Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – W

Was (Not Was)

There might not be a more eclectic album in my collection than 1983’s “Born To Laugh At Tornadoes” by Detroit’s Was (Not Was). I mean tell me another record that has a list of guest vocalists such as Ozzy Osbourne, Mel Torme, Mitch Ryder, Doug Fieger (The Knack), Marshall Crenshaw and Sweet Pea Atkinson? Throw in some guitars by the likes of Vinnie Vincent (Kiss) and you have a stew of rock, pop, funk and torch songs. Although they had their biggest hit with “Walk The Dinosaur” in 1988 this is the record that defines David Weiss (Don Was) and Donald Fagenson (David Was).

I was first introduced to them via my long missing pal Jack Tann as Quality Records was churning out disco covers in the boys Detroit based studio. That’s another story all together.

When I first heard “Born” I couldn’t believe it. Here was Detroit legend Mitch Ryder belting out “Bow Wow Wow Wow” while Ozzy Osbourne grooves like Prince on “Shake Your Head”. Doug Fieger donates two of his best vocal performances on “Smile” and a perfect Beatles take on “Betrayal” and the whole thing is topped off by Mel Torme singing a torch ballad about someone choking to death on “Zaz Turned Blue”. There is not a bad cut on this entire record and it covers the most musically diverse spectrum ever assembled on one disc topped off with dark, humorous lyrics.

As a side note many years later I was working with Eve 6 (remember “Inside Out”?) and in conversation with their drummer Tony realised his Dad is David Was. Made me feel old. Looks like Eve 6 has a new record coming out and I can’t wait to hear what Tony, Max and Jon have come up with. They were in high school when they first signed to RCA and flew to the top of the alternative charts.

Wrath Like A City – Cobra Ramone

This girl is a one man wrecking crew. She played almost everything on this as well as writing, singing and helping out with the production. This is the first single from the west coast based rocker. The Bear in Edmonton jumped all over this and the phones are lighting up. You can grab the single for free at Remember her name, you are going to be hearing it a lot.

Working It 

The next two weeks will see two major events on the Canadian music scene, CMW and The Junos. I have been to every CMW (30 of them) and prior to that attended “The Record Conference” and, even before that, “Three Days In March” (someone must remember redeeming MCA‘s “Beaver Bucks“ for cool prizes in the hospitality suite).  My Juno history goes back to when it was a dinner affair at The Royal York Hotel in 1977 (attended by our Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau with classical guitarist Liona Boyd on his arm). Back then it was a three hour affair and more akin to a Golden Globes dinner then its current four day travelling road show.  There will be lots of newbies attending both events this year trying to wedge their foot through the industry door or getting someone, anyone, to listen to their music or come out and see their band. Here are my tips on getting noticed.

Work the hotel bar. Everyone seems to come through it at some point and if you have a good eye for name tags you might get a moment or two with the manager, agent, label or journalist you are hoping to speak to. Don’t be over aggressive and never break up a conversation as you never know who that person might be speaking to. Introduce yourself, pass over a business card and ask if you can leave the person some music or a flyer for your show, and if they are receptive, ask if you can buy them a beer and have five minutes of their time. Dropcards or USB’s are best for music and you don’t need a full press kit which will end up in the nearest bin. Don’t sticker the bathroom, you are pretty easy to trace. A business card with a link to your music works best and won’t take up much room in someone’s wallet. Don’t try to crash the bar with a “flash” performance as all you are going to do is piss people off and have hotel security on your ass. You also stand the chance of losing your accreditation for the event. The Library Bar at The Royal York is pretty intimate and you need to be subtle. When the Westin Harbour Castle hosted the event the lobby bar was legendary and huge. It was great for having five simultaneous meetings but if you weren‘t down with Charles and his bartending staff you had no chance of getting a drink. I used to sit like a lifeguard at the corner of the bar overseeing it from all sides and no one I wanted to see could get by me without saying hello. Of course running an old school major label bar tab seemed to draw people to me, as did my usual sidekick in training Robin Black. Robin, a rock star, hairdresser and now mixed martial arts fighter, was once reprimanded by hotel staff for cutting BMG’s Keith Porteous’ hair at the bar. Hey, who had time to go to Coupe Bizarre during CMW? It was later that day that local rockers White Cowbell Oklahoma pulled off one of the best stunts in convention history. About ten of them marched in from the street in various layers of denim and leather, cowbells clanking and chainsaw, stuffed animal and fire breather in tow. They marched straight to the bar, did a little fire breathing and then cranked up the chainsaw and performed quick surgery on the unsuspecting stuffed animal. They were in and out in under a minute and every time I go to the Westin I still smell the faint whiff of petrol. Legendary, but not recommended and there can be very serious repercussions.

Keep your schedule loose as there are all sorts of curve balls that can be thrown and you need to capitalize on any opportunity that might be presented. Sometimes the best things happen when you least expect them and are totally spontaneous. When you do collect business cards follow-up in about a week and send a thank you note. Be sure to mention where you met the person as it makes it much easier to put a name to a face. Free booze is fun but don’t be that guy who passes out at the bar or ends up on Twitter or Facebook later that night. Your reputation can haunt you.

There is a lot of amazing talent to be seen but you must be patient with the door staff at the local bars. We are very fortunate with the door guys who look after the music clubs in Toronto from The Horseshoe to The Bovine to Tattoo to Cherry Cola’s and pretty well every where else across the city. They have laws to abide to whether it be capacity, ID or the chance you are too drunk to be served, and you must respect what they have to say. If you are polite and do as they ask chances are you will get in at some point. Same goes with getting a drink inside, Most of these places are going to be slammed until close to 4 AM and yelling at your bartender is not getting to get you any new friends, or a drink. Be it Teddy at The Shoe, Cherish at Cherry’s, Michael at The Library Bar or Darryl or Krissy at The Bovine, be nice and wait your turn. They are working while you are out there having fun. Respect trumps attitude.

Here is the lowdown on our Cool Planet shows during CMW. 

Wednesday March 21

Gloryhound – The Horseshoe – 10 PM

Amos The Transparent – The Garrison – 11:15 PM

Thursday March 22

Gloryhound – Tattoo Rock Parlour – 10 PM

Robyn Dell’Unto – Czehoski – 11 PM

Friday March 23

Gloryhound – Sneaky Dee’s – 6:30 PM

Morgan Cameron Ross – Royal York Library Bar – 9:00 PM

Robyn Dell’Unto – Royal York Library Bar – 12:45 AM

Saturday March 24

Delta Hotels & Resorts Nova Scotia CMW Showcase – The Tiki Lounge – The Rivoli – 5PM – Closing

This is the annual event hosted by the legendary Mike Campbell. Mike is the owner of one of the best music clubs in Canada The Carleton in Halifax, as well as being a former TV star on MuchMusic. I am honoured to be helping them out on this great event. Every year the fine folks at Music Nova Scotia bring out their hottest new acoustic talent and couple them with some great east coast bands. The early portion of the evening (5 PM – 9 PM) is a private affair for the industry and features the acoustic performers. It is catered by Stuart Jolliffe and his team at the Delta Chelsea in Toronto and is a seafood delight. Please do not stand near Segarini when the scallops come out. The doors open to the public at 9 PM and this year the feature artists are:

Molly Thomason, Wintersleep, The Stanfields, Carleton Stone, Writers Strike and Andrew Hunter & The Gatherers.

There will be lots of visitors to Toronto this month as the convention season officially kicks off with CMW and there is not better place to hang than The Shanghai Cowgirl at 538 Queen Street West, right beside the world famous Bovine.

Cam’s column appears every Wednesday

Contact us at

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.

2 Responses to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – W”

  1. I’m trying to remember when, exactly, we were separated in that Siamese twins operation…

  2. […] For more suggestions and a great Guide for Newbies, Check out Cameron Carpenter’s column on CMW here. […]

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