The Chesterfield Kings
This post has really nothing to do about dating, but maybe that’s welcome.
When I was about 15, 16, I was very much into 60′s music — The Beatles, Beatles bootlegs, weird one-hit wonders (The Knickerbockers, The EasyBeats, “Time Won’t Let Me”) and somehow I heard about this retro band called the Chesterfield Kings. Most likely Rolling Stone had a review of their record “Stop”.
I ordered it via mail-order or found it in at second hand record store in Philly. These guys had Prince Valiant bobs and that mid-60′s sound to a “T” –Vox amps, vintage guitars, analog recording techinques. I even wrote them a fan letter and asking them where they got their (groovy) clothes. One of them even sent me back a Chesterfield Kings promo postcard and listed their Rochester NY tailor and where they got their Cuban heels. I remember at the time being thrilled.
In the summer of 1987, I was in New York taking courses for high schoolers at Parsons, living in their dorms at 31 Union Square West. I spotted in the Village Voice that the Kings were playing at a small club in the East Village!
I invited a girl on my floor I was vaguely attracted to and she agreed and we went.
It was in the East, East Village, somewhere near East 5th and Ave B or C, which in 1987 looked like a war zone. Alphabet City was a dirty ghetto.
If you watch ‘Marathon Man’, Dustin Hoffman lives in that area and these local punk Hispanic kids harass him everytime he’s coming or going — I’m convinced those kids aren’t actors, just local kids they paid (or not) to yell at Hoffman.
The neighborhood was untouched since the shooting of that movie from 10 years earlier.
So after a scary walk through Thompkins Square park (At 17 and white, I really had no business being there at night) we get to the theater. But it wasn’t really a theater. It was a storefront with a metal gate. And we were there at the showtime which might have been 8:30. It didn’t know at the time there was such a thing as ‘Rock and Roll Time’ which means the show really didn’t start for 60 to 90 minutes later.
So we are in this small barren room with a stage with ropes hanging from the ceiling and a handful of weird people milling about. One guy, older, maybe in his 30′s had a hand puppet. On his hand.
Somewhere between 60 and 90 minutes later, the Kings take the stage and they’ve changed their look and sound — they are now retro 70′s — long hair, very New York Dolls, Ramones. In the year since I had gotten their postcard, they’d jumped a decade in rock, look and attitude. They were loud, crazy and now longer jingle-y-jangley 12 string Rickenbackers. In fact, the lead singer, Greg Prevost was grabbing hold of the ropes and swinging over the audience like a rock and roll Tarzan.
The crowd was thrashing, pogo-ing, the guy with the puppet was dancing and jumping and freaking out. The whole scene was frightening.
We left and RAN ALL WAY THE BACK to Union Square. I remember running with her through the park like Marathon Man.
Epilogue: The Kings are still together and are in their early 50′s now. They made a B & W movie I got on Netflix called Where is the Chesterfield King? where they (in their 40′s) goof around like a Monkees episode. It’s beyond dreadful.