Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – J

This week’s episode goes out to my boy Jay Sparrow. He is currently working on new material on the west coast and will have a couple of great things coming out shortly. You can check out some great music and videos here http://www.myspace.com/jaysparrowpage.

Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten

God damn I miss Joe Strummer. From the first time I saw The Clash at the Rex Danforth Theatre on February 20, 1979 to the last time he played Toronto with The Mescaleros on October 14, 2001 I don’t think I missed a show he played around these parts. One of the best rock docs out there is the film that Julien Temple made “Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten“.

I reviewed the film in Gasoline Magazine after it was released in 2007.

“Fuck Bono. Fuck U2 3D. If you are going to spend money on a rock’n’roll movie rent or buy this. The moment that made me cringe the most in ‘Joe Strummer : The Future Is Unwritten‘ is when Bono, solo, sits by a campfire in the early evening (sunglasses on of course) and pontificates about what The Clash meant to him and how “pissed” he is that they aren’t still around. The Clash had no choice but to implode and this lengthy and detailed documentary by noted Sex Pistols lensmith Julien Temple shows when, where and why it had to happen. Unfortunately it didn’t happen before the dismal “Cut The Crap” album.

We all know how this movie ends. It opens with various radio reports from around the world declaring that Strummer had died days before Christmas in 2002 at the age of 50. Temple uses two recurring devices to thread the story together. Strummer was a big fan of bonfire chats where friends sat around, chatted and played music, and, was a host of a BBC World Service radio show heard around the world. Throughout the film we hear Strummer narrate his radio show and play the music that influenced and affected him, and we see groups of friends, family and band mates gather around fires and tell their stories. The characters around the various campfires are never identified but let their stories weave the tale. (The site of Johnny Depp in pseudo Jack Sparrow garb elicited laughter at the screening I attended).

There is a lot of great Clash footage presented which includes grainy images of a reunited Strummer and Mick Jones playing a firefighter’s benefit in England weeks before Strummer’s passing but there is more combined footage of his life before and after The Clash and that is where the most intriguing bits are to be found. The soundtrack for the film is extraordinary and is a more than worthy companion piece to this moving and thought provoking documentary.”

Thanks for everything Joe.

Just Kids – Patti Smith

Hands down this is my favourite book of 2011. In a lot of ways Patti Smith and Joe Strummer lived parallel lives in the pre-punk days in their respective countries. While Joe squatted in the UK, Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe traded artwork for rent at The Chelsea Hotel. Patti was there as Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s defined the  New York scene and Joe was in London as the 100 Club and The Roxy defined the emerging U.K. scene. I am sure Strummer was in attendance when Patti played The Roundhouse in London in the spring of 1976 and showed the London audience what New York was up to. I digress (as usual).

This book is a love story. It is the story (as told by Patti) of two desperate souls who wound up together and changed their lives and American culture forever. They were hippies, they were punks, they were poets and painters and if they had not been drawn together they would not have become two of the most iconic figures in American music and photography. The two would produce one great piece of art together when Mapplethorpe photographed the cover for Patti’s “Horses” album and that simple shoot would even shake-up the fashion industry. The famous characters who weave in and out of the narrative make for fascinating reading and show the formation of a whole culture in New York city.

If there is one “must read” from the last year this is it.

The Jags – “Back Of My Hand” 

“Back Of My Hand (I’ve Got Your Number)” didn’t even garner London’s The Jags one hit wonder status. It did  manage to chart in England in 1979 but to call it a hit would be stretching it. What is was was the perfect mix of power pop and new wave. I don’t remember where I first heard it but as soon as I saw the 12” Island Records U.K. import I snapped it up. They followed shortly after with the decent album “Evening Standards” but by 1982 they faded in to obscurity.  One great song and a lifetime of memories. Still sounds great today and rockets me back to the late seventies.

Joe Jackson

When Joe Jackson played his first shows in Toronto on May 21, 1979 A&M Records had pulled out all of the stops. We all had our copies of “Look Sharp!”, requisite square promo badges, free drink tickets and an armful of British press. There were two shows that night at the El Mocambo and although the first was a sell-out (and packed with media), the second was left with seats to fill and we were invited to stay by the label. Sweet.

It was obvious that “Look Sharp!” was going to draw comparisons to Elvis Costello and Graham Parker as they were established in the U.K. market and making a massive effort to be accepted in North America. Over 30 years and 20-odd albums later I don’t think anyone would have predicted the depth and the wide musical range of Jackson’s catalogue. For most folks “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” (which charted higher in Canada than anywhere else in the world) and “Steppin’ Out” might come to mind but they would be hard pressed to name a couple of more tunes. Between 1979 and 1982 Joe released five studio albums which ranged from new wave, reggae, rock, big band and torch. He didn’t play by the rules and refused to adhere to them. He would go to to compose symphonies and release salsa-inspired records. Not much has changed to this day. An artist’s artist.

About ten years after Joe’s Toronto debut at the El Mocambo I was looking for a venue for the first Canadian show by The Proclaimers. Although it wasn’t the hipster spot in was in the late seventies I convinced the band’s manager that the El Mo would be the perfect room. The show was a complete sell-out and a total success. The Proclaimers manager (John Telfer) was pleased. The last time he was at the venue was in May of 1979 when he managed Joe Jackson.

Josie Cotton 

Today when you want to send music to a radio station or a reviewer it can be done in a click. Back in 1982 you got master tapes, made a mother, master, stamper and then vinyl. At Quality Records (380 Birchmount) we were lucky enough to have our own pressing plant and we could turn around vinyl as fast, or faster, than most labels.

It was Gary Pring and Joe Bamford who first told us about Josie Cotton and her novelty song “Johnny, Are You Queer” which was originally released on Bomp! Records in L.A. but because of its regional success had been snapped up by Elektra Records. The Kings had recently signed with Elektra in the U.S. and Pring and Bamford were managing them. Somehow they became the brokers for Josie’s record and approached us for distribution. We needed to move quick as novelty records can have a short self-life and the record could be gone by the time we got it in to the market. We has assurances from CHUM-AM that they would spin it if we could supply it. Not having the luxury of waiting for the master tapes it was determined that we could press vinyl from vinyl and when the 7” and 12” singles arrived at the office one morning the technicians went to work in the back room. By four PM that after we had finished copies of the record and it was on the air that night at CHUM. The single ultimately went top five on the station and we had a substantial hit across the country.

The song itself was a perfect throwback to the early sixties Phil Spector girl group sound, and, if it was good enough to be picked up by the late great Greg Shaw at Bomp!,  we knew it was good enough for us. I doubt that we could chart the song today but it was as harmless as “I Kissed A Girl”. The album “Convertible Music” was never given the credit it deserved as a classic pop record as it was completely overshadowed by the single. It is up on iTunes and worth checking out.

Just Because

Just because I can please go over to www.stickymagazine.com and pick up yet another free track from the new Amos The Transparent album. If you are in the Ottawa area the band will be playing The Live Lounge this Saturday night.

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.

And if you are in Toronto and looking for a cool rock’n’roll dinner please visit our friends at Shanghai Cowgirl 538 Queen Street West. It is right beside The Bovine just east of Bathurst.

3 Responses to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – J”

  1. From what I remember, Josie Cotten was a heiress from a Texas oil family. Gary Pring and Joe Bamford would never have heard of her if not for Randy Phillips, The Kings’ US manager who was handling her. Gary was a good guy, gone too soon. Hard to imagine this story happening today…

    • Cameron Carpenter Says:

      I think you are correct on both counts. I knew that she came from “family” money. Very sad, and sudden, when we lost Gary. I still see Joe on occasion and years after Josie I signed the Canadian band The Headstones, managed by Joe, to MCA Records Canada.

      • Cotton, spelled it wrong. Anyway, Gary was perhaps the most honest person I ever met in the music business. Maybe he was too nice in a business where being a bastard is rewarded. Talked to Joe a couple weeks back, he’s a good guy too. And to make the world even smaller, Headstoner Dale Harrison is The Kings’ #2 drummer when our regular guy can’t make it. Dale is also a fine lad and a great player. I ran into Hugh on a movie set once, told him who I was, ‘I love you guys’ is what he said. Good to see his success.

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