Hallowed Ground: Cobo Arena

“Hallowed Ground” will be a regular feature on Clore Chronicles, exploring important physical locations in music history.


The live venue is arguably the most important physical location in all of music. It is where fan and star come face-to-face. It is where dreams come true and life-long fans are made.

I have always been fascinated by the history contained inside the halls where we enjoy our favorite bands perform. The “Hallowed Ground” feature is meant to bring attention to the importance of these physical locations, some of the key events that have occurred there and how it has impacted music.

Detroit’s Cobo Arena, sometimes referred to as Cobo Hall, has been the epicenter of countless important moments in music history. Situated on the banks of the Detroit River, in America’s “Motor City,” Cobo Arena has played “live” recording studio to the following projects (in part, or in whole):

The Doors – Live In Detroit – Recorded May 8, 1970

Bob Seger – Live Bullet – Recorded September 4-5, 1975

KISS – Alive! – Recorded 1975 (produced/engineered by Eddie Kramer)

Yes – Yesshows – Recorded August 17, 1976

Madonna – Live – The Virgin Tour (concert video) – Recorded May 25, 1985

Kid Rock – Live Trucker – Recorded March 26, 2004

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagopian

The 12,000-seat Cobo opened in 1960 and was home to the Detroit Pistons from 1961-1978. It is the arena portion of Detroit’s primary convention center, Cobo Center. One end of the arena is flat and contains no seats.

Jay-Z performed a free show in support of presidential nominee Barack Obama at Cobo on October 4, 2008, in an effort to get people to register to vote. After a five-year hiatus, jam band mainstays Phish opened up its tour at Cobo Arena on November 18, 2009.

Alive!, the fourth album from KISS (and recorded at Cobo), was the band’s breakthrough project. In a 2009 ABC12 interview, KISS’s Paul Stanley shared:

“Detroit for us is kind of like the holy land. It’s where it all started for us. KISS really became a headlining act in Detroit before anywhere else, before anybody else understood us. So, the cover of KISS Alive! is actually taken at Michigan Palace, and the actual back cover [below] and all of the recording, was done at Cobo Hall. So, Cobo Hall is the hall where it all started.”

The following video is an interesting look at the stage being set up inside Cobo for a 2009 KISS show.

Unrelated to music, but interesting nonetheless: Cobo Arena is where Nancy Kerrigan was attacked in 1994.

*Originally published December 31, 2009


The Original Recording

What is it about the original recording of a song? Why is it so often “the best” version? I realize this isn’t always the case, but usually.

Out of left field just now I really wanted to hear Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights.” Somehow I don’t own the vinyl/CD/MP3 of the album/song (I know, I need to. The album is Stranger In Town, btw). So I jumped over to my trusty Lala.com. After a quick search, nothing from Bob Seger’s catalog is available.

I’ve actually known this for a while, and it’s always bewildered me, but I was hoping someone in his camp had caught on to this Internet thing. You can’t buy his stuff on iTunes, Amazonmp3, nothing.

I don’t get it.

Anyway, my Lala search of “Hollywood Nights” yielded plenty of results, just minus the original. And no offense to “The Original Masters,” but I wanted to hear Bob. He’s the guy that sings about those hollywood nights, in those hollywood hills.

My music heart has trouble stomaching anything less.

Hallowed Ground: Muscle Shoals

“Hallowed Ground” is a regular feature on Clore Chronicles, exploring important physical locations in music history.


Last week I had the honor of participating in a “Grammy In The Schools Career Day” at Muscle Shoals High School, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I spoke on a record label panel, helping to give students an overview of how record labels work.

Prior to making the trek I figured I’d brush up on my Muscle Shoals music history knowledge. Unfortunately, it’s an easy place to forget about, and after this latest trip I plan to do my part to help change that.

Muscle Shoals stands out as a music center, primarily because it’s a very small town (13,000 people). That small town feel is part of what has made it so appealing to musicians through the years. It has often represented a location where music could be the sole focus of an artist’s work; where the bustle of a city was nonexistent.

The legendary artists that have recorded and/or done important work in Muscle Shoals through the years is remarkable. The Rolling Stones, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Boz Scaggs, Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, The Allman Brothers, Little Richard, The Oak Ridge Boys, Linda Ronstadt, Wilson Pickett, Art Garfunkel and Clarence Carter, among others.

The town’s physical location is also key. It’s 151 miles from Memphis; 125 miles from Nashville; 84 miles from Tupelo (where Elvis was born); 210 miles from Ruleville/Cleveland, MS (Dockery Plantation, where The Delta Blues originated); and 225 miles from Atlanta. Muscle Shoals exists in a “central” location in the American South, the part of the country where so much of today’s popular music truly began (see parts 1-12 of “Black History Month & Music“).

In his book Chicago Soul, author Robert Pruter hits on some of the highlights that made us talk about Muscle Shoals on a music history blog in 2010.

“Chess [Records] in the late 1960s was taking its talent to Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The company’s in-house production staff was not coming up with the hits as in previous years, and the people at Chess felt the Muscle Shoals studio was an ideal environment in which to record some of its acts – notably Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces, Laura Lee, Maurice and Mac, Mitty Collier, and Etta James…

Muscle Shoals, as it was known in the record industry, is a shorthand term for an area in northwestern Alabama around Wilson Dam on the Tennessee River that has four close-by towns – Florence, Sheffield, Tuscumbia, and Muscle Shoals (the smallest of the four). The Fame Recording Studio, where Chess sent its acts, was actually located in Florence. Fame was founded in 1962 by Rick Hall, who developed a flourishing enterprise producing and recording black acts with white session musicians. Vee Jay and later New York-based Atlantic Records had developed fruitful alliances with Hall’s operation. Atlantic especially benefitted during the years 1966-67 when it took Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin down to the studio and got million sellers with Muscle Shoals songs and productions.”

Upon visiting this town it is tough to reconcile its musical history as you drive around, but that’s just part of what makes Muscle Shoals so intriguing.

Turn the Page

Bob Seger wrote one of the most simple and realistic songs about the dark side of the entertainment business in his brilliant piece, “Turn the Page,” originally released on his 1973 album, Back In ’72.

It’s easy to assume your favorite band has the perfect life when you see them in magazines, on TV and up on stage. They get special privileges, they get the girls (or guys), they get really cool free stuff and people want their autograph.

However, this is usually a brief, short-lived set of circumstances. Remember, we are talking about people here, human beings, as products. The emotions of life don’t stop just because you’re “famous,” and they are often more intense.

When the radio singles are no longer coming, the concert demand has slowed and album sales have fallen off, few care about the “famous one(s)” any longer.

But when the radio singles are coming, the concert tickets are being bought and your stuff is selling, no one cares then either, they just pretend to.

Seger sums up the loneliness, the boredom, the emptiness and the rut of life on the road (of course its implications go beyond the road life) in “Turn the Page.” One of the most powerful lines of the song says:

Out there in the spotlight, you’re a million miles away

Every ounce of energy you try to give away

As the sweat pours out your body like the music that you play

Metallica took the song and added further drama to it when they released it on their 1998 album, Garage Inc., and applied the song’s storyline to the life of a stripper. Check out this intense video, and be reminded that the entertainment industry is rife with heartache around every corner, and fleeting with every instant it offers.

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