Cameron Carpenter: Cam’s first DBAWIS Column from September, 2011
Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – A
(Editor’s Note: Cam is tied up this week, and rather than let you be Camless for a week, I thought it would be fun to rerun Cam’s first ever column for DBAWIS from September 22nd, 2011. Have we really been here that long? The Camster (Carpenter to the Stars) will return next week with an All New Column…in the meantime, here is Cam’s maiden voyage from the long forgotten past exactly as it appeared almost 4 years ago….)
It’s so easy now. Someone tells you about a band, a song, a book or a movie and everything is a click away. You can decide in a matter of minutes. Whatever you need to know is at your fingertips. Cue cranky old timer. We had to wait. Wait for the tour, wait overnight for tickets on the street lined up at a record store or ticket outlet, wait overnight at the venue (I’m thinking of you CNE Grandstand) to rush in when the gates opened, wait for the new issue of Creem or Hit Parader at the local newsstand and wait for the new record to arrive at the shop. If it was one of your groups you would buy album without hearing a note and then spend the next three hours in the basement pouring over the liner notes and repeatedly listening over and over again only pausing to flip the record over.
What may have been more important than the above was the group of people you hung out with. There was always someone who knew the cool new bands, who had an import copy of “Pin Ups” or “Kimono My House” or tickets to see Be-Bop Deluxe. Suddenly you became the cool guy, or so you thought. A few years later you would encounter a new social group with an entirely different set of groups and influences, the 12” circle started to grow. That song you loved on your latest favourite record was a cover version, here’s the original. It still happens today.
With a massive collection of vinyl, CD’s, books, videos and two iPods stuffed to the gills let’s run through the alphabet and see what you might have missed.
This week’s letter is A.
American Hot Wax
If memory serves Segarini and I picked up passes to the premiere screening of this film at the A&M Records Suite at the Harbour Castle Hilton at the “3 Days In March” conference. As a student I hung out at this conference as all I wanted in life was to work for a record company. I met promo reps, bands and all of the movers and shakers in the industry (many of whom I still socialize with). It paid off as I was hired by Quality Records and had my foot in the door. As an aside “3 Days in March” became “The Record Conference’ and then morphed in to “Canadian Music Week”.
Segarini was excited as the 1978 screening was the story of DJ Alan Freed. I was excited to be invited to a premiere. I didn’t know Alan Freed from Dewey Phillips at that point.
The poster for the film set it up perfectly.
“1959. New York City. The battleground was Rock and Roll. It was the beginning of an era. You should have been there.”
Freed, also know as “Moondog’ was a Cleveland DJ who was one of the first to play “race” records and is one of the forefathers of rock’n’roll and Top 40 radio.
Playing him in the movie was the late Tim McIntire and his portrayal of Freed became his most famous role. To this day the movie has never been released on video or DVD, it is only vague memories which make it so vital. Although fictionalized, it told me a story that I never knew, the radio history of my business. “Happy Days” and “American Graffiti’ (a must see) touched on the bands and the style but not so much on the real story. There are some great early appearances by Jay Leno, Fran Drescher and Loraine Newman in the film and performances by Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
A pivotal point in my education. Now someone release the DVD!
They have always been a part of my life. Whether or not you like them today they were a force. I remember buying their classic 1974 album “Get Your Wings” because the cover looked rock’n’roll and it reminded me (minus the heels and make-up) of the first New York Dolls disc. Songs like ‘Same Old Song And Dance” and “Lord of The Thighs” had me hooked. Although their breakthrough single “Dream On” was on their eponymous 1973 debut it would not become a radio hit until 1976 so “Get Your Wings” was not on the radio. When they announced their first Toronto headline show at Massey Hall in 1975 I was there. Although they had just released the album that would be their breakthrough “Toys In The Attic”, most of us were there for “Get Your Wings”. Openers that night were a three-piece London, Ontario power trioThundermug. They were making their mark with their heavy metal single “Africa” which balanced lyrics about hash, family and apartheid with thunderous bass and, of all things, a kazoo solo (you can download the song on their website). I remember the three of them wore one piece work coveralls. They rocked. After a short intermission a scarf draped mic stand appeared, lights went down, intro tape on, lighters up and Aerosmith were on. It was a classic show with a young band at their obnoxious best. Brash, loud and un-relenting. By the time the band returned to Toronto (tours came around about every two years then) they were headlining Maple Leaf Gardens and all over the radio with songs like “Sweet Emotion” and “Back In The Saddle”. After two classic albums, “Get Your Wings” and “Rocks” and two very good albums in “Aerosmith’ and “Toys in the Attic”, the band played their biggest Toronto show at the CNE as headliners in 1979 of TheCanadian World Music Festival. That legendary show which included Ted Nugent, Nazareth, Johnny Winters, Goddo and The Ramones will come up in a future column. By then the excesses of rock’n’roll had taken their toll and the stage performance was a shadow of what it was at Massey Hall only four years earlier. The band would peak again in the late eighties/early nineties with “Permanent Vacation”, “Pump” and “Get A Grip” and reach a whole new audience. By that point the band was, for the most part, clean and sober and under the guidance of manager of Tim Collins and the team at Geffen Records. I was working for MCA Music Canada at the time and got to spend some time with Steven and Joe. We had just inked music and comedy semi-legend Mark Hudson to a publishing deal with MCA and one of his first co-writes was “Living On The Edge”. Not a bad start to the deal.
In reverting back to my opening paragraph Aerosmith was always a band that wore their influences on their sleeves. On each of their first three albums they performed a cover song, which, at my tender young age, I assumed to be originals. The Rufus Thomas classic “Walkin’ The Dog” appeared on the first record, “Train Kept A Rollin’” (a song for years I considered a cover of The Yardbirds only to find out later it was a 1951 Tiny Bradshaw R&B classic) was on “Get Your Wings” and ‘Big Ten Inch Record’ from “Toys In The Attic” was originally recorded by Bull Moose Jackson.
Through their forty year history the band has had more than their share of ups and downs, in and outs and good and bad. A good deal of it is chronicled in the somewhat disappointing Steven Tyler autobiography but I think I will wait for Joe’s book to hear the other half of the story.
If you are a post eighties fan of Aerosmith pick up the first four records, there is a little history and swagger you might not know.
Punk rock single buying was always a risky business. For every $7.00 dollar import classic you would buy, “Anarchy In The U.K” by the Sex Pistols, there would be a $7.00 flop. Stinky Toys anyone? One band that released two phenomenal singles was The Adverts. The first, ‘One Chord Wonders” b/w “Quick Step’ was released by legendary Stiff Records (Buy 13) in early 1977. Anchored by bassist Gaye Advert the band became one of the first generation punk bands to feature a female member. Later in 1977 the band moved to Anchor Records and released the controversial “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” b/w “Bored Teenagers”. Because of the subject matter of the single, the wish of executed American murderer Gary Gilmore to have his eyes donated to science after his execution, the band received massive amounts of publicity and toured constantly for the next two years. After two full length albums the group broke up in 1979 but not before putting their mark on punk rock history and empowering female rockers in the process.
Deviating from my alphabetically premise for a moment an interesting fact has come to light with regards to my current bedside book.
In reading the forward to the book “Night Beat – A Shadow History of Rock & Roll”, a fantastic over view of popular music by Rolling Stone writer Mikal Gilmore, I learned he is the brother of Gary Gilmore.