By James Sandham
Well well, music lover. Welcome back to the blog. You know, for most of the summer I’ve been on a real classic rock kick – listening to great Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees like April Wine and David Clayton-Thomas – but for the past week I’ve veered off and really gotten into some good international stuff – I guess what you might call “world” music. And I know – this is the Canadian Music Hall of Fame – but because Canada’s such an international and multicultural place, I thought that this week I’d share some the international artists I’ve been into lately. So without further ado let’s take a little musical trip around the globe…
Tribalistas – “Já Sei Namorar”
This track was released in Brazil in 2002 by EMI, then internationally the next year, but I just stumbled across it recently and I’ve got to say: I’m pretty hooked – it’s got such a great rhythm and feels so warm. Unfortunately, it comes out of a one-off collaboration: Tribalistas (consisting of Arnaldo Antunes, Marisa Monte, and Carlinhos Brown) were an extremely short-lived band who, despite selling more than a million copies of their self-titled debut in Brazil, went their separate ways afterward. At least they left us with this.
Scala & Kolacny Brothers – “Heartbeats”
Scala & Kolacny Brothers are a Belgian women’s choir conducted by Stijn Kolacny and arranged and accompanied by Steven Kolacny on the piano. I found out about them through Diplo’s “I Like Turtles” mixtape, which includes this tune. It’s actually a cover of a song by Swedish electronic group The Knife, from their 2003 album “Deep Cuts” – which is apparently what Scala & Kolacny Brothers do: cover other people’s songs (such as Oasis, Bjork, U2, Nirvana – even German industrial rockers Rammstein) in specially made arrangements. This one, I think, is one of their most beautiful.
Mamani Keita – “Mali Denou”
Speaking of beautiful songs, this one really sets the bar high. It’s by Malian singer and musician Mamani Keita, from her 2006 sophomore release, “Yéléma,” produced and composed by French multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Repac. Listening to it is like drinking pure sunshine.
Tommy Lee – “Holding out the Pressure”
I got turned onto this tune by a friend of mine who’s always posting tracks from the reggae and dancehall scenes – some hits, some misses; but this one was definitely a hit. Hailing from the community of Flankers, Montego Baby, Jamaica, Tommy Lee is a Vybz Kartel member, and this is one of his most popular songs.
Pussy Riot – “Punk Prayer”
And as long as we’re talking international music, how could we omit this song, the one heard around the world and lately in the pages of every international newspaper? It’s by Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot, and it was performed in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour as a protest against alleged too tight ties between church and government, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s increasing authoritarianism. On March 3, after a video of the performance appeared online, three of the group members were arrested; they were recently sentenced to two years in jail, launching an international outcry.
By David Ball
Listen up drum circlers (and fans of Joni Mitchell), this is for you…
On Day Four of the third and final edition of the Isle of Wight Festival (August 26-30, 1970) in Godshille, UK, a delusional hippy by the name of Yogi Joe jumped on stage and proceeded to “accompany” Joni Mitchell on congas, ruining her otherwise soothing piano-based solo performance of “Woodstock.” News to all amateur percussive enthusiasts, specifically bongo and conga players and grating drum circle revellers, but you’ve been ruining songs for generations with your flaky and randomly-placed non-syncopated beats. But I digress…
Already having to deal with an increasingly unruly and hostile crowd of approximately 600,000 during most of her Saturday set (including 50,000 suckers that actually paid for tickets), a frustrated Mitchell asked Mr. Joe to leave (initially, the folk sensation allowed him to stay since they were old yoga acquaintances). But in very un-yoga-like fashion, Yogi refused, grabbed Mitchell’s microphone, and began to rant about the injustices concerning his fellow hippies who wanted a free festival and resented being kept off the grounds by huge fences and armed guards with trained dogs.
Stagehands eventually grabbed Mr. Joe and dragged him from the stage, whereupon he proclaimed, “I believe this is my festival!” Indeed it was not, Yogi – although, unable to control the steady stream of gatecrashers, exacerbated promoters eventually announced that the event was indeed “free.”
The unfortunate Yogi Joe incident left the Saskatchewan folk sensation close to tears; Mitchell’s hour-long set wasn’t going over too well to begin with as she had to deal with a huge and mostly rowdy audience along with being rattled by a case of the nerves.
Amidst a chorus of boos, Mitchell manned-up and finished-off the remainder of her gig, but not before famously admonishing the disruptive throng for “acting like a bunch of tourists.” She had a point – though I’d say they were behaving more like “moronic boorish cheapskate tourists,” because not only did they jeer Joni, but they weren’t overly enamoured with some of the other big-name Isle of Wight acts either, including Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Chicago, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix. To their credit, however, as Kris Kristofferson noted (after being booed mercilessly off the stage on the festival’s opening day), the crowd really loved Leonard Cohen’s overnight set of Sunday, August 30.
The Isle of Wight Festival was resurrected in 2002 and celebrated its 10 year anniversary on June 22 when 55,000 fans rocked to headliners Tom Petty, Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen.
On August 30, 1957, Paul Anka’s “Diana” reached No. 1 in the UK, where it remained for nine straight weeks. Shockingly, the Ottawa-born teen idol’s ‘45 was his only No. 1 pop hit in the UK; it also claimed the top of the US and Canadian singles charts.
“Diana” brought Anka immediate stardom and is recognized as one of the most successful singles ever produced by a Canadian artist. The legendary performer and prolific songwriter of over 900 songs was inducted into the CMHF in 1980 and received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2005.
More chart news….
Bryan Adams’ seasonal classic, “Summer of 69,” peaked at No. 5 on Billboard on August 31, 1985. Looking back, I’m quite surprised that it didn’t grab top the spot on the noted US singles chart, given that it’s infinitely superior to the one that did, Huey Lewis’ “Power of Love.”
But hey, at least the 18-time Juno winner’s single made a dent in the Top 5, seeing as it stalled at only No. 11 in Canada. What’s up with that, hosers? Written by the CMHF inductee and frequent partner Jim Valance, “Summer of 69” was the fourth of six singles to reach Billboard’s Top 15 from Adam’s 12-time-platinum album, “Reckless.”
Add Canada’s Keanu Reeves’ to the list of Hollywood actors turned unsuccessful musicians. He joins such notables as the Bacon Brothers, Lt. Dan Band’s Gary Sinese, Bruce Willis, Gwyneth Paltrow, and CBC Radio’s respected Q pitchman, Billy Bob Thornton. (For the record, I didn’t forget put-on bad-boy actor Jared Leto, but I’d rather go to a concert featuring would-be bluesman Steven Segal than endure 30 seconds of the former’s obnoxious faux metal band, 30 Seconds to Mars).
The Toronto-raised A-list actor was born in Lebanon on September 2, 1964 and went on to star in such blockbusters as “Speed,” “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “The Matrix.” But Reeves belongs on the above list because of his work with Dogstar, a pretty decent grungy rock trio that was active from 1991-2002.
Bass-playing Reeves formed the band after a chance encounter in an LA supermarket with fellow-actor and avid drummer Robert Mailhouse (the Canadian thespian and hockey enthusiast first noticed his future drummer because he was wearing a Detroit Red Wings jersey). The two strangers hit it off immediately and eventually began jamming together. After several changes, Dogstar added guitarist/singer Bret Domrose to the lineup in 1994. During their 9-year career, the trio released just two under-the-radar albums and one EP – but, thanks to Reeves’ impressive star-power, Dogstar were still able to get noticed: they toured with Bon Jovi in 1995, shared concert bills with David Bowie, and appeared at several big festivals including Glastonbury in 1999. And I must say that Dogstar’s performance on The Tonight Show some 12-years ago wasn’t too bad, in an emo-meets-Goo Goo (as in Dolls) kind of way.
By the way, if you are looking for some examples of actors-turned-musicians that do not suck, check out Canadian superstar Ryan Gosling and the work he’s produced with Dead Man’s Bones. Or better yet, Sarah Polley’s haunting take on The Tragically Hip’s “Courage” from the Sweet Hereafter film soundtrack.
Next week: Alan Thicke and Heart
“Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell from August 29, 1970, Isle of Wight
By James Sandham
Well, music lover, it’s that time again – I heard a back to school ad on the radio for the first time the other day, and then, when I was down at the community centre, I overheard a couple kids talking about which lockers they’d been assigned. It wasn’t a few days later that I was down at the local art shop, and what’s the most prominent thing on display? Not pens and paint like usual; no, it was BACKPACKS, all big, bulky and burdensome looking, like physical manifestations of stress and work itself. I was making my way back home when a cool August breeze blew down the street, and that’s when it hit me: the summer is almost over, folks. Labour Day – and the school year – are coming on fast.
It’s strange, you know – for some reason this realization still jolts me. I’ve been out of school for six years, and I don’t have any kids (or even know any people with kids of that age), but this time of year still reminds me (and probably always will) of going back to school. I guess that’s what sixteen years of behavioural conditioning will do. But in some ways, despite all the stress and awkwardness associated with going back to school, I have to say that sometimes I miss it. Or I miss the idea of it at least – the routines and seasonal patterns and whatnot. So with that in mind, I sat down to compile a few tracks on the subject. Here are a few of the favs.
Barenaked Ladies – “Grade 9”
Ah yes, this one. Back in high school we had a student council that would play this over the PA almost every morning before class. It annoyed the hell out of me at the time. In retrospect, however, I’ve got to say that it really does capture a moment in life. Grade nine was a silly and frantic sort of stage. It’s from the Barenaked Ladies’ first album, “Gordon,” which came out in 1992.
Pink Floyd – “Another Brick in theWall”
Years later, when I joined student council myself, this was the song we played over the PA. Or tried to – the faculty usually turned it off, which really only served to make us identify with the song all that much more – but looking back I can understand how it must have grated on them to come in and hear this first thing. A disheartening way to start the day. Then again, maybe they expected it – high schools aren’t exactly renowned as bastions of empathetic sensitivity.
Rough Trade – “High School Confidential”
I was never really into this tune personally, but it seemed too good to pass up on a list of back-to-school tracks. It’s from Rough Trade’s 1980 album, “Avoid Freud,” and was the band’s breakthrough Top 40 song in Canada. It even resulted in a JUNO Award for the song’s producer, Gene Martynec, who also did some really good 60s garage music as part of Bobby Kris and the Imperials. Anyway, this is what I assume high school must have been like in the ‘80s – very edgy, very tough.
Gold Panda – “Quitters Raga”
Here’s something a little more contemporary. It’s by UK performer, producer and composer Derwin Lau (aka Gold Panda), and while the song itself doesn’t really have much to do with going back to school, its fan-made music video, on the other hand, seems to perfectly capture the ambiance of this time of year. It’s shot in the late summer and early fall, on what looks like a campus, with a bunch of young kids goofing around, and it really just seems to capture the whole transition of going away to school.
Nada Surf – “Popular”
And to wrap things up, the Nada Surf classic. This came off their debut album, “High/Low,” from 1996 – right at the end of my elementary school years – and it’s basically a survival guide for high school. Or maybe it’s supposed to be sarcastic – I still haven’t figured that out – but it works equally well either way. Interesting fact: the whole song, except for the chorus, is from the 1964 teen advice book “Penny’s Guide to Teen-Age Charm and Popularity,” written by TV actress Gloria Winters. Anyway, it’s a good one to nip any nostalgic back-to-school delusions in the bud.
By David Ball
Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard singles chart on August 22, 1992. From the same talented Canadian singer-songwriter that unleashed a bevy of memorable ass-kicking hits – including “Lunatic Fringe”, “White Hot” (both from Cochrane’s old band, Red Rider), “No Regrets” and “Big League”(the lead single from his 1991 multi-platinum solo album, “Mad Mad World”) – “Life is a Highway” was his only Top 40 track in the US. Unbelievable! It did much better in Canada though, reaching the top of RPM’s chart, and where it remains unarguably one of the most beloved Canadian pop songs ever produced.
It should come as no surprise then that a countrified cover of the song, by Columbus, Ohio duo Rascal Flatts, reached the Top 10 on two different Billboard charts in 2006, even though there are millions of Americans who probably don’t know – or care – that the tune from their beloved country band isn’t an original! I know I’m not alone in thinking that the ONLY version of “Life is a Highway” is by Cochrane. I must say though that at least I can listen to Rascal Flatts’ rendition and not feel blinding rage, which is exactly what happens every time I stumble upon Hootie & the Blowfish’s “Hootified” version of 54-40’s classic, “I Go Blind”. Hey, at least Hootie never took a stab at “One Gun” or, gasp, Red Rider’s “Lunatic Fringe”.
Zappa Blames Canada?
On August 25, 1969 – one week after their performance on Ottawa’s CJOH-TV, and the final gig of a brief 8-day tour of the Great White North – Frank Zappa announced he was disbanding his original group, The Mothers of Invention. The gifted guitarist, prolific composer, and subversive satirist cited the cause for the disintegration of his avant-garde rock ensemble as being that people clap for all the wrong reasons. I hope he wasn’t singling out Canadians? However, you can’t blame people for not fully comprehending Zappa’s brilliant but challenging 1966 debut, “Freak Out!” – or anything else from the band’s decidedly non-mainstream musical stew of satiric-pop, orchestral, ‘50s doo-wop, jazz and conceptual rock.
More probable reasons for the Mothers of Invention’s demise include financial stress (the California-bred rock star was “paying each member $200 a week, whether we were working or not”), constant wars with his meddling record label (for example, MGM/Verve forced Zappa to add “of Invention” to the name of the group), and the simple likelihood that Zappa, a highly provocative and legendarily demanding band leader, just wasn’t happy with the effort provided by some of the Mothers’ members.
In the end it didn’t really matter to most fans because Zappa released his great second solo effort, “Hot Rats,” on October 10, 1969, and put out two final collections of “new” Mothers of Invention material in 1970, “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” (best album cover ever!) and “Burnt Weenie Sandwich,” compiled from previously unreleased live and studio recordings.
The breakup mattered even less after Zappa assembled a new group, the Mothers, in the spring of 1970, using some of his former Mothers of Invention band mates as well as the addition of singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, formally of the Turtles.
Zappa continued to release both solo and Mothers albums simultaneously through the early to middle ‘70s, leaning increasingly towards jazz and progressive rock. He eventually abandoned the Mothers moniker following the release of “Bongo Fury,” his awesome 1975 collaboration with friend and fellow madman, Captain Beefheart.
First Canada Jam Festival opened at Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario on August 26, 1978. Over 110,000 attended the one-day fest (the second-largest paid rock event in Canadian history, next to “SARSfest”), which was produced by Sandy Feldman and Lenny Stoge – the same two impresarios that had previously staged California Jam I and II. On a related note, I vaguely remember being terrified watching Ted Nugent’s gonzo-crazy Jam II stage meltdown during ABC’s March 1978 live broadcast. Man I’m old
Anyway, not only did First Canada Jam feature a diverse lineup of some of the era’s top American acts – including the Doobie Brothers, Commodores, Atlantic Rhythm Section, Kansas and [*shudder*] Village People – but the Bowmanville concert also showcased two of Canada’s hottest young band: Prism and Triumph. Triumph’s 3:35AM encore concluded the 18-hour show.
Four packaged specials were produced by CTV and broadcast across the country while several performances were later released on album and home video. Many illegal bootlegs were made too, including performances by Kansas and Triumph.
Advance tickets were a steal at $20, but even $30 for day-of-the-event was still pretty reasonable, even though there were probably plenty of Kansas, Triumph and Doobie Brothers fans reluctant in handing over hard-earned cash for any concert involving dressed-up disco dudes known as the Village People.
Next week: Isle of Wight and Joni Mitchell
“Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas, from First Canada Jam Festival, August 26, 1978
By James Sandham
Most people know David Clayton-Thomas (born David Henry Thomsett) as the singer from Blood Sweat & Tears – the voice behind such chart-topping singles as “You Made Me So Very Happy,” “And When I Die,” or the song for which he was enshrined in the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, “Spinning Wheel.” They may also know him as the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 1996 inductee. Or they may simply recognize his name from a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. But however people know him, what they may not know is that he reached these heights after being homeless and a petty thief, which is where he found himself in 1953, at the age of fourteen.
Yes, Clayton-Thomas’ early years were rough. It started after his family left England, his birthplace, and moved to the Toronto suburb of Willowdale. He wasn’t yet school aged then, but by the time he was he’d already had a long and dysfunctional relationship with his father, and by fourteen he’d left home. Much of his teen years were subsequently spent sleeping in parked cars and abandoned buildings, or stealing food and clothing to survive. He was arrested on a variety of occasions for vagrancy, petty theft and street brawls, and it wasn’t long before he was in and out of jail and various reformatories.
Normally that would be a real bummer. But in this case, was actually quite fortuitous, because it was while in jail that Clayton-Thomas’ musical interest bloomed. He’d always been interested in music through his mother – she was a piano teacher – but it was only in jail that he actually got his first musical instrument: a battered old guitar left behind by an outgoing inmate. He began to teach himself to play, and it wasn’t long before he was doing the jailhouse rock – quite literally, singing and playing at jailhouse concerts.
Released from prison in 1962, Clayton-Thomas relocated to Toronto’s Yonge Street strip, which back then was a seedy six block stretch of bars and strip joints primarily inhabited by hustlers and hookers – not exactly leaps and bounds from street-life and the penal system, but a social and artistic milieu nonetheless.
It was here that Clayton-Thomas came in contact with Ronnie Hawkins and his band The Hawks. Hawkins recognized the young singer’s formidable vocal talents, and soon had him fronting his own band, David Clayton-Thomas and The Fabulous Shays. Their success was limited, but their cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” got them to New York where they appeared on NBC’s “Hullabaloo” – hosted, coincidentally, by fellow Canadian (and future Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee) Paul Anka.
Highly impressed by the New York scene, Clayton-Thomas returned to Toronto and integrated into the Yorkville coffeehouse scene, the early stomping grounds of other Canadian greats such as Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. He immersed himself in jazz and blues, and was soon playing with The Bossmen, one of the first rock bands to incorporate jazz musicians. Their song “Brainwashed,” an anti-war tune, dominated the Canadian charts for sixteen straight weeks.
It wasn’t until the late ’60s, however, that Clayton-Thomas’ big break came: after “sitting in” with John Lee Hooker in Yorkville, he decided to go back to New York with him, where folk singer Judy Collins heard him play. She mentioned him to her friend Bobby Colomby, whose band had just broken up after releasing their debut album. That band was Blood Sweat & Tears. Colomby invited Clayton-Thomas to help them rebuild. Six weeks later, there were lines around the block to see them perform.
The rest is history: Blood Sweat & Tears’ first album with Clayton-Thomas produced three gold singles and won three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. They played around the world, and their Greatest Hits album of 1972 – the year Clayton-Thomas left the band – sold more than seven million copies. Clayton-Thomas returned to the group after a three year hiatus – after many of the original members had left – and continued touring under their name well into 2004. He returned to Toronto after that, where he still plays. Not bad for a street kid.
Blood Sweat & Tears – “Spinning Wheel”
By David Ball
The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” was the No. 1 Billboard hit on August 13, 1966. Co-written by Steve Boone and Mark Sebastian (brother of John, the folk rock quartet’s lead singer), the track is the New York quartet’s only No. 1 single and one of their last kicks at the charts with original member, Zal Yanovsky. The talented Toronto-born guitarist left the band he co-founded with John Sebastian after a marijuana-related charge in 1967. Fearing deportation, Yanovsky cut a deal with police by providing his dealer’s name, thus becoming a pariah in the music community.
Who cares?! After leaving the music business in 1971, Yanovsky returned to Canada and became a successful restaurateur with second wife, the late Rose Richardson, in Kingston, Ontario. And for those that have had the pleasure of visiting Yanovsky’s landmarks, Chez Piggy and Pan Chencho, I’m sure you’ll all agree that rock’s loss equals our stomachs’ gain. The immensely popular restaurants in lovely downtown Kingston are tourist attractions and have been celebrated by foodies ever since opening in 1979 and 1994, respectively. Sadly, Yanovski died in 2002 of congestive heart failure. In a touching tribute, former band mate John Sebastian travelled to the Limestone City to perform at his funeral.
Scores of Canadians joined 500,000 fellow music fans that made the pilgrimage to Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York for the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, which commenced on August 15, 1969. Thirty-two acts performed at the revolutionary three day festival, headlined by the likes of The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Sly & the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and, to the chagrin of everyone in attendance, Sha Na Na (I bet smart festival goers used the latter’s set of excruciatingly dated fish-out-of-water ‘50s covers for a well-needed bathroom/beer-break – some may have even found solace in taking the infamous noxious brown acid).
Put this in the category: I guess you had to be there…
Although the Woodstock lineup was dominated by mostly big international acts, a handful of Canadians acquitted themselves quite well, even though two of our hottest exports at the time declined their invitations: Lighthouse and Joni Mitchell (the JUNO-winning folksinger skipped the fest because her manager wanted her to honour a prior commitment to appear on the Dick Cavett Show). At least the event inspired Mitchell to compose “Woodstock,” one of her most famous – and covered – songs. The tune went on to be a ginormous hit for Day Three (August 17) participants, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as the supergroup’s single was featured prominently in the 1970 “Woodstock” film and subsequent platinum-selling soundtrack.
Back to the above byline:
From all reports, Toronto-based purveyors of Americana, The Band, were one of the highlights of Day Three. Unfortunately, due to legal complications, none of the CMHF members’ killer 50-minute set was included in the original “Woodstock” documentary or album.
Also putting on a great Day Three set was Blood, Sweat & Tears, led by their raspy-voiced singer and CMHF inductee, David Clayton-Thomas. However, none of the jazz-rock icon’s hour-long performance made it on the original Woodstock doc and album either. Same can be said about the contributions of another Canuck star at the festival, Neil Young. The guitarist skipped most of CSNY’s Day Three acoustic set and refused to be filmed during the quartet’s electric portion; the CMHF inductee and multiple JUNO winner is also uncredited in the film.
Fortunately, there is one Canadian musician at Woodstock that can be seen and heard in the original doc and album: Stratford, Ontario’s John Till was hired to play guitar for Janis Joplin’s Kozmic Blues Band just a few weeks before their celebrated Woodstock gig.
In an August 1, 2009 Toronto Star feature, Till didn’t think his new band played particularly well: “We went on two hours after we were supposed to; I don’t think we had as much energy as we would’ve at the scheduled time. But it was a job. You just do the best you can.” But since it was also very late when they came on, Till didn’t blame his perceived subpar performance on being nervous since it was far too dark to see the oceans of people. They sounded pretty good to me!
The opening of Canada’s long-running Mariposa Folk Festival took place in Orillia, Ontario, at the town’s medieval-themed stage at Oval Park, on August 18, 1961. Over 2,000 fans attended the two-day event and enjoyed the folk stylings of some of the genre’s brightest talents including Ian & Sylvia, The Travellers , Bonnie Dobson, fiddler Al Cherny, Alan Mills and Jacques Labreque. The festival got its name after local broadcaster and town councillor, Pete McGarvey, suggested “Mariposa” in honour of Stephen Leacock’s fictional name for Orillia in his novella, “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.”
Get this: according to a story on Mariposa’s official website, proud Orillia-born folk sensation, Gordon Lightfoot, was deemed to be “not of high enough calibre” to take part at his festival. Gordo and then-partner, Terry Whelan, were told that they sounded “too much like the Everly Brothers”. Are you kidding me?! And even if that were true, why would it be considered a bad thing to sound like two of rock’s earliest and most important innovators?
Because of repeated fan violence, the festival moved to Toronto in 1964 and didn’t return to Orillia until the summer of 2000 (with Gordon Lightfoot as main headliner). Wait a second! Fan violence rocking a sleepy folk fest?! Coooooooool!!!! Anyway, for the past 12 years, Mariposa has flourished since its return to the Ontario city, located between Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching.
Next week: The Mothers of Invention and Tom Cochrane
“Try” by Janice Joplin and Kozmic Blues Band, live at Woodstock, August 1969
By James Sandham
Sometimes it feels like I’ve spent the past few months in a heat-induced frenzy, cajoling my liver into cirrhosis, and generally just spending way too much time on patios as what started off as a celebration of summer gradually metastasized into a lifestyle of excessive unhealthiness, indulgence, and fun. Well enough of that – we finally had some cooler weather last week (and by “cooler” I mean not blisteringly hot, say low 20s), so I did something I haven’t done in months: dusted off the old sneakers and went out for a run.
I probably haven’t done that since the spring. It really reminded me how nice a good jog can be – the cool of the early morning down along the lake, the empty streets – but it also reminded me of something else that’s been missing from my life as of late: my running tunes! There’s a whole section of my music library I haven’t touched since the last time my sneakers were out, and I couldn’t believe I’d let it fall by the wayside. Nothing buoys the motivation like it, and what’s more, a lot of the tracks are by some really great Canadian artists. I pledged I would never let that happen again – and so, with that in mind, here are a few I’ve queued up, ready for the next jog.
Rihanna – “Umbrella” (VND/LSM Remix)
This is an older track but it’s still good and, dare I suggest it, possibly better than the original. It’s certainly better than the original for running. This particular version is a remix by a Toronto-DJ duo, and it first came to my attention when Diplo included it in a remix he did for Pitchfork.com. Four years later I still listen to it: it’s like a case of Red Bull for your ears – but probably better for your heart.
Lykke Li – “Little Bit” (AutoErotique Bootleg Remix)
Here’s another good remix – this time of a tune by Swedish indie-pop starlet Lykke Li – but, wouldn’t you know it, by the same guys that did the last one. Yes, VND/LSM (which I’ve heard is actually an acronym for the two men involved – Very Nice Dave and Legendary Skid Murphy, aka Dave Henderson and Keith Robertson) re-incorporated as AutoErotique when a similarly named Australian band forced a change from their initial moniker. They are currently signed to Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak label.
David Guetta – “Titanium” feat. Sia
This one starts off a little mellow, but then the chorus kicks in, and at that point it’s pretty much like a small jug of nitroglycerine has been mainlined into your blood stream – which may not always be what you’re looking for, but it certainly comes in handy on the last stretch of a long run. This is a song to be used sparingly – you don’t want to overdo it with a potent tune like this.
Justice – “D. A. N. C. E.” (MSTRKRFT Remix)
After the release of “You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine” – the first and last album from Toronto’s Death From Above 1979 – bassist and synth-player Jesse Keeler turned in the noise-rock, partnered with Mississauga’s Alex Puodziukas, and headed off in a decidedly different musical direction. Thus was MSTRKRFT born. Since the release of their first single, “Easy Love,” in 2006, the duo have produced many a fine electro track, including this remix of Justice’s D. A. N. C. E. This has been a staple of my running playlist for years.
Skrillex – “Bangarang”
And last but not least – Skrillex, electronic music’s latest messiah. It seems you can’t do anything these days without coming across this guy – and apparently running is no different. I’m not even sure where this track came from, or how it made it onto my mp3 player – I was honestly just jogging along, minding my own business, when suddenly and without warning I found this inserted surreptitiously in my playlist. I took off like a rocket; the song has therefore remained.
By David Ball
Procol Harum were invited to perform a concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on August 6, 1971. It was a transitional time for the British art rockers. Their North American tour was winding down and founding member, guitarist Robin Trower, had just been replaced by the exceptionally talented, strikingly handsome and brilliantly named, not to mention humble, Dave Ball (not to be confused with two other of my namesakes, the black garbed pasty thin dude from depressing ’80s Britpop duo Soft Cell, or the old school country revivalist that had a bit of commercial run in the ’90s). In the midst of composing new orchestral arrangements for the upcoming partnership, lead singer Gary Brooker thought the concert should be preserved for posterity so he floated the notion to the group’s label, A&M. The company agreed. The resulting 1972 album, Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, reached the Billboard 200 Top 5 on the strength of hit single “Conquistador,” which incidentally was added at the last minute (Brooker wrote the song on the flight over from England); the Edmonton Symphony didn’t have time to properly rehearse the arrangement, but it sounded pitch-perfect to these non-classically trained ears.
Interestingly, the ESO’s British-born music director and conductor, Lawrence Leonard (1968-73), hated rock music and reportedly disowned the project, going so far as to have his name removed from the liner notes. No word on whether or not the decidedly non-groovy Mr. Leonard and his “brilliant” anti-rock decision disqualified him from cashing in on subsequent royalties (methinks missing out on $$$ paychecks would’ve made the conductor regret his hard-line attitude).
The ESO was founded in 1920 but had to suspended operations in 1932. Thankfully, the respected symphony was restarted in the fall of 1952 and became a professional ensemble in 1971, just in time for their collaboration with Procol Harum.
It went from bad to badder to baddest…
Perhaps feeling twice short-shrifted, thousands of angry metal fans in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium went on a rampage – looting, burning cars, smashing windows and hurling various projectiles at police – after both co-headliners, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, cut short their highly anticipated sets on April 8, 1992. At least Metallica had a good excuse for their early exit: guitarist/lead singer James Hetfield sustained second and third degree burns to his arm after a pyrotechnic prop he was standing on exploded during the beginning notes of “Fade to Black”.
After such an unfortunate accident, fans no doubt forgave Hetfield and company for being forced to end things after only an hour. But the straw that broke the camel’s back, make that the incident that broke the backs of thousands, was when Guns N’ Roses’ erratic front man Axl Rose walked off stage early during the band’s closing slot. He claimed he had a sore throat. Call me crazy, but I think the crowd would’ve rioted, sore throat or not, the moment the Gunners started airing-out one-too-many selections from their incessantly pretentious twofer, Use Your Illusion I and II. And for those that have had the pleasure of visiting Olympic Stadium, I know that you’ll agree that the metal-head mutineers should’ve kept on going and levelled the entire taxpayer boondoggle and life-sucking concrete bunker to the ground.
Damage was estimated at $300,000, eight police officers were injured, a dozen wanton revellers were arrested, and Metallica sued Montreal concert promoter Donald K. Donald in 1995 for $254,000, claiming they were never paid for the gig. Donald coughed-up an additional $300,000 to audience members because of the show’s abrupt ending. For footage of the riot, check out the 1992 documentary, A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica.
Where no man has gone before, except for those that have been married 4 times…
Theatre actor turned starship captain turned renowned singer turned TV and film icon, Montreal-born William Shatner, got hitched for the first time on August 12, 1956. The McGill University graduate’s marriage to Gloria Rand lasted 13 years.
Coincidently (or perhaps not), Shatner’s relationship with Rand ended right around the time his musical debut was released to the public: 1968’s avant-garde “masterpiece,” Transformer Man. I’m guessing they probably divorced after Shatner asked her opinion of his unintentionally hilarious and over-the-top spoken-word renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and the Beatles classic, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
While All Music Guide (shockingly) actually gives Transformer Man a favourable review, the remainder of Shatner’s music career, to put it kindly, can best be described as “checkered,” highlighted by his “definitive” live take of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards (introduced by Bernie Taupin), a surprisingly campy/fun collaboration in 2004 with Ben Folds, and 2011’s “Has Been.” Keep ’em coming Captain Kirk!
Next week: The Lovin’ Spoonful and Woodstock
Original CBC news story regarding the Montreal Metallia/Guns N’ Roses riot
By James Sandham
Sometimes I like to go to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame website, choose a random inductee I’m not familiar with and see just what the hell he or she is famous for. It’s a pretty reliable way to stumble across good music or to rediscover something good that you’d forgotten.
This week I chose Bob Rock, primarily because of his name, which struck me as extremely well suited to a Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee. Frankly, I assumed it was fake. Well, it’s not – he was indeed born Robert Jens Rock in April of 1954, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He also happens to be the guitar player for the Payolas.
The Payolas, you say? Never heard of them? Well you probably have, because they’re the band behind the 1982 hit “Eyes of a Stranger,” which was the 1983 JUNO Award winner for Single of the Year. (The music video’s below – you’re guaranteed to recognize it.) I’d always thought that song was by The Clash, but I guess that shows how much I know about music.
The Payolas were part of Vancouver’s new wave of bands, active in the late 1970s and throughout the ’80s – in fact, they disbanded in 1988, but reformed again in 2003, issuing a new EP in 2007 before splitting again the next year – and always seemed poised for a big international breakthrough. That never quite happened, though, despite the band’s popular success in Canada – but that’s not what Rock is famous for anyway.
Bob Rock’s big claim to fame is actually as a producer. He’s best known in that regard for his work with Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, The Cult, Mötley Crüe, 311, Our Lady Peace and a bunch of others – but perhaps most of all for his work with Metallica.
Rock was the producer behind the heavy metal giants’ multi-platinum 1991 self-titled album (sometimes referred to as “The Black Album”), which includes the hits “Enter Sandman,” “The Unforgiven,” “Nothing Else Matters” and “Sad But True” – basically some of the band’s biggest tunes. This came at a price, however. It was Rock’s first shot at producing a Metallica album, and though he thought the production would be “easy,” he ended up having a lot of trouble with the group – such as wanting lead singer James Hetfield to write better lyrics – and this often led to arguments.
In the end, the album was remixed three times, cost US$1 million to make and led to Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Jason Newsted all entering divorces. In fact, Rock altered the band’s working schedule and routine so much that they swore they’d never work with him again. In spite of this, Rock went on to produce the band’s next three albums, 1996’s Load, 1997’s Reload and 2003’s St. Anger. He also wrote and recorded all of the bass parts on St. Anger and even played bass during the band’s few live performances between Newsted leaving the group in January 2001 and Robert Trujillo joining in February 2003.
Rock was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2007. He’s won JUNO Awards for, among other things, Recording Engineer of the Year (1982 and 1983), Composer of the Year (1983) and Jack Richardson Producer of the Year (2000, 2005 and 2010). He’s also worked with some of the music world’s biggest bands. But it all started in Langford, British Columbia – with this:
The Payolas – “Eyes of a Stranger”