who can play a twelve-string bass and walk away without a case of terminal fingeritis.

The last member is singer Robin Zander, a blond bombshell who keeps the girls in the first ten rows on the edge of their seats. In addition to this, he has the best voice in rock’n’roll. And that, my friends, is Cheap Trick.

After a brief intermission the headliners came on. R.E.O. Speedwagon is a band which seems to get mislabelled as anything other than a rock’n’roll band. This is unfortunate as they are a great boogie band (though I never realized their potential until I heard their new album and saw them in concert.


Buffalo loved them as Buffalo is Guitar City. The crowd craved the riveting guitar solos which Gary Richrath delivered all night, Kevin Cronin handled the lead vocal shores, keeping the crowd on their feet and dancing. The rhythm section consisted of Alan Gratzer on drums, Neal Doughty on keyboards and newcomer Bruce Hall on bass. The band put on a no-frills show which was good enough to get them the respect of the Buffalo audience and two encores.

With the release of its eighth album, You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish, R.E.O. Speedwagon has reached a critical point in its musical career; it has broken into the Midwest but hasn’t really caught on in the East. If the band ‘Can Roll With The Changes’ (as they say on their latest single), it should catch on.

After the show we got into the waiting limousine and headed downtown to a party for the bands. I sat between Robin and Rick and listened to stories wilder.jpgwilder aloneabout the band’s tour of Japan (where they are huge) and how they got their name from a u.f.o. which landed in Rick’s backyard and started dispensing Cheap Trick memorabilia. After too many chicken wings and too much Bud we said our see ya in Toronto’s and started our long trek home. We almost lost Wilder to a young kid who nearly rear-ended our car. Wilder as lucky. An oak tree and three stop signs were not…only in Buffalo.

I arrived home with memories of a night I wouldn’t forget. The moral of the story is; Don’t eat cheeseburgers in Hamilton when you can be seeing Cheap Trick in Buffalo.”

Have a pint and hear cool tunes every Wednesday night beginning at 5 PM at The Kensington Lodge


Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59.

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DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music 

One Response to “Cameron Carpenter – Rock’n’Roll Rewind – I Want You To Read Me, I Need You To Read Me”

  1. Pat Blythe Says:

    Wonderful article! What a fabulous time….brings back so many memories. Made the trip and dined at the Anchor Bar — the U.S. immigration guys would actually give us directions! — many times, before and after concerts too numerous to count (or in some cases remember)…but I do remember this one. Only a short trip from London, Ontario. Loved every second of it!

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