Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – Lists

Shanghai Aug 2012I love lists, especially when they pertain to music.  I had a great chat with Now Weekly Editor/Publisher Michael Hollett last month as he was putting together the “50 Best Toronto Albums Ever” (which was Now’s cover story last week).  More on that later. My love of lists began in 1977 with the publication of “The Book Of Lists” written by David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace and Amy Wallace. As a teenager it quickly replaced the “Guinness Book Of World Records” as the time wasting no-brainer book that you could pick up anytime, turn to any page, and by mesmerized by the amount of fascinating trivia.

The book was the pre-cursor of the trivia revolution which would consume the eighties with the release of the Trivial Pursuit board game in 1982 and Book of Rock Liststhe advent of NTN Trivia in bars where you could play folks from across North America electronically while having a Jack & Coke. One day I did this with Lemmy at the Friar & Firkin on John Street and Lemmy had the high score of the round. Clever lad.  In 1981 esteemed rock critic Dave Marsh (along with James Bernard) released “The Book Of Rock Lists” and in 1994 followed-up with “The New Book Of Rock Lists”. The beauty of the subjective list is that it is so damn subjective. Lists of the best left handed drummers (Ian Paice by the way) can be debated forever. Depending on your musical taste, age, geographic location and a myriad of other variables everyone is going to have a different take on any given list. Here is a list of reasons I will be including a list with every column this year.

01. They keep your writing focused

02. They can prove how clever and knowledgeable you are

03. They show what an arrogant asshole you can be

04. You can make up any category you want

05. I can get back to going through the alphabet as was the original premise of this column

06. If I do enough lists I can write a book

07. My lists are always right

08. Lists are fun

09. I need to get this list to 10

10. Done

Now 50 Best AlbumsWhen Michael was explaining the upcoming Toronto list I had a few questions. What are the borders for Toronto? Does Hamilton count? How about Burlington? Ajax? Newmarket? These were important questions as they could influence the inclusion of Teenage Head, The Spoons, Sum 41 or Glass Tiger. Do live albums count? Greatest hits? Compilations? He answered all the questions and then I asked if I could submit my top ten. He was right at deadline but I submitted anyway in hope that I might make the cut (I didn’t). The list was published last Thursday and you can view it here: Like any great lists the debate has started. When I sent in my list I used the criteria that I had to know every song on the album, it had to have a huge impact on my life and I still had to be able to play the record with no regrets. Looking at the Now list there were a few records that should/would have made my Top Ten but in my haste I forget about them. These would include Death From Above 1979 “You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine” and “A Taste Of Honey” from The Viletones. Now the DFA album just slipped my mind and the Viletones record was released almost 20 years after it was recorded. I owned all of their singles but sort of forget about the after the fact release of the album.  On the Now list I own 28 of the records and a scant four of my choices made it to the top 50. Here is my original Top 10 list (not saying who would get bumped to include DFA and The Viletones).

Rough Trade - Direct to DiscRough Trade Live! Direct-To-Disc Recordings -1976 A one take, no audience, live from the floor recording. This was that got the band out of Grossman’s and on to the Yonge Street strip. Some of Carole & Kevan’s best song writing with “Birds Of A Feather”, “Stranded”, “No Control” and “Surrender (Give Up)”.

Max Webster – Max Webster – 1976 As we weren’t old enough to get into the bars we used to follow Max Webster from high school to high school. This album was heavy, light, serious and comical simultaneously. From “Hangover” to “Toronto Tontos” there was quirk and “Lily” and “Summer’s Up” showed a more commercial side and set the stage for Kim’s later mainstream success.

Rush – All The World’s A Stage – 1976 After three studio albums Rush closed the first chapter of their career with this epic 10 song double live album recorded at Massey Hall. We knew the big arenas were next and they were no longer Toronto’s little secret.

The Pursuit Of Happiness – Love Junk – 1988 Although their roots were in Edmonton, Moe Berg and Dave Gilby moved to Toronto in 1986 and it was here they put the classic TPOH line-up together and signed their record deal. With “I’m An Adult Now” leading the charge “Love Junk” was witty, funny and rocked hard.

The Diodes – The Diodes – 1977 The first local punk band signed to a major label. They helped move the scene from OCA to Queen West and when there was nowhere to play they built The Crash & Burn. A classic album with “Red Rubber Ball”, “Child Star” and “Time Damage” to name but three.

Goddo – If Indeed It’s Lonely At The Top…WHO CARES…It’s Lonely At The Bottom Too! – 1978 It was on their second album that Goddo fired on all cylinders.  They tackled the local punk scene with “Oh Carole (Kiss My Whip)”, paid tribute to sixties soul with “There Goes My Baby” and still found time for lusty teen thoughts with “Sweet Thing”.

Segarini – Gotta Have Pop – 1978 Upon moving to Toronto in 1977 Bob Segarini quickly became the elder statesmen of the new wave and punk and released “Gotta Have Pop” which was as much a tribute to Nick Lowe as it was to The Beatles. This is what power pop is all about.

The Lowest Of The Low – Shakespeare My Butt – 1991 Another album with great lyrics and enough angst to make it more than a bit dangerous.  From “Salesmen, Cheat’s And Liars” and “Eternal Fatalist” top “Henry Needs A New Pair Of Shoes” the Lowest Of The Low proved you could be clever and still rock.

Nash the Slash American BandagesNash The Slash – American Band-ages – 1984 The bandage wrapped rock violin player tackled the American Songbook long before Rod Stewart and covered everyone from Hendrix, Spirit and Grand Funk on this sadly overlooked album. You can put a lot of the blame on his label Quality Records just trying to keep the doors open at that point.

Billy Talent – Billy Talent – 2003 The first listen to “Try Honesty” proved this was a band on a mission. After struggling for years as Pezz the stars aligned for their debut album and quickly took them from The Bovine to the ACC. “River Below” and “Standing In The Rain” proved they were going to be more than one hit wonders.

The majority of my list comes from the seventies which is not surprising as these were my musical formative years and these albums made a huge impression.  I think it is also a reflection of the way we have listened to music for the last ten years as we shift from the album to the track. A lot of the albums on the Now list have some breathtaking tracks (The Weeknd, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Broken Social Scene and many more) but for whatever reason none of these were ever “play the whole damn thing” pieces of music for me. Another thing about lists is that if you asked me a year from now I am sure that there would be a few more changes to the top ten.

I was thrilled on Tuesday to hear the new David Bowie single “Where Are We Now?” Leave it to Bowie, on his 66th birthday no less, to end all of the speculation of what he has been doing (or not doing) for the last five years with the announcement of the release of a new album “The Next Day” in March. You can watch the video here: 


Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

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DBAWIS ButtonCameron 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, New Canadian Music and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

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4 Responses to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – Lists”

  1. How did you recognize Lemmy out of his lizard suit?

  2. another winner cam! between your list and Now’s list, i’ve got some record shopping to do!

  3. Adam Sherban Says:

    I like your list better..may have added The Hunt, Wireless and Zon
    as also rans…

  4. Your writeup of Diodes much more insightful, and a better argument for inclusion, than NOW’s.

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