How I came to be at the Mott the Hoople 74 Concert
I very recently attended the Mott the Hoople 74 concert at the Chicago Theatre on April 3, 2019. I had purchased the tickets the day they went on sale, fearful of the show being quickly sold out. By the time I got online that day, many of the tickets had indeed been sold, even with hefty asking prices of $79 and more. I was fortunate enough to secure two ducats on the main floor, far left side, row J. I didn’t know who would want to go with me to the show, but I knew that I would at least gain admission into the venue.
It has been some time since I have felt compelled to go see a concert with such high ticket prices. While I did not even give a second thought at the time of purchase, I just recently did give some thought as to why I felt so compelled.
It begins decades ago, in the days of my late teen years and even earlier. It was, as for so many of us, the best of times and the worst of times. With the threshold of puberty finally crossed, there was a greater interest to do more with others in my peer group, especially after discovering that girls weren’t all bad. Coming from a strong ethnic upbringing, in this case Lithuanian, there had always been contact with girls as many in our Chicago south side community belonged to the Lithuanian Catholic parishes, attended school on Saturdays to become inculcated in all things Lithuanian, including language, literature, history, geography, folk dancing and singing. There were also the Lithuanian Sports leagues, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and other organizations, all of which were populated by children of parents and grandparents that had immigrated under difficult conditions to the US after the Second World War. With the belief that there would soon be an international intervention to free nations that were swallowed up by the Soviet empire, the elders did all they could to keep the culture and language alive until that day arrived.
While emancipation took longer than expected (finally occurring in 1991), the ethnic community flourished, not only in Chicago, but also in other cities across the US and Canada, where many had been attracted in search of jobs and a decent living. Among them, in addition to Chicago, were Detroit, Cleveland, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Montreal. In each of these cities existed all or many of the cultural and social organizations.
One of these organizations was the Lithuanian Cultural Federation “Ateitis” (literally: future). Members were called “Ateitininkai” (followers of the future). The foundation started Camp Dainava (near Manchester, MI, named after an ancient hilltop fortress) in the mid-1950’s and each summer runs various youth-based sessions, all of which revolve around strengthening the Catholic faith while maintaining Lithuanian culture and language. While that was the stated agenda, when the teen camp had it’s 2-week session, there were other things on the minds and loins of the participants. Camp Dainava was a melting pot of youth, as it drew participants from many cities around the US and Canada. Most notable among these were Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit, all geographically closest to the camp, all with relatively healthy memberships in the organization (although being a member of “Ateitis” was not a prerequisite for admission.).
During the middle weekend of the teen camp, the program directors always planned a youth dance. Teens pooled together their record albums; others brought stereo gear and speakers. The youth of Cleveland were particularly savvy when it came to new music, being blessed with the radio station WMMS, at that time (and in retrospect) one of the most cutting-edge stations of the day, spinning a huge variety of music other, mostly shunning the Top 40 hits of the day. The closest to this station that I know of is WXRT in Chicago, especially in its earliest days, when ratings mattered little but music quality and diversity mattered much.
And so it was that I was invited to crash the dance in 1974, along with three other friends who were not Ateitininkai either. We drove out of Chicago on Friday afternoon and survived the crush of eastbound traffic headed for Indiana, Michigan and beyond. We arrived at the camp just as the music was getting started. The Cleveland contingent controlled the platters. Among them: Changes One by David Bowie, The Hoople by Mott the Hoople, the Velvet Underground & Nico and Roxy Music. We received an education in what was later referred to as “Glam Rock” that night.
This was the first time I heard Mott classics “Golden Age of Rock n Roll” and “Roll Away the Stone”, “Rebel, Rebel” and “Suffragette City” by Bowie. It was a perfect storm of music, people and venue that created a life-long memory that has stayed with me to this very day. I’m sure each of us has had that moment when the first notes or chords of a song just wash over you and make you FEEL.
The hours following the dance were anticlimactic. No hook-ups with the good Catholic girls were to be had. Flaming shots of 151 rum left one of our group with second-degree blisters on his face. Others suffered nearly as much drinking a very potent and super-sweet concoction of Hawaiian Punch powder dispersed in 151 rum. Don’t remember where we slept as unregistered campers, just feeling groggy as we departed the next morning. One of the Cleveland guys lent us a mix tape with much of the Glam Rock we had heard the night before.
So, it was many of these memories (the good, the bad and the ugly) that flooded my consciousness as I waited for Mott the Hoople to hit the stage on April 3, 2019. It was their first tour of the US since 1974. Chicago was the third of the only eight dates across the Midwest and east coast on this tour, which Ian Hunter intimated would be his last. I feel lucky to have seen a musical icon of my youth.
One of the last comments that Ian Hunter uttered at the very end of the two-song encore was how he remembered his first show in Chicago, at the Aragon Ballroom in 1970, when Mott the Hoople opened for Ten Years After and B.B. King. As it turns out, my significant other on our ride home recalled seeing B.B. King with some high school friends at the Aragon that year and did not even realize who the opening acts were! She beat me to seeing Mott by four decades. Funny how things work out…
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Dead Freddie Utility Back-Up Hosts Livestream!
Regina Ramanauskas, part of the “resurrected” Dead Freddie in 2012, is also a solo artist in their own right. They remain the emergency back-up guitarist and bassist for Dead Freddie, their last activity with the band coming in August 2016, as bassist for the show at Beachland Ballroom Tavern in Cleveland, OH. Regina (AKA “RJ”) hosted numerous Facebook livestreams during the 2020 lockdown and decided to do one after quite some time on 18 December 2021. This livestream, titled “Emo Night Before Christmas” was different in that it emanated from the festively decorated kitchen of their parents. A joy to watch them in action. Donatas guested on jingle bells for a couple of tunes-Oh what fun it is to ride…
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