Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – “Get Up And Get Your Grammy Out Of Here”

Shanghai Aug 2012Apologies to Kiss for the title.

I am a sucker for awards shows. When the rabbit ears permit I will watch them all. Of course music award shows are closest to my heart and the Grammy Awards are at the top of the heap.

In January of 1986 I started working at MCA Records Canada as Motown Records Label Manager.  Motown had been distributed by Quality Records in Canada but when MCA bought a stake in the legendary label the distribution moved over to MCA and I moved along with them.

Palm_Restaurant_LAI was down in Los Angeles at the end of February 1986 to go over the transition with some key Motown staff. An old friend from Boston who ran an independent promotion company and label heard that I was in town and joined my on the roof of the Hyatt on Sunset (aka “The Riot House”) for a couple of beers. He asked what my dinner plans were for that evening and also asked if I had a tuxedo The Palmwith me.  I replied I had no plans and no tux. He told me to get my ass over to the Beverley Center to grab a tux and to meet him at The Palm at 7:00 PM that evening.  Over at the Bev I found a wicked black satin paisley suit jacket, picked up a white dress shirt and scored some black dress pants with the tux-like piping down the side.  I came back to the Riot House to change and then headed over to The Palm. When I arrived at the restaurant I asked for my friend (and yes I am keeping his name out of this) and was escorted to a large table with a raucous group of gentlemen who all seemed to know each other quite well. I had been invited to a dinner with independent promotion men, record company big wigs and key radio programmers.  Being young, very naïve and Canadian I had no idea of who I hit-men-fredric-dannenwas joining. I was soon introduced to legendary urban radio programmers Sunny Joe White (Kiss-Boston), Frankie Crocker (WBLS-New York), and record company promo legend A&M’s Charlie Minor. There were dozens of others there and I am sure many of them were mentioned in Frederic Dannen’s book “Hit Men”. It was a legendary dinner and I was rather pleased when no bill was presented at the end of the evening.  I was informed after dinner that the reason I was requested to get a tux was I was going to go to the Grammy Awards compliments of my friend. A limo would pick me up from the hotel at 1:00 PM and the driver would have my ticket and pass to the after party where I would meet my pal. I went to the show at The Shrine Auditorium and then to the after party. There was a shadow cast over the party as the night before NBC News had broken the story of the payola scandal in the record business and many of those who were at dinner would be implicated.  As mentioned a few Mark Hudsoncolumns back I also had a legendary night at the Grammys in New York City in 1991 when Mark Hudson, Patty Donahue (The Waitresses) and I partied with the likes of Liza Minnelli, Boy George, Spike Lee and Danny Bonaduce.

I despise the red carpet coverage at any awards show. The questions are always insipid and I really don’t care what people are wearing.  The shallowest artists always seem to wear the most outrageous outfits as they greedily struggle for attention. Someone please let J-Lo know that Angelina holds the copyright on the leg pose.

CBSThe presenting network CBS was overbearing on what would become memorable Grammy moments as they over-hyped each upcoming performance as if it would be the greatest moment in music history. Speaking of the networks I am getting really tired of them saturating every show they present with their own stars. There was a parade of CBS stars throughout the show as presenters and of course the The 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards - Showhost, LL Cool J, is in the CBC stable as well. It is something that seems to be happening with every network as they become more and more self-serving.  It has worked its way in to local news casts as stories that deal with the station, or their personalities, dominant their coverage. Witness the coverage that CTV gave the “Let’s Talk” campaign this week. Yes, a very worthy cause but the amount of time the BellMedia owned outlet gave the BellMedia sponsored event was bordering on obscene.  Back to the show….

If there was a highlight performance it was Jack White. Loved the two song set with “Love Interruption” and his female backing band The Peacocks as it blended in to “Freedom At 21” with his male group Los Buzzardos. That boy is rock’n’roll. Even though his lip-licking became a drinking game on Twitter as well as his use of the word “hash tag”, our host LL Cool J did redeem himself with a monster show closer accompanied by Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Rage’s Tom Morello and Blink 182’s Travis Barker as they rocked “Welcome To TheTerrordome” and “Rock The Bells” and then, in a tribute to Levon Tributethe late Adam Yauch, launched in to “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” before being shamefully pre-empted by a Delta Airlines commercial. The tribute to Levon Helm was a well performed version of “The Weight” with Elton John, Mavis Staples and members of the Zac Brown band and Mumford & Sons. Good but not great. Same can be said for the Mumford & Sons performance. All I could think of it Elliott-Broodwhile watching is our own Elliott BROOD are as good as, if not better, than this much awarded group. The tribute to Bob Marley was more a showcase for Bruno Mars as he performed his new song “Locked Out Of Heaven” and then, upon the arrival of Sting, they glided in to The Police’s “Walking On The Moon”. As I was beginning to wonder what exactly this had to do with Marley they were joined by Ziggy and Damien Marley as well as Rihanna for Marley’s “Could You Be Loved”. Sorry didn’t really work and I still am left cold by Bruno Mars. Yes he can sing but he always seems so pre-occupied with his moves and looks that I don’t feel any real authenticity.  I guess Justin Timberlake didn’t see Bruno Mars’s performance from the 2012 Grammys as he swiped both the stage set and big band for his two song performance. Sorry, neither of those songs sound like hits to me. Never been a fan of JT and found him to be a bit of twerp when I was working with N’Sync.

As for the major awards “We Are Young” by Fun was one of the best songs of last year and was deserving of the award for “Song Of The Year”.

They may regret their Laura Petrie/Bay City Rollers choice of pants, and hey, when you do the show and you are still classified as new play your hit! The same can’t be said for “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye. How this bad Police B-side won is beyond me and how the album was in the alternative category is questionable. All of the nominees in alternative were questionable as Gotye beat Fiona Apple, Bjork, Tom Waits and M83. I can live with that in an Adult Contemporary category but not alternative.  Nice to see The Black Keys pick up a couple of key awards and their performance with Dr. John was another highlight of the show.  Next up The Juno Awards.

As I have promised lists this year and we are officially at the letter E here are my favourite Elvis Costello songs.

1. “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” – This Year’s Model – 1978

2. “Green Shirt” – Armed Forces – 1979

3. “Lipstick Vogue” – This Year’s Model – 1978

4. “Veronica” – Spike – 1989

5.“Watching The Detectives” – My Aim Is True – 1977

6. “45” – When I Was Cruel” – 2002

7. “Two Little Hitlers” – Armed Forces – 1979

8. “Shabby Doll” – Imperial Bedroom – 1982

9. “Less Than Zero” – My Aim Is True -1977

10. “Everyday I Write The Book” – Punch The Clock – 1983

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Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com.

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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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