The Stark Truth: A Rock and Roll Relic

Julian Ramis

For the average Colgate student, going to a concert is not an intellectual activity, but rather a chance to ignore one’s intellect for a few brief hours. We go to concerts to escape reality, to let ourselves get swept up in the vibrant energy flowing between the stage and the crowd, to forget our problems and focus on something abstract and beautiful. Yet anyone who attended Johnny Stark and Sheri Livingston’s performance at Sushi Blues will tell you that there was very little to lose oneself in. Sitting in a corner table waiting for my food to come, I tried my hardest to figure out what specific aspects of the show made it so overwhelmingly unappealing.

At first, I thought it had something to do with their lack of a live band. Usually when we are told we are going to see a live show, it is safe to assume that the music will be performed live, but this was not the case. While I must concede that there is not much room for large instruments in Sushi Blues, the two singers were backed by a CD player rather than living, breathing musicians and after awhile, I felt like I was at karaoke night at an old folks home.

Their costumes also might have had something to do with it. I know it sounds shallow and petty, but there is no denying the significance attached to how a performer looks. When I did a Google search on Johnny Stark prior to the show, I found several pictures of him in his youth; a poster boy for the early rock and roll of the nineteen fifties. With greased up hair donning a suave-looking sport coat, someone could have told me he was Elvis Presley and I would not have argued, but now he is a far reach from that rock and roll pretty boy of the past. Both Johnny and Sheri wore all black outfits with plastic diamond necklaces in the shape of a star (the kind that kids wear on Halloween) and strangest of all, they were both wearing black eye shadow. Yes, Johnny Stark was wearing eye shadow. With his black hair and black shoes, he had a striking resemblance to Alice Cooper.

Yet as much as we like to blame performers for bad shows, the audience must take on some of the responsibility and the main problem with Johnny and Sheri’s audience was that they were non-existent. Other than the four or five people employed at Sushi Blues, there were approximately twelve people in attendance and from what I could gather, they were all there for the sushi. Instead of watching the show, they talked amongst themselves, constantly struggling to be heard over the blaring speakers, taking short breaks in between songs to offer polite applause.

When I ordered my food for takeout, the man working the counter was slightly shocked that I wanted to stay and listen.

Back in the nineteen fifties there was a TV show called Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. In each episode, Dick Clark would bring in a popular band and have them perform while a bunch of teenagers partied and danced for the cameras and, in his early twenties, Johnny Stark was on that show with his chart topping song “Rockin’ Billy.” I wish I could have seen him then, a fresh young talent with unlimited potential. A member of that first generation of musicians who set the stage for the explosion of popular music that took place in the nineteen sixties. Unfortunately, I only got to see him in his present state – a rotting semblance of what rock and roll used to be.

Contact Julian Ramis at [email protected].