Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – A2

A toast to my two most loyal readers Heather and Alex. They have not missed an episode, comment privately on most, and surprised me with a bottle of “A to Z – Oregon Pinot Gris” on the occasion of getting through the alphabet. If this column gets a bit sloppy, blame Oregon.


How could I not write about ABC in the ABC’s Of Rock? I never had the chance to work directly with the band but was always a fan. I did spend one lovely afternoon at the lobby bar of the Mayflower Hotel in New York in the early nineties with Martin Fry and the lads. Let’s face facts, I am a fan boy and always will be. I think I was in New York meeting John Woodruff who was the manager of Icehouse at the time. I had some time to kill and the lobby bar lured me in. Love lobby bars and airport bars and love sitting at the actual bar. I strolled up to the bar and immediately detected the British accents. Better order a Guinness (God’s gift to beer) and establish my cred as a true drinker. Beer in hand it became apparent that I was in the presence of ABC, the pride of Sheffield, England. Fan boy kicked in and I walked over and introduced myself and offered to buy a round. No matter how big a band appeared on MTV or the radio I know the harsh realities of touring and most musicians are given a small per diem per day for food and pints and the offer of a free round would always supersede the possibility of being stuck in conversation with an asshole for twenty minutes. I was asked to join them and we spent the next hour or so talking music and football (more on that later).

The list of ABC’s singles is pretty damn impressive. From “Poison Arrow” to “The Look Of Love (Part One)” to “That Was Then But This Is Now” to the fantastic “When Smokey Sings” there is nary a band with a better collection of great pop songs. The band is still touring and about four years ago Jeff Rogers called me and asked if I wanted to go see them in Toronto. Not expecting much we headed to the show, which was at some obscure Toronto entertainment district nightclub, and hoped for the best. As soon as they ripped in to the opening number and Martin appeared in a resplendent shark skin suit it was more than apparent they had not lost a step. Hit after hit was played and it was the mid-eighties all over again. After the show Jeff and I bluffed our way in to the dressing room and once again had a pint with the boys. If they are coming to a town near you grab a ticket, it’s money well spent.

Alcoholic Faith Mission

How can you not love that name? Exciting news as the Danish band is doing a North American tour from April 25 to May 23 in support of their new album “Ask Me This”. I have not had the chance to see this band live but every report I hear is better than the last. There are two Canadian shows on the tour with Montreal (Casa Del Popolo) being the first stop on May 1st and then at The Drake Hotel in Toronto on May 2nd.  Frank, if you feel like a quick road trip the band will be at The Doug Fir Lounge in Portland on May 11th, guest list is on me. Full details on the tour and the new album can be found at . See you at The Drake.


This is my English football team. I know most of you are not huge sports fans and couldn’t give a hoot about the NHL playoffs let alone “soccer”, but, as with almost everything in my life there is a musical connection. Being born in Canada I played hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the summer. Those were my two sports and  often you would end up playing against the same guys in both sports. I played hockey for Ted Reeve and Beaches lacrosse. Both were decent teams and both had the reputation for being a little rough around the edges, and, shall we say, dirty. We were always envious of The Young Nats and Toronto Marlies as they had better equipment, home and away sweaters and matching pants and gloves. They were always better players as well. I remember one kid who excelled at both sports and played lacrosse for Rexdale and hockey for the Nats. Throw in a perfect David Cassidy shag and the kid basically pissed me off. I was on a flight to New York many years ago and sat beside a woman who worked for Amex. We got in to a discussion and, as always it seems, someone in her family who had a demo tape. We exchanged cards and I told her to send me the cassette of her sister. Noticing her last name I asked if she had a brother by the name of Laurie who used to play hockey for the Young Nats and lacrosse for Rexdale and at one time had a David Cassidy shag. Of course she did, small world. I went and saw her sister’s band at their next Toronto show and was blown away by her band Fancypants Hoodlum. I kept tabs on them but never got the chance to sign them. Her sister ultimately stepped out on her own and changed her name to Peaches.

This is about “the beautiful game” and how Arsenal became my team. It wasn’t until I was in the music industry that I started to pay attention to football. In all honesty I thought the game was boring and the offside rule never made sense to me. Most of the time it seemed guys were rolling around on the pitch holding their knees while a referee held up either a yellow or red flash card. 1-0 was deemed an exciting result. Coming off a 17 – 14 lacrosse game this just seemed dull. Once again I was on a flight, this time from New York to Toronto and I was with Nigel Grainge from Ensign Records in England. As soon as the seatbelt sign was off he lunged for the massive air phone from the seat in front of him and quickly rang his brother Lucien who was back in England and at an Arsenal match at Highbury stadium. For the next twenty minutes Nigel listened to his brother describe the match. I can’t imagine what that conversation cost (at that point his brother having a cell phone was way ahead of the curve) and the phones on Air Canada were not cheap. I liked the commitment. When working with English, or for that matter any European artist, I realised that asking them there football team was a good ice breaker. Either they didn’t care for the game at all, or, were impressed that someone from North America even knew about the game. Conversations were always lively and heated as band members often squared off and pledged their allegiance to their team. I had found an in. I started watching the game and following the standings. There was a lot to learn. I knew I needed a team to call my own and being a huge fan of Nigel’s musical taste I decided to adopt Arsenal. The deal was solidified when I read “Fever Pitch” by one of my favourite writers Nick Hornby. Many would assume that this book would be about The Boston Red Sox if they saw the somewhat charming guy-chick-flick movie with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Wrongo boyo. The book is all about Arsenal and there is an excellent 1997 British film worth looking for which features future Academy Award winner Colin Firth.

Well now I had my English team. The English Premier League (EPL) season is winding down and we are in a heated battle to remain Top 3 on the table (standings) which means automatic placement in the Champions League. We had a tough loss to Wigan this week but I still feel confident we will clinch third. Once you have your team you soon find out who in the music industry also sides with you. Fellow “Gooners” (the name for Arsenal fans) include Jeffrey Remedios at Arts & Crafts and CBC Q host Jian Ghomesi.

When I worked with The Proclaimers, and because there is a dram or two of Scottish blood in my veins, I found out I would also need a team to support in the Scottish League. Their British co-manager was a huge fan of Sunderland but the brothers Reid and their Scottish co-manager Kenny MacDonald were huge supporters of Hibernian (Hibs). They were one of two teams in Edinburgh along with the dreaded Hearts. When Hibs were down and out The Proclaimers came to their rescue and helped save the franchise. Their games are played in Leith and The Proclaimer’s song “Sunshine On Leith” is the official song of the club. After a pretty dismal season Hibs will be playing for the Scottish Cup against Hearts next month. It is the first time in 116 years that these two sides will meet in the final. Talk about history. I would walk 500 miles to see that match.

Thanks to Darryl and the fine folks at The Shanghai Cowgirl for their continued support. It is my favourite hang in Toronto and I wish I had a buck for every band that I have taken there over the years. Spring is here and the patio is rocking. You can find them at 538 Queen Street West just east of Bathurst.

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.


4 Responses to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – A2”

  1. great stories as usual. i’ve loved peaches for a while and of course you have a connection, amazing. put me down for alcoholic faith mission!

  2. Sure, blame Oregon, you multitudenous sot! I would have handed you a six-pack of Full Sail Amber, myself. It’s employee-owned, don’t you know (whatever that means). Yeah, put me on the list. May 11th, huh? I shall have to head to Portland early just to find the place. Never been to Doug Fir but many of the bands I really like play there. And while we’re at it, what sport are you talking about here? I’m assuming you said, but the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet and I can’t find it (not the article, the screen).

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