Chantel Epiphany
The Chantels Enter My Heart
(note alternate spelling)
When I first moved to New York City I expected there to be some pretty good music on the radio, or at least better than what I was used to in backwater KC. Such was not the case. There was only one station that I could find that was playing halfway decent music: WNEW, the "progressive" rock station. And I do mean "halfway"... that's as close as it got to "decent" most of the time. They were purveyors of what I call "The Music That Made Punk Rock Necessary." To sum up: the airwaves were utterly disappointing. Until, that is, I discovered
WCBS. Up to that time I had never heard an all-oldies station, so I was overjoyed to hear songs from what seemed like my distant childhood. Let's see, that was 1975, and the songs I'm referring to were middle and late sixties stuff, so according to today's standard (by which no song ever seems to die, and oldies are everywhere... all you have to do is turn on the TV and wait for a commercial to hear one) they were still fresh.

Anyway, the concept was novel to me, so WCBS became my favorite station. There was one sore spot, though: Sunday evenings were given over to "The Doo-Wop Shop." It had only been a year before this that I even began to concede that Elvis was cool (it took John Cale's version of Heartbreak Hotel to open my eyes) and that there was any pre-Beatles rock that was worth my while... so doo-wop... that was beyond the pale. Nevertheless, the vapidity of WNEW and the lack of any other radio station to turn to forced me to endure "The Doo-Wop Shop" until, lo and behold, the Stockholm Syndrome set in and I started to like it.

Now, we jump ahead to the winter of 1976-77. I was walking by the Elgin Theatre and saw that The Coasters were going to be playing there as part of some kind of low-budget oldies extravaganza. I considerably depleted the meager contents of my pocket for a ticket in order to hear "Poison Ivy" live.

When the evening of the show came, it was one of the coldest, windiest nights NYC had had in a long time. I was living at E. 3rd St.

and Avenue B (which then boasted one of New York's most thriving heroin markets... there were times when it looked like the floor of a commodities exchange, with a dozen of dealers calling out their stock, and a hundred or so purchasers signalling interest... I'm not exaggerating... I think). It was quite a long walk to the Elgin, but I didn't have enough money for the subway, much less a cab, and I wasn't going to squander the ticket. By the time I got there, I was convulsing from the cold inside my unlined leather jacket. So when they told me that The Coasters were a no-show, and I could have my money back... or I could settle for The Chantels in the warm confines of the theater, I didn't have to think too long.

I didn't really have a firm grasp on who The Chantels were exactly, but there were going to be a bunch of old Rock 'n' Roll movies and

shorts too, so I knew it would be awhile before I would have to venture back out into the night. I settled in, along with about a dozen other refugees from the weather (or folks who knew something I didn't).

And they were sublime. It was one of the best shows I ever saw. The music was so beautiful. In fact, though my back still stiffens when I think about the walk over to the Elgin, I don't even remember walking home that night.


(as if by magic)

the magic of modern technology

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