Who was Lou Reed?

Inevitably – age catches up to everyone. Rock n’ Rollers are no exception.

Lou-Reed

Lou Reed is the latest victim of a combination of age / sickness. Who is next? McCartney? Ringo? Jagger? Richards? ( never mind the latter – the Stones’ guitarist’s shelf life has long since passed and his existence is questionable  …)

The common denominator within the names above is simple…

Legendary.

What is that? Reed legendary on the same level as The Beatles and The Stones? Did Reed ( who passed away at the age of seventy-one) pen tunes along the lines of Hey Jude or Brown Sugar? Over and over? Are his songs implanted into the gums of music history – never to be removed or destroyed in fire?

Around the world, in the past few days, young rockers ( or just plain youthful musicians) have prodded their parents with pesky questions pertaining to Mr. Reed. Truthfully and sadly –one response to the rockin’ requests was undoubtedly delivered. Answered with a glint in the eye and a  jump to the past …

Take a walk on the wild side …” The PARENTS may have said, thinking back to a simpler time. ” … Plucked her eyebrows on the way, shaved her legs and then he was a she.’ ….’And the colored girls say dododo dodo dododo do dodo dodo dododo do dodo dodo dododo do dodo dodo dododo …’

‘Yeah …’ Came the responses from unresponsive teens. ” I know that tune! Great song …!” With that – the young ones would continue listening to Muse or The Sheepdogs in their interior worlds known as iPods. The horror!

Lou Reed – who passed away on the weekend, was known more for than just one song. His work with The Velvet Underground and specifically Nico – produced one of the greatest albums of all time. ‘Femme  Fatale’. ‘Venus in Furs’,’There She Goes Again‘, ‘I’ll be Your Mirror’ and ‘I’m Waiting for the Man‘ – songs to be sung forever …

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What made that album legendary – is something most artists cannot claim. The melodies, the harmonies, the musicianship, the songwriting and the chemistry between Cale,Reed, Nico, Morrison and Tucker – impeccable. Many artists can claim that on discs such as  ‘Pet Sounds’, ‘Revolver’ and ‘Exile on Main Street‘ yet the songs Reed wrote or co -wrote did not make Reed a legend. What made Reed a legend was his courage or ‘defiance’ to talk or sing about all things taboo. The music was the vehicle.

Heroin, Transsexuals, open sexuality ( the pre-cursor to f*ck friend) and general decadence. Things that existed. Things that lived and breathed in the pores of society long before Lou entered the dangerous picture. Reed made these subjects fashionable. The Rolling Stones may have opened the door – Reed and his ‘underground’ took it to another level. The Stones had their ‘Mother’s Little Helper‘ – Reed and his cronies raped her and  stole her pills. Publicly!

Lyrically, Reed opened up to everything he saw. No candy-coating on what was happening in New York from 1966- 1973. No sugar in his coffee as he stared down the core of  the rotting Big Apple. The world contains a lot of blackness and Reed drank it and spat it out. Darker than ever. Prettier than ever. Right up to his recent passing.

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Some musicians are poets. Some poets are musicians. Some – talented in one way more than another. Reed was equal in his talents. Raw, undressed and ready to go. A guitar riff as raunchy as his scowling words. You could not dress him up or take him out. Not on terms that disagreed with him. Not on terms deemed ‘politically correct’ …

Mr. Reed invented political incorrectness. A child of his environment – Reed saw the United States for what it was. Hypocritical, seedy, uncouth, unworthy of his worthiness. The peace and love generation wanted to ‘fix’ things – Reed basked in the horrors. Somehow aware things would never change and if they did – they would stay the same.

Rock stars, Jazz stars, Pop stars, Country stars and Disco stars can all be labelled. Even if their personas flop between identities. Bowie was a spaceman, weird but understandable. Michael Jackson? A weirdo from space? Unidentifiable yet classifiable. Johnny Cash – a man tormented by demons yet agonizingly shelved with so many artists. On and on except for Lou Reed …

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A rebel …? Sorta. A junkie in the form of Keith Richards …um …no. An alcoholic a la Moon? Nope. Not even close. A genius in the form of Dylan? Bite our collective tongues …

Reed was a man unlike any other. Lost in translation yet translated as lost. A man in the mirror. An introspective soul unafraid to discover himself. A guitar player whose chords were tuned to his world while staying out of tune with the world’s. Above Dylan yet darker? Tortured like Cash yet tamed through words. ‘Out there’ like a Bowie /  Jackson tandem yet with feet planted firmly on Earth.

Lou Reed was an exception. In life and death.

I don’t know just where I’m going
But I’m gonna try for the kingdom, if I can
‘Cause it makes me feel like I’m a man
When I put a spike into my vein

A New Guess Who Album with Derek Sharp … !

“Everything is great where I live …” Explains Derek Sharp. ” What’s it called? The Lord of the Rings … Narnia! Everybody is great in my family here in the middle of nowhere …”

Derek and Sass
Derek and Sass

Sharp is the husband of local Montreal girl -turned-good; Sass Jordan.

He is also the lead singer of The Guess Who and is entering his seventh year in that role. An immersion based on an accident to the former lead singer; Carl Dixon ( Coney Hatch).

” Carl was in a car accident and I was supposed to replace him for a  month. After four months – the guys and I spoke and they asked if we were going to keep going with this. Unfortunately – his recovery took longer and here I am – seven years later and still here.”

At the time Sharp was being ‘auditioned’ for The Guess Who, he had several projects going on. Sass and him had been playing together for quite a while and he was the co-coordinator for Canadian Idol – the sister show to American Idol and his wife’s platform as a judge …

” The first year they put on Canadian Idol, it was a huge failure.” Says Sharp.”They did three weeks worth of shows and everything got cancelled. They wanted to put something in place where people with experience were running things. They asked me to oversee the whole production of it and be the musical direction. They got a new agent and a new manager. Between the three of us – we put together this huge extravaganza. The first year we did it, we sold out the whole year.”

The Guess Who
The Guess Who

Derek backed out in the final year because he committed to The Guess Who. A Canadian band who are globally loved but even Derek did not know all the words.

” I knew them kinda … because I am not that old.” Laughs Derek. ” I had to learn all the songs in five days. I was more into Zeppelin and those kind of bands. Of course I knew the songs but not all the lyrics because all those songs are wordy and some of them do not even make sense … ( he laughs ) I put my iPod on and went running to get to know the words …”

It was just hours before his first appearance with the band ( in Houston), Sharp was on the bus and his mind went blank. He could not remember anything and sheer panic took over him. Thankfully – once on stage, just before the first verse, the words came back and the concert ( and Sharp’s new career) took off …

derek-sharp” My favorite songs to sing have changed over the years.” Admits Sharp. ” Now we have a few new ones that we throw in. We sing ‘Lucille’ to have some fun and fool around with. As far as my favorite Guess Who songs; I would have to say ‘These Eyes’ and ‘Busrider’. ‘These Eyes’ is a hard song to sing. It is really high and we have to knock it down a few keys. With our band – of course, people want it as close to the original as possible. In other words – I can’t smoke too many cigarettes before the show.”

Derek has not taken any flack from older Guess Who fans. He is asked what happened to Bachman or Cummings occasionally and the fans who attend the shows are just happy to hear the classic Guess Who songs. Sharp does notice a funny trend …

” We will play one of our new songs or a cover of another band’s song and a fan in the first two rows will shout out “Ya man – That’s a great Guess Who song ….!” He laughs. ” It’s all good. As long as they (the fans) are having fun!”

Sharp’s career has been a journey.

Derek played with Gary Brice ( Bryan Adams’ band ) and Charlie Cooley in the late eighties and early nineties. Theirs was a cover band and all three of them parlayed their experience into higher profile bands. Charlie and Gary with  Amanda Marshall ( and Adams ) and Sharp morphed into Red Rider. He also saw stints with Alannah Myles, Jeff Healey and Deep Purple’s Glenn Hughes among others. Then – Derek met Sass. His life has not been the same since. Musically and romantically …

“We met in Canada and went to the States ( L.A.)” Says Derek. ” We moved back to Canada when we had our daughter. From the time we met , we just hit it off and have always been buddies. I played with her at first but now I will fill in if one of the guys she is working with can’t make it or something. I have been doing it for so long – it just makes sense. Sass and I play together all the time. We do acoustic sets at local places and we have a blast. Sass is doing her S.U.N. stuff and I am with The Guess Who, so our schedules conflict.”

Sharp’s current band consists of two original members of The Guess Who. Garry Peterson on drums ( Vocals)  and Jim Kale ( bass and vocals). The pair have been there, done that yet according to Sharp; you would never know it …

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Peterson

” It’s amazing!” Says Derek.” These guys are kids when they get on stage. They have so much fun and energy! Offstage it’s a little different … ” He laughs. “They are a little slower then they used to be …. Heck – they are seventy years old! Hey! Look at Jagger. Look at the shape he is in! Sign me up …! I’m in! I don’t want to be a couch potato when I am older. I want to be like that guy!?”

He goes on …

“I think music is an elixir. No matter all the shit you go through, getting stuck in small towns – airport screw-ups, once you get on stage it is worth it. I think that’s the reason we all get into this. To make people smile – which makes us smile at the same time …! How many jobs are there where people come and see you and get excited?”

The Guess Who have just recently finished recording four new tracks for an upcoming album which should be released some time next year. Sharp has no immediate plans to go anywhere else. He is enjoying his life on the road and at home. He does admit – the older he gets , the more things are changing …

Kale
Kale

“We always do these long meet and greets after the show.” Says Sharp. “Being the singer,I used to get all the ‘hot’ young girls coming up to me after shows …”

Explains the forty-eight year old.

“Now I get older ladies wanting kisses and their picture with me! It’s great! It is really good to see people having fun. That’s what this is all about. It makes me sad when I see all these ‘artists’ backed by big corporations with no talent getting all the airplay and the money. The worse thing is – they are not having fun! I really do not get it at all …?

Sharp and Sass’ daughter is planning to go into musical theater once her High School education is complete. Derek has no plans to alter her mind in either direction. Whatever she wants to do is okay with him as long as she is happy and safe.

” My Father gave me the talking to about having something to fall back on …”Admits Sharp. ” That old speech. My ( late ) Mom was very supportive. No matter where I played, she would show up and sit in the front row with her drink and cheer me on. She would embarrass me but it was fantastic! Now my Father comes out when he can and has a great time.”

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Derek as a kid growing up in Fort William had about ten albums. Records which helped him make the decision ( at the age of six), to be a music and / or singing star …

“One was a polka record, one was a Big Band record – Glen Miller I think, one was a Beatles’ album …”

He goes on …

“Whatever was available – I liked everything. Whatever was on the radio. My family would go on a long road trip and we would have these sing-a-longs in the car. I love seventies classic rock stuff. That’s my favorite …”

Derek Sharp is looking forward to the new Guess Who album and is currently writing songs with Sass Jordan for films. Sharp spends his spare time biking, running, gardening and playing music with Sass when they have the opportunity.

Somewhere in the middle of somewhere …

Visit The Guess Who here!

The Beach Boys; Summer Fun!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older
Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long
And wouldn’t it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong

When Mike Love helped write the words for ‘Wouldn’t It be Nice’, the opening track on The Beach Boys’ 1966 album ‘Pet Sounds‘ – you have to wonder if almost fifty years later, he would have known his words would ring so true …

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Does it really matter?

For everyone in attendance at The Beach Boys’ show at Maddie’s Place Saturday night  – it did not. Young, younger, old and older – witnessed something special. Songs that are timeless. Tunes which posses  a label that is tossed about too easily. In the case of The Beach Boys, timeless is correct and they – along with The Beatles; wrote the book themselves.

America‘s Band’ are not just America’s band because they came from America. They did not receive the majestic title because they wrote and sang about the stars and stripes. At one point – before Vietnam, before Watergate and before the word started to get around of the ‘true’ American way, The Beach Boys represented what America sold itself as through propaganda. A country built on innocence. Structured by apple pie, baseball, muscle cars, beach, sun, sand and pretty girls. A society Utopian as a painting and The Beach Boys Utopian as the paintbrush.

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American was unmasked. The Beach Boys were eventually unmasked. Their songs; masked to this day. A musical form of The Lone Ranger. Heroic anthems that can save the day. Innocent lyrics about innocent times. Innocent music for anytime …

Saturday, many in attendance on the South Shore of Montreal were not born when “Help Me Rhonda‘, ‘California Girls‘, ‘Surfer Girl‘ and ‘In My Room’ were invading the airwaves. Saturday, many in attendance were alive, well and cruising the roads in their T-Birds, Corvettes and Corvairs. Heading to the beach to catch rays, girls, guys and the sweet harmonies of The Beach Boys.

mike7Listening to ‘Little Deuce Coupe‘, ‘ Surfin’ Safari’, ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice‘ and ‘Barbara Anne’ in 2013; a time trip back. A reverse slide into a pool of nostalgia. A tub of fun awaiting even the most cynical of souls. Old men with glints in their eyes as their memories take a trip down Route 66 or Highway 401. Middle aged women, once more; wrinkle -free and looking for Mr. Right as the glistening sun highlights their virgin breasts.

Kids and teenagers. Pupils of  iPods, iPhones and MTV. Hearing many of the songs for the first time. ‘God only Knows’, ‘Fun,Fun,Fun’, ‘I Get Around’ and ‘Good Vibrations’ – piercing their innocent ears with delight and escalating quickly to desire. Witnessing what was – at one point; commonplace. Beach balls flying around a concert hall. Smiles launching the inflatable orbs from hand to hand and sometimes foot. Real Beach balls – not the hallucinogenic type of the Hendrix crowd. Real Beach balls – not the digitally – enhanced ones invented by over zealous record companies anxious to make a buck.

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The Beach Boys are no longer The Beach Boys. Mike Love ( on Saturday night) – the only original member on stage. Their last ‘hit’ as a group; the charming and timeless Kokomo from 1988. Over the years – the group have been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Saturday night – it did not matter …

You know it seems the more we talk about it
It only makes it worse to live without it
But lets talk about it
Wouldn’t it be nice

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