We piled into Roto’s van and drove to a little town about 10 miles west of ours to play in a basketball tournament. Our team was a bunch of guys from the two-year University of Wisconsin campus in Wausau, our hometown. (We took the consolation title, thank you.)
Our buddy Roto — so nicknamed because his dad had the local Roto-Rooter business — was one of the craziest guys I ever met. He would do anything anytime, say anything anytime and seemingly never think or worry about the consequences. Roto and I remain friends, and after 33 years he has only slightly mellowed.
Time — and all the beer and whiskey we drank that weekend — have left it a bit of a hazy mystery, but I know Roto was there, I was there and our buddy Joe was there. Quite possibly the late, great Wildo, too.
We had Roto’s van, which was modestly tricked out with carpeting in the style of the day. Roto’s van also had an 8-track tape player at the heart of its stereo system. I recall one — and only one — tape from that wild weekend. We played it loud, played it often and sang along to it. I suspect there was some headbanging involved. You’ll see why.
“Deuce,” “Strutter,” “Got To Choose,” “Hotter Than Hell” and “Firehouse,” KISS, from “Alive!” 1975. It’s Side 1 of the great double live album recorded mostly in Detroit but also in Wildwood, New Jersey, and Davenport, Iowa. It runs 17:59.
This is the way I ripped my old vinyl. One long take. There’s no point in listening to it any other way.
When we listened so long ago, there was a distinct clack between each of the sides. You know the clack. It may have been the 8-track player. It may have our heads hitting the side of the van as we passed out.
I can still hear Roto reminding us that he was “hhhhhott-ah than hell” during the tournament. Doubtful.
I can still hear Roto, Joe and Wildo cheering Paul Stanley during the intro to “Cold Gin” on Side 3: “All right, I got a little question for all you. I wanna know! How many people here like to take the taste of alcohol?”
At that time, we did. A hazy memory, but a good one.