Friday, August 28, 2015

Toronto-centric rewriting of Canada's rock history.

    You might want to get this new Backbeat book "The History Of Canadian Rock 'N' Roll" by Bob Mersereau. After all it covers such worthy groups as Toronto's Ugly Ducklings and Paupers, and Ottawa's Esquires and Staccatos. Unfortunately the framework of the 'story' being told is pretty much a latter day fabrication. Rather than Toronto playing an actual anti-Rock anti-Canadian music stance (eventually necessitating actual laws forcing Canadian radio chains headquartered in Toronto to play a percentage of home-grown recordings after a decade plus long foot dragging), it all starts you see with white doo-wop groups in Ontario covering black U.S. groups in a sometimes exaggeratedly chipper manner and 'creating' hits with borrowed song, and then Paul Anka partly based in New Jersey with his originals like Puppy Love and Put Your Head On My Shoulder. I'm sorry but as popular as these white doo-wop and crooner pop tunes may have been at the time they are not Rock & Roll to me. It's almost hilarious to see only at the tail end of Chapter 3, subtitled 'The Whole Country Joins In,' what was happening in Vancouver with Les Vogt & The Prowlers, The Stripes, The Nocturnals, or Aragon Records get mentioned at all (oh, sorry, the last three never do), and the date 1956, at least that is given, might stick out in contrast to the entire preceding chapters for any reader paying attention.

    Let me fill you in. Toronto media may have supported a few local clean cut white almost piss-takes of doo-wop (Crew Cuts, Four Lads), but it wasn't until maybe 1959 when any actual sound of Rock & Roll made it to their Canadian owned radio and tv (probably Ronnie Hawkins). The Chum chain in particular was known for throwing Canadian rock singles into trash cans in front of their producers into the early 1960s! The story of Rock & Roll in Canada belongs entirely to some key stations in Vancouver (especially via DJ Red Robinson), Winnipeg, Ottawa and Montreal and as many smaller ones in other places. Toronto groups like The Consuls never got their record played by the big Toronto stations. Even Windsor Ontario's CKLW radio/tv behemoth was a very late convert. And outside of Toronto groups? Why it just wasn't possible anything worth hearing could come from there... at least until Winnipeg's The Guess Who started charting in the U.S. in 1969.

    It took a feisty Australian, Ritchie Yorke, to write a real history of a real Rock music scene in Canada with "Axes, Chops & Hot Licks" way back in 1971! He also helped bring about the Canadian content regulations to address the very real anti-Canada and anti-Rock arrogance of the powers that be in Toronto. Imagine Canadian airwaves having to be forced to play the music of it's own audience! It was taken as an extreme outrage by the suits at the top of course, they knew a hit only could come from New York or maybe Los Angeles. People like Yorke, Walt Grealis, Duff Roman and Bernie Finkelstein fought Toronto for years with minimal resources and deserve more than footnote status in any book purporting to survey such a history. There might in fact have been no Rock 'N' Roll history to write past 1971 had the big TO maintained it's grip more viciously. Canadian rock groups of the 1950s and 1960s deserved far better treatment than they actually got from big town bullies in Toronto, and that should be the main story of at least the first three chapters of this current book. Yorkville musicians and clubs in particular had almost everyone against them in 'Toronto the good'. People who had top leave that scene under constant siege went on to make it in spite and in exile so latter day Toronto-centrists could bask in the reflected glow of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Band, Steppenwolf, David Clayton-Thomas, glows they mightily worked to have snuffed out back in the actual pre-revision day.

    Backbeat has published some excellent music history books in the past, unfortunately this is one of the lesser and more flawed entries in their catalog due to severe omissions and some common basic ignorance. It's Toronto that comes in at the tail-end of the story of the early years of Rock in Canada, well, except as chief nemesis of the actual and historic producers and supporters of Canadian Rock music. If we're going to give prime time to super scrubbed up doo-wop cover groups and crooners then maybe there could have been more on the Maritime folk music scene too, but for a book titled Rock 'N' Roll the lion's share should really have gone to actual Rock groups of which les Vogt & the Prowlers on stage in Vancouver were an example of in 1955!!! The Bear Family label in Germany knew this in 2003 with two CD collections of Les Vogt & The Prowlers and Real Gone Aragon (on the Canadian label established in 1946, while eastern label Quality records was content to simply license U.S. recordings). The Vancouver Record Collectors Association and Michael Willmore knew before that, issuing four great albums of historic Canadian Rock sides sans any cultural grants. Too bad those in eastern offices missed so much of the reality when it happened all over the country.

    Further in there is also way too much about Leonard Cohen and Diana Krall for something labelled Rock History.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Green & Perfect

Here's a collection of 'clippings' originally posted to a Fleetwood Mac fan site about two of my favorite artists; Peter Green and Christine McVie (nee Perfect). It seems about time I gathered these back pages together in one place, hope you find them of interest.

Here's the group with a newly added Danny Kirwan (looking very much like Tom Kirby of Michigan's Tonto & The Renegades we thought)...


Fleetwood Mac in 1968

But before that, the even earlier years (from Rave Magazine)...



Player Of The Month for November 1966 in Beat Instrumental...



Launched!



A good review...



More coverage soon followed...









And meanwhile here is Christine getting noticed with Stan Webb's Chicken Shack group...







Peter Green began a monthly column in Beat Instrumental with the September 1968 issue (here are the first four)...









Meanwhile back at the ranch...



Front page news (courtesy Richard Morton Jack) and easier to read text below that...





Pete gets personal...









Tuesday, December 02, 2014

More about Brian Jones


Rolling Stones in 1964

While reading Paul Trynka's Brian Jones book published just this past August, a line, incongruously from an early Neil Young song, kept floating up in my mind. Recorded by both The Guess Who and Buffalo Springfield, 'Flying On The Ground' includes the words "you're from my side of town, and I'll miss you." A lot of people seem to have 'missed' Jones even while he was still on the ground, and many words have since been committed to screen and paper trying to capture what he was really all about. One among those who probably did have a read on the real Brian Jones was 'Stash' Klossowsky de Rola. He pegs Brian and the very spirit of Rock & Roll as reminiscent of the Greek god of fertility and master of the pipes, Pan. Brian Jones himself was aware of this as well. He sired five children with five different mothers in his short run, and while Screaming Jay Hawkins may have been more fruitful, he never played or mastered as many musical instruments as Brian is said to have! Anyone who has ever listened at all deeply to the early Rolling Stones records knows it was Brian who had a natural R&B 'suss' as Steve Marriot might've said. He was your key guy if you also got it, and it made this outrageous 'devil' from your side of town, and who wanted any other side? Well, some did apparently. For turning his own spotlight back onto Howlin' Wolf and other then marginalized black blues men you f-ng loved him! That slide on 'Little Red Rooster', which helped spawn garage groups across the U.S. and blues boom back in the U.K., happened. Happened in spite of the 'nankers' who insisted few would like it, or (Mick Jagger included) could never last.

Thank Your Lucky Stars 1963

As a music fanatic I somehow miss, maybe even deeply, what else Brian Jones could have created. Perhaps he was just lazy as Nico or some band mates claimed, the guy who put everything into getting and making so many early bookings for his uncertain, often uncommitted, group? It doesn't seem arrogant at all that such a namer/leader/manager would want a slight extra share later when his hard work paid off for everyone in a handing over management contract. Who shared all he knew freely, making the most important music related connections, and speaking and writing at length about R&B music? What Brian Jones did create all stood out just like his own personal image. His slide guitar, his harmonica, his marimba, recorder, sitar and mellotron always made the so-called 'Jagger-Richards' songs they were on. His backing vocals were there originally too, but gradually faded out, and Brian began to find himself alone in the studio with instructions as to what he was allowed to add. You shouldn't call lazy someone who was progressively written out like this, even denied half credit for 'Ruby Tuesday'. And in any case, we are told of acetates and tapes existing at one time of his own creation. What music fan wouldn't miss being able to hear those? Were they burned at the possible crime scene documented at his last residence, or perhaps among the many stolen items some of which have been seen since exchanged for large sums? Were the early solo recordings destroyed by a too-sensitive perfectionist, or only after being ridiculed by members of the band he wrote them for and whose own songs he clearly helped to have substance? I also miss the master tapes of the film soundtrack he provided to Anita Pallenberg's film with Kenny Jones of the Small Faces drumming and other quality contributors, and whatever he was working on in 1969 even if not intended for commercial release. I've heard some of his sessions with the Beatles*, and Jimi Hendrix (with vocals), and they are pretty cool!**

The author's ultimate criticism appears to be Brian's failure to simply leave the Stones, positing Loog-Olham, Jagger and Richards' much documented undermining and pushing may even have given him a perverse determination to stay. It was clearly important that he didn't want to appear a victim, and continually showed restraint in talking about fellow artists, mostly showing himself to be a real fan at heart. I don't think he lacked the self-assurance to go solo so much as he always most enjoyed working with others. On your own was simply no fun. 'Stash' injects wise words though when informing that the word "panic" comes from the name of Pan. When not unleashing it in Rolling Stones audiences, that seems what Brian Jones had some tendency to do. His ultimate panic was at the hands of the establishment as exercised through the police and a sensationalist tabloid. He was just recovering from that ordeal, apparently unable to tour the U.S. because of his under pressure and isolation admission of guilt, and recording wonderful things by some accounts in the music room of his last home.

Find this book, it might be the best one yet, although Alan Clayson's Origin Of The Species is also excellent.

---

* The 'You Know My Name' sessions where Brian plays saxophone.
** Brian and Jimi composed a song, called My Little One and recorded together at Olympic Studios in London with Jimi's mates Chas Chandler and Eddie Kramer. Brian Jones - Sitar and percussion, Jimi Hendrix - Guitar, Dave Mason - Bass and sitar, Mitch Mitchell – Drums

Tracks 1. My Little One (take 1) 3:34, 2. My Little One (take 2, also on Axis Outtakes) 3:30, 3. Ain't Nothing Wrong With That (My Little One with lyrics, Brian Jones vocal) 3:50

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Blimey!

Sorry all, I've been busy and seem to have misplaced my blog for awhile.Here are some stray reviews of fave albums, I don't think Shindig could use some because they weren't tied in with a recent re-release.


The Poppy Family - Which Way You Goin', Billy? (London Canada,1969)

Craig McCaw's sitar and Satwant Singh's tablas elevate some tracks into orbit, particularly 'Beyond The Clouds,' and 'Happy Island' which cause me homey flashbacks to a British Columbia ferry trip one chilly, fog-shrouded day on glassy open water (which then slid into bright sunlight welcomed by jumping orcas). Terry and Susan Jacks' vocals are unique and there's not one lower drawer song, even a remake from a Chessmen garage b-side. Excellently produced including touches of the AM country pop which was all over the radio here at that time. I sure wish Regenerator Records could get those re-releases and promised DVD collection together and finally out the door!


Archie Fisher & Barbara Dickson - Thro' The Recent Years (Decca U.K., 1969)

A sort of Scottish folk 'super session' with strong accompaniment (vocal, acoustic guitar and songwriting) by Rab Noakes, and effective producing by Ray Horricks (of Bread Love & Dreams fame). Dickson is clear and powerful while Fisher is rustic and comforting like a favorite old sweater. His song 'Lullaby For Father,' sung definitely here by Barbara, encapsulates the jingoism as well as the timeless humanity of a past war in a way real to me. Their voices combine in a lovely way on the title track. Dickson's From The Beggar's Mantle (1970) is an able second part with heavy Horricks, Noakes and Fisher participation. This one has recently had a vinyl re-release.


Fleetwood Mac - Future Games (Reprise/Warner, 1971)

A path not taken for the post Green blues graduates boasts superb, understated guitar from Danny Kirwan and new member Bob Welch. With support from Christine McVie and the eponymous rhythm section (who would quickly nail 'Werewolves Of London' where others had failed) the quintet stretch out like a soft jazz version of pre-Wakeman Yes. The time changes on 'Sands Of Time' are never superfluous as can be said of many progressive aiming contemporaries, perhaps because it's rooted in years learning the rules from past masters. This was included in a vinyl boxset re-release.


The Green Pajamas - Summer Of Lust (Green Monkey Records, 1984)


First peeked out during a Rocket*-fueled blossoming of d.i.y. cassettes in the Seattle area. Landscaped with Jeff Kelly's jangle-riffs, percolating percussion and assortment of keyboards for colour, the haunting, sometimes lysergicaly tinged vocals are always rooted by Joe Ross' prominent elastic bass lines. Emotional self-injury has never been as catchy as in
the ode to rival 'Mike Brown'. Of it's time while drawing strength from previous paisley explorers.

*The Rocket being the long gone Seattle entertainment weekly paper.


Stereolab - Peng!
(Beggars Banquet/Too Pure, 1993)

Vintage synths as building blocks with superior traditional musicianship to a new sound world? It begins here with Gane and Sadier, and best experienced in vinyl, never more unfashionable than in the '90s. Prescient lyrics about the age of electronicus having truly come to pass and being found boring ('The Seeming And The Meaning'), but Stereolab were never boring. Had their music rightfully been all over the radio where it belonged perhaps we'd be in a better place, but maybe we got there anyway with our stashes of four track Duophonic Super 45s.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pretty In Ink

I've been waiting for this survey of women comic artists from 1896 to present to be published by Seattle based Fantagraphic Books! I was a little worried as I have Trina's 1985 book, and knowing this to be an update of it I wondered how much might be repeated, but am happy that in fact many new examples are offered of the women's work and while some others were in the previous book they are often larger or even in color here! So much more has been added about many of the earlier favorite artists such as Gladys Parker, Fran Hopper and Ruth Atkinson, and some new to me old names have been added. I was also quick to flip to the last chapter and catch up with more recent work in the format and enjoyed that section quite a lot. Certainly worth the price of admission, and it's a very attractive quality 180 page package all around. Some of the non-North American artists who had been included in 1985 were dropped however, so I suppose something is lost on those who missed that book (which I understand is somewhat hard to find these days).

Trina Robbin's Pretty In Ink (link to Fantagraphics)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

California dreaming?

Among my all time favorite groups, Fleetwood Mac has been perhaps the longest lived and most interesting. Interesting because they have been not one but many different groups under that name. The original blues based group of Albatross, Oh Well, and Heart Beat Like A Hammer gradually folded into a jazzier pop group which included the late great Bob Welch. I remember hearing one of Bob's Mac tracks on FM radio back around 1973-74, Hypnotized, and that particular cut still brings back memories. The band almost broke up after the album with that track I found out later. There was even a phony Fleetwood Mac put out on the road for awhile to complete a tour and their British manager claimed he owned the name (made up of drums and bass rhythm section Mick Fleetwood and John McVie's names by founder Peter Green). The reason the band continued at all was due mainly to the fight in lead guitarist and singer-songwriter Bob Welch...


 Fleetwood Mac with Bob Welch, second from right (next to Danny Kirwan) circa 1971-72.

Bob encouraged the other three to relocate to California where their label Reprise Records was located from which the band would have more favorable conditions with which to legally keep their name. It was a tough time but they made it through, but only for an exhausted Bob to want to leave to launch a more hard-rocking group (and later solo success with Sentimental Lady and Ebony Eyes). Fleetwood Mac meanwhile went on with new California members Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks (ex-Fritz) to conquer the world with Rhiannon, World Turning, and Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow among many others. Eventually the group would be inducted into Cleveland's Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, including founder guitar hero Peter Green...

... yet not Bob Welch? This is a major omission to say the least, even disregarding it being the wish held up to his death of someone who contributed so much to the group. Perhaps the case for Bob's inclusion is best made in this 1998 article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper...

http://blog.cleveland.com/pdextra/2012/06/rock_and_roll_hall_of_fame_snu.html

Many have signed petitions and written to the Hall directly. The forces against induction can be guessed at but may include fellow member and one time friend of Bob's Christine McVie (seen in all three lineups represented above). As a fan of both artists I can only hope to live to see this wrong righted, it has been allowed to continue far too long already. Mick Fleetwood credits Bob with the group's continued existence into the latter half of the 1970s, but the music of that too easily overlooked period alone demands Bob Welch be honoured as a vital member of Fleetwood Mac.

Bob's albums with Fleetwood Mac (all released by Reprise):
Future Games (1971)
Bare Trees (1972)
Penguin (1973)
Mystery To Me (1973)
Heroes Are Hard To Find (1974)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Giving Peas A Chance

When I was young I lived in the Dingle,
a few doors up from that famous Ringo.
Little knew I the pathway to riches,
our old man cleared council ditches.

I remember when skiffle became all the rage,
our Mum just smacked us, said 'now act yer age'.
Told to be practical, told to behave,
I married a carpenter, a bloke with a trade.

Together we moved out closer to George,
a stylish wardrobe we soon had to forge.
Yes it were true, we'd never had it so good,
those sitar cases made nice firewood.

No time for singing like that Cilla Black,
it was wake up the kids, get 'em out of the sack.
Fish and chips were a regular deal,
mushy peas made it more of a meal.

There's lots of peas now in the old folks home,
there's peas for my breakfast, and peas in my poem.
Trapped in my bed I curl up all fetal,
and dream of my life if I'd married a Beatle.

If I'd married an artist, someone with panache,
I'd not mind if critics had a bit of a bash.
Another pain pill, another bed change,
I too could've been shot in some place strange.

But Macca's still rocking, I might see him soon,
perhaps he'll move in with that old Peter Noone.
I'd contemplate further, although I do hesitate,
as I threw my back out last time I did meditate.