Rockbrat Remembers: rock n roll and pinball machines

The Motor City Madman's name in lights

Rock n roll and the flashing lights of pinball, were two very large components of my youth – and also adulthood (when I could find a machine that is). Playing a pinnie with a can of coke resting nearby whilst the jukebox cranked some Kiss, Stones or other rock tunage was all I ever needed. Check the original video of the Rose Tattoo track Rock n Roll Outlaw and you will see…….teenage kids playing pinball ! Even back in the late 50’s, kids in cafes across America were slurping sodas and playing pinball whilst Elvis, Little Richard and Co blared from the jukebox. It was a generational thing and anyway you look at it, pinball was cool. Make no mistake folks, the young Mr Rockbrat – sure as hell played a mean pinball. I feel genuine pity for today’s kids who are bombarded with so many choices of entertainment  – most of which are not a pinch on the simpler, carefree days of pinball. “But the iPad can grab a pinball app !” I hear you cry. Yeah well you can stick your iPad up your clacker bud, cos it just ain’t that same. Now before I tilt the machine it is important to acknowledge that rock and pinball went hand in hand ! They were made for eachother and I can recall seeing several machines dedicated to a particular musician or artist. Obviously the Kiss pinball by Bally would be the most well-known rock pinnie. To think that these highly sought after Kiss collectables sat unwanted in dusty garages and warehouses in the mid 80’s, as the wave of video games sadly swept pinball aside. There was something very special about the Kiss pinball. I think most young Kiss disciples like me were mesmerized by the lights, suonds and cool band images. Skill wise, it was quite a simple game but I’ll never forget gazing up at that 1977-era back board image and being enthralled by the whole experience. The 1978 solo album artwork adourns much of this machine. Originators they

'hey Gene lend me a quarter' - Nope !

might’ve been, however Kiss were not the first to be honoured with a pinnie. Bally also produced an Elton John machine known as Captain Fantastic which was released in 1977 and although I used to see this machine a lot, I wished I had’ve played it more. Ted Nugent’s Weekend Warriors (1978) and also the Rolling Stones (1980) were two machines I did play quite a bit.  The Nuge machine was built by Stern, and was released to the pinball public back in … The backboard features the cover art from Ted’s Weekend Warriors album. Looking back it’s kinda strange that the wack master was honoured with a pinball as their were certainly bigger acts than him in the US in the 70’s. Same can be said for Dolly Parton.  That’s rights folks, Bally once again had the crew design a machine in her honor back in 1978. If I ever saw this machine I cannot recall it, though I assume some were imported outside of America.The aforementioned Stones pinnie was made by the good folks at Bally and had a supercool image of Jagger on the backboard. The Stones would be honored once again some years later by Stern wih the It’s only Rock’ n Roll pinball (2011), and as great as that machine is, give me the simplicity of their first machine any day. Pinball machines were never meant to have video games inside them and I always hated this concept. . though When I visited Gracelnd, I can recall seeing a pnball in one of Presley’s rooms (not King Pin!) and although he never lived to play it, Stern produced a machine for Elvis in 2004. Not exactly an artist themed machine, but Bally did release a pinball titled Heavy Metal Meltown back in 1987 which is worthy of a mention, as is the Rock pinball, produced by Gottlieb in 1985. With the pinball wizard tie-in, it made perfect pinball sense for a machine to be produced, so in 1994 the Data East company came out with The Who’s Tommy.  Daltrey, Townshend and Co were more than deserving of a machine that’s for certain, though it shoulda been produced in the 70’s. Did Guns n Roses deserve to be honoured with a pinball machine ? I’m not so sure, but for some time they did rule the rock world and a machine which adourned their images is testament to how popular they once were. It was a cool game to play from memory, though the playing price had risen considerably since the days of playing Kiss and Nugent ! That’s right kids, Slash and the world of ‘gaming’ met many years before the ridiculous guitar hero boom.  Why no Sex Pistols machine ? Sid had

AC/DC pinball - tabletop style !

previously been honored with a slot machine but the Pistols and back alley pinball were always a good match and they shoulda made the cut back in 78. Can you think of any current or modern act deserving of a pinball machine ? Me neither, and there in lies much of the problem with today’s stale music scene. Pinball, records, am radio, ten speed bikes, pay telephones….it all tied in with the times. Easier, simpler times when rock music mattered. It doesn’t seem to matter to most kids now, as it did in days past when nearly all teenage kids had a record player and listened to rock music in their poster-adourned bedrooms. Now much of it is manufactured and without and substance.  How’s about a Maroon 5, Justin Bieber or Good Charlotte pinball ? or even a Madonna or Pearl Jam unit ? Yeah right. What about a Red Hot Chillo Peppers pinnie ? P-lease. Where is my sick bag ?  It would make no sense anymore, becasue sadly rock n roll no longer rules the world. It would be great to see a resurgance of pinball, because I am sure today’s kids would be hooked, just like millions before them. The return of pinball and the humble 7″ vinyl record ? I like that thinking. With regard to rock music, I am surprised though that machines were not produced back in the day for the likes of AC/DC, John Lennon or the Beatles. Bon on a pinball backboard ! Now that makes perfect sense ! There was a tabletop variety for AC/DC released recently but it ain’t the same thing. I welcome your comments and your pinnie finger memories….

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