It was the largest single gathering of goths, punks and alterna-kids to that point in Northeast Ohio.

It was Lollapalooza before Lollapalooza.

It was the 1987 triple-bill tour of New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen and openers Gene Loves Jezebel.

I remember that summer day quite vividly, as my friends and I marvelled at how many other kids with Clairol jet-black hair and trenchcoats descended upon the newly opened Nautica Stage in the Flats, nestled right on the Cuyahoga River to see the biggest concert featuring our music we’d ever seen. Before this show, most of alternative bands were consigned to tiny club gigs or opening slots for larger, more mainstream acts. This was going to be our show.

Gene Loves Jezebel kicked things off with a scene that quickly became something out of a goth Teen Beat, as hundreds of teenaged girls rushed the general admission floor to pin themselves to the stage, screaming out for their idols. My friend Jill grabbed my hand and before I knew it, I was up against the stage myself, watching Michael Ashton preen in a colorful whirl of scarves while his brother Jay posed with his guitar. It was like having chicken fingers before poached salmon or filet mignon…it wasn’t good for you, it didn’t match the rest of the course, but boy, it’s kinda tasty.

I wasn’t the biggest Gene Loves Jezebel fan. I enjoyed their singles, particularly “Heartache” and “Sweetest Thing” from their 1986 album Discover (I got tired fairly quickly of the overplayed “Desire”), but a little went a long way. During this tour supporting their 1987 album, The House Of Dolls, the band moved into a dancier direction than their earlier goth-tinged stuff, a move that would eventually cause a rift between the Ashtons, resulting in the eventual split of the band into two Gene Loves Jezebels, both actually touring at the same time at one point.

House Of Doll’s first single, “The Motion Of Love” was a blatant play for Top 40 acceptance, an almost straight-ahead rock ballad with a few of those Jezebel seagull-squeal vocals overlaid. I hated it – I thought it was a blatant and total sell-out. The 12″ mix basically extends the torture a bit. The single sort of accomplished its goal, however, and got the group into the Hot 100 for the first time. Also, my distaste for it has receded over time, but that may just be nostalgia.

Capitalizing on the radio and tour exposure, two more singles were worked, both with an emphasis on the dance clubs, resulting in decent mixes for “Twenty Killer Hurts” and “Suspicion”.

These singles didn’t irritate me as much, because they seemed more in the earlier spirit of the band’s sound. The new direction bugged Michael enough to cause him to leave the band and Jay took the group in an even more hair metal direction with their next album, Kiss of Life, with the worst Jezebel single ever, “Jealous”, which of course, went on to become the band’s biggest hit.

That 1987 concert was epic, though.

“The Motion Of Love” peaked at #87 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988.
“Suspicion” and “Twenty Killer Hurts” did not chart.

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