Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll Rewind – Roxy Rollers
This week we rewind to December 1978 and March of 1979 and two stories I wrote about pop music in The New Music Magazine. The first is about our main man Bob Segarini and the second deals with Nick Gilder.
“This Is Pop – Pop’n’Roll with Bob Segarini’ (The New Music, March 1979)
Imagine a beach covered with forty-fives and a seaweed-saturated man scrawling Gotta Have Pop in the sand. Imagine a Wurlitzer jukebox sinking helplessly into the ocean. Imagine pop music dying without anyone aware of it and no one trying to prevent it. You’re sharing Bob Segarini’s ideas about pop.
Imagine thousands of suburban kids dressing up in narrow ties and filling the O’Keefe Centre to see Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. Kids who hate pop but love rock’n’roll. Kids you think pop belongs to Andy Gibb orShaun Cassidy. What you are imagining is the newest revelation in music, pop’n’roll. In Canada the pop’n’rollkings are Segarini.
Nick and Elvis
Gotta Have Pop is the first pop’n’roll released in Canada by a Canadian group. Bob Segarini, his roots firmly planted in the Sixties pop scene, provides the pop. The other five members of Segarini, five young rock’n’rollers, provide the roll. The combination is fresh and exciting.
Pete, Mike, Mark, Bob, Drew, and Phil
The elder statesmen of the band is Bob Segarini, lead vocals/guitar. The youngsters are Mike St. Denis, guitar/vocals, Pete Kashur, guitar/vocals, Phil Angers, bass/vocals, Drew Winters, keyboards/vocals, and Mark Bronson, percussion/vocals. And that’s Segarini, the band, not the man.
Segarini, the man, sits securely behind a bourbon and water in a downtown Toronto bar and muses, “If this album goes gold by March, I’ll be an overnight sensation after only twelve years.” Twelve years of rock’n’roll with bands like the Wackers and the Dudes. The transformation from the Wackers (a Seventies west coast/Montreal cult band) to Segarini today caused one British writer to draw comparisons between Segarini and Nick Lowe. Lowe, another pop’n’roller, played in a similar cult band called Brinsley Schwarz. The comparison is accurate.
Segarini, the band, consists of five dedicated young musicians. Mike St. Denis, a native Montreal rocker, and a brilliant guitar player, has been converted to pop. “Pop is really fun to play. In fact I’ll starve to pay it!” AnotherMontrealer in the band is keyboardist Drew Winters, who used to play in a Montreal punk band called theDebutants. Drew has been greatly influenced by the New-Wave scene of which pop’n’roll is a part. “Thank God for the New-Wave; it saved our necks.” I don’t know if he means the music industry or the band!
Clay Harding babysits the band while an interviewer lurks
During the last three months the band has been working constantly, but before that most of their time was spent in the studio working on Gotta Have Pop, which took close to two years to make. Now that the band is working, it is starting to sound like a real unit. Montreal bassist Phil Angers reflects the band’s feelings: “Things are really positive and starting to happened for the band.”
“I grew up with a transistor radio glued to my ear”, says drummer Mark Bronson. The other member of Segariniis Thunder Bay jazz guitarist Pete Kashur. “I love the way Bob writes. Playing with him is helping me learn a lot about the music and recording industries. Besides, he’s got me listening to Nick Lowe now instead of ChickCorea.” Now if the rest of the world would please follow suit…
Bob and Elvis now
(Photograph by Marlene Schuler)
As soon as Gotta Have Pop was released Segarini was being compared to Elvis Costello and the Attractions,from the narrow lapels of their suits to the points of their shoes. One song that came under heavy criticism wasDressed in the Dark. Bob replies, “Yeah, yeah, Dressed in the Dark sounds like Costello’s Mystery Dance but what people don’t realize is Mystery Dance sounds like Jailhouse Rock which in turn sounds like thousands of race records that few of us ever heard.”
Segarini has a dream of bringing pop back. It’s going to take time but they are on the right road. Go and see them some night, and when you’re watching don’t be surprised if they words of Bruce Springsteen come to mind; “If dreams came true, oh wouldn’t that be nice, but this ain’t no dream we’re living in tonight.”
Next up is a short Nick Gilder story. People to this day still talk about the night Nick opened for Peter Gabriel at Maple Leaf Gardens. Being a fan of both artists it was tough for me to watch the reaction to Nick and his band as I was in the dressing room before and after the show. I mention drummer Craig Krampf in the story and years later our paths would cross again as he showed up at Grandview Lodge in the Muskokas at an MCA conference where he was playing drums for hot new signing Melissa Etheridge. Craig is also the drummer on Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes” and co-wrote the Steve Perry hit “Oh Sherrie”.
“Bubble Gum Grows Up – The Nick Gilder Band Finds Success in ‘78” (The New Music, December 1978)
Critics have never been very fair to Nick Gilder. For some reason they all feel compelled to slam AM-oriented artists. It’s hard to ignore a song that’s number one all over North America, and it’s hard to ignore Nick Gilder.
Hot Child in the City was probably the best “car radio” song of 1978, and it managed to propel Nick Gilder back into the musical spotlight. You may remember a few years ago Gilder and his band Sweeney Todd had a top ten hit with a sing called Roxy Roller. Shortly after the song became a hit Gilder left the band and embarked on a solo career. He released a solo album that was good but unsuccessful, and some time later, and some time later released an album called City Nights and a single Hot Child in the City. The rest is history.
In October Gilder and his band played their first-ever shows in Toronto. One was as an opening act for Peter Gabriel, and the other was a showcase at the El Mocambo. Gilder’s manager Barry Samuels summed up the first show: “That was the rudest crowd we’ve ever performed for!” The crowd showed their ignorance when the band played Hot Child. At first they cheered but when they realised what they were cheering about, they started to boo. Things were a lot better the next night at the El Mocambo. The audience were there to see Gilder and appreciated everything he did.
City Nights is by far the best thing Gilder has ever done. It’s an album of ten great rock’n’roll songs, any one of which could end up on a top ten list. One of the most impressive features both on album, and in concert is the band behind Gilder. For the most part the band is very young (sorry Craig!) and very dynamic. They are Eric Nelson bass/vocals, James McCulloch guitar, James Herndon keyboards/guitars/vocals, and Craig Krampfdrums/vocals. These guys have played a big role in the success story of Nick Gilder and they deserve a lot of credit.
City Nights owes a lot to the Sixties. It’s a rock/pop album but it has a certain Sixties feel to it. Gilder’s belief that the Sixties had a definite outlook is an important influence on his album. “Pop is an attitude. It has a lot of positive energy and my album reflects upon the attitude of the Sixties.” Many people have tried to tie Gilder’s album into the powerpop category. “Trends are so damn exposable. A lot of people come up to me and say ‘Hello, Nick, Powerpop huh?’ and I don’t want to touch that term with a ten foot pole!”
Many of you are going to dismiss Nick Gilder as another bubblegum artist but if this is bubblegum, it’s the best bubble gum I’ve heard in the last ten years.”
Cam Sez, “Come request “Hot Child In The City” or “Dressed In The Dark” any Wednesday night down at the Kensington Lodge”.
Cam’s column appears every Thursday.
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Cameron 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, and New Canadian Music.