Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – #
No it’s not a hashtag; it’s the number sign (or pound sign). Since we have gone A-Z over the last 26 weeks I thought I would end this round with numbers. Speaking of numbers, thanks to everyone who has been reading us. Latest reports had us over 50,000 unique hits. Pretty impressive and we all appreciate it.
Kilburn and The High Roads are best remembered as the English pub rock band that launched the career of the eccentric but brilliant Ian Dury. What they are usually not remembered for is containing the nucleus of British punk band 999. After leaving Kilburn Nick Cash met session guitarist Guy Days (who had played on some Kilburn demos) and the two of them placed an advert in Melody Maker looking for band mates in 1976. They ended up turning down potential members Jon Moss, later of Culture Club, Tony James, who found glory with Billy Idol’s Generation X and Chrissie Hynde who would prove she was more than a Pretender. They settled on drummer Pablo LaBritain and bassist Jon Watson and named themselves after Britain’s emergency telephone number. Debuting in early 1977 they were one of the first punk bands on the London scene and were signed later that summer. Although many of their singles are now feted as punk classics it was really the song “Homicide” that crossed them over to this side of the pond. There was something about that bass line that got heads bopping and hips shaking in punk clubs in Toronto. Of course having a punk friendly subject matter never hurt with your credibility. The song sounds as good today as it did back then. A punk classic.
The pride of Tsawwassen, British Columbia have very quietly put up Hall Of Fame numbers in their 31 year history. They have released over a dozen albums, played over 2,000 shows and topped the rock charts countless times. Neil Osborne and Brad Merritt founded the band in the mid-eighties and it wasn’t long before they reached the national airwaves with their first of many hits “Baby Ran”. The band had their most successful days in the early nineties when Osborne and Merritt were joined by Matt Johnson (all three are still in the band) and guitarist Phil Comparelli. From 1992 to 1998 they had successive platinum or gold records with “Dear Dear“, “Smilin’ Buddah Cabaret”, “Trusted By Millions” and “Since When”. Few Canadian bands have had as many hits so quietly. 54.40 fight for what they believe, have never been afraid to take a stand and never compromised. They are still putting out great records and are one of the best live bands this country has ever produced. Much like Sloan or The Tragically Hip you forget how many great songs they have and how much they have been a part of our culture. Many more years boys.
The late Greg Shaw, founder of Bomp! Records and Bomp! Magazine arguably had the best ears in the business when it came to power pop. Man, that man could pick ‘em. From The Romantics to The Flamin’ Groovies to Shoes Greg was releasing 7” singles long before the majors had these bands anywhere on their radars. Due to his friendship with Segarini I was fortunate to meet Greg several times and was honoured to have my byline in Bomp! Magazine. One of his best picks was 20/20. He released their first single “Giving It All” in 1978 if there was ever one song that epitomized what power pop was this is it. Perfection. Shortly after the release of the single the L.A. based band were picked up by Portrait Records (the home of the solo Burton Cummings) and released what would come close to being the perfect new wave song. With it’s keys and synths anchored by a rock solid beat “Yellow Pills” was the type of song that made new wave a “safe” sound as many still had thoughts of seventies punk when the sound emerged at the end of the decade. Once again this was another B-side that far outshined the other side of the single.
1000 Homo DJ’s
A veritable studio super group conceived by Ministry’s Al Jourgensen and possibly featuring other such industrial and punk heavyweights as Trent Reznor, Jello Biafra, Martin Atkins, Paul Barker, Mike Scaccia, Jeff Ward, Bill Rieflin and Viva Nova. The list of bands these folks played in would include Ministry, The Revolting Cocks, The Dead Kennedys, Nine Inch Nails, Pigface and Lard amongst others. Although they only released 2 singles, and never performed live, it is their cover of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” that is most shrouded in mystery. It has never been clearly determined who sang lead vocals on the two different versions of the single. All signs point to Trent Reznor singing the version that was released on the Wax Trax! Box set with all versions containing lead vocals by Jourgensen. Whatever version, it is a classic remake of the Black Sabbath song (which appeared on their album IV) and whether it is Trent or Al the vocals rock. Well worth finding.
Now just merely a footnote in punk rock history The 101er’s will always be remembered as the band that Joe Strummer, then known as Woody Mellor, fronted before The Clash. Along the lines of Kilburn and The High Roads and Eddie And The Hot Rods the 101ers were another London based mid-seventies pub rock band. Their total studio output was one great single “Keys To Your Heart” although various live recordings have been cobbled together and released after the success of The Clash. It was in 1976 when the Sex Pistols opened for the band that Strummer realised he needed to be in a band with a bit more of an attitude and formed The Clash. By the time “Keys” was released he had already jumped ship and started writing a new history with The Clash.
How can you not love a band which is rumoured to be named after a larger than normal amount of male ejaculate? 10cc were something special. Their first three albums, 10 cc, Sheet Music and The Original Soundtrack were genre smashing masterpieces. After a ten year history in a myriad of other bands Lol Crème, Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Graham Gouldman recorded the eponymous 10cc debut in 1973. Lyrically they were cut from the same cloth as Sparks and sonically they jumped all over the map from the 50’s tinged “Johnny, Don’t Do It” and “Donna” to the hilarious “Rubber Bullets” this was a very unconventional pop album, but quirky was what the Brits loved and the band managed to have four successful singles on their home turf. The second album “Sheet Music” pushed the musical boundaries even further as they incorporated an even more varied musical smorgasbord. Lyrically the band was sharper (“It’s one thing to know it, but another to admit, we’re the worst band in the world and we don’t give a …..”) and many, including band members, consider this record the height of their creativity. It would not be until their third album, “The Original Soundtrack”, that the band would have a worldwide hit. Not many bands recorded a soundtrack to a movie that never existed but 10cc were no ordinary band. “I’m Not In Love” , with its brilliant production was the perfect anti-love song. “I keep your picture up on the wall, it hides a nasty stain that’s lying there. So don’t you ask me to give it back I know you know it doesn’t mean that much to me”. The album also included the eight plus minute epic mini-opera “Une Nuit A Paris” and the comical “Life Is A Minestrone” which concluded that “death was a cold lasagne”. As good a 1-2-3 punch as any band in rock.
2 Good 1s
If you are in the Peterborough, Ontario area, drop by The Spill to see Ottawa’s Amos the Transparent tonight. For my money there is not a better live band in Canada right now. On Friday night Morgan Cameron Ross takes the stage at The Rivoli in Toronto. You can check out his new video for “Storybook Romance” here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RjW3Lx8gF8
Cameron’s column appears every Thursday
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Cameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.