Hunt’s Pier – Chapter 8 – Living The Dream

“Nobody ever says, “Remember that Spring?”

But people do say… “Remember that Summer?”Chaz

Wildwood, New Jersey – 1980

One night we were all working. It was early, maybe 6 pm. Each shift was from 5 pm until 11 pm when the pier closed. As one of the cars came in full of people and they exited the ride, someone left a camera on the ride. Danny brought it to me, and I remembered the guy and his family. I was like, “Wait…there he is over there with his wife and kids. I’ll run over and give him back his camera.” But then an idea came to mind. I went over to Louie and told him what was up and handed him the camera. He gathered the whole staff together on the platform and took a photo of all of us guys with the man’s lost camera. He handed it back to me and I ran down the ramp and tapped the man on the shoulder. “You left this on the ride, sir.” The gentleman was very grateful and relieved.

It was one of those jokes you do where you’ll never see the outcome, but you know when he gets home from vacation and gets his photos developed, he’ll find a mysterious photo of the whole Golden Nugget team among his pictures! Great idea, right?

When the pier closed at 11 pm, they always put up a big wooden fence to close off the area. There were guards and dogs always present at night to protect their assets. But the fence was in large sections and each piece was really heavy. After working all night on our feet and taking care of thousands of tourists, the last thing we wanted to do was carry big sections of fence and set it all up each night. So all the flunkies (as Louie called them) who worked all the rides up at the front of the pier were the first ones called upon to help put up the fence. We at the Nugget and the Log Flume would take our good old time closing our rides and walking up to the front of the pier to help. I can honestly say I have maybe only helped with one small section of fence on only three occasions. We were the elite weasels on that pier.

One of the amazing benefits of working for the Hunt’s Corporation was that they also owned every movie theater on the island. So as a perk for being an employee, each Saturday night at midnight, they would have a private screening of one of the latest movies playing in the theaters.

It was awesome. You’d finish your shift at 11 pm, and then had an hour to get something to eat, hit the liquor store to buy some beer, and then head over to one of the theaters and watch a movie with your coworkers. It was glorious. The cool thing was, you could bring a guest. So I could bring my buddy Wolfie with me and we could check out a cool new movie for free. (And drink beer!) But most of the time if one of the guys and I had met some girls that night on the ride, we’d take them to the movies with us. That was fantastic. Free movie with a new girl. Unless it was something we didn’t want to see, we would go every week all summer long. (Even back then, 40 years ago I was providing the hookup to the ladies in my life!)

Seeing The Empire Strikes Back in an empty theater with just my buddies with me was an unforgettable experience. The film as we all know was a long-awaited blockbuster and seeing it for free for the first time was amazing. I remember taking my buddy Wolfie with me to see the film, Airplane! And at the time it was the funniest film I had ever seen. It’s still in my top five of the funniest most creative and madcap movies I’ve ever seen. The Cannonball Run also comes to mind as one of the more memorable films we saw that summer. Just great times!

I even got my friend Pitchy a job up on Hunt’s working at the Log Flume. He was my summertime best friend who lived around the corner from my house. He and I had been friends since the early ’70s and had a rich history of summers together. He had worked as a stock boy at a local grocery store at 9th and Ocean avenue and was looking to do something different for the summer. I got him a job on the pier. He liked working on the flume and got along with all of the guys over there. One night he started chatting up a really cute little Italian girl from South Philly and later made a date with her. A few years later they kept in touch and he eventually married her and they have three great grown kids now. Met his wife on the Log Flume!

I remember it was the 4th of July weekend which is an enormous time at the shore. The island is packed with tourists and the boardwalk is mobbed every night. I went on my break and walked over to the snack bar across from our ride and got a soft pretzel and a fountain coke. I went back to the Nugget and went in the back and up the fire escape to the top floor of the ride. The ride was obviously going non-stop so you had to be careful up there navigating the tracks so you didn’t get run over and killed by the ride. On the roof, (you’ll see in some of the attached videos) had several dead man’s gulch attractions on it. Tombstones, skeletons, prospectors, etc. There actually was a replica of a gallows up there. I climbed the rickety wooden ladder up to the top of it and had a seat at the hangman’s pole.

There it is. Three stories above the boardwalk. 100 feet up from the beach.

The mine cars full of tourists would actually pass under it. So, I parked myself up there and munched my pretzel, and sipped my soda. The view was incredible and I suddenly felt an incredible level of exhilaration sitting up there. Here I was on the roof of a three-story dark ride I once rode terrified with my father and sisters. I lit a cigarette and looked out at the entire sea of people below me. The pier was packed with people, and that flowed out onto the boardwalk that was in full swing. Amusement rides going, people screaming, laughing, and filled with joy. Happy to be at the seashore and away from the heat of the city and work. They were all on vacation and having the times of their lives here in Wildwood.

The smell of french fries, caramel popcorn, funnel cake, cotton candy, and pizza filled the air. The sights and sounds of summer. I sat under the stars and watched as fireworks exploded in the sky in the distance.

I knew in this perfect moment that I was in the most pristine place in my life. I sat atop my castle as the self-proclaimed King of Wildwood. Finished with high school, tan, fit, clear skin, healthy, and immaculate. My painful past barely visible now. I had game and could talk to girls and they liked me enough to date and kiss me. I was in a rock and roll band, and didn’t have to be anywhere I didn’t want to be.  The island and this ride were mine.

But I could feel as I finished my cigarette I wouldn’t come up here again.

This moment would vanish and never return.

Like a child’s balloon that had escaped their grasp. You watch as it rises higher and higher into the night sky. But you’ll never get it back.

All you can do is make a wish…

The sax solo in this song (4:00 minute mark) by the late, great, Clarence Clemmons, and Bruce’s howl at the end of the song is about as close as I can get to what my heart felt like on any given summer night in Wildwood.

But, even as I write these words, I feel I just can’t do justice to those summers at the seashore.

You had to be there.

Hunt's Pier At Night | "Watch the tram car please!" 1970s Po… | Brian | Flickr

I’ve lived and worked in many places throughout my life.  But I still say to this day, working at Hunt’s Pier on the Golden Nugget Mine Ride was The Greatest Job I Ever Had.

 

This is sort of what it sounded like to be on the boardwalk in Wildwood.

Here are a link and some videos I found to give you an idea of what the Golden Nugget Mine Ride was like:

http://www.funchase.com/Images/GoldenNugget/GoldenNugget.htm

This series is not over yet. There’s more to come every Thursday through July.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Hunt’s Pier – Chapter 7 – Secret Admirer

Wildwood, New Jersey – Summer – 1980

As I walked up the ramp to the boardwalk, to make the short walk in the golden late afternoon sun down to Hunt’s Pier. I thought about how different my life was now. I had come so far from the world I lived in back in Fel’s Junior High.

Can you imagine being equal to the Golem in Lord of the Rings? That’s how I felt in Junior High School. It was a terrible place for me to go every day. Everything was against me. My face, my mind, my body, my parents, my sisters, the faculty, the kids, the bullies at school, and everywhere around me. I was a thing I didn’t understand. I only knew a small part of how I worked. Just basic functions. I was a disaster.

All of the ways I could describe myself back then. Greasy hair, pimples all over my face, chest, and back. No athletic ability. Bad grades. braces. glasses. weird clothes. I should have just put a potato sack over my head and spray painted a target on it because that’s what I was. An easy target for scorn and cruelty. I brought nothing to the table. I felt like an absolute failure in the house of my life, and I had no keys to any of the locks that held the doors to everything I wanted. I wanted it so much, but none of it was for people like me.

Ugly. A failure as a person already. Not even 14 and I hate my life and who I am already. Everything is wrong with me.

I remember this pretty girl in my art class I liked. I didn’t know how to talk to her, or what to say. She was making some lam picture and kept hitting the paper with a crayon. I asked her about her work.

“Why do you have so many dots on that?”

“Why do you have so many zits on your face?”

How could a child be that cruel to another one? I didn’t even know her. I was just a slug, a nothing, scuttling along through the hallways of this prison. This act of cruelty had to have somehow been learned. How could a girl that pretty have such ugly things come out of her mouth?

She was beautiful, but ugly on the inside, already. I was ugly on the outside but I would never hurt anyone like that. But that was back in 1977.

It was now 1980.

I graduated from Wildwood High with second honors after spending my senior year in a strange school in a dark cold town that I was dropped off in by my father. Ripped from Frankford High, a school I liked with teachers and kids I could connect with. I was a singer in a rock band in Philly. But now I was a guitarist in a band here in Wildwood. I was left here to squirm and perish, but I thrived. How about that?

Anxiety? Depression? Stranger in a strange land? Wildwood in the winter? Awful. But we all adjusted and made the best of it. I know I made the best of it. I conquered Wildwood.

I was no longer the 14-year-old mess. But I’ll never forget him. He has his place in my past, but I’m no longer chained to him.

Pictured: Vince Kostek

I remember coming onto the pier one night at the beginning of my shift and Vince the manager handed me an envelope.

“Hey. This came for you today, handsome.”

“What’s this?”

“It’s a letter addressed to you, and based on that lipstick kiss on the back I’m assuming it’s from some young lady.”

“Umm… okay, thanks.”

“Are you having your fan mail sent to the pier now, Sport?”

I later read that letter and made the connection to the postcard that was dropped off at my ride the other day.

What an elegant gesture. Honest and beautiful. I was honored and in awe. So sweet. Fragile. Bold. Heartbreakingly beautiful. Feels like something that only happens in a movie. But it was real. It was real and it was happening to me. In my life.

The lame cub of the litter…

Now a lion.

I had finally arrived.

All of the money in the world can’t buy a minute of time, and it certainly can’t buy what Gail did for me that day.

If anyone reading this recognizes Gail or knows her from PA, give her my contact info on here, I’d love to chat with her and thank her for her sweet letter. If we had met back then, I would have been honored to take her out on a proper date!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Footnote: In 1983 when I was in Los Angeles, California I was hanging out in my apartment in Mar Vista one night and I called the number that Gail had written in her letter.

She was surprised and happy to hear from me. But she told me she had heard from a “friend” of mine some years ago and he told her that I was a womanizer and a horrible person in an attempt to destroy her image of me. He was basically describing himself to her which is the ultimate irony.

I had shown the letter to this individual back in 1980 when I originally got it. He had been jealous of me since 1977 and didn’t like the idea of me getting adoration from women. He had peaked in 9th grade and although a bright kid, was a social failure and a pathological liar. Gail told me his name and it really showed me what a truly awful person he was. She told me she never believed a word he said, so his little scheme against me was just another one of his many failures.

I don’t speak to this person anymore and want nothing to do with such a toxic person. But what a sad and mean-spirited thing to do to one of your so-called friends just to make yourself feel better about your own pathetic life. A thief and a liar. That’s what he is.

Even though we hung out a lot back in the 70s, I’ve vowed to never write about him in this blog and will only refer to him as “the neighbor” or “the kid next door” because his existence in my history doesn’t warrant giving him any sort of life in this forum or anywhere else.

The best part is, when I leave this world I’ll leave a rich legacy of wonderful memories with so many great friends, lovers, and family. He, on the other hand, leaves only a trail of bad memories strung together by lies and betrayal.

Like Iago in Othello, he poses as a friend but willfully with premeditation, a clear understanding of their actions, the weight of their consequence, commits injury anyway. 

Just a rotten human being that could have achieved greatness due to his incredible intellect, but instead chose the path of sloth and malice.

Although forgiven, I will never dignify his existence by ever writing about him.

Hunt’s Pier – Chapter 3 – Family Vacation

Wildwood Crest, New Jersey – 1960’s

A few years before my parents owned the summer place in North Wildwood, we stayed at a motel called the Villa Nova in Wildwood Crest. They would take a room each summer for 3 days in June, and 3 more in September. There was a restaurant next door to the motel called The Captain’s Table. To me, that was a cool exotic nautical-themed place. Even though we were only a two-hour drive from our home in Philadelphia, going to the shore was traveling to come exotic locale back then.

The world was a bigger package than our little neighborhood in Lawndale.

Wildwood Mid-Century Modern Motels & Hotels | RoadsideArchitecture.com

Villa Nova Motel, Wildwood Crest, NJ - Booking.com

Wildwood, NJ was an amazing wondrous place. We all loved it. I remember I’d be watching TV as a kid and a commercial would come on for Dorney Park. I’d say to my dad, “That place looks fun, why don’t we ever go there?”

“Because that place is a junkyard, son.” my dad would say. (Back then the place was a dump. Nothing like what it is today.

We’d always go to the beach as a family in the morning. It wasn’t as hot then, and not as crowded. By the time lunchtime rolled around we were back at the motel.

I was never a fan of the beach too much when I was little. Big waves, crabs, and deep water were things I didn’t want any part of.  There is old home movie footage of me as a toddler walking back towards the car because I hated the sand.

I remember once I was working on sandcastles with my dad and the backs of my legs got really sunburned. It really hurt and my mom applied some vaseline to take out the sting and soothe the burn. But the best part was when everybody else went back to the beach or the pool in the afternoon, I got to stay behind in the air-conditioned room to lie on the couch and watch TV. (Which is what I preferred to do anyway.)

I think even back then they had cable TV down there, so there were channels and shows I’d never seen before which I found facinating.

But by the time dusk arrived we were all dressed and ready to go to the boardwalk. It was the mid to late 1960s and we’d actually get dressed up nice to go to the boardwalk. Mom and the sisters in dresses, and dad and I in button-down shirts and slacks. It was a different time, but as a family my parents always dressed us up to go anywhere. “I don’t want you all looking like a bunch of slumgullians,” my mother would say.

Wildwood always had the best boardwalk in New Jersey.

Each summer evening, the American dream was played out along the boardwalk’s more than 70,000 wooden planks. Classic rides and old-fashioned amusements stood toe-to-toe with 20st-century innovation and excitement. Five amusement piers boasted more rides than Disneyland, complete with world-class rollercoasters, beachfront waterparks, family-friendly attractions, and cutting-edge thrill rides. In addition, a seemingly endless array of restaurants and shops offer everything from classic boardwalk fare like funnel cakes and homemade fudge to seafood specials, gourmet pizza, and contemporary casual beach fare.

As I said, back then it was like traveling to an exotic wonderland.

The idea of a boardwalk originated when a railroad conductor, Alexander Boardman, got tired of cleaning beach sand from his trains. He suggested constructing a wooden walkway for seaside strolls. Atlantic City dedicated the first boardwalk in 1870. Thirty years later, the City of Wildwood laid its first boardwalk directly on the sand along Atlantic Avenue, from Oak Avenue to Maple Avenue, just 150 yards long.

The world-famous Wildwood Boardwalk is home to a dazzling display of lights, colors, sounds, and smells that awe the senses and offer an unsurpassed level of excitement and energy. As it has for over 100 years, the boardwalk stands as a living, thriving, pulsating celebration of the American imagination.

Hunt’s Pier was pretty much our go-to stop on the boardwalk. It had the best family-oriented rides, and theme park attractions. I’ve gathered a few pieces here to give you an idea of what they had on that concrete pier back then. They’re at the end of this post. Some great videos!

My dad would go on any ride they had. My sister April was fearless, and my sister Janice would go on any ride my dad was willing to venture upon. My mother and I both don’t like heights, things that can make us dizzy, or move too quickly. But there was something for everyone at Hunt’s Pier. I think that’s what set them apart from the other amusement piers. They had the twirly ‘up in the air rides’, and the like, but also had stuff the kids could go on. (Or the scaredy cats)

They had a little classic wooden rollercoaster, called The Flyer. I remember my mom telling me that the ride only lasted 1 minute long. My father and sister Janice would go on that, and also my dad’s favorite ride, the airships.  They were these cool two-seater little jets that went around and around but then you could go high up in the air as the ride spun. (You can see it in this old ad)

That is a lovely glimpse into the past, right?

As I said, I didn’t like rides like that, but one time my dad kind of forced me to go on it with him. He told me it was a wonderful experience. He loved that ride so much. He knew if I went on it with him I’d love it too. I yielded to his wishes and went on it. “Look at that incredible view of the whole boardwalk” he would say as the ride went higher and higher. I would agree with him how great it was, but my eyes were tightly closed the entire ride, so I couldn’t really describe to you here what it was like at all. I just know I was terrified. There are those of us who are brave enough to venture forth in this life and take risks, and those of us who are hard-wired for self-preservation. The same goes for deep water and food for that matter. I spent most of my days growing up trying not to be nauseous or dizzy.

But I loved the boardwalk and Hunt’s Pier. My favorite was the Pirate Ship. The SKUA was built in 1962 and was amazing. A lot of people didn’t know that it actually was built on a hydraulic system that allowed it to rock back and forth while you were walking through it. It was so cool. You walked through it and there were all of these neat pirate-related things inside of it. Galley, and floor effects that would make skeleton hands pop out of a box in front of you, a mirror maze, and even a tilted room, that was insane. It really felt like you were on a big boat out in the sea. You could even go out on the deck and see the whole pier and boardwalk. Not scary at all. Just a really awesome Disneyland-like experience. Thinking back, my favorite part of that attraction was the dungeon. The song, 15 men on a dead man’s chest, yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum, played on a loop in the background. It was really bizarre. It looked like a torture chamber. All animatronic characters that moved. There was this one character in the corner of the room. It was a blonde woman chained to a wall. The only thing she did was breathe. So when she moved you could see her robotic chest heaving through her ripped dress. Strangely erotic, but I was too young to know why I loved her, but I just did. Even as a child I loved the female form.

If a ride wasn’t too wild I would definitely try it. I liked the Whacky Shack and the Keystone Kops. You rode in little cars through them on a track and banged through doors and they had animatronic attractions inside. Based on amusement rides now, it was all very primitive, but we loved it all just the same. Some kids like the wild rides that go fast and high but don’t like rides that had primal scares in them. I had a high tolerance for visually scary rides and always liked horror movies. We all have different fears as children and they all manifest in unique ways.

The Golden Nugget Mine ride was probably the most awesome ride on the pier back then. It was a dark ride, which is sort of an enclosed rollercoaster with cool animatronic attractions inside. It was amazing. Depending on how I was feeling I might go on it.  I loved the southwestern desert, gold prospector theme, but it was a three-story ride that had two hills in it. I liked it because it had so many neat things in it, which were groundbreaking for the time. But that ride wouldn’t come into play until a decade later in my life.

Overall just lovely memories from our childhood. We would sometimes venture down to Sportland Pier and my dad and the girls would go on the Supersonic rollercoaster. Or up to Marine Pier, (Later called: Mariner’s Landing) to ride the Wild Mouse. They were both new German-built steel coasters that would be predecessors of what was to come for all rollercoasters. But like everything else, I wanted nothing to do with any of that stuff. Too afraid I’d throw up on it. I liked the dark ride called The Monster’s Den. It was a spooky ride without any hills or dips. If I remember correctly, you could ride, or walk through the attraction.

I was just happy to be there among all of that visual and audio excitement. It was like nothing else I’d ever seen before. I think my dad may have thought if I didn’t experience all of the things he knew were awesome, I’d somehow be missing out on something. He wanted to offer us all of the joy he felt. But if you don’t have any interest in doing something, there isn’t a loss. You’ll find fun doing something else. I didn’t want to feel the fearful rush of a thrill ride, I’d rather move through an attraction at my own pace and experience different feelings. Something I could control and manage.

It was really a wonderful time for our family. The classic 1960’s experience of piling the kids into the car and taking them to the seashore for a few days in the summer. Escape the heat and pollution of the city, and breathe that sweet sea air. Days frolicking on the beach and building drippy castles in the sand. Watching as the tide rolled in and the ocean once again reclaiming its property.

These fun times continued each summer through the late ’60s and into the ’70s when my dad bought a house at the shore and we got to stay down there all summer.

Hunt’s Pier already loomed large in our collective legend, but the real fun for me would come many years later. 

Take a stroll down memory lane with me and check out these links:

10 Rides You Miss From Hunt’s Pier

And as always, here’s a little song to close out this chapter.

Special thanks to Joe Doyle for his video work

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Hunt’s Pier – Prologue

Philadelphia Pa – Autumn, 2020

“Hunt’s Pier… I’m way up here and I don’t know how to get down there and be close enough to you. I don’t know if I can write about you. Look how far away I am from you now.”

I had been wanting to write this piece two years ago when I was writing Wildwood Daze. I actually made a post that said I couldn’t write about Hunt’s Pier because it was too big and rich a story. It still is. I just don’t think at the time I was ready to write it.

Hunt’s Pier is an amusement pier that stood for many years on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey. I’ll delve into some family at the seashore history and then get on with my experiences. I worked there on one of the rides for the 1980-1981 seasons. I’ll do my best to recall my memories from that time.

But here we are in the midst of a global crisis. I’m trapped at home. I’ve been in lockdown since March 2020. The last few years of my life have been one long social exploration. But here I was stuck at home. But there was income rolling in. So what does a creative soul do with that newfound freedom?

I write.

I publish Crazy Dating Stories. I write and publish Angel with a Broken Wing. I publish Phicklephilly 2, and then Sun Stories. I write a hard-boiled detective novel to be published in June. It was a very busy time creatively for me.

But as Autumn approached I could feel the darkness gliding in. All my books were done. There was about a month there where I had nothing to create or work on. My routine was broken.

Now what? I’m worried about my unemployment running out. The stimulus money has dried up. The fear is beginning to seep in. And so is its favorite mate. Depression.

It never got bad, and will never again. I’ve made an agreement with my anxiety and depression to stay in their rooms until further notice. But sometimes they find the keys to their rooms or slip out the door.

I know what to do when they come for me. Eat, get your rest, and make a new routine. But you have to do something to celebrate to drop that dopamine to keep you on the rails.

I think we all have put on a little Covid weight during this idle time. I know I did. I went up a pants size, and once I cut my hair and shaved off my beard I realized I’d chubbed up, but not in a good way.

I should go out and get some exercise. So I started to walk 5 miles a day, every day. It really hurt physically after being sedentary for 7 months. But I would go out and get my breakfast sandwich, and then head toward the Delaware River. It was 5 miles up and back from where I lived. I would create a pattern. I’ll walk different streets every day to keep it interesting. Market, Chestnut, Sansom, Walnut, Locust, and so on. You get the idea.

I did it and it really beat me up. But I kept at it.

Here’s what I found. I started to feel better mentally and physically and got better at both. I could feel the clouds in the sky of my mind beginning to clear.

My brain started to drop the endorphins, serotonin into my system. That stuff works and feels great. It just gave me more energy and a happier state of mind.

Because I felt better I started to want to create again. Something original. Something from my past. That would be easy. You’re not making any new memories, turn inward and search your memories for the stories you wanted to tell before and never could because you were too busy.

And I did.

Once I began writing the deeper stories I was rewarded with dopamine. My favorite drug in the world. I should get the chemical symbol tattooed on my body. The endorphins and serotonin from exercise gave me the happiness and energy to start again. The positive energy to venture into some classic memories locked away in the rooms of my mind.

I started to write and it really started to flow. Once I finished a classic piece I could feel the dopamine dropping, and it lit me up to go on.

So even during this dark time I found a way out of the grey sadness and turned it into a dozen colorful balloons. I’m just going to keep doing this until this pandemic ends.

Hunt’s Pier was reborn in me and I’ve made a solid effort to bring it to you starting this week. It will run every Thursday for the next couple of months.

I hope you like it. I just thought I should check-in and let you know.

If you’re feeling the darkness, there’s always a way to find your way back to the light.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Listen to Phicklephilly LIVE on Spotify!

Aerosmith – Part 3

Philadelphia, PA – 1977

The first time I heard a little bit of this album was over at my friend RJ’s house. I knew at that moment… I had to own it as soon as possible.

I think I bought this next record at Sam Goody records at the Roosevelt Mall in Philly before I went down the shore that year. I had the first album thanks to my older sister, I heard the second album thanks to my friend Mike, I owned Toys in the Attic, and now to collect the final piece of the Aerosmith catalog. This brings me to this masterpiece.

Aerosmith – Rocks – 1976

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocks_(Aerosmith_album)

Toys in the Attic is to A New Hope, as Rocks is to The Empire Strikes Back.

This is my first choice for desert island records. There are obviously others, but this is the album I’d reach for first if the ship was sinking and I was going to be stranded on a desert island. To me, this the finest work by the band. They have reached their creative zenith and playing. They are one of the certified platinum hard rock acts of the decade. This is what they’ve been building to. A rough house rock album, fueled by rage and drugs. Just an amazing watershed moment in the band’s history. This is the quintessential Aerosmith original recording.

Or as I used to call it… The Soundtrack to My Life.

I listened to this album every day for two years straight. I literally played it so much it lost some of its fidelity because the stylus was dragged through the delicious grooves on the vinyl created by this glorious band. This record is the crown jewel to the soundtrack of my young teenage life. There is no other recording at the time that makes me feel the way this record made me feel in the summer of 1977. It felt as though Aerosmith had recorded every song just for me as a thank you for my loyalty.

Rocks is a love letter to me to tell me that I will survive puberty and will be okay. “We know how you’re feeling, Chaz. We know it feels weird, and it hurts. We know you want everything now. So do we. Let’s get there together through these songs. Take this metal medicine every day, and you’ll get better. Life will get better for you. We’ll never hurt you. We’ll never betray you. We’ll never give you a hangover. We’ll never cheat on you or break up with you. We’ll never scold or hit you. We’re your band. We’re the boys from Boston. We’re Aerosmith, and we belong to you.

I’ll tell you what… I’m not going to do this one track by track. I don’t need to. This record is their finest work, and no matter what anyone says, it is.

This album makes a singular statement. “Aerosmith. Rocks.”

And rock they do, sir.

Oh, and of course I had to buy this belt buckle and wear it every day!

If you can see it, it says 1977 on it so you know it’s legit!

Here’s a pic of my older sister and me. As you can clearly see from this old photo, I’m wearing not only an Aerosmith t-shirt, I’m wearing the very belt buckle I just showed you!

Okay, let’s move on.

Wildwood, NJ – 1977

Things had changed for the better for me. The nightmare of Fels Junior High was over and I was heading down the shore for the summer. Things were looking up for me.

I was on the boardwalk one day. I was probably just wandering around with my next-door neighbor. There was a cool store that was down by Marine Pier called The Fun Shop.

The Fun Shop was probably one of the most unique stores on the boardwalk. It had magic tricks, T-shirts, jewelry, music, and other cool junk for sale. Think Hot Topic before there was a Hot Topic. We were in there looking at some cool black and white prints of celebrities and bands. I was deeply in love with the actress from Charlie’s Angels, Farrah Fawcett, and of course all things Aerosmith.

What I didn’t realize at the time was probably all of their merch and memorabilia was bootleg stuff. The word “bootleg” originates from the practice of smuggling illicit items in the legs of tall boots, particularly the smuggling of alcohol during the American Prohibition era. The word, over time, has come to refer to any illegal or illicit product.

boot·leg
/ˈbo͞otˌleɡ/
adjective
  1. (especially of liquor, computer software, or recordings) made, distributed, or sold illegally.
    “bootleg cassettes”
noun
  1. 1.
    an illegal musical recording, especially one made at a concert.
    The only access we had to celebrities back then was television, movies, and magazines. That’s it. No internet and no social media. Celebrities and rockstars lived on an exclusive planet in our galaxy that we mere mortals could only look upon in limited places. I bought a few photos of Farrah to hang on my wall and a cool photo of Aerosmith.
    But I saw a rack of record albums by artists I was familiar with but not the albums. A two album set by Led Zeppelin called Moby Dick. A Rolling Stones record called Garden State, and the album pictured below.

Aerosmith – Look Homeward Angel – 1976

If you look closely it’s obvious it’s a bootleg. It’s not released by the band. It’s a concert recorded at Madison Square Garden in NYC. It’s on Fantasy Discos, not their label which was clearly Columbia at the time. Luis Martinez is not Jack Douglas.  Aerosmith isn’t recording any albums in Guatemala City. This product is a rip-off made by somebody to make money off the band. They wouldn’t see one cent from the sales of this record. All of the songs are from the 1975 tour to support Toys in the Attic. Because even though their next album was already out, there are no songs from that new record. This is a pure bootleg, through and through.

But to me, anything Aerosmith was something I had to own. The album was only five bucks. I didn’t really know what bootlegging and piracy was back then. I just wanted more rock by a band I loved. So I bought it and took it home.

To be honest, I loved this album. It’s not a bad recording and I got to hear Aerosmith play live for the first time. It was exciting and new to me. I played the hell out of this album and liked it as much as all of their albums. The second side is what really struck me about this record. The live rendition of Train Kept a Rollin’ is spectacular. It’s a furious explosion of hard rock live magic being performed by a great band. On a live recording, you’re lucky if you get those little improvisational extras you can’t get on a studio recording. Near the end of Train, Joe Perry just starts jamming the theme from Batman, the 1966 TV show. I went bananas. I loved that show as a child, and to hear my idol Joe Perry start playing Batman during one of their songs live was just sweet heaven. They close out the song and then burst into Toys in the Attic, which blows away the studio track. It’s so incendiary that it makes the original sound tame.

So even though at 14 years old I’m guilty of buying a bootleg record of Aerosmith, I loved it and it brought me hours of aural joy for many years.

I found this recently on YouTube. This to me really captures the band I fell in love with over 45 years ago. Just glorious!

Thank you, Gods of Rock!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, share, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1