Cameron Carpenter: Rock Talk – Past & Present Tens
A new theme for the next little while as we have exhausted all my published stories from back in the seventies. Many of them horrified me but I am glad I found them and fired them up to the Cloud. Each week I will look back on ten things that I either still own or wish that I did. It should become pretty apparent rather quickly. This week we look back on tee-shirts.
I couldn’t even begin to count have many band/industry shirts that I have bought or been given over the course of the last 40 odd years. When I first started going to concerts the band tee was a bit of a rarity. You were more likely to find a tour program than a tour shirt. Even finding a shirt with a corporate logo was difficult. I remember my father not allowing me to buy an Adidas shirt because as far as he was concerned I should not be paying for the privilege to advertise their product. A reasonable point, but my, have times changed. You can’t walk half a block without a brand logo screaming at you from someone’s clothing. For rock shirts in the early seventies Yonge Street in Toronto was your best bet. Be it Crazy David’s or on the back wall at the old Music World, as the decade reached its halfway point more and more shirts started to emerge. At that point I don’t know if the bands were getting a piece of the action but pretty soon they jumped on the bandwagon and started to take merch on the road. The prices today are ridiculous with the average shirt at a major venue running you at least forty dollars. Bootleggers are everywhere and at the recent Motley Crue concert I noticed as many people in the twenty buck bootleg shirts as I did those wearing threads purchased at the merch table. Shirts ultimately wear out, and, body types change over the years but there are some shirts I wish I still had.
- CBGB’s – I used to buy a new CB’s shirt every time I visited the bar, and long before they starting selling them at places like Urban Outfitters or Hot Topic. The first rule of wearing a bar shirt is you better have bought it at the bar. Once CB’s shirts became popular they opened a boutique next to the bar and expanded the line to almost anything you could put a logo on. My faves were the basic black tee but I also loved my red tank top (back in the days I could still get away wearing one), which was perfect for summer.
- Kiss – First album tee. I bought this one on Yonge Street shortly after they opened for the New York Dolls at Massey Hall. It was white with the front cover recreated on the front, outlined with a red border. When I started wearing it to school no one knew who the band were. A couple of years later it was no longer cool to wear a Kiss shirt.
- Def Jam Recordings – I loved the first Def Jam tee-shirts in black with the record player arm logo. The home of The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J and industry pioneers Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons. Back in the day you were part of a pretty exclusive club if you knew what Def Jam was all about.
- The Sex Pistols – I had a God Save The Queen tee-shirt with the single graphic from the A&M Records release of the song that got them banned. I am not 100% sure where I bought it but I am pretty sure that it was purchased at New Rose on Queen Street East. The shop was run by Margaret and Freddy (from the Viletones) and carried all the punk rock singles from the U.K. and America as well as studded bracelets and other punk rock accessories. It was there while I was hanging out in the store one Saturday gathering notes for a Toronto-scene punk story for Bomp! Magazine, that Mick Jagger, with Jerry Hall and a very young Jade Jagger, popped in to have a look around. Mick picked up a couple of items including a “Free Keith Richards” tee-shirt. Although it was very uncool to ask, I still have my Jagger autograph from that afternoon. Alas, between far too many moves my Sex Pistols shirt is nowhere to be found.
- Mott the Hoople – This one may have been purchased at the CNE. I seem to remember a booth with rock merch, and deleted albums, in one of the buildings. It was blue and the image was taken from their “Rock’n’Roll Queen” compilation album. I loved the image and Mott was still pretty obscure back then and the point of wearing a band shirt was to be a member of an exclusive club.
- The Tubes – A&M Records did a special airbrush shirt for the first Tubes concert at Massey Hall. They were really cool with red and blue bubbles and the classic Tubes “icing” logo. I had this shirt for about ten years and then it was lost to the threads of time. When I had my 50thbirthday party a few years back (at the old Shanghai Cowgirl) my old friend Graham Mino, who I went to the concert with, surprised me with his old shirt from the show. I would be lucky to wear it as a headband today but hopefully there will be a grandchild one day who it may fit.
- David Bowie/Nine Inch Nails – I regret not having bought this shirt, but, at the time, it seemed outrageously expensive at $45. In retrospective it was long sleeve and waffle material with David Bowie embroidered in red and Nine Inch Nails in white. Very cool.
- Teenage Head – I was out on the road with The Models when Teenage Head first toured western Canada on their “Best Head In The West” tour. The black tees had the classic Teenage Head logo on the front and “Best Head In The West” on the back. I managed to cross paths with them in Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge and wore the shirt with pride knowing that I had seen my Hamilton pals as they crossed the country.
- Stiff Records – “If It Ain’t Stiff, It Ain’t Worth A Fuck.” About as strong a slogan as you could have for a record company. I was wearing the shirt one day while working at Quality Records when I was called into HR and told there was a complaint and I would have to go home to change.
- Nirvana – I kinda wish I still had my original “Fudge Packin, Crack Smokin, Devil Worshippin, Mother Fucker” shirt (which I usually wore with a jacket if I was going to be in the company of children) but I still have, and have never worn, my beige “In Utero” embroidered Geffen shirt with the little album logo on the left breast. For some reason it has survived all of the moves.
Come request “Something On My Mind” some Wednesday night at The Kensington Lodge.
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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, New Canadian Music, NXNE Magazine and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.