Cameron Carpenter: The ABCs of Rock ‘n’ Roll – My List

Wow, technology is brilliant but can also be a total pain in the ass. Laptop one decides to go down, repairs to be as expensive as a replacement, and then the back-up also goes down (it was repaired a scant few months before). No internet at home (except for the painfully slow process of accessing on the Blackberry) and it all happens as the English Premiere League kicks off. How was I going to find out who Arsenal was going to sell or who wasn’t going to score for The Gunners? Thanks to the generosity of Mike Levine (he has loaned me his old tablet) and business partner Todd Arkell (he chipped in with a kinda cool Playbook) I am back up and running. If anyone is tossing out an old monitor let me know as at least I will be able to transfer some files to a hard drive.

Toss in the fact that my fully loaded 160 GB iPod died (a couple of weeks post-warranty) and it wasn’t a great week for technology. Does anyone know if you replace a battery in a classic iPod if the songs remain? I might invest if so as the hundreds and hundreds of hours curating playlists would be worth the price.

It was interesting to look at Bob and Jaimie’s lists of their 80’s tracks. My tastes lean much closer to Jaimie’s (Waterboys/World Party/Undertones/Bowie/Echo & The Bunnymen/Smithereens/Spoons) then to Bob’s (Robbie Nevil/Lionel Richie/Richard Marx). Being a non-musician I tend to listen with my gut and not my ears. The beautiful thing about musical lists is there is no right or wrong and every opinion can be validated. In keeping with the current theme here is my list of essential songs from the eighties, however, there is a bit of a twist, these are all Canadian. In no particular order here we go.

Hanky Panky – kd lang – 1984
I think I first met Larry Wanagas when he was doing promo for Vera Cruz Records in Alberta. Vera Cruz was the label for The Models from Edmonton who I worked with at Quality Records and, for a brief time, became their road manager. Larry W. called Larry Macrae and I at Quality Records and asked us to come see his latest signing kd lang and the reclines at the Brunswick House. We had a couple of pints, caught up, and waited for Kathy Dawn to make her entrance. What an entrance! The pride of Consort, Alberta exploded on to the stage with her Wayne Gretzky haircut, Buddy Holly glasses, Patsy Cline party dress and cut-off cowboy boots. This was alt-country long before the term was invented. “Hanky Panky” was the song that stuck with me that night and it is still a go-to tune when I need a quick pick me up. Ultimately we did not sign kd (not for lack of trying) but her career turned out OK nonetheless. Larry is still very active in the Canadian music scene with his management company and label Bumstead. He must have been pretty proud of his boys The Trews this past week as they opened for Bruce Springsteen in Moncton and then joined The Boss on stage for his encore of “Twist and Shout”. Hats off to Larry!

I’m An Adult Now – The Pursuit Of Happiness – 1989
Quite possibly the song that allowed Canadian independent bands (with no label affiliation) through the front doors of MuchMusic. Their low budget video filmed in the parking lot of the BamBoo Club and on Yonge Street struck a nerve with the Canadian public. Although Moe Berg was wearing a little too much make-up it was pretty obvious he was a lyricist that needed to be taken seriously, while at the same time he didn’t take himself too seriously. The single was soon snapped up by Warners in Canada and then, after signing to Chrysalis Records, appeared on their debut album “Love Junk”. A drop dead Canadian classic and the beginning of a great career and, more importantly for me, a life long friendship with an incredible band.

Saturdays In Silesia – Rational Youth – 1982
One of the most European sounding 12″ records to ever come out of this country. Based in Montreal and led by Tracey Howe (who would later become a member of Men Without Hats) they were the perfect cross between Visage and early Tubeway army. They went on to record lots of great material but this was always the song I could spin at Nuts & Bolts to get an instant reaction.
Body’s In Trouble – Mary Margaret O’Hara – 1988
From one of the most acclaimed cult albums of all time “Miss America”. Quirky and unique don’t even begin to describe Mary’s style. “Body’s In Trouble” was the song that made the most impact for me. After a huge promo push from Virgin Records the record did little in the sales department but lots in the inspiration department. Sinead O’Connor once told me that “Miss America” was what her inspired her in the studio when she reached her breakthrough album “The Lion & The Cobra”.  After laying low for far too long Mary has re-emerged as of late and hopefully their is another full length album in her future. it’s about time we saw a little more of her sister Catherine as well.

Mimi On The Beach – Jane Siberry – 1984
Not a conventional single by any stretch of the imagination but what a song (and video). The album version ran over seven minutes but the single version clocked in at just over three. With it’s Laurie Anderson hiccups it still works just fine. Jane released a couple of stunning albums in the eighties on Duke Street Records including “No Border Here” and “The Speckless Sky”. Live you never knew what to expect as she constantly told stories between songs that never quite made sense but were engaging and humorous. A truly under rated performer and songwriter. Jane is touring again under the name Issa. From all reports the current shows are great.

Sonny’s Dream – Ron Hynes – 1981
Ron Hynes is the “man of a thousand voices” and one of the greatest singer-songwriters that Newfoundland has ever produced. The song was a hit in Ireland and many there have no idea it came from Newfoundland. It is the unoffical anthem of “the rock” and any folk singer worth their salt knows every word. Ron is facing another huge battle right now and all my thoughts are with him.

Safety Dance – Men Without Hats – 1982
Hated by many, but loved by more, this song and video will forever be the lasting legacy of Men Without Hats (although almost their entire volume of work is fantastic). The video was brilliant with a medieval-era Ivan Doroschuk prancing about fields with all sorts of characters both big and small. I once asked Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull how he ended up playing flute on the band’s song  “On Tuesday” and he told me he was so charmed by the video for “Safety Dance” that when they asked he agreed to do it immediately.

Baby Ran – 54.40 -1986
“Baby Ran” was one of those songs that stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard it. It was from their first album and there was something about the guitar line that just hooked you right off the bat. The band went on to bigger and better things and Neil, Brad and Matt are still out there making great records and playing fabulous shows. They got a nice bump in the U.S. when Hootie And The Blowfish covered “I Go Blind”.

Melody – Boys Brigade – 1983
From the ashes of “Arson” now-noted record producer Malcolm Burn formed Boys Brigade. He had a pretty good team around him as SRO and Ray Daniels managed the band and Rush’s Geddy Lee produced their debut album.  “Melody” was the second single from the album and was a minor hit on both sides of the border. Almost thirty years later the song still holds up.

Nova Heart – The Spoons – 1982
This was the perfect marriage of a producer and a band. The Spoons had released one album on Ready Records and Arias & Symphonies would be their second. They were ready to expand their sound and ended up hiring John Punter (Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, Japan) to produce it. This is about as classic a new wave sound as you will ever hear. Look for the 30th anniversary issue of the album this fall. Hopefully you enjoy the liner notes.

Astronomy Domine – Voivod -1989
How could you not love a band with members by the names of Snake, Piggy, Blacky and Away? Voivod were part of the Quality Records family when they delivered the “Nothingface” album and the video for “Astronomy Domine”.  Now as a passive Pink Floyd fan I did not know the song but was totally blown away by the Voivod version (and the way ahead of its time video). The band never really got the same breaks as a lot of their contemporaries but they are one of the most respected bands out there. After the death of Piggy and a myriad of band members it is nice to see the original three members back together and touring.

Catwalker – The Diodes – 1980
“Action-Reaction” was the last studio album from the classic line-up of The Diodes. “Catwalker” was a bit of a different sound for the band as some of the edges were taken off and the dynamics were highlighted. One of their best. Hopefully we will be hearing more from the re-united band in the future.

Last American Exit – The Tragically Hip – 1987
Sounding nothing like they do today this remains one of my favorite Hip songs of all time. With more than a nod to REM and the south this was a young band still identifying their sound. Of course they would go on to carve their own unique identity and if you listen really carefully you can hear the roots in “Last American Exit”.

Something On My Mind – Teenage Head – 1980
It was such a joy to hear this song on the local airwaves.  It made it seem that the punk scene had finally arrived and the music was beginning to be taken seriously. With its sax solo the song was such a throwback to the sixties that it could have worked as well back then as it did in 1980. Sadly it would be the only radio hit the band would ever have.

Check – Max Webster – 1980
It was the last great Max Webster song before Kin Mitchell went solo. At two and a half minutes this little twisted rocker had all the sass and humour of the classic first Max Webster album.
Maybe next week I will tackle the seventies or nineties.
New releases this week include the Triumph CD/DVD “Live at Sweden Rock Festival” (check out the Q-107 website to win a chance to meet the band) and my boys Gloryhound re-release their “Electric Dusk” EP with a freshly recorded version of “TKO Tokyo”. Looking forward to seeing the boys tomorrow night at The Phoenix as they play one of their last few dates with The Cult. All reports from the tour have been great so far.

I had a chance to enjoy lunch at The Shanghai Cowgirl this week (538 Queen Street West) and tried the fish & chips from the new menu and must report they are excellent. Other new menu items include a Cobb salad, a lamb burger, a special stuffed burger, sliders, mac and cheese and chickpea fries (which are amazing). The sun is setting on the summer so time is running out to grab a seat on the back deck.

Cam’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, NXNE Magazine, The Daily XY and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

2 Responses to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABCs of Rock ‘n’ Roll – My List”

  1. The songs on your iPod are still there on the hard drive if the battery goes. Get the battery changed cheap at iRepair on College near Euclid. http://www.iRepair.ca
    I have no affiliation with them but have used them and like them.
    Good list by the way

  2. So, “Some Kinda Fun” was not a radio hit for Teenage Head? I sure remember hearing it plenty, at the time.

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