Boom shaka laka laka by the lake

Depending on your passion, today was a day chock full of anticipation.

If you dig the Green Bay Packers, as many in these parts do, you likely enjoyed getting the first glimpse of the preseason schedule. Though preseason football is unwatchable, it means the season is that much closer.

If you dig music and beer, as many in these parts do, you likely enjoyed getting the first glimpse at the headliners for all the side stages at Summerfest. That’s the huge festival on the lakefront in Milwaukee.

In each case, you learn what you’ll be seeing, but not when.

There’s a fair amount of wishful thinking that goes into perusing that Summerfest list. Of the 63 side stage acts — Summerfest casts a wide net — only three or four look interesting.

I’d drive a couple of hours and put up with thousands of people to see Buddy Guy and Lewis Black, and to see whatever constitutes the Spinners and Morris Day and the Time these days.

Some of the acts I’ve seen: Billy Idol, Dr. John and Pat Benatar (all of whom I’d see again) and Alice Cooper, Styx and the Eagles (all of whom I’d pass on, unless Alice was playing his straight-up rock show minus the Halloween theatrics).

I’m most stoked for our son Evan. Three of his fave bands — Bad Religion, Social Distortion and Dropkick Murphys — are among the side stage headliners. It’s fun to see him digging it, but Pops must observe from a respectable distance these days. I get that. Maybe his experience will be like mine once was.

Thirty years ago, we saw Tina Turner on a side stage at Summerfest. She was just 43, but was considered an oldies act. She had split from Ike Turner, had no record contract and was touring with two backup singers.

Yet on that night, on that side stage in the middle of the Summerfest grounds, it was wild. To call her show sizzling or scorching or incendiary doesn’t do it justice. It was insane. You couldn’t believe what you were seeing and hearing.


“Ball of Confusion,” Tina Turner, 1982. It’s a single culled from “B.E.F.: Music of Quality and Distinction, Volume 1,” a British comp on which Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh of Heaven 17 did duets with a variety of partners. The LP is out of print but the single is available digitally.

Maybe we heard this. Hard to say. That long-ago night is a blur.

This Temptations cover became a top-5 hit in Norway in 1982. That got Turner a record deal in the UK. She and the gents from Heaven 17 then covered Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” a top-10 hit in the UK in 1983. That got her a record deal in the States. “Private Dancer” followed in 1984, and the rest is history.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.



Filed under April 2013, Sounds

3 responses to “Boom shaka laka laka by the lake

  1. jb

    In recent years Summerfest has gotten to be like the little girl with the curl: when it’s good it’s very good, and when it’s bad it’s horrid. There’s been a change in philosophy since the years when Bo Black was running it, and not for the good. That list of headliners is impressive, but almost all of them will go on at the same time–9, 9:30, or 10:00 at night. Used to be you’d see some of them earlier in the evening, or even in the late afternoon. We’ve got tickets for Tom Petty this year, and if there’s somebody we really want to see afterward, we’ll hang around–but our inclination is generally to get off the grounds before 9:00, when the crowds start to border on unmanageable.

    And you kids get off my lawn.

  2. My uncle lives in lives in Milwaukee and is a big fan of Summerfest. He has invited me to come visit him during Summerfest many times but I have not made the leap yet.

    I just looked at the list of headliners and I see that there are quite a few artists that I grew up with on there. (Billy Idol, REO Speedwagon, and Styx just to name a few.)

    This just might be the year that I take my uncle up on his offer and have my very first Summerfest experience.

  3. Alice Cooper? Billy Idol? Tom Petty? I think I am reliving high school. Pretty solid lineup.

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