Sunday, July 2, 2017
Chrissie Hynde on Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels
A passage from Chrissie Hynde's autobiography Reckless about one of the first Rock & Roll gigs she ever saw.
'The day at Chippewa Lake Park was, in some ways, the beginning of this story. Never mind the rides and watching fairground workers, the 'fine guys' who looked dangerous and worldly, there was something even better happening on that auspicious day. Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels were playing, and for me, life was about to change again.
Guitarist Jim McCarty, within the space of two songs, dismantled, rebuilt, and changed my entire outlook on the world. He was a true guitar hero - the first I'd seen in the flesh. I felt what every teenaged boy did when getting the bug. From that day on I regraded rock guitar as the pinnacle of life on earth. The fact that I was a girl was irrelevant; the notion of being like McCarty was about a million miles out of my league anyway.
Mitch Ryder himself was a superlative singer in the then new mode of 'white soul'. He was a mesmerising showman in his blousy pirate shirt and dress pants, his belt buckle slung to the side, resting provocatively on his hip bone. Slinky. He looked as sleazy as the guys working the bumper cars but had a voice implying lots of experience - experience I didn't have. These guys were men.
I was utterly entranced watching them when, suddenly, mid-song, confusion derailed the performance and a fight broke out. A fight between band members! It was an out and out punch up - the likes of which I'd only seen in bar-room brawls on Have Gun - Will Travel. I was shocked but found the fisticuffs as compelling as the music. Everything about the show was raw and dangerous and real. The music was manly and tough, the fight was the cherry on top.
I begged my friends to stay on for the evening performance, so we goofed around the fairground looking at guys and greaser girls who we admiringly called 'Rips', until it was time for the second show.
The sun went down and the fairground rides lit up the sky in what remains surely the most perfect of backdrops for any rock show as the band took the stage. The band didn't disappoint the second time around, but then, halfway through the set, things got tense, Another fight was about to .... hang on a minute ..... what the ....? It was staged!
I'd been totally duped. The fight was staged! How cool - how totally cool! Oh, how I loved a good con. That sealed it. There would be no turning back for me. I didn't really imagine that I would ever get in a band, but I was now eternally devoted to the idea.'