Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – M

For my money there is not a better hard rock album than the eponymous debut by Montrose. Released in late 1973, and produced by Ted Templeman, the record paved the road for the L.A. scene that would be developed in the late seventies with Van Halen being at the epicentre.
Templeman was a rocker before he became one of the in-house producers at Warner Brothers. He had cut his teeth in the late sixties with cult favourites Harpers Bizarre. At Warners he produced the self-titled debut by The Doobie Brothers as well as their second album “Toulouse Street”. He is credited with co-producing “Tupelo Honey” with Van Morrison and it was here when he first worked with guitarist Ronnie Montrose and Bill ‘Electric” Church.

After the Morrison record Ronnie would join The Edgar Winter Group and work on their biggest album “They Only Come Out At Night” which featured the monster hits “Free Ride” and “Frankenstein”. Also in the band at that point was Edgar, Dan Hartman, Chuck Ruff and Rick Derringer. Hartman would go on to record the disco classic “Instant Replay” and Derringer, who had played on The McCoy’s “Hang On Sloopy” when he was 17, would find huge success with his anthem “Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo”.  Chuck Ruff would later join Sammy Hagar’s band.

After the success of the Edgar Winter alum Montrose was ready to strike out on his own and recruited his old friend Bill Church, drummer Denny Carmassi and little-known singer Sammy Hagar. From the opening riffs of “Rock the Nation” to the last bluesy notes of “Make it Last” there was something new and groundbreaking happening with this group. All you need to hear is the beginning of “Bad Motor Scooter” and it becomes quickly apparent where Templeman discovered the sound that would make Eddie Van Halen one of the most recognizable guitarists on the planet. It was the song “Space Station #5” that originally floored me. Not being able to play a note on a guitar I could not figure out how they were recording those sounds. They soared, they danced from speaker to speaker and they flat out rocked. As the band races towards the finish at an impossible pace the tape speeds up and seems to fly off the spools. This was pretty damn cool for 1973. Almost twenty years later The Pursuit Of Happiness used “Space Station #5” as their intro music. That little musical bonding moment has made me and Moe Berg friends for life.

The rest of the album was rock solid and a perfect showcase for Ronnie’s guitar playing and Sammy’s powerful voice. I would much rather see Sammy back in Montrose than Van Halen.

In  August 1978 Sammy and his band were opening for Boston at Maple Leaf Gardens for two nights and I spent both days hanging around the pool at the old Four Seasons on Jarvis street with Bob Segarini, Sammy and his band mates Chuck Ruff and Bill Church happily getting my Montrose and Edgar Winter albums signed. Bob can probably help out here as I know he was friends of the three of them from California.

For a really honest rock’n’roll read I highly recommend “Red – My Uncensored Life In Rock” by Sammy. He lays it all out and shoots straight from the hip. A surprisingly good read.

Mink DeVille – Cabretta
Which one’s Mink? Well, actually none of them. Mink Deville was the band and the late great Willy DeVille (born Billy Borsel) was the lead singer. Although presumed to be a New York group the band was actually formed in San Francisco and moved to New York to audition to become one of the house bands at CBGB’s.. For three years the band played the Bowery dive before the NYC music explosion of 1976- 78  which saw The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, Patti Smith and a host of others define a new attitude and style for New York’s music scene. Although they were clumped in with the punk scene Mink Deville were a mixed cocktail of soul, blues and rock. It was West Side Story in the Lower East Side. With sirens wailing and fingers snapping “Venus of Avenue D’ immediately sets the tone of the album. Raunchy guitars, sleazy saxophone, cars, girls, stockings and attitude. The same goes for “Spanish Stroll” with its wolf whistles and Spanish patter. You can practically see these tough looking dudes strolling the streets looking like The Sharks. Produced by Phil Spector trained Jack Nitzsche the album sounds like it could have been recorded by Spector back in the early sixties.

I was lucky enough to interview Willy a couple of times in the seventies, once before his El Mocambo show in 1977 and the second before the Elvis Costello, Mink DeVille, Nick Lowe show at Massey Hall in 1978, one of the best concerts I ever saw. I was initially intimidated by his presence, and that of his wonderfully eccentric wife Toots, but it soon became apparent that he wanted me to know the roots of his music and all of the great bands that had inspired him (and who I had not heard of at that point). Willy went on to record a volume of amazing work but this record will always be the one that stands out for me. He is missed.

Mott The Hoople
Is there a better name in rock’n’ roll than Aerial Bender? Bender joined Mott The Hoople in 1973 when founding member Mick Ralphs left the band to form Bad Company. One listen to the “All The Young

Dudes” album will give you a pretty good idea of where Bad Company developed their sound as the Ralphs penned “Ready for Love“ became a huge hit for Bad Company and not Mott. . Aerial Bender was actually Spooky Tooth guitarist Luther Grosvenor but for contractual reasons he was not allowed to use the name. He only recorded on one Mott album, “Live”, which was released around the same time that Ian Hunter hooked-up with Mick Ronson and decided to go solo. You should all know my love for Mott by now and I am looking forward to seeing the new DVD “The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople” which was released last month.

The Daily Adventures Of Mixerman
If you ever want to know what went wrong with the major labels in America in the early 2000‘s, or, how frustrating it can be to record a band, this is a must read. Our narrator remains anonymous in this book as do the rest of the characters. It started off as a diary in 2002 and then became a blog and finally a book in 2009. It chronicles the story of an engineer working with a major label “bidding war band” and world class producer as they try to record the debut album. Anyone who has ever spent more than ten minutes in the studio for a big recording will revel in every word. There has been a lot of speculation about the engineer, producer and band but it doesn’t really matter who they were as the story is just as funny and sad without knowing their identities. As a former major label employee I should be offended by some of the swipes taken at label execs but as a Canadian we spent my much less time in the studios and let the bands create their sounds.

Mick Ronson
Along with his work for David Bowie and Ian Hunter Mick Ronson recorded two interesting solo albums in the seventies “Slaughter On 10th Avenue” and “Play Don’t Worry”. Littered with covers both records had their moments and combined, and stripped of their excesses, could have made one great album. Worth checking out for fans of the era.

Merry Playlist
If there is one song that gets to me every holiday season it is “Christmas Wrapping” from The Waitresses. The band had a minor hit with “I Know What Boys Like” and also wrote the theme for the network new wave sitcom “Square Pegs”. I always loved “Christmas Wrapping” and in the early nineties I found myself working with lead singer Patty Donahue at MCA Music Publishing (she in New York, me in Toronto). We spent a lot of time together at functions and conventions and is was one of the funniest and kindest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We lost Patty 15 years ago this month and I think of her every time I hear the song.

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 and around the corner from Cherry Cola’s.

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.

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

  1. a grand slam with this column cam!

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