Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’S Of Rock’n’Roll – Love You Live

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Toronto may be the greatest city in the world to see live music. For those of us of a certain age there is a plethora of shows coming up in the next few months that will bring back “those old emotions”.

On November 30th The Spoons will celebrate the 30th anniversary of their ground breaking album “Arias & Symphonies” with a live performance at Revival. Joining still-active Spoons  Gordon Deppe and Sandy Horne that evening will be keyboardist Rob Preuss who has been living in New York  for many a year. Hopefully Arias drummer Derrick Ross can be convinced to hit the stage as well.  Also on the bill that evening is Images In Vogue. As of this writing there were a few tickets left but I would move quickly if you plan to attend.

At one point in time both of these bands were distributed by the label I started at, Quality Records. The Spoons came to us via a distribution deal with Ready Records. Ready was started by Andy Crosbie and the late Angus MacKay when they both attended Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. After finding success with The Demics and their punk classic “New York City” the pair decided to venture forth with their label Ready Records. In no time they had signed the likes of Steve Blimkie & The Reason (featuring future members of Honeymoon Suite), The Rick Santers Band, Blue Peter, The Battered Wives, Colin Linden, Manteca, The Extras, Fergus Hambleton and four kids from Burlington called The Spoons.

Ready released The Spoons debut album “Stick Figure Neighbourhood” to great critical acclaim but it was their second album “Arias & Symphonies” that gave the label their first gold album and helped The Spoons sign the ever elusive American record deal. Noted English producer John Punter (Nazareth, Roxy Music, Slade) was in Toronto for the first North American show by Japan at the Ryerson Theatre. John had just produced their breakthrough album “Quiet Life“ and he had come with the band to North America to do their sound. Now Japan was also distributed by Quality and National Promotion Director Larry Macrae and I became friends with both the band and Punter. Larry was close to Andy and Angus at Ready Records as he too was a graduate of Fanshawe College, and, was responsible for the label`s success at Canadian radio. Knowing that The Spoons were looking for a producer for their sophomore album it dawned on Larry that Punter would be the perfect choice. Ready was into the idea and hired Punter to produce the band`s new 12“ “Symmetry“. During the same session the band also recorded a song called “Nova Heart” with Punter and they knew that a match was made in heaven. “Nova Heart” became the A-side and the first hit single for the band.

I was honoured when Ready Records asked me to do the liner notes for the 30th anniversary issue of “Arias & Symphonies”. It is a great package and available for pre-order on iTunes as we speak and will hit the streets on November 13th. Along with the original album it is packed with great live bonus tracks and a brand new re-mix of “Nova Heart” which long-time fan David Marsden has been spinning on The Rock in Oshawa.

Another band that Larry and I were very fond of was Images In Vogue. Somewhat similar in style to The Spoons we swooped down when the band left their label and signed them to Quality. We recorded the EP “In The House” (you can see the video here)  and things looked great until Quality basically imploded and became a compilation label. Too bad. Most of the original members (including enigmatic lead singer Dale Martindale) will be on stage for the Revival show. Should be a great night with a lot of old friends.

I have ranted and raved in the past about both Mott The Hoople and Ian Hunter and I am thrilled that Ian will be making a very rare Toronto appearance on December 7th at Lees Palace. Ian & The Rant Band will be performing classic Mott and Hunter hits as well as material from their just released new album “When I’m President”. It was the stage at the Ryerson Theatre (where Japan played) that I first saw Hunter (along with the amazing Mick Ronson) as a solo artist. Not only did I get to interview the legend (and author of my favourite rock’n’roll book of all-time “Diary Of A Rock’n’Roll Star”) but after the show we all headed to Bemelmans on Bloor for a very late night dinner at which Mick Ronson passed out into a plate of escargot much to the chagrin of Ian and the amusement of Segarini and I. His solo shows are so rare I would advise everyone to get their tickets early.

Another legend will be coming to town on January 15th as Midge Ure has just booked a date at Hugh’s Room. Midge has been touring in Europe with the recently reformed Ultravox and this is a rare solo local appearance. I had some great times with Midge when he was part of the Chrysalis Records family. On one tour we had a night off in Toronto and I asked Midge if he wanted to go and see The Pursuit Of Happiness (who had just been signed to the label). He was agreeable and we ventured off in a limo well stocked with Jack Daniels. The show at Superstars was great and a lot of the local media was in attendance and thrilled to meet Midge and see TPOH. We ended up driving back to Toronto at about 2.30 AM with Michael Williams and Craig Halket from MuchMusic riding along with us. At some point a pretty obscure Ultravox track came on the radio courtesy of CFNY. Midge was gobsmacked as he rarely heard that song on the radio and couldn’t believe he was hearing it on the Canadian airwaves. Having a cell phone and the bat line to the studio I rang up DJ Kneale Mann and then passed the phone to Midge. It was a night Kneale still talks about.  After the short Midge solo tour it looks like a full blown Ultravox tour will hit North America.

The Horseshoe has announced some great bands for their 65th anniversary celebrations in December. Some of the many highlights include a reunited Rheostatics on December 5th and 6th. Now if there is one band that oozes all things Canadian it is the Rheos. This might be your last chance to ever see Dave Bidini and the boys at a club. The next night The Watchmen take over the stage. The late Winnipeg band has been playing very few shows so this is a great chance to catch them live. Joel Plaskett Emergency takes over for a five night run from December 12-16 in what is quickly becoming a holiday tradition. Finally Rusty will be playing a show on December 28th. The band killed it last year at their NXNE reunion and this will be a perfect post-Christmas pre-New Year’s night out.

Please feel free to send any publicity work my way so I can afford to see all these great acts.

Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

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Click on the banners of all of our great sponsors including The Shanghai Cowgirl, Toronto’s hippest rock’n’roll diner at 539 Queen Street West. My buddy Alex and I lunched there last week. Alex gives a big thumbs up to the liver and onions and the pulled pork wrap pretty much rocked.

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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