This Day in Music History

Some of your relatives may be celebrating a birthday today. Maybe you are … ?

You are not alone:

1917, Papa John Creech, violinist, Jefferson Airplane
1944, Gladys Knight, singer
1945, John Fogerty, guitar, vocals, Creedence Clearwater Revival
1949, Wendy O. Williams, singer, The Plasmatics

Also on this day;

1964, The BBC received over 8,000 postal applications for tickets for The Rolling Stones appearance on Juke Box Jury.

1966, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass went to #1 on the U.S. album chart with What Now My Love, setting a new American record with four albums in the U.S. Top 10

1966, Love appeared at the Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood, California, supported by The Doors.

1973, Bassist Ronnie Lane left The Faces and went on to form Slim Chance.

1977, Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers played together for the first time when they performed as part of Mike Howlett’s band, Strontium 90, at the Circus Hippodrome, Paris.

1983, Actress and singer Irene Cara started a six-week run at #1 on the U.S. singles chart with “Flashdance… What a Feeling,” taken from the film Flashdance, and a #2 hit in the U.K.

1983, The four-day US Festival ’83 took place in California, featuring The Clash, U2, David Bowie, The Pretenders, Van Halen, Stray Cats, Men at Work, Judas Priest, Stevie Nicks, Willie Nelson, INXS, Joe Walsh, Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne. Over 750,000 fans attended the festival. For more on this story, see today’s This Day in Music Spotlight.

1995, Hootie and the Blowfish started a four-week run at #1 on the U.S. album charts with Cracked Rear View. The album went on to sell over 15 million copies.

2007, The Police kicked off their 152-show reunion tour at General Motors Place in Vancouver, Canada in front of 22,000 fans.

2009, Depeche Mode singer Dave Gahan had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his bladder. The band, who were currently on a world tour, cancelled several shows because of the 47-year-old’s health problems.

Keith Richards Quotes

The human riff.

Keith Richards is to many – rock n’ roll!

The world’s most elegantly wasted human being has a reputation which is legendary. Aside from cockroaches, the only other living entity who will survive a nuclear war. In the words of Richards himself;

“I feel sorry for those fuckin’ cockroaches …!”

Aside from the perception of the man, as attested in his biography titled ‘Life’;  Richards is a very wise man. Fifty years as the poster boy for decadence will do that. A survivor of addiction, drug busts and falling off of a bush to a near fatal brain injury – Richards legacy remains intact.

Here are a few ‘words of wisdom’ from the man who classical guitarist Liona Boyd was referred to as; the greatest guitarist of all time …

Everyone talks about rock these days; the problem is they forget about the roll.

Good music comes out of people playing together, knowing what they want to do and going for it. You have to sweat over it and bug it to death. You can’t do it by pushing buttons and watching a TV screen.

Hey, we just enjoy it. I think we think we’re getting the hang of this thing, you know?

I have no idea what the audience makes of me.

I look for ambiguity when I’m writing because life is ambiguous.

I never thought I was wasted, but I probably was.

I only get ill when I give up drugs.

I’ve always been suspicious of TV, I’ve always found music and video to be an unhappy marriage.

I’ve never had a problem with drugs. I’ve had problems with the police.

If you don’t know the blues… there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music.

If you’re going to kick authority in the teeth, you might as well use two feet.

It’s an addiction… and addiction is something I should know something about.

It’s great to be here. It’s great to be anywhere.

Let me be clear about this. I don’t have a drug problem. I have a police problem.

Rock and Roll: Music for the neck downwards.

The only things Mick and I disagree about is the band, the music and what we do.

The Stones in a club is still the ultimate rush.

There’s no substitute for live work to keep a band together.

To make a rock’n’roll record, technology is the least important thing.

What’s Your Favourite Double Album?

LAST year, Rolling Stone magazine put together a commemorative issue announcing its top 500 albums of all time. Listed among the selections was a flood of four-sided classics. Here are the top 10 double albums, according to Rolling Stone’s critics.

1. Exile on Main Street — Rolling Stones (1972)
2. London Calling — the Clash (1979)
3. Blonde on Blonde — Bob Dylan (1966)
4. The Beatles (The White Album) — the Beatles (1968)
5. At Fillmore East — Allman Brothers Band (1971)
6. Electric Ladyland — Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)
7. Songs in the Key of Life — Stevie Wonder (1976)
8. Trout Mask Replica — Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band (1976)
9. Physical Graffiti — Led Zeppelin (1975)
10. The Wall — Pink Floyd (1979)

Is your favourite on the list? Are you peeved it is not! Please post your favorite double album of all time in comments. Tell your friends! Let’s get to the bottom of this … !

Rush – Beyond the Lighted Stage; A Review

Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart play themselves; according to the credits of this documentary. That’s a good start for Rush enthusiasts …

The film opens with Neil Peart playing a small drum kit backstage. It is hard to imagine Peart playing a small drum kit anywhere. Known more for his mutlti – piece kit. Yet Rush started somewhere and as the three members of the band merge from their modern day selves to a flashback of their former selves – this is where the film begins.

In the past.

Lee and Lifeson, it turns out, were nerdy schoolmates. Geeky guys who loved music and thrust their part – time music at unsuspecting teenagers at school dances. Teens that expected to dance. Teens who were too afraid to approach the stage and the long haired freaks.

As the early band footage rolls on, one thing stands out. The singular reason why some people are put off of Rush. Geddy Lee’s voice…

The same voice that repels small animals to this day.

The film brings people back in time to a simpler era. If a forty – something music fan watches the documentary; just like that they are transported to high school. A place where divisions ruled. ‘Subdivisions’…

Every teenager from every generation witnessed the same thing. There were the jocks, the nerds, the cool people and the ‘weirdos’. Somewhere in that mix? Rush fans. People that were a mixture of what society had to offer. Testosterone – challenged, hormone – changing adolescents trying to find their ‘lockers’ in the hallways of the world.

Lee and Lifeson were those guys. Drummer Peart analyzed it all and the trio went about their ways doing things their way. This is the singular important message that shines through in the film.

Smaller crowds and pressure from record executives tried to alter their music in the seventies. Under contract for one more album; the Canadian trio decided to record it status quo – in other words, like the last album; Caress of Steel.

2112 shot the band on the road to superstardom and the band and documentary never looked back.

Unknown Commodoties

The movie struts along like a music fan through a long corridor. Each Rush album hung on the wall Is observed, commented on and passed by. A soundtrack of the songs playing in the background – some live, some studio. All reminders of just how good the band was and continues to be.

One by one – songs like ‘Fly by Night’, ‘The Trees’, ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Subdivisions’ smack the observer with memories. Unlike the albums themselves, discs such as ‘Hemispheres’, ‘ Moving Pictures’ and ‘Vapor Trails’ are accompanied by tales from the creators of the songs themselves. Stories which place the band and it’s members ‘closer to your heart’.

The average person unaware of how Mr. Lee and Mr. Lifeson thought Peart was weird when he auditioned for the band. The average ‘Hey Joe’ rock fan oblivious to the fact Rush was the opening act for a group named Kiss. Gene Simmons et al living the sex, drugs and rock roll lifestyle while Lee and his mates remained watching t.v in their rooms.

Rush is behind the Beatles and the Rolling Stones with the number of gold and platinum albums. This places them ahead of everyone else. Therein lies the mystery of Rush. Nobody knows who they are or what they are about. This documentary attempts to divulge that information. This film does not.

Lee, Lifeson and Peart come across as three Canadian guys with Canadian humbleness and Canadian humor. The film dishes no dirt, no scandals and no sordid tales. They are three guys who won the lottery and are comfortable around each other’s shoes.

Ironically, it’s the death of Peart’s daughter and wife that almost ended the band. It is what brought the members closer than ever and put them back on track. It is also the turning point for any fan watching the film.

If a music fan was on the fence, the direction which they landed when they fell is facing the fact Rush are one of the Greatest rock bands ever.

As themselves …

Black Canyon – Quebec Country Music; American Style

According to Black Canyon’s bass player; the band would be much more popular if they lived in any other province than Quebec.

“This is the hardest place to make a living playing country music.” Says forty-one year old Sylvain.” The market that exists pressures us to play in French. Our love is American country and it is English. We don’t get as many gigs but we are singing what we love.”

Sylvain is a French Canadian currently residing in Rawdon,Qc. Sylvain has been playing country music since his mid- teens. He lied to join his first band.

“I played keyboards and piano. A band I knew and had heard was looking for a bass player. They knew me and that I loved country music and asked me to join. I did not know how to play bass and I was not nineteen. I lied about two things so I could join a country band.”

Sylvain’s quick study earned him a place and in the time it takes to get your dog back – the Rawdon resident was on his way. A long and winding route which led to his meeting with the members of Black Canyon. All except one.

The drummer Danny, was not born yet.

The man with his foot on the peddle of Canyon’s beat is the son of the lead guitarist; Rick.

” He ( Danny ) started playing with us for fun when he was ten. He ‘officially’ joined when he was twenty. That means he has played with us for fifteen years! Where does the time go …?” Wonders Danny’s Dad.

Lead vocalist and guitar player Ray doesn’t see it that way. Ray doesn’t see too many things … he is legally blind.

” I had glaucoma since I was a five. I’ve had a prosthetic eye since I was eight and my right eye only has five percent vision.” Says Ray between sets. ” I see light and I use a cane to walk about.”

Ray’s lack of vision is atoned for in his voice. A profound tool that takes hold of the crowd from the moment the band walks on stage.

Black Canyon plays all the classic and contemporary country tunes. George Strait is a favorite of Sylvains’, Ray loves Allan Jackson, Rick enjoys Merle Haggard and Danny’s idol is Gavin Garrison of the band Porcupine Tree. Say what?

” I love the way the guy plays! He is my role model along with Mike Portney from Dream Theatre. I love those guys’ styles.”

Dad Ricky is just happy his son loves playing with his band and Danny’s love of rock music growing up – brought no frowns from the family patriarch.

” There is so much talent in rock. How, as a lead guitarist and a music lover, could I possibly tell my son to not listen to anyone?”

Garrison – Unlikely Hero

Although Danny’s influences come from the extreme, a totally different realm than country, it is the diversity within country music that he loves. Swing, shuffle and straight hard hitting beats allow him to mix up his assaults on the ears. It allows a passion to shine through.

Jimmy Buffet’s Margueritaville , Merle Haggard’s ‘Ramblin Fever’ and Strait’s ‘All my Exes Live in Texas’ are some of the songs that helped the band earn the title of Best Country Act in 2000.

‘Up to no Good’ is an original tune that, on this night anyways – removed people from their seats and on to the dance floor. Black Canyon is enjoying their limited role as a predominant country band in Quebec.

George Jones, Farmer’s Daughter and Allan Jackson are a few of the big names that have recognized this. The band considers itself ‘privileged’ to have opened for the big names in country.

“We were supposed to open for Jones on his recent tour in Khanawake … unfortunately Mr.Jones took ill and the show was cancelled. As long as he is okay, that’s all that matters.” Says the band’s singer – Ray.

Rick, the group’s practical joker – agrees.

“We’ll just keep ‘walking’ around … Looking for the next gig. As Ray’s unofficial guide – I’ll take him by the arm and lead him to success!”

“Like the time he grabbed me to sit in the restaurant?” Answers Ray. ” He walked me around in circles through the hotel for an hour …!”

” No thanks …” He laughs.

At least it was in another province. Nobody recognized Quebec’s number one country band.

Not yet …!

——————

Black Canyon will be the house act every second Tuesday at Le Pionnier. They are also the main draw at Spurs Country Bar on St.Jacques in NDG.

The Mother Jones Band! Greatest R and B Band in Montreal …!

Father and Son; Album Review

They say to play the blues well, one must go through hard times.

Tommy Falls and his son Derek, live with the memory of someone dear who lived and died through very hard times. Is it any wonder their inaugural album is so good …?

Tommy Falls

Father and Son could be considered a throwback to a different time. An era that was simple.

Guitar, drums, bass and sax. The cornerstones of rhythm and blues. The cornerstones of all music. The cornerstones of the Mother Jones Band.

‘Hold on to your Love’, the opening track – opens the door and invites you in. A welcoming groove provided by the African coast’s Manu Pele. One of the most talented bass players currently playing in Montreal. Manu’s bass combined with drummer Dannick Tardif’s backing beat; the perfect grounding to Derek Falls’ guitar and vocals.

Father Tommy Falls, at the age of sixty – five – providing experienced licks to his son’s lead. The elder Falls providing musical and vocal assurance to ground his offspring in the past.

A past which is evident on all the tracks written by his son.

‘Runway’ and ‘Do me right’, the second and third songs are immediately catchy. Derek’s guitars both smooth and menacing. His voice; part Lenny Kravitz, part Prince and part almost every male who has sung under the Motown label – providing romantic lyrics.

The Mother Jones Band

Joey Bolusi, aka Joey the Saxman – plays alto and tenor sax like they should be played on a blues record. Not in your face. More like a flick on the chin when you need it most.

Tommy’s Dad was a boxer and MP in the army when he went into a bar to have a drink. One thing led to another, and the African American was arrested by officers of La Surete de Quebec. Mr. Falls was found dead soon after of a ‘suicide’. A death caused by ‘ self – inflicted’ damage to his lungs after a self imposed ‘ beating ‘ at the hands of the police.

“My father was the nicest, gentlest man.” Says Tommy.” He didn’t start anything like they said he did …he wouldn’t hurt a fly outside of the ring!”

The Father and son’s pain is none more apparent than on the slow ballad ‘Hey Little Mary’. Derek’s voice achingly begging for love, his guitar doing everything in it’s power to help.Somehow,the younger Falls makes his Fender cry like a wounded heart. A dark room with dim lights – the perfect backdrop to this seduction of the senses.

His guitar sounding often like the late Roy Buchanan, another victim of a so – called suicide in his jail cell.

Manu Pele

‘Give it to You’,’Hold On’ and ’20 Below’ are also lovemaking tools. Candles the only thing missing to Derek’s quest for love. Lenny Kravitz’ voice perfectly channeled by Falls especially on 20 Below. A song reminiscent of ‘Winter’ by the Rolling Stones.

A warm feeling is what you get listening to the album. A perfect contrast to the coldness the father and son duo feel inside when they think of their Father and grandfather.

The one shortcoming of the band is the sometimes inability to take it to the next level. Derek Falls’ lack of experience at times, leaves an empty feeling. The listener’s crying for more. It’s not a bad thing and with time, an ingredient Falls will learn.

In a way, all three generations appear on the C.D.

Tommy, with his years of experience as a blues guitarist, Derek and his more modern heroes shining through – and the Grandfather; his pain reminding everyone why the blues were written.

For tough times …

The Mother Jones Band is playing at Calistoga Grill in Pointe Claire this Friday Night – do yourself a favour, check.them out!

September 6, 1980 – Ted Nugent at the Montreal Forum

My birthday is September 7 … Do the math!

A birthday present to myself. Red section at the historic Montreal Forum to witness Ted Nugent. A Ted Nugent who was known as a rock star – not a gun activist.

My best friend and I – both fifteen, dragged a Russian with us. His name was Ivan.He was like a stiff board. Seldom displaying emotion, rarely displaying passion.

The three of us arrived in the afternoon at Atwater park, a patch of green across the street from the house ‘the Rocket’ built. Minutes from Ken Dryden’s old stompin’ crease …

Armed with tickets, a few bucks and an equal amount of beer – we sat in the park amongst pigeons and party people. The difference? Our feathered friends not allowed to see ‘the Nuge’!

As the cool Fall weather attempted to chill our enthusiasm, the beer and excitement quashed the negativity in the air. Mr. Nugent was at the height of his popularity.

‘Catch Scratch Fever’,’Wang Dang Sweet Poontang’ and ‘Stranglehold’ were some of the tracks that placed him there. At the moment, ‘Wango Tango’, a full throttle manic rock song – kept him there. His music was not for the faint hearted, making it all the more surprising that our Russian comrade enjoyed it.

As the beer flowed elegantly into our systems, others of the same rock mentality came and went. Marijuana cigarettes passed in friendship. ‘Joints’ dispersed like candy.

Sometime around six o’clock, a dude happened by. The type of guy who was at Woodstock and never left. His hair – long enough to trip himself and several small children passing by at the wrong moment.

Along with iron- on patches, symbols of bands such as Led Zeppelin, Rush and Black Sabbath; the dude carried mind- altering substances in his worn- out Lee Jean jacket.

L.S.D – acid.

The thirtiesh- looking man was a born salesman, at least – in his halucegenic mind he was. He spoke of the pleasures, ‘the utopian heights’ we would reach witnessing Nugent under the described conditions. Not only that …the drug was cheap!

Three- four- ten bucks or something similar…

Upon much reflection and trepidation, Ivan, ‘Frank’ and I decided what the heck. If you were going on a roller coaster anyways – may as well get on the biggest one possible!

We sat. We drank some more. All the while fingering this ‘fantastic drug’ in our adolescent hands.

“We need a plan!” Declared Ivan in his usual, although slurred stoic manner.

“Ya man … A plan …!” Agreed Frank through slanted eyes. His long black hair interrupting his non – vision.

” We got an hour before the show!” I said. Proud to be the bearer of good news.” I heard it takes one hour for this stuff to kick in …!”

“Perfect!” Said Ivan with as much enthusiasm as a man about to have a tooth pulled.” We do now!”

With those words, Ivan of Russian descent, unwrapped the tiny pill and deposited it into his system. Frank and I – no chance to say otherwise.

Frank gazed into my slits.

“What are you doing?” He inquired. “You taking it now …?”

“Dunno …?” I answered, not sure what I was responding to..

“If it takes an hour …” Frank started speaking fast. ” If we wait til 9pm, it will kick in for the encore! That way, we’ll be flying for Catch Scratch Fever and Wango Tango!” Frank was proud with his plan.

“Sounds good.” I replied, gazing at Ivan who was playing with a Dandelion. “Good idea …!”

The three of us made our way across the street and into the Forum. A carnival- like atmosphere taking place before our very beings. The red, white and blue of the colored seats adding a comfortable backdrop. Frisbees flew through the thick air. Air created by the hundreds of joints lit at once.

“Who cleans the Stanley Cup banners?” I wondered silently.

We sat in our seats and in the next twenty minutes – smoked what was probably too many ‘funny cigarettes’ for our weight divisions. Ivan was practically non- responsive at this point and Frank’s eyes; shadows of their former selves …

Mr.Nugent and his band took the stage amid screaming fans and fading lights.

The noise of the crowd deafened by his electric guitar. Songs, some familiar – others not so much exploded from the speakers into our virgin eardrums. The ‘event’, my birthday present was underway. I poked Ivan to ensure he was awake to witness it.

Tunes by the name of ‘Sweet Sally’ and ‘Live it up’ played although doubt circles my memory like vultures from an era gone by. Frank was up and down with the music while Ivan sat. He was breathing – aside from his chest heaving in and out, no signs of life emerged from his Russian form.

I glanced at my brand new ‘state of the art’ L.E.D. watch.

The numbers ‘8 5 5’ awakening my dormant irises. I nudged Frank who stood to my left, almost knocking him off his weakened stance.

“Man! It’s 9 o’clock …!” I said. ” Get out your acid!”

Frank smiled. His grin reaching the corners of his closed eye-lids. Without a word between us, we reached into our Jean jacket pockets. Frank discovered his tin foil first; unwrapping the minuscule tablet of chemicals.

“Ready?” He asked – the pill close to his dried- out tongue.

After pillaging all my pockets and coming up empty, I assumed my package had fallen to the floor. I took out my Rolling Stones- tongued lighter and started a search on the floor. Following several moments, the people sitting in front asked what I was doing. I explained my drug dilemma and became fodder for the foursome of teens before me.

” That’s not how you drop acid!” One of them yelled. ” Look guys – this guy dropped acid …right on the floor!”

As fast as it takes to cook eggs in a microwave, I became the entertainment for the second row in the red section. By now, several others had turned to get into the ‘fun’. One of the girls in front felt bad and removed her lighter to aid in my search.

Even Ivan started to chuckle …

Moments passed. My ‘halucegenic helper’ was gone.

Frank had enough and popped his pill into an already inebriated palate. The time? Approximately 9:30 pm.

The show ended around ten. Thundering applause exited Nugent from the stage. Moments later – the applause returned him. Everyone was standing except for Ivan. Not asleep, not quite awake. A suspended state is where he was at this point.

Frank was acting funny. The drug starting to take him to other concerts in his head. He was more energetic than I had seen him in the five years since we met. Ivan …? As silent as a mouse on Christmas eve …

Nugent returned. Swinging on a vine. Or maybe that was earlier …

The opening rifts of Wango Tango waking the tenants who lived down the street from the Forum. Lights slapping our faces from every direction.

“This is Rock n Roll!” I recall thinking.

The initial reaction subsided, some – taking to their seats to enjoy Nugents’ extra- curricular tunes. Most – enjoying an experience unlike others. The people in front and almost everywhere around us were sitting. It was quiet as the people took in the show. Frank was looking at the ceiling and whatever images appeared in his mind.

Out of the blue, it happened. An event so unlikely – a replay was needed and YouTube was missed.

Ivan, the tormented figure of emotional emptiness – stood. At the peak of his vocal powers a sound emitted like bats released from a cave.

” Woohoo!” He shouted. ” Wango …Fuckin the Tango!” His arms straight in the air like a football referee signaling a field goal.” Fuckin’ right man!”

With that- he sat.

I never heard or saw the boy move like that ever again. He did come close. A week later, with Ivan sitting on my bed, I discovered the crumpled tin foil hiding my acid.

“Woohoo!” Ivan said quietly. Hands by his side …

Mick Jagger on Saturday Night Live – A Review

After all these years – Mick Jagger hosted Saturday Night Live.

Was it good? Was it bad? Any glimpses of grey in the Rolling Stones frontman’s hair? Pressing questions for a rock fan …

Keith Richards was once asked;” What’s Mick Jagger really like?”

The Stones’ guitarist and decadently wasted human being responded …

” He’s a wonderful bunch of guys …!”

Last night – Mr.Jagger proved it. Again.

It has always been said that the Stones’ frontman wasted his acting talent. From his first appearance in the lead role as Australia’s version of Robin Hood; Ned Kelly, to his most recent role as a male prostitute in The Man from Elysian Fields – Jagger has teased the world with his acting chops. Heck, he even has his own film production company; Jagged Films …

Think about it. A rock n roll frontman is a type of character is he / she not?

Jagger’s stint on the season finale of SNL displayed the former London School of Economic student’s poise and experience. Most singers or non – actors will fumble at least one line on a vaudevillian stage. They will drop the ‘scripted ball’ due to the sheer uncomfortable nature of the situation.

Not Mick Jagger.

The opening monologue demonstrated his ease. Partly due to his ego and partly due to his charm. An ability the sixty – nine year old has possessed from the age of eight when he met his guitarist Richards. The funniest line of the opening segment was Sir Mick Jagger responding to the most frequently asked questions.

Ned Kelly

‘Mick …?’ An invisible reporter asks Jagger through Jagger himself. ‘Have you got satisfaction?’

As Jagger responds …” If I say yes, I can’t sing the song anymore!”

Satisfaction, the 1965 song that propelled the Stones on par with the Beatles, is something the anti- Aerosmith fans watching obtained. In a skit entitled ‘ So you think you can dance at an outdoor festival’ – Jagger portrays Stephen Tyler, a man who has been referred to as the American Mick.

Jagger, as ‘judge’ Tyler – does a Burger King promo, an obvious referral to the real life Tyler ads for the food chain. A shot at the Aerosmith singer? Unless something happened between the pair of rockers ‘off the record’ – the gest was in jest for Tyler has always praised the aged Stone for giving him inspiration.

The on- going praise continues for Jagger and the Rolling Stones in recent years. The youth of today’s rock – jumping at every occasion to play along with the original bad boys of rock n’ roll. Last night, it was Arcade Fire and the Foo Fighters turn.

Mick Jagger has always seemed silly performing without the Rolling Stones. The exception? When he is singng the blues. Last evening – it was no different.

Montreal’s own Arcade Fire ‘backed up’ Jagger for a Stones’ classic;The Last Time.

Sir Mick coming across as a caricature of himself as he normally does without Charlie Watts and the boys behind him. Last Year’s album of the year winners at the Grammy’s would fit nicely with Jagger’s antics. Their stage show is normally as manic as Mick. Too bad they were not themselves – they could be the one backing band that makes Mick appear normal.

The Foo Fighters provided the musical background to a pair of Stones songs. A split segment that included 19th Nervous Breakdown and It’s Only Rock n Roll …

The Rolling Stones do not do the former song well live – how could David Grohl and his fighters? The guitars too powerful for the song and Mick’s voice. Thankfully, the song switched to the latter. A more in synch version of the 1975 song from the album of the same name. A more comfortable tune to listen to.

Jagger finally hit his element with fellow countryman and blues legend; Jeff Beck. The pair powered off a song which Jagger wrote about the upcoming presidential race in the U.S. A tongue-in-cheek view of Mitt Romney and why not? Starting with Street Fighting Man in the sixties though Undercover of the Night in the eighties and most recently – Sweet Neo Con from 2006’s A Bigger Bang album – Jagger has never been shy to voice his political views.

The skits which Jagger appeared in hit and missed. One – in which he played an insurance agent at a karaoke bar, Jagger’s character sat through two of his new found ‘friend’s’ versions of Mick Jagger impersonations. The final one falling asleep; leaning on the microphone on stage.

A girl at Jagger’s table exclaims; ‘Look – he’s acting just like the real Mick!”

Sorry Miss …

The real Jagger has never slept on stage and has never put anyone to sleep. Not even at 12 am on a Sunday morning.

Just Between Jerry Mercer and Me – Part Three

The saga of April Wine commenced with great songwriting.

Something that sets Myles Goodwyn apart from most of his Canadian contemporaries except for The Guess Who, Neil Young and Rush.

Early songs such as `You Won`t Dance with Me` and `Bad Side of the Moon` led to bigger hits such as `Roller`,  Ì Like to Rock` and `Just Between You and Me`.  A legacy of linguistic and musical prowess to be left behind for generations to come.

According to Mercer, although Myles wrote the songs and the majority of lyrics – it was a group effort yet Myles always had the final word. Sometimes, it was not pretty …

” We were in the studio recording Nature of the Beast. We decided to cover the song `Sign of the Gypsy Queen`. I played the beat the way I thought it should go and Myles`vision was completely different. Usually we could come to a halfway point yet not this time. It was the only occasion I can recall when we almost came to blows! I was passionate and so was Myles! We ending up with a little of my idea and a lot of his!”

All the ideas led to a breakout album and suddenly the band was famous in Canada and the United States. They were `true`rock stars and that led to the inevitable `sex, drugs and rock n`roll` lifestyle.

Mercer was married and had two young children at home – a son and a daughter. His wife was supportive of his music yet the lifestyle was tough on the relationship. Jerry stayed true to his wife and stayed away from the groupies – the drugs did catch up to him and almost ruined him.

” I started experimenting with cocaine. A little at first and like most people that get addicted – it started to take over my life.” He shakes his head. ” The reason I stopped cocaine was because it was interfering with my abilty to play the drums. Drumming was always my passion and love – when it ( cocaine ) started to destroy that; it was time to stop!”

April Wine continued it`s rock ways but were never able to dupilcate the sucess of 1983`s Nature of the Beast album. By 1987 – the band was finished and the members went their seperate ways.

Mercer hooked up with former Offenbach members  John McGale and Breen LeBoeuf. The Buzz Band played in small local clubs in Montreal and gave fans an opportunity to witness Mercer`s drum solo close up. A drum solo which not only rests in people`s memories – a watermark moment for Mercer in the future.

Now What ?

One day, Jerry Mercer found himself above  Decarie Blvd. in Montreal. He was spiritually drained. He had an empty feeling inside and felt void. His marriage was ending, April Wine was not close to re-grouping and the Buzz Band was no longer playing very often.

” I was thinking of jumping!” States Mercer as if someone else was saying the words. ” I had all these questions in my head and there was no one with any answers for me. I really, sincerely, was just lost!”

It was then Mercer heard a voice in his head. The voice told the drummer to go and see an old friend named Bevin. An ally that Mercer had not spoken to in many years.

” I just started walking toward the last address I had for him. I did not think he would be there but the voice kept telling me to go!” 

Mercer found the house and knocked on the door. Bevin opened it up and knew right away something was wrong. He took Jerry in and after renewing acquaintances – the two spoke of life and death. Bevin convinced Jerry to join him in his Bible classes and the pair started to take  courses together.

Bevin and Mercer became closer than ever as the pair commenced recording a gospel C.D.  Bevin travelling from the city to Mercer`s home and the studio that lay in the bowels of April Wine`s ex-drummer`s home. Then, `like a shot through the soul` – Bevin was killed one day in a traffic crash on the way to Mercer`s.

” If it were not for the lessons that Bevin taught me and the ones we learned together, I would not have been able to handle his death. It was an ironic twist of fate. He saved my life and then his was taken away coming to visit me.  I do not know why – there is a reason that happened.”

Perhaps that reason was instilling strength in Mercer. Not long following Bevin`s untimely death, Mercer discoverd he had prostate cancer. A killer of many men around his age at that time. Jerry went for chemotherapy treatments and was drumming once more with the newly  re – formed April Wine.

This time it was Jimmy Clench back on bass, along with Myles and Brian. Mercer only missed one show due to his cancer.

” I played a few gigs standing up but because of the chemo, I was too tired. It was the only time in thirty years I did not play with Wine.”

When I`m Sixty – Four … ?

At sixty  years of age, Mercer and his bandmates started a new chapter in their lives. A chapter that was not filled with arena tours nor gold records. It was a section of their lives that gave the fans a chance to show their appreciation for a Canadian institution. The band – touring non-stop across Canada playing in small clubs …

An appreciation witnessed first hand on a couple of occasions …

To be Continued … 

Jerry Mercer and the Buzz Band will be playing May 18th at Calistoga Grill in Pointe Claire. Don`t miss it …!

Just Between Jerry Mercer and Me – Part Two

Pierre Senecal, Brian Edwards and Rayburn Blake first met in 1960 in Montreal. Their drummer did not show up one night for a gig, so Jerry Mercer was brought in and ended up joining the band. Brian Edwards quit the band and they continued playing under the names; the Phantoms, Ray Blake’s Combo and the Dominoes.

By 1965 they were calling themselves The Triangle. R&B singer Trevor Payne was the singer and they played for an additional four years until being discovered by record producer Bob Hahn. Edwards rejoined the band and they changed their name to Mashmakhan, after a variety of hashish sold by a local dealer.

‘ As the years go by’ was the band’s biggest hit and Jerry remembers getting off the plane in Japan to thousands of screaming fans.

” It was like we were the Beatles or something …! At home – we were playing before two or three hundred people. We sold 400,000 copies of the song in Japan. There were 10,000 Japanese people waiting for us!” Mercer laughs.

Mashmakhan was lucky enough to be part of The Festival Express. A gig that toured across Canada with some of the biggest names in rock music. The Grateful Dead, the Band and Janis Joplin all travelled with Mercer and his mates on a train.

” I think we were in Winnipeg. It was pouring rain and the train was leaving.” Says Mercer. “Janis was still wearing her stage clothes and was standing in the rain, leaning against a chain link fence. Being Janis, she was pretty drunk with a bottle of Jack Daniels in her hand. We all tried to convince her to get on the train. She said she would not leave until her manager came. Well, the manager never came and the train ( including us ) left the station without her. A small plane picked her up and flew her to the next town.” Mercer frowns. ” It was sad to see such a big star like that …”

During that tour, Jerry marvels at the memory of what went on.

“All the bands did not stay within their groups. I would hang out with Levon Helm for a couple of hours and next thing – I am with Mickey Hart of the Dead. I was lucky to pick up stuff from those guys. It was a once- in- a -lifetime  event!”

The only sour note for Mercer is years later, in 2004, a documentary was released about the tour. Mercer and Mashmakhan were mentioned briefly. A point which Jerry does not believe is right as he put a lot of effort to get the film made.

“Mashmakhan was just as much a part of that as anyone!” Says Mercer. ” To feature the ‘ big names ‘ and not us is a shame for everyone involved.”

Realizing the domestic success was not happening, Mashmakhan broke up shortly after the tour which led to Mercer becoming a session guy for a while. Jerry played drums with Roy Buchanan – a man who Eric Clapton was once referred to as ‘ the greatest blues guitarist ever’ and a band by the name of the Whackers.

It was then, along with Steve Lang, Brian Greenway and Garry Moffat – Mercer auditioned and got the job as a drummer for the band April Wine. The foursome along with founding members Myles Goodwin and Jimmy Clench – went on to international fame …

To be continued …

Jerry Mercer will be playing Friday night, May 18 2012 at Calistoga Grill in Pointe Claire.

He will be joining John McGale and Breen LeBoeuf of Offenbach fame. A band which played together in the late eighties as The Buzz Band !

Just Between Jerry Mercer and Me

It may have been a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. Do the days of the week matter when the phone rings and a Canadian rock legend is waiting on the other end of the call? The bruises linger from the self – inflicted pinching that took place on my right arm as I took the receiver from my ex and spoke to April Wine’s drummer.

I arrived at Mr. Mercer’s home the following day. A greeting ensued at the front door of a beautiful house located a hop, skip and drum roll from the Cajun Blues restaurant. Jerry introduced me to his current wife and his son Sean. His daughter (the server), was also hanging around and her and I laughed quietly with the irony of the circumstances that joined us together in this ‘after hours’ club.

Once the formalities were completed and I was cultured to the fact that Jerry`s daughter was studying piano and the son – a drummer just like Dad , Jerry and I moved from the kitchen and carved a path to the den. The scenario became a video in my mind, a picturesque view of the waterfront took center stage through the bay windows.

 Fame

 “I have an office… Gold records on the wall … Just leave a message – maybe I’ll call …”

Whether or not Mr. Mercer has, “accountants pay for it all …” (more of the songs’ lyrics ),  is something I do not know. It was of no interest to me and frankly – none of my business . What I do know – Mr. Mercer did call me back. I stood there. 

The hair on the back of my neck and on top of my

head along with all the tiny ones that guarded my scrotum –  were standing on guard. Shivers traveled the length of my body. Overcome with nostalgia and the sheer magnitude of what lay before me, my knees developed a mind of their own and searched the floor.

Life ‘s been good so far …

Glints of sunlight recoiled off the yellow discs that adorned the walls. I was the victim. I lay dying on the desert floor in a Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western as the golden vultures with the names ‘I like to Rock’, ‘Just Between You and   Me’ and ‘Roller’ encircled me.

    “If nervousness and anxiety were to be the ailments that killed me – a death on Jerry Mercer’s floor was not necessarily a bad thing ” I thought silently.

Jerry motioned towards the sofa and we sat.

The ( then ) sixty – one year old could sense the three-year-old schoolchild that currently invaded his couch and he immediately put my senses at ease. He asked about my children. As any parent is aware – there is not a disaster in the world that the idea of offspring dancing through your mind, like angels on a cloud – cannot heal.

“So where do we start?” Jerry asked in a kind way once my tales of tots were completed.

“I thought you would know … “I responded with a nervous laugh. I was not convinced this was the proper time to inform Mercer that this was indeed – my inaugural biographical interview.

Where does one start? At his birth? In his parents’ bedroom …? Should we get them on the phone? Who knew?

“Why don’t we start with how you became a drummer?”The words escaped my mouth and the resonance eased my novice-batting stance. I was ready to step to the plate. The pine tar tossed aside.

 The only interview I had done to this point was never published. I was not over – whelmed during that one and the fact that the majority of my questions were about the Rolling Stones – had everything to do with it.

Annie Liebowitz, the famed photographer, was in town with a collection of her photos. They (the photos), were on display at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts and my journalistic mentor was kind enough to donate his press pass. He was well aware of my obsession with the ‘World’s Greatest Rock n Roll Band’ and Ms. Leibowitz had been the band’s official photographer for their historic 1972 and 1975   tour.

It is one thing to know a great deal about a subject and a completely different one when you are learning as you go. Not only that – with all due respect to Ms. Leibowitz,  she never ‘rocked my world’ with a ten minute drum solo’!

In the beginning …

Mercer began his tale as Yannique brought us refreshments. My borrowed tape recorder on full alert as the’ rocker’ informed me of his tribal beginnings in the art of percussion.

He started playing in a marching band when he was fourteen as an extracurricular activity. Once he completed school at Verdun high school, he commenced working at IBM and was set to indulge in a career with a growing company.Then, one afternoon, he heard something that altered his life and in the process – startled his parents.

  “I was listening to AM radio. My hit parade was the hip radio show back then . All of a sudden the Ray Charles’ song ‘What’d I Say ‘came on. I had never heard anything like it. I thought to myself ‘that cat has swing!’ I knew right then and there – I wanted to become a drummer!”

Mercer informed his parents of his decision and promptly quit his job to pursue music. His dad told him that it was like ‘jumping off a diving board into an empty pool ‘.Yet, in Jerry’s words; they were very supportive. ”They were Christian and very religious people. I could never have asked for a more loving environment to grow up in.”

Jerry then began his pursuit of all things music. He began studying all of the great drummers; Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa and Max Roach.

He would sneak into the Maurice Richard arena and crawl up on the catwalk to get a bird’s eye view of his idols as they came to town. High above – he would watch with precision as Krupa introduced his talents to Montreal. Buddy Rich would arrive the following week and make everyone’s (including Mercer) jaw drop to the concrete floor. The rafters were also the place that Mercer witnessed an up and coming talent ply his trade as an opening act for the Isley Brothers. It was a young Jimi Hendrix with Mitch Mitchell banging away on drums. Mitchell fast became another hero to the young Mercer.

“Music was much easier to get into back then.” Mercer continues.” You had four choices – Jazz, Pop, Rock or Country. These days there are so many different genres with each one having a sub – genre. I do not envy kids today. Even with all the advancements and the ability to self- record, it is such a difficult environment. “He goes on to say with a laugh.” Even the drugs today make it much scarier than my day.”

Mercer bought a small kit for fifty dollars that consisted of a snare, a high hat, a bass drum and one tom. He would play along to the songs he heard on the radio and whichever records he managed to purchase or get his hands on. He never learned to read music. He learned to play with the feel of the song and this prepared him for his first gigs. He met up and played with Trevor Payne and the Triangle.

Payne

Thus began a long winding journey into the world of rock n roll that almost ended in suicide…

To be continued …

Just Between You and Me – Part Three and a Bit …

So there I was…

As I stood in front of a mahogany bar that was painted ever so slightly by the morning sunlight,  a smile appeared on my face. I had met some of my childhood idols, enjoyed a lustful evening of rock n roll and was pumped to enjoy a day of waitering. A few dollars in my pocket followed by an evening of blues … what was there not to be happy about !

One of the waitresses was behind the bar and preparing her station for the forthcoming events. Suddenly, the door which led from the bar to the adjacent terrace opened . With the sun and the maple boards as a backdrop – there stood a figure that was at once recognizable. A silhouette that graced hundreds of stages around the world. For the second time in less than twenty – four hours,  I was in the company of Mr. Jerry Mercer.

A Coincidental Coincidence

I had worked with this waitress for two months. I never knew her father was the drummer for April Wine. It was probably a good thing. If I had known – the poor girl would have had to endure many hours of questioning. Once I was done – the Spanish inquisition would have come across as a segment on a poor talk show.

Like a teenage boy receiving a glimpse of a girl’s underwear under a short skir,  I said hello to the icon with a huge smile on my face. Mercer recognized me from the previous evening and appeared equally amused to see me. He introduced me to his daughter (formally) and the pair let it be known that Jerry was dropping something off  the younger Mercer had forgotten. I told Jerry that I had thoroughly enjoyed the show and it was an immense pleasure to make his acquaitance for the second time. He thanked me,  kissed his daughter goodbye and was just about to make his exit – stage left , when a thought occurred to me.

I asked him if he would be interested in doing an interview.

Mr. Mercer replied in the same fashion as did Brian Greenway the night before.  ” Been there – done that ” was the sentiment the members of the band ( Myles excluded ) seemed to be riding –  full steam.

” Has anyone ever done a story about you ? ” I inquired with an inquiring mind.

” You know …” I continued. ” An interview about what makes Jerry tick outside of April Wine ? Your likes , dislikes etc…”

I was aware that I had the man ‘s curiosity by the neck. He stopped and stood for a moment. Save the smoke emitting from his ears – it was easy to tell the man was thinking….  Hard!

After a few minutes of trepidation – Jerry replied almost surprised. After all the years of playing with bands such as the Triangle, Mashmakhan, April Wine and the Buzz Band. All these seasons of playing with or around the likes of Trevor Payn ,  Roy Buchanan,  Janis Joplin, the Band,  the Grateful Dead and many more … Mr. Mercer realized that no one had ever sat down and spoke to him about his life experiences and his viewpoints.

I was to be the first and we made arrangements to meet the following week. 

To be continued …

Album Review – Roger Walls; Midnight Ride

Get in your car!

No – wait!

Run back to the house and grab Roger Wall’s new CD – Midnight Ride! For a long drive, there is nothing better for a Jazz fan to keep the toes a tappin’…

Kansas – born Roger Walls brings fifty years of experience to the disc, a half century of knowledge accumulated partly by working with some of the greats in the music industry.

Tony Bennett, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Duke Ellington are some of the people that have employed Roger at some point. Trumpet, alto and tenor sax along with anything that blows – Mr. Walls brings all this knowledge to Midnight Ride.

As Roger said recently from the stage at the House of Jazz; “What’s the point of staying in your room? It’s cabaret time!”

If Roger had stayed in his room, playing at Carnegie Hall for Ella Fitzgerald‘s 75th Birthday party – would have been a dream. Instead, with Max Roach on drums – Roger played for the legendary singer to the song; Tiscut a Tasket with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

” The song featured me playing a solo – WHAT A RUSH I FELT PLAYING WITH SUCH GREAT PLAYERS FEATURED AT CARNEGIE HALL!

Although the new CD adds an assortment of various styles, it tells a personal tale for Roger. A story told through music …

The first track – Soon come young blues; opens the first leg of ‘the drive’ with an upbeat tempo. Drummer Eloi Bertholet, a fellow ‘farm boy’ from Saskatchawan, instills the proper speed limit to get the listener’s engine revvin’. The song says; ‘ this is Jazz’ ! No more -no less and keeps a curious ear for the next track. A song inspired by a dream …

‘I said you’d be back’ is what a warden of a prison told Roger in one of his many dreams. The storyline consists of Roger escaping and the warden informing him of their soon- to- be – encounter. This instrumental track delivers a manic feel. Trumpets sounding like police cars as the underlying keyboards give chase to a criminal drum beat. Following this song; your speed limit is a little higher as it attempts to keep up with your heart rate.

The third song on the disc is a shock! By far – the catchiest tune on an over- all catchy collection of a dozen songs.

‘Slow walk ‘ combines Rap, Jazz and Funk. An unlikely trio that conjures up phrases such as ‘wtf’? If Roger’s conscience spoke to him – it surley said; ‘ what are you thinkin’ dude’? Yet it works and it works extremely well. The type of tune which places your fingers on the replay button – over and over.

The song settles into a groove quickly. A rhythm of making love to a sultry woman. Not fast – not slow, just right.

Therein lies the beauty of the song. The routine of the same rhythm is disrupted by not one – two rappers. A ‘ take your turn’ adventure in a hip hop dueling session. A female’s voice gives pleasure while the man’s presence – a perfect balance to a funk- riddled tightrope excursion.

A high wire act is something Walls has learned over the years.

Following a move to Quebec with his new wife, Roger discovered Montreal was a great place to be and discovered  a niche playing with French Stars.

“The studio scene was great – I could do 3 beer jingles (there used to be about 30 studio’s in town ), a tv show and a jazz gig in the same day .” Walls continues. ” I was the only one in town that had high chops because of my rock experience and good teachers.”

This opened the ‘ trumpet case’  so to speak and Roger soon found himself among great – if not, legendary performers. Cab Calloway – Al Martino – Paul Anka – Tom Jones – Michel Legrand – Aretha Franklin – Donna Summers – Whitney Houston – George Burns – Petula Clark – Englebert Humperdink -Dean Martin- Diana Ross – Joan Rivers – Dionne Warwick to drop a few names.

Roger recalls when the orchestra he was playing in backed up the Godfather of Soul – James Brown.

” He ( Brown) arrived 15 minutes before we were supposed to go. Nobody in the band knew a set list containing the three songs he was supposed to play. I spoke with him and we narrowed his ‘hits’ to the three. In five minutes – I scribbled the sheet music, xeroxed it and handed it to fifty guys in the band. Talk about cutting it close?”

Close is what you may want to do when you play the next song on the disc; ‘Music to Wish for Girls By’.

A song inspired by one of Wall’s conga players’ favorite songs; Music to Watch Girls By…A popular song written by Herb Albert. Roger’s version turns the track into a Latin- based rhumba and adds spice to a scene that may otherwise be melancholi as the title suggest. Music can transform dreams into possibilities …

‘I Will Wait Forever’ continues the soft section of the CD without the groove of the previous track. It is a song for the special men who fall in love with a special lady and wait forever …

Forever seems a long time ago to Roger. Starting his career in Wichita, Kansas and gaining notoriety with the Central Standard Time band. The band toured all over the States and the east coast of Canada. They made such an impact – Roger and his ex – mates were recently inducted into the Kansas City music hall of fame. Something Roger could not fathom when the band broke up in St.Paul, Minnesota.

” I hopped in my ’59 Volvo and headed to L.A. I played several of the clubs , hooking up with musicians and making a name for myself. A friend could have got me a gig with Lawrence Welk – instead I ended up in Quebec.”

Rene Simard’s company hired Roger and he also was lead trumpet for one of  Quebec’s most popular artists; Garou.  Roger travelled all around Europe, Japan and France. His stay in Japan was the inspiration behind ‘ A Pink Japanese Moon’ – another track on a Midnight Ride.

The song fulfills what Walls wanted to do.  Capture the beauty of Japan! Within a minute, the listener is transported beyond the rice fields into the land of silky screens and geisha girls. A spiritual massage given by Wall’s eloquent use of his instrument amid the sweet sounds of his backing band.

Les Murs De Paris is another track on the album which captures Roger’s memories. In France, Walls played on a t.v show entitled “Apre Mo Lise”. Various people such as Gene Krupa and Sonny Rollins would appear on the show, adding more fuel to Walls’  ‘ Wall of Sound’.

” Don’t forget – in the 1970’s, people would drive from N.Y.to Montreal to listen to Jazz. I played at hot clubs such as The Rising Sun, Rockheads Paradise and Grand Cafe. I played with the Ink Spots, the Drifters and Frankie Hubbard. I even played for Jerry Lewis at the M.S. Telethon!”

These experiences are evident on the ‘train medley’.  Roger’s hommage to Chatanooga Choo Choo, Pennsylvania 65000 and Take the A Train. It commemorates all the years Walls played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. For older and more traditional Jazz fans – a pleasant trip backwards.

The final cut on the album brings us back to the start. ‘A Midnight Ride’ – inspired by Roger’s love of cars and driving. An upbeat finish to a darkened ride with the moon as a guide.

This album is not the best Jazz album nor is it the worst. It lies somewhere high above a mark. An indentation which millions of players strive to reach each year. An indentation which Roger Walls reached and passed miles ago …

Get in you car!

Don’t wait …

Roger Walls new CD “Midnight Ride”
Available at  Archambault Music ( Jazz) 500, Sainte-Catherine Est
and Itunes!

Want publicity for your band or self? Contact me keenerick@hotmail.com

Just Between You and Me – Part Two

‘Say Hello …’

This was not my first venture into the decadent world of groupies, hangers – on and various forms of life. I have been to a Toronto Maple Leaf game after all …

I have been fortunate to go backstage at a Jeff Healy, Luba, Offenbach and Michel Pagliaro concert prior to this. Although the above foursome are not exactly the Who , Led Zeppelin , Stones or the Guess Who and this was not the sixties –  backstage with musicians remains  – backstage with musicians!  Sex is sex, booze is booze and a few puffs from a marijuana cigarette will increase the urgency to rape and pillage small bags of potato chips.

Brian Greenway appeared to be holding center court as I entered the crowded room. The space was no larger than the den of a suburban bungalow and the ‘disciples’ surrounded Brian as he preached the ‘word of Rock ‘. I neared the aging guitarist to get a feel for the discussion and to open the opportunity of introducing myself to this man of wealth and taste. The gist of his conversation lay somewhere between the past and future as Greenway did his best to erect a bridge between the generations that stood before him.

I listened for a bit. He spun tales of debauchery – details of which, considered not for the faint or adventurous, omitted on cue. This was not the first time Mr.Greenway told stories of his youth and he was well prepared .

The ensuing minutes passed quickly for someone with an inquiring mind or a penchant for times far away. A diminutive chapter of a rock star’s life was being printed before my eyes. The words of which – firmly planted onto the pages of his fans’ memories. Words that will one day – truthful or not, be regurgitated from generation to generation with additional embellishment along the way.

Speaking with Greenway …  Sweet !

When my moment drew near– I approached Mr.Greenway and uttered the necessary introduction.” I am a big fan …nice to meet you …blah, blah, blah…”

Suddenly – without notice, recognition exchanged between the two of us.

Obviously  I had seen him many times yet I somehow doubted, in my incarnations as a fan and with my obvious good looks – Mr.Greenway’s ability to siphon my identity out of thousands of spectators in the Montreal Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens or the Civic Center in downtown Peterborough.

We departed the room together. Brian tossed variations of places and people my way in an attempt to discover his determination of our congregation. After concluding that a Rum and Coke was my beverage of choice and generously pouring two for the both of us – Mr. Greenway  and I concretely stumbled upon our common ground.

It is reasonable that Greenway should forgive me for letting our past reunion slip through the fingers of my mind. The pair of us narrowed the time of our rendez – vous between the years 1979 – 1982. That placed me directly into the era I now refer to as ‘the experimental one ‘. In 1979, I was fourteen and thus began my preparatory lessons into the world of ‘Drugs 101’.

Was I There …?

During that time , in a galaxy far removed from Twitter – there was a band by the name of Sweet

Ballroom Blitz is the name of their biggest hit and the moniker that most people are familiar with. That song continues to be a staple at parties around the globe and I am fortunate to have witnessed its formative years as the tune began its crawl through the corridors of rock history. Are you ready Steve …? Andy …?

For reasons known solely to man or the group’s manager, the band or several members of – were residing at a house in Kirkland, QC. It was my hometown and somehow (it was the experimental years), I managed to end up in the ‘house of the rising sun’ on an evening when the inhabitants were smack dab in the middle of ‘sex , drugs and rock n roll ‘. As I flipped through my past darkly – I did recall ‘taggin’ along with my niece’s boyfriend that evening. He was seven or eight years my senior and for a brief moment – a huge influence on me.

Pete‘ was a favorite of mine. An older brother I never had. He was in a band, he loved sports and most important on the list of Big Brother candidates – he dealt drugs. ‘Pete ‘gave meaning to the phrase ‘money for nothing and chicks for free ‘far before it became fashionable. Pete’s forte, among other weapons, was acid or L.S.D.for the uninitiated.

Mind – altering substances that – according to my Mom, would irrevocably have me behaving as a chicken and thus – launching myself out of windows. The result ? A slow painful death offered from the pavement below. My remains ? Scooped and placed in a bucket for the world of science to dissect and placed on an expedition. ‘A tour ‘ so all teenagers around the globe could witness the ill effects of drugs. (My Mom – if anything  , had a fantastic imagination. Bless her depression – era heart!).

Brian Greenwaywas not sure if he accompanied another member of April Wine to the party that night. I – on the other hand, cannot recall whether the acid was pink, purple or blue microdot. So – his recollection of a fourteen year old – strung – out –on – acid was a tad ‘sketchy’ and my memories of the evening remain a bad episode straight from the DVD collection of I Love Lucy . Yet – who was I to argue with a famous guitarist? If anything –Brian’s yarn gave me a new story to tell. After all – tales of moped rides in hockey rinks, runaway bananas and jeans dancing to a Pink Floyd tune on top of a guitar case will only get you so far…

Business is Business

As I attempted to detach myself from the masses (and TimothyLeary), I informed Mr.Greenwaythat I was not just ‘a pretty face on acid ‘and my current incarnation was that of a rookie journalist. I wondered aloud if an interview -comparable to the one my friend was carrying out as we spoke, could very well be on the horizon for the pair of us. He paused and in a way that made me feel unique – he informed me he was not interested. Apparently, the process had run its course in the life of Brian. It was nothing personal (he was quick to point out) and apologized for the timing of his decision. Nevertheless – I managed to spend a few interesting minutes alone with this man. I discovered – apart from the Sweet incident, backstage in the seventies were what most of us had heard and only a few could imagine.

I deposited my email into his hand in the off chance that one day – his mood would be of a different type. I shook the remaining one and thanked him for his generosity and time. I watched with a hint of jealousy as a blonde woman led him out of the room. Their arms wrapped around one another as they departed under an umbrella of laughter.


I had now crossed paths with two members of a group that had opened for one of the greatest rock bands of all time – the Rolling Stones. Two people that brushed shoulders with my idols and I said nothing!

“Oh well, two down – two to go…”  I reasoned as I downed my drink and poured another.

  “He Was Like a Marionette! “

Tommy Lee , the one – armed dude from Def Leppard  and the ten year old who bangs pots down the hall from me aside – most drummers seem approachable. Appearance –wise, JerryMercer of April Wine lies somewhere in the middle.

When Mr.Mercer is on stage, delivering one of the most recognizable drum solos in Rock n Roll, there is no one that makes a concert more fun and fan friendly. On the other hand – Mercer appears in the image of a biker gone bad.. A shaved head and biceps larger than a small country only lend credence to the type of man that may eat raw meat for breakfast. As a youngster – I recall my original reaction as I analyzed the photo that graced the back cover of Apri l Wine’s Nature of the Beast album.

All of the members – Myles, Brian, Steve Lang and Gary Moffat came across like your ordinary run – of – the –mill rock stars. Myles in a Habs’ jersey; Brian looking every bit the Canadian version of Peter Frampton and Gary and Steve posing in their … well… rock star poses.

Then there was Jerry…

Imposing was the polite way of referring to this mass of drumsticks. He was a cross between Charles Mansonand the wrestler Mad Dog Vachon. An experiment in cloning that included the genes of a Gorilla mixed mistakenly with a mountain man.

An Unexpected Expectation

As I completed my way through the backroom mazes  of Le Spectrum– it was therefore with great consternation that I approached one – half of the battery section in April Wine.

Surprisingly – Mercer is not very tall. I knew that television adds ten pounds to whoever is appearing on it yet it was a revelation to discover that any form of media seemed to inject a foot onto the drummer’s height. He remains intimidating on the first encounter – his torso and arms much the same delirious size as they materialize in photos. His chest seemed content. Ready to deliver murderous bear hugs to anyone that tests its strength.

Mr. Mercer was removing the sweat off a well-deserved performance as I happened by the area in which he dressed. Deer – like, I wedged my suddenly small head into his room and in a tone resembling Pee- Wee Herman – I said hello to the man at the rear of the hard driving sound of April Wine. He did not say good –bye.

Instead of snapping my appendages like dry twigs – Mr. Mercer was as inviting as a Grandmother sitting on the porch on a hot summers ‘ day. The first thing out of his mouth was to warn me that he only had a few minutes to talk as his wife was waiting for him. He motioned for me to come and sit while he continued his post – concert procedures. Part of me was relieved while my other fraction was scared silly of this man. I wanted to have a word yet the fear of ‘pissing him off’ and the repercussions that would surely develop led me to a silent vigil as I sat on the wooden chair.

It’s Only Rock n Roll ( but I like it …)

He asked if I had enjoyed the show and inquired my name. Salutations removed – my nerves settled to the point where words commenced to flow in a more natural state. This time – my questions pertaining to the Stones were on the front burner and I was unwavering when it came time to receive the recipes regarding their success.

I informed him of my status as a huge Stones fan and asked him to decipher his experiences with them. April Wine opened for them in 1977 at the El Mocambo Club in Toronto. It was previous to the Stones releasing their soon – to – be number one selling album Some Girls and its release co – existed with Wine’s most successful album – Nature of the Beast.

Mercer was more than pleased to spin the tales of his brush with greatness. He informed me that he did not speak with Mick, Keith or Ronnie Wood. He did exchange words with the Stones’ drummer and bass player –Charlie   Watts and BillWyman. He went on to say that the pair came as advertised.

The duos were very gracious with Charlie and him exchanging the names of influences.Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Mitch Mitchell were a few names admired by both.

These men were heroes to Watts  and Mercer while Stones’ bassist Wyman chimed his agreement. Jerry explained that the Stones had a lot going on. There were people coming and going – the members of the legendary band whisked from room to room. In a way – Mercer gave the impression that being a Rolling Stone was not for him.

The sole time that Mercer and his band mates had any contact with Mick Jagger was before the Stones sound check. April Wine were sitting in their dressing room and preparing for the night’s show. There was a knock on the door. The Stones’ lead singer popped in and placed a basket filled with fruits on the small table placed elegantly in the middle of the room. He thanked the band for being the opening act and as swiftly as he appeared – he was gone. Still – Mercer seemed generally pleased that Mick Jagger found the time to do something nice like that.

As for Mr. Keith Richards– Mercer informed me th at various times throughout the day, the Stones’ guitarist could be seen wandering about. According to Mercer‘s first hand account; “Keith was like a marionette! Just when he looked like he was about to fall down – he would pick himself up again! “Mercer went on to say; “Keith certainly lived up to his reputation!”

Ronnie Wood also lived up to his status. Mercer says that Ronnie was constantly on the move – beer frequently in hand and smiling all the time. “He was very much the court jester and if you saw him andKeith together, you could not help but wonder if they were able to perform later on…?” 

It was later on when Jerry discovered a tremendous appreciation for the Rolling Stones.

“We (AprilWine) were sitting in the club and watching them (the Stones) get ready for their sound check. Everyone except Mick Jagger was on stage and it was just chaos! Missed chords, sloppy changes, you name it – it was bad! Then – Mick arrives!  He walked onto the stage and said something to his mates . To this day – I have yet to see a band come together so fast and tight! I have so much respect for them after witnessing that! Fun was fun but when it came time for business – the Stones outdo everyone. There is a reason why they have outlasted most of their contemporaries!”

Jimmy Clench

I gained so much in the few minutes that I spent with Mr. Mercer I felt as if I had made a friend.

Jerry has a way of doing that…” I was informed later on in the two brief minutes that I spoke with the band’s bass player Jim Clench.

Clench was on his way out when I met him in the hallway. At first – it was depressing knowing that I would not be able to get any more Stones quotes. Then I realized that Clench was not with the band at the El Mocambo gig. He had quit the band in the  seventies and after stints with Randy Bachman’s group BTO and an appearnce on Brian Adams’ debut album – Jim re – joined Wine in their newest incarnation. Little was I aware –  ten short years after meeting the man – Jim Clench would be dead from lung cancer at the age of sixty – one.

I found my friend sitting outside the club and we exchanged stories over a few drinks at another bar. By the time I got home- the kids were crying and not even Muddy could soothe their woes. It was six o’clock when my eyes shut and in three short hours – I would have to go to work.

Somehow – it all seemed worth it …

To be continued ….

Have a band or want publicity as a solo artist? Contact me at keenerick@hotmail.com

Roger Walls Showcases his new CD! Midnight Ride

As the lead trumpet player for the Duke Ellington Orchestra to the same role with Garou‘s band; The Untouchables …

Roger Walls has seen and heard everything. 

All this experience is parlayed into Walls’ new C.D Midnight Ride. The album is a collection of eleven original recordings based on his fifty years on the road and in the studio.

According to Roger, the album was created by his experiences touring abroad. Japan, Brazil and all of Europe are ingredients to a flavorful stew of Jazz styles.

Want funky blues along the lines of Art Blakey and Freddie Hubbard? Soon come young blues, the centerpiece of the album – is the tune to light up your toes and ignite your soul. The song has been a staple on 91.9 Planete Jazz for six months and reached number one on the Planete Jazz and Reverbnation charts. It remained on top for a year on Reverbnation.

Roger and his six piece band are showcasing the CD on the 25th of May 2012 at Bar St. Denis.  For a great evening of Jazz – join Roger along with some of the best jazz musicians in Montreal.

Roger Walls and Tony Bennett

Stay tuned for a feature story about Roger’s life …

To get a taste of Roger’s music check him out with the Duke Ellington Orchestra!

Witness the recording of the new CD – Midnight Ride

Rogers’ life in pictures!

Roger Walls’ Mini Big Band

Have a band or want publicity as a solo artist? Contact me at keenerick@hotmail.com

Just Between You and Me

 Le ‘Set – Up ‘

Toting a box of beer up a flight of stairs on a Saturday morning led to an encounter that would shape the rest of my life. Who knew?

 

Ste Anne de Bellevue – In the Summertime…

I was toiling as a waiter in a restaurant named Cajun Blues. The establishment was the ‘outcast ‘among the several bars and restaurants situated in the picturesque town of Ste. Anne de Bellevue, QC. The reason for the leper – like treatment? The business did not possess a terrace on the waterfront and that absence left a void in the town’s visitors as they arrived to eat.

Ste. Anne be Bellevue is a community that thrives on the promise of the summer sun. The view of the sun’s rays reflecting off waves rooted by the variations of ships and boats is an integral part of the town’s survival. The countless photo -ops are a welcome sight for the lunch and supper crowd that flock to the boardwalk. A ‘luxurious dock ‘ that lays nestled on the western – most tip of the Island of Montreal and remains an attractive location for families , lovers and loners. For some – a mixture of all three. If Mama Nature cooperates, the customers grin while money rains directly into the pocket books of the establishments’ owners. If the matriarch of green decides otherwise – the terraces are as vacant as the property owners’ gas tanks.

            Regardless of the Cajun Blues’lack of such a beautiful image, Saturday night at the eatery was jumping.  Aside from Cajun food staples such as

All Night Long …

Louisiana Mud Pie, Chicken Creole and Jambalaya – the singular item that enticed visitors to fill the clubs’ cozy atmosphere was an eclectic selection of live music.

As the stars and the moon danced high in the darkened sky – invited musicians orchestrated the pairs’ celestial moves with a catalogue of grooves both real and imagined.  Blues was on the dessert menu one evening while an additional soiree wound up crammed with the crisp sounds of a drummer – a ‘ cat ‘ as cool as a northern breeze keeping time among a trio of Jazz musicians as they delivered ‘ last  call ‘ to welcoming applause.

The subsequent week – Reggae was the ‘le soup du jour ‘. The clubs’ patrons would drain their ‘bowls ‘and in the process, fill up their palates with love and joy. Once the main course of unity was completed, the partiers made love to their drinks while the sweet sounds of Marley and Tosh provided a message of hope. The sort of memo that passed spontaneously throughout the crowd and a post – it note Mr.Marley would have permitted.

Rock – a – Bye – Muddy …

It was a unique three months for me as I spent evenings creating new friends and  mornings producing friendship with my two small children .Francesca Emerald Amanda and Owen David Randall remain the beneficiaries of a Father completed by his love for music. Not a day passed without their Dad cooing them to sleep. Lyrics penned by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Louis Armstrong became our lullabies as the virgin eyes on their softened faces closed into dreams of innocence.

These are the memories that stay firmly planted as seeds in the lawn of my soul .Landscaping created for a new generation. Seeds that will spread from my kids – to their very own.

–  Le ‘Show ‘-

        As my head ached and my ears called for silence, I carried the bottles of beer from the basement and placed the crate upon the bar. Standing there, I recalled the previous evenings’ adventures with a smile. This made my head hurt even more …

I had attended a concert by the Canadian rock band AprilWine. A friend and fellow journalist had invited me to join him. ‘ Tagging ‘  along meant the opportunity to not only see the show – a backstage visit was part of the itinerary as my friend was concocting an interview with lead songwriter and singer  – Myles Goodwyn.

The group was one of my many favorites as the suburbs of Montreal nurtured me from adolescence to teen. You Won’t Dance with Me, Oowatanite , Roller , Rock n Roll is a Vicious Game and Just Between You and Me were staples of my teen years and just a few of the hits by the legendary rock band.

April Wine – Then …

I had seen them live a handful of times between the ages of fifteen and twenty and once – I was fortunate enough to enjoy their arena show three times in one-week Toronto on Saturday, Peterborough on Wednesday and Montreal once more on the following Saturday. It was a threesome of the non – sexual type yet sensually pleasing.

The trio of shows wrought envy from the mouths of all my male fellow rock n rollers in the late seventies and for a brief moment in time – I was the coolest person amongst my peers. The boys were jealous yet the ‘chicks ‘dug me. Rock N Roll may be a vicious game but sex is the ultimate trophy to the victors!

So here I was – all these years later, with an opportunity to sing along to the tunes of my youth in the small confines of Le Spectrum .It was an exit on the highway of music I would notbe missing.

An Intimate Engagement

Wine – circa 2001

Time had passed since the days of the band selling out the Montreal Forum. The group had actually broken up for a few years in the late eighties only to re-form in the nineties. They continue touring on a smaller level as they play their music to loyal fans in Canada and the United States. The hits are no longer written by the formerly – proficient Goodwyn yet an arsenal containing songs such as Say Hello , I Like to Rock , Sign of the Gypsy Queen and Weepin Widow were more than enough to carry these former teenagers into the twi –light of their lives and career.

The show and tunes that evening were what I had come to expect from the foursome. High-octane rock performed with conviction at decibels alarming to some. Hit after hit brought grown men and women to their feet. Powerful anthems punctuated by tearful ballads lay witness to a new generation as they writhed in appreciation of the band’s efforts. The line – up consisting of Myles on guitar and vocals , Brian Greenway  on guitar , the late Jim Clench on bass and the powerful Jerry Mercer on drums – did not disappoint the most cynical concert go – er. It was a wonderful summer evening under a cloud of nostalgia.

‘ A High Roller Baby …!’

The show ended with an exclamation point. The song Roller, arguably the band’s biggest hit, was the encore and it whipped the predominant forty – something crowd into frenzy. Everyone it seemed knew the song and there was not a quiet voice in the house as the band elongated the distance of their watermark tune.

The song finished and the group exited the stage to deafening applause. The words; ‘She’s a high roller baby ‘were sung in unison as the throng of people made their way past the exits and onto the streets of downtown Montréal. The lyrics’ High roller baby ‘continued as they echoed through vacant buildings and began eking out a new found existence in a city they once owned.

It was now the time for me to get excited.

A behind – the – curtains visit was not only exciting for the privilege of meeting rock icons, the rendez- vous was also an opportunity for me to discover a few words from the men that had met my idols – the Rolling Stones.

“Going back stage is exciting. Regardless of how many times it has happened. “Annie Liebowitz

 

The entrance alone is usually long and dark followed by a door or curtain guarded closely by a security guard or personnel. A flash of a pass, a nod of a head and suddenly you have elapsed into unknown territory. You are privileged. Depending on the star or stars, thousands and sometimes millions of people are separated from you .Physically and emotionally you have obtained a realm that some may only dream of reaching in their paramount fantasies.

Once, twice or a hundred times – the heart always beats a little faster when a crowd is left behind the curtain at a Rock n Roll show.  Terrence Mann may have had the same awareness as he approached the cornfields in the movie adaptation of the novel Shoeless Joe. Field of Dreams is the name of the film and is there a better way to identify the feelings of disappearing back – stage? Not quite …

Behind the Scenes …

On this evening – a curtain in lieu of a door was my gateway to knowledge and (if lucky) – a few beers. As my partner and I navigated the maze of rooms and people, we remained on the look – out for the subject of my colleague’s interrogation. We discovered Mr.Goodwynin a concrete room conspicuous with its absence of color. He was speaking to a couple of young women as he rested alongside a table outfitted with food. My friend introduced himself and promptly thanked Myles for the opportunity given to not only him – myself as well.

Just Between Myles and Me …

Myles Goodwyn

Myles was aloof and maintained a tone of aristocracy as I extended my hand to his. Habitually, I own the ability to garner good judgment of people. I did not like Myles in the first minute of our meeting and if my children and dog were by my side – I remain confident they would have had the very same feeling. Regardless if Mr.Goodwyn had shaken my hand – my feelings would not have changed.

Arrangements between my friend and Goodwyn to disappear into an atmosphere more fitting for a one – on – one discussion were completed. The lead vocalist informed me to help myself to whatever beverages and food I discovered. Since he made no mention of the women – I assumed they were also ‘up for grabs ‘!

I  asked him where I could unearth the remaining members of the band and he pointed down the hall, toward the loud noise. The ‘ noise ‘was the sound of the many ‘back stagers ‘who seemed to be enjoying themselves a lot more than I was. The fact that I was soon to be part of their ruckus –  made the departure from my friend much more tolerable.

The 1970’s – Comfortably Numb

As I watched the two disappear, I understood – from this point forward, the evening could possibly conclude in many variations. It depended on which choices I would make in the ensuing couple of hours and just how much I wanted to re – live the late seventies. Since I do not recall much of the late seventies, I walked down the hall with an ear toward a sinful evening.  The ‘good angel ‘and the ‘bad angel ‘had quite the ‘heated discussion’ as they sat opposite one another on each of my shoulders . I entered a room and approached the walls of people …

To be continued …