Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Singles Scene #7

London: A record show. What better place to find records than a record show? I go to 2 or 3 shows a year and always seem to make the 2 London ones, even though London's an hour from my house. Guelph, Hamilton, Mississauga all have good shows and all closer to home. But London it is.

If you've never been to a record show it's like a Star Trek convention without the Klingons: everybody here is a music geek. Nobody here enjoys music, they are passionate about music and, more significantly, passionate about owning music. It is loaded with albums, in good shape or bad , videos, bootleg records, CDs and DVDs, posters and assorted memorablia. Ever wanted a Beatles Lunch Box? I saw one yesterday! Autographed Picture of Jimmy Page (with bow in hand)? I know where to get one! 1969 Grateful Dead concert poster, with Janis and the Airplane on the bill? Yup!

I usually hit these shows looking for albums: my ongoing list of half dozen albums I missed when they mattered gets whittled down by 1 or 2 at each show. Sometimes I grab a bootleg video, like the SARSfest DVD I got last time out. This time, however, it is 45's I am on the prowl for. Unlike other places I have searched for 45's, there is no question of finding what I am looking for here, it is a question of which singles I will find.

I know the set up here well, as it doesn't change much year to year - the same vendors sell the same general wares. Immediately upon walking in the door I see the usual singles guy, and head straight for him. He has a huge selection, in the thousands. Thankfully, he has row entitled 'Canadian.' This shouldn't be too hard!

It isn't. Easily a few hundred Canadian singles, most priced in the $2 - 4 range, although some rarer stuff is higher priced. The records aren't cheap, but at these shows you get very good quality records. First real find is one I have had in the back of my mind since I started this project: The Jitters The Last Of The Red Hot Fools. I then find an bit of a gem, something I had never heard of before: the Sinners Go Go Trudeau. An historically interesting novelty piece from 1968, that (apparently) reached 48 on the Chum chart. After picking through them all, I decided one more was needed but nothing stood out as obvious the way the other 2 did. I finally settled on Glass Tiger's Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone). I choose the last one not so much because I love the song, but because a) they were a big band at the time b) it has an original picture cover & c) The record itself is transparent! For $3.00, I'm feeling lucky and at $2.00 a piece for the other 2 there is enough change from a 10 to buy my little guy (who's trailing along with me) a kiss pin. Not a bad day, especially when you add in that I found a great condition LP of "London Calling" before heading home.

First on the turntable is the Hooters Last Of The Red Hot Fools. I picked this one because I saw this band once in one of Mississauga's larger bars, and they where good. I also remember, mostly from this night I suppose, that this was a pretty cool song. Of course, the Mullet was a cool haircut in 1987, so I my read on this could be wrong.

It is, but it's still not a bad song. It starts with the chorus, a Nylons sounding vocal part with little instrumentation:

I've been a fool, to play it dumb
should have played it smart
used my head, but not my heart
Must have been crazy to play it hot
should have played it cool
now I'm just the last of the red hot fools.

I remember doing some fun hand movements that went with it. Let's see:

Must have been Crazy circle temple with index finger
playin' it hot wipe imaginary sweat off brow,
Should have played it cool Cross arms in front of self as if cold
Now I'm just the last of the red hot fools bob index finger in front of you as if pointing at rest of table.

Did I mention it was in a bar? None the less this isn't a bad song, just not a great one. The instrumentation is simple, even basic, too basic. And other than the chorus, the words are OK, but forgettable. The last problem here is tempo, this song is neither fast, nor slow. It's not a ballad, it's not a Thorogoodian rocker, as it could be. Not so bad for drinking to, I guess, but no George Thorogood in that regard either.

The b side is a piece called Hard as Nails, which is again strongly in the camp of the Plain Jane of songs: you might date it, but you'll never fall head over heels for it. Tempo is again neither fast nor slow (actually, this song should be a whole lot quicker) I wonder if I went through the late 80's music if I'd find this tempo a lot. I'm guessing I would, and the Hooters are no worse a representation of the period as any other band, save for U2.

Speaking of Mullets, check out the cover of the Glass Tiger single! And the long coat!! I actually wore one of those when I played in a band in '89. Guess what tempo Don't Forget Me is. Hooters speed! Why did I never notice this before? What makes this different is the players, especially the bass. Amongst musicians of the time funky slappy bass was very in, and this song is a great example of it. Still a forgettable song, but one with some good performances in it.

The b side is, simply put, abysmal. I have never had time for Duran Duran and somehow they are performing on the b side of a Glass Tiger single. Music went, at times, very very astray in the latter part of the 80's. I now present exhibit A in defense of that statement: Ancient Evenings, by Glass Tiger. Deciding to sound like Duran Duran is one of those things I'll never understand, like all those female singers who want to sound like Madonna. There's a reason Paula Abdul is Schlepping American Idol contestants, and it's the same reason Glass Tiger is not with us anymore. Ms. Abdul decided a good career move would be to sound like Madonna, Glass Tiger went for the Duran Duran sound. Both deserve the fates that have befallen them.

If you aren't overly interested on my views on Duran Duran and Madonna I recommend you don't get me started on Pierre Trudeau. However, I picked up Go Go Trudeau by the Sinners not because I want to hear someone singing Go Go Trudeau to bad surf music. It's more an interest in what they thought of PET in 1968. Can you imagine any of today's leaders, of any political stripe, of any of the major countries, inspiring a song of any kind (I fought the law jokes notwithstanding). PET was, they thought in 1968, our JFK (whether he was or not, or whether that was a good thing or not, I'll leave you to decide for yourself). This song reflects that feeling.

Lyrically they based this song on a bunch of old folk songs which they have parodied:

Hang down your head Bob Stansfield,
hang down your head and cry.
Parliament must stand this way
and you still don't know why".

Or how about "Farewell Pearson" to Farewell Eileen. And how about this for a chorus:

Go Go Trudeau don't be afraid to take your stand.
You got the nation right behind, go right ahead and blow their mind.

It's no one little, two little three Canadians I grant you, but it must have been embarrassing to sing. Interestingly, it's not nearly as bad in French. This may well be because I can't understand how bad the lyrics are.

So my trip to London netted me an interesting re-look at 1968 and 20 years later. Somehow I'm not too fussy on either right now.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Milk Crate Classics #2 - Aldo Nova

Imagine it's the summer and you are nineteen again. You and the boys hang about: booze; women; and the sounds of summer your only worries. Remember it? Remember her name? How many hers there even were? The drink I would remember if only there were any remnants of it left (do they even make that brand of beer anymore?) It's the music, however, that I remember most of all. Records on the turntable all day - records, real vinyl with an actual smell to them. You could, if you tried hard enough, wear one out. And the singer: the guy with the leather jacket; the Jimmy Page guitar; and the faggy Peter Pan boots!?! Wait, faggy Peter Pan Boots in the middle of your most manly of summers? Well, if the summer was 1982 and the singer was Aldo Nova, then yes. The boots it is.

Twenty years later that is also exactly what Aldo Nova sounds like: A guy with a Jimmy Page guitar and faggy boots. In retrospect, it is also obvious we weren't the only drunk eighteen year olds listening to Aldo Nova that summer. Corey Hart was certainly listening, and five years later would himself kill forever the 'Montreal based pouty singers' trend. Listening to Can't Stop Lovin' You is akin to listening to a Corey Hart tribute band. It is apparent that Bryan Adams was listening too. Both Foolin' Yourself, the albums biggest single, and Heart to Heart, feature a main guitar line that can only be described as Summer of 69-ish.

The other hits from this album include Ball and Chain, Hot Love and the albums signature song Fantasy.

Aldo Nova's "Aldo Nova" was an album, like the boots, very much of it's time. Caught between the hard rockin' 70's and the slinkingly wimpish, over synthesized 80's, Aldo Nova's debut album is unfortunately, much closer to Corey Hart than Bryan Adams. Although Foolin' Yourself beats Sunglasses at Night hands down.

Milk Crate Classics

Five or six years ago I was writing for the seminal Canadian humour site CPFOG.com. After the folding of CPFOG, I continued much of the writing, including A Sophist's Saga and Singles Scene.

One other thing I wrote for them was a review of classic Canadian albums, known as Milk Crate Classics (MCC). MCC is the last of the bunch to be brought back to life in my various blogs (mostly because I only had hard copies, no files), but it is finally back. I began last week with Prism, and will continue for the foreseeable future posting the old ones, and writing some new ones.

Please enjoy, and feel free to pass along to your friends. The Milk Crate Classics. And look for a sidebar linking to each MCC as they are added:

Milk Crate Classics #1 - Prism.
Milk Crate Classics #2 - Aldo Nova.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Milk Crate Classics #1: Prism

Take a picture of this: It’s August 1978, the 1st anniversary of Elvis’s death. There’s a Chaucerian pilgrimage taking place. Thousands of devotees are walking to Graceland to have an idol before Him. Meanwhile, the Memphis police are on strike, a strike that s sometimes violent (as strikes involving people who have guns are probably want to be), and the National Guard have been called in to keep the peace. What happens when those pilgrims walk smack into the National Guard? I bet the answer your searching fro is not ‘one of the finest moments on Canadian rock history.’ Yet that’s what happened, as Vancouverites Prism happened to be helicoptering over the fuss on their way to a concert (things were apparently so hairy that a helicopter was the only way to navigate Memphis that day). The scene below struck them as Armageddon, and one of those pieces that define an era was born.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Those first couple of Prism albums in the late 70’s (“Prism” in 1977; “See Forever Eyes” in 1978; and “Armageddon” in 1979) had a sound that was fresh and alive. The heavy emphasis on keyboards, without abandoning the guitar as Gary Wright had done on “Dreamweaver”, led you to think this was what was to come. The first single from the first album, Spaceship Superstar, with it’s Won’t Get Fooled Again synthesizers and Ballroom Blitz like guitar chorus made you think they had what it was going to take to stay alive in rock and roll’s electronic future; and led you to believe they knew that themselves. Ultimately, however, they were a transition between the guitar rock of the 70’s and the guitar rock of the 90’s: Depeche Mode with attitude.

Between Spaceship Superstar in 1975 and lead singer Ron Tabak’s untimely death of police stupidity in 1984, Prism put together some of the most memorable tripe in Canadian music history. Night to Remember, It’s over, Take me to the Captain, N-N-N-No, American Music and Open Soul Surgery mark some of Canada’s better musical moments; Spaceship Superstar and Armageddon mark some of rock and roll’s.

Prism, however, deserves to be remembered for 1981’s Don’t Let Him Know, the first hit penned by the young team of Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, a writing duo that would put Canadian music on the map over the next decade. They deserve to be remembered for that; they will be remembered for Armageddon. It was simply too good to forget.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Blues, Brews and Barbeques

Kitchener is holding their annual Blues, Brews and Barbeques Festival this weekend at the Civic Square in Kitchener City Hall.

28 Concerts and 7 workshops take place over three days, August 11; 12; and 13th, 2006 on three stages.

Events begin at noon today (25 minutes ago) and continue until 6:30 - 7:00 Sunday night.

The concerts are free, the barbeque, I'm guessing not. As well there is a blues bizarre and sidewalk sale in downtown Kitchener all weekend long.

More here.

Schedule here.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mill Race Folk Festival

I made it out to the local folk festival this past weekend, the Mill Race Folk Festival, which takes place in downtown Galt over Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the long weekend.

Here's some pictures:

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Singles Scene #6

Elora: We're on a three day camping trip to the Elora Gorge for the Labour Day weekend. This means three things: tubing in the gorge, a new town to explore the junk shops and there's a 100% chance it rains. So what happens? Tubing is sold out by 10:00AM on the Saturday, for the first time since the cold, wet, miserable May 2-4 weekend in 1990 when I got engaged, I camp without it raining. And the town? A gorgeous old town full of antique shops and nothing I can use. I can't even find a liquor store in this damn town. What's a good Canadian boy to do when you can't watersport, you can't complain about the weather and you can't stumble upon CanCon? Without beer??

Go for a bike ride? That's what I decide and it pays off. I'm out of my campground two minutes and I spot the Elora Antique Warehouse. After spending the day examining quilts, knitting, vases and other assorted feminine knick-knacks I am not hopeful. The Antique Warehouse is one of those places with various vendors selling their wares under one roof. It has a huge Dairy Queen sign as you walk in the door, and junk from every walk of life: Official James Bond dinky cars that the son would love, if only they had a Live and Let Die car (the boat would be even better), a Cheers™ board game that's laid out like the bar, and other assorted 'collectibles.'

I'm in the door about 45 seconds when I note two piles of magazines. I lift the "Happy Gang Book of Comic Songs" off the second pile and discover it's not a pile of magazines: it's a pile of 45's. A hundred easily, maybe one-fifty: at two bucks a piece they are neither expensive nor cheap. Picking through I quickly spot Ian Thomas' I Really Love You and a Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins single High Blood Pressure. Runnaging further I note Mashmakhan's As The Years Go By: I'm not sure if they're Canadian but didn't I read something recently that suggested Mashmakhan was April Wine's minor league band? Just to be sure I grab Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi/ Woodstock. Again I'm struggling to remember if she's Canadian, although I should know. I'm wondering whether it's her or Joan Biaz that's the Canuck, so I grab it thinking that between Joni and Mashmakhan, one of them has to be Canadian.

Mashmakhan and Joni Mitchell are both Canadian! And my reading on Mashmakhan was right on as well: Jerry Mercer left in 1973 to join April Wine. Steve Lang in 1975, and in 1977 Brian Greenway joined April Wine, although he did factory work between Mashmakhan and the Wine. With that quick bit of research put to bed, I decide to start with Mashmakhan's As The Years Go By. Of course I know this song, and have never much liked it -- it's cheesy.

"A child asks it's mother do you love me?
and it really means will you protect me?
His mother answers him 'I love you,'
and it really means you've been a good boy."

Lots of keyboards, but I'm trying to imagine Jerry Mercer playing drums here and can't: the guy who brought us that bell on Ohwhatanight, the bald guy who does one handed drum rolls during his solo playing a basic bass/snare/bass/snare pattern? No wonder he left for April Wine. But even more I'm imagining this band in two years trying to contain Bryan Greenway, and I can't do it.

Next up is Joni Mitchell. This is a double 45, with Big Yellow Taxi on side A and Woodstock on side 2. Big Yellow Taxi is very familiar "They pave paradise, put up a parking lot.", a song I have always liked. Joni has this gorgeous soprano voice, one of the few that work in pop music. It has lots of 60's hippy world view type of stuff thread through the lyrics, but it's the infectious beat, the acoustic guitar driving this song that I love; happy music over sadly serious lyrics. The B side is Joni's version of Woodstock, a song she wrote but made famous by Crosby, Stills, Nash and maybe Young. I don't think I've heard Joni's version before, it's the opposite of Big Yellow Taxi; happy lyrics but sad, almost morose music. All in all I prefer the CSN (&Y?), it is just easier on the ears. This version does little for me.

Next up is a guy I know, The Hawk, Ronnie Hawkins. On Roulette Records High Blood Pressure was released in 1963, a couple of years before he was playing with The Band. The Hawk sounds like Chuck Berry, except it's slower than Chuck liked to play. A blues it reminds me a bit of Berry's Maybelline, this is one of the better songs I've bought while doing this. The B side There's a Screw Loose is more of the same, with a Spanish flavour. Hawkins is kind of shouting out some drunk Mexican-isms over a Hammond Organ based band, this is frankly as bad as High Blood Pressure is good.

Finally, Ian Thomas' I Really Love You. A relatively local boy, Ian hails from nearby Paris, Ontario, and brother of Dave Thomas of SCTV fame, Thomas is a great songwriter with a pile of top of the line music to his name. I'm a fan of this song right from the get go: a nice guitar sound, simple effective arrangement and smart lyrics well sung. These are all hallmarks of the Ian Thomas song and this one is no different.

Overall, and excepting Mashmakhan and b/ sides, this was a good haul for a quilt town!