Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Swedish American of the Year, 2016, and Forever!

It's the day that Nils Lofgren was born, in Chicago, Illinois. If you go to Chicago, go to 2120 South Michigan Avenue. That's as good a place as any, to start when looking for a soul man. And Nils Lofgren has soul down to his....well you know. Soul deep? Nils Lofgren.

I can't tell you anything new about Nils. We all know the story. Child prodigy, accordion, gymnast, guitarist, activist, mentor, teacher, youtuber, twitterer, hip as hell, first best second guitarist, and sometimes he's the third first best guitarist; I could do this all day. It's what I think of when I think of Nils Lofgren.

And what is wonderful to me is that he has remained Nils Lofgren throughout all those phases of his career. What is also wonderful is that I was at the Roxy, Sunset, Hollywood, CA, the night Nils recorded "Night After Night." Nearly 700 people in a 500 seat club. When Nils asks for 600 people to clap along I think he was short a bit. I wonder who counted the door? 

Not Nils.

That night in LA he was on the "I Came to Dance," tour, and the band was tight. I wanted to be a guitar player and a former friend said if I wanted to be a guitar player we needed to go see Nils at the Roxy. What he really wanted was a ride to LA but a free concert. Why not?

He played me "I Came To Dance," and explained Nils background carefully. I listened but my guitar playing prowess at this time was mostly listening, and playing very little. I had a very expensive and cool guitar though, so we compromised. Then he told me he plays with a thumb pick and a reverend was the keyboard player.

I remember thinking, a reverend? OK what's going on here? But it was the Roxy, summertime, Hollywood. How could I not go? I went, and drove. I had just turned 18 and they asked me for id, and then stamped my hand and face with a thing that said, "No Booze." Love LA, from a distance, like you love rouge on a scar.

But then when we were were inside it was packed. Nils was it those nights in LA. Elton, and others have come to LA, and it's pushed them over the top. From Topanga with Neil Young to that night on Sunset Blvd. Nils was the king of LA, guitars, and cool on that night.

And it was hot. 700 plus people in a possibly 500 seat club, when Cher left Gene Simmons home. Look it up people, I'm not a guide or Google. I am lucky. I lived it, so I remember. I remember so well. Like it was yesterday, instead of the year I got out of high school.

Davey Johnstone, of the aforementioned Elton John Band, sat near us, by himself, dark glasses, stealing the ashtrays faster than the waitresses could get them back on the tables around him. He had a bag with him that Seinfeld would have called "European," and he was stuffing that sucker.

Until some waitress had enough and called him out on it. He immediately took off those dark shades and said:"Don't you know who I am?" She did, and she killed him in one sentence in front of about 50 people. She said: "You're another asshole stealing the ashtrays. Cut it out."

LA Roxy, 1977, summer, kill or be killed. He left pretty soon after that and we took his table to get a bit closer. The heat from 700 people was starting to make the walls sweat. By the end of the night the whole audience was sweated to the bone. Sweaty, and happy.

A word about guitar playing. Al Kooper played the organ on "Like A Rolling Stone," by accident. In his biography he describes watching Bloomfield walk in with his Strat, without the case, covered in snow, and he plugs in and kills. Kooper thinking he might get a shot puts his guitar away and sits at the organ, and the rest is birthday fodder.

When Nils came out to play that night I thought, well I'm never going to be able to do that so now what? I decided I would become a writer. "Mostly letters and such," as Clint Eastwood said in "Unforgiven." I have come to dance and say I was there. I was part of history.

On "Night After Night," he sang about going to "Star Wars," it had opened in May, and like Nils did, that bad boy went to a whole other universe. I have worked security, ground and helicopter, written about music, been some great places to see music, play guitar still, and cannot express what this man means to my life. He is so important.

Like rain.