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

Shanghai Aug 2012I spent most of Sunday and Monday evening glued to the live streams of the Jay Smith Family Benefits which took place in Halifax (Sunday) and Jay’s home town of Sydney, Cape Breton Island (Monday). To say it was emotional would be an understatement.  There were songwriter circles in the afternoon which featured Gordie Sampson, Matt Minglewood, Lennie Gallant, Steve MacDougall, Matt Anderson, Thom Swift, Dustin Bentall and Bruce Guthro. They told Jay stories and sang the songs he wrote with them and some of their own.

Before the main show in Halifax an extra stage was set up in a “pay what you can” room and MIR, Alert The Medic, Like A Motorcycle and The Motorleague brought the rock. The main evening show featured The Meds, In-Flight Safety, Young River (with a ton of special guests), The Stanfields, Matt MaysJoel Plaskett Emergency and finally, the band Jay was a part of when he passed, Matt Mays. If you don’t know the music of Matt Mays & El Torpedo please do yourself a favour and investigate. Two weeks ago I was raving on social media about how great their performance was at the SiriusXM Indie Awards. I have no idea how they found the strength to finish the tour and then come home for the funeral of their rock’n’roll brother and then play two memorial shows. Matt and the boys are also hitting the road in the U.S.A. from April 16 – April 29th in support of The Gaslight Anthem. The first show is in Portland, Oregon (let me know if you want to go Frank) and all the dates can be found at If you hit the splash page you can also make a donation to the Jay Smith Family Trust. You can also help Jay’s kids by picking up a copy of his solo album at  The end of the night in Halifax over $100,000.00 was raised for the family. Every penny from the show went to the trust as absolutely everything was donated and the bands, production crews, ticket fees, hotel rooms for band and crews were donated.

Matt MinglewoodOn Monday the show moved to Cape Breton and performers included Matt Mays, Joel Plaskett Emergency, Gordie Sampson, The Tom Fun Orchestra, Matt Minglewood, The Squatters, Carleton Stone, Dylan Guthrie and Mo Kennedy. There was a silent auction, live auction, 50/50 draw (the gracious winner donated his share back to the cause) and the serving staff donated all of their tip money. Another $40,000.00 was raised and more is still coming in. Jay’s Mom Nancy managed to take the stage on Monday night to say a few words, and his sister Michelle was on stage both nights singing with various bands. Jay’s wife Allison also addressed the crowd to thank everyone for taking up the cause for their two young children Noah and Amy. Nancy said that Jay’s goal in life was to have his music heard and to find a way to support his family and in a way that none of us ever imagined he had done just that. The gracious fans from Cape Breton raised another $40,000.00

There is something very, very special about the East Coast of Canada and it has never been more apparent than during the last two weeks. To Mike Campbell, Stuart Jolliffe, Jonny Stevens, Louie Thomas, North 45, Bill Jay SmithAppleby, Gord Lapp and the hundreds of others who made these events happen, my sincere congratulations and thanks. #rockranger

Now, on to happier thoughts.

How about a list of the greatest lead singers of all time? Here are my rules for this list. This is the boys list and the ladies list will come at a later date. You must be part of a band, and the band can only have one lead singer. Disqualifications immediately include The Beatles, Sloan, The Eagles, The Band, Kiss and thousands of others.  You can only count one lead singer from a band that has had various lead singers; this is known as the Black Purple Van rule. If you are touring without a band name, Elton John, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, you do not count. Not to pick on Paul but he is allowed to qualify for Wings if I so desire. I will come up with a future list for this lot. Now for me this list is not just about a voice, it is about the combination of a voice and of stage presence. For a band that incorporated different lead vocalists (Black Van Purple) it is the singer that epitomized their greatness.

1.       Freddie Mercury – Queen

There was no one better than Freddie when it came to showmanship and the ability to back it up with a four octave range. I always preferred the long-haired Freddie as I was pretty early to the table with Queen after picking up their debut album on import. In May of 1974 I had hoped to see the band open for Mott The Hoople at Massey Hall but alas illness struck the band and they were replaced by Kansas. The first time I remember seeing them live was in 1977 when they played Maple Leaf Gardens in both the spring and fall on two separate tours. By the time they returned to Maple Leafs Gardens the next year we had the new short haired Freddie and the band’s fan base had moved to both the suburbs and the jocks. There was no one better on stage. Side note to Paul Rodgers – yes to Free –  yes to Bad Company – no to Queen.

2.       Mick Jagger – The Rolling Stones

Bonus! Rolling Stones Full Show 1981

Still the best front man in rock and I am sure he will prove it once again this spring as the boys head out on their 50th anniversary tour.

3.       Robert Plant – Led Zeppelin

I never got to see Zeppelin live, one of my big regrets. I wish I could have been at The Rockpile in Toronto in 1969 but hey, I was ten years old and probably would have rather seen The Monkees. The band also played the O’Keefe Centre later that year. Great story about The Rockpile shows can be found here.

4.       Trent Reznor – Nine Inch Nails

Rarely have I seen a more intense lead singer. The first show in Toronto at The Warehouse was unbelievable and subsequent shows at the Air Canada Centre and The SkyDome (with Bowie) were almost equally as good.

5.       Rod Stewart – The Faces

Say what you will about Rod and his “Great American Songbook” or his “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” years but The Faces were one of the greatest rock’n’roll bands of all time and Rod was their focal point.

6.       Russell Mael – Sparks

God I love his voice. I am very envious of my old pal Paul Myers who got to see the band live Tuesday night in San Francisco. The brothers Mael are touring with Russell singing and Ron on keyboards, with no band. Can’t wait to sink my teeth into “Two Hands One Mouth: Live In Europe” which was just released this week. No signs of a Toronto show but I did see the band at Massey Hall, Seneca College and the El Mocambo back in the day. It’s been too long.

7.       Peter Gabriel – Genesis

The tale of two bands, the Peter band and the Phil band. One of the best shows I ever saw was “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” concert at Maple Leaf Gardens. Stage presence personified.

8.       Roger Daltrey – The Who

For the microphone whip and scream in “Won’t Get Fooled Again” alone Roger makes the list. Losing a bit of the voice but still puts most young singers to shame.

9.       Burton Cummings – The Guess Who

The finest voice in Canada rock. Period.

10.   Eric Carmen – The Raspberries

Forgot the solo material, this was the real deal. Much like The Faces the band never reached the heights they should have.


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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One Response to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – Follow The Leaders”

  1. Jeez, Cam, Nadia’s going to hang your ass. Not one singer from a grunge band. What are you? Old?

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