1983: A Tale of Two Concerts


I’m a bit behind on these blog posts, but what the hell, I don’t want the decade’s worth of podcasts to go by too fast. The 1980s flew past too quickly the first time. Here's the Banzai Retro Club podcast on the Best New Wave Albums of 1983 : https://banzairetroclub.podbean.com/e/episode-83-favorite-1983-new-wave-albums/


This was a year when the excitement of traveling back and forth between two worlds, college and home, was palpable. It gave me something to look forward to in both venues. Becoming more of an authentic, worldly New Wave aficionado was a mission for many of us, and post-punk culture was still on the rise. One thing that scored you big New Wave Brownie Points was to notch your belt with a new concert.


In the summer 1983, I packed my best friend into my father’s Mercury Bobcat and drove farther than I ever had in my whole life… past the Nassau County border and into Queens. I braved the Grand Central Parkway—a wild stretch of raised concrete highway with ugly billboards and stand-still traffic. We were on the way to the now-defunct Shea Stadium, before The Mets won the big ball of wax in 1986. Before the building showed-off neon depictions of players along the sides of its curved walls. Before it was ultimately stuffed full of dynamite and blown to bits in favor of Citi Field.


The Police were playing there.


Despite having no experience with urban borough roadways, and despite being rear-ended twice in the stop-and-go traffic, we made it to the concert. We were almost an hour late. We missed both warm up bands, which were Joan Jett and REM, before I even knew who REM was. Sting, Stewart, and Andy were just introducing themselves when we finally located out seats, which were in true Adirondack nosebleed territory. We were so far to the back of the stadium that there was a significant lag between the sound we were hearing and the mouths that were moving on the big screens below us. It was like watching the concert from an airplane approaching LaGuardia.


But it was The Police. And even now when I see footage of that well-documented Synchronicity tour, I recognize the raggedly colorful jacket that Sting wore as the breeze forced the streamers on his sleeves to flap and curl like tongues around him . I remember the jumping and the sweating on the stage and the teeming crowd. I remember 45,000 people singing every word to “Roxanne” simultaneously, like a mass prayer, complete with candle-like flames glowing in a stadium-wide spray of Bic lighters.


It was fucking historic.


And that night, unbeknownst to us spectators, as Sting looked out on us, with our merch T-shirts and New Wave striped tank tops and black boots and puffed-up hair, he decided that he had done it all. He had played Shea Stadium like the Beatles and had gone as far as he could go with his current band. And as the media had been forecasting for years (but my heart ignored), he would leave Stewart and Andy in the machine-produced billows of smoke and go solo.


The Police were done.


It was also a year of hurrying home during school breaks to parties with “The Guys From Port Jeff,” as me and my best friend had come to call them—that group of guys I had met the summer before and started cruising around to New Wave clubs with. I'd show up at get togethers at their houses clutching U2's new "War" album, offering it up like a precious gem, saying, "You gotta listen to this."


My best buddy had fallen in love with one of the guys in the group, who unfortunately shipped-out to fill an Army air traffic control position in Greenland--the start of a tortuous long-long-LONG distance relationship. But his friends were still a riot, and one rather hysterical member of that group carted me off during Thanksgiving break in his dad’s borrowed Corvette to see The Ramones (again) at one of the most famous punked-out clubs in New York City: The Ritz. It would be my first live Manhattan show.


So what if the car did a 180 on an overpass in Queens because we were pushing past the speed limit on a patch of black ice with the B52's blaring on the radio? As the blur of headlamps swirled surreally around us in slow motion I remember thinking, Jesus, is it too late to put on my seat belt? (It was.) The Corvette drifted slowly to a stop against the concrete abutment–facing the opposite direction of traffic—without a scratch, as if placed by hand. And the Queens’ drivers all around us were courteous enough to completely BACK OFF upon seeing the car do a low-speed revolution in the middle of a three lane expressway. So we had plenty of leeway to turn around and get back on the road. So what?


You shrug that shit off when you’re 19. And now you know why there are seat belt laws.


The Ritz was a cavernous, gothic, splashed-from-floor tile-to-ceiling-with-black warehouse with a

stage and a second story catwalk railing. I didn’t get to stand against the stage that night, although I got jostled by a few safety-pinned slam dancers in shredded clothes. I managed to hold onto my rye and ginger without it getting completely knocked out of my hands. We were particularly riled up when the spotlights swept along the line of spectators on the upstairs balcony and the actor Matt Dillon was leaning against the rail, in a white T-shirt and an army jacket. My buddy and I drunkenly pointed at him and screeched (not that you could hear much over the sound system), waiting for the next spotlight to beam past the industrial railing, until Matt noticed the gawking and disappeared.


God knows how we made it home, fueled on $12 plastic cups of whiskey and punker mosh pit sweat and The Ramones’ amplifier feedback.


So that was me in 1983: Hugging my Synchronicity and War albums like my future as a creative soul depended on them, racking up a New Wave concert-going pedigree that included two Ramones shows, The Police; plus Bow Wow Wow, The Stray Cats, and The Clash during the Combat Rock tour of 1982.


If you've read my stories about the Synchronicity tour before, forgive me, as I couldn't get through a discussion about this year without acknowledging it. Meanwhile, listen to our podcast series, where we make our picks for best New Wave albums that propelled this decade forward.


Also, congrats to Banzai Retro Club for surpassing 10,000 downloads on Podbean this month! That's in two years of existence. Not too shabby. Thanks, Dave White and Scott (straight-outta) Compton.


Best New Wave Albums, Year By Year:

1982: Banzai Retro Club, Episode #80

1981: Banzai Retro Club, Episode #77

1980: Banzai Retro Club, Episode #74

1979: Banzai Retro Club, Episode #71

Best New Wave Songs of the '80s: Banzai Retro Club, Episode 67 (Currently the club's 2nd most-downloaded podcast)

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