Photos by Alex Mitram.

I woke up one morning with nostalgia clinging to my soul and I made a fatal mistake: I thought back to the old days and all those who have passed away. How many deaths? How many ghosts? The list is long. Then, without really knowing why, I thought of a major event in my past, a moment frozen in time that will forever remain embedded in my memory. And overwhelmed by the whirlwind of memories, I found myself thirty-seven years ago.

The news had spread like wildfire. The whole circle of the friends into southern rock was on alert. Molly Hatchet is going to tour France! We all dreamed of it. Especially me, who had only known the band since 1982, when a friend from high school and then college (and future drummer of our band) had copied a "best of" cassette from the first two albums. Before, I mostly listened to fifties rock n 'roll and rockabilly; I was the typical profile of the neighborhood rocky (with some knowledge of other musical styles such as blues, hard rock or british pop). Rock'n'roll did you say? Damn it! The slap I took with "It's all over now" for the first time in the lugholes! So I bought all the records and it became one of my favorite bands.

With the friends, we had already worked on several Hatchet covers like "Penthouse pauper", "Beatin 'the odds" or "It's all over now". When the last album to date, "No guts, no glory", was released at the beginning of winter, we added "Kinda like love" to our repertoire (I had worked hard to replicate the lyrics and our guitarist had added a solo on the track). We were therefore all regular fans even if we had not attended the Parisian show of the group in 1979 (too young at the time). So imagine our joy and excitement at the announcement of their French tour. Especially for myself of whom it was the first big concert (I had only seen a few amateur groups before at the MJC (community youth club and arts centre, Translator’s Note) in my neighborhood).

I rushed to the Fnac of the Halles (a big culture store in the Halles district in Paris, Translator’s Note) to buy my ticket (60 francs… It's going the big profit with the prices charged today). The rumor that the Outlaws open is well confirmed, their name appearing below that of Molly Hatchet. On the back of the ticket, publicity obliges, the production mentioned the last albums of the two groups and I realize that the Outlaws have just released another, "Los hombres malo". I grab it from the shelves and hurry inside to listen to it. It will be played on a loop on my turntable with "No guts, no glory" until the evening of the concert. While waiting for the fateful date, my friends and I spend our time between classes at the university, a few rehearsals tinged with southern rock and drunken evenings animated by feverish discussions on the possible set-list of the show.

A thunderclap suddenly disturbs the course of our quiet existence. The concert would be canceled following the collapse of the Chapiteau de Pantin (circus tent erected at the gate of Pantin under the name of the Pavillon de Paris before the inauguration the following year of the Zenith, Translator's Note). We try to find out more but nothing filters. Fright, rage, disillusionment. Then, by chance, our guitarist came across a poster crossed out with a recently pasted banner mentioning the Mutualité hall as a new reception area. Phew! We had a lucky escape!

On March 14, around 5:30 p.m., we all crowd into Fred's Ford Fiesta (Fred is our guitarist) and we get a move on towards the Mutualité hall (may the youngest who read these lines not be surprised : in 1983, we could still park in Paris). Philippe (the drummer) took down the southern flag which adorned the wall of his room and Christophe (the bass player) also brought his own, mounted on a solid stick serving as a pole. We cross part of Paris with our banners fluttering in the wind. Once parked, we go up rue Monge, fired up like General Lee's troops before Fredericksburg, and we arrive in front of the place of the festivities. A few American cars, two or three SUVs and many Harley Davidsons invaded the adjacent streets. It is still early but there are already quite a few people in front of the room. At the sight of our flags, a few guys shouted cheers and other “rebel yells”. It's always a nice welcome! We wait in the queue. With our early twenties, we are a little impressed by the guys in their thirties that we meet. Long-haired, mustached, bearded, fat, tattooed, rednecks, rebels, bikers, two or three Hell's, a few hardos. Mouths of thugs, faces of nightmare, broken faces. Guys that we wouldn't like to meet at night around a street light. In short, a southern rock audience. Anxious glances hurriedly thrown over the curtains tell us that neighbors are hardly used to seeing such a horde of noisy and shaggy barbarians in their neighborhood. The doors end up opening and we are treated to a human compression (while waiting for the reduction of personnel thirty years later), each wanting to be in the first row. Our momentum is stopped short by the bouncers who channel the movement of the crowd and carry out the required body search. The bassist has his flag confiscated because of the stick, assimilated to a possible weapon; he makes a slight mouth. Despite these minor worries, we entered the room among the first. On the stage, roadies finish installing the gear. A bearded guy with sunglasses, a hat and a fur collar jacket is sitting on the left side. Chewing on a cigar, he looks at the public which gradually takes over the place. He seems to weigh everyone with his eyes, like the Supreme Magistrate on Judgment Day. His attention is suddenly diverted by the vociferations of one of the Outlaws roadies, grappling with a Fender amp that stubbornly snores like a bulldozer. The bearded man gets up, I hear him say to the roadie "That's shit!" then he comes back from backstage with a Marshall crate and passes it on to the guy. It's just then that we recognize Dave Hlubek. Too late! He has just retired backstage. Meanwhile, preparations and adjustments continue. A big guy, tall and weighing a hundred pounds or so, tests the microphones. "One, two. One, two. Test! Test!". It may seem limited but, on the other hand, what else can he say? (To have done it myself, we must admit that we look very stupid and we always repeat the same things. After that, we will claim that roadies are people devoid of any vocabulary). Arriving at the main mic with a straight stand (that of the lead singer of Molly Hatchet without a doubt), we are surprised to see him lift his head and stand on tiptoe for the test. The microphone was probably placed too high but that doesn't seem to worry him too much and he leaves it as it is.

The hall has filled up and there are also people on the balcony. A few Stetsons dot the audience. Apart from these modest eccentricities, the dress code remains very classic: boots, leather or denim jackets, many of which are stamped with the flags of the Confederation. But apparently we're the only ones waving a large star-spangled banner.

Finally, the lights go out. The Outlaws take over the stage. Hughie Thomasson, a bandana taming his thick hair, a black Stratocaster slung over his shoulder and Mexicana santiags on his feet, launches into the microphone with his exotic accent "Bonswoir Paris! Vive la Fwance!". And let's go for "Don't stop", a track from their last album. The Outlaws' vintage 83 is reduced to two guitars, a bass and a drums. Freddie Salem, the second guitarist, tried to slip his extra pounds into a leather pants. With his moustache and his mat complexion, he is the perfect exemple of a gypsy. The combo will feature that evening a good part of the classics of its repertoire including the essential "There is another love song" and "Hurry sundown". Even if this is not the original version of the band, the audience applauds as real connoisseur. Certainly, the absence of Billy Jones is to be deplored but it remains a great show. Hughie Thomasson sprinkles us with inspired solos with his inimitable style. Me, I'm in heaven but our guitarist has some reservations about the sound he finds a bit messy (after all, I'm still a novice). On "Goodbye" (song about Jesse James), we even have the right to a violin solo played by an authentic cowboy with hat, scarf and everything. We send cow's head greetings to the musicians who are laughing and looking really happy to be there. Hughie points his finger at us when he sees us waving the thirteen-star flag. Then they attack "Green grass and high tides" with guitar solos that go crescendo. During the final gallop, a guy just behind me kisses our southern banner. Everyone is on the verge of madness. At one point, Hughie Thomasson and Freddie Salem play in reverse, one on the other's guitar neck. This is delirium! The music stops and the drum solo takes over. The other musicians come back on stage and end the piece with forceful triplets and guitar reels. Hughie gives us one last solo killer and it's the end. The hall screams with happiness (for me, it's the first time I've heard so many people yelling together). We are entitled to "Ghost riders in the sky" as an encore, with a beautiful Hispanic intro played by Hughie. The Outlaws salute and leave the stage. Their set lasted almost an hour (it wasn't really an opening but a “co-billing”, as we say nowadays).

With the lights back on, the refreshment stall suffered an unprecedented assault. We head to the T-shirt stand. I hadn't planned it and I only have ten quids on me. The friends join together and the four of us buy the same T-shirt (the one with the crossed Winchesters) for the modest sum of thirty francs each (yes, you read that right! We are far from the current 30 or 40 euros). We walk around the room, banner unfurled. Some elders look at us with a benevolent smile. A guy about 40 years old (an old one for us at the time) wants to buy us a drink, quite happy to see that the continuation of southern rock is assured. In the right corner of the stage, I spot two guys in Stetson with a camera around their neck, probably looking for the best angle of view. We meet Sieur Henri, friend of the guitarist, who has managed to imprison his muscle mass in a superb Blackfoot T-shirt from the Reading Festival with the "rebel flag" on the back. Drowned in smoke (no Evin law at that time -a French law against Tobacco consumption in the public areas, Translator's Note-), and in the smell of beer, surrounded by sinister mines, it feels like a Saturday night in an Atlanta dump. I feel proud to belong to this community, to the southern rock family, and I am fully aware of living a historical episode, one of those that is still told by the fireside years later with stars in the eyes. We return to the stage (towards the right half) just before the thirsty people return to the battlefield.

The lights dim again and a big roadie bellows into the microphone the still famous ad: "WOULD YOU PLEASE WELCOME FROM JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA, EPIC RECORDING ARTISTS: MOLLY HATCHET!". And it starts with "Bloody reunion". And there, it's not the same story. If the sound level of the Outlaws remained reasonable and, with hindsight, slightly high-pitched, from the first chords we undergo a deluge of decibels which leaves us knocked out for a few seconds. The sound system spits out loud but clear. The three axemen are supported by a wall of triple Marshall bodies which sprays the front rows. Placed in front, we catch the sound of the stage right in the face and the bass of the sound system on the sides. It really hurts! It should be noted that several times during the show, the roadies will pass in front of the amps with noise-canceling headphones (besides the guys from Molly Hatchet will have fun cornering them on stage for a laugh, a good roadie must be almost invisible. to do its job).

The surprise gone and the ears scrubbed, we can enjoy the music of our favorite band. Dave Hlubek is the first solo on "Bloody reunion". He plays in an aggressive way, martyring his white Hamer (which he will swap just afterwards for a Gibson Les Paul) and waving his long hair. Duane Roland, with his red bandana and drooping mustache, is more relaxed and plays cushy on a black and white Gibson Flying V. Steve Holland is armed with a black Stratocaster and delivers a rhythm of steel. New bassist Riff West, with his long hair and Blackfoot Indian style, keeps moving while hitting his bass and the latest drummer BB Borden turns out to be an outstanding hammer. This nasty gang is masterfully led by singer Danny Joe Brown, one hell of a guy with an impressive height (now I understand why the roadie was tiptoeing when testing the mic) and a hoarse, loud, Jack Daniel's dripping voice.

They follow directly with "It's all over now" (Danny Joe Brown yells: "Come on! Let's go jukin '!") played top speed with a solo by Duane Roland and a delirium of Dave Hlubek at the end. Danny Joe greets us and begins a dialogue with the audience: "Good evening! How do you feel tonight?". A burst of howling answers him. He makes us repeat: "Yeah? Yeah?". We yell louder and louder. Delighted, he retorts: "All right! It's good to see you!". Then he presents us the next track taken from their last album and the band attacks "What's it gonna take?", A good melodic and square title as we like them. Boosted, Danny Joe takes off the T-shirt and stands in the middle of his friends, holding the microphone stand like an Indian spear, while they play the solo in the third. The delirium! Then they shift to "What does it matter" with a killer solo performed by Duane Roland. With my friends, we often wondered who was playing this or that solo. There, we are informed.

Danny Joe Brown utters a cry of joy and thanks us: "Thank you! Thank you everybody!". He tells us that they are going to play a song that Dave wrote. Right after, the intro of "Both sides" sounds and we attend the guitaristic delirium of Dave Hlubek who floods us with inspired solos while twirling in all directions. I've always loved this instrumental and there, live, it goes beyond everything. I am in paradise. In redneck heaven, of course. Because this is where southern rock takes on its full dimension. Indeed, instead of drowning us under an avalanche of notes (as was the fashion at the time), our good old Dave gives us a delicious mix of technique and feeling that gives me chills along the backbone. A very beautiful southern ballad which ends with a festival by Mister Dave Hlubek.

Danny Joe Brown says thank you then he lets the audience clap in the hands with the support of the drummer who sets the tempo. And forward for "One's man pleasure" with its syncopated and bouncy rhythm which once again demonstrates all the musical freshness of southern rock. Danny Joe notices us with our star flag and gives us a contorted smile, pointing at us. We are quite proud of it (moreover, several times during the show, Danny Joe Brown, Riff West and Steve Holland will give each other a gesture of gratitude for our loyalty to the Old South). Danny Joe tells us he has a song from their debut album for us. Then the musicians send us "Bounty hunter" which sounds the same as on the record. There's no two ways about it: the Molly Hatchet guys know their stuff.

Danny Joe Brown calls out to the audience again: "Thank you! Thank you very much! A little Jack Daniel's to you!". The drummer hits a swing rhythm on his snare drum and Dave Hlubek shouts into the microphone that we better go all out or he'll come and kick our ass. Everyone is screaming their lungs out. Then came "Sweet Dixie", a song to the glory of southen rock ("Mister DJ, won't you play some southern rock'n'roll"). We frantically wave our southern banner and Danny Joe gives us another smile. Right next to us, leaning on the security fence, a tall bearded man with a "perfecto" jacket decorated with an enormous rebel flag pats his hands in rhythm. Behind me, a guy in a bomber jacket, shoulder-length black hair and a thin drooping mustache, leaning on two crutches, yells at all he can. He is surrounded by two girls (the lucky guy) who support him when he decides to raise a crutch to raise our flag even higher. We both look at each other and exchange a big smile. An unusual detail strikes me: he almost looks like Danny Joe Brown's twin. Funny! Dave Hlubek gives us the three solos practically identical to the version of the album. You could almost see the sparks springing from his guitar. His performance triggered thunderous applause.

Danny Joe gives us another thank you before presenting the next track. Then the formidable intro of "On the prowl" shakes up the Mutuality (it is, in my opinion, one of the greatest intros of southern rock, even rock'n'roll itself: simple and effective but totally original. and immediately recognizable). Duane Roland presents us with a superb slide solo, proving once again his mastery of the instrument (although some people have tended to downplay his importance within the band, he still is one of the cornerstones of Hatchet). Danny Joe Brown dedicates the following title to everyone. He assures us that it is a little piece of their home that they take wherever they go. And "Gator country" comes to caress us the ears, transporting us directly to Jacksonville in Florida. We believe it! Duane Roland and Dave Hlubek share the solos and the track takes the intensity up a notch. Then they move on to "Dreams I'll never see", cover of the Allman Brothers Band, which we recognize from the first bars. No doubt, we have crossed the Mason Dixon Line. Danny Joe introduces us to Duane Roland who begins his solo, joined by his friends who place themselves in attack formation, the four axe necks above the first row, rocking back and forth following the hypnotic rhythm hammered by a young B.B. Borden decidedly in good shape.

"Flirtin 'with disaster" is played directly non-stop. On the last chorus, Danny Joe Brown holds out his microphone towards the crowd and we all sing "Ooh! Ooh! Bop bop yeah!". The track ends with a brilliant guitaristic conclusion from Dave Hlubek. Danny Joe greets the audience (“Thank you very much!”) and the band leaves the stage. The whole room screams and applauds. We stomp our feet on the floor. So strong that I feel like I'm bouncing back on the spot. After a few minutes, the guys from Molly Hatchet come back on stage. Dave Hlubek thanks us, tells us we're a great audience and introduces the band members: Riff West ("A new fellow on bass!"), Steve Holland, BB Borden ("The young Billy Boy on the drums!") and Duane Roland. Then he attacks the intro of "Sweet home Alabama" on his superoverdrived Gibson. The room yells like one man. We wave our thirteen-star flag even more vigorously. A shiver runs through my spine, as if I saw General Lee come out of his grave, his beard quivering. Our good Dave then goes in a solo close to hard rock. Danny Joe grabs the microphone and yells "Dave Hlubek!" He reminds to our good office ("My name is Danny Joe Brown. Thank you!") then he yells "Rock'n'rooooll !!" and "Crossroads" comes to smash our faces kicking a hell of our asses (a few days later, we will listen to the live version of Lynyrd at Fred the guitarist and we will all make the same reflection: in comparison with the energy released by Molly Hatchet, the guys from Skynyrd seem to play folk guitars).

It's been a while since we shout between the songs "Beatin 'the odds! Beatin' the odds!", "concrete" title of Hatchet between all. And there we are heard. Steve Holland lets loose on the intro, putting the Mutualité in delirium. The voice of Danny Joe Brown fits perfectly to the song (otherwise so well interpreted by Jimmy Farrar) and Dave Hlubek strums the solo that kills. Danny Joe tells us "Good night! Thank you very much!" and the combo goes out a second time. Everyone shouts: "HATCHET! HATCHET! HATCHET!". Will they come back? We all hope so. The minutes go by, endless. Finally, they reinvest the stage, with a smile on their face and the air of being satisfied with the Parisian public. Danny Joe Brown thanks us once again, in French and in American, then announces "Fall of the peacemakers". Duane Roland, equipped with a double-necked off-white Gibson for the occasion, attacks the intro of this anthology title. A torrent of applause gives rise to the room and wild howls crack the walls. Madness reaches its climax.

In the first part of the song, a typically southern ballad, Danny Joe Brown gives the lyrics to the first two verses and the chorus and Duane Roland takes care of the solo. Danny Joe ends the last chorus and it's the break announcing the final guitar cavalcade. He thanks us one last time and says "Thank you everybody! Good night to you! God bless you!" (it's nice of her to wish us good night but goodbye to the lullaby). And let's go for the three harmonized phrases and the successive solos of Dave Hlubek, Duane Roland and Steve Holland. The guitars smoke. The three strummers set off to the third gimmicks and the final solo is entrusted to Dave Hlubek who literally crushes his Gibson, disheveled, heroic. Then we are entitled to the unpublished final (the version of the disc being "shunted" at the end) which ends us more surely than a Remington bullet. The charge lasted more than ten minutes. Danny Joe Brown gives us one last "Thank you very much! Thank you!" and the band leaves the stage for good.

The lights come back on. I watch my friends. I talk to them, they answer me, but it's as if I had cotton in my ears. Fred assures me that this is normal and that it will pass (in fact, I will stay with a hissing sound in my right ear for three days).

The room slowly empties. Smiles of satisfaction light up the faces. No clashes, no shoving, no brawls (as will happen at the ZZ Top concert a few months later). Either way, we're so stunned that we'd be hard pressed to make a new "Cold Harbor" again. Fred the guitarist and Philippe the drummer, who are used to concerts, assure me that "this evening, they put the dose" (in fact, they played just below the tolerance threshold. The specialized press will talk about elsewhere from a "decibel wall"). As a baptism by fire, I was put to the test. Christophe the bassist tries to recover his flag at the reception but an ill-mannered one has passed before him and has crushed him. He is a little more mouthed (he will admit to me later that he does not remember the end of the show, so much he was stoned with grass). What does it matter! We leave the Mutualité sweaty, breathless, voiceless, deaf but happy. HAPPY! As after a first tour in a car with friends, at full speed. As after a first kiss exchanged stealthily under a carriage door with a understanding girl friend. HAPPY like the first time you put your fingers on a guitar ... or on a woman. I feel like I have become a veteran who survived a memorable battle and I know, deep down, that this first gig will be followed by many more. The future will prove me right.

Outside, the cafes are full of survivors who regain their strength with cold beers. We rush into the car and we go to empty a glass at the Canon de la Nation (a café located on Place de la Nation), just to celebrate the return of Confederation with dignity. The next day, I show up to college with the concert T-shirt on a freezing morning and in an unheated auditorium (it's when we get older that we become chilly), just to show my convictions to everyone . Afterwards, I didn't wear it much, for fear of damaging it. I know, it's stupid! But it's still a legendary collector's item. The proof. I put it on for the Point Blank concert in Bobino in 2010 and a guy in the audience came up to me and said, "Fuck! Were you there?" There, it warmed my heart. So I replied, like an old man who has come out of many battles "Yes, I was there!" Subsequently, with the friends, we will talk often about this evening which marked our spirits. Personally, it continues to haunt me even thirty-seven years later.

Chance sometimes plays funny tricks on you. A few years ago, I had to do in Paris and, following a metro problem, I had to cross a good part of the fifth arrondissement on foot under a sky heavy with threats. After some hesitation (I wasn't Parisian for a long time), I took an avenue which, according to my distant memories, was to lead me to Saint Michel. Without noticing it, I walked up rue Monge and came out without warning in the small square where the Mutuality room was enthroned (after all these years, I had forgotten its geographical location). The surprise stopped me in my tracks and I stood there, planted like a carrot, contemplating this place where I had attended my first legendary concert. The room seemed closed for renovations. The old lady was getting a makeover. I got closer. At this precise moment, the lead clouds which decorated the dreary Parisian sky parted and a ray of sun caressed the facade. I put my hand on the stone steeped in history. I felt him quiver. No, it wasn't the nearby jackhammer that mercilessly smashed the sidewalk. No, it was not the heavy truck crossing the square. No! No, I felt the vibrations of the spitting amps; I heard the howls of the unleashed guitars, the cries of the excited audience. So many memories embedded in the walls that now sprang into the open air. So many ghosts who scram.

A warm voice with southern accents, full of sun and bourbon, reached me from the depths of the past. "Do you remember, Man?" Oh yes, I remembered. And, for sure, I saw the ghosts of Danny Joe Brown, Dave Hlubek, Duane Roland, Riff West, Bruce Crump and Hughie Thomasson cross the heavy front door of the Mutualité to go and sink a drink at the opposite bar. Even Danny Joe winked at me, breaking through with a wry smile.

Then he disappeared into nothingness taking away a part of my youth.


Olivier Aubry

NOTE: Although the memories of this evening remain forever etched in my memory, I could never have described this concert so faithfully without the contribution of my southern comrade Mashsouthern (first bassist of Calibre 12 -a well-known French southern rock band, translator's note-) who, a long time ago, gave me kindly a copy of this now legendary show. OA

Molly Hatchet in France Paris1983!!! Full Concert...

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