Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll By The Numbers – “Fore”


If you are expecting a thousand or so words about the 1986 Huey Lewis & The News album prepare to be disappointed. It was a fine little pop album and moved Huey and the boys from small halls into the arenas and state fairs.

Huey golfHuey loves his time on the links and can often be spotted at celebrity golf tournaments and the band carry their clubs on the tour bus and would have their local record company reps set up games for them when they were on tour. Sometimes they would even invite a few of them along. Alice Cooper is a well-known rock’n’roll golfer as are Canucks Tom Cochrane and Triumph’s Gil Moore (I have played a few rounds with Gil and he is a monster on the course). I once golfed with Smokey Alice golfRobinson in Jamaica and also spent a very enjoyable day with Rene Angelil (Celine’s hubby) on a private Jack Nicklaus course (The Bear’s Club) in Jupiter, Florida. Sadly I have not golfed for five years as I shattered my wrist in a New Year’s Eve accident after wiping out on black ice (it had nothing to do with the bar hop that Jay Sparrow and I were only earlier in the evening).

What does this have to do with this week’s column? Nothing. What I really wanted to talk about was the classic four piece band; you know the one, drummer, bass, guitar, and singer. More often than not the singer can also double on guitar, but, in my books, only if they leave the Germany Mick Jaggerguitar on all night. Who hasn’t shuddered when Bono, Jagger or even Bowie picked up the guitar on stage? You’re front men damn it, put that thing down. Some bands are four-piece in the studio, and in the media, but when they tour they augment their performance with an additional guitar player or someone on the keyboards. Sometimes there are obvious about this, Sloan for instance, and sometimes they keep the extra musicians hidden from view. After the last Toronto show I spent some time with their keyboard player who was totally invisible from anyone looking straight on at the stage. C’mon boys fess up and give the extra players a little plot of land on the stage and maybe scan the spotlight over them a couple of times a night. Some bands are quite happy as a power trio (Rush, Triumph, D.O.A.), others consider five the magic number (Rolling Stones), and, of late, rockin’ duos are all the rage (Death From Above 1979, Black Keys, The Standstills). Today we are looking at the standard four-piece.

The Beatles

Beatles Black and White

I imagine if The Beatles were still touring today they would be doing that Stones-thang with a multitude of additional musicians and singers, but, when they still toured (their last real live show was at Candlestick Park back in 1966) it was just John, Paul, George and Ringo onstage with the classic two guitars, bass and drum set-up. When they needed a keyboard fill John would head over to the Vox and gently play, or elbow it to death, depending on his mood.



Sloan is one of the aforementioned bands that augments their sound live and in the studio with a keyboard player (the wonderful Greg Macdonald) but to the fans they are a classic four-piece with Chris Murphy on bass, Jay Ferguson on guitar, Patrick Pentland on guitar and Andrew Scott behind the kit. What makes the transplanted Halifax band so unique is in concert Andrew will pick up a guitar and take over lead vocal duties while Chris slides over to drums and Jay picks up the bass. Also, all four are considered lead vocalists and share the spotlight both on stage and in the studio.

The Clash

The Clash

The classic line-up of The Clash featured two guitarists and vocalists, Joe and Mick, Paul on bass and Topper on drums. With departure of Mick the line-up changed and they became a five-piece with the addition of two new guitar players. They were never quite the same. Although Joe sang the majority of lead vocals it was Mick who handled the chores for their first crossover hit single “Train In Vain (Stand By Me)”. The title of the song with the added (Stand By Me) was only used in the United States as that lyric was predominant in the song and US record execs wanted to make sure that people were purchasing the correct song.

Van Halen

Van Halen

Classic four-piece in two major configurations. With original vocalist David Lee Roth it was vocals, guitar, bass and drums. When Diamond Dave was replaced by Sammy Hagar the band moved to a two guitar format. Sammy is an exception to the lead singer/guitar rule as he actually looks comfortable with a guitar in his hand and can play that sucker. The only thing that we wanted to see in David Lee Roth’s hands was a pair of swords. I’m really not sure what they did with their Gary Cherone experiment as I, and most of the rest of the world, was not paying attention.

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin

One guitar, one bass, one drum kit, one singer. You did not want to see Robert Plant with a guitar and if they needed the extra strings Jimmy Page would just strap on the old double-neck. For the keyboard parts it was left in the hands of John Paul Jones. You also did not want, or expect, anyone other than Robert Plant to handle the lead vocals.

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath

Much the same can be said for the original line-up of Black Sabbath. Tony was on guitar, Geezer on bass, Bill on drums and Ozzy up-front. Everyone had their own job and there was no need for any of them to do, or add, anything else. As per my intro to the column we know now that they cheat with the use of keyboards, and perhaps other instrumentalists, hidden from view during their live performances.

The Who

The Who

As The Who prepare to head out on their 50th anniversary we can be safe in assuming there will be far more than four performers on stage. In the good old days, before they retired for the first time, it was just Keith, John, Roger and Pete. Roger always sang the lion’s share of material on stage but there was absolutely nothing wrong when Pete stepped up to the mic for “Eminence Front” or one of the many songs from “Tommy” that he sang lead on.

The Headstones



It’s so nice to see them back on the road and back in the studio after their long hiatus. Classic 3 +1 line-up with guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Yes Hugh Dillon has been known to pick up a guitar on stage but most fans would rather see him doing damage with a mic stand rather than a fret board. Their new album “One In The Chamber Music” will be available on November 24th.

I am going to leave it at eight artists this week (it is usually ten) as 4 + 4 = 8.

MidgeHats off to my old pal Midge Ure for Band Aid 30. It is usually Sir Bob Geldof who gets the credit (and flack) for Band Aid but let’s not forget that Midge has been there since day one and was once again instrumental in putting the anniversary recording together. Criticize all you want but the two men, and everyone who participated, have their hearts in the right place and I was more than happy to contribute my $1.29 to the cause.

Nice job by Sinead on her verse as well.


Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59.

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The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll are proud to be presented by The Bovine Tiki Bar and The Bovine. The Tiki Bar welcomes the mild to hot weather and The Bovine presents great bands downstairs at the legendary rock bar. Fill up next store at The Rock Lobster and then get your rocks off at The Bovine. 

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

One Response to “Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll By The Numbers – “Fore””

  1. ” 1-2-3-4 ” The RAMONES, surely an oversight? 🙂

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