There are two kinds of people in this world: those who sit at the bar, and those who feel good in the morning. I like to sit at the bar. But not just any bar. I want a bar that doesn’t remind me of what I did that day, and who I did it with. A bar where, before a show, you can raise your freak flag. A bar where, after the show, you can catch your second wind. A bar that ignores that guy who wants the music turned down. A bar for rockers everywhere, be they 80 or 21.
Chicago just so happens to have this exact bar. The greatest bar in the world- Delilah’s. And it just turned sweet 16.
First time here? Well, pull up a stool. I just threw five bucks into the “The Ultimate Rock & Roll Jukebox”. And I got a few stories to tell.
Elvis Costello & the Attractions, “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down” My buddy Kevin always says you start a mix with a rocker, then follow it with something that will burn the place down. Elvis doing Sam & Dave. Great Steve Nieve organ. Elvis should have played this instead of letting Stephen Stills drag him through the mud. Stephen Stills? What a twit.
The Rolling Stones, “Rip This Joint” Who knew the Stones agreed with Kevin’s theory? Second song off the greatest album of all time, Exile on Main St. I’ve been known to throw five bucks in that same juke and play this whole album. All 18 songs. Yes, I’m insufferable.
Talking Heads, “New Feeling” It being summer somewhere, if not here in Chicago, I wanted a refreshing lager. Especially after I rode my bike all the way from Evanston. Delilah’s special tonight is Chang, a Thai beer. Damn good. Charlie might not surf, but he sure brews a fine lager. Three dollars. Delilah’s always leaves you with cab fare.
Dinosaur Jr., “In a Jar” In a better universe, You’re Living All Over Me sells as many copies as Hysteria. J Mascis is sincerity defined. And the whole band still shreds. Gnarly.
The Dictators, “Who Will Save Rock and Roll?” Delilah’s always keeps you entertained with what’s on their televisions. I entered with the Ed Harris actioner Enemy at the Gate. After that, it’s the Citizen Kane of soft-core porn, Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Good thing Roger Ebert never quit his day-job. Other entertainment options: Galaga in front of the stairs and two pool tables upstairs. Plus, another half-bar, also upstairs.
The Jam, “A Town Called Malice” Shot time. Delilah’s prides itself on its whiskey selection. They offer a nightly whiskey special. Tonight it’s Old Granddad. I’m a bit of a whiskey snob, so I passed on that. I asked the barkeep for Templeton. They were out. Instead he offered me Russell’s Reserve. Smooth. Tasty. If you’re looking for The Rockist’s fave whiskey, I highly recommend Pappy Van Winkle. Of course, the 20-year-old is best (as with many things), but any age will do. Trust me, you’ll thank me.
Kiss, “Deuce” Kiss is a polarizing band. People who love them tend to love them with a fierceness you only see at English football matches. People who hate them tend to hate them with a fierceness you only see at the recent town hall meetings. I don’t fall in either camp. If Kiss didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them. Kiss embraced commerce with an unflinching zeal which was both repellent and endearing. I grew up with them on Scooby-Doo. They’re as American as apple pie. Every home should have Alive on hand, in case of emergency.
The Stooges, “‘T.V. Eye” I personally prefer the outtake version of this which I have on the deluxe edition. Iggy introduces the band like they’re wrestlers. How appropriate. No band probably saw themselves more as the heels in rock history than The Stooges. When their debut bombed, they set fire to their career. Their commitment to self-destruction was awe-inspiring. I should know. I teach a junior college course in self-destruction. It’s pass/fail.
The Clash, “Train in Vain” Mike Miller opened up Delilah’s in 1993. He grew up in Buffalo, where you can build up an awful hot spring fever. He and his friends, which included his current barkeep Foster, drank and listened to rock ‘n’ roll. Living in Buffalo is a bit easier if you love indoor things. The first album he bought was the Clash’s debut. He graduated with a Modern Poetry masters from DePaul. So he did the only sensible thing. He opened a bar. He likens it to a community center for rockers. God bless you, Mike.
The Sex Pistols, “No Feeling” My roommate Brian and I began to go to Delilah’s shortly after we turned 21. I fell in love at first sight. The imaginary bar I always pictured unfolded before me like a pop-up book. The smoke. The Motorhead. The dollar beer Punk Mondays. It brought a tear to my eye. No one trying to hard. Everyone having a good time. I never wanted to leave. It was my Wonderland. Even though I never lived in the neighborhood, I attempted to get there as often as possible.
The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks” I’ll let legendary taste maker and BBC DJ John Peel take this one. ‘“I can’t listen to it now without getting all dewy eyed,” said Peel. “And if I play it on the radio I have to segue it into the front of another record because I can’t speak after I’ve heard it.”’
The Modern Lovers, “Pablo Picasso” A word on Delilah’s neighborhood. Delilah’s sits on Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park, a Chicago neighborhood. You’re most likely familiar with Pottery Barn ghettos like Lincoln Park, once unique neighborhoods now muted to a dull vanilla sameness only matched by their population. So Delilah’s goes unnoticed by their J Crew model neighbors. Since Lincoln Park gentrified years ago, the hipsters don’t dwell there. Also, loud angry rock music is hipster Raid. It only reminds them of their own ineffectuality. Delilah’s is an oasis from the ever-creeping monoculture which surrounds us.
Strawberry Alarm Clock, “Incense and Peppermint” Sure, it’s kitsch psychedelia. I dig it. Jukeboxes are democracies. Put your money in if you don’t like it.
The Wailers, “Bama Lama Bama Loo” The last two times I drank at Delilah’s, I spoke with Iraq veterans. The veteran I met that night was U.S. Army Field Artillery Specialist Juan E. Figueroa. Juan bought myself and his friend a shot, and I returned the favor. Buy these boys and girls a drink when you see them. Good to have rockers like Juan back home in one piece. Let’s get ‘em all back soon!
Blondie, “Rip Her to Shreds” Debbie Harry was my first crush. Her appearance on The Muppet Show is one of my earliest memories. She’s 65 and aging more gracefully than Mick Jaggar or many of her male peers. Good on ya, Debbie!
Ministry, ” Jesus Built My Hotrod” “In my dang a ding a ding a ding dong/ A sticky sticky son of a gun/ Ding a danga danga dong dong ding dong/ Why why never know/ Why why wack a dong a dang ding dong/ Then you take it on the bill/ Ding dang dong dont dong/ Whoa!” ‘Nuff said.
Little Richard, “Rip It Up” Alice Cooper’s The Nightmare Returns concert video comes on the TV as a night cap. Alice kidnaps a young nurse and conceives mutated conjoined twins—one cute, one wolfkid. Alice proceeds to drive a pitchfork through his spawn and light them on fire. I love Alice Cooper.
Black Flag, “Six Pack” Where have you gone, Henry Rollins?
The Sonics, “Louie, Louie” (A moment of silence for what may be the greatest rock song, ever.)
The Ponys, “Sad Eyes” What do the ladies think of Delilah’s? Ask ‘em. “We drove all the way from Detroit to come here for Joe Strummer’s birthday,” says Elizabeth Schuch, a rocker/teacher. Take that, Rock City!
Black Sabbath, “‘N.I.B.” My arm stiff straight into the air. My pointer finger and pinkie upright. Eyes shut. Head in not quite a bang, more of an exaggerated drunken nod. Cigarette in mouth. Forget about the ban on cigarettes. Curse. Look at TV. Don’t know what’s on. Peer down at the quarter bottle of Chang left. Take it down. Power gulp.
I gotta get home.
Good night, Delilah’s. Have a good time. All the time.