Although there have been MANY high watermarks along our almost 50-year path, one could argue that the summer of 1976 was the pinnacle of Orleans‘ impact on the pop/rock music landscape. The top-5 radio success of Dance With Me in 1975 and the resultant Melissa Manchester tour moved the ball well downfield, but it was the success of Still the One in mid-1976 and the summer tour opening for Asylum label-mate, Jackson Browne, that carried it into the end zone.
This footage comes from one such gig on that tour … October 15th, 1976 at The Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ.
In the winter of 1975-76 we decided to expand yet again, from quartet to quintet. Wells had been increasingly frustrated by not being able to get out from behind the drum set and play more keyboards and, so, we added drummer Jerry Marotta. Now world-famous himself, Jerry is the younger brother of famed drummer, Rick Marotta (both guys are worth Googling!) but, at 18 years old, this was his dream gig come true (according to him).
With that 5-piece lineup, we headed into the studio and created the Waking & Dreaming album, most famous for the controversial shirtless cover as well as containing Still the One (and Reach, Spring Fever, etc). With the release of that album, we were ready to do our best to conquer the world, by opening to Jackson!
Now, I must admit that MOST gigs blur together over time … UNLESS something happens that makes one stand out in particular. This show was such a gig experience. Let me try to paint you some word pictures …
In those days, we had crew guys (and girls) who traveled by bus while the sizeable amount of PA and stage gear rode in semi trucks. Drivers generally worked doing overnight runs from one town to another while the rest of us slept. Searching my often-faulty memory, it seems to me that we (the band) were using rental cars at this particular point, traveling by day.
For a few days prior, we had been doing a “dartboard” tour, going from, let’s say, Rochester NY to Boston and then back to Syracuse and so on … Even the drivers got worn out doing that!
I forget where we were exactly on the night of October 14th, but I know it got crazy!
We had a road manager … let’s call him Warren. Warren was a veteran of both Rock ‘n’ Roll touring AND the military (Marines, I think). He was great at his job but also a bit of a loose cannon and, on that night, the cannons roared!
On the morning of the 15th, no one got a wakeup call (this was pre-cell phones, of course). Each of us eventually stumbled out of our rooms, wondering what was going on. Where’s Warren? We knocked on his door … no answer … called the hotel room phone … no answer … called, knocked, again and again. No answer.
That night we were to play in Passaic NJ and had a long drive ahead of us. So we got in our cars and took off towards the gig. Turns out, we arrived FIRST at the venue! Huh!?!?
En route overnight, at least one (and I think two?) of the trucks had broken down. So the PA and the stage gear was not yet at the venue and didn’t arrive until mid-afternoon (for what would usually be an early/mid-morning load in). Right away, the whole show was behind the 8-ball and in jeopardy of not happening! And what about Warren?!?!?!?!
Well, it was about 4:00 when Warren arrived. I forget how he got himself there, but I clearly remember him walking on stage, looking like something the cat dragged in, asking, “So … where are we at?” … as if nothing had happened to him and he was there to fully take charge of the situation. Ha!
Turns out he had some kind of yarn to spin that had something to do with a briefcase full of cash handcuffed to his wrist, some alcohol (and whatever else) and a couple of hookers (for him, not us :-). WOW! At least the briefcase was locked!
In miraculous fashion, the crew worked their butts off and the show came off pretty much on time … short on soundchecks, I’m sure. Nevertheless, the show must go on!
Apparently, the Capitol Theater made a habit of videotaping ALL performances there, utilizing a multi-camera setup. Black and white and terribly grainy by today’s standards, yes … but at least they captured those fleeting, otherwise irretrievable moments for posterity.
I was first made aware of the existence of this footage many years ago by someone who had worked on that video crew. It then became a part of the available library at the memorabilia website, Wolfgang’s Vault, as they had purchased rights to all the video content from the Theater (that’s a whole ‘nuther story).
Now, I have to say that I’m sure that this was by far NOT our best performance from that tour or time period. Some of the vocals are pretty dodgy, probably due in part to “road fatigue.” My bass solo is a vague idea looking for some chops to go with it. And I’d guess that Larry’s overly animated performance was fueled by something other than too much coffee.
But it’s maybe the only video capture of its kind in existence and, for that, I’m grateful. Kind of like a semi-embarrassing home movie that, on balance, you’re glad was filmed.
You may have seen parts of this show at different times. We’ve had these 8 tracks up on our YouTube Channel separately for a long time now, but this is the first time it’s all being presented together as one piece.
Unique highlights include renderings of Waking & Dreaming itself (rarely played since) … What I Need, which has John and Jerry doing a choreographed dance routine during the preamble jam … If I Don’t Have You, with John sans guitar, singing perched on a stool …
Lastly, it’s worth noting that we opened for Jackson, but it was Valerie Carter … cute as a button and soulful as they come … who opened for us. I admit to being smitten at the time, which proved to be a fool’s errand. She would go on to become one of James Taylor‘s backup singers for many, many years.
It was her drummer, Sam Cox, who you’ll see on congas.