JAIMIE VERNON – FANTASY BANDS AND SUPERGROUPS

vernon_1997

There’s a great time wasting pub game on social media quite popular with my music friends whereby you assemble the ultimate supergroup featuring your favourite musicians past and present.

damnocracy

It’s interesting to see the inevitable match-ups – mostly featuring the obvious list of greats trotted out for no other reason than it’s a reference point by which we can all relate. But it’s predictable and not very imaginative. It usually plays out like this:

Lead vocals: Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, John Lennon, Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger
Rhythm guitar: Keith Richards, George Harrison
Lead guitar: Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen
Bass: Paul McCartney, John Paul Jones, John Entwhistle
Drums: Ringo Starr, Charlie Watt, John Bonham, Keith Moon
Keyboards: Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Nicky Hopkins

Supernova Now some of my musician friends have a different take on all this and can easily substitute other players in these roles – usually professional session musicians who were more adept players…but not as great at being showmen.  Clearly your mileage is going to vary based on your own tastes and whether you believe Rockstar Supernova or VH1 Supergroup Damnocracy were truly ‘groups’. Mine would be ridiculously obscure (and more than a little obtuse)

Gowan

Lead vocals: Ann Wilson (Heart)
Rhythm guitar: Paul Stanley (KISS)
Lead guitar: Rick Neilson (Cheap Trick)
Bass: Dennis Dunaway (Alice Cooper Band)
Drums: Creighton Doane (Harem Scarem)
Keyboards: Larry Gowan (Styx)

Bloomfield

But with six decades of Rock ‘n’ Roll to choose from a wacked-out supergroup isn’t necessarily out of the realm of possibility. In previous incarnations supergroups were the work of musicians dying to create better art for art’s sake. In the late 1960’s you had Al Kooper leaving Blood, Sweat & Tears to work as A & R for Columbia Records and deciding to jam with Electric Flag guitarist Mike Bloomfield to create something they decided to call the Super Session. Kooper and Bloomfield had played together as session men on Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited‘ and were even part of the entourage that turned Dylan electric at the ill-fated Newport Folk Festival gig in July 1965.

Super Session Kooper had access to studio time and so they recruited Bloomfield’s old Electric Flag band mates Barry Goldberg (keyboards) and Harvey Brooks (bass) along with session drummer ‘Fast’ Eddie Hoh to do two days of jamming and recording. On day two Bloomfield didn’t show up. Fortunately, Stephen Stills was fresh off of quitting Buffalo Springfield and was available for the second day and the second side of the album. Project salvaged.

Butterfield Bloomfield, despite his massive talent, was always the flakey lynch pin in having anything become permanent. Kooper was trying to capture the jam flavour of tunes like “East-West” from Bloomfield’s previous act The Paul Butterfield Blues Band albums.

Super Session 2 Kooper tried taking the Super Session on the road – dragging his friend Skip Prokop (ex-Paupers) into their circle as the live drummer and moved their own blues jam ethos from the bowels of New York’s Electric Circus over to the west coast to collaborate on endless jam sessions at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West. With the likes of Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Steve Miller and even Carlos Santana treading the California coast in the exploding Summer of Love fraternity  orbiting musicians from headlining acts at the venue often collided with those living on the West coast and creating the most unbelievable combinations of players.

Fillmore_JeffersonAirplane_May1967 Musicians came and went – including nights when Bloomfield was nowhere to be found – and it was enough that Kooper had to herd cats just to get anything recorded for posterity. He’s been working on a boxed set of the original sessions and a Bloomfield career overview for more than a year. It was a magic time and fortunately many of the live performances were captured for posterity. It was a time we’d never see the likes of again.

Lighthouse_Rockpile1969

But the effect rubbed off on guys like Prokop who ran back to Canada and assembled a jazz-fusion version of Kooper’s Blood, Sweat & Tears – only with more players and a rock rhythm section. We know that hybrid historically as Lighthouse. But others were doing the same. Chicago Transit Authority erupted at the same time (late 1960s). The rock orchestra was our generation’s version of The Big Band. Hell, Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood would call it such with their symphonic pop creation Electric Light Orchestra.

These particular supergroups weren’t identified as such back then as the players were virtually unknown at the time of their inception. The current definition of a supergroup usually revolves around the idea of the Fantasy Band. The mixing and matching of musicians with a superstar pedigree who’ve decided to co-mingle to make music and/or a shit-tonne of cash. Nothing like having a roster of individual superstar names on a marquee to attract disparate fan bases and make promoters wet their Depends.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I’ve been in a few B-circuit ‘supergroups’; collections of musicians who were once in near-famous acts. Though the bands weren’t quite the marquee draw one would hope for, they had their perks – especially having been in not one, but two solo acts featuring former members of Klaatu. I was also in a revival of my own band Moving Targetz with Killer Dwarfs singer Russell Graham as frontman – under a different name and playing cover tunes no less.

There is so much more cache for those who lived on the A-circuit and decided to recapture glory under whatever configuration grew out of adrenalin, drugs and sweaty desperation. On paper some supergroups sound like the ultimate dream line-up but in reality some were just poorly contrived vanity projects. Here for your dining and dashing pleasure are some of the more interesting, and obscure supergroups of our time…

1) THE ANGER BROTHERS

Angers

Greg Godovitz was in between bands in the late 1990s (his rock act Goddo had yet to properly re-u-ignite) and so he assembled a trio to play British Invasion songs at small clubs around Toronto called The Greg Godovitz Orchestra & Choir with long-time friend Bob Segarini (Family Tree/Roxy/Wackers) with a rotating cast of keyboard players with the likes of Drew Winters, Ron Christian and a lounge player named Brad Lovett. Brad joined the guys most nights at a club called Blues on Bellair in the once hippie-infested-but-now-upscale-boutique-district of Yorkville Village. On any given night he’d be late for shows or just majorly pissed off by the slightest inconvenience like trying to find parking. He earned himself the stage name Mr. Anger – and it became a 10 minute laugh-riddle monologue during shows. His name became the band’s name. Over time they expanded the roster to become a full band that included Doug Inglis (Goddo) on drums, Steve Jensen (Surrender, Zappacosta, Carpet Frogs) on rhythm guitar and newcomer Mike Pellarin on bass (he would later go on to play with ‘Mama Mia’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ in the Toronto and Broadway production theatre orchestras). The Anger Brothers managed one album, briefly had their own radio show on the short-lived MOJO 640AM and were the house band for Q107’s ‘Derringer In the Morning’ radio show.

2) THE CARPET FROGS

CarpetFrogs_Promo1994 This group of former sidemen for bigger Canadian acts were a loosely knit batch of jam band musicians for the weekly open mike night at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace. They were talked into becoming a real band when Greg Godovitz was invited down as a special guest one night. They soon called themselves the Carpet Frogs and were doing corporate gigs as a living jukebox of 1960s and 1970s Top40 hits (mostly British Invasion). The band featured singer Nick Sinopoli (Just Alice), guitarist Steve Jensen (Surrender, Zappacosta), drummer Lawrence Grecch (Frank Soda, Warriors), bassist Jeff Jones (Ocean, Red Rider) and Godovitz on guitar. The line-up has mutated over the years featuring guitarists Dave Love, Gerard Popma, Tim Bovaconti and Michael Zweig (Seventh Son), and Grecch being replaced by drummer Sean Fitzsimons with Sinopoli and Jones having remained the longest. The Carpet Frogs recently celebrated their 20th anniversary and are best known as Burton Cummings’ touring and recording band. They have two albums and an EP of original material to their credit.

3) PAUL McCARTNEY & THE BAD BOYS

BroadStreet In Paul McCartney’s 1984 film ‘Give My Regards To Broadstreet‘ he performs a coupla tunes in a loft with Ringo Starr (drums), Linda McCartney (keyboards), Robert Palmer/Phil Collins/Eric Clapton percussionist Jody Linscott, Rockpile’s Dave Edmunds (guitar), 10CC’s Eric Stewart (guitar) and Chris Spedding (guitar).

4) FAST FORWARD
Ian Lloyd (The Stories) returned to Vancouver to record his follow-up to ‘3WC’ but decided to form a band with producer Bruce Fairbairn (Bryan Adams, AC/DC, Aerosmith) for the new album which included drummer/songwriter Jim Vallance aka Rodney Higgs (Bryan Adams, Prism), guitarist Bob Rock (Payolas), bassist Jimmy Lowell (Holly Knight & Spider) plus Lloyd’s previous solo band members Andrew Kirin (synthesizers) and Patrick Mahassen (guitar, backing vocals).

5) LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH

Lords 1982-1989. Comprised of punk pioneers Stiv Bators (The Dead Boys), Brian James (The Damned), Dave Tregunna (Sham 69) and Nick Turner (The Barracudas). During this time, they underwent several line-up changes, with a second guitarist Alistair Ward joining and with Tregunna departing, to be briefly replaced by Grant Fleming, who had been road manager of Sham 69.

6) THE BIG DIRTY BAND
From the ‘Trailor Park Boys Movie’ in 2006 came this one-off studio concoction:
Alex Lifeson (Rush) guitar, Geddy Lee (Rush) bass, Ian Thornley (Big Wreck/Thornley) guitar, Adam Gontier (Three Days Grace) vocals, Jeff Burrows (The Tea Party) drums, Care Failure (Die Mannequin) vocals.

7) THE NEW CARS

The New Cars In 2006 Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes of The Cars replaced founder Ric Ocasek and the late Benjamin Orr with Utopia’s Todd Rundgren and Kasim Sultan plus Prairie Prince (The Tubes, Journey) for one album called ‘It’s Alive’ and perform Cars hits and Rundgren tunes live. It was so poorly received that the The Cars would properly reunite in 2011 (with no replacement for Benjamin Orr) for an album called ‘Move Like This’.

8) CHEQUERED PAST
In September 1982, actor/singer Michael des Barres formed the band Chequered Past together with Clem Burke, Frank Infante and Nigel Harrison from Blondie and Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols. Shortly after, Frank Infante left the band and was replaced by Tony Sales (Iggy Pop, Tin Machine). They managed one album and not much more.

9) EMPTY HEARTS

Empty Hearts Founded in 2013 by The Chesterfield Kings bassist Andy Babiuk and includes founding members Clem Burke (Blondie), Elliot Easton (The Cars), and Wally Palmar (The Romantics). They released their self-titled debut album in  2014 and was produced by Ed Stasium (The Ramones). The album includes special guest keyboardist Ian McLagan (Small Faces/Faces).

10) ROCKESTRA
Paul McCartney’s clout is such that not only can he bring together name people to be in his movies and on his albums, but he can bend them to his will. In a megalomaniacal explosion of hubris he decided to turn the Wings album ‘Back to The Egg‘ into a showcase for his own Fantasy Band. The Rockestra recorded two songs for the album which nearly featured Keith Moon on drums (who died a month before the session) and Jeff Beck (who McCartney invited and then un-invited because Beck wanted final veto over his guitar parts). The band members – who played simultaneously, live-off-the-floor for the album and a one-off live appearance for charity included:
Guitars: Denny Laine, Laurence Juber, David Gilmour, Hank Marvin, Pete Townshend
Drums: Steve Holly, John Bonham, Kenney Jones
Piano: Paul McCartney
Bass: John Paul Jones, Ronnie Lane, Bruce Thomas
Keyboards: Gary Brooker, Linda McCartney, Tony Ashton
Percussion: Speedy Acquaye, Tony Carr, Ray Cooper, Morris Pert
Horns: Howie Casey, Tony Dorsey, Steve Howard, Thaddeus Richard

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com 

 

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