Do It With Us Tonight Cleveland!

‘Cleveland Ohio! In this corner, that corner and that corner weighing in at 32,000 pounds will you welcome the next heavyweight champion of the world … Starz!’

They don’t do live album introductions like that anymore, still that’s the way they rocked it back in Cleveland on 14 August 1977.  I love it, things were much more fun before they invented irony – the band play full tilt, the singer shrieks and whoops and says dumb-ass things like ‘Are you ready to do it with us tonight Cleveland?‘ and the crowd scream like someone just unwrapped a Farah Fawcett.  Times were simpler back then, okay so massive nuclear annihilation was just a touch away, but who cared? if one thing was certain and sure it was that the dope was getting stronger and that Starz would shortly take their rightful place in the pantheon of US hard rock gods, for like all eternity and shit.


In the very late 80’s I became a massive fan of a band that almost no-one else had heard of* Starz.  Like most of the best inanimate things in my life to date Kerrang! introduced me to them via their little series of booklets of 100 Best Rock LPs ever, in 1988**.  Even if I hadn’t heard of a lot of the music I’d heard of most of the artists and they formed a buyers guide for me and my friends for years afterwards, but there was an intriguing couple of mentions for a band with a great logo who were a mystery to me, Starz.  Long story short, I found out more and gradually became their biggest fan in rural West Wales^.

That's me, that was
That’s me, that was

I bought up a few of their LPs and due to an upswing in interest, that I take complete credit for, obviously, Roadracer Records announced that they were going to bring out a 1970’s double live LP called Live In Action.  This was actually an amalgamation of two promo live LPs, Cleveland from 1977 and Louisville, Kentucky from 1978 – the latter being fairly legendary amongst long-haired record collecting nut jobs of a certain age.  I snapped it up in December 1989 and it totally blows away any of the Starz studio albums I have.

NB: Knees never closer than 3 feet apart during whole performance. Do not try unless you are a trained rock warrior.
NB: Knees never closer than 3 feet apart during whole performance. Do not try unless you are a trained rock warrior.

First thing to say about Live In Action is that given the age of the recordings they are perfect, crystal clear and loud, with just enough mistakes on there to show that these are live recordings and not a studio concoction using the applause from another LP.  Starz always had some great songs, but what really comes over here is the performance – even the songs I think are a bit formulaic like ‘She’ are totally elevated through the energy and electricity on show.  Live In Action manages to do what most live rock LPs don’t for me, it puts you right in the pit at the front shaking what you got in time to the drums, punching the air and screaming along to all the guitar solos.

Starz Live In Action 03

I promise you I won’t plagiarise myself and everyone else who has ever written about Starz and bang on about the comparisons between their career and KISS, but bloody hell! I’m not much of a fan of Gene and the boys^^ but, cover aside, this blows Alive out of the water, for me.  Just check out the breadth of it (baby!), the moody, stately ‘Johnny All Alone’, the slasher movie tricks and kicks of ‘Subway Terror’ which Michael Lee Smith sings like he was mid-jerk and all the fun songs about banging hot babes in between.  Where I think Live In Action scores really highly again is when it, fires up the Epictron, leaps into the Epicmobile and prepares to Journey To the Centre of the Epic.

Starz Live In Action 02

The first stage of EPIC begins with them firing up the mighty ‘Coliseum Rock’, which works as a showcase for Richie Ranno and Brendan Harkin to show off some serious harmonising guitar chops a la Queen’s ‘Now I’m Here’.  It works wonderfully except for reasons best known to themselves they include it as a medley with a much inferior track called ‘Waiting On You’.  But don’t worry gentle reader, it only gets more epic from here. Seriously, just try this big boy out for size:


The second stage of EPIC features what I can quite honestly call, after some consideration, my favourite song ever about turning your girlfriend’s life support machine off ‘Pull The Plug’.  Did I mention that I love this bunch of sickos?  I’ve quoted the lyrics in all their tabloid glory in another post so I’ll restrain myself here, unlike the band.  Ranno is all over this track again, wailing away on his stringy guitary electric thing like a man possessed^*.  Why did this man not get his image carved onto the side of Mount Rushmore? he is a fabulous guitarist.  This track also works as a great showcase for the rhythm section of Peter Sweval and one of the best named drummers in rock, Joe X Dube.

Starz Live In Action 04

The final stage of EPIC smacks us straight through into rock nirvana, ‘Boys In Action’.  Everyone and everything screams during this track.  If you like 70’s hard rock then you’ll just fall to your knees and worship the riff.  It is a good job that sexism hadn’t been invented in March 1978, as it contains the most astonishing bit of sexual bragging I can think of in a 70’s rock track (ladies please look away now and go and do some knitting, or whatever else you chicks do) as Mr Smith claims that ‘when we cum it tastes just like a milkshake’, it shocks me every time.  The best bit of all is when the song crash lands near the end and Smith sings, sounding like a broken man, ‘if you want action … that’s … what … you’re … gonna … get’, before a solo hits that’s so fast and sharp it should require a safety guard.

Starz Live In Action 06

I have gone on record before as not being much of a one for live albums, you usually just get the same crap played a bit faster and some bonus noodling around thrown in, or the sneaky buggers pay Tom Allom or Tony Visconti to touch it all up, but this is one I really like, Live In Action isn’t just a great live LP, it’s a great LP that just happens to be live.

‘Cleveland Ohio! In this corner, that corner and that corner weighing in at 32,000 pounds will you welcome the next heavyweight champion of the world … Starz!’

630 Down.

PS: For the sake of maintaining maximum positivity overdrive I have ignored the awful ‘Greatest Riffs Of All Time’ medley, nobody needed them to do that.

PPS: Here’s the Kerrang! review, from The Mighty Scrapbooks of Rock:

Starz Kerrang 02

Live In Action is much better quality than this, which is a bit lo-fi to my ears.


*long-haired skinny little smart-ass that I was, that was part of the appeal.

**best guess.

^a title that was retired when I left to seek fame, fortune and wanton, voluptuous chicks elsewhere; fame and fortune eluded me, sadly.

^^apart from that one about putting the X in Sex … can’t remember the title, exactly – I rate that one up there with ‘Let It Be’, ‘Grace’ and ‘Redemption Song’.

^*I hope I’m not getting too technical for all you non-metal heads out there.

49 thoughts on “Do It With Us Tonight Cleveland!

  1. I heard of Starz but never got around to listening to them. They never even appeared on one of the many compilation albums I own. Must rectify this. On a separate note, I had a listen to Paul Kantner’s “Blows Against the Empire” and I think you’d like it. It’s really trippy.

  2. Well, I pretty much hate KISS, so I’m falling into the Starz camp here. Honestly, I’ve never heard of Starz, besides the movie network. Seems legitimate, so I’ll give them a listen since 1537 is saying I should.

    As a side note, I did really like Kiss till I was about 14 years old. Then I grew up and realized what clowns they were. Then there was that Paul Stanley Folgers commercial…..

  3. “Starz was one of the leading metal bands of the late seventies …” I honestly hadn’t heard of these guys at all. Heard of the others, but not these folks. Anyhoo, these guys all have great names. Leading metal band names, I should add.

      1. Maybe the band could have a resurgence via an animated series. It’d be a bit like the Hurricanes. But about a band.

    1. Man, that’s a lot of self-hatred you seem to be carrying around with yourself. Time to reconcile, time to buy some Starz. Trust me, I’m a doctor! (in a ‘not at all’ type way)

      1. True. I’ve listened to nothing but the 174th note of ‘Back in the Village’ on repeat since I first heard it in 88. Who needs more music when you’ve got that classic moment to enjoy?

  4. I was more of a Jacylyn Smith fan, but I get sentiment.
    In the attached review it said the singer is a brother to Rex Smith (sorry about his luck)
    I now want this, and the live album from the El Mocambo (Toronto).
    Nice write up.
    P.S. I may never have another milkshake. EVER!!!!!

  5. Also, I loved this:

    “the band play full tilt, the singer shrieks and whoops and says dumb-ass things like ‘Are you ready to do it with us tonight Cleveland?‘ and the crowd scream like someone just unwrapped a Farah Fawcett. “

  6. The song you are thinking of is called “Let’s Put the X in Sex”.

    A title that Gene could not remember when announcing the song on a 1988 MuchMusic interview. He claimed it was “You Put the X in Sex”. I doubt he even sand or played on it.

    Fuckin’ great post man. I want this album.

    1. Thanks Mike! Have you got any Starz? I’m pretty sure they all got re-released on CD back then.

      I would totally recommend this one or any compilation of theirs to you. Trust me, I’m a doctor (of rock).

      1. Gene stole the title from a song submitted to Simmons Records, by Johnny B Frank from Kingdom Come, allegedly. They submitted a demo called You Put the X in Sex, and Gene sent it back saying “no hits”. Then they came out with a similar-titled song the following year. Hmmmmm.

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