Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock –B2

Billy Bryans

It was a sad week on the Canadian music scene as Billy Bryans finally succumbed to the disease that had been haunting him for years. Best remembered as the drummer for The Parachute Club and their iconic single “Rise Up”, Bryans was much, much more to the local industry that he helped re-define.

I am sure there are fantastic tributes today in most of the weekly entertainment magazine across Canada which will be much more eloquent than anything I can put to paper and you will be able to read his incredible history. I never had the honour to work with the man directly but, being as the business is so small in Toronto, we met and chatted on many occasions. He had a love and passion for what is now generally accepted as “world music”, and though foreign to me, his passion and incredible knowledge of this genre was infectious. His epicentre was the seventies and early eighties Queen Street West and he was as comfortable in a punk club as he was at a jazz recital. Music was his life and he was willing to appreciate anyone who made the effort. If memory serves he was also a keen supporter of Arsenal. Take a look at the tributes and you will see a man remembered for so much more than just one song.

Bowie

There was a very good reason for me to “get into” the music of David Bowie around the time of “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars”; all the cool girls in my high school adored him. I was a year younger than most when I headed to high school, I was under five feet tall, could dabble in a few sports but excel at none, and, overall, was pretty shy and insecure. I didn’t lean towards either the “freaks” or the “geeks” but tended to walk the tightrope between the two. I made my connections through music. These were the days before mass produced and easily accessible band tee-shirts, stickers, or ringtones which instantly classified you by genre. The occasional penned band logo on a stale history book might be the only clue to your musical identity. Outside of transistor radios music was not portable and discussions took place at someone’s home after school or on the weekends and centered around a stack of vinyl. My tastes varied from month to month and were directly influenced by my peer group. An Alice Cooper addiction would co-exist with a love for Uriah Heep, Yes could live along side Mott The Hoople and A Foot In Coldwater would seem like the biggest band in the world when they lugged their massive Traynor amps in to the high school auditorium. It became apparent that boys had much different tastes than girls. Another tightrope appears in the picture. Once they had navigated through their undying love for the Bobby Sherman’s and Donny Osmond’s of the world they seemed to be the first to discover important new music that would be with them for the rest of their lives. Enter David Bowie, and, to a lesser extent, Elton John.

“Ziggy” was the breakthrough album for Bowie for my circle. The girls loved the lyrics and the look and there was enough crunch in the guitars of Mick Ronson for the boys to rock out on. It was on his next album “Aladdin Sane” , which Bowie once described as “Ziggy goes to America”, when Bowie solidified his influence on teenage girls and defined the love/hate relationship with the boys. Guys could appreciate the raunch of “The Jean Genie” or “Let’s Spend The Night Together” but the make-up was a little unsettling for most. As some headed to the locker rooms others signed up for Theatre Arts, and, a few, walked the tightrope between the two.

Looking back almost 40 years later there are a couple of defining moments, captured in movies,  that almost perfectly take me back to high school. Dakota Fanning donning her Aladdin Sane make-up and singing “Lady Grinning Soul” at a school assembly in the film “The Runaways” is one of them. I could have been at that assembly and would have been torn between cheering and jeering depending on who I was sitting with. You can watch the clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGvU09haWk0

The other clip is from the Daniel Craig film “Flashbacks Of A Fool”. Many thanks to Sam Roberts and Elliott Brood manager Dave Spencer for recommending this film. There are two scenes, one featuring the music of David Bowie and the other featuring the music of Roxy Music which eerily harkens back to my early teen years. In the first, a rather musically oblivious boy is schooled on the meaning of the lyrics of “The Jean Genie” by his female friend. Hey, we didn’t listen to lyrics until much later in life and even then could be easily confused or mislead by them. The scene then segues in to a  performance of “Is There Something” by Roxy Music, as performed by the actors.  Most women were so much more mature than men at that age. The boys would sit around drinking beer and listening to “Machine Head” when secretly we would rather be in this clip having a girl school us on music and fashion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sh6XKDsOQq8

In an nod to almost a perfect bit of music supervisor (an art that can define an entire movie when done correctly) the end of the movie finishes with the Roxy song and then the credit roll seamlessly with the song Bowie song “It Ain’t Easy” which pretty well sums up the entire movie, and most of our teenage years.

I am sure I could find a way to write about Bowie in every column and I might slip in a couple of more anecdotes as we weave through the alphabet again. Beginning with “Ziggy Stardust” and ending with “Diamond Dogs” those were the Bowie albums that captured my most important teen years. Future albums would influence latter parts of my life but those four will always hold a special place.

Backbeat

This wonderful little film captured The Beatles at their Hamburg best and told the once little known story of the relationship between John Lennon, Stu Sutcliffe and Astrid Kirchherr. It didn’t contain any major stars, unless you are a member of the Stephen Dorf fan club, but the band used for the soundtrack was exceptional. The film makers did a perfect job of recreating the spirit of the Hamburg Beatles (they were for all intents and purposes a punk band twenty odd years before the expression was penned) and used Dave Grohl (Foos/Nirvana), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum), Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Don Fleming (Gumball). Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs) and Henry Rollins to record the songs The Beatles were performing during that time. In fact checking this piece it never occurred to me the various times I have seen the film that every song in the movie was a cover. You forget that some of the songs that made The Beatles famous were not their songs originally as you will always equate those songs to the band.

Many have questioned the historical accuracy of the movie, and Sir Paul McCartney was not happy being portrayed as a villain, but I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and the great job on the soundtrack. It was certainly better than Robert Stigwood presentation of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

B-Roll

Just putting the final touches on the NXNE Film Festival line-up. We have some fantastic music-inspired features and shorts and all of the announcements will be up on the NXNE website www.nxne.com. We have announced the world premier of “What Did You Expect? The Archers Of Loaf Live At The Cat’s Cradle” which coincides nicely with the performance of the band during the fest as well as the movie “Ecstasy” from Irvine Welsh. A whole slew will be revealed next week and I can assure you there will be something for everyone.

Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com.

Along with The Shanghai Cowgirl ( 538 Queen Street West) and the world famous Bovine (right next store and celebrating 21 years on the rock’n’roll scene in Toronto), there is another sibling in the family who turned three last night. Watusi (100 Ossington) is what the Bovine would be if it had to get dressed up for a night out. There is a great menu, cool art, excellent old school cocktails and music that will get you running up to the DJ asking about the artists. No live bands just a cool crowd and great vibe.

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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