Cameron Carpenter – 10CC – Irish Eyes Are Smiling
It was a scene out of the late forties last Saturday night as the family and I huddled around a transistor radio to listen to a broadcast. Fearing my son Kyle would not have access to an AM radio I brought one along to the little dinner party he and Lydia were throwing before their adventure to Thailand set to start the next day.
Newlyweds Kari and Mario were there along with Wendi-Jane, Sue and Lydia’s parents Eugene and Kathleen. Mom would have been there but two days earlier she had her second knee replacement (early warning to all east-end lawn bowlers – she will be back on the greens later this spring and making up for lost time). I was one of the guests on Newstalk 1010’s “In The Studio” program with Blair Packham and Bob Reid. I fired up the transistor and patched it into my Jawbone speaker but of course within seconds the kids had the program up on their phones and blue-toothed it to one of their wireless speakers. Once again I felt old. I am slowly catching up as I have ditched by Blackberry Bold for a Blackberry Classic which does a lot more a lot faster than the tiny old BB all the while retaining the hard keyboard I am so afraid to give up. Of course the stream dropped at one point and we had to revert to the actual radio. Always be prepared.
Listen to Cam on “In the Studio” HERE
On the show I talked about “Mill Street – Lights Out” which takes place this Saturday night at 130 bars across Ontario and Alberta. At 8.30 PM the lights will go out and artists will perform a one hour set by candlelight. Mill Street will be donating 50 cents from each pint purchased and donate the money to Earth Day Initiatives. So far they have raised over $300,000.00. Some of the highlights in the Toronto area include Jerry Leger at the Joy Bistro, Richard Underhill over at the Lula Lounge, Gavin Slate at The Rivoli, and then, after all the 8.30 performances, we will all head down to the Mill St. Brew Pub in the distillery district for performances by Dick Rodan, Derek Downham and Tony Springer.
Today, however, belongs to the Irish. Much like New Year’s Eve it will be rookie night at pubs across the continent as Guinness and Jameson are consumed in massive quantities. I imagine that many establishments will also double-down and throw St. Patrick’s Day events on Saturday night as well. If you need a little soundtrack to get you started here you go.
- U2 – “I Will Follow”
Love ‘em or hate ‘em they are the biggest band to ever come out of Ireland and arguably the biggest band in the world. I can’t say I am a huge fan but I always have a listen to their latest release to see what Bono and the boys are up to. For my money their greatest track is the first one I ever heard “I Will Follow”.
- An Emotional Fish – “Celebrate”
The Dublin based seemed poised for stardom in the early nineties when they signed to U2’s Mother Records and released the college radio classic “Celebrate”. Alas fame was fleeting and the band closed up shop a couple of years later. I seem to remember seeing them in New York at either The New Music Seminar or a CMJ conference.
- The Undertones – “My Perfect Cousin”
Man Feargal Sharkey and the boys cranked out some great records in the late seventies and the early eighties but this one is my fauvorite. The Undertones were a big part of one of the most memorable concerts I ever attended as they played with The Clash and Toronto’s very own B-Girls at The O’Keefe Centre on September 26, 1979. All three bands were peaking at the time and the sold-out crowd proved their love by ripping out their seats and causing $5000.00 worth of damage at the very un-punk rock venue. Feargal who go on to have a very successful solo career and then became an executive for the UK recording industry
- Hothouse Flowers – “Don’t Go”
One thing that U2 did very well was discover new talent and help them out with record deals and tours. Hothouse Flowers were one of those lucky recipients. Their mix of rock, gospel and a little bit’o’soul was perfectly encapsulated in this song. Once again there is a hazy memory of the band in New York when I think I spent an afternoon with them and a mutual friend tossing back pints at the old Mayflower Hotel.
- That Petrol Emotion – “Big Decision”
Former Undertones John and Damian O’Neill were both part of That Petrol Emotion. Although the band only lasted from 1985 – 1994 they left a big mark on the Irish scene as they sound and style were constantly evolving. This is their finest moment.
- Nightbox – “Addicted”
This band had some serious Toronto roots as brothers Jake and Nicholas Bitove were both born in Toronto but brought up in Ireland. Their dad, Nick Bitove, has some DBAWIS history as his original Hard Rock Café in Toronto at Yonge & Dundas was a regular watering spot for both Bob and me and even the home of a Segarini video shoot. The Bitoves moved back to Canada close to ten years ago and the Nightbox boys played a lot of shows and recorded a great EP. After a quiet 2015 the band re-surfaced last week under the new moniker Romes and debuted the now four-piece band at a packed Rivoli. I will be keeping an eye on the new band and hope to see them soon.
- Walter Mitty & The Realists – “Green Light Go”
They performed the greatest live set I have every witnessed at Cherry Colas (and that is saying something). The band was so intense and authentic that by the end of the night Todd Arkell and I had signed them to a management deal. We released their album, got them on a UK tour with The Proclaimers but time and distance made the relationship too difficult and soon the band all went their separate ways. Such a shame.
- The Boomtown Rats – “She’s So Modern”
Another great late seventies show took place at the El Mocambo on March 13, 1979 when The Boomtown Rats landed in Canada. A few years later my life would be intertwined with the man who signed them Nigel Grainge (I would be the product manager for his label Ensign in Canada), their marketing genius in America Mike Bone (he would become my boss at Chrysalis Records) and Fachtna O Ceallaigh (who would manage Sinead O’Connor). Close to forty years later I am fortunate to still be in touch with each of these gentlemen. That night at the El Mo I was just an excited 19 year old writing for the New Music Magazine and loving the new sounds of rock’n’roll.
- Sinead O’Connor – “Mandinka”
Although I had to fight the record label tooth and nail I finally convinced them to release “The Lion & The Cobra” in Canada and the rest is history. I had so many magic moments with Sinead and her first tour shows at The Diamond Club and The Spectrum in Montreal were two of the most stunning performances I have ever seen. Her last show at Massey Hall a couple of years back was pretty damn special as well.
- Thin Lizzy – “Whiskey In The Jar”
Another band I was fortunate enough to see at the height of their power when they performed at the old Field House at Seneca College along with Graham Parker & The Rumour back on October 28, 1977. It’s only fitting we end on a traditional drinking song.
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, New Canadian Music, NXNE Magazine and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.