Segarini: Magic VS Science and Two Quick Stories

We are all of us, creatures of habit. True, we all have different habits, and we march to our own drummers after a while, because the lure of mass popularity favoured in our youth fades and is replaced by the things we have always loved or have newly discovered and become enamored with. Sometimes, following your own nose instead of whatever taste maker currently holding sway over the masses and whose nose generally leads them all to the perceived latest and greatest popular entertainments, will lead you to new and wondrous discoveries. Discoveries you can hardly wait to share with your friends, hoping they hear what you hear, see what you see, and join your crusade to spread the word. Other times, you end up looking like an obsessive dope with peculiar taste and a penchant for staying out too late trying to kill your liver.

The truth of the matter is, you eventually get to the point where you don’t care if anyone loves the same stuff you love. It can, however, drive you absolutely bug nuts when they don’t. Worse, if not enough people love what you love, it will quickly disappear, sadly dismissed with the wave of an uncaring hand by the same people who have insured the continued existence of popular entertainments that make you want to buy a high powered rifle and find a bell tower from which you can start thinning the herd. In other words, thank God for the internet, the rise of niche programming, and the plethora of smart, witty, distractions currently blossoming everywhere. This is also the era of Guilty Pleasures; low brow entertainment that somehow hits a nerve and gathers a following of otherwise bright people who occasionally want to hear Fran Drescher read from the Bible, or watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta marathons. We are, as a whole, the most erratic society in the history of man when it comes to entertainment. I am constantly surprised that there are so many vacant bell towers.

Why is it there are SO many successful entertainments out there that were calculated to be just that and actually came to fruition? For example, I can fully appreciate the success of Adele in today’s music marketplace, but I am bothered by the smug statements of her ‘team’, that they knew she would break through. That yes, she is a breath of fresh air on the radio currently, but just under the surface, she is an artist (a very talented one…don’t get me wrong) that has succeeded with an agenda that includes committee written ‘hits’, a ‘down home’ stage persona, and just the right amount of ‘she’s just like us!” cachet that makes her seem like she sprang out of nowhere, the great cure for all the other calculated product currently clogging the arteries of the airwaves like a big bag of greasy grilled cheese sandwiches. Try as I might, I just can’t buy into it, because if you peel away the surface, it is just one more triumph of timing, investment, and science…and the science of popular music has created an environment where magic rarely occurs.

Still, against all odds, magic does occur.

I firmly believe that if music was judged solely for itself and not its lineage (format friendliness, genre, management, label, writers, producers) and songs were listened to for their greatness and timelessness, not their potential to be a ‘hit’, and given access to a wider audience, the landscape would be much different than it is. Fortunately, this seems to be just around the corner these days. Here’s hoping that sooner rather than later, magic will triumph over science (it has in the past) and more under-the-radar artists and songs will have the same opportunity to excel as the hard-wrought formula product that currently reigns supreme.

My Current Top 10

Rival Sons

Research Turtles

Rumer

David Celia

Courage My Love

Harlan Pepper

Lee Harvey Osmond

The Beauties

Cadence

Vince Gill

Now tell me yours….

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42 years ago, my co-writer (Rand Bishop) and I penned a tune for Karen and Richard Carpenter called “Won’cha Be My Friend For Now”. The brother and sister had become friends during our life in Los Angeles and were keen to record the song. Richard raved about it and, a few weeks later, played Rand and I his arrangement of the song during a break in one of their recording sessions with Herb Alpert sitting at the console nodding his head in approval. We were more than thrilled. One day a week or so later, Richard called me back onto the A&M lot at the corner of La Cienega and Sunset (former home to the Charlie Chaplin Studios and later, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s Desilu Productions) and told me that they wouldn’t be able to include the track on their new album because he had promised their touring band a song and you could only cram so many tunes onto a vinyl LP without serious loss of volume. I understood, but was crestfallen at the turn of events.

As I’m walking toward the gates of the studio on my way home to break the news, I hear the powerful roar of an engine and the blare of a car horn directly behind me and instinctively jump out of the way, just missing the opportunity to become a hood ornament on a brand new blue 489 Mustang, the one with the louvered rear window, and enough power to flatten me into an Italian pancake without the driver feeling so much as a ‘hello how are you’. Looking to see who was driving, I shook my fist in the air, only to see a shock of blonde hair, a pair of aviator sunglasses, and two hands on the wheel. Damn, I thought, I almost got run over by Paul Williams.

42 years later I’m at Cherry Cola’s, ass planted firmly on my favourite stool at the end of the bar waiting for Mr. Williams to show up for a party in his honor to celebrate a documentary about his bad self that had shown earlier in the day at the Toronto International Film Festival. A decidedly private party, I was lucky to be invited by Glenn and Cherish (the owners) because (as Glenn put it) I’d probably enjoy it. He could not have been more right.

The biggest reason Randy and I were over the moon about having a song on a Carpenters album wasn’t just the thrill of having them record one of our songs, it was because we were going to be on an album with Paul Fucking Williams. I mean, come on! How awesome is that? Here’s the man that has written so many amazing songs and has had such a long and fruitful career, well…wow. The tragedy of being dropped off the record always bothered me, but him damn near running me down has been a favourite and oft told story by yours truly, and tonight I was going to be able to tell it to him and see if he remembered it.

He did.

A gracious and friendly man, Paul Williams was so much fun to talk to, so open to conversation with those who approached him, he reaffirms my belief that the bigger they are, the nicer they are. He is as humble as he is talented, and one hell of a great story teller. I wait patiently while he speaks with Andy Kim (who, like me, is excited just to be in the same room with him) and after their palaver, I call Paul over and he comes, a big grin on his face and his hand out to shake. I tell him the story. He laughs, he nods, and then he says, “Green. The Mustang was green.” I could have sworn it was blue…but I was so busy being frightened to death, I may have gone colour blind for a minute.

Later, we were all treated to a performance by the man that included some of his biggest hits, but the topper, the one that made it an even more memorable night, was the song he said ‘put my kids through school’. We all sang along.

I will wager that is the first (and last) time anyone will ever sing the theme song to “Love Boat” in Cherry Cola’s. Bob and Paul. Picture by Richard Freedman

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Last Friday I’m back at Cherry Cola’s on my usual perch when my bladder reminds me that you can only rent beer and sends a message to my brain telling me to hit the john. Not wanting to lose my seat, I ask the girl standing next to me if she will keep it warm while I do my business. She nods in the affirmative and off I go. When I return, she graciously gives it up, and as I regain my spot, an attractive woman standing next to her gives me a withering look and says, “Really?” I look back and say, “Excuse me?” and she repeats, “Really?” I figure out what she means and explain, “I’m old, I’m diabetic, I have two collapsed discs in my neck and my back is killing me…really.” and sit back down. If you are a long time reader, you will remember my almost encounter with Martha Reeves in L.A back in the late ’60s that I blew by missing a step and landing face down on the floor at her feet and so embarrassed the person who was going to introduce me to her, that she led Martha away and I never did meet her.

This is worse.

I continue to get disdainful looks from this woman who is looking more and more beautiful every time I see her glaring at me. I start to feel that I may have been able to handle the situation better than I had, but shrugged it off and started talking with the guy sitting next to me. A few minutes later, the need for a smoke forces me outside, where I see Glenn Hughes talking to this woman who is beginning to seem vaguely familiar to me. I light up, watching them from a short distance away, trying to place her…remember where I know her from. Glenn gestures toward me, “This is Bob. He’s really difficult to like, but eventually you do.” Took me a long time, anyway.” I smile wanly. Thanks for the glowing review Glenn, I think to myself. Then the rest of what he’s saying filters through. “Bob”, he says, leading her over to where I’m standing, “This is Mindy Clarke, Mindy…Bob.” and walks away. Mindy Clarke? Melinda Clarke??? Holy Shit!

Lady Heather.

The actress whose portrayal of a dominatrix (later therapist) on CSI and whose story arc covered appearances in several seasons of that show, and whose beauty is matched by her talent and the ability to bring the characters she plays to full blown life is standing next to me on the patio at my favourite bar. WTF?

And she already thinks I’m an asshole.

Melinda Clarke” I say to her. “Lady Heather”.

Yes”, she answers.

Really?” I say.

She smiles.

And what a smile. I honestly can’t remember if I blithered or not, and I’m not sure what we talked about, but we talked for several minutes and it was a nice conversation. True, you can get lost in her eyes if you look into them too long, and yes, she is even more beautiful in person than she is on the screen, and yes, I have had a crush on her for years and felt like an acne covered teenager with a voice that cracked every time I spoke to her.

It was a great feeling.

If you are familiar with her work (which I became aware of retroactively) you will know what a fine actress she is, and now I can tell you she has the depth as a person you hope and wish our celebrities have. She was here for the film festival, and she was a fine addition to the Toronto firmament.

Really.

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now sadly gone), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

One Response to “Segarini: Magic VS Science and Two Quick Stories”

  1. Dad, I’m still jealous about Paul Williams. And I’m not the jealous type. Might have to watch Phantom of the Paradise for the umpteenth time tonight. ❤

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