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Archive for January, 2013

The Canadian Connection: The “Other” Squires

Posted on: January 31st, 2013 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably heard us mention The Squires, a Winnipeg band that formed in 1963 and was one of Neil Young’s first groups. The band only released one record, a single, which contained the instrumental tracks “The Sultan” and “Aurora,” both later released on the Buffalo Springfield bootleg Down to the Wire, but originally recorded by V Records and released in a very small pressing of 300 copies.

Of those 300 copies, only 10 are still known to exist, which makes this one of the rarest 45 RPM records in the world – kind of the “white rhino” of Neil Young fandom. Being quite a fan of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 1982 inductee myself, I decided I’d have a dig around on the web just to see if I could find out more about this elusive beast.

What I came across instead, however, was this: another group, also called The Squires, who were also active in the ’60s, also extremely obscure and who also happen to be amazing. What’s more, they even have a Canadian connection: their lead singer, Mike Bouyea, ended up in Toronto after serving in Vietnam and was a radio personality on 1050 CHUM. He even recorded a theme song for the Toronto Blue Jays.

I couldn’t believe it, it all just seemed to be such a serendipitous discovery that I knew I had to share it.

The Squires – “Going All the Way”

So: While the other Squires hailed from Bristol, Connecticut, like the Winnipeg Squires they too only released a single 45. It came out on Atco Records and “Going All the Way” (above) was its A side. However, when the single came out in 1966 it was a major failure. It didn’t chart regionally, it found no success elsewhere and the label didn’t bother with any kind of followup. The band broke up not too much later and, while Bouyea released a few more singles on his own, they eventually faded into obscurity.

Today, on the other hand, “Going All the Way” is regarded (among music nerds, at least) as an esoteric classic of its time. It was eventually reissued on the first Pebbles compilation in 1979 and also appeared on others.

The Squires – “Go Ahead”

Even better than “Going All the Way” though, at least in my opinion, was the single’s B side: “Go Ahead.” This song is a dreamy, jangly treasure of ’60s garage pop and it’s totally infectious. I’ve been listening to it for days straight now.

The Rogues – “It’s the Same All Over the World”

Having become completely addicted to “Go Ahead,” I thought it would be totally tragic if this was all there was of The Squires. Having released only one 45, it seemed that was the case – at least until I discovered The Rogues.

It’s the same band, it turns out, but recording under the name they had used prior to their Atco Records debut. Even in this incarnation they only managed to release one 45 – the one above, “It’s the Same All Over the World” – on a local label called Peyton.

The Rogues – “Oh! No!”

“Oh! No!” was the B side to that record and at the time of this writing it has had only a measly 264 views on YouTube. It seems I stumbled into the far annals of obscurity with that one. Other than “Oh! No!,” it appears the band only released one other track, “The Original,” but I couldn’t find it anywhere on YouTube.

I thought I had come to the end of the line as far as things went with The Rogues/The Squires, but then, to my great delight, I stumbled over this: a 1986 reissue by Crypt Records of all of their singles, plus other previous unreleased material. There were still six tracks I hadn’t heard yet, including a cover of “Gloria.”

What’s more, there are still copies available – and in mint condition – which I could buy used online. It was another happy discovery and a great ending to this nerdy musical mini-adventure.

Oh, and then there’s this: Bouyea’s 1985 recording for the Jays. And this time, ironically, he actually made it onto the charts – and stayed there for five weeks, reaching as high as No. 17! It just goes to show that there’s no logic to taste. Anyhow, hope you enjoy!

We Got the Blue Jays – “Home Run”

This Week in Music History: January 28 to February 3

Posted on: January 29th, 2013 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By David Ball

“Earth Angel” by Canadian vocal pop group The Crew-Cuts entered the American singles chart on January 29, 1955.

Originally a Top 10 R&B hit by black doo-wop quartet The Penguins, The Crew-Cuts’ shined-up barbershop rendition would become one of the Toronto foursome’s major international hits, reaching the Top 5 in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Signed undated photo of The Crew-Cuts, likely from 1955

Several 45-inch Crew-Cuts originals ended up in the Canadian Top 20, including “Mostly Martha” and “Crazy ’Bout You, Baby” (the latter was written by group members Rudi Maugeri and Pat Barrett). However, only their covers received airplay – and jukebox spins – in the U.S.

Because of the popularity of “Earth Angel” and their previous No. 1 hit “Sh-Boom,” the quartet’s label, Mercury Records, pushed them into a somewhat controversial but lucrative musical direction: reworking R&B originals to appeal to a wider (and mostly white) audience. It was a strategy echoed by several rising white talents, including Elvis Presley and noted rock-and-roll pacifier Pat Boone, and it worked until 1956, when the St. Michael’s Choir School grads shockingly abandoned mining R&B covers altogether – a decision, along with switching record labels in 1958, that put a needle-scratching halt to any further hits for them in the U.S. market.

The talented harmonizers broke up in 1964, but their legacy was recognized 20 years later when The Crew-Cuts were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame with a class that included fellow Canadian vocal pop groups The Four Lads and The Diamonds. Count me, The David Ball, pretty darn impressed.

I must say that some of The Crew-Cuts’ best-loved covers, including “Earth Angel,” are pretty darn good in their own right and were produced in the spirit of the R&B originals. Give ’em a spin sometime.  However, I highly recommend (and I can’t stress this enough) avoiding most of the early rock-and-roll covers by Pat Boone, especially his sanitized interpretations of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” and “Tutti Frutti.” I won’t dare get into his Beatles tunes…

 

Before I forget, relax all you rabid fans of Sarah McLachlan! I didn’t overlook her January 28 birthday. I covered it – and her career – in last year’s edition, so check it out (along with other TWIMH stories) at your leisure.

 

“It’s better to burn out, than to fade away…”

Neil Young certainly wasn’t singing about Streetheart in “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue),” but his defiant and timeless rock catchphrase certainly fits the one-time big-time band’s relatively brief but bright career.

Formed in Regina in 1976, the hard-touring quintet officially called it quits in 1984 due to bankruptcy just four years after scoring their commercial breakthrough with a glammy cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb.” The JUNO Award–nominated lead single from their 1979 second full-length release, Under Heaven Over Hell, made it into RPM’s Top 20 on February 2, 1980, making it the biggest hit of an impressive career that landed the band six bestselling albums, several charting singles including another cover, “Here Comes The Night,” and a JUNO Award in 1980 for Most Promising Group of the Year.

Streetheart’s early ’80s lineup

I realize that some of you may be too young to remember Streetheart or don’t listen to Canadian classic rock radio at all, but I’ll wager an ugly new polymer $20 bill that most of you know at least one Loverboy tune. Well, two founding members of Streetheart – lead guitarist Paul Dean and drummer Matt Frenette – left the group in the late ’70s to help form one of the biggest Canadian bands of the 1980s, headbands, red leather pants and all.

Original Streetheart lineup circa 1977 with leader Kenny Shields (second from right) and Loverboy’s Matt Frenette (second from left) and Paul Dean (far right)

When I was a wee broth of a lad living in Kingston, Ontario, Streetheart played a gig with opening act Photograph on February 10, 1981, at the barn-like Memorial Centre at the height of their popularity. I wanted to go, but the $6.50 ticket price really took a chunk out of my allowance and I believe my parents weren’t keen on letting me leave the nest for a few unsupervised hours to see a rock show. No doubt the erroneous decision was made by my late father, who thought that all rock stars were “weirdos” who should get “real jobs.” Dad never did understand that being a full-time musician is indeed a real job!

As it goes with almost every retired rock act, being away from the spotlight never lasts forever (exceptions to the rule include Pink Floyd and The Beatles). As of the early 2000s, original lead singer Kenny Shields is back working his “real job” again with a reformed Streetheart, joined by core members Daryl Gutheil and Jeff Neill, so I may just get a chance to see them after all, but hopefully not at the Memorial Centre.

 

Jerry Lewis n’est pas le seul en Amérique du Nord énorme en France (use the Google translator if you must)…

After his 1989 album, Hélène, sold three million LPs and conquered the charts in Quebec, France, French Belgium, Switzerland and Norway (wow and huh?!), Roch Voisine won the award for Francophone Album of the Year at the prestigious Victoires de la musique awards in France on February 3, 1990. Une grande raison for the success of his third effort was the breakthrough title track, which spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the French singles chart and became a million-seller in that country alone. Still, I don’t quite get the love for the genial Edmunston, New Brunswick–born pop star from the decidedly non-francophone Norway, where the single peaked at No. 3 – but I suppose a great tune is a great tune and can transcend any language and culture.

The title track also made crossover ripples on Canada’s RPM’s English pop chart while impressively reaching its adult contemporary Top 10. The squeaky clean singer-songwriter has enjoyed a prolific and profitable career since his debut and continues to produce top-selling records in both of Canada’s official languages, but Hélène remains his only francophone-sung crossover hit.

Next week: Jann Arden and Stompin’ Tom Connors

Tunes for Touring

Posted on: January 24th, 2013 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

I don’t know how things are going in your city, but here in Toronto the temperature shot up to over 10°C for a few days the other week, and while it’s now dropped precipitously back below zero (the hair in my nose was freezing on my way into work this morning), that brief stint of warm(ish) weather was enough to jar me from my vitamin D withdrawal–induced state of catatonia and get me thinking: I need to get out of here. I need to go on a trip or something, because I’ve spent way too much time shuffling around in a parka lately.

Whether this will actually happen or not remains to be seen – I am chronically indecisive when it comes to shelling out the money it actually takes to do these sorts of things – but in the meantime I’ve been amusing myself by building various fantasy vacations. The latest one includes stops in Austria and Slovenia before heading on to Italy. I’ve also been thinking about what clothes to bring and, of course, what music I’d have to have with me. These days, with iPods, you can pretty much bring it all – but here are a few of the top tracks I’ve decided I could not be without.

 

Kings of Convenience – “Boat Behind”

This song is a favourite of mine and always tends to feature on my playlists, which of course is why I’d have to have it with me on a trip. It’s by Norwegian duo Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe and, as far as I can tell, it’s basically the perfect tune for messing around to on a little transatlantic journey. It’s just so happy and carefree. The song comes from their 2009 album, Declaration of Dependence, which is a totally solid album if you’re into the Simon and Garfunkel kind of sound.

 

Daniela Nardi – “Via Con Me”

Part of my fantasy trip is a stop in Italy, so obviously I need something for that leg of the voyage, and this track seems like a pretty good fit. It’s from Daniela Nardi’s album Espresso Manifesto and it’s a cover of a tune by Italian singer, songwriter, pianist, composer and lawyer Paolo Conte. Nardi is a classically trained Toronto singer and in 2009 she was chosen as the Best Canadian Female Vocalist at the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. The video above was recorded at Toronto’s Lula Lounge.

 

Gogol Bordello – “Start Wearing Purple”

As long as I’m heading off to Slovenia on this fantasy trip, I figure I might as well include a little Gogol Bordello on my playlist as – despite hailing from the Lower East Side of Manhattan – they have a distinctly eastern European sound. This song comes from the band’s third album, Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike, which was released by SideOneDummy Records in 2005. When I think of carousing around the Adriatic this is the song that comes into my head.

 

Feist – “Mushaboom”

I love this song. It’s so pleasant, which of course is just the vibe you want to have on any trip, so this one would be coming with me, too. Plus, the music video is filmed in Paris, which  though it wasn’t on my initial itinerary, I might as well add. This is a fantasy trip, after all. This track comes from the multi–JUNO Award–winning musician’s second album, Let It Die, which was released in 2004.

 

Charles Aznavour – “Et Pourtant”

And speaking of Paris, I’d also have to have this song with me if I was traipsing about Europe. It’s by Shahnour Vaghenag Aznavourian, who is better known by his stage name Charles Aznavour. Born in Paris, Aznavour is the composer of over a thousand songs and has sold well over a hundred million records. He was named Entertainer of the Century by CNN in 1998, beating out both Elvis and Bob Dylan, and in 2009 he was appointed ambassador of Armenia to Switzerland and Armenia’s permanent delegate at the United Nations in Geneva. At a current 88 years of age, he was still touring as recently as 2011.

 

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