Canadian Music Week Highlights-1

TURN ME LOOSE

So I go with Jake to this venue on a spit of land in the lake which he keeps putting down for drawing a bridge and tunnel crowd which I think is wholly cool and in the dressing room we get engaged in a conversation with someone who looks so familiar yet I just can’t place.  Jake asks the guy if he knows who I am and he says yes which makes me even more anxious about interacting, since I can’t remember his name.

And then when we turn to walk away, Jake tells me it’s Mike Reno.  OF LOVERBOY!

All these years later, in comparison to the acts of today, those early eighties acts seem much cooler than they did back then.  Jake tells me Loverboy doesn’t even have a manager.  They’ve just got an agent, to book gigs.  And they do five million a YEAR!

Back in the summer of ’81, before MTV even launched, when videos were still a novelty, I remember going to the Country Club in Reseda, and in between acts, when the big screen dropped, they played the video for "Turn Me Loose".  I remember it being a play on silent movies.  I remember thinking to myself THIS IS A GREAT FUCKING RECORD!

I’M AN ADULT NOW

So the reason we were at this gig, the Indie Awards Show, was because one of Jake’s clients, the Pursuit of Happiness, was being inducted into the Indie Hall Of Fame.  Turns out that first video was made before they had a deal, on Queen Street, for bupkes.  And, after Jake gave an introductory speech, the band lit into "I’m An Adult Now".

It was MESMERIZING!

We think of the past as nostalgia.  With acts like the Stones having us wondering what all the excitement was about.  But Moe Berg, in his cardigan that nobody would wear, and seemingly polyester tight-pegged pants, was alive with the spirit of rock and roll.  Of rebellion.  Of changing the world.  The audience was there to see the headliner, Stars, but they were treated to a piece of rock and roll history.  I hope they know that.

THIS WHEEL’S ON FIRE

So I’m sitting next to some guy I don’t know at the Hall Of Fame Awards last night.  And this is rare in Canada.  Having come here so many times, especially at the CMW table, I tend to know all the players.  And I’m uncomfortable, and this guy wants nothing to do with me, and then, after the main course he reaches into his pocket and retrieves a tiny reel of tape and tells me THIS IS WHAT MADE DYLAN GO ELECTRIC!

The guy starts spinning a tale.  Which I’m taking with a grain of salt.  How Levon and the Hawks were recorded by Mary Martin, and somebody in Albert Grossman’s office heard the tape and made sure that Dylan did too and he hooked up with the Band and from there it was all history.

Oh, this guy’s waxing rhapsodic.  About how Ronnie Hawkins said Dylan had stolen his band but they’d already broken away from him.  How they’d learned to play before Ronnie says he taught them.  I mean it’s all interesting, and the guy is convincing me that he knows what he’s talking about, he’s here to induct Duff Roman into the Hall Of Fame, still, I’m not quite convinced.  I figure I’ll throw him a curve ball, a ringer, to see what he comes up with, this archivist, this musicologist.

So, where are the Basement Tapes today?

And this Jan Haust kicks back, looks me in the eye and says "I’ve got them."  My heart started to pulse.  I thought of those years in Woodstock.  I felt close to the legend.

Why do you have them?  Why doesn’t Dylan have them?

Because Garth was the producer, even though Robbie Robertson eventually edged him out in the credits, and Jan knew Garth.

I googled the guy back in my room.  He did have tracks in the new Band boxed set.  He was for real.

YOU’VE MADE ME SO VERY HAPPY

And on the other side of Jan was David Clayton Thomas.

Oh, you wouldn’t have recognized him.  He looks like a banker, or a college professor.  And he too didn’t want to have much to do with me until Denny Somach gave me an introduction, despite my having told him I saw Blood, Sweat & Tears in the summer of ’69 at an outdoor show in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Turns out Duff Roman was a deejay, who mortgaged his house to try to break David Clayton Thomas and his band.  They drove to New York in a 1959 Cadillac Sedan de Ville, which experienced two flat tires en route, and although that band got on "Hullabaloo", in an excerpt that was shown last night, with Montreal Canadien hockey jerseys draped on the set, David Clayton Thomas didn’t break through until he joined Blood, Sweat & Tears a few years later.

After dessert, David took the stage.  And then, with that descending figure, the band launched into the last track on the first side of one of the biggest albums of 1969.  Yes, it was "God Bless The Child".

It was weird.  It was so Canadian.  You see there’s no border between the stars and the hoi polloi in Canada.  It’s a fluid society.  A giant high school.  One without bullies and unapproachable cool people.  It’s CIVILIZED!  And the people are warm, and educated, and they want to know you, they take you right in.  And despite Bryan Adams and Celine Dion and so many other superstars being from Canada those of us in the States have no concept of the country.  Which has its own heritage, its own TV shows, the unrecognizable to me host of last night’s show being on the biggest sitcom, its own PRIDE!  Yes, they’re proud to be Canadians.  They want to pull each other up.  They don’t want to put down their brethren as much as honor them.  It’s like entering a time warp.  The way it used to be.  Back in the sixties.  And when David Clayton Thomas did a note perfect rendition of that album cut we all knew so well, it reminded me of what a long strange trip it’s been.  How over so many years, the good music has remained.  And I’m here still believing in it.

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