WMMS Nights out at the Agora – November, 1980
Cleveland was internationally known as a musically diverse break-out market and this Agora schedule is a good example of the wide variety of rock and roll that the city craved.
I’d often get comments from out-of-towners about Cleveland’s music scene being an alternate universe of sorts and asked why they weren’t hearing the same music in their hometown or other cities. And this included many – probably most – of the artists whose tours stopped here.
Here’s a month’s worth of WMMS Nights Out shows from the Agora during November, 1980.
The Rubber City Rebels were one of Akron’s best – and one of the most underrated bands of that time. They signed with Capitol Records, and later moved to L.A. in hopes of broadening their base – but were never able to achieve the international success they deserved. Their management blamed the label, the label blamed the management. In reality, both sides were to blame. This show was an Akron double bill- Hammer Damage, the opening act, was formed by former RCR members Mike Hammer and Dave Zagar – a.k.a. Donny Damage. This show played the club below the Agora – the Mistake.
One of the best Cleveland bands that got away. was American Noise It was a who’s who of well-known journeyman Cleveland musicians, headed by Craig and Bruce Balzer and drummer Tommy Rich. Its members came from a wide musical background – from southern-style rock to power pop with a touch of the Who. The album was a huge success in Cleveland – but failed to generate airplay elsewhere, which, like the Rubber City Rebels’ fate, I blamed on poor management and label disinterest.
Their opening act, Blue Angel, was getting airplay on WMMS with their clever cover of Gene Pitney’s “I’m Gonna Be Strong.” Its lead singer went on to become one of the biggest solo artists of the 80s – Cyndi Lauper. A special Sunday WMMS Night Out served as Thin Lizzy’s final appearance in Cleveland in support of their Chinatown album.
The following day, Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe brought Rockpile to the Agora in a double-bill that included Oklahoma-based rockabilly band Moon Martin & the Ravens as its opening act. Rockpile’s Seconds of Pleasure was the only album they released as Rockpile.
On Tuesday, Dire Straits played to a sold-out crowd, supporting their just-released Making Movies album.
The final Monday of the month featured New Riders of the Purple Sage, which packed the Agora with an eclectic mix of hippies, bikers, and Agora regulars all waiting somewhat patiently to hear – and, perhaps, light up to “Panama Red.”
Read about the Cleveland Agora – and many of the artists that played there –in The Buzzard.