Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More On Rick Nelson / Garden Party

We received a few responses to our Rick Nelson / Garden Party piece the other day ... here's what some of you have had to say:

>>>When Rick took the stage with his Stone Canyon Band, people didn't recognize him because he had looooong hair and looked nothing like the little Ricky that they remembered from the TV show. (Wild Bill Cody)
Sort of ... but the way I remember it, it wasn't the long hair ... it was showing up at an oldies show and not getting into the spirit of it.
Sha Na Na, around the same time, started doing shows at colleges with the students all 'greasing up' and rediscovering the 'old days' and the 'old' music ... For Rick, a few old songs with a few newer ones thrown in might have been accepted with less of a negative crowd reaction. In addition, Rick (formerly Ricky), was dressed in a neck-to-toes sequined outfit with armpit-to-wrist sequined tassels that hung when he 'spread - his - wings' ... he was dressed like Liberace at a funeral director's club meeting.
Rick was readily recognized from his head and voice, and 'settled-down' the more 'wild' look, at least for when he did a club swing thru Wildwood, NJ every summer ... MEMORIES MIGHT NOT BE ALL HE SANG, BUT THAT CONCERT WAS DEVOTED TO MEMORIES ... It was a really big venue not available to him anymore, but not the venue for what he wanted to do ... HE TOOK A SHOT !
I had an older sister, so Ricky was around our house alot ... (tv and music).
Later (for me) ... it might have been college ... I remember him being thought of as a 'dick' for trying to promote the 'new' Rick ... and not going with the theme ... and then we all got on board and loved him for 'pissing' on the 'old' us that criticized him ... lol
ps - 'Little' RICKY was a grown man by the end of OZZIE & HARRIET ... he graduated college on the show. Of course, he grew up on the show, but I think more people remembered him as an adult than as a kid.

Here's an interesting angle to the whole Madison Square Garden "booing theory" that I hadn't heard before ... I just found this on a website called "The Straight Dope", which claims to be "Fighting Ignorance Since 1973" (and then, in parentheses ... just like THESE ... states "It's Taking Longer Than We Thought"!!! lol)
In October 1971 Rick was invited to play in a reunion show at Madison Square Garden, alongside such early rock luminaries as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard and others. By this time, his hair had grown shoulder length and he was heavily into the country rock genre. When he mixed in new material with his old music, the audience began to boo.
Whether it was really their reaction to their idol's new look and sound, or, as one report states, ". . . there were reports that police were in the back moving people out, and in the political spirit of the early 70's, the crowd was actually booing the police activity," Rick felt the crowd was booing him.
He wrote about the experience: "I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends / A chance to share old memories and play our songs again. / When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name / No one recognized me, I didn't look the same."
Rick realized at that point that he had to be true to himself. Hence the chorus of the song: "I learned my lesson well. You see, you can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself."
I hadn't heard that the crowd might actually be booing somebody or something OTHER than Nelson ... so that's an interesting new angle to think about! Again, either way, it inspired Ricky to write one of the biggest hits of his career ... so SOME good certainly came out of this whole experience!!! (kk)

(LP Cover ... Click to enlarge photos)

I have to comment on Ricky Nelson and Garden Party.
Fans paid money to hear their favorite pre-Beatles era artists sing their hit songs. It might have been OK for Rick to sing maybe one newer song but he was really pushing the envelope in attempting more.
This was billed as a Rock And Roll Revival. The 20,000 people wanted to hear oldies. Rick was probably the only artist performing that didn't quite get it.
There are millions of truck drivers who could only dream of playing MSG. Rick should have been thankful for the opportunity.

I've heard literally DOZENS of interviews with Rick Nelson after the Madison Square Garden Concert ... and you are absolutely correct ... he totally DIDN'T get it ... and has admitted as much all along.
Nelson wasn't one of the artists typically invited to these Oldies Revival Shows ... and, since he had been playing all along with his Stone Canyon Band (featuring an odd "oldie" here and there as part of his act ... including a somewhat "countrified" version of "Hello Mary Lou"), he REALLY didn't know what to expect ... or fully understand what the crowd had come to hear. (Ironically, a decade later his stage show was virtually non-stop back-to-back oldies hits, very true to their original arrangements ... and Ricky's voice truly did improve with age.) As stated above, the GOOD news his that one of the biggest songs of his entire career came out of the experience. (Nelson wasn't really known for writing his own material ... so this was a nice bonus as well!)
Here's Rick's 1969 "Live At The Troubadour" recording of "Hello Mary Lou", giving you some idea as to what he was regularly sounding like back then (kk):

And here are those handwritten lyrics I told you about that first appeared as the back cover to Nelson's "Garden Party" LP back in 1972:

Rick's handwritten lyrics to his big comeback song ... click to enlarge photo

I was surprised to find an article that Rick's son Gunnar wrote for the "Chicken Soup For The Soul" book series ... a piece regarding "Garden Party"!!! You can read the whole thing right here: