I have already covered my love for Rockpile in this space, but this show at The Bottom Line was a special one. On a short sabbatical from work to study for my CPA exam, I was low on both time and funds. It had been over a month since I had seen a live show or bought any records. It was time for a break. Earlier in the week, I broke down and bought two new LPs: Dave Edmund’s Tracks on Wax 4 and Van Morrison’s Wavelength. I also wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to see my favorite band at my favorite venue.
Not needing to get up early in the morning, I chose to see the late show—after all, that’s when the best things happen, right? This Rockpile tour gave top billing to Edmunds since they were promoting his new record. And, as expected, the set list included Rockpile’s usual mix of both Dave and Nick songs.
Despite what you might hear when listening to the King Biscuit Flower Hour’s partial re-broadcast of this set, the night’s surprise appearance by Keith Richards started right out of the gate. (The King Biscuit people changed the running order to make it sound like it was a much more dramatic encore appearance.) Reportedly, but hard to believe, The Bottom Line was Keith’s first stop after getting off the plane from Toronto where his drug-related woes there were finally put to rest. The show began with a much weary and totally wasted Keith Richards coming out with the band as they entered.
The band opened with one of their staples, a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Let it Rock,” a song that Richards was certainly familiar with. But the sorry-looking Richards looked lost, alone, and confused holding a guitar near the back of the stage. When given the nod, he did make a meager attempt at taking a solo. He really didn’t appear fit to play, however. When the song ended, the look on everyone’s face on stage was one of “how do we get rid of this guy?”
Unable to work his way through some of the unfamiliar Rockpile songs, Keith was awkwardly escorted off the stage. It was an exciting moment —but more for the spectacle than the music.
Shifting gears to that other new LP I bought, a few weeks later I was looking forward to my front row seat at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ to see Van Morrison with none other than Rockpile as his opening act. For some unknown reason, Van cancelled on the day of the sold-out show following his performance the night before (November 4, 1978) on Saturday Night Live. That was the only time I recall a song (“Kingdom Hall”) being cut for a commercial when Van and the band went on too long, and the studio audience was given the applause sign before the song was over.
It took me years to forgive Van for making miss seeing Rockpile from the front row.
You can read Nick Lowe’s hilarious recap of the Keith Richard’s encounter here.