Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock & Roll – K2

Getting The Knack
“My Sharona” was one of those first listen songs. Much like “Radar Love” or “Ballroom Blitz” it was all about the drums. It sounded great on a car radio. Still makes me smile when I hear it.
Although the Beatles hype was huge I still liked their debut album “Get The Knack” a nod to the 1965 British film “The Knack….And How To Get It”. Led by the late Doug Fieger the band was signed to Capitol Records after a bidding war in 1978. With their Beatles meets new wave sound they cut their debut with noted glam producer Mike Chapman and loosely recreated the cover as an update of “Meet The Beatles”. Capitol also agreed to use the old orange swirl logo on the vinyl. “My Sharona” rocketed up the charts and soon held the number one spot in Canada, the U.S. and Australia.
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The band’s Toronto debut was set for Massey Hall on October 6, 1979. By this point in time the record had sold a couple million copies in North America and it was one hot ticket. The ticket itself is the only Massey Hall ticket I own that has a picture of the band on the actual stub. The cost of the seat was $7.50. I believe the opening act that night was The Sharks who consisted of Sherry Kean (who would go on to decent solo success), Bazil Donovan and Cleave Anderson (who would go on to form Blue Rodeo) and local guitar legend David Baxter.
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The Knack stage was very sparse. The drums were on a small riser and the kick drum had the band logo painted on which was eerily similar to you know who. There were marks taped on the stage for each band member and the lighting was very minimal and it  looked more like a TV studio than a concert setting. It was unique to say the least.
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Touring on the strength of only one album is tough but the band had just enough material to pull it off (they had also recorded a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat”). After the show there was a post-party that we were all invited to and the highlight was meeting the real Sharona. She was Doug’s girlfriend at the time and the model for the 7” sleeve for “My Sharona”. She is now a very successful real estate agent in Los Angeles. They also gave away really cool Knack lighters but sadly it has long disappeared.
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The band got lucky for a second time when the hit single was used in a pivotal scene in the hit comedy movie “Reality Bites”. It turned a new generation on to the song and it even managed to chart again. This happens all the time in the U.K. but it is very rare in North America.
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They never equalled the success of their monster debut and after a couple of more semi-decent albums they threw in the towel. They would try a couple of comebacks (with various members) in the nineties and then again in 2001 but the magic was gone. Sadly, so are two members of the original line-up Doug Fieger and drummer Bruce Gary.
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Keith Richards
I have been very fortunate in the business to meet pretty well all of my idols. As a teenager I never dreamt that one day I would be working with or meeting the likes of  Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Ian Hunter, Queen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol or hundreds of others. The one hand I have never shook it that of Keith Richards. I am a Stones fan but came to them a little later in my musical development. “Goat’s Head Soup” was their first album that I fell in love with and it remains near the top to this very day. Many a purist is scoffing. Pictured: The original album cover artwork.
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In the early eighties I was attending the New Music Seminar and was invited to go to the offices of Rolling Stone Records in Manhattan. An industry friend of mine was good friends with the label VP (and ultimately President) Art Collins. It was not a formal meeting and Art and I just talked about music for about 20 minutes as I sat slack jawed looking at the memorabilia all around the office. Keith used Art’s office as an unofficial storage area and was always popping in. No luck for me that day but Art did let me “play” a leather guitar that was made for Keith. On my way out Art gave me a copy of every Stones albums on cassette.  Good haul.
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When Keith was busted in Toronto and forced to come back to perform a benefit concert for the CNIB in Oshawa I got the chance to meet Mick. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was hanging out at Toronto’s first punk store New Rose on Queen East. I was writing a story about the Toronto scene and decided to spend the day with Freddie Pompeii (Viletones/Secrets) at his shop. We were having a beer when a white stretch limo pulled up. Out popped local limo driver Nick and he opened the door for a very leggy blonde, followed by a small child, a nanny and then Jagger. Because of the benefit show New Rose had “Free Keith Richards” shirts hanging in the window. The blonde was Jerry Hall and the little girl was his daughter Jade. Mick hung out for about 15 minutes, bought some shirts and signed a couple of autographs (and of course I was not too cool to ask for one). I managed to squeeze off a couple of blurry black and white photos and called my buddy Jonathon Gross at The Toronto Sun and asked if he might be interested in them. As it was the weekend he had me call the City Editor and I headed over with the film. The shots were not great but there was one they were interested in. When they offered no money and no photo credit I declined. They did interview me and I was in the Sunday Sun the next day with a very blurry Jagger shot on the cover shot by someone on the street.
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I thought 1994 was going to be my chance. Because of my good buddy Gareth Brown I was one of his ten guests when the Stones played the RPM in Toronto to warm up for the Voodoo Lounge tour. The Stones make a habit of rehearsing in Toronto and then surprising the locals with a bar show. This show was July 19, 1994. People had been lining up all day for the chance to see the band in a club for the hefty sum of $5.00. I felt bad about heading to the club at 7 PM as Sue and the kids had seen the sign in front of the club at 9:30 AM as they headed to Centre Island for the day. After a couple of phone calls I confirmed the show and did my best to score a pair of tickets. I had all but given up when Gareth called and offered me one spot on the list. A great set, and although I didn’t get to meet Keith as was no more than ten feet away and managed to score one of his picks. Epic night.
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In December of 1994 I was invited to the Voodoo Lounge show at the SkyDome in Toronto. Lisa Fischer was one of our songwriters for MCA Publishing and she reached out when she hit town and asked if I wanted to go to the show and come by and say hello. Cool. We were sent to the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto where an entire floor was taken up by The Stones production crew. We picked up our tickets and lo and behold they were accompanied by a pair of backstage passes. We were asked to head backstage at 7:30. I imagined if I was ever going to meet Keith this would be it. Not to be. Lisa and the rest of the non-resident Stones had a totally different backstage and hospitality area and we never met Mick, Ronnie, Charlie or Keith. Oh well. It was still totally cool to be backstage behind one of the biggest stages I have ever seen. We spent about a half an hour with Lisa and she was charming as ever. A great voice, a great writer and a totally kind person. It was quite a difference seeing them play in front of close to 50,000 people having seen them months before in the confines of a club. Both shows hold special memories for me.
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As rumours persist of a tour later this year or early next maybe I will finally get my chance.
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I spent a lovely last Saturday afternoon at  The Shanghai Cowgirl (538 Queen Street West) with my two very special K’s Kari and Kyle. The new menu is in the works and a couple of hot new items are now available. Can’t say enough good things about the pulled pork wrap. This one is sure to became a new fave.
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Once again it is time for the street portion of the Beaches Jazz Festival. From tonight at 7 PM until 11 PM Queen Street East will be closed to traffic from Woodbine to Beech Avenue as hundreds of musicians entertain you. Living 100 yard away from Queen it is hard not to be taken up with all the events. My little local knowledge tip is to head south on Beech Avenue, walk past the lawn bowling greens and head into the Balmy Beach Canoe Club. (Circa 1905) Tonight through Saturday are the only nights of the year when you can come in as a member of the public and not be accompanied by a BBC member. It is home to the greatest patio in the city (overlooking the boardwalk and Lake Ontario) and local legend Paul James will be providing the entertainment.
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Cam’s column appears every Thursday.
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Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com.
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We have a couple of new sponsors at DBAWIS and I encourage you all to click the logos on our main page.
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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, NXNE, The Daily XY and Don’t Believe A Word I Say
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