Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – U Oughta Know


CamI don’t know if we are on vacation this week or not but a column in hand is worth two on the hard drive. Hard to tell where I am in the alphabet right now but I think U will work as I wrote about television last week.

Now U is not the most rock’n’roll letter in the alphabet and the list of band names is pretty low. Many would argue that the world’s greatest band, U2, makes up for the lack of overall U numbers but I would disagree. Outside of “I Will Follow” and a couple of good moments on “The Joshua Tree” I never was really taken with the band, or their sound.

There was always something that seemed very contrived about the sound and the attitude and I never bought into it. Also,  Bono should also not be allowed to appear in any music documentaries as he tends to hijack them as witnessed in “BB King – The Life Of Riley” and “The Future Is Unwritten”.

UB40 had a clever name (the official UK unemployment form) but their reggae-tinged music left me cold. I should probably like Uncle Tupelo but I have not spent enough time listening to them and couldn’t hum one of their tunes under the most severe of threats. Outside of Germany very few people have first names beginning with the letter U thus shortening the potential pot once again.

Here are five artists for U.

Urge Overkill

One of the great, and most underrated rock’n’roll bands of all time. Best known for the inclusion of “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” in “Pulp Fiction” Nash Kato and the boys had been kicking around the Chicago scene long before the release of the film. After playing support to both Nirvana on the “Nevermind” tour and Pearl Jam on the “Vs.” tour the band finally signed to a major label (Geffen) and recorded their two best albums “Saturation” and “Exit The Dragon”. Although there have been a lot of changes in members over the years the band revolves around Kato and Eddie “King” Roeser. In 2011 they released the very strong “Rock & Roll Submarine” and still can be found across North America touring their butts off. Whether on an arena stage or in the back of a boozy bar the boys always bring the rock’n’roll goods. Style and substance personified.

The Undertones

One of the best Toronto rock shows ever was The Clash, The Undertones and The B-Girls at the old O’Keefe Centre back in September of 1979. It was at the height of first generation punk in Toronto and it was the second visit by The Clash and the first by Ireland’s The Undertones (local legends The B-Girls were from Toronto). The Undertones were led by Fergal Sharkey who is probably better remembered for his solo work (“A Good Heart”) than he was for his awesome work with The Undertones. “My Perfect Cousin” and “Teenage Kicks” are two of the greatest punk anthems ever written and the boys did a great job of whipping the Toronto audience into a frenzy before The Clash took to the stage to show off their latest album “London Calling”. Calling the show a “riot” might be over-stating the fact a bit but I was at the show and there were at least two dozen seats that were torn from their foundations.

Uriah Heep

It was not cool to like Uriah Heep but they fit well within my Yes, Genesis, E.L.P. British keyboard-driven phase. Maybe it was their Roger Dean designed album covers that first caught my attention but I loved the music inside as well. “Demons And Wizards” and “The Magician’s Birthday” were at the centre of my wheelhouse but I also had time for “Look At Yourself”, “Sweet Freedom” and “Wonderworld”. By 1974 my musical tastes were shifting and I left the band for the likes of Alice Cooper and David Bowie but they left a musical mark on me that remains to this day.


I started listening to UFO around the same time as Nazareth. Coupled with Deep Purple and Black Sabbath these four bands were my hard rock foundation. In some ways UFO were my faves as it was a private little club and not every “slow witted Walter, the fire engine guy” knew who they were. It was always fun to slid “Force It” on the turntable at a high school party and have people ask who was playing. Some of the former (and current) members of UFO include; Michael Schenker, Vinnie Moore, Pete Way, Jason Bonham, Billy Sheehan, Aynsley Dunbar, Andy Parker and Phil Mogg.


Much like Genesis there are two very distinct versions of Ultravox. The first featured front man John Foxx and the second features Midge Ure. The pre-Ure album, with its striking cover, was more post-punk and less synth-heavy than the more melodic Ure years. Both with unique and well worth a listen. Of course, keeping with the U-theme Ure would also count as a solo artist with a great body of work. After his two successful solo shows earlier this year at Hugh’s Room in Toronto it appears that Midge will once again return to the venue this year. As I missed the last shows I will be there with bells on when he returns.

A week tonight Gloryhound returns to Toronto for a show at Cherry Cola’s. They will also be rockin’ the HTZ-FM BBQ with The Trews and Finger Eleven on July 13th if you are in the St. Catharines area (

The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll are proud to be presented by The Bovine Tiki Bar. The bar and BBQ opens daily at 4 PM and the BBQ rocks until 10 PM. Cocktails available after 10.


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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