Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Ronnie Lane ARMS Benefit Concert - 12/8/83

Concert of the Year indeed. Though, by the time these shows were happening 1983 was just about a done deal. The Ronnie Lane ARMS Benefit concert at Madison Square Garden in New York was the first real big concert I ever went to. I was 13. My cousins took me and it was a thrill to say the least. I owe my parents a big thanks for this too since I was running a terrible fever that day - over 100 to be sure. In spite of being sick as a dog they let me go anyway. I was dressed for cold December weather, but it was HOT inside the Garden! I was sweating so profusely that by the time the show was over, my fever broke and, since it was a Thursday night - I went to school the next day - a real rock and roll cure! Heh heh! I regret not getting one of the concert programs so I made sure I got the Rolling Stone issue with the "cast" on the front cover.

I didn't really have a clear idea who Ronnie Lane was at the time. His last high profile appearances in the United States were with the Faces, but he'd quit them back in '74 or so. While trying to crank up a respectable British-based solo career Ronnie came down with MS. By the late 70s, he was nearly broke and in pretty dire circumstances. The first benefit shows happened in England, but I certainly didn't know much about it. It was supposed to be a one-off at the Royal Albert Hall. Eventually a radio show of this event made the rounds on the King Biscuit Flower Hour (which I dutifully taped off the air). The idea to take the act to the states (New York and LA) sprung from how much fun it was for all involved - as well as Ronnie's need.

Supposedly, the money generated by the shows got screwed up in legalities. A bit of a shame, but it is worth noting that Ronnie Lane managed to live and thrive for many years afterward despite the debilitating nature of his disease. As it happens, the December 8th show was also the three year anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. If you watch the video of the show below and advance to about 53 minutes in, you can catch Jeff Beck's dedication of "People Get Ready" to Lennon. It was a pretty cool moment. Beck would later record this song on his next album with Rod Stewart on vocals. This didn't get released until 1985 but I was glad he decided to put it out since the memory of hearing it live was a strong one.

Beck wasn't the only guy to find a little inspiration from these shows. The December 8th show also marked the return, however tentative, of Jimmy Page to the American stage. I recall his appearance being highly anticipated and ultimately somewhat tempered by a loose-ish performance. Having Paul Rogers with him was a big help. I reckon Page thought the same since they would go on to form The Firm the following year.

Speaking of The Firm - although the song "Radioactive" was not the strongest thing in the world, it was still cool to see Page together with Paul Rogers doing something new. Many year later, I couldn't help notice how The Firm's drummer Chris Slade cut a striking resemblance to Spirit drummer Ed Cassidy in the cranial department - bald drummer! My suspicion was re-confirmed when I replayed the first track of The Firm's debut album - "Closer". Listen here:
Did you hear that distinctive guitar riff? Have a listen to where they got it from.........a 1968 Spirit track called "Poor Richard" from their Family That Plays Together album:

In any case, The Ronnie Lane Benefit was a great concert. Here's my ticket stub:
And now with the magic of youtube - we can see and hear most of that very show:

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