Monday, 18 July 2011

Classic Song 46 - Gowan "A Criminal Mind"

Let's talk about truly classic music, folks.

Today, I pay tribute to a good friend, who goes by
the names of Gowan, Lawrence Gowan, Larry Gowan

My mind drifts back... back... back to the fall of 1977.

I was the bassist in a popular Toronto band called 
The Hunt. We were touring in support of our debut
album on GRT Records, and were performing in a
club in southern Ontario, when I was approached 
by a guy named Larry Sykes. He said he liked my
bass playing and that he managed another Toronto
act: Rhinegold. He further asked if I would be at all
interested in joining Rhinegold as their new bassist.

When I said 'no', he supplied me with various promo
articles on Rhinegold, including a five song demo,
on an open reel, 1/4 inch stereo tape that included
some wonderfully proggy, Beatle-y music that was
heavy on great vocals and great melodies. A song
named All Over Town totally grabbed me by the
ears, and made me reconsider my initial response.

I then got in touch with Mr. Sykes, who gave me
Larry's home number, which I called from a phone
booth on a cold, rainy night. I was living with The
Hunt's guitar playing leader, Paul Cockburn, at 
the time, and felt that I should at least be a 
bit discrete with my followup enquiry.

When I mentioned my interest in meeting and
possibly jamming with his band, Larry 
asked me one simple question:

"Who's your favourite group?"

"Yes!", I exclaimed, to which he replied,
"Okay. Right answer. You're in the band".

Of course, I still had to audition, but Larry 
and I really hit it off, to say the very least.

The rest is history, as they say. 

I joined Rhinegold and enjoyed a year and a half of
great playing and constant rehearsing and touring.
But we could NOT get ourselves a record deal,
no matter who we called or what we tried. We
could pack houses everywhere we went, but
could not get the powers-that-were to even
offer us an initial development deal.

So in June 1979, I left Rhinegold and joined
Surrender, another popular local act that was
signed to Capitol Records, and recorded and
toured with them until New Year's Eve 1980,
when I quit the club scene altogether and began
the incredibly slow process of reinventing myself
as a session player/songwriter/producer and such.

Meanwhile, Larry/Lawrence/LG/Gowan retired
Rhinegold and went solo, signing a record deal
with CBS and releasing his debut album, 
Keep Up The Fight.

By that time, I'd gotten lost, deep in the Toronto
jingle jungle... writing and demoing little thirty
second ditties for big Toronto ad agencies,
which is what I've been doing ever since.

But Larry forged ahead with his solo career,
releasing his multi-platinum, multiple award 
winning sophomore album, Strange Animal, 
in January 1985. The album is still as vital
now as it was then, and contains many
powerful songs, all self-composed.

To me and hundreds of thousands of
other Gowan fans, his signature song
on that album, A Criminal Mind, has
stood the true test of time, and still
ranks as one of the greatest songs
ever to emerge from a Canadian
artist of international stature.

Here are two videos of A Criminal Mind:
the first embedded video, filmed during
a Gowan show in 1990, shows just
how ecstatic his fans were (and still 
are) at the sound of the opening 
piano motif. The second video
(which would not embed, for
some reason - dammit!!!)
is proof positive that his
last ten years of singing,
playing, touring and
recording with Styx
have not, in any way,
diminished either his 
vocal or pianistic 
prowess one iota. 

Here's multi-named
and multi-talented Larry Gowan,
playing the inimitable "A Criminal Mind".

Mozz the Elder

Gowan - solo:

Gowan with Styx and The Contemporary 
Youth Orchestra and Chorus of Cleveland (2006):

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

MozzLink 1 - Bruce Springsteen "Streets of Fire"

RIP Clarence 'Big Man' Clemons

Let's talk about Bruce Springsteen for a second,

or a minute or two - then watch a shitload of truly 
revelatory videos, filmed in true, cinema verite-ish
black and white, each with a stunning 'board' mix that
features Bruce's full-out, unsung, heroic guitar playing,
not to mention his razor-throated, take no prisoners lead
vocals. In concert with, and married to The E Street Band, 
Springsteen acts out each and every one of his songs' 
main protagonists' roles, aided greatly by the raw 
attack of The E Street Band - and the charisma 
and integrity of a truly big, engaging man - 
Clarence Anicholas Clemons Jr.

I had the pleasure of meeting and looking eye-to-eye

with The Big Man, himself. Yep. He was BIG. Way 
back in 1985, while employed as a security guard, 
during 2 massive Springsteen concerts in Toronto, 
at the now-gone CNE Grandstand. My buddy, 
Dave Beatty offered me (with absolutely NO 
security guard experience, eh-ver) the plumb 
job of 'backstage left security guard'. My role
was simple: keep all dogged, determined and 
prying fans AWAY from the backstage area, 
and specifically, assist Bruce and his merry 
band of rockstars (including both his then 
AND future wives) onto and off of the 
stage - before and after the incredibly
incendiary, legendary shows.

Which is exactly what I did.

In between performing my duties,

I watched (from directly behind Nils
Lofgren's amplifiers) Bruce, Big Man
and the band transform 52,000 people,
each night, into their best friends and 
lovers and close family - for ever.

To this day, methinks, all real Bruce

fans feel a kindred affinity with not
only his and his band's recordings
and shows, but with Bruce, Big
Man, Patti, Miami Steve and the 
whole E Street organization,
past, present and future.

And while, in the present and future,
there'll be no more banter between the
best-est of friends that Bruce and The 
Mastah of Disastah were, we are 
blessed with enduring memories,
prompted by links like the one
I'm a-writin' about, today,
showing Springsteen and
the E Street Band in their
early days - at The Capitol
Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey.

Be sure to check out this link, folks.

Try watching the related playlist.

This is one MF'in' B-A-N-D.

This is talent. This is timeless.

This is Bruce Springsteen

and The E Street Band.

Mozz the Elder

"Streets Of Fire"

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Classic Song 45 - The Tornados "Telstar"

Alright -  time to talk about classic music.

Back in the years before The Beatles changed
everything, I was a little Kootenay kid that loved
pretty well all types of music that I heard, as I was
becoming more and more obsessed with the sounds
emanating from our radio and/or console stereo, and 
was constantly on the lookout for something new.

My brother Gord was my music hero, having
allowed me exclusive access to his band's
rehearsals (as detailed in Classic Song 
34). By eavesdropping on his daily 
guitar practice, whether played
on his '59 Jazzmaster or his
mid-50s Kaye, I heard many
exciting, reverb-laden tunes that
still resonate with me, over a half
century later, including guitar-centric
songs by Duane Eddy, The Ventures,
England's The Shadows or today's Classic
Song, featuring none other than The Tornados.

The story behind "Telstar" has been recounted 
often, so I'll give you only a snapshot summary of 
the salient points. The song was written and produced
by Robert George "Joe" Meek, who was not only into
music, but dabbled also in the occult, believing that he
could communicate with the dead, including the spirit
of Buddy Holly, himself. When not communicating
with ghosts, Meek was active in the British music
scene, having already had a couple of number
one UK records to his production credit. 

He was truly obsessed with futuristic sounds,
having already written and produced a concept
album, entitled I Hear A New World (which he
described as an 'Outer Space Music Fantasy),
for Brit act, Rod Freeman & The Blue Men.

But that was in 1960, and two years later, he was
determined to paint his audio masterpiece, with
the capable help of The Tornados. The title,
Telstar, refers to the US satellite that orbited 
the globe, in competition with Sputnik,
the Soviet Union's pioneering satellite.

The song itself features a very catchy melody,
played on a unique little instrument, called
the Clavioline, a forerunner to the analog
synthesizer, that was also used on The
Beatles' "Baby You're A Rich Man"
and many other pop tunes by acts as 
varied as Esquivel, Del Shannon,
The White Stripes and a young
David Jones aka Bowie.

After Telstar's massive success, Joe Meek 
was sued for plagiarizing the melody from an 
obscure soundtrack to a French film, and though
ultimately (and posthumously) found not guilty,
he was denied all royalties to Telstar, during
his short lifetime, and ended up deeply in 
debt and massively depressed by his
sad and lonely circumstance.

Though he ended it all in 1967 by murdering 
his landlady and subsequently committing
suicide, Joe Meek's legacy has grown in 
stature, with each new generation that 
has searched for greatness, and
found this classic song.

Now, the incredible "Telstar", 
following a totally unrelated 
photo, taken from my vast, 
personal collection of
unrelated photos.

Mozz the Elder

BONUS!! Joe Meek's demo of Telstar!!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Classic Song 44 - Steely Dan "Kid Charlamagne"

Let's talk about classic music.

Synonymous with the term 'classic music',
the name Steely Dan conjures up memories
of my touring days in the 70s, especially with
Rhinegold, since our master soundman, Bob
Shindle, used to 'tune' our PA to each club
environment by playing various great 
sounding records through the board, 
including The Royal Scam.

I remember being in Halifax, setting up at
the infamous Zapata's (where our dressing
room was, in fact, the men's restroom), and 
hearing the jazzy opening strains of Steely's 
"Kid Charlamagne" signal that our PA was
ready for action. But before the band began
our full soundcheck, Bob and I listened to
KC a bit closer, noticing just how rich and
unadorned every instrument and vocal 
sounded. In particular, the drums had
that dry, in-your-face clarity that
Bob was able to effectively cop
for our drummer, Danny
Bourne's massive kit.

Though Steely Dan and Rhinegold
shared little, stylistically, we did both
aim for greatness: of song; of performance
AND of sound, and even though Larry and
I parted ways about a year after we played
our hearts out in Halifax, I will always
remember his huge musical influence
on me, not to mention the huge
musical influence Steely Dan
had on me and Bobby and
pretty well the rest of
the world, methinks.

Here's "Kid Charlamagne",
following a recently acquired
picture of yours truly, dressed
from head to toe in Malabar-
made stage clothes - circa
late '78 or early '79.

Mozz the Elder

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Classic Song 43 - Paganini "Caprice No. 24"

Let's talk about classic music from 
a turn-of-the-century composer.

And by 'turn of the century', my little pretties, 
I mean the turn of the nineteenth century. 

The composer? Why, none other than Niccolo 
Paganini, who was certainly a proto-prog 
musician, if there ever was one. 

His astonishing violin virtuosity notwithstanding, 
he lived a life that we would today describe 
as that of a rock star, overindulging in sex, 
alcohol, drugs and serious, classical 
composition and concerts.

Before he descended into personal chaos and 
financial ruin, he graced the world with original 
music that was so far ahead of its time, many 
thought his more challenging works 
to be near-musical heresy.

Caprice No. 24 is the final caprice of his 
24 Caprices, and is one of the most famously 
difficult pieces ever written for violin soloists,
featuring a main theme, eleven astounding 
theme variations and a brief finale.

Performed by the great Jascha Heifetz 
(whose grandson is Danny Heifetz, 
drummer for Dieselhed and most 
notably, Mr. Bungle), here's a 
live performance, filmed in 
beautiful black and white,
following a picture, taken while 
I recorded with members of the 
Toronto Symphony Orchestra 
and other elite TO musicians.

I'm just a lucky guy.

Mozz the Elder

Monday, 30 May 2011

Classic Song 42 - Blonde Redhead "A Cure"

Let's talk about classic music from the turn of the century.

And by that, brave warriors, I mean the year 2000.

We'd all survived the runup to, and letdown from, 
the Y2K silliness, and were back to consuming 
way too much, way too often, with way too 
few concerns for way too many.

In other words, life was GREAT.

The fave album at the Fen-by household 
was Red Hot Chili Peppers' Californication.

I was constantly scouring music periodicals to find out 
more about their resurgence, and during one particular 
interview with their guitar great, John Frusciante, he 
mentioned he was a big fan of a band which was 
opening for the Chilis, called Blonde Redhead.

So I followed Frusciante's lead and picked 
up Blonde Redhead's fifth album: 

'Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons'. 

I popped the CD in the house system and... 
wow... I liked... no... LOVED what I heard. 

The band's three-person lineup (minimally augmented 
with tasty studio overdubs) yielded an inventive, musically 
challenging sound that appealed directly to both me AND 
my lovely lady, Pamela. Which was quite a big feat, 
considering that our musical tastes differed mightily,
with respect to anything that sounded 
remotely like progressive rawk.

I think the main difference between 'normal' prog rawk 
and the permutation performed by Blonde Redhead was 
that their lead singer was - and still is - a quirky Japanese 
woman named Kazu Makino, whose accented vocal 
prowess cast a spell on both Pam and me.

Her musical partners, twins Amedeo and Simone Pace 
also added high quality vocals to the mix, not to mention 
their Boston-trained percussive and stringed prowess.

The songs themselves run the gamut from the 6/8 
intensity of Melody Of Certain Three, to the almost 
Parisien pop of In Particular, to the stark, emotive 
balladry of Hated Because of Great Qualities 
my favourite track on the album: "A Cure".

With great shared lead vocals, "A Cure" feels at once 
like a Yes song, albeit with PFM-like male vocals, 
accented by Kazu's breathy rejoindres. 

The combination still feels fresh and invigorating, 
a full decade or more down the road of life.

Here's "A Cure", following a brief backyard 
visual from my trusty camera eye.

Moss the Elder

Monday, 16 May 2011

Classic Song 41 - The Doors "When The Music's Over"

When I was 13 years old, 
my brother Gord took me to my 
first ever rock concert, headlined
by none other than The Doors.

Mom, Dad and I were in Vancouver,
visiting relatives, and while spending an 
afternoon with big brother Gord, he
asked if I'd be interested in seeing
The Doors that very evening,
July 13th, 1968 at the
Pacific Coliseum.

Needless to say, I voiced an unqualified 'yes',
which was followed by Gord, wanting to 
make absolutely sure I was into seeing 
the band, since the 2 tickets'd 
cost him about 8 bucks.

I guess my job of convincing him was... 
convincing, for the next thing I knew,
I'd gone and bought a Nehru shirt at
Woolworth's, and Gord and I made
our way to the Coliseum - first,
to see the 3 opening acts, The 
Crome Syrcus, The Hydro-
Electric Streetcar and solo
singer, Tom Northcott.

Remember: this was my first rock concert,
so I was overwhelmed by a few things,
such as the pre-show crowd revelry 
(which got me all worked up), not
to mention (to the parents) my
first, ever contact high....

which really got me worked up.

So when the hockey PA speakers echoed the 
following announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen,
from Los Angeles, California, THE DOORS", I 
nearly leaped straight out of my skin and onto
the stage, except that it was about 20 rows 
away, and I was too young to be allowed 
to disappear from within Gord's sight. 

I stayed in my seat, straining to take in every, 
single moment of Morrison's and his band
mates' performance, albeit from row 20.

The concert changed my life, without a doubt.

Who knows? If I'd not seen this show at the
impressionable age of thirteen, would I have
been galvanized enough (without its impetus)
to want to be in the music business, when I was 
old enough to try my luck and my folks' patience?

Most likely, the true answer would still be 'yes',
even without my experiences, during that singular
and influential evening with the Lower Mainland 
hippies, the multi-named, long maned opening 
bands, followed by Northcott and The Doors.

I'm just so glad it happened, and forever 
grateful to Gord for making it happen.

The embedded video was taken during 
The Doors' '68 European tour, which
followed hot on the heels of their
tour of the US and Canada.

The poster and ticket stub 
were screen-grabbed from

Mozz the Elder