Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s of Rock – C

Let’s C….
Let’s all tip our trucker hats to the almost-legend that was C’mon. Ian Blurton is one of Canada’s rock’n’roll treasures and his three-piece powerhouse will play their last shows at Toronto’s Cherry Cola’s on October 20th and at The Bovine Sex Club on October 22nd. After 15 years and a sniff of success with Change Of Heart, Blurton spent three years with his next band Blurtonia before forming C’mon with drummer Randy Curnew and Nashville Pussy bassist Katie Lynn Campbell in 2003. After a myriad of Canadian tours Curnew left the band in 2006 and was replaced by Dean Dallas Bentley.

Now folks this was a rock band. One afternoon a few years ago I was holding court in front of the Shanghai Cowgirl and watched as Blurton crammed a large bass cabinet in to an economy sized car leaving just enough room in the backseat for one band member to sit. I asked them where they were heading. “Newfoundland” replied Blurton as casually as if he was headed to the Mansion in Barrie. Last year at The Seahorse in Halifax I watched the band play a stunning late night set during The Halifax Pop Explosion when a projectile hit the drummer. As Katie and Ian dropped in to a dirty groove the drummer leapt from the stage, decked the alleged culprit and returned to his kit nary missing a beat. This was also a band that never turned down a Jagermeister challenge, and, to the best of my knowledge, never lost one.
During their time the band released four albums “Beyond The Pale Horse”, “Bottled Lightning (Of An All Time High)”, “In The Heat Of A Moment” and “Midnight Is The Answer” as well as a series of vinyl singles and EP’s.

Burton has become one of Canada’s best producers (The Weakerthans, Lowest Of The Low and Rheostatics to name but a few) and I know there is a lot more rock left (pun intended) in him. Thanks for the good times Ian, Katie, Dallas and Randy.

The Curse

One of the most memorable record release parties during the original Toronto punk era was for the release of “Shoeshine Boy” by The Curse in 1978. They were arguably North America’s first all female punk band as they had played shows with The Viletones back in 1977. The party was held in the basement of the Isabella Hotel (a then run down short lived punk venue on Sherbourne Street) and the media was out in full force. The local scene had just made the radar of the daily papers and an all female band coupled with a racy band name and a song about a murdered youngster was a story they couldn’t resist. The “punch’ for the party was in a huge steel bathtub and party guests were invited to dip their cups in it for refreshment. The trick was to avoid the tampons that were floating on top. Very punky. I pulled out my original 45 last night to verify the date (it was released on Hi – Fi Records in 1978 b/w “The Killer Bees) and was pleased to see the label had been signed by the original members Mickey Skinn, Trixie Danger, Dr. Bourque and Patsy Poison. I also noticed that the single was recorded by the late great Gabor Hedegus (B.B. Gabor) and engineered by Rich Dodson of The Stampeders. Somewhere there are pictures of a very youthful Bob Segarini, Greg Godovitz and myself from that historic night.

Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick made headlines all over the world this summer when they narrowly escaped disaster at Ottawa’s Bluesfest when the entire stage collapsed amidst a violent summer storm. This week they took the cause to Washington DC as they lobby for mandatory regulations for portable stages. Good on ‘em.

My stories (and there are a few) with Cheap Trick go back to June 2, 1978. I was sent to Buffalo to review an R.E.O. Speedwagon show for The New Music Magazine. CBS Records (Joe Owens, Marty Herzog and company) were going to take Wilder Penfield III (Toronto Sun rock critic) and I down to Buffalo in a limo (driven by Brian Stutz who for some reason was called Bill when my story went to print) to review the show and hang out with the bands at The Anchor Bar post-show. Not thinking about who was going to open the show I was very surprised and impressed by the pride of Rockford. Illinois Cheap Trick. They were on tour in support on their album “Heaven Tonight” and had just returned from Japan where they were superstars. Later in 1978 they would release the “Live At Budokan” album and start headlining arenas across North America. The band blew me away on stage. From the opening song “Hello There’ to their closer ‘Goodnight” the four piece rocked like no other band I had seen to that point. Chain-smoking drummer Bun E. Carlos did his best Fred Mertz impersonation behind his kit while glamour boy Tom Petersson played four, five and eight string bass guitar (he had not invented the 12-string quad yet) as the bow-tied pick flicking Rick Nielsen crunched power chords on a collection of custom and vintage guitars and Robin Zander held the whole thing together with his powerful vocals. With equal parts The Beatles, The Who and The Raspberries the band created perfect rock-pop anthems with more often then not dark twisted lyrics. If there was a better rock radio single than “Surrender” in 1978 I have yet to hear it.

After the show we headed to the Anchor Bar for beer and wings with Cheap Trick and were were presented with white tuxedo jackets by the promoters Harvey & Corky (now better known as Harvey Weinstein – Miramax/The Weinstein Company). Still have it.
With the success of the “Budokan’ album the band headlined Maple Leaf Gardens the next summer with Graham Parker in support. I interviewed the band again for The New Music Magazine and spent a couple of days with them.
After I signed the Headstones at MCA one of their most memorable shows was opening for Cheap Trick at the Guvernment in Toronto.
Through all of the years Cheap Trick are still one of your best bets for a live show. With over 20 albums and over 35 years on the road the band is as tight today as they ever were and Robin’s voice is still impeccably strong. Lately Rick’s sons Dazz has been filling in for Bun E. as he performs with another great power pop band Tinted Windows. For a great one-stop overview of the band’s music pick up the box set “Sex, America, Cheap Trick” and I can highly recommend their 2009 album “The Latest” which had some great songs on it.

The Clash – Westway To The World

This Grammy winning 2000 documentary directed by Don Letts is the definitive view of The Clash. From 1976 to 1984 their wasn’t a better rock’n’roll band on the planet and Letts was there to capture it all. Put it on with the Julien Temple 2007 documentary “Joe Strummer – The Future is Unwritten” and you have a perfect punk double-bill. Famed rock photographer Bob Gruen, who photographed The Clash on many occasions, will be returning to Toronto with his new photography exhibit at The Liss Gallery (140 Yorkville Avenue) on October 15th. If you missed his spectacular show last time around make sure you head on down this time.

We now have an email where all of us here at Don’t Believe A Word I Say can be contacted Please use it to ask questions, tell us what you would like to read about, links you would like to share, and, let’s hear what you have to say.

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.

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