I still remember the first time I ever heard Night Ranger. My neighbor Mike, who lived next door to me growing up, called me up one Friday night and asked me if I wanted to go to the Palmer Mall. Back in the early 1980’s, having your parents drive you to the mall was all the rage. I suppose it still sort of is today but not like it was back then.
On the drive over in his parents big blue station wagon Mike asked his Mom to put in this beat up white cassette tape that he had. Mike had copied the tape from someone else and it was old school music piracy at it’s finest. “Jim, Wait until you listen to this band” he said. And from the time the first sounds of “You Can Still Rock in America” started coming over the scratchy speakers I was hooked.
“Who is this?” I asked Mike. I had no idea who this group was but it was different from anything the two of us had ever heard before. We had always been more of a Cars, REO Speedwagon and Rod Stewart type of fan that never let anything “new” enter our musical world. But this was different…and exciting.
“They’re called Night Ranger and they are friggin awesome!” Mike responded and I couldn’t agree more. All the way from our homes on South Side to Palmer Township we listened to that bootlegged tape. Hearing “Sister Christian”, “When You Close Your Eyes” and “Rumors in the Air” for the first time was thirteen year old male audio euphoria.
Upon arriving to the mall our first stop was to the Listening Booth, the only place in town to buy records. That’s where Mike redeemed himself and purchased the full on copy of the vinyl “Midnight Madness” record for us to enjoy as we played video games in his basement.
A year or so later I made one of my own very first vinyl album purchases. A copy of “Seven Wishes”, which was the follow-up to “Midnight Madness”. I remember Mike and I wearing that album out as well. We were so hooked on this band and were fortunate enough to see them live in concert at Stabler Arena. One of the best shows ever.
So now fast forward a few decades. Adult life has taken over for me and I’ve become the one listening to my daughter’s music as I drive her to the mall. As for Night Ranger? Well, they are still touring on occasion and releasing albums every so often. Some of it really great music although sadly, nothing on par with the success of the ones I mentioned earlier. The music industry has changed so much they’re just not welcome in the mainstream any more.
In March of this year, I discovered they had released another new record and were coming to my hometown for the first time in twenty some odd years and knew I had to be a part of it.
Additionally, they were offering ticket packages that included an awesome seat and a meet and greet with the band. In 1985, I probably couldn’t get anywhere near these guys. And now, for a C-note, you could get up close and personal. Which was right up my alley.
Seeing Night Ranger perform this past Wednesday night in Allentown was surreal. Most people today would have no idea who these guys are. Unless you play them a few bars of “Sister Christian” which has become they’re trademark. I found myself being taken back in the 80’s watching them perform those songs. I thought about Mike and that Friday night drive. Listening to this music for the first time. We were young, and everything was new.
Suffice to say, I was ecstatic to be ushered back to meet the band. Even though they had no idea who the hell I was, it was an emotional experience to shake hands with the guys that were indirectly a part of my teenage years.
I still had my “Seven Wishes” album that I managed to dig up from an old box in the basement. The album had sat in silence for years collecting dust. But now it too has become new as the three original members who played on it autographed it for me. The album will now be framed and adorn my wall to always remind me of that night.
The meet and greet also included one photo opportunity with the band and it was at that point that I made an odd request. I didn’t want the photograph to just be a pic of me smiling with the guys in the band. That would be too typical. No, I wanted it to be different. Something to remind me of my childhood. So in the end I brought along an empty box of Count Chocula, my favorite cereal growing up.
The band was very receptive to having the box in the picture with us. In reality though, I suspect they probably thought I was crazy because everyone I’ve shown the picture to tells me so. But the more I think about it, it’s probably a good thing if they think that way.
Because somewhere down the road, someone is going to interview them about their long, stoic career and ask them what was the oddest experience they’ve ever had with fans. And I can just picture them laughing and saying to each other:
“Hey, do you remember that guy that wanted his picture taken with a box of Count Chocula?”.