Starz really should have joined the cavalcade of rock bands that broke big in 1976-‘77, which coincided with my “maturation” as a certified hard rock consumer with a new drivers license and the means to purchase records and attend shows (lawn mowing, the Golden Arches and an ushering gig at Atlanta’s Fabulous Fox Theatre).
Based on nothing but my teenage concert-watching experience, I get the feeling Starz shot themselves in the foot with one bold move: They showed up in Atlanta in September 1976 not as the latest opening act on the make - just like KISS, Aerosmith, Styx, Blue Oyster Cult, Bob Seger and Ted Nugent before them, but as instant headliners at the 4,000-seat Fox, where I’m job that’s nigh was guarding a row occupied by the parents of Starz front man Michael Lee Smith.
Starz had their first album out and some attention from Creem magazine, but their headliner status was unearned—it was a free, radio station-sponsored performance. So while the place was packed and the band kicked ass, it was not how almost every breaking rock band — maybe every one of them — earned their stripes.
I always meant to go out and get that first Starz album, but right after that show Skynyrd’s live album came out, then a hot new album from this unknown band called Boston two weeks later. (It was the ‘70s, and I was 15, whaddaya want?)
That Starz album became an afterthought, and it did not help one bit that even the radio station that sponsored the gig gave them little if any airplay.
I was reminded of that era and Starz’ part in it by this week’s episode of Let It Roll, which examines the milieu that produced Starz, Aerosmith, KISS and Cheap Trick (as well as the bands I just listed, plus several others).
And, yes, as recalled by Nate about his older brother’s purchase of Aerosmith’s “Draw the Line,” what a depressing waste of vinyl that album was and a depressing time for hard rock in general — late ‘77, Skynyrd crash still fresh, the truly strange band Ram Jam has a big hit with “Black Betty” and “Saturday Night bleeping Fever” is right around the corner.
Starz, we hardly knew ye!!!
Ed Legge (@freebirdyeller) is a life-long musician, long-time journalist and sometime corporate dweeb who’s writing a book about originating rock ‘n’ roll’s most absurd tradition.