Category Archives: Bill Paul’s First Tuesday of Every Month
“The Band That Mattered Most (To Me)”
By Bill Paul
I was however, on the inside and from where I stood, it was simply a full on, balls out, packed Ontario Place Forum concert. June 1980 and I was at my third Teenage Head concert celebrating my 16th birthday with Mich, Murph and some other friends. We were about half way up the seats at the old Forum, soaked from booze and sweat, crushed by the clearly over-limit crowd and having the time of our life listening to the band from the Hammer, the band who knew how to deliver. Honestly, we had no idea of the riot which took place outside the gates – generated by fans that were pissed (and pissed) because they had been denied entry due to capacity issues. Sure, it did get a little sideways near the end of the show and during the encore – the boys actually exited the stage mid-song to avoid an over-enthusiastic stage rush – but isn’t that really in keeping with a band who has the ability to whip their crowds into a musical frenzy?
I had just watched my new favourite band. How could this little stripped down four piecer become my favourite? Most importantly I suspect because I was searching for something different. Most of my friends were listening to Boston, Zeppelin and the new(er) kids on the block, AC/DC. While that was fine, I wanted something thrashier…something that helped me feel out of control – something that freed me from the shackles of high school pressures and conformities. That’s not only how it was that Teenage Head became my favourite band but how it couldn’t have been anyone else.
By the time of the Forum show, they had released two albums, the self-titled “Teenage Head” and the newly minted “Frantic City”. The first, the release of 9 two-and-a-half minute sonic onslaughts (not including Kissin’ the Carpet weighing in at a larger than life 4:47) of combined creative forces, a few years of straight up hard work and real shitty production values. As Frankie later said in an interview, “Are we pleased with the album?…You’d have to be deaf to be pleased with the album.” The second, a slicker, tighter sound that managed not to forsake the band’s identity which also gave them their first two hits: “Let’s Shake” and “Somethin’ On My Mind”. By 1982, they had released their third studio album “Some Kinda Fun” which exposed more of their not-so-punk roots and tended favourably towards rockabilly.
For those first two decades, they went on to live the life of legend…breakups, American record deals, reformations, new members, near-fatal car crashes, sex, drugs and the lot. Their ‘mid’ period included the release of “Tornado” (at the direction of their American distribution channels, calling themselves Teenage Heads to avoid causing a furor) and “Head Disorder” (in 1996 featuring Mark Lockerbie on drums).
Teenage Head member’s several paths all reconnected and, with Jack Pedler joining the band on drums, the early 2000’s were kind to the band with them playing small to mid-sized venues jammed packed with their adoring and loyal fans. Often referred to as the Canadian Ramones, Gordie took this parallel to heart and, in 2003, convinced Marky Ramone to record some songs with the band. The result was the 2008 release of “Teenage Head with Marky Ramone”.
While this whole clip is worth watching, feel free to skip ahead to the 4:00 mark…
My last memory of the band was from August 2008. They were playing a bar in Burlington and I took my wife, kids and their partners and Murph was again there too. Frank still spit lyrics with a vengeance, Gord still made one guitar sound like three, Steve’s cool provided a great tension to the band’s high energy and Jack reminded us all that it was all for fun. After the show, I took my 13 year old son, a budding musician up to Frank and introduced them to one another. Frank gave him a big friendly hand shake, pulled him in real close, and with a glint in his eye asked, ‘how you doin’ tonight you fuckin’punk?’ I laughed and stepped away and watched the two of them talk music for a few minutes. Frank’s energy was no less than it was almost thirty years earlier and he was able to impress the joy of a career in music upon my son.
Two months later, Frank was dead of throat cancer.
Teenage Head’s surviving members played just this last Saturday at a terrific local bar in Hamilton, This Ain’t Hollywood, with a special guest vocalist. I was at the bar the night before and shared my mixed emotions about attending the show with the bar’s owner, Lou Molinaro. Lou smiled, clearly understanding my dilemma, and nodded to the big framed picture of a very young Frankie on the wall.
Saturday night I stayed in and listened to music.
“Country, Blue Grass, Blues”
By Bill Paul
I was struggling with this month’s entry and repeatedly came up empty handed and then my daughter and her partner came back from a weekend of album hunting in Montreal and surprised me with a real gem from Patti Smith Group, the album “Wave”. This got me to thinking about writing about my favourite female artist but my thoughts soon expanded to think of the venue where she and so many before and since her have cut their musical teeth – 315 Bowery at Bleecker Street – CBGBs.
Perfect. I mean, if I cannot come up with a little ol’ blog from this punk/post-punk sonic mill, then really, what good am I?
CBGB – hey all you kids wearing the famous black t-shirt, pay attention – was created by Hilly Kristal in the early 1970’s and was originally intended, as its name pronounces, to be a place where country, blues and blue grass artists could ply their trade. What actually unfolded was something completely different. The venue developed into a petri dish for the burgeoning New York punk scene where the likes of The Ramones, Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, Mink DeVille and the formerly noted Patti Smith Group honed their craft. The agreement was the bands would play and receive the take from the gate and Kristal claimed bar receipts. Kristal’s reasoning behind this approach was to give the performer’s the thirst for developing a following – the more people they could get to come out to their shows, the more money they would make. Further logic dictated people would indeed come if the music was compelling and rehearsed – Kristal’s thinking was the bands would practice and invest themselves in their product. Kristal had one other guiding principle for his acts – their sets were to be primarily comprised of original material with very few crowd pleasing covers.
Just think about that – they had to play their original material without much of a cover crutch. What this meant was between the bar’s infant years of 1973 and 1979, the following songs were created and worked out on this stage – Marquis Moon, Rock and Roll Nigger, Psycho Killer and Beat on the Brat. On any given night, the crowd was made up of locals, students and punks looking to avoid the mainstream live music scene New York had to offer. Musicians themselves also frequented the place on their off-nights and often times even sat in on their contemporaries’ sets.
I never had the opportunity to visit CBGBs during these years but am thankful for the environment which nurtured many of my favourite punk/post-punk bands. The songs featured here have meant a great deal to me for a great many years and I shudder to think they may not have been formed without Hilly’s place and his own disposition of being a keen OMFUGger. I know it sounds rude but it is really what all true fans of music truly are – other music for uplifting gormandisers – voracious eaters of music, the second part of the CBGB moniker.
So, if you’re hungry for music, belly up to the links provided, enjoy, and let your mind consider the atmosphere that must have been present on any given night – what a scene it must have been!
By Bill Paul
“They simply needed to occur…it wasn’t their fault!”
Amid the swirl of ending and emerging musical genres defining the late 1970’s, Bauhaus saw the need to assemble, slit a sonic artery and bleed a new sound on the white marble floors of 4AD .
Daniel Ash, David J., Kevin Haskins and Peter Murphy were together only 4 years and yet managed to carve out a sound which would in later years have them referred to as the godfathers of Goth. According to Murphy, this reference is “reductive” as they were really a mesh of punk, kraut-rock, synth and even reggae led by his at once Bowie-esque yet rumbling baritone, Ash’s unique spotlight-sharing guitar, J’s dub influenced bass lines and Haskins forward driving beats. They were no more by 1983, or so it would appear…
Bauhaus-She’s in Parties
While there were just 4 studio albums during this period, all failing to create much momentum in terms of entering music’s mainstream, what was occurring in reality was the laying of the band member’s career foundations. From these 4 albums grew a legacy as follows: Ash and Haskins, along with Glenn Campling, formed Tones on Tail and 1 studio album was the result; David J., Haskins older brother, replaced Campling and Love and Rockets were born leading to another 7 studio albums before their disbanding in 1999. Simultaneously, Ash continued to record and release solo albums – totaling 8 while David J. released two albums of his own as well as 2 albums as The Jazz Butcher. Peter Murphy was also prolific during this period. His departure from Bauhaus led to his partnership with Mick Karn, former bassist of art-rockers Japan (sadly, Karn passed away on 01/04/11) and Dali’s Car released one album “The Waking Hour”. Murphy’s solo career then went on to include 1 live and 8 studio albums including his 2010 release “Ninth”.
Peter Murphy-Cuts You Up
Bauhaus reformed just long enough to create and release their 5th studio album, “Go Away White” in 2008. Unfortunately, ‘internal issues’ as Haskins described them, arose which prevented the band from touring in support of the new album and they called it quits for what appears to be the last time just one month after the album’s release.
Murphy toured small to medium venues in 2010 on his ‘Dirty Dirt Tour’ and, having seen this show twice, I am glad to report that at age 53, his pipes and stage presence are as strong as they have ever been! During the Toronto Lee’s Palace show, Murphy indicated plans were in the works for a 2011 World Tour however, as of this writing, his official website makes no reference to a tour.
Love and Rockets-No New Tale to Tell
While Bauhaus’ tenure may have been short, its dark-haired, pale-skinned progeny have had a rather massive output – more than 30 studio albums not including EPs, live recordings or compilations and it looks like they are not done yet!
Take a listen to the tracks highlighted here and give some appreciation to those four fine lads from Northampton from those four fine years…
By Bill Paul
The benefits of vinyl and digital media can be fairly argued without resolution and each camp will have its boosters and detractors…and fanatics. For me, vinyl will always win the day and this victory has nothing to do with purported superiority of technology and everything to do with the warm fuzzies of rapport. Everything about listening to music through the medium of vinyl lends itself to a more enriching experience. Let me explain:
First, albums provide me with a tactile experience where I have something in my hands, something which brings a sense of having been crafted (I felt this with the first album I ever bought – The Alan Parson Project’s “Pyramid”). This is immediately followed by the ritual of ‘putting on’ an album allowing me to sit back, wait for the music to begin and then enjoy an entire 18-22 minute stretch of entertainment. This ritual is all the more rewarding if enjoyed with family and friends and since a record player is typically hooked up to a system using loud speakers, it lends itself to a more communal experience. On the flip side (pun intended), digital music is typically defined as iPods and ear buds. How does this stack up (pun intended)? Further to this point, I will often times have the album cover and liner notes in my hand while listening and this also brings a heightened sense of rapport between the artist and myself as they would use both to reach out and tell me about who they were, what they played, who wrote what and where it was all recorded. Album art contributes to my understanding of who this artist was and what they were all about.
Here’s a test: Pennie Smith, camera in hand, stage right, Paul Simonon and a bass guitar being violated. This album cover fully captured the spirit of everything the music it contained was prepared to unleash on the listener. This Clash album went on to be regarded as one of the seminal albums of our times. The “London Calling” cover art played an integral role in establishing its place in musical history.
Listening to albums also makes a demand on me to devote my time and attention to the experience of listening. To be sure, an album can be put on and left to play as background sound however, more often than not, placing the needle on the album is the beginning of an interactive experience where songs are in cahoots with one another and are building towards a larger experience or concept. Think about that, an interactive experience with a piece of plastic. How is that possible? It defies explanation but for any of us who have listened to the classic concept albums Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” or the lesser know Cat Stevens’ “Numbers”, it is absolutely the truth. Albums will sometimes tell us a story and, if we invest ourselves in the experience, they will transport us to another place. How does digital media compare?
Finally, record collections, whether 33s, 45s or 78s create a physical body of sonic evidence reflecting who the owner is and what they like. My collection certainly paints a part of my portrait. I also intend on passing along my collection to my kids (easy you three, you can’t have them yet!) once I trip this mortal coil. Musical legacies spanning generations are being created by individuals and families who have never created one lick of music themselves – I listen to and hold the very same disc of Bizet’s “Les Pecheurs de Perles” my late grandfather played 60 years ago and I enjoy thinking about my kids and grandkids listening to Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Psycho Candy” many years from now.
Spin ‘em if you’ve got ‘em!
By Bill Paul
“On Your Radio”
Question: By a show of hands, how many of you have asked your kids to turn down the music simply because you didn’t want to hear it?
Now that we have been honest let’s all take our hands down for fear of the person at the next desk thinking we are crazy.
Don’t feel bad, it’s not your fault, I understand…it’s what your parents told you too. It’s the same request made from generation after generation of parents to their kids as not much changes through the years. Cab Calloway, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones are just three examples of artists who have had a hand in furrowing parents brows and causing excessive hand wringing. Parents know and love ‘their’ music and the kids are employing ‘their’ music to help them in figuring it all out and love theirs with no less passion.
So how can we stop from repeating the patterns, passing them on and generally speaking becoming old farts before our time?
One answer is campus radio.
Heavy rotation play lists need not apply. Music which panders to the widest swath of listeners is not-so-kindly shown the door, perhaps even with a not-so-quiet ‘fuck you’. These are the places where leading edge music, thought-provoking discussions and unvarnished quality reside.
Programmes underpinned by counter pop-culture perspectives, inclusiveness and unfettered thinking abound. Although an article in the 12/09/10 issue of Rolling Stone talks about the death of radio at the hands of file sharing and portable listening devices, I am not sure I agree as a quick spin of the dial tells me campus radio programming is as abundant, accessible and vibrant as ever. Examples to give a listen to are:
McMaster’s CFMU 93.3 Lullabies in Razorland, University of Toronto’s CIUT 89.5 Raw Sugar Radio and University of Victoria’s CFUV 101.9 New Era Radio. Give them a listen and, if you are so inclined, give them your support too!
Feel free to comment here by suggesting radio programmes you listen to which avoid the mundane and homogenized offerings of mainstream radio.
As a closing thought, the next time you are thinking about telling the kids to turn it down, pause, check yourself, and ask them what song it is and who it’s by. Then ask them to turn it…up!
Here are two ‘radio’ songs for you to listen to at volume. One newer, one not so new.
Elvis Costello, Radio Radio, 1978
TV on the Radio, Wolf Like Me, 2006
“Humble Beginnings & Stratospheric Accomplishments”
The musical influence that is Daniel Lanois hit me hard this weekend, and not for the first time. As I was thumbing through some old wax in preparation for our annual Vinylwe’en Party, I came across a real gem from 1979, a 45 by The Shakers “Till I’m Gone” and b-sided with “Out the Door” engineered and produced by Hamilton’s own Daniel Lanois at his now famous Grant Avenue Studios. Then in a post-party haze on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I viewed Black Dub’s “I Believe in You” proclaiming its gutsy ‘live off the floor’ one takes magic. Black Dub is Lanois’ latest project and includes bassist Daryl Johnson (among his many credits may be best known for making MVTW creator and fellow bassist Jay Moon ‘wet’), drummer Brian Blade (Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band as well as standard operating procedure for Lanois) and emerging talent, vocalist Trixie Whitley (daughter of the late Chris Whitley – a long time Lanois friend). In less than 30 hours, I was reminded of more than 30 years of innovative musical undertakings which has resulted in the release of what are rapidly becoming some of my generation’s most seminal albums.
What are these accomplishments? How about producing this pantheon of musical icons: Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Willie Nelson, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris and U2 to name but a few. Among the many awards for these projects: Dylan’s “Time Out of Mind” and U2’s “The Joshua Tree” garnered Grammys for Album of the Year and Emmylou Harris’ “Wrecking Ball” won yet another Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album – all this from a man who began honing his production skills with his brother Bob from their Ancaster, Ontario basement. Add to this list the following Canadian artists: Ray Materick, Parachute Club, Martha & The Muffins, Raffi, Luba and most recently Neil Young and it is clear Lanois’ beginnings are dear to him.
If this wasn’t impressive enough, Lanois has created a sonic legacy on the other side of the glass as well with more than double digit albums and soundtracks to his credit including “Acadie”, “Shine”, “The Omni Series” and the soundtrack for Slingblade. Daniel’s creative efforts have also spilled over in to the visual realm. This will not come as a surprise to those who have attended his live performances and enjoyed the strategic role video plays in his concerts, or who have recently visited his website’s homepage (daniellanois.com) or are aware of his multimedia effort at this year’s Nuit Blanche in Toronto.
His 2007 documentary “Here Is What Is” chronicled the making of the like-named album and was premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. I was fortunate enough to attend the premier at Queen Street’s storied Great Hall. In the film, Dan characterized Brian Eno, his friend and long time partner in musical labour, as someone “operating in a relatively quiet way” yet having a significant impact on modern music. I would suggest Lanois too functions in this ‘quiet way’ and brings the best out of the people with whom he works as well as embracing technology to serve up sounds and experiences which are viscerally engineered. This last phrase is not an oxymoron. Just listen.
Black Dub’s self-titled first album is available in stores today.
By: Bill Paul
By Bill Paul
“20 40 60”
Over the past few days, I have seen a number of news articles spotlighting what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. I have heard friends and family talking about, “What if he was still writing, recording and performing?” Facebook users have also feasted on the occasion through RIP comments, song lyrics as status updates or simply a sincere thought of recognition. Indeed, my own status update read “…well we all shine on…” for the day. It is satisfying to see people plugging in to this event in particular and music as a signpost of life in general. Where were you when…?
Ten years ago, I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland where a John Lennon retrospective had been installed called 20 40 60 in reference to 20 years since his death, 40 years of The Beatles and he would have turned 60 at the time. As I entered the first level of the exhibition, I was greeted by a white tube, no more than 7 feet high by 20 inches in diameter. There were several holes cut in to the tube at varying heights for people to peer in to. As I looked through my cut out, several other people were doing the same through theirs. We all had our vision redirected by mirrors, either upwards or downwards to the central object on display. There, in the middle hung a pair of eyeglasses, made of a yellowish tortoise shell and of a very familiar lens shape. My attention had been grabbed by both lapels. One of the lenses was broken, with pieces missing. No way, could this be? Blood spatterings. Shocking.
Yoko Ono had insisted if her husband was to be the focus of a show at the HoF then, according to the notes on this exhibit, all attendees would be given the opportunity to appreciate the violent end with which John met. She was convinced this fusion of artifact and artifice was the way to accomplish this goal.
Since that time, I have visited the HoF many times to see various other exhibits (there was a terrific Clash one a few years ago) however, only once have I seen the entire venue turned over to the works of a single artist. Once. Him.
Imagine if all you music lovers did not have these signposts available to you. Imagine if there were no soundtracks to your lives. How would you measure and recollect your experiences?
In addition to family and friends, this weekend, be thankful for music that matters to you.