Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – D

Diary Of A Rock ’n’ Roll Star
The best rock book ever written. Period. Ian Hunter takes us on a journey across America in November and December of 1972 as his band Mott The Hoople try to break in to the American market. It reads as an actual diary and you can tell by the tone that only Hunter put pen to ink. Unlike the Alice Cooper tour chronicled in “Billion Dollar Baby”, the Mott tour was a little lower budget, economy flights and economy accommodations and rarely a headline show. Hunter goes to great lengths to describe everything to his reader from the interior of a 747 to backstage catering and everything in between. It becomes Brit’s take on the promise (and letdown) of what is America.

We meet bands on their way up, bands on their way down and cross paths with David Bowie a few times. Bowie was a huge fan of the band (and also shared management) and offered them his song “Suffragette City” at first (which they turned down) and finally gave them his anthem “All The Young Dudes”. That song gave them just enough power to have a lighter or two lifted as a support act.
One of Hunter’s passions on this tour was to rummage around pawn shops for vintage guitars and unknowing proprietors. I’m sure some of the deals he passed on he still regrets to this day but he did find his signature Maltese Cross axe on one of his trips and walked away with it for $75.
It’s interesting to note that Hunter was no wide-eyed teenager on this trek across the U.S. and was well worn and in his early thirties. Perhaps it was that maturity and wisdom that led to the great prose.
First published in 1974, just as Hunter folded the band and began his solo career, the book was out of print for decades and next to impossible to find. In the late nineties Hunter’s wife Trudy (who he had just married prior to the 1972 tour and remains married to) purchased the rights of the book as a surprise for Ian and it is now widely available.
Check out Hunter’s website as he is still putting out great albums and touring as well as answering fan questions.www.ianhunter.com.
Once I get to Mick Ronson stories there will be a funny anecdote involving Hunter, Bemelmans, Segarini and snails.
The Diodes


It’s been a couple of good months for The Diodes. This summer they won a showdown at The Toronto Star and were named Toronto’s Best Band Ever. Earlier this month their song ‘Child Star” was number 12 on NME’S Lost 500 Songs with an intro by Bob Mould. In November the original band members will be playing shows in Toronto (The Horseshoe on the 17th), Waterloo, London and Hamilton.

The Diodes, and their manager Ralph Alfonso, were a huge part of the original Toronto punk scene. They were the perfect mix of punk, powerpop and art school (then known as OCA). Not as tough as The Viletones and not as traditional as Teenage Head the band was the epicentre of an ever-evolving scene. In collaboration with Mickey Skin from The Curse they released one of the scene’s first singles ‘War”/”Raw”. They were the first local punk bands to sign to a major (CBS Records) and one of the first to tour in major American markets including shows at Max’s and CBGB’s in New York, Chicago and Boston. They also ran the legendary “Crash ‘n’ Burn” club for a couple of months in the summer of 1977 which changed the scene forever. They brought bands like The Dead Boys and The Nerves to the club and showed them there was a viable punk rock movement in Toronto.

The one thing The Diodes could always deliver was songs. Their first “major’ single was a cover of ‘Red Rubber Ball” by the Cyrkle (co-written by Paul Simon) quickly followed with what would become their signature song “Tired Of Waking Up Tired”. During their original six year history they released four albums; “Diodes”, “Released”, “Action-Reaction” and Survivors’ and “Time/Damage Live 1978” was released in 2010 and Sony released “Tired Of Waking Up Tired – The Best Of The Diodes” in 1998 (your best bet as a starter kit).

I have seen the band a couple of times recently during the reunion tours and they are as good as ever. If you get a chance do yourself a favour and catch one of the upcoming Southern Ontario shows.

The Dishes

The Dishes were the perfect cross of OCA and, the now world famous art collective, General Idea. They were the original Queen Street West scenesters before there was even a scene. Singer Murray Ball was a cook at Peter Pan which became, for a very short time, the centre of the avant-garde music and arts scene in Toronto (it is still operating). The band also played residencies at Beverly Tavern before it even thought of being considered cool. Musically the band, driven by keyboards and sax, always reminded me of Sparks (much, much more on them later) with their quirky arrangements and humorous lyrics. They released two great EP’s “Fashion Plates” and “Hot Property!” in the late seventies. A great retrospective ‘Kitchenette: The Best Of The Dishes” was released by Bullseye in 2002.

The Dictators

Formed sometime around 1973 these New Yorkers were the missing piece of Lego between bands like The MC 5 and The New York Dolls and The Ramones and even Anthrax. They mixed rock, humour, bad-taste and attitude in to one glorious mess. Their debut album “Go Girl Crazy” featured singer Handsome Dick Manitoba, the self-proclaimed “handsomenest man in rock’n’roll”, on the cover in full wrasslin’ attire. Next up was “Manifest Destiny” in 1977 followed by their most consistent and musical album “Bloodbrothers”. Some of their greatest shows were at The Horseshoe Tavern, a double-bill with The Romantics in 1978 and, although no else seems to remember this show, a bill, also at the Shoe, with The Troggs a couple of years later.

A had a chance to work with Handsome Dick when he formed the band “Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom” and had an almost-hit in Canada with the song “The Party Starts Now”. There are still the occasional Dictators show and Dick runs a great bar in New York called appropriately enough Manitoba’s at 99 Avenue B. Chances are he will be serving the drinks if you stop by.

DIY

Today, more than ever, it is all about doing it yourself. The major label deals aren’t there (and in many ways not wanted) and bands around the world are doing it by themselves. It’s time to celebrate as Darryl Hurs and his team celebrate their 8th annual Indie Week event in Toronto. Starting last night there are hundreds of shows at some of Toronto’s most -loved venues (The Horseshoe, The Rivoli, The Bovine, Cherry Colas, The Velvet Underground and The Hideout amongst others) and they will have their doors open until 4AM serving-up great independent music from across North America and Ireland. With a $10 cover for most shows you are best to pick up a $25 wristband for the whole weekend. There are panels and mentoring sessions all weekend so check it out at www.indieweek.com. I have seen some great bands over the course of the last eight years and even signed one, an Irish one, Walter Mitty & The Realists.

We now have an email where all of us here at Don’t Believe A Word I Say can be contacted dbawis@rogers.com. 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.


One Response to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – D”

  1. Great read as usual, Cam. Thanks for the mention of the Dishes CD that my label released in 2002. Proud of that collection. Drummer Steven Davey (who writes a food column for NOW Magazine) was always a pleasure to work with on this project and the Keith Whittaker (Demics) demos we released in 2006.

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