Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – R

The Replacements – “Color Me Obsessed”

One of the highlights for my inaugural year as the NXNE Film Festival was the discovery and screening of “Color Me Obsessed – A Film About The Replacements”.  The screening process for a film fest is very similar to the A&R process at a record company. You go through hundreds of submissions and hope to find a gem or two. I must say that the film process does takes a while longer as a lot of this suckers run 90+ minutes, and, being a martyr I watched every minute of them (rookie mistake). Much like music, most people who submit films have delusions of grandeur and absolutely no right screening most of their projects outside of their living rooms.

This year I have already watched 100 films and submissions are still open until the end of the month ( Anyway, when I saw the cover for “Color Me Obsessed” I was pretty pumped to watch it as I was always a Mats fan. Written and directed by Gorman Bechard and based upon an idea by Hansi Oppenheimer (who appears in a movie I just reviewed for the 2012 fest) “Color Me Obsessed” is a loving look at one of America’s most overlooked bands. The way Gorman approached the film was very unique in that he never spoke with the band, never showed a live performance or cut away to videos. He only spoke to the fans of the band, whether they were rock stars, members of Husker Du, The Decemberists, The Hold Steady, actors, George Wendt, Dave Foley, Tom Arnold, rock critics, Ira Robbins, Robert Christgau, or, most importantly, the hard core fans who paid to see the band and bought their records. This has the potential of being boring as hell but before you know it two hours have raced by, and, without ever hearing the band, you are either dying to grab your vinyl and listen to your fave Mats songs, or, if you have never heard the band you are dying to go on a discovery mission. A fascinating look at rock’n’roll fandom. Can’t wait to see what Gorman does with Archers of Loaf.

R is for Records and here are some of faves.

The Raspberries 

Some of the worst album covers ever but some of the most glorious records of the seventies. None of their albums were total standouts but their greatest hits are outstanding. The guitar riff on “Go All The Way” is worth the price of admission and Eric Carmen’s voice is the embodiment of rock’n’roll. “I Wanna Be With You” could have been a Beatles song circa 1964. Power chords raise their beautiful heads once again on “Tonight” and piano takes over the lead on “Overnight Sensation” which probably has more lyrical relevance today. Thank you Cleveland, you done us proud.

Rich Kids

This is my favourite red vinyl 7“ record. Plain red sleeve, glorious red vinyl. By today’s standards they would be a super group with members of The Sex Pistols, Ultravox, P.I.L. and Visage. When Glen Matlock left the Pistols he formed Rich Kids with Midge Ure, Rusty Egan and Steve New and released this slice of vinyl heaven. The band only lasted a year before Ure went off to join Ultravox, Egan joined Visage and New went on to play guitar for P.I.L.. “Ghost Of Princes In Towers” was their only album and was produced by Mick Ronson. It contained the single “Rich Kids” which can be seen in this Top Of The Pops episode from 1978. Listen and watch as Matlock does the Hamburg-era McCartney on bass.

Rick Derringer – “All American Boy”

“Rock And Roll, Hootchie Koo” would be in my top 5 car songs of all time. Drum intro, wah-wah guitar, inane lyrics, a solo I can still “air” along to, and let’s face it, Rick Derringer had great hair. This album came out when I was fourteen and at my peak of musical discovery, and teen alienation, and it  left a big mark. Listening today the lyrics are somewhat embarrassing but they touched me then. Musically  the record was all over the map, included two instrumentals, too many ballads, a little country and songs about 15 year old girls (older women to me, jail bait for Rick). No matter. This record will always hold a place in my heart. There are no guilty pleasures.

Robert Gordon – Rock Billy Boogie

One of my first gigs at Quality Records was working with Robert Gordon and Link Wray on their first two records. They were my introduction to rockabilly. In 1979 Robert hooked up with Chris Spedding and recorded his epic “Rock Billy Boogie”. From the recording, song selection and cover this one was damn near perfect. His version of “It’s Only Make Believe” is better than Conway’s and “Black Slacks”, the one hit from Joe Bennett & The Sparkletones, is putty in his hands. The title track should have been the hit single that eluded him and sent him off to Stray Cats stardom and “Blue Christmas“ gives Elvis a run for his money. I saw Robert perform with a pick-up band at the Bovine in Toronto late last year and he still has the voice and the swagger.

Roger Waters “Radio K.A.O.S.”

Maybe working with Paul Carrack at the time clouded my judgement but I still consider this to be one of Roger Waters finest hours. A true concept, both on record and during the jaw dropping stage show. It is one of those records that I always listen to in its entirety and hear it more as a collection of under rated songs rather than the “Billy/Benny” concept. Carrack contributed vocals to the album. I know the vocoder voice of Billy and the inclusion of the voiceover by DJ Jim Ladd are a hindrance to many I find they add more than they distract. Also, no matter what album he is performing Waters is also worth seeing live.

The Records “Starry Eyes/Teenarama”

A one-two punch of perfect pop. A British blend of Big Star and The Raspberries, and, much like the later, not remembered for their albums but for their singles. “Starry Eyes” came out in 1978 and had the classic line “The writ has hit the fan”. Pop poetry complete with jangly guitars. Their second big single was “Teenarama” with it’s “co-co-co cola” pre-chorus and perfect tip of the hat to the Kinks. They also recorded a decent version of The Bay City Roller’s “Rock And Roll Love Letter”. Hey, good pop is good pop.

Recent Records

I have a couple of Lana Del Ray songs on my current list on my iPod and whenever they play I always have to check who it is (my current play list changes almost daily). I have not seen any of her videos and was unaware of her back story when I stumbled on to her recent Saturday Night Live performance. The performance was so minimal and surreal I couldn’t decide if I was appalled or entranced. I decided upon the latter and eagerly await to hear the rest of the record. If it was a record company ploy it worked as everyone was talking about her the next day and she went from off the grid to on the radar. There was a lot of hating going on. Colour me not jaded.

The reverse is true with Walk Off The Earth and their cover of Gotye’s “Someone I Used To Know’. So, more power to them for “going viral” and getting on Ellen, but come on, the video is a novelty and should that equate to a record deal? And, in all honesty, the original song would probably not even make it as a Police B-side. Colour me jaded.

Another song that has sparked a lot of controversy on Twitter and Facebook is Van Halen’s “Tattoo”. I checked out the video and had no qualms. Diamond Dave still makes me smile and seeing Wolfie playing with a revitalized Eddie was like watching Gordie Howe skate with Mark and Marty. Bring on the tour.  Not jaded.

The Weeknd have never released an album for sale, but you can download all three of their albums for free on their website.

Lots of hype, and a Polaris nomination, around this group and the fact that Drake has been somewhat involved does not impress me in the least. If you are going to do a cover, do a cover and make the song your own. The Weeknd did this with their stunning version of MJ’s “Dirty Diana” stripping off a layer of Quincy frosting and making it their own. The same can be said for Scotland’s brilliant The Twilight Sad. They take “Never Tear Us Apart” from INXS and totally interpret it as their own without losing the essence of the original. Once again you can go to their website and download this for free. See, I don’t hate covers.

As always if you are in Toronto and looking for a cool rock’n’roll diner please visit our friends at Shanghai Cowgirl 538 Queen Street West. It is right beside the world famous  Bovine and around the corner from Cherry Cola’s.

Cameron’s column appears every Thursday. 

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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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