By James Sandham
Hey there, music lover. Good to see you back on the blog. You know, I’ve been listening to a lot of Buffy Sainte-Marie this week. I started with her hits “Universal Soldier” and “Until It’s Time for You to Go” because I was on a bit of a ’60s revival kick last weekend – and the more I listened, the more I was like, man, I gotta find out who this woman is.
She sings about some really powerful themes – war, indigenous rights, crazy mystic stuff – and it turns out her life is just as diverse and mind-blowingly insane, and I mean that in best way possible. She’s packed more into her 71 years on earth than most people could hope to pack into a dozen lifetimes. For example, she’s not only a musician, singer and social activist – which seem to be her main claims to fame – but she’s also a JUNO Award winner and a Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee; she’s won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award; she’s taught digital music as an adjunct professor at several different colleges; and she also acted on “Sesame Street” for five years. What’s more, that’s only a small sample of what she’s accomplished in her life. Can we talk about how awesome Buffy Sainte-Marie is?
Let’s start at the start: Sainte-Marie was born in 1941 on the Piapot Cree Indian reserve in Saskatchewan’s Qu’Appelle Valley. Her birth name was Beverly, and she was orphaned. Albert and Winifred Sainte-Marie, who were related to her biological parents, adopted her, and she was raised by them in Wakefield, Massachusetts, where she’d go on to study at the state university, the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She earned her bachelor of arts and doctor of philosophy there, in teaching and Oriental philosophy, and graduated in the top 10 of her class. And for most people, as far as academia goes, that would be a totally legitimate achievement and maybe they’d call it a day. But not Sainte-Marie: She went on to receive honorary doctor of laws degrees from the University of Regina and Carleton University, an honorary doctor of letters from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, an honorary doctor of music from the University of Western Ontario – and others! Awesome.
But what else was going on in her life while she was racking up her incredible knowledge? Well she was touring, for one thing: By the age of 24, Sainte-Marie had appeared all over Europe, Canada, Australia and Asia, and she was spending a fair amount of time in the coffeehouses of Toronto’s Yorkville district – which was hippies-ville back in the ’60s, not the “mink mile” of designer stores that it is now – and in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Often, in these places, she’d perform alongside other emerging Canadian folk singers such as fellow Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. She was kind of in the underground during this time, but many of her songs were covered by other people – “Until It’s Time For You to Go,” for example, was covered by Elvis Presley, Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond, among others – and turned into big hits. But staying in the underground didn’t last long, and by 1964 Billboard magazine was naming Sainte-Marie their best new artist. Very awesome.
There were, of course, parts of Sainte-Marie’s life that weren’t so awesome. For instance, she became addicted to codeine in 1963 while recovering from a throat infection; but even that was kind of awesome, because it inspired one of her best songs, “Cod’ine,” which was later covered by everyone from Donovan to Courtney Love. Other non-awesome things include being blacklisted during the Lyndon Johnson years, and then having Nixon come down pretty hard on her too, due to the Lakota uprising and the Siege of Wounded Knee in 1973. During that period, Sainte-Marie’s radio play was severely curtailed and she was advised not to talk about native issues on TV.
By 1976, though, things were getting back to being pretty awesome, and she was appearing regularly on “Sesame Street” along with her first son, Dakota Starblanket Wolfchild, whom she famously breastfed in one episode. In ’79 she scored a film that was entered at the Cannes Film Festival, and life just continued from there. She started getting into the use of computers to record her music and visual art, kept going to school, had her music used in TV series and more movies, got married and divorced (four and three times, respectively) – including one marriage to a surfing instructor in Hawaii. In other words, she generally just kept being awesome, and today she lives in Hawaii, which is also pretty awesome.
“Cod’ine” by Buffy Sainte-Marie:
By David Ball
Even if you’ve never heard of him, chances are you’ve shadowboxed listening to his most famous song. And if the tune inspired your breakfast regimens to include downing a glass of raw eggs and jogging whilst wearing a ratty-looking hoodie, then all the better…
Maynard Ferguson, the world-famous jazz trumpeter and prolific bandleader who became a crossover pop star with the Rocky movie theme “Gonna Fly Now,” was born in Verdun, Que., on May 4, 1928. The 1997 Canadian Music Hall of Fame (CMHF) inductee began life as a performer when he was only four, encouraged to learn violin and piano by his musician parents. Before his 10th birthday he was introduced to the instrument of his calling via the cornet that he heard played at a local church. By age 13, Ferguson was a child prodigy and featured soloist with the CBC Orchestra and won a scholarship with Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal, where he studied from 1943 to 1948. Ferguson left school in late ’48 and moved to the United States to join Stan Kenton’s orchestra, but they had disbanded, so the young trumpeter cut his teeth in other outfits led by Jimmy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet and Boyd Raeburn.
By January 1950, Ferguson finally teamed with Kenton in the bandleader’s new brass-heavy band, The Innovations Orchestra. However, he initially wasn’t the featured trumpeter despite his talent and near-unmatched high register range, which earned him the title of DownBeat magazine’s best trumpeter from 1950 to 1953.
Ferguson left Kenton’s band in 1953 and became a highly sought after – and busy – session player for Paramount Pictures, performing on 46 soundtracks, including The Ten Commandments and several Martin and Lewis films. After leaving Paramount in 1956, he fronted the short-lived all-star Birdland Dream Band (together for just two albums). After they disbanded, he led another big band for nine years which included ex-Dream Band core members Joe Zawinul, Jaki Byard, Bill Chase and John Bunch. The music they produced was the most important and best of Ferguson’s storied career. (All of the band’s recordings can be found on Roulette’s comprehensive Mosaic box set.)
The declining popularity of big bands in the mid-1960s forced Ferguson to perform and record more infrequently. He travelled to India, moved to England for five years and during his “exile,” released a number of pop-friendly experiments to mixed results, especially among jazz purists. But his M.F. Horn series was met with favourable reviews. He moved back to the United States in the mid-1970s where he continued to fuse big band jazz with pop and other fashionable sounds such as funk, rock and… shudder… disco.
Although always a top-notch soloist and concert draw, Ferguson returned to form, style-wise, in the late ‘80s with his traditional nine-piece bebop band, Big Bop Nouveau, to the delight – and no doubt, relief – of purists and his old fan base. He toured and recorded with Big Bop Nouveau until his sudden death on August 23, 2006. On an aside, my uncle Bill is a huge Maynard Ferguson fan, and my earliest jazz memories came from visits to his Kingston-area house in the mid to late 1970s (man, I’m old). Bill always seemed to have albums by Ferguson or another CMHF inductee, Moe Koffman, playing on his higher-than-high-end stereo. I can’t remember if I ever shadowboxed to the Rocky theme in his living room, but I probably showed up wearing a ratty-looking hoodie from time to time.
Strange, but true: I had a dream the other night where the late great Peter Gzowski showed me around CBC’s Toronto headquarters and, believe it or not, Don Cherry was nowhere in sight. Although I think I spied that Gerry Dee guy looking to sign autographs down by the main entrance.
“Red River Rally,” a four-hour all-star fundraising concert, was held on May 2, 1997, on CBC Radio’s “Morningside,” hosted by the venerable radio host Peter Gzowski. The special raised $450,000, with proceeds going to Manitoba’s Red River flood victims. Many of Canada’s top performers generously took part, including Tom Cochrane, Ben Heppner, Loreena McKennitt and Moxy Früvous (with pre-“Q” host Jian Ghomeshi). Other highlights included folk legend Murray McLauchlan (11-time JUNO Award winner and member of the Order of Canada) singing an emotional version of his “Red River Valley” and Valdy (two-time JUNO Award winner) unveiling a new song inspired by the unfortunate incident, “As the Waters Fall.” Several dramatic readings also took place by renowned actors Graham Greene, Sara Botsford, Linda Griffiths and others.
This wasn’t the first time the Red River caused damage and destruction. On May 5, 1950, 80-kilometre-per-hour winds caused waves to crash through the dikes protecting Winnipeg, leaving one dead and over $100 million in damage. One-third of the Manitoba capital’s citizens were forced from their homes.
On May 5, 1987, multiple JUNO Award winner Bryan Adams kicked off his North American tour in Shreveport, Loooosiania – of all places – in support of his underrated fifth album, Into the Fire. Adams and his band criss-crossed North America before taking the tour overseas to parts of Asia and Europe and ending things up in Switzerland.
Although Into the Fire was considered somewhat of a disappointment following the otherworldly success of his previous effort, Reckless, the album sold four million copies worldwide and spawned six singles, including the top 10 hit “Heat of the Night,” featuring a rare – and pretty darn good – Bryan Adams guitar solo. The title track (and its accompanying live-shot music video) is one of Adams’ best songs ever, too.
No worries, because their names are literally all over the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame anyway (I was there recently and took notes, literally)…
Neil Young and Joni Mitchell (both multiple JUNO Award winners and CMHF members) failed to show up at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 6, 1997. Their excuses were certainly intriguing: Mitchell couldn’t attend (Graham Nash accepted for her) because she had just found the daughter she gave up for adoption over 30 years earlier, and Young – inducted for his work in Buffalo Springfield – bailed because organizers refused to give him another free ticket to the event.
Even if the ceremony has strict rules, you’d think one of rock’s most important artists of all time has earned the right to get another free ticket if he wanted one, no questions asked. Heck, he deserves a lifetime luxury box suite.
I hear the real reason for the ticket snub was that Young’s old Buffalo Springfield buddy, Stephen Stills, bought up the entire front row. I kid! Actually, Buffalo Springfield were joined in the Hall of Fame Class of 1997 with the members of Parliament-Funkadelic, all 16 of them, so seats to the event were definitely at a premium. We all lose though, because the ceremony’s celebrated end-of-night jam could have used Neil Young rocking it out on “Mr Soul.”
Next week: Bruce Cockburn and Jimi Hendrix
“Gonna Fly Now” by Maynard Ferguson
By David Ball
Having already conquered most of Europe, Australia and New Zealand earlier in the year, The Rolling Stones kicked off their landmark first North American tour with a sold-out concert at Maurice Richard Arena in Montreal on April 23, 1965. The highly anticipated tour was supported by their 1965 American studio album, The Rolling Stones, Now!, and highlighted by one of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ early compositions, the Top 20 hit “Heart of Stone.” Not surprisingly, each night’s set list relied heavily on the band’s early era blues and R&B influences, and the short-but-sweet 10-song Montreal show was no exception: two originals – “Off the Hook” and “The Last Time” – placed nicely among eight covers, including the Solomon Burke opener “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” Chuck Berry’s “Carol,” Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster” and set closer Bo Diddley’s “I’m Aright.” Unfortunately, given the madness surrounding the British Invasion, incessant screaming from hormonal girl-fans marred most of the recordings.
After their quick visit to La Belle Province, the burgeoning rock superstars played three Ontario gigs in three straight days beginning on April 24 at the nation’s capital, followed by a stop in Toronto the following evening and a final stop in London before crossing the border on April 29 to play two shows in Albany, N.Y. In total, Jagger, Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts performed 24 concerts in 21 days, ending their gruelling schedule with a threefer on May 29 at New York City’s Academy of Music. Note: The Rolling Stones’ second American tour also began in Montreal, on October 10, 1965.
R.I.P. to a great guitarist, respected songwriter and producer with the best damn nickname in rock history…
Brian “Too Loud” MacLeod, best known for his pivotal work in bands Chilliwack and Headpins, died on April 25, 1992. He was 39. The Halifax-born musician collapsed on stage in 1990 and was later diagnosed with sarcoma cancer, which had spread to his bone marrow.
MacLeod played in a couple of bands based in St. John’s, N.L., in the mid-1970s, most notably Huski and Garrison Hill. By 1977, he had moved to Ontario and was discovered by Chilliwack while playing gigs with bar band Stingaree. MacLeod made his Chilliwack debut on the popular Vancouver rockers’ seventh album, Lights From the Valley (released in 1978), where he contributed on guitar and vocals and composed two tracks.
Before work began on the band’s eighth studio effort, Breakdown in Paradise, three original members quit, leaving only founding member Bill Henderson and MacLeod from the previous lineup. Note: Around this time, MacLeod and Chilliwack bassist Ab Bryant formed a side project, Headpins (more on this later). Henderson and MacLeod shared producer credits and wrote all the songs on Breakdown in Paradise and remained creative partners on subsequent – and pivotal – Chilliwack albums, 1981’s Wanna Be a Star and 1982’s Opus X. The former LP went to No. 1 in Canada and the MacLeod-Henderson hit “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)” gave Chilliwack their long-deserved Top 40 breakthrough in the United States while Opus X and its singles “Whatcha Gonna Do (When I’m Gone)” and “Secret Information” won MacLeod and Henderson the 1983 JUNO Award for Producer of the Year.
However, during the height of Chilliwack’s popularity, MacLeod and Bryant departed to try their luck with their side project, Headpins, full time. Although the duo’s decision seemed surprising and somewhat bold, 1982’s Turn it Loud went double platinum thanks to hit “Don’t It Make Ya Feel,” and the album remains one of the most successful debuts in Canadian history. Headpins’ 1983 followup, Line Of Fire, was also a bestseller. One more studio album followed in 1985, minus lead singer Darby Mills, before the band went on hiatus. MacLeod continued to work behind the scenes on a variety of projects, including producing albums by the likes of D.O.A. and Holly Woods (Toronto) as well as penning songs with Bryan Adams and Doug and the Slugs.
On April 27, 1939, chrome-dome drummer Jerry Mercer of the Montreal-based rock group April Wine was born in Newfoundland. The former member of Mashmakhan replaced original timekeeper, Richie Henman, in 1973 and anchored the rhythm section through the band’s glory years – including through his successful battle with prostate cancer in 1997 – right up to his retirement in 2008. Mercer continues to work for Monolith Drums, a company he co-founded over 20 years ago.
His first public appearance with the band came when they opened for T. Rex at Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition Stadium. Before getting the call to join April Wine, “Mr. Clean” (Mercer’s nickname due to his resemblance to the cleaning product character) worked as, I kid you not, both a cattle farmer and IBM programmer. His versatile style can be heard putting a charge in classic April Wine arena rockers “Oowatanite” from 1975, “Say Hello” and “I Like to Rock,” both from the 1979 LP Harder… Faster, and hit power ballad “Just Between You and Me” from their biggest album, The Nature of the Beast, released in 1981.
During their heyday, April Wine received 10 JUNO Award nominations, scored five bestselling albums and became one of Canada’s most successful touring bands. I was fortunate enough to catch their $10.50 general admission gig (with opening act Harlequin) at the Memorial Centre in Kingston, Ont., near the tail end of their commercial peak. I was very, very, very, very young back then. Truthfully, I was barely a teenager (man I’m old), but I do recall grinning ear-to-ear while watching Mercer pound away during his trademark looooooooooooooooong drum solo on their cover of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man.” I bought the Power Play tour shirt after the encore, which I wore proudly for my high school yearbook photo. Man I’m old.
Time for another instalment of “This Week in Céline Dion History”:
Australia scooped the world – by a few days – when Dion’s live CD/concert DVD combo, Taking Chances World Tour: The Concert, was released on April 29, 2010. Two versions (English and French) were recorded over four nights – two shows at TD Garden in Boston on August 12 and 13, 2008, and two more in Montreal at the Bell Centre on August 31 and September 1 – and the discs capture prime Dion in the midst of what would become the second-highest grossing tour ever by a solo artist. The critically acclaimed concert combo features most of her best-known songs and, not surprisingly, became another international bestseller on both the album and DVD charts.
Next week: Morningside’s Red River Rally and Maynard Ferguson
“Don’t It Make You Feel” by Headpins
By James Sandham
Good day there, music lover. I hope you’ve been enjoying this wonderful weather as much as I have. If you’ve been reading the blog, you’ll have noticed that when warm weather strikes, we here at the Canadian Music Hall of Fame have a certain predilection for patios, locally brewed beer and classic Canadian jams. But that’s not all the sunny weather draws us to. Last weekend I partook in another of my favourite seasonal pastimes: used record hunting. There are plenty of places on Toronto’s Queen Street West where you can get cheap vinyl, and there are few better ways to spend a fine day than digging through the discard piles. Here are a few samples of what I pulled in.
This is the 1970 debut album by 2001 Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Bruce Cockburn. It was also the first album released by True North Records. I thought this was a pretty awesome score: It’s got lots of mellow folk tunes that are great for listening to on hot summer days, and what’s more, it only cost me a buck. I got it at the Salvation Army in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood, which has way more cool stuff than you’d expect.
Les grands succes d’André Gagnon
This is a double disc that came out on Columbia Records back in 1973. To be honest, I had no idea what it was when I picked it up. But it had a quote from the CBC referring to André Gagnon as “Canada’s Mozart,” or something like that, so I figured what the heck, this could be pretty good – and it was, in strange sort of way particular to the era in which it was released. The sound is somewhere between classical and 1960s pop, bordering at times on the psychedelic. That’s a score as far as I’m concerned. Cost: One dollar from the Parkdale Salvation Army.
As I made my way east, I came across this little treasure, which I bought from a guy on the street out front of Trinity Bellwoods Park. He had an assortment of junk that he was selling in a sort of guerilla garage sale, and among the items was this Wynton Marsalis album. Released in 1981 by Columbia Records, it features a 19-year-old Marsalis ripping some serious jazz trumpet alongside such greats as his brother, Branford Marsalis, and Herbie Hancock. This one cost five bucks, which is a little higher than what I prefer to pay, but still a pretty good deal in my opinion.
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
Continuing to mosey on down Queen Street, I stopped in at Neurotica, which is one of those very small, very cramped used record, book and DVD stores that never seem to be open. Yet behold: On this day it was. And the record gods were clearly smiling, because I came across this little treasure in one of their discount crates. The first album by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (a group which of course included Neil Young, the 1982 Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee) contains three of the band’s early singles – “Teach Your Children,” Our House,” and “Woodstock” – and is considered by Rolling Stone to be one of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Not bad for three bucks.
Last but not least, I found this one down at Cosmo Records, just as my dogs were starting to bark and I was starting to think it was about time to pull up at a patio. Released in 1969 on Capitol Records, The Band contains all the classics from the 1989 Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees: “Rag Mama Rag,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and one of my faves, “King Harvest (Has Surely Come).” Robert Christgau, the self-proclaimed “Dean of American Rock Critics” and former editor of the Village Voice, even proclaimed it was better than The Beatles’ Abbey Road when he first heard it. High praise. And it only cost a fiver.
I’ll conclude by saying that I got a bunch more records, but I’ll have to save those for another blog entry – by which time I’ll probably have accumulated another load to brag about. But that’s the challenge with record hunting: It can be difficult to stop. Luckily, physics has its own logic, and on this particularly warm day I was eventually forced to sit down for a drink before my load became unbearable. Next time though, I’m bringing a bigger bag for sure.
By James Sandham
Good day, music lover. Welcome back to the blog. Earth Day is happening this week – April 22, to be precise – and over 170 countries will be staging events and projects to address local environmental issues. Nearly every schoolchild in Canada takes part in an Earth Day activity, so we thought we’d join in too. To celebrate the occasion, which began in the United States in 1970, we’ve compiled a few Earth Day classics – music about the environment. We hope you enjoy them.
“Big Yellow Taxi”
The first selection that came to mind was of course this 1970 hit by Joni Mitchell, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 1981 inductee. Released the same year that Earth Day was launched, “Big Yellow Taxi” reached No. 14 on the Canadian charts and No. 11 in the United Kingdom. According to Mitchell, she wrote the tune on her first trip to Hawaii.
“I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance,” she says. “Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart … this blight on paradise. That’s when I sat down and wrote the song.”
This one comes from the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 1994 inductees, Rush. The Toronto-based prog-rockers released this track on their 1978 album Hemispheres. It’s about a disagreement between the maple trees, who feel oppressed, and the oak trees, their oppressors. At the end of the song, “they passed a noble law / And the trees are all kept equal / By hatchet, axe and saw.”
The song lends itself to broad socio-economic and environmental interpretation. However, according to Neil Peart, the band’s drummer and lyricist, this was never his intention. He told Modern Drummer magazine in 1980: “I thought, ‘What if trees acted like people?’ So I saw it as a cartoon really, and wrote it that way … A very simple statement.”
Sweatshop Union, a Vancouver-based hip-hop collective known for their socially conscious sound, released “Dirty Work” on their 2002 album Local 604, a reissue of the group’s self-titled 2001 release. Unlike Rush’s “The Trees,” this song leaves little room for interpretation: “Turning the lights green on the destruction of the Earth / It’s just obvious to me that the way that we do it’s wrong / … we’re losing sacred land as we abuse and rape this planet.”
“Going to the Country”
If Sweatshop Union’s lament for the environment was a little too heavy, here’s something on a softer note, by the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 2001 inductee Bruce Cockburn. Cockburn released this track on his 1970 self-titled debut album, and it’s basically an ode to everything earthy and green: cows “hangin’ out under spreading trees,” the smell of grass growing in the field, birds singing and everything country. The perfect reminder to appreciate the Earth’s natural beauty.
In a similar vein, we have this offering from Neil Young, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 1982 inductee. Young released this track on his 21st studio album, Harvest Moon, which came out in 1992. Like Cockburn’s song, this too is an ode to nature’s beauty. “A natural beauty should be preserved / like a monument to nature,” Young sings, before going on to offer a slight criticism of mankind’s environmental stewardship: “What a lucky man / To see the Earth / before it touched his hand.”
Happy Earth Day!
By David Ball
I still think their forced Canadian-only moniker was an improvement…
On April 17, 1997, Bush finally settled their long-standing “intellectual property” dispute with respected Toronto guitarist Domenic Troiano regarding the use of the band’s name. Troiano, who had been part of The Guess Who, the James Gang and Mandala, and who was inducted to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1996, had fronted an outfit also called Bush in the 1970s and legally owned the name. As a result, the international chart-topping British rock group led by Gavin Rossdale were forced to add the exponent “X” to the end of their moniker. Thankfully, the Canadian-only name certainly didn’t hurt the band’s popularity in this country.
Those like me who are old enough to remember the skirmish will remember that Rossdale openly hated being called BushX. But it’s still infinitely better than name change runner-up: Bush XXX. I kid! The final terms of the legal agreement allowed for the dropping of the “X” in exchange for two donations of $20,000 each to the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund and the Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada. So in the end everybody won.
On a semi-personal note, later that year, it must have come as a minor relief to MuchMusic VJ Rick Campanelli – and Rossdale for that matter – that the former didn’t have to introduce the BushX version of the band to the thousands of screaming kids packed into the historic Chum Building’s parking lot/mainstage before Bush’s 1997 MuchMusic Video Awards live performance of “Swallowed.” (At least I think it was “The Temp” who was doing the intro; I worked the mainstage, but I believe those “pops” I downed before the show at the late-great Beverley Tavern caused slight memory loss.)
Bob Rock, the talented guitarist-turned-big-time-record-producer, was born in Winnipeg on April 19, 1954. Rock began his musical journey in Victoria, B.C., in the late 1970s when he co-founded one of Canada’s most important new wave bands, Payolas, with singer Paul Hyde. Payolas developed a healthy fan base and several hits in Canada, including their Top 5 single and JUNO Award-winning “Eyes of a Stranger,” but recognition south of the border never materialized. (Although, the rebranded and short-lived Rock and Hyde and the song “Dirty Water” from their only album Under the Volcano – which was produced by Rock and Bruce Fairbairn – managed to crack Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1987.)
After Payolas split up in 1988, Rock didn’t need to make the sometimes awkward transition from musician to full-time engineer and producer. He’d already established an impressive behind-the-scenes side career beginning in 1979 when he helmed the Young Canadians’ first EP, Hawaii, and worked as Fairbairn’s engineer on Prism’s third studio album, Armageddon. (Note: Rock’s final engineering credit was in 1987 on Loverboy guitarist Paul Dean’s solo effort, Hard Core). While Rock had his first big hits as a producer on both Colin James’ and Kingdom Come’s 1988 self-titled efforts, it was his work the following year that brought him worldwide attention. In 1989 Rock produced The Cult’s platinum-selling Sonic Temple and Mötley Crüe’s No. 1 smash, Dr. Feelgood, the latter of which is widely considered one of the best metal albums of the 1980s (and is probably a big reason why my brother-in-law Nick named his new dog Crüe, much to his future wife’s chagrin… not to mention the dog’s).
But back to Dr. Feelgood: Rock’s keen ear and deft hand helped deliver a masterpiece of controlled excess and over-the-top glammy metal goodness to the head-banging masses. So impressed was Metallica’s Lars Ulrich by what he heard on Dr. Feelgood that he hired Rock to produce his band’s fifth album. With Rock anchoring the often tumultuous but ultimately fruitful eight-month recording session, Metallica’s 1991 self-titled effort (a.k.a. The Black Album) spawned six hit singles, including “Enter Sandman,” and has sold over 28 million copies since its release.
As seen in the fascinating documentary A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, Rock often butted heads with the foursome during the making of the record, partly because he encouraged the band’s main collaborators, Ulrich and singer/guitarist James Hetfield, to take a different approach to the creative process: He wanted the group to work out arrangements together and to simplify their songs, offering a stark departure from the complex, thrashy forays heard on previous albums. Rock won the war and Metallica went on to become one of the biggest rock bands of all time.
Rock remains one of the era’s most respected, successful, adaptable and hardest-working producers. Since the early 1990s, he’s collaborated with an impressive and diverse group of artists, including Bryan Adams, Cher, Bon Jovi, the Moffatts, Skid Row, Our Lady Peace, The Tragically Hip and Michael Bublé. Speaking of Bublé, Rock produced his acclaimed Billboard No. 1 album, Christmas, which won the hotly contested 2012 JUNO Award for Album of the Year.
On April 21, 1977, three-time JUNO Award nominee Jesse Winchester performed his first gig in the United States in 10 years. The Louisiana-born, Memphis-raised singer-songwriter fled to Quebec in 1967 to avoid the Vietnam War draft. However, in early 1977, President Jimmy Carter – and noted fan of good music – granted draft dodgers amnesty, so Winchester made the best of it and took to the stage in a club in Burlington, Vermont. Winchester continues to perform on both sides of the border today; check your local listings.
The Rolling Stones arrived in Montreal on April 22, 1965, signifying the group’s first trip to Canada. The following day, they kicked off their first-ever North American tour with a concert at Montreal’s Maurice Richard Arena. Only a few hours after they cleared customs, all five Stones appeared on CFCF Channel 12’s “Like Young.” Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the boys didn’t perform on the popular local music program, but they did tape a lengthy interview (broadcast on April 24) at Hotel Maritime with the program’s iconic host, Jim McKenna. The Stones, looking jet-lagged and perhaps a little tipsy, were playful, polite and chatty throughout the interview, especially Brian Jones; in fact, the late Stones leader did most of the talking. McKenna did a fine job getting all sorts of interesting tidbits out of the bluesy rock band on the cusp of superstardom, less than a month before their historic second appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Heck, McKenna even managed to get Charlie Watts to speak!
Next week: The Rolling Stones and Brian (Too Loud) MacLeod.
The Rolling Stones with Jim McKenna of “Like Young”
By David Ball
Only five songs into their April 10, 1996, concert at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum, Oasis stormed off the stage, leaving the audience in the sold-out arena shocked and angered, but thankfully not to the frothy riot-like level of last year’s Stanley Cup final. But at least the celebrated Britpop band, led by the infamous bad-boy Gallagher brothers, did leave fans with one final salute (captured by local TV cameras): “We’re not a bunch of f#ckin’ monkeys!”
Cursing, fighting, insulting and general unpredictability, along with bouts of insight, humour, arrogance and, of course, hard partying, are big parts of Oasis’ charm, but the normally automatic great live band gave a pretty solid reason for ending the night on such a sour and sucky note. And what’s surprising is that you can’t even blame the Gallaghers one bit (or for even uttering the expletive-filled statement mentioned above). Sure they were pelted by shoes pretty much from the get-go, one reportedly hitting the prettier Gallagher, lead singer Liam, in the head, but according to both the band’s manager and a promoter from Perryscope on Bruce Allen’s Vancouver radio show “Sound Off,” the final straw occurred when coins were thrown at the band and one doubloon hit guitarist Noel in the eye.
Not cool at all. And you can’t accuse Oasis for somehow inciting this idiotic behaviour, because this wasn’t the severely weathered, Liam-less, end-of-the-road 2009 version of Oasis. This was the great, in-their-prime, top-of-the-rock-heap (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Oasis – and this is coming from a stoically proud non-fan!
Born to be wild indeed…
John Kay, lead singer of the pioneering 1960s hard-rock band Steppenwolf, was born Joachim Fritz Krauledat in Tilsit, East Prussia, Germany (now Russia) on April 12, 1944. During the Second World War’s evacuation of East Prussia in early 1945, Kay’s mother and baby Joachim fled their homeland due to advancing Soviet troops and settled in Arnstadt, East Germany in the Soviet occupation zone. They then resettled in the British occupation town of Hanover, West Germany, in 1948. It was here where the young Joachim, who suffered from poor eyesight (he was sensitive to light, hence his trademark sunglasses), got his first taste for rock music via broadcasts from the British Forces Broadcasting Service and U.S. Armed Forces radio.
His family moved to Toronto in 1958, and Kay joined his first band, The Sparrow, in 1965. The Waterloo, Ontario-based folk-and-blues rock outfit generated a decent regional following before trying their luck in the U.S. in 1966. The Sparrow failed to make commercial inroads and in 1967 relocated to California, where Kay rebranded the band Steppenwolf (after the Hermann Hesse novel) and began exploring the new harder-edged rock that was all the rage at the time (performed by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Cream).
Steppenwolf signed to ABC Dunhill Records and released their self-titled debut in 1968. The album’s third single, “Born to Be Wild,” became a No. 2 hit and made Kay and Steppenwolf stars and counterculture icons thanks to the song’s affiliation with the subversive 1969 cult biker film Easy Rider. More importantly, the powerful rock anthem, which was written by ex-Sparrow member Mars Bonfire, is considered the first ever heavy metal song due to the famous “heavy metal” phrase coined in its third verse, which according to Bruce Eder in All Music Guide, also provided “a genre-specific name to the brand of music that the band played (and which was already manifesting itself in the work of bands like Vanilla Fudge and the just-emerging Led Zeppelin).”
The band’s next album, The Second, was a 1968 best-seller and peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s pop album chart. The LP also signified Kay’s emergence as the band’s main creative force (their debut was dominated by outside contributions and covers). He wrote or co-wrote the majority of the album’s tracks, including collaborating with Steppenwolf bassist Rushton Moreve on the psychedelic rock masterpiece “Magic Carpet Ride.”
The band released two more important studio efforts, including the hit “Rock Me,” before disbanding in 1975; at the time, Kay was fully immersed in establishing a solo career, which is still going strong today. As the only original member, Kay regained control and re-launched his old band in 1980 and Steppenwolf celebrated its 40th anniversary with a farewell tour in 2007. Kay was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1996 and Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2004.
One of this country’s unsung music heroes, Leonard Rambeau, died on April 13, 1995, in Toronto of cancer. He was 49. Rambeau helped guide the careers of many important Canadian artists, including Frank Mills, John Allan Cameron, George Fox, Rita MacNeil and Anne Murray. Speaking of the latter, in the spring of 1971, Rambeau was lured away by his old friend Anne from a well-paying government job based in Halifax. With her career booming thanks to the success of “Snowbird,” and in desperate need of someone she could trust to handle her affairs, Murray asked Rambeau to be her manager.
Rambeau did everything from roadie to road managing, and formed Murray’s management company, Balmur Ltd., with the singer and her husband. He became Murray’s exclusive manager in 1977 and continued to mentor his friend for the next 18 years. Murray made the following comment when she was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1993: “To my No. 1 man, my manager and right arm, Leonard Rambeau, for a list too long to recite.”
Rambeau was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000 and they created a rather fitting award in his honour. The Leonard T. Rambeau International Award is presented to a person who has helped advance the careers of Canadian country music artists internationally.
Canadian treasure Rita MacNeil made her U.S. concert debut on April 14, 1989. Her performance at Boston’s 1,200-seat Berklee Performance Center was a near sell-out and the Cape Breton folk and country singer received three rousing standing ovations. Around the time of her Boston show, MacNeil was Canada’s biggest country star, her albums even outselling Garth “Freaking” Brooks – and I ain’t talking Garth during his malodorous Chris Gaines phase either! She made her major label debut in 1987, and both of her 1988 albums, Reason to Believe and Now the Bells Ring, were domestic multi-platinum-sellers. Although she’s maintained a healthy international following, success south of the border has so far eluded the Cape Breton lass. Who cares?! She is a Canadian icon who is a Member of the Order of Canada and a TV ratings sensation. She has earned five honorary doctorates and won a 1996 Gemini Award and boatloads of JUNO Awards, Canadian Country Music Association Awards and East Coast Music Awards.
Next week: Bush “X” and Bob Rock
“Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf
By James Sandham
Well, music lover, the 2012 JUNO Awards have come and gone. There were some surprising wins: Michael Bublé’s Christmas comes to mind, which won Album of the Year, an unusual accomplishment for a seasonally themed release, especially in the face of such competition as Drake’s multi-million-selling Take Care. And there were some unsurprising wins, too: Justin Bieber won the JUNO Fan Choice Award, though he wasn’t there to collect it. And the ubiquitous Adele picked up the award for International Album of the Year for her smash sophomore disc 21, which is, after all, the best-selling album of the past decade, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, having sold in excess of eight million copies in the United States and over one million here in Canada, where it spent 28 weeks at No. 1.
The evening’s big winner, however, was Leslie Feist – or simply “Feist,” the mononym by which she is best known. The melodious Toronto-based chanteuse took home the award for Artist of the Year, beating out such stars as Michael Bublé, Drake and deadmau5. She also won the awards for Adult Alternative Album of the Year for her fourth solo release, Metals, and Music DVD of the Year for “Look At What the Light Did Now.” These three awards come five years after her international breakout album, 2007’s “The Reminder,” which spawned the inescapable global hit “1234” – thanks in no small part to its role in an iconic iPod campaign – and which won her a 2008 JUNO for Single of the Year.
While The Reminder may have been the first album to bring Feist to the attention of the mass market, her musical career had actually begun many years earlier. She had released two albums prior to it: Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down), her first solo release in 1999, and Let It Die, which won the 2005 JUNO Award for Alternative Album of the Year. And she was also a member of the independent, Toronto-based, multi-musician collective known as Broken Social Scene, who were famous for their massive, emotionally charged live shows and who are now unfortunately on hiatus.
You could say, however, that Feist had always been a musician – or at least always an entertainer. The daughter of Harold Feist, an abstract expressionist painter and teacher, and Lyn Feist, who studied ceramics, Feist was already performing (though not under that name) at the age of 12, as one of a thousand dancers in the opening ceremonies of the Calgary Winter Olympics. It was an experience she would later cite as inspiration for the “1234” music video. At the age of 15 she founded the Calgary punk band Placebo (not be confused with the English group Placebo, who were behind the 1990s hit “Pure Morning”). She provided their lead vocals and, thanks to those pipes, helped land her group an opening spot at the 1993 Infest music festival. It was there she first met Brendan Canning, whose band hHead had performed right before hers and who would go on to become a pivotal member of the yet-to-be-founded Broken Social Scene collective.
Three years later, in 1996, Feist moved from Calgary to Toronto. By 1998 she had hooked up with Canadian rock band By Divine Right and become their rhythm guitarist. She toured with them for the next few years. During this time she also moved in with a friend of a friend, Merrill Nisker, the woman behind electro-punk act Peaches. This in turn brought more touring – to England this time, where Feist worked backstage at Peaches’ shows as a sock puppeteer. Feist also contributed vocals to Peaches’ 2000 release, The Teaches of Peaches.
After Feist’s first major label release – 2004’s Let It Die – she moved to Paris where she continued her collaborative efforts with such artists as Kings of Convenience and Jane Birkin. After touring internationally she returned to Europe in 2006, ready to record its follow-up. The Reminder came out in 2007, first released in Europe in April, and then a month later in North America. Propelled by the power of “1234” it sold millions internationally, charted around the globe and spawned multiple singles. In other words, it completely blew up and made Feist a superstar – a rare occurrence for someone who had emerged from the world of indie rock.
Since then Feist has remained, shall we say, active. While she told the Canadian Press in 2008 that she was going to step away from the pressures of the music industry, consider her next career move and “rest for a minute,” she has nonetheless been featured in the 2009 CTV television film “My Music Brain,” collaborated with Grizzly Bear in support of AIDS charity the Red Hot Organization, performed with Broken Social Scene and, of course, released her fourth JUNO Award–winning album, Metals as well as the music DVD “Look What the Light Did Now.” All this among other endeavours too numerous to list.
What she will do next is anyone’s guess. Word is she plans to cover a song by progressive metal band Mastodon, and have them cover one of hers, both of which will be released as a split 7” on Record Store Day. Whatever she does, her long history of accomplishments suggests it will indubitably be something to which we can look forward.
Feist – “The Bad in Each Other” from Metals
By James Sandham
Well now, music lover: It seems that while we were getting caught up in the 2012 JUNO Awards, spring surreptitiously struck. People have put away their parkas, slathered on the sunscreen, and saddled up in shorts and sandals. The daffodils are out, the birds are back and, while this warm weather may prove to only be a tease, the patios are open for business.
Summer is certainly on the way, so to warm you up we’ve canvassed the Internet to assemble a selection of songs specifically fit for hitting the patios. So find a good spot, grab a drink and see what we came up with.
Kim Mitchell, a three-time JUNO Award winner (and nominee for many more), is a Canadian patio season staple – so much so that we had to include two of his songs on our list. But this one comes first, obviously, because it is awesome. Come on. Admit it. Your appreciation will only be deepened once you’ve seen the video. In fact, I can barely finish typing, so badly does this song make me want to head out to a patio. Suggested beer pairing: Labatt 50.
The Tragically Hip
Ah yes, who hasn’t sat out on a patio or on their cottage deck, and when this song came on realized that not only do you know every single word, but you’re actually singing them out loud, along with everyone else at your table? It’s a Canadian classic, perfect as the sun goes down, from 2005 Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees The Tragically Hip. Suggested beer pairing: Kawartha Lakes Brewing Co. Nut Brown Ale.
But perhaps you’re in the mood for something with a little more substance. Well, look no further. Clocking in at just past the 20-minute mark, this true rock epic, by 1994 Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees Rush, is a seven-part suite detailing a dystopian drama set far in the future. From the fourth studio album by the JUNO Award–winning trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart, this song was suggested to us along with the recommendation that it be played on repeat. Suggested beer pairing: Lakeport Steeler.
No, you can never have too much Kim Mitchell on your patio. And you certainly wouldn’t want to omit this song from any patio-centric playlist – it does, after all, have the word “patio” right in the title. But it’s got more of a backyard patio vibe than a street-front patio vibe, so we’re going to skip the beer pairing with this one and go with lemonade instead, just like Mitchell recommends in the song.
Last but not least, just to round things out, here’s a little ditty from Toronto’s own Kevin Brereton, a.k.a. k-os, a three-time JUNO Award winner, including the 2005 award for Single of the Year for this very song. Watching the video makes me want to skip the patio altogether and just sprawl out in Trinity Bellwoods Park, around which much of it was filmed. Suggested beer pairing: Mill St. Brewery Original Organic Lager.
By David Ball
After all these years, this is still hard to believe – and talk about the coup to end all rock and roll coups…
Elvis Presley performed two historic concerts at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto on April 2, 1957. These gigs, along with one in Ottawa the following night and one more later that summer in Vancouver, signified the only times the King performed outside of the United States. Give it up for Canada!
Rattled, possibly frightened and sounding a bit like a “square” – combined with being noticeably annoyed by the traffic chaos surrounding Elvismania – CBC Radio reporter Bill Beatty covered the frenzy-filled event. Here are some of his somewhat overly dramatic observations: “Once Elvis came on stage, all you could hear were the screams…. Elvis the Golden Boy, standing there in his shimmering gold suit. Every time he wiggled, they screamed. And for a solid 40 minutes, Elvis wiggled, twitched and bounced, and they screamed the loudest. Every so often, the crowd of hypnotized youth sprang from their seats and started to move toward Elvis in his shimmering suit of gold…. It was possible to see that Elvis was singing. Most of the time, in a three-and-a-half-dollar seat, you couldn’t hear a thing, but you could see his lips moving…. there were the screams, the sighs, the pounding of feet.”
The final song was “Hound Dog” or as Beatty called it (with perhaps a hint of sarcasm): “That favourite aria of rock and roll-ism.”
I bet there’s many a grandma and grandpa out there full of excuses about why they didn’t go to one or both of the shows. And they can’t blame Ticketmaster or inflated prices either. Tickets cost a whopping $3.50! Hey, one day I may be in a similar predicament if my grandkids ask me why I didn’t go to see Nirvana, Johnny Cash and the Grateful Dead. I have no excuse and will take these shames to my grave. By the way, the opening acts in Toronto included a rock-and-roll tap dancer, an Irish tenor and a comedian. Clearly, legendary concert promoter Bill Graham had nothing to do with organizing the bill.
The Berliner Gram-o-phone Company of Canada received its charter on April 4, 1904. Emile Berliner, the German-born inventor of the gramophone, established the Montreal-based business in 1899. The company began marketing records and gramophones in Canada as early as 1900, but the products were imported from the U.S. until 1906, when Montreal established its own recording studio.
The Berliner name lasted as a record producer in Canada until 1924, when it was sold to American company Victor, which in turn became RCA Victor in 1929. Some notables who recorded with Berliner were banjo innovator Vess Ossman, Len Spencer and George W. Johnson.
On April 6, 1941, tenor Henry Burr, the most prolific recording artist of his era, died in New York City. He was 51. Born Harry McClaskey in 1885 in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, the singer (by his own estimate) recorded over 12,000 titles using various pseudonyms from around 1902 to 1930ish. Take that, noted “album a week” artists Ryan Adams and Frank Zappa! If Burr were alive in today’s era of digital downloading, you could safely multiply his recording output by 1,000 along with inevitable – and seemingly endless – Jimi Hendrix–like posthumous releases.
Burr moved to New York City and began recording for Columbia in 1902. Throughout his 30-year career, Burr did both solo and duet work, and he also performed in 15 vocal ensembles. He started up his own publishing company in 1915, began a fruitful radio career in the early 1920s, and later in life became a favourite on Chicago’s WLS-AM “National Barn Dance” show.
“Music Box Dancer” by one-time CBC-TV staff pianist and two-time JUNO Award winner Frank Mills was Billboard’s No. 3 single on April 7, 1979. The Verdun, Quebec, resident’s easy listening piano-based pop instrumental was originally released in 1974 to little fanfare. However, a groundswell ensued in Nashville due to WNGE-TV’s nightly newscast and its use of the song in the closing credits. Eventually local DJs began spinning the tune and other stations followed suit until it was rereleased as a single in 1978. It finally became an international pop hit (it reached No. 3 on Canada’s Adult Contemporary chart) while the album went on to sell a million copies.
Mills never again cracked the Top 40 in the U.S., which probably suited infamous “Music Box Dancer” non-fan Frank Zappa just fine. During an interview with a Toronto reporter back in the day, Zappa stopped in mid-interview, purportedly mortified when Mills’ cheerful ditty came on the radio in his hotel room. Hey, at least the melody generated an emotional reaction out of the opinionated avant-garde rock legend, something he probably respected.
Next week: Oasis and John Kay
“Music Box Dancer” by Frank Mills