The infamous WMMS World Series of Rock 1979 – Game #1
This was the hardest- rocking and most notorious of all World Series of Rock concerts.
AC/DC was the opening act. It was their final Cleveland appearance with Bon Scott as the band’s lead vocalist. The band released their Highway to Hell album the following week though we had managed to score an exclusive advance release prior to the concert (the local label rep didn’t even have a copy yet).
Journey’s second album with Steve Perry, Evolution, was released a month earlier. I believe this show was Journey’s last as a supporting act.
This was Ted Nugent’s first tour with new band members. Vocalist and guitarist Derek St. Holmes was replaced by Charlie Huhn and bassist Rob Grange by David Kiswiney. Few took notice of the personnel change.
Cleveland had been quite forgiving of Aerosmith considering that throughout most of the seventies they habitually cancelled their Cleveland concerts at the last minute – including a low-priced mea culpa concert at Music Hall. That one was set up a year earlier by the band with WMMS to express regret for their prior cancellations.
The Aerosmith tour was to support their new album, A Night in the Ruts, which was supposed to be released in June but it remained uncompleted when the band was obligated to hit the road.
It was apparent from Aerosmith’s lackluster and tension-filled performance at the World Series of Rock that the band was disintegrating. Tyler could still howl like a Banshee but thanks to his slavish devotion to hard drugs, he couldn’t remember lyrics. Perry played like he was on a different planet than the rest of the band. There was no magic left in the tank.
Backstage, they were tearing each other apart like junkyard dogs. After the concert, Joe Perry’s wife Elyssa threw a glass of milk at Tom Hamilton’s wife Terry and a cat fight ensued. Perry found the exit strategy he needed. He quit Aerosmith, returned to Boston, and turned his side project band, the Joe Perry Project, into a full-time commitment.
Later, Brad Whitford left the band to form a new one with ex-Nugent vocalist and guitarist Derek St. Holmes.
Members of Aerosmith and its entourage stopped by WMMS the night before the World Series of Rock concert for an interview with Denny Sanders.
While there they perused our alphabetically-filed album library and in doing so refilled many of them in the wrong place. It took weeks to locate most of the mislaid ones.
I was in the station working on last minute plans for our day-of-show World Series of Rock programming.
I took a break to stop in the studio to say hello. As I walked by the newsroom I heard an unusual commotion. Looking in I found Steven Tyler on top of a table and on all-fours, snorting a line of cocaine that looked long enough to be a mile marker, extending from one end of the table to another.
The days of lines and noses.
More on World Series of Rock shows in Chapters 8, 11, 13, 19, and 21 in The Buzzard.
(After posting this, I received a comment from artist Derek Hess who reminded me that this show also had an unbilled surprise opening act – the Scorpions. That slipped my mind and shouldn’t have since I clearly remember meeting them backstage. Most of the band could not speak English, at least well. Lead singer Klaus Meine spoke broken English – but could sing the language without problem. The band had been together since 1972 but this was their first concert date in America. Regarding Thin Lizzy, I’m not sure if this tour was their last in America. There were two deaths. One died from falling off the backstop. There was a second death – a stabbing that occurred near the stadium though police believed it was not related to the concert. Please check out Derek Hess’ web site at www.derekhess.com)
(Update: Thin Lizzy did play Cleveland one more time on a special WMMS Sunday Night Out at the Agora on November 16, 1980, which was broadcast on the station.)