Sunday, February 28, 2010

Canadian Hockey goes for double-Gold

Canada vs. USA.

Olympic Men's hockey.

Gold medal game.

3p eastern today.

It doesn’t get any bigger than this….not to Canadians, anyway.

I’m not going to ramble here about the significance of the game, it’s place in history, Canada’s attempt to avenge a 5-3 preliminary round loss…blah blah blah.

Let’s also salute the amazing Canadian Women’s hockey team, who picked up GOLD on Thursday by beating Team USA 2-0. Wooohooo!


Hanson Brothers - It's a Living - The Hockey SongHanson Brothers - It's a Living - The Hockey Song

The Hanson Brothers – The Hockey Song (1994)
(original by the legendary Stompin’ Tom Connors can be purchased here)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

1977: Keith Richards busted in Toronto

On this day in 1977, Keith Richards was busted for heroin possession in Toronto.

The setup to the events of February 27, 1977, happened a few days earlier, when Keith, his then-girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, and Keith’s son, Marlon, boarded a British Airways jet in London, so Keith could join the rest of The Rolling Stones to rehearse for an upcoming concert recording in Toronto (the famous El Mocambo gigs, used for the “Love You Live” album).

According to a published account by author Victor Bockris, Keith used heroin during the flight and tossed a burnt spoon into one of Pallenberg's bags without mentioning it to her.

When the three arrived at Toronto International Airport, Anita’s 28-pieces of luggage were searched by customs: they found 10 grams of hash in one bag, and the burnt spoon in another – lab tests later confirmed it contained traces of heroin. Pallenberg, 34, was arrested for possession and released on a ‘promise-to-appear’ notice.

The couple joined the rest of the Stones at Toronto’s Harbor Castle Hilton hotel, with Keith attending band rehearsals on the 25th and 26th.

It was, apparently, common practice to have a Stones’ security man outside of Keith’s room 24/7; on February 27, 1977, legend has it the security person on duty received a phone call telling him he wasn’t needed, so there was no one to protect Keith when there was a knock on the door.

Fifteen RCMP officers, including plainclothes constables Bernie Barbe and Pete Hadley, arrived at the hotel with a search warrant; Barbe recounted the events that followed in a 2005 interview published by the Ottawa Sun; read the article here.

According to various media reports, the police found 22 grams of heroin and 5 grams of cocaine in Richards’ room. Keith was taken into custody, where he was charged with possession of heroin with the intent to traffic and possession of cocaine.

Lawyers got involved and Keith was released on bail, returning to the hotel.

Keith reportedly joined the Stones for a rehearsal that night, although things, moving forward, were far from business as usual.

Keith’s currently working on his autobiography, so it’ll be interesting to see how he addresses this day in his history when the book hits shelves later this year. Recent reports confirm that Johnny Depp is directing a documentary on Richards, as well.

Friday, February 26, 2010

1965 - Jimmy Page's first solo single

On this day in 1965, Jimmy Page released his first solo single, "She Just Satisfies."

In the mid-60s, Jimmy had been bouncing around from session to session, playing guitar on records by other artists. Page had given up thoughts of being in a band, and possibly giving up music for good, after health issues forced him off the road while touring with The Crusaders, who he hooked up with in 1962.

"I joined Neil Christian's Crusaders when I first left school and I was just sort of gigging with his band - driving round the country and getting glandular fever and everything,” Page told writer Nick Kent in a May ’74 Creem magazine article. “I remember one night walking outside a gig, and the next point waking up and I was laying on the floor in some sort of dressing room. I just collapsed and couldn't keep going, and it was just fatigue and exhaustion."

Page turned to painting, enrolling in the Sutton Art College in Surrey…but he just couldn’t get the guitar out of his mind, jamming regularly at The Marquee club with several bands, including playing with both Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck during this period.

Eventually, Jimmy was offered studio work for Decca Records, a real win/win for him: he could still play music but didn’t have to travel constantly to do it. Page’s first session for Decca was playing rhythm on "Diamonds" by Jet Harris and Tony Meehan, an instrumental track that hit Number 1 on the UK singles chart in early 1963.

Jet Harris and Tony Meehan – Diamonds (1963)
(features Jimmy Page on rhythm guitar)

Famously, Page played on hits by The Who (rhythm guitar on “I Can’t Explain”), The Rolling Stones ( “Heart Of Stone” ), Van Morrison & Them ( “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “Here Comes The Night” ), The Kinks (according to Ray Davies , Page played 12-string rhythm guitar on "I'm A Lover, Not A Fighter" and tambourine on "Long Tall Shorty", both from 65’s “You Really Got Me” album), The Nashville Teens ( “Tobacco Road” ), and many others.

Several songs which featured Page's involvement were compiled on the twin album release: James Patrick Page: Session Man Volume One and James Patrick Page: Session Man Volume Two.

Page continued his session work until mid-1966, shutting things down after the chart success of r’n’b songs with a focus on horns temporarily relegated guitars to the background in the sessions he was doing…and…his reaction to getting offers to play songs for Muzak, the background music service heard in retail stores, office buildings and elevators.

The week after this decision, Page was invited to join The Yardbirds, and accepted, filling the bass role of the just-departed Paul Samwell-Smith (he’d eventually switch to guitar, playing side-by-side with Jeff Beck); a year earlier, he turned down the band’s offer to replace Eric Clapton out of concern for his previous health issues on the road, loyalty to his friend, and the sheer amount of money he was making as a session player.

So, in the midst of his busy session work – Page recalls playing three sessions a day, six days a week – Jimmy recorded his first single. “She Just Satisfies” was released in February ’65 on Fontana Records.

Click the image below to view.

"There's nothing to be said for that record except it was very tongue-in-cheek at the time," Page said in that same Creem interview. “I played all the instruments on it, except for the drums, and sang on it too, which is quite, uh...unique. 'She Just Satisfies,' that's what it was called. It's better forgotten."

According to Philip Cohen - formerly of the music collector’s guide, ICE magazine (closed in ’06), legend has it that Page sang his vocals directly into the mono mix, so the original multitrack tapes have no vocals on them; years later, a stereo remix of the song surfaced as an instrumental.

Jimmy Page – She Just Satisfies (1965)
(audio over slide show)

The raw and primal-sounding b-side, “Keep Movin’,” features then-girlfriend Jackie DeShannon on vocals; Page had played on some her sessions and the two co-wrote a few songs together. According to one legend, Page wrote “Tangerine” about DeShannon in ‘65, years before it appeared on Led Zeppelin III.

Jimmy Page – Keep Movin' (1965)
(b-side of "She Just Satisfies")

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rock N Roll Birthday: Mike Peters of The Alarm

Happy Birthday to Mike Peters of The Alarm , who turns 51 today.

Inspired by seeing The Sex Pistols live in 1976, the Welsh rockers started in ‘77 as a punk band, horrendously named The Toilets (!); they broke up and Peters formed Seventeen (after The Sex Pistols song) in ’78 and went Mod for a while, becoming Alarm Alarm (not a typo) and, eventually, The Alarm in 1981.

The group turned heads of some music journalists with an indie single, which brought them to the attention of U2’s agent, Ian Wilson, who would become the band’s manager – they even celebrated the signing by opening for U2 at London’s Lyceum Ballroom on December 22, 1981.

Signing to IRS Records, The Alarm released a single – “Marching On” - in the fall of ’82 and a five-track, self-titled EP in spring ‘83, coinciding with my arrival at college radio; I dug the band right away and played them often in those days (they were on the station’s charts, so were in rotation, anyway).

The Alarm gained more attention by touring America with U2 in ’83 and releasing their first album, “The Declaration,” in ‘84. For me, the pinnacle of the band’s work was 1985’s “Strength,” featuring killer tracks like “Knife Edge,” “Deeside,” “Absolute Reality,” and the epic “Spirit Of ’76.”

The Alarm – Spirit Of ‘76 (1985)

The Alarm - The Best of the Alarm - Spirit of '76The Alarm - The Best of the Alarm - Spirit of '76

The Alarm gained more fans with “Rain In The Summertime” from 87’s "Eye Of The Hurricane"; the record featured a more polished sound, very close to where U2 were at in The Joshua Tree-era. ‘89’s “Change” featured the band’s biggest US hit, “Sold Me Down The River” – the one and only time they had a top 50 single there.

The Alarm broke up in ‘91, with members heading out on solo ventures; when Peters left the group, he signed one-quarter of the rights to the band name over to the other three members. Things get tricky here: to support a box set of material, Peters used the band name but added MM+ to it in order to avoid legal issues, and he’s been doing it ever since. In April 2008, guitarist Dave Sharp launched his own version of the band, AOR - Spirit of The Alarm, to showcase the band's American setlists from the late 1980s.

Mike did something very creative in 2004: I can’t recount this any better than the’s description, so here it is...

"In February 2004, The Alarm MM+ pulled off a masterful hoax on the British music industry by issuing a garagey punk-pop single, "45 RPM," under the fictitious name the Poppy Fields. Peters, having gotten positive feedback on the song, decided to disassociate it from his veteran band to have it judged on its own merits, and recruited a young Welsh group called the Wayriders to lip-sync the song in the video. The so-called Poppy Fields took "45 RPM" into the U.K. Top 30 before the hoax was revealed, setting the stage for the new Alarm's first album together, In the Poppy Fields."

The original lineup of the group reunited for a one-off gig in 2005 for the MTV show, “Bands Reunited.” Peters went back to Alarm MM+ and continues to tour to this day.

Mike Peters was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, specifically Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia ; fortunately, the cancer was benign. "The good news is that although my illness is not curable, it is treatable," Peters wrote on the band's website at the time, relaying his doctor's optimistic prediction: "It is a disease I will probably die with, rather than of." This diagnosis came a decade after Mike was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, which was pressed into remission by his immune system.

Mike was inspired to start the Love Hope Strength Foundation, a music-based charity designed to provide financial support to purchase medical equipment and supplies, raise awareness through special events, documentaries and media, build cancer centers and find bone marrow donors.

Love Hope Strength Foundation

Closer to home, Mike was forced to reschedule the band’s 2009 fall UK tour to April 2010 so that he could focus his attention on his wife, Jules, who is also his manager. Last October, Jules Peters was diagnosed with a blood clot in her leg, while also suffering from the effects of a viral illness she picked up climbing Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro as part of Kilimanjaro Rocks, a Love Hope Strength trek there last fall. I’m glad to see that Jules is at home recovering from her health issues and posting about her status on December 10.

An inspiring couple, for sure, who are able to celebrate another of Mike’s birthdays together today.

Love Hope Strength, indeed.

The Alarm – Strength (1985)

The Alarm - The Best of the Alarm - StrengthThe Alarm - The Best of the Alarm - Strength

Kasabian wins a pair at 2010 NME Awards

Follow-up to yesterday's post on Kasabian and the 2010 NME Awards...

Up for 6 trophies Wednesday night, Kasabian picked up 2 awards - Best Album and Best Album Artwork for their 2009 release, "West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum." As expected, the band rocked the house with special guest Noel Fielding of The Mighty Boosh, as they performed "Vlad The Impaler."

Muse were the other multi-award winners, scoring Best British Band and Best Website.

Here's a quick rundown of winners in some of the major categories:

Best British Band - Muse
Best International Band - Paramore
Best Solo Artist - Jamie T
Best New Band - Bombay Bicycle Club
Best Live Band - Arctic Monkeys
Best Album - "West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum" by Kasabian
Best Track - "Dominos" by The Big Pink
Best Video - "The Captain" by Biffy Clyro
Best Live Event - Blur's Hyde Park concert in 2009
Giving It Back Fan Award - Lily Allen
Best Album Artwork - "West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum" by Kasabian
Best Website - Muse
Godlike Genius Award - Paul Weller

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kasabian are on "Fire"

UK rockers Kasabian have started making the rounds during the start of awards show season: last week, the band scored Best British Group at the 2010 Brit Awards and, tonight, they are up for six trophies as they perform at the NME (New Musical Express) Awards, alongside The Specials, Hole, and the legendary Paul Weller, who will be honoured with the Godlike Genius award.

Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys lead the field with six nominations each; Kasabian are up for prizes as Best British Band, Best Live Band, Best Album and Best Album Artwork (for 2009’s "West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum"), Best Video ( “Fire” ) and the Giving It Back Fan Award.

The brand new Giving It Back Fan Award rewards artists who go the extra mile for fans: nominees include Danger Mouse - for leaking ‘Dark Night Of The Soul’; Lily Allen - for her Twitter ticket treasure hunt; Arctic Monkeys - for their Oxfam golden tickets; and, Vampire Weekend - for giving away ‘Horchata’ from the album ‘Contra’.

Kasabian and Noel Fielding, from the British comedy troupe, The Mighty Boosh, are nominated for their “Vlad The Impaler” collaboration (Fielding stars as Vlad), which was offered as a free download from the band’s site for a short period of time upon its release. Kasabian are scheduled to play tonight with special guest Fielding, so it’s more than a safe bet which song they’ll be performing.

Kasabian – Vlad The Impaler
(caution: contains some violent imagery – view at your discretion)

Awards shows are fairly standard animals: if you see a band play, they’re most likely to walk away with a prize, especially if it’s awarded right after their performance - pretty predictable stuff, really, so, that could bode well for the guys in Kasabian tonight, at least in the Giving It Back category.

Think about the concept: concerned about the tune-out factor, the producers aren’t going to spend 4 minutes of valuable national (or international) airtime with an artist that isn’t a ‘winner’ at the event; it does happen sometimes, but very, very rarely…and it makes good sense to put the performance and award next to each other, as the show flows well for those in attendance and viewers at home.

With the increased visibility, artists often score large after their appearance on the award show circuit, especially if they’ve stood out from the crowd: in Kasabian’s case, published items suggest reported a 1,625 per cent increase in sales of the band’s latest album in the hours following the Brit Awards - a sure sign of the impact and immediacy of downloads in relation to media profile.

Kasabian – Fire
2010 Brit Awards - Feb 16/10

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rock N Roll Birthday: Brad Whitford of Aerosmith

Happy Birthday to Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford, who turns 58 today.

Whitford played in several New England-area bands in the late 60s before attending Boston’s Berklee School Of Music and eventually joining Aerosmith in 1971, replacing original guitarist Ray Tabano.

Rock trivia: Tabano left the band, only to return years later as a member of the crew and then Director of Marketing, during which time he launched the first Aerosmith fan club and worked on developing their merchandise through the 70s.

Brad’s arrival was essential, completing the Aerosmith puzzle a year before the band snagged a record deal in summer ’72, after a show at New York’s Max’s Kansas City.

Boston’s soon-to-be-favourite sons released their self-titled debut in '73, and the series of albums that followed cemented Aerosmith’s legacy: "Get Your Wings" (’74), "Toys In The Attic" (’75), "Rocks" (’76) and "Draw The Line" (’77).

Aerosmith – Train Kept A Rollin’
The Midnight Special (1974)

As a songwriter during those early years, Whitford delivered the 1976 hit, “Last Child” (the first single from "Rocks" ), album tracks like “ Nobody’s Fault” and “Round And Round,” as well as lead guitar on essential cuts like “Back In The Saddle.” Aerosmith's well-documented drug years kicked in, the haze continued, and they fell apart at the seams by the start of the early 80s.

Aerosmith - A Little South of Sanity - Last ChildAerosmith - A Little South of Sanity - Last Child

Aerosmith – Last Child
(live 2004)

Brad left Aerosmith in 1981 and formed Whitford/St. Holmes with original (and killer) Ted Nugent vocalist Derek St. Holmes, releasing a self-titled album; everything sounds amazing with St. Holmes singing, and I remember it as a solid little one-off record (still have the vinyl). St. Holmes returned to the Nugent fold, while Whitford helped his old bandmate out by touring with The Joe Perry Project when Joe’s solo career needed a profile boost; the two found their way back to Aerosmith when they regrouped in ’84 for the “Back In The Saddle” comeback tour. By the late 80s, more rehab for all, with Brad himself overcoming the battle of the bottle, reportedly remaining sober to this day.

Whitford is an avid amateur race car driver, and is part owner of F1 Boston, an indoor karting facility that opened in summer 2000. He raced as a guest driver at the SCCA Pro Racing Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup race weekend at Road Atlanta in September 2009, finishing 18th on a rain-soaked course.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Oasis - Toronto attacker court update 2

As a follow-up to my earlier post, it’s being reported that former Oasis leader Noel Gallagher will now be unable to attend the sentencing in Toronto for the man who attacked him on stage at the Virgin Music Festival in September, 2008.

Originally set for February 5, the sentencing was delayed at the last minute when Gallagher’s lawyer stated that her client wished to attend the hearing in person in order to deliver a victim impact statement; the court granted the request and rescheduled the session to March 23.

According to published reports, Crown attorney Ruth Kleinhenz-Neilson says that Gallagher’s schedule next month won’t allow him the opportunity to be in Toronto for the sentencing; she has also stated that it’s likely that she will read Gallagher’s statement on behalf of her client.

Gallagher is reportedly tied up with commitments in March, including headlining a charity concert in London on behalf of the Teenager Cancer Trust. The charity marks 10 years of support at its annual week-long series of music and comedy concerts at the Royal Albert Hall; acts include Depeche Mode, Them Crooked Vultures, The Specials and The Who – Gallagher headlines the March 25th concert.

While there’s little doubt that Noel’s appearance in court would have created a media circus, the sentencing is two days prior to his concert event; it would be interesting to know if alternate technical arrangements could have been made for Gallagher to be linked up live with the court session, somehow – via satellite, Skype, or some other method. I have zero experience with the concept, but I wonder how much stronger the message is when delivered in these situations straight from the victim – in other words, is it possible that the emotion, tone and impact are watered down somewhat when delivered by a third party?

Either way, the March 23 session could bring an end to the case, unless the judge delays sentencing for some reason, including consideration of whatever message is delivered by Gallagher. The former Oasis leader suffered three broken ribs when Daniel Sullivan snuck through security, ran onstage and tackled Gallagher from behind in mid-song, causing him to crash hard into his monitors; the band was forced to cancel a series of shows as a result of the incident.

Sullivan has already pled guilty to assault causing bodily harm in the case; Gallagher is reportedly suing him for up to $2 million dollars in damages.

Oasis – Toronto attack by Daniel Sullivan
Virgin Music Festival, September 2008

Rodrigo y Gabriela – “Buster Voodoo”

Heavy Metal-influenced flamenco guitar – that’s the background of Rodrigo y Gabriela.

I caught the Mexican duo playing on The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien a few months ago and was suitably impressed with their skills. Funny, my ear even picked up on a little tip of the hat to Hendrix in the song they played, and then I investigated them online and find that, voila, the track they were playing was “Buster Voodoo,” off their latest disc, “11:11” – a song dedicated to Jimi Hendrix.

Trivia time: Hendrix’s original nickname was Buster (after the Flash Gordon actor Buster Crabbe from the 1930’s films), and he wrote "Voodoo Chile"… hence the title “Buster Voodoo.”

“11:11” is the duo’s third studio album (fifth overall, including two live releases), and it features 11 new tracks dedicated to 11 musicians who inspired them – the list includes people like Carlos Santana, Al Di Meola, Dimebag Darrell (Pantera, Damageplan), John McLaughlin, and Pink Floyd.

Guitarists Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero grew up as fans of heavy metal in Mexico City; they worked together for a short time in a thrash metal band, Tierra Acida, and even recorded an album (was never released) before heading out (literally) on their own. The duo landed in Dublin, began working the pubs and streets, and gained a fan in Damien Rice, an Irish singer/songwriter who snagged them to play with him at Ireland’s Oxegen Festival in 2005 (they returned as headliners on the second stage in 2007). From there, Rodrigo y Gabriela hit the festival circuit across Europe, gaining new fans on the continent and in Japan, where they would later record one of their two live albums.

Rodrigo y Gabriela - 11:11 - Buster VoodooRodrigo y Gabriela - 11:11 - Buster Voodoo

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Buster Voodoo
The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson - Oct 28/09

Rodrigo y Gabriela - Rodrigo y Gabriela - Stairway to HeavenRodrigo y Gabriela - Rodrigo y Gabriela - Stairway to Heaven

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Stairway To Heaven
(studio version is on band’s 2006 self-titled album)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

new Sean Ashby disc due in March

Among the new releases I’m looking forward to in the next month is the second disc from guitarist Sean Ashby.

After many years as Sarah Mclachlan’s guitarist, Sean released his first solo effort, “Brass And Gold,” in the spring of 2008. A collection of rockers and ballads, Sean hit the road for more than 200 dates across Canada, backed by airplay at rock radio and the CBC. An in-demand guitarist, Sean also managed to squeeze in two tours with Delerium since his album’s release.

“24 Hours Of Daylight” is set for release next month, and if you’ve had the chance to catch Sean on the road, you’ve likely already had a preview of what’s to come, as he's been working new material into his set. Along with some rockers, the new disc will have a rootsy vibe to it, featuring Sean’s work on the lap steel guitar, a highlight of his live shows.

Sean will, once again, hit the road to bring his music to the masses; check out for tour dates and more details.

In the meantime, here’s a taste of Sean’s work for you to enjoy…

Sean Ashby – Leone Western
March 19, 2009 CTV Halifax Breakfast Television

Sean Ashby - Brass and Gold - Brass and GoldSean Ashby - Brass and Gold - Brass and Gold

Sean Ashby – Brass And Gold
Nov 7, 2009 - Spence’s Bridge, BC

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bon Scott Remembered (Part 2)

AC/DC was formed in November, 1973, by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young; the inaugural lineup included bassist Larry Van Kriedt, vocalist Dave Evans, and ex-Masters Apprentices drummer Colin Burgess. The band played their first gig at a Sydney club named Chequers on New Year's Eve, 1973. Several lineup changes happened in the first year, and, after recording their first single, “Can I Sit Next To You Girl,” singer Dave Evans was let go and replaced by Bon Scott in September ’74.

Originally from Scotland, Bon (born Ronald Belford Scott) and family moved to Melbourne in 1952 when he was six. A wildcat, Scott dropped out of school at 15 and ran into trouble with the law, spending time in juvenile institutions in Fremantle, West Australia, home since 1956.

Bon started as drummer and sometimes lead singer in his first band, The Spektors, when he was 18; two years later, they became The Valentines, and recorded several songs by George Young.

Small World Part 1: George is Malcolm and Angus Young’s older brother, who had his own musical success with The Easybeats (“Friday On My Mind”), before becoming AC/DC’s producer during their early years.

The Valentines – Build Me Up Buttercup (1969)
(originally a hit by The Foundations in 1968)

The Valentines made headlines with a drug bust in September ’69, before having a top 30 hit in Australia, “Juliette,” in early 1970; they disbanded later that year.

The Valentines – Coca Cola jingle (1969)

Bon joined the Adelaide band Fraternity late in ’70, recording two albums before heading off to tour the U.K. in 1971.

Small World Part 2: On the ’71 UK tour, Fraternity opened for bands like Status Quo and Geordie – which included lead singer Brian Johnson, Bon’s replacement in AC/DC 9 years later.

Fraternity – Seasons Of Change
(features Bon with a recorder and a beard!)

When Fraternity went on hiatus, Bon played with another band, and was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in 1973. It was while working in Adelaide, when he eventually met Malcolm and Angus Young and became AC/DC’s driver. Bon tried, unconvincingly, to talk the brothers into letting him become the band’s drummer, before they gave him a shot as lead singer…..and we all know how that worked out….

R.I.P. Bon Scott

AC/DC – It’s A long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock N Roll)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bon Scott Remembered (Part 1)

“Acute alcohol poisoning” and “death by misadventure,” reads the paperwork filed by the Lambeth, U.K. coronor.

AC/DC lead singer Bon Scott was only 33.

30 years ago today, Scott was found dead in the front passenger seat of a friend’s car, after a night of heavy drinking.

Alistair Kinnear was the last person to see Bon alive; it was in his car that Bon passed away. So, what happened? 5 years ago, Alistair was interviewed for U.K. rock magazine, Metal Hammer, and revealed the details of the tragedy in Metal Hammer and Classic Rock Present AC/DC Special 2005.

1979 was a huge year for AC/DC: “Highway To Hell” and years of constant touring finally brought the band the success and profile they deserved. The HTH tour wrapped up at the end of December ’79, and Bon was in London on a well earned break.

Alistair was friends and ex-roommates with Silver Smith, a sometimes girlfriend of Bon’s. A working musician himself, Kinnear was invited to see the first gig by a friend’s sister’s band at London’s Music Machine club on February 18; he invited Silver to join him, but she was unavailable and suggested Bon might be interested – Alistair phoned Bon and the two were set for a night of rock n’ roll.

"It was a great party, and Bon and I both drank far too much, both at the free bar backstage and at the upstairs bar as well; however I did not see him take any drugs that evening,” Alistair recounted. “At the end of the party I offered to drive him home. As we approached his flat, I realized that Bon had drifted into unconsciousness. I left him in my car and rang his doorbell, but his current live-in girlfriend didn't answer. I took Bon's keys and let myself into the flat, but no-one was at home. I was unable to wake Bon, so I rang Silver for advice. She said that he passed out quite frequently, and that it was best just to leave him to sleep it off.”

Alistair Kinnear's home - 67 Overhill Road, Dulwich, South London

Kinnear then drove home around 4 or 5am, and tried, unsuccessfully, to get Bon out of the car and into his place. Alistair then put the seat back so Bon could lie flat, covered him with a blanket, left a note with his address and phone number on it, and shuffled off to bed. Kinnear said he was so hungover when he was awakened by a friend around 11am, that he asked him to check on Bon; his pal returned to say that the car was empty, so it was assumed that Bon awoke and took a taxi home, and Kinnear went back to sleep. At around 7:30pm that evening, while leaving his place to visit a friend in the hospital, he found Bon still in the car “obviously in a very bad way, and not breathing. I immediately drove hime to King's College Hospital, where Bon was pronounced dead on arrival.”

The details provided by Kinnear clear up the mystery surrounding the death of one of hard rock’s most promising superstars.

R.I.P. Bon Scott

AC/DC – Highway To Hell (live 1979)

Alistair Kinnear is at the center of his own mystery: according to the Australian newspaper, The Herald , Kinnear went missing at sea in the summer of 2006 and is presumed dead. Kinnear’s son, Daniel, reports that his father set sail from Marseilles, France in July 2006 on a 40-foot yacht on the way to Spain, when the boat vanished without a trace. In cases like this, it takes a period of seven years before someone who is missing to be declared legally dead. Stay tuned…

Tomorrow: in part 2 of Bon Scott Remembered - videos and audio of Bon's pre-AC/DC bands from the late 60s and early 70s.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pink Floyd 1968: Syd out, Gilmour in

On this day in 1968, David Gilmour replaced Syd Barrett as a member of Pink Floyd.

A wonderfully creative spirit, by all accounts, Pink Floyd founder and original leader Syd Barrett seems to have been rock’s first major drug-related casualty.

Pink Floyd built a following with the underground college and university crowd, by first playing a mixture of traditional rhythm n’ blues songs and original material. Soon, under new management with some financial backing, Floyd began playing shows that included coloured slides and lights that enhanced the trippy, instrumental narratives they created.

In early 1967, Pink Floyd signed with EMI and debuted with a top 20 single - “Arnold Layne.”

Pink Floyd – Arnold Layne (1967)

Pink Floyd - The Piper At the Gates of Dawn (Triple Disc Version) [Remastered] - Arnold Layne Pink Floyd - The Piper At the Gates of Dawn (Triple Disc Version) [Remastered] - Arnold Layne

Pink Floyd also scored with their second single, going top 10 with “See Emily Play” (more details below), and then released “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn,” considered by many as the finest psychedelic album ever made.

By the time of the record’s release in August ’67, the band had been suffering through Syd’s ability to cope and function for some time. Syd dabbled frequently in psychedelics, specifically acid, and it was catching up to him. At one famous (infamous?) show at London’s UFO club in April of that year, Syd was so far gone that the band somehow managed to get him on stage, where he stood with his guitar around his neck and his arms simply hanging down by his sides; the fans gasped at the sight.

On a short, but ill-fated tour of the States in the fall of ‘67, Pink Floyd performed “Apples and Oranges” on American Bandstand on November 4, and, "See Emily Play" on The Pat Boone Show the next day. Legend has it that Syd stared blankly at Boone during the band’s Q&A session, and was motionless during the mimed performance to the song, so Roger Waters stepped up to the mic to fill things in and make it look like someone was singing; the footage has yet to be reaired.

Moving forward, Floyd had to cancel gigs while they worked through Syd’s habit(s), including replacing him occasionally with other players at shows when he simply failed to turn up. The band knew they had to do something, and they brought in David Gilmour as an additional guitarist to fill out the lineup. Syd knew Gilmour from their days as fellow students at Cambridge Tech, where the two often teamed up to jam at lunch; two years earlier, in August ‘65, they hitch-hiked and busked their way through the south of France together.

The first four shows of 1968 featured Pink Floyd as a five-piece, with both Barrett and Gilmour on guitars. The decision to remove Syd as an active member of the live group happened on January 26, 1968, on the way to a show in Southampton; someone in the band’s van asked if they should stop by and pick up Barrett for the show, and they collectively decided not to bother. Based on the stories of his condition, it makes you wonder if Syd even noticed at all; he did, however, occasionally show up at gigs later, reportedly confused about things while staring down Gilmour as he played.

The group had planned to keep Syd involved as a contributing songwriter, mirroring what The Beach Boys had done with Brian Wilson, but it was soon determined that this scenario wouldn’t work, either, due to his continued deterioration.

A formal press statement about Syd’s departure from the band was made on April 6, 1968.

While the psychedelic era continued for a few years, it’s hard to say where Pink Floyd would have gone if Syd Barrett had remained in the group. Gilmour certainly helped maintain the band’s profile through a period where many wondered if they would even recover from the loss of Barrett, considered such an integral and vital part of Pink Floyd.

Among all the myths and legends surrounding the Syd-era, one includes a film of Syd’s first mushroom trip. Shot in 1966 by his film student friend Nigel Gordon, “Syd’s First Trip” features silent film footage of Syd tripping out, as well as additional footage of Floyd in ’67. The raw material is both intriguing and disturbing at the same time; something akin to watching a car crash. At the 2:30 mark, we see Syd staring into his hands: first, with playful interest, and then with shock and amazement at what he sees as he waves his hands around in front of his face.

“Syd’s First trip” is made up of two parts: part one is Syd tripping at Gog Magog Hills; part two was shot in April '67, featuring Pink Floyd right after they signed their first recording contract with EMI Records at Abbey Road Studios. As it was shot without sound, someone has dubbed music over it to make it somewhat easier to sit through. The song featured is called “Coral” by the band Dilate, from their album "Octagon"; it’s actually fairly suitable for something related to Floyd.

Although there's no storyline to follow here - it's more a collection of often poorly-shot random images, I caution that some may be disturbed at what they see here, so it’s your call on whether or not you wish to view this or move on to the next paragraph.

“Syd’s First Trip” (1966)

Pink Floyd fans had reason to be excited recently when it was announced that lost footage of the band performing “See Emily Play” on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops show on July 6, 1967 had been discovered in the private collection of “an eminent rock musician.” Believed lost for more than 40 years, the British Film Institute had a public screening of the footage for the first time last month – read more about it here. The footage has been turned over to band management and, with any luck, it can be restored to decent quality and released officially, one day.

Pink Floyd – See Emily Play (1967)

Pink Floyd - The Piper At the Gates of Dawn (Triple Disc Version) [Remastered] - See Emily Play Pink Floyd - The Piper At the Gates of Dawn (Triple Disc Version) [Remastered] - See Emily Play

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rock N Roll Birthday: Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day

Happy Birthday to Billy Joe from Green Day, who turns 38 today.

I’ll say it up front - Green Day are one of my favourite bands to come out of the 90s. Their first major label single, “Longview” (from 1994’s breakthrough, “Dookie”), caught my ear in a big way and, though they’ve come and gone and come back again into the mainstream, their popularity with others never mattered to me and I’ve been preaching about them ever since.

With “Longview,” I heard so much in the song that I liked that I knew it couldn’t be a fluke, and picked up “Dookie” right away; after that, I did what all kinds of music lovers do when inspired – I went back and sought out their first two indie releases – “1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours” (’90) and “Kerplunk!” (‘91). The indie stuff was harder to find at the time, since the band was just taking off with the public; while the production on these isn’t the greatest, the energy and vibe of the band remains intact.

So what’s to love about Green Day? They’re fun, high-energy, and write damn catchy songs. Clearly, the band’s roots come from a place first inhabited by The Ramones; you want kick-ass, three-minute, three-chord blasts of energy? It’s all there and it’s all good. Despite the protests of others, I never felt like the band was ripping off The Ramones; rather, I think Green Day wears it’s influences proudly on its sleeve but, more importantly, that sound is so inherent in their lives, that it’s simply a part of their collective DNA.

Talk about a direct and personal influence: Billie Joe named his first son Joey in homage to Joey Ramone, while drummer Tré Cool named his daughter Ramona.

I owned a hand-me down acoustic guitar for years before I ever got around to trying to learn full songs; I used to noodle and play riffs, which is how a lot of people seem to start out. From the first time I heard him, I knew I always wanted to play like Eddie Van Halen, but figured that was a pipe dream, at best (still is – ha!); what Ed does seemed so otherworldly and magical, so I figured my best approach would be to start at the start - with the basics.

It's coincidence, more than anything, but around the time Green Day arrived, I finally committed to trying to get a handle on learning full songs; like The Ramones before them, they’re a great place to start. Musical snobs often put down the simplicity of three-chord songs, but there’s a reason they have been a part of rock’s consciousness for so long (“Louie, Louie,” anyone?) – the uncluttered nature of them is what makes them so energetic and memorable at the same time. I will say that hearing songs and thinking you know them is not the same as hearing songs and playing them – once you’re inside a song, you need to have your bearings so you know where you’re headed next. So, in the early to mid-90s, while learning a few Green Day songs a week, thanks to some online guitar tab, I realized that I was also learning the basics of song structure in a practical and meaningful way: intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo/chorus out.

Since the dawn of recorded music, countless musicians have learned their instruments by playing along to records by the artists who inspired them. And while I taught myself guitar and song basics by ear (er, and tab), rather than by playing with the records themselves, I later came to realize it was probably because the songs were playing in my head and all I had to do was get my hands around a guitar to make them come alive.

So, happy birthday and thanks, Billie Joe, for the music lessons you didn’t even know you were giving…

Green Day - Dookie - Longview Green Day - Dookie - Longview

Green Day – Longview

Green Day – tribute to The Ramones at The Rock N Roll Hall Of Hame induction, 2002
(watch for a couple of The Ramones and Eddie Vedder – with mohawk – bopping along to the performance)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Craig Ferguson rocks!

In the past month or so, fans of late night tv talk shows have had to suffer through the NBC fiasco, also known as the Jay vs. Conan war….or the Jeff Zucker “I’m an idiot” sweepstakes. As head of NBC, Zucker basically ruined one of tv’s most prestigious franchises by backing Conan O’Brien into a corner and, essentially, forcing him out in order to bring Jay Leno back to "The Tonight Show," after Jay’s variety show failed in prime-time. Will we ever know if it was Zucker’s budget-tightening or Jay’s refusal to leave - or a combination of the two - that caused the dust-up?

All I know is that the guys at CBS were on top of their game throughout the debacle: David Letterman was literally on fire, savouring every moment, 18 years after losing "The Tonight Show" sweepstakes when NBC picked Leno to be Johnny Carson’s successor… and, fellow host (and Letterman employee) Craig Ferguson kicked some serious ass, too, as always.

After a long stint on "The Drew Carey show" (as Drew’s boss, Mr. Wick), Ferguson landed the gig as the host of "The Late, Late Show" on CBS in January, 2005, months after Craig Kilborn’s departure.

Craig’s rambling monologues are filled with sidebars into crazy, funny territory, while always returning to a central theme; the manic nature of his routines remind me of both Robin Williams and David Lee Roth at their comedic best.

Craig has a rock n roll history: a native of Glasgow, Scotland, he was the drummer in a band called "Exposure" for a time back in the '70s; he then shifted gears into high-speed when he joined “The Bastards From Hell,” a punk band later renamed "Dreamboys" – before successfully trying his hand at comedy.

A drummer and a guitarist, Craig sings the opening theme to his CBS show.

Craig Ferguson - The Late, Late Show opening theme

A segment of every show is devoted to Craig reading viewer email; in the early years, Ferguson featured an insanely funny series of theme songs to introduce the topic. One of the many cool things about them was that they covered such a wide range of musical genres – everything from reggae to Vegas cheese to country - my favourite was always the Ramones-inspired punk theme, complete with the band’s famous “gabba-gabba-hey” chant. Back in 2008, someone collected a bunch of these and posted a montage online..check it out…

** a word of caution: the volume levels tend to jump up and down from one jingle to the next, so you may want to keep a finger on your volume level when you play this:

Craig Ferguson – email jingles compilation
(watch out for audio levels!)

Unfortunately, the email jingles disappeared and haven’t been returned to action.

After categorically refusing to take part in the Twitter world for a long, long time, Craig joined the system last week, and seems to be having a blast. His Twitter handle is “craigyferg”, and he’s up to almost 100,000 followers in his first week. Ferguson refers to his followers as a "robot-skeleton army” destined to take over the world from their “hollowed-out volcano.”

Well, wouldn’t you know it: an inspired new jingle has been put into action and it’s another winner. This one has an '80s techno vibe to it:

Craig Ferguson – Twitter jingle

So, I say welcome back to world of jingles, Craig…and please, do me a favour and throw on that punk rock email intro one more time for old times sake!

For more crazy fun, tune into the show…and/or visit "The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson" website here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Sex Pistols - "Anarchy In The U.K."

On this day in 1977, Sid Vicious joined The Sex Pistols, replacing original bassist Glen Matlock: I’d suggest that it was the beginning of the end for the band.

Why? By all accounts, Sid (born John Simon Ritchie) couldn’t play his instrument; he was simply window-dressing. Sure, he became one of the iconic images of the punk era, and he certainly had the look and attitude down – but that was it. Apparently, Sid did try to learn to play bass (he even asked Motorhead’s Lemmy for help), but legend has it that he got so absorbed in the celebrity and attention the band was getting, he just never followed through on it…not to mention the world of addiction that Nancy Spungeon brought into his life, which further sidetracked any cognitive ability to learn, well, much of anything.

Listen, I’m saying this as someone who was/is a fan of the band, but let’s be realistic about Sid’s contributions: he was style over substance. I’m not saying style and fashion don’t have a place in entertainment, but you gotta bring something more to the table: being a punk Milli Vanilli is not gonna get it done. Was this The Archies or a real rock band? When the guys picked Lydon to front it, he brought a focus and dimension the group needed to create something; Sid’s late arrival, after the band was established with a set of tunes, didn’t help matters, but he didn’t help himself, or anybody, by not being able to play.

Legend has it that roadies often played bass offstage to cover up those nights when Sid was simply too out of it to play anything himself; the whole thing brings to mind the late stages of Syd Barrett’s time with Pink Floyd, when Syd would just stare off into space. At least Barrett was a contributing musician and a songwriter before drugs overran his ability to function; Sid didn’t have the former, but he certainly had the latter.

The origins of the Pistols go back to 1972, when schoolmates Steve Jones (guitar) and Paul Cook (drums) decided to form a band (“The Strand”); Matlock joined later, Malcolm MacLaren signed on as their manager and punk’s UK big bang started to take shape with the arrival of John Lydon (Rotten) in 1975. And even though Lydon had never sung before, he sure found a way to get a message across and in a style all his own: did he invent the sneer?

Before the vital Never Mind The Bullocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols was released in October ’77, the band had already stirred up controversy across England with their first single “Anarchy In The U.K.” (released November 26, 1976), and a tv appearance a week after its release on Thames Television’s Today program (w/host Bill Grundy) that made headlines across the country; their label, EMI, panicked, dropped the band and paid them the full 40,000 pounds (approx. $80,000-$100,000 Cdn), to get out of the original 2-year contract.

Here’s where things get fuzzy, depending on whose side of the story you hear: Matlock was either kicked out or left by mutual agreement. Jones echoed comments by manager MacLaren at the time that suggested Glen was fired because ‘he liked The Beatles too much’; Matlock’s press story was that it was mutual. Years later, with the benefit of hindsight, both Jonny and Glen have gone on record to state that it was really MacLaren that caused the rift and unraveling of the band at the time: Malcolm would tell each of the guys something different about each other (a he said/he said thing) to stir up the pot, and the guys ate it up because they never actually talked it out. On top of all this, MacLaren didn’t think Matlock looked the part – he was too Mod – but Sid had image to go. It seems that MacLaren’s “create chaos” mandate included everything about the band – internally and externally.

Glen Matlock’s contribution to the band cannot be overlooked or understated; he was the main musical songwriter while Rotten brought in lyrics and melody; publicly, all four members (including Glen and not Sid, who joined after the material was written) were credited as songwriters on the one and only studio album they released at the time.

During the period when the band was in the studio recording …Bullocks, Sid was in hospital, but the group did everything they could to keep him away, anyway. Again, more myths surround these sessions: there’s talk that Matlock was brought back in as a session musician (post-dismissal) to help get it done, and there’s also the story that Steve Jones played all the bass tracks on the record…simply by doubling up what he had recorded on guitar. Co-Producer Chris Thomas confirmed, years later, that Steve did play all the bass parts himself…and, that the only thing Sid played on that was used was on “Bodies,” and he was buried in the mix, barely audible behind Steve’s bass playing, anyway. Co-Producer Bill Price confirmed that Matlock played on "Anarchy..." only; this might have been before he left/quit/was fired, since the album was done over a period of time and not recorded all at once.

Regardless of the myths and legends, The Sex Pistols remain an important part of music history: I even did a full hour presentation on the band for my grade 12 History course in the spring of 1981 - the course’s theme was “Revolutions”, and this certainly qualified. And while Sid remains a part of the band’s legacy, let’s remember who really delivered musically for the group that inspired countless others to form bands and start their own revolutions.

The Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols - Anarchy In the U.K. The Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols - Anarchy In the U.K.

The Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK (TV broadcast debut)
August 28, 1976
So It Goes - Host: Tony Wilson

The Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK (album version)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Heart Day

Won’t head into sappy territory today…so let’s simply visit some vintage rock by Heart.

Heart - Dreamboat Annie - Magic Man Heart - Dreamboat Annie - Magic Man

Heart – Magic Man (live 1976)

Heart - Dreamboat Annie - Crazy On You Heart - Dreamboat Annie - Crazy On You

Heart – Crazy On You (live 1976)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Black Sabbath - "Black Sabbath"

40 years ago today - Friday, February 13, 1970 - Black Sabbath released their self-titled debut album.

Originally known as Earth, the band changed their name to Black Sabbath in August 1969, due to the fact that there was another English band by that name. The new band name was taken from a 1963 horror film of the same name starring Boris Karloff – which was playing at a theatre across the street from the band’s rehearsal space.

(sidebar) Trivia time: According to directors Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary, Black Sabbath (the film) was the inspiration for Pulp Fiction.

Legend has it that the album was recorded in one day: the band simply went in the studio and played their live set and that was it. A second day was used for mixing, and it was done.

Like most (all?) of the early Sabbath material, the music was distortion-soaked blues formed out of jams and played at ear-splitting volume. Sabbath played the blues club circuit, filling their sets with extended jams because they didn’t know that many songs.

“We used to get these gigs in Germany where we'd have to play eight or nine 45 minute spots every day,” said bassist Geezer Butler in a 1996 interview, who wrote almost all of the lyrics, “And we only knew about ten songs, so we had to make them into 40 minute songs, which is where all the jamming came from, and where the first two albums came from, because we wrote them while we were jamming. To me, Sabbath was always just a really heavy blues band. That’s all we were - just an out-and-out 12-bar blues band. That's what we started as. We just took those blues roots and made them heavier, because we were into Hendrix and Cream, who were like the heaviest bands around at that time. We just wanted to be heavier than everybody else!”

Heavier, scarier, and…more evil? Myths and legends abound about Black Sabbath, the song, including a really interesting one rooted in musical theory. I probably won’t be able to do this justice, since I lack formal music training myself, but here goes: the first three notes (and repeated throughout) in the title track are based on a tritone, also known as “The Devil’s Interval.” A tritone apparently spans three whole tones, and the effect is something very dark and sinister sounding...especially when it's played as slow as on this track. Referring to a tritone, the term diabolus in musica ("the Devil in music") goes back to the 18th century, and legend has it that it was something that was purposely avoided by musicians in that era.

The other legend about the song Black Sabbath is that it was inspired by an experience that Geezer Butler had and related to Ozzy Osbourne. In the days when they were known as Earth, Butler painted his apartment matte black and placed several inverted crucifixes on the walls. Ozzy gave Butler a book about witchcraft, which he read and placed on a shelf before going asleep. When Geezer awoke, he claimed he saw a large black figure standing at the end of his bed; the figure disappeared and he went to get the book, only to find that it was gone…he then told Ozzy, who wrote the lyrics to the song:

What is this that stands before me?
Figure in black which points at me.
Turn around quick, and start to run.
Find out I'm the chosen one.
Oh nooo!

UPDATE: UK's The Times newspaper has published a new interview today with Ozzy and drummer Bill Ward on the 40th Anniversary of the album - read it here

Black Sabbath - Reunion (Live) - Black Sabbath Black Sabbath - Reunion (Live) - Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (live in Paris 1970)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rock N Roll Birthday: Ray Manzarek of The Doors

Happy Birthday to Ray Manzarek of The Doors, who turns 71 today.

Of Polish descent, Ray was born and raised on the south side of Chicago; he took private piano lessons as a kid, but his original passion was basketball. Ray had his mind set on playing either power forward or center – either one or not at all; so, when his high school coach wanted to play him as a guard, Ray quit, turning his attention to music and, later, film.

After getting a bachelor’s degree in economics at DePaul University in Chicago, Ray moved out west in the early 60s to study film at UCLA; it was there that he crossed paths with fellow student Jim Morrison. Ray was in a jazz band for a while, and Jim would occasionally come out to see him play. Ray was also in Rick & The Ravens, a band his brother Rick had formed; they played on weekends for the college crowds, with sets consisting of original material mixed in with blues and r’n’b covers. One night, to everyone’s surprise, Ray invited Jim up to sing and they played “Louie, Louie”: legend has it that it was Jim’s first public performance.

When school finished, the two parted ways and, as fate would have it, they connected forty days after graduation on the beach in Santa Monica. Jim sang Ray the lyrics to “Moonlight Drive” and a few other things, and Ray was hooked: they needed to form a band.

Ray and Jim went into World Pacific Studios on September 2, 1965, to record a six song demo, which included “Moonlight Drive” and five other tunes. The band that played on the demo was not The Doors, but Rick & The Ravens, which now included future Doors drummer (and ex-Psychedelic Ranger) John Densmore, who had only been in the band for about a month. Both of Ray’s brothers left the group shortly thereafter and guitarist Robby Krieger, also ex-of the Psychedelic Rangers, joined in October ’65: they dropped their bassist, changed their name to The Doors and, the rest, they say, is history.

Ray’s keyboard sound is (and was) such a huge part of dynamic of the band; consider that there was no bassist when they played live, so Ray handled lead keys with his right hand while covering the bass notes with his left hand on the newly introduced Fender Rhodes PianoBass.

Ray is not only one of the most important and influential keyboardists in rock history, he is also the keeper of the legacy of The Doors.

I had the distinct pleasure of working directly with Ray (and the late Danny Sugarman) on a live Canadian broadcast back in the fall of 1995, as well as working on about a half dozen Doors specials heard across Canada between 1991 and 2008 – everything from retrospectives to box sets. In person, Ray is exactly as he comes across in any interview you’ve ever seen him in: he’s a charming, engaging, personable guy who you really could just picture yourself hanging out with - he still radiates a 60s hippie vibe…and it suits him.

There’s no shortage of amazing tales Ray can pull out off the top of his head and tell as enthusiastically as if it were the first time he’s done so. Over the years, I’ve come to realize and appreciate the skill in doing this: artists are continually being asked to recount stories and events throughout their lifetime, but the art is to make it sound fresh every time you deliver. And Ray does that in spades.

Ray Manzarek – the story of connecting with Jim Morrison on the beach

The Doors - Essential Rarities - Moonlight Drive (Demo)( Recorded at World Pacific Studios, 1965 ) The Doors - Essential Rarities - Moonlight Drive (Demo)( Recorded at World Pacific Studios, 1965

The Doors - The Future Starts Here - The Essential Doors Hits - Moonlight Drive The Doors - The Future Starts Here - The Essential Doors Hits - Moonlight Drive

The Doors – Moonlight Drive
(Live At The Hollywood Bowl 1968)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Rolling Stones - "Let's Spend The Night Together"

On February 11, 1983, the documentary film of The Rolling Stones’ 1981 American tour, “Let’s Spend The Night Together,” opened in New York.

In support of “Tattoo You,” the '81 tour was noteworthy for several reasons: playing to 3 million fans, the 50 US dates grossed 50 million dollars, the highest for years to come in the touring world. The tour produced a live album, “Still Life,” and the film itself grossed another 50 million. It was the first major rock tour to secure corporate sponsorship: the fragrance company Jovan paid 1 million dollars for the rights to have their name on the tickets. And, the final date of the tour, December 18 (Keith’s birthday) in Hampton Roads, Virginia – is regarded as the first pay-per-view for a live music event, and memorable, also, for a fan jumping onstage and facing the wrath of Keith Richards, who bashed him with his guitar.

I don’t recall the film lasting very long in theatres, at least here in Ontario, but I was one of the few who did catch it at the time (there weren’t many people in the theatre I saw it in, but I’ve had that same experience with "Rock N Roll High School" and "Spinal Tap," as well, among others). I remember being thrilled to see the Stones on the big screen, especially since live concert films made such rare appearances on them in those days, outside of the midnight Zeppelin screenings.

My biggest memory of the film was seeing the interaction of the players up-close and it fascinated me; there’s times when Keith and Charlie make eye contact, maybe a wink and a nod between other players, and that’s just stuff you can’t fathom when you’re actually at a concert that size. Years later, when I picked up the guitar and started jamming regularly with friends, I came to know, firsthand, the importance of that eye contact – especially with the drummer when you’re finishing a tune.

My first live Stones experience was at Buffalo’s Rich Stadium on September 27, 1981, the third date of the tour. It was a full day affair, with gates opening at 10am for a noon start. My day started at 6:30am in a Hamilton, Ontario mall parking lot, hooking up with the bus package that was included in the price of my ticket, the first and only time I’ve ever done the bus thing for a show. I expected tickets were going to be so hard to get, that I gave in to the bus idea since it seemed like one of the few options at the time. I think the bus package was $50 or $60 (hey, it’s almost 30 yrs ago!), which included the $15 for the actual ticket. Yup, $15 to see The Rolling Stones, Journey and George Thorogood with about 90,000 other people.

In those days, tickets for the shows were unique and pretty cool items, and the Stones one was no exception. I love the fact that tickets are now scanned instead of being ripped, because you get to keep the whole thing; the ’81 tickets had a little section that was ripped off when you went through the gate, so the one in my collection isn’t 100%. Add in some wear n’ tear and damage due to rain at the show, and I’m pleased that any of it survived. This isn’t mine, but here’s a full version of what they looked like:

After the band’s legendary debauchery in the 70s, it was probably a miracle that they all survived, so the big news before the tour started was that Jagger was photographed training for the road. A rock star getting in good shape for a tour? This was unheard of, at least for a band of this stature. Clearly it worked: The Stones played about 2 ½ hours, and I swear Mick Jagger never stopped running around the whole time. Talk about major cardio.

The other big news were the rumours that the ’81 tour might be the last time The Stones went out on the road. Laughable, all these years later, of course, but it certainly got a lot of attention. This “last time” rumour has surrounded every tour since: one of these days, it’ll turn out to be true, so enjoy live Stones when and wherever ya can.

The Rolling Stones - Hot Rocks 1964-1971 - Let's Spend the Night Together Let’s Spend The Night Together

The Rolling Stones – Let’s Spend The Night Together
(from the film of the same name)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ian Brown - "Stellify"

Whenever I feel like listening to some groovy, trippin’ kind of music, I often throw on some Ian Brown - the guy has a voice of gold.

Ian will likely always be best known as the singer in The Stone Roses, the Manchester, England band that broke through in 1989 with their self-titled debut; it’s generally regarded as one of the best UK albums of all time. I remember picking it up when it came out and digging it right away.

When you hear Liam Gallagher of Oasis sing, you’re pretty much hearing the swagger and tone of Ian Brown’s voice; Liam simply adds his own sneer to the presentation. The Stone Roses were highly influential, and you’ll often hear Noel Gallagher refer to them with nothing but reverence. Beyond The Beatles, it’s easy to hear Oasis’ other main influence if you know where to find it.

Ian’s solo output is superb; I don’t think he’s done anything I haven’t liked (how many artists can you say that about?). If you’re looking for an introduction to Ian’s solo work, check out his 2-disc best of package, “The Greatest,” from 2005 - play it on shuffle and thank me later.

Ian’s currently out on tour in support of his fall 2009 release, “My Way.” The record includes a couple of tracks Ian wrote for other major artists: “Vanity Kills” was written for Kanye West, but he missed Kanye’s submission deadline...and the first single “Stellify,” a song he originally intended to pass along to Rihanna, but liked it so much he kept it for himself. Check it out:

Ian Brown - Stellify

Some classic Ian from 1999’s “Golden Greats” release…

Ian Brown - Golden Greats - Dolphins Were Monkeys Ian Brown - Dolphins Were Monkeys

Ian Brown - Golden Greats - Dolphins Were Monkeys (U.N.K.L.E. vs. South Remix)Ian Brown - Dolphins Were Monkeys (U.N.K.L.E. vs. South Remix)

Ian Brown – Dolphins Were Monkeys