Randy and his backing band, the Silverados, played two shows each night at the Bottom Line. Rosanne Cash opened.
Randy’s two-night stint at the Bottom Line turned out to be disastrous for him. He was sick with laryngitis, there were sound issues, and he even walked offstage during the early show on the first night. Making matters worse, the audience was filled with New York music critics and representatives from his record company, Epic Records. One could pass it off as just a bad night, but having a bad night in a popular New York City venue makes headlines. Sadly, this is how it turned out for Randy.
Photos ©Ebet Roberts
During the early (9:00pm) show on March 11th, Randy performed about five songs before stomping offstage after being heckled by a member of the audience. He had been annoyed with the Bottom Line’s sound system, griping at one point: “I’m sorry I can’t play guitar for ya. If I can’t hear it, I can’t play it.” He was also struggling with his voice due to laryngitis. Right before the song “Hearts On Fire,” from his latest album, One More Song, Randy commented on his vocal problems: “The Silverados are doing a lot better than I am tonight,” which drew a response from a heckler: “That’s for sure!” Several in the audience applauded the heckler. Randy responded by laying down his guitar and walking offstage, leaving one of his male band members to finish the song. He did not return. Randy explained later, “I had to go to the dressing room, pound on the bathroom wall and get it out of my system. It’s that old showbiz thing–you gotta keep on smiling.” Randy came back for the late show that night and performed his entire set with no issues. He did the same for the two shows the next evening as well. Nevertheless, it was the first night’s debacle that became fodder for the newspapers.
In the April 30th, 1981 issue of Rolling Stone, the incident was detailed on the magazine’s “Random Notes” page:
Beginning in 1974, Rolling Stone began syndicating its “Random Notes” column to reach a wider audience, therefore the story of Randy’s opening at the Bottom Line was featured in over 100 newspapers across the country. Below is a sampling of the Bottom Line incident from a few of those newspapers:
The incident was also published in Billboard magazine, April 4, 1981
The most mean-spirited review was from Wayne Robins’ of Long Island’s Newsday, who said he wanted to “shake Meisner by the shoulders and say, ‘This is New York, cowboy, quit kvetching and start playing.'” However, his comments about Randy’s backup singer, Therese Heston, were all the more harsh. “Wearing Sergio Valentes, the designer jeans of the terminally macho, she constantly pointed attention to herself by idiotically strumming an invisible guitar. In every song, she seemed to be saying, ‘Look at me! I’m on the stage!'”
The short New York Times’ review wasn’t much better, but did say Randy’s late show performance was an improvement, but “not very interesting.”