Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Escalator of Life: Robert Hazard d. 8/5/08

Got word on Wednesday that Philly rocker Robert Hazard had died the previous day after recently being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I hadn't really listened to Hazard much in recent years as his latest music, which was a bit more rootsy and folky, never really grabbed me, but the news of his death brought back a flood of memories.

Living in the Philly area in the early 80s meant being around to hear the music of two great local bands: The Hooters and Robert Hazard and the Heroes. They were around at the same time, though Hazard's career was overshadowed by the success of the Hooters. While he was best known for writing the Cyndi Lauper hit "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," (which he recorded himself four years earlier in 1979), Hazard had a string of local hits from his debut self-titled EP. Perhaps the biggest of the songs from the new wavey disc, was the fun, yet somewhat haunting "Escalator of Life," with its poigniant assessment of our materialistic ways...long before critiquing our excesses was in vogue. Other early songs included "Change Reaction," a rather fast-paced cover of Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," and the Philly anthem "Say Yo." (For the uninitiated, "Yo" was...and is...a commonplace greeting for folks from the streets of Philly, long before it was popularized by the hip hop culture. Remember Rocky? "Yo, Adrian!").

Only got one chance to see Robert Hazard and the Heroes was probably in 1982 at Veterans Stadium. My memory is a bit foggy but it was probably sometime around the 4th of July because the band played after the game followed by fireworks. Any place else it would have been just another local concert...but in that particular time and place...Hazard was a big deal. As Philadelphians we were insiders. We were witnessing something big about to happen. These were our guys whom we wanted to share with the world.

Sadly, when Hazard finally got his big break and signed to RCA, his career and music were severely mishandled by the powers that be...and he never received the national fame he deserved. But he continued to plug away playing east coast venues, with Philly always close to his heart. And while I've gotten rid of a huge portion of my vinyl collection, I still have the plain white EP that was released locally (and probably bought at Third Street Jazz)...but the poster that was shrinkwrapped to it is long gone.

And you can hear Hazard's most recent performance on WXPN's Free at Noon from late 2007.

Robert Hazard, you will be missed, but I'm glad I still have my memories.

Nothing ever changes....

1 comment:

Middle Ditch said...

So many artistic and talented people have died recently. It's such a shame.