Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – F2

A little mixed bag this week of all things F.
Far Away Eyes
In honour of Mick Jagger’s weekend performance on the Saturday Night Live season-ender a tip of the cowboy hat to The Stones. A lot of you probably saw an old fool trying to act cool but I saw my definition of a rock star. There were no rules when they first started and they still have no rules.
We are the lucky generation that grew up on bands like The Stones and I am happy they are still willing to hit the screen or the road. I don’t know what it is about Jagger but since the days of Shindig! and the TAMI Show he has been able to always fire on all cylinders when the cameras are on. When punk was all the rage the band kicked ass with “Shattered” on Saturday Night Live (even though Mick’s voice was toast) and last year he schooled everyone on the Grammy Awards.
I was a fan of the “Some Girls” album and once had the original version with the cover featuring photos of Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe amongst others, which was altered after several copyright lawsuits loomed. I saw that Records On Wheels had a 12” red vinyl version of  “Miss You” b/w “Far Away Eyes” and felt compelled to spend the money and pick up the import version. Later that year while rifling through the racks at P.J. Imports I found a different version on pink vinyl and added that to the collection.
“Far Away Eyes” is Jagger at his funniest. With a fake southern drawl he sings and speaks about Bakersfield, Jesus, coloured radio stations and just being down on your luck. Of course there is a girl and Jagger has said she was based on a true story. Still one of my fave Stones songs. Hope they do decided to tour and bring ask Mick Taylor to join Woody and Keith.
Fisherman’s Blues
I was a Waterboys fan long before the 1988 release of “Fisherman’s Blues” but if there is one Waterboys album I reach for first it is this one. On this record Mike Scott made the switch from the “big rock” sound of his earlier records and stripped it down to his ever expanding roots. The band could call England, Scotland or Ireland home and the sound of early traditional American country and folk was very evident on “Fisherman’s”. From there tribute to Mr. Williams “Has Anybody Here Seen Hank?” to the closing fade of “This Land Is Your Land” this album owes as much to the American south as it does to the shores of Galway Bay. Not only did The Waterboys adopt these sounds they re-invented them and influenced everyone from Steve Earle to Mumford & Sons. I would start my Waterboys collection here.
Fine Young Cannibals
I can’t think of another band that faded into the sunset with such little fanfare. Where did they go and when? We knew they came from the roots of The Beat with Andy Cox and David Steele being members of the British ska band. Although Cox and Steele will always be remembered for their crazy leg guitar style (check the video for “Suspicious Minds“) it was vocalist Roland Gift who was the star of this show. I first heard “Johnny Come Home” in the halls of MCA Records. Paul Orescan who looked after I.R.S. Records in Canada (who we distributed) had the office next to mine and when he fell under the spell of a record you could count on hearing it very loudly a couple of dozen times a day. It was one of those records you only needed to hear once to know it was special. The trumpet kicks in and then comes the arresting voice of Roland. It was cool. When you saw the video ( ) it was even more arresting as you got to put a face to the voice. Looking liked he had raided Andy Williams sweater closet Roland had such an aura of cool around him it was unbelievable. They went on to make a slew of great songs and videos {“She Drives Me Crazy”, “Suspicious Minds”. “Good Thing”, “Ever Fallen In Love”), they were featured in the brilliant film “Something Wild” and Roland looked like he would have a future as an actor and then nothing. Gone. No goodbye note, nothing. Doing some research I see that Roland has gone out under the FYC moniker a few times but I can’t imagine it was the same as the original. With only two studio albums released, the eponymous debut and “The Raw And The Cooked” the band was probably set for life for their Canadian sales alone as they were far and away bigger here than any other territory in the world. Maybe it was better to burn out than fade away.
Flagpole Sitta
Near the top of my one hit wonder pile would be Seattle’s Harvey Danger. To this day every time I hear “Flagpole Sitta” I turn it up and smile. I have never seen the video to this and really don’t need to. From the lyrics alone I have my own mental picture and really don’t need to see the song acted it. With this one it was all about the lyrics. “I’m not sick but I’m not well”, “I wanna publish zines and rage against machines”, “Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding” and the classic “Put me in the hospital for nerves and they had to commit me, you told them all I was crazy, they cut out my legs now I’m an amputee god damn you”. Never saw them live, owned the album that spawned this song but can honestly say this is the only one I remember, and that’s enough.
It took The Prodigy a while to cross the pond to North America but when they finally did they re-defined our definition of what rave meant. “Firestarter” was yet another one of those songs you only needed to hear once to know it was going to be some kind of hit. I have always been a sucker for an accent when it is not hidden and Keith Flint let his Brit out on this one. What took me over the top was the video. It basically is Keith, in glorious black and white on a deserted tube track. With his reverse Mohawk, multiple piercings, Old Glory sweater, and looking like a cross between Johnny Rotten and Curly Howard, Flint devoured the screen and showed us punk was alive and well and living in a rave. A few years later the band would release one of the most controversial videos of all time with “Smack My Bitch Up” with a great little twist at the end. Around for over twenty years now the band is currently in the studio and should release “How To Steal A Jet Fighter” in the coming months.
Cam’s column appears every Thursday.
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Watch this space next week for something very cool and very rock’n’roll that will be happening at The Shanghai Cowgirl (538 Queen Street West). It involves a famous English rocker, a celebrated Toronto photographer and, of course, Shanghai owner Darryl Fine. This will give you the perfect excuse to drop by for a meal at some point this summer.
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, NXNE, The Daily XY and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

2 Responses to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – F2”

  1. Cam,
    I will speak on behalf of my lovely wife in saying that The Fine Young Cannibals ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ 12″ single made Sharon’s (Leeson) life a living hell when she worked at MCA Records with you. Apparently, the stampers kept crashing….

  2. Strummer Says:

    I too had the special version of Far Away Eyes,love it also. What about the band Fun Boy Three,another band with a funky ska/reggae beat? They only put 2 studio lps out,with a greatest hits as well.

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