Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll By The Numbers – Six Of One, Half A Dozen Of Another


When most of us we young the six minute song was a rarity. For those of you from my vintage the charts of the rock’n’roll world were dominated by the two and three minute ditty. It was not unusual for hit singles to be under two minutes with the Rolling Stone’s “Not Fade Away” clocking in at 1.48 and “Do You Want To Know A Secret” from The Beatles stretching the clock all the way to 1.57.

Most singles in the sixties ran between two and three minutes each. With the advent of the long playing album and the rise of FM radio artists started to stretch out and were much less conscious of the length of their songs knowing that if they weren’t played on AM radio they could still be played on the much-more adventurous FM airwaves. Occasionally a track, usually with a much-hated radio edit, could become a hit on both formats. Here’s some great six minute work outs.

“To Be A Lover” – Billy Idol (6.40)

The version I love of this song is the one that appears on the “Vital Idol” compilation and it clocks in at 6.40. The song originally was from the album “Whiplash Smile” and was Idol’s second top ten American hit. Billy had a bit of luck with cover songs (“To Be A Lover” was originally recorded as “I Forgot To Be Your Lover” by William Bell back in 1969. Bell co-wrote the song with Booker T. Jones) as he also topped the charts with his version of “Mony Mony”. I spent quite a bit of time with Billy around the time of this album and was very curious to read his new autobiography “Dancing With Myself”. The guitarist featured in this video was his one-time collaborator Steve Stevens and I was wondering if a certain incident between the two, which took place in Ottawa, would be mentioned. Idol was pissed at me for not going backstage after his show at the CNE a few nights before. I had been on the whole tour, which featured opening act The Cult, and every night we did the record company “meet’n’greet” about 10 minutes before stage. Often after the shows I would be hanging around as I was on the road and had nowhere to go except the hotel.

Billy Idol (Barry Roden)

After the Toronto show, where Billy and Steve were presented with double-platinum “Whiplash” discs pre-show, I headed home. (Photo by Barry Roden)

The next night The Cult played a secret show at The Copa and I ended up going and having a few beers with Jaimie Stewart from the band. I wasn’t planning on going to the Ottawa show the next night but Billy twice pulled the tour bus off the road to call into MCA Records looking for me to tell me how pissed he was that none of us came backstage after the Toronto show to tell him what a great show it was. He didn’t get hold of me but managed to insult both the VP of Marketing and the President of the company. I caught a helicopter from Cherry Beach (Air Canada offered this as quick way to get from downtown to Pearson) and then flew to Ottawa. Billy was in no mood to speak with me before the show and I hoped to see him after the set to see how deep the problem was. After a great sold-out show in an incredibly hot arena Billy apparently punched Steve in the head as they left the stage. Rumour has it Billy was incensed that Steve stepped on stage before Billy for the encore. In the book it mentions this tour and a shouting incident between the two of them with both declaring the band was “theirs”. Not how I remember it but maybe something Billy doesn’t recall. I quite enjoyed the book and was happy Regina and Frankie NXNE 2014to see my old Chrysalis boss Mike Bone acknowledged for coming up with the idea of recording a live version of “Mony Mony” as a single and Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali  being given the credit he deserves for playing the drums as a hired gun on the original studio version. (Photo: Frankie and his wife, director Regina Russell, with Cam in the middle.) Billy has also just released a new studio album “Kings & Queens of the Underground”, which, although nowhere near a classic, has a couple of cool rock’n’roll moments.

“Money” – Pink Floyd (6.33) 

One of the first records I remember owning that had swearing on it (which was then bleeped on FM radio). The band had few songs that crossed-over to the AM charts and this song from the 1973 masterpiece “Dark Side of the Moon” was their first top 20 and their second (behind “Another Brick in the Wall”) highest chart climber. With our early crappy stereo systems this track was always best enjoyed with good headphones.

“Sympathy for the Devil” – The Rolling Stones (6.24) 

Perhaps the band’s most infamous song and quite often mistakenly attributed to being the song that the band were performing on December 6, 1969 when Meredith Hunter was killed by a member of the Hell’s Angels (later acquitted) in front of the stage at the huge outdoor show in California. Some sad news from The Stone’s camp this week with the passing of the legendary Bobby Keys. Although never an official member of The Stones Bobby was family (especially to Keith). You can hear his legendary sax playing on the Stone’s albums “Let It Bleed”, “Sticky Fingers”, “Exile On Main St.”, “Goats Head Soup” and “Emotional Rescue”. As well as for  The Stones Bobby played on albums by John Lennon, Joe Cocker, The Faces, George Harrison, Eric Clapton and hundreds more. One of the greats.

“Fairies Wear Boots” – Black Sabbath (6.16) 

Is 1970’s “Paranoid” the best album Black Sabbath ever made? I would say second best, always having placed “Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath” one notch higher, and anyone who argues a Dio-Sabbath is tops can quickly exit through the rear doors. The album contained some of their best loved songs including “War Pigs”, “Iron Man”, “Paranoid” and, of course, “Fairies Wear Boots”. Perhaps we need to add this to the Christmas playlist for Alex’s party (inside joke).

“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” – Led Zeppelin (6.16)

From the band’s second to last album of all new material, “Presence”. It was their worst selling studio album but was important as the group proved they were capable of carrying on after the devastating car accident to Robert Plant which almost, coupled with various other reasons, forced the band to call it a day. One of their last great songs.

“Esmaralda’s Hollywood” – Steve Earle & The Dukes (6.01)

One of two songs on “The Hard Way” which was co-written by Lone Justice’s Maria McKee. Steve was at his bad-ass best on this record, his fourth, and it would be another five years (jail, detox, etc) until he released his next album “Train A Comin’”. You can hear his life getting away from him in his lyrics and his voice.

Scarehouse Official One-Sheet PosterHats off to Gavin Michael Booth on the over-the-top successful launch of his new feature film “The Scarehouse”. I have known Gavin for several years as he directed videos for artists Amos the Transparent, Robyn Dell’Unto and Gavin Slate. It was great to see a packed Royal Cinema earlier this week in Toronto for the local premiere of his film. I am not a horror fan but thoroughly enjoyed this dark thriller. It stars, and was co-written, by his wife Sarah Booth, and although she could not attend the screening, the accolades for her were flowing at the after-party over at The Monarch Tavern. My business partner Todd Arkell also did an amazing job on the music supervision pulling favours out of a hat. You can find out about future screenings at

Also, congratulations to our band Bellwoods who look like they might have a hit on their hands with their new single “Live It Up”. The song is getting added to A/C radio left and right (including CHUM-FM and CHFI) and it looks like all of their hard work is finally paying off.


Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59.

Hear Cam spin every Wednesday night at The Kensington Lodge in Toronto.

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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 Music

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