Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – G

This is one for my friend GGGarth Richardson. One of Canada’s best producers, biggest Maple Leafs fan in the world and an all around great human being.

Genesis At The Gardens
December 16, 1975. It was a night of firsts and a night of lasts. It was the first time Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens configured their seating plan to a “Concert Bowl’ setting. At that time the venue held about 18,000 for hockey and concerts but for a show too big for Massey Hall and too small for the full Gardens they draped half of the venue for a more intimate vibe.

Back in those days the transition was high schools, bars, Massey Hall, MLG (ask Rush or Triumph).  The show was Genesis and they performed their new double album “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”. It was also the last time that Peter Gabriel would perform in Toronto as a member of Genesis.

There was something magic about seeing concerts at The Gardens. In the seventies the tickets were colour-coded to the section you would be sitting in. Originally it was reds, blues, greens, greys and floors, changing somewhat in the beginning of the decade when the reds became golds. The colour of your ticket was a badge of honour and you could see in a glance where everyone was sitting as you passed thru the turnstiles beside Doug Laurie Sports. The floor seats were in perfect rows with right, left and centre sections of folding chairs which very never used once the lights went down.

Production was nothing like it is today and that was made “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” tour so spectacular. Peter Gabriel was a master of theatrics and the costumes and choreography were equal parts Bowie and Alice Cooper minus the glam and the gore. I still have no idea what most of the album means but it proudly sits high atop the Genesis pile. God I miss that place.

The Gasworks

After many a Gardens show the troops headed up Yonge Street to the corner of  Dundonald for a quart or two at the Gasworks. In the seventies and eighties this area was the epicentre of rock’n’roll in the city. From clothing (Master John boots and Skin And Bones) to hair (The House Of Lords and later Snoopers) to clubs (Gasworks, Yonge Station , Club Davids and later Rock’n’Roll Heaven) and of course The Two Garys booking bands like The Ramones, Talking Heads and The Dead Boys at the old New Yorker Theatre. For years you travelled no further south than Wellesley and no further north than Yorkville.

The Gasworks was the focal point. In the seventies you could see bands such as Rush, Triumph, Saga, A Foot In Coldwater and Thundermug and then as the eighties dawned bands like Goddo became the new torchbearers. In the late eighties the bar became the second home of Sebastian Bach  (Skid Row) with his bands The VO 5’s and kid Wikked. The working class bar became the new home of hair metal in the city. Inside it was always a bit of a dump. The washrooms gave CBGB’s a run for their money and the stage left a little to be desired. Beer was served in quart bottles and there was actually a pretty decent kitchen at one point. I voted them the best burger in the city in a cover story in The New Music Magazine back in the late seventies. The bouncers were enormous, the place was fogged by cigarette smoke and the carpets were drenched in Stock Ale but there was never another club like it in Toronto. They closed the doors on January 9, 1993 with a monster jam featuring members of Triumph, Goddo, Teenage Head, Wild T, Platinum Blonde and various others with Baz holding court in the middle of it all. It will forever be remembered for being re-created (and no, it looked nothing like it) in the film “Wayne’s World” with Wayne’s immortal line “The Gasworks, always a babe fest!”

Genya Ravan

If you ever want to read a book about a true rock’n’roll rebel and one of the first women to bust down the doors of the male-dominated hard rock scene try turning the pages of “Lollipop Lounge – Memoirs Of A Rock And Roll Refugee” by Genya Ravan. I first met her on a promotional tour for her solo album “Urban Desire” back in the late seventies. It was a pretty provocative album cover and at that point I didn’t know too much about her early history but I loved her album and she had also produced “Young, Loud And Snotty” by The Dead Boys. I had never met a woman like her before. She was in her late thirties at that point, brass, loud, totally New York and bubbling over with a kind of sexuality that was all new to me. She sensed my fear and was very gentle during the interview. After our allotted time we hung out with her touring guitar player and I heard the stories behind her life. In the early sixties she was the lead singer for Richard Perry’s band The Escorts and then she formed the all-girl Goldie & The Gingerbreads. After seeing them at a party in New York Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun signed them to his label. Although they never had a top ten record the band spent a lot of time touring in Europe with the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Kinks, The Hollies and The Yardbirds. The girls lived the life of being on the road.

In the late sixties Goldie changed her name to Genya and formed the jazz-rock fusion band Ten Wheel Drive who were a hit on the Fillmore east circuit. After laying low for a couple of years she awoke when the punk scene hit NYC and produced the brilliant first Dead Boys album and recorded “Urban Desire’. She had a minor hit with her cover of The Supreme’s  “Back in My Arms Again” (a killer version) and pals such as Lou Reed appeared on the record. If you can find the book it is well worth reading. If any woman deserves to be in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame it is Genya.

Graham Parker

Frank Gutch Jr. hit the nail on the head in his column yesterday about how we listen to music today. It certainly has changed over the course of the last few decades. The first thing you did in the seventies when visiting a friend was to check out their stereo system and their record collection. Now stereo systems did involve economics so your couldn’t totally fault someone if they had one that was less than adequate but you could tell a lot about a person by their record collection. You knew how long you were going to hang out in about five minutes after a quick thumbing of the collection (extra marks for vinyl in sleeves and the collection being in alphabetical order by artist and release date).  We would  endlessly listen to albums in their entirety and pour over the liner notes. It is so rare to listen to a full album anymore but one that I can only hear from back-to-back is “Squeezing Out Sparks” by Graham Parker.

Parker had some minor chart success and massive critical acclaim for his band The Rumour in the mid-seventies. It was almost a pub rock super group featuring Parker along with members of Brinsley Schwarz and Duck’s Deluxe. A tad too horn heavy for me I had pretty well given up on Parker by the time he released “Squeezing Out Sparks” in 1979. He had just signed with Arista Records and with the new wave success of both Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson it is still beyond me why this album is not held in the same acclaim as “Look Sharp” or “Armed Forces”.

“You Can’t Be Too Strong” was the first song I realized was about abortion, “Discovering Japan” touched on virginity, “Nobody Hurts You” was heavy on remorse and, it became obvious as you spent more and more time with this record, that Parker had something to say and was mature enough at that point to lay it all on the table. There was no hit on the album, no over-played videos, no massive hype just one of the best rock records ever recorded. If you can find the double CD which also contains the entire album recorded live (“Live Sparks”) grab it. It also contains rare 7” version of “Mercury Poison”.

Gratuitous Promotion

Please go to www.amosthetransparent.com today and grab a free download of their new single “ Sure As The Weather”. This Ottawa based band has been slowly developing in to one of  Canada’s greatest live acts and they have finally recorded the album that will move them to the next level. Trust me.

Also, feel free to go to www.45records.ca and check out our latest international signing, My First Tooth. If you are a fan of The Waterboys or Mumford & Sons check out these hot new Brits.

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.

5 Responses to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – G”

  1. Cam i still listen to full albums much to the dismay of the people in the room but if I’m at the controls, too bad! But your right, now we listen to songs, not pieces of work. Cheers

  2. Mark Benvenete Says:

    I was at that Genisis concert and a few others at M L G. I remember the new years eve parties with Rush as well over 200 other acts I saw there. Each time I was in that building I did not like the fact that the building itself was shaking from the sound vibrations. Now they are re~ferbishing the old cash box on Carleton street but why? The morter used at that time in no way matches the strength of todays cement. With that buildings age and the amount of use it has had personally I would be afraid of the thing collapsing. Not withstanding the pounding it is taking during this conversion process. As histarical a land mark as it is, I compair it to the big O in Montreal, nice to look at but do you really want to be inside it?

  3. Amos the Transparent, indeed. Great track! Where is radio when you need them? Am I to assume that these guys are not major label?

  4. Cameron Carpenter Says:

    Nope, indie. We manage them. They had some major U.S. exposure this year as one of their songs was featured in a “Plenty Of Fish” spot.

  5. great piece as usual. i saw my first show at maple leafs (probably wrote about it on this site). Pearl Jam in the mid nineties. as for listening to albums front to back lately i’ve been loving Band of Skulls, and their album is on constant play in my car. highly recommend!

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