Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – W (Not W)

CamBy my reckoning we are at the W’s. Lots to choose from, here are ten you might not know. ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Was (Not Was)

I think their biggest hit was “Walk The Dinosaur” but the best Was (Not Was) album was “Born To Laugh At Tornadoes”.  Two Detroit friends David Weiss and Donald Fagenson changed their names to David and Don Was and Was (Not Was) were born. The “Born To Laugh At Tornadoes” album was a mixture of rock, torch, blues, soul and a little bit of every other popular music style. Different vocals were featured throughout the record and including Ozzy Osbourne, Mel Torme, Mitch Ryder, Doug Fieger, and Marshall Crenshaw along with band “regulars” Sweet Pea Atkinson, Sir Harry Bowens and Carole Hall.

Some of the guitar players include Vinnie Vincent, Marshall Crenshaw, Wayne Kramer and Bob Kulick. Mixed with some very warped lyrics “Born” is about as eclectic an album as you are likely to hear. Don Was is an award winning record producer with production credits such as varied as Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop and Waylon Jennings, and, his son Tony is the drummer for Eve 6.

Warrior Soul

Kory Clarke was one of the smartest rockers I ever got to work with. Originally from Detroit he was a rock poet in New York City when he put together a band and within the year was signed to Geffen Records. Their three Geffen albums “Last Decade Dead Century”, “Drugs, God And The New Republic” and “Salutations From The Ghetto Nation” were the band at their artistic and political height. The closest comparison would be an early nineties MC5. Great hard rock with an anarchist slant.

The Watchmen

After the release of their Chris Wardman (Blue Peter) produced “McLaren Furnace Room” EP we (MCA) decided to sign the Winnipeg band directly to the label. As The Tragically Hip was starting to explode at the time and both bands shared the same managers (Jake Gold and Allan Gregg) it was an A&R no-brainer. It also helped that the band was killer live, wrote great songs and had agent Ralph James in their corner. With wide distribution the album went gold in Canada and spawned the radio hits “Cracked” and “Run & Hide”. It was their next album, “In The Trees”, which made the boys stars in Canada, with hits “All Uncovered”, “Boneyard Tree” and “Lusitana”. Ken Tizzard was the new bass player in the band and his arrival shifted the song writing focus of the band away from Joey Serlin (now a major music supervisor) and in to more of a group effort.  The result was a platinum record, Juno nominations and sold out shows across the country. There were few better front men than Daniel Greaves in Canadian rock’n’roll.

Wall Of Voodoo

Maybe it was because we distributed IRS Records but I have always loved Wall of Voodoo and lead singer Stan Ridgway. Maybe it was the scene in their video for “Mexican Radio” where a face emerges from a pot of beans or maybe it was their classic cover of “Ring Of Fire”, but there was always something very clever and unique about this band. Stan went on to a successful solo career and his distinctive voice always brings a smile to my face.

The Weakerthans

One of Canada’s quiet secrets.  Although mainstays on CBC, satellite and campus radio, the Winnipeg band has never had that huge crossover hit. How much more Canadian can you be than writing a song about curling “Tournament Of Hearts” and also having the chorus of “One Great City!” be “I hate Winnipeg”. Much like the Hip and Rheostatics, The Weakerthans sing about our country with a sense of humour and wit.

The Wet Secrets

Speaking of Canadian humour, if you have a sense of humour, it’s hard not to love Edmonton’s The Wet Secrets. I don’t really know what they are currently up to but their 2007 album “Rock Fantasy” is a Can-con classic. With marching band uniforms, a full rock assault and songs such as “Get Your Own Apartment”, “I Teabagged Myself” and “Grow Your Own Fucking Moustache Asshole” The Wet Secrets put on a great show.  Time for another record.

Whitey Houston

An off shoot for a couple of members of the Shout Out Out Out Outs Edmonton’s Whitey Houston were one of the very first bands to be played on Canadian satellite radio as The Verge was spinning “I Got Fucked By Liberty Mutual”. It was pretty bad ass rock’n’roll.  Much like The Wet Secrets I don’t think they have recorded anything for a while.

The Whigs

The Athens three-piece band blew me away in 2008 when they performed “Right Hand On My Heart” on the David Letterman show. I was so impressed I went to see them at The Horseshoe Tavern the next time they played in Toronto and was once again blown away be their live performance. They are still making good records and they seem destined to be another one of those bands that almost made the big jump to arenas but will forever be destined to be a support band. They deserve better.

White Lies

With three albums under their belts this British band is showing a lot of potential. Fans of the Editors, Interpol and Joy Division should enjoy their somewhat gloomy sound. Huge in the U.K. the band is slowly making inroads on this side of the pond.

Willie Nile

Forget The Goo Goo Dolls Willie Nile is the best songwriter to come out of Buffalo. He has eight studio albums to his credit and much like fellow troubadour Jesse Malin he is a true rock`n`roll spirit. If you listen to “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” you may have heard “Magdalena” or any number of his unheralded classic rockers. Still a great performer be sure to check Willie out live.


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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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