Wednesday, 18 September 2019

RIP to Ric Ocasek and The Cars

THE CARS ~ "HELLO AGAIN";


I grew up in the late 70's & early 80's during the Punk & New Wave era. When I was a kid I wasn't really into music. The only records I had were some of my dad's old Jazz records (Slim Gaillard, Fats Waller, Woody Herman, Glen Miller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tod Rhodes, Jellyroll Morton, Teddy Wilson, the Ink Spots and Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall concert) and some K-Tell albums. You know; those compilations where they would take a gaggle of songs that had been on the top forty and tossed them together regardless of whether they had anything in common with each other so you could find acceptable hard rock like Rush, Kiss and Nazareth alongside drippy pop singers Dan Hill, Burton Cummings, Tony Orlando and disco, country and novelty songs. All slightly edited and crammed together so tightly that each album would average twenty songs with crappy sound, garishly ugly covers and titles like "20 AMAZING DYNAMITE ROCK HITS!". You know; Classy. I didn't listen to them much. If you had asked me who my favorite bands were I would have said the Monkees because they had a cool TV show that was on after school, Suzi Quatro who was Leather Tuscadero on "Happy Days" and maybe Alice Cooper and that's about it.

However we also used to also have a cottage in Parry Sound where we would go practically every weekend and longer during the summer. It was pretty rustic, no running water, no phone, no TV. But we did have electricity and thus a radio. I never really listened to much radio at home in Toronto, after all there was the TV. But up north there was nothing to at night, or during the day if it rained, except read books and listen to the radio. Late at night I would hear crackling over the airwaves CBC shows like "Quirks & Quarks", old radio shows like "The Inner Sanctum" and "Quiet Please", top forty chart shows like Kasey Kasem's "America's Top 40" and "90 Minutes With A Bullet". This was happening just as New Wave (if not actual Punk Rock) was becoming a chart presence so I started to hear some news sounds among the usual dreary Kansas, Boston and Chicago.

THE CARS ~ "JUST WHAT I NEEDED";


The first band I remember falling in love with was the Cars with their cool linear sound and spacey keyboards fairly leaping out of the speakers next to the stodgy likes of the Eagles and Stampeders. Songs like "Just What I Needed", "Lets Go", "My Best Friends Girl" and "Shake It Up" made the likes of Supertramp and Elton John seem as old as ragtime. Soon there would be more; the Pretenders, B52's, Motels, Police, Diodes, Vapors, Blondie, Talking Heads, Devo, Teenage Head, OMD, Rough Trade, Martha & the Muffins. Along with a few not exactly New Wave but still somehow related types like Tom Petty, Nick Lowe, Cheap Trick, Max Webster and even Dire Straits. It wasn't just big city radio either. I can still recall as if it was yesterday the time the local small town DJ came in and announced he had been in Toronto record buying and had the latest hit to unveil. Before doing so he warned the parents they might want to leave the room before playing...the B52's "Rock Lobster" then laughing nervously. Thereafter there would be more; Devo's "Whip It", Teenage Head's "Disgusteen", Max Webster's "Check", the Vapors "Turning Japanese", M's "Pop Musik", the Knack's "My Sharona". Every time after playing one of these the befuddled local small town DJ would come on an say something like; "Well I'm not quite sure what that was but lets play some Fleetwood Mac", to which I would say; "NOOOO!".

The Cars first album was actually one of the first proper albums I got, although I didn't actually buy it. Mostly because I never had any money and what little I did have went to books, comics and model soldiers, not music. One day in 1980 or 81 I found a cache of albums somebody was tossing out (I think they were moving) which along side some old dinosaurs like Steppenwolf, Grand Funk, the Faces, Queen, Firefall, Nazareth and Uriah Heep (A double live album yet! This is why punk happened) there were a dozen New Wave and New Wave adjacent albums; the Cars, B52's, Romantics, Pretenders & Knack's first albums, the Police, Rockpile, Motels, Blondie, Tom Petty, Dire Straits, Max Webster, Suzi Quatro. After that I was hooked although I didn't get around to actually buying anything myself til 1982 and Joan Jett's "I Love Rock & Roll".

THE CARS ~ "LET'S GO";


There was, and is still, a tendency to dismiss these New Wave bands as being pale shadows of real Punk Rock, corporate record company attempts to cash in on a genuine underground movement. And it's true you would never hear any real Punk Rock on the radio (aside from occasionally the Clash or once in a blue moon maybe the Ramones) let alone Hardcore or Industrial music. But there is no doubt New Wave was a gateway drug for those too young to find their way to an underground club or those living too far away from a big city scene. The campus radio scene was in it's infancy at the time, Much Music and MTV were several years away and the internet a generation off. At any rate the best of the New Wave songs easily stand out even today.

At any rate back to the Cars. Ohio based Ric Ocasek (singer/guitarist & main songwriter) and Benjamin Orr (bassist/singer) had been working together for a while as folk-rockers since 1970 under various names and lineups with notable lack of success before moving to Boston. One of those abortive lineups included sax and keyboard player Greg Hawkes who had also played in comedian Martin Mull's band. By 1976 jazz influenced guitarist Elliot Easton and drummer David Robinson were added, Robinson was something of a veteran of the band new Boston Punk scene thanks to being in Johnathan Richman's band The Modern Lovers and DMZ and The Pop. As the band moved from artsy Folk Rock to a Roxy Music influenced New Wave it was Robinson's idea to change the name of the band from Milkwood (a Dylan Thomas reference) to the more modern sounding The Cars. They would get signed in 1977 and record the first album which quickly became the first American New Wave hit record that didn't come out of New York.

THE CARS ~ "SHAKE IT UP";


They were, along with Blondie, the first American New Wave band to have hits, and they were easily the most successful with a string of top 40 hits; "Just What I Needed", "Lets Go", "My Best Friends Girl" and "Shake It Up", in fact the entire first album (1978) sounds like a greatest hits album. Their mix of state of the art keyboards with just enough guitar to rock out, slightly nasal voices and short, snappy songs helped define the early eighties. One of the odd notes about them was the fact that Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr shared vocal duties even though they essentially sounded the same. They would continue to have hits for most of the rest of the decade even as a new generation of more underground American bands would make the Cars seem already old hat. They tried to dress the part with skinny ties and tight pants but their long hair was a little off-brand. 1984's "Heartbeat City" was their last big splash as they made the most of the new MTV, teaming up with Andy Warhol to make a series of splashy videos for "You Might Think", "Magic", "Hello Again" and the ballad "Drive" scoring several hits. These videos showed Ocasek's girlfriend, supermodel Pauliana Porikova to good effect as well as Warhol in his last major work and in which he showed he was easily the worst lipsyncher ever. The Cars, like most American bands and unlike the UK New Wavers, had never shown much interest in videos previously. The famously gawky Ocasek would get to live out the rock star dream by marrying supermodel Paulina. This was essentially their last hurrah however, 1987's "Door To Door" stiffed and they broke up rather acrimoniously. Ocasek would have a few minor solo records (as would Ben Orr) but he would become better known as a producer for the likes of Suicide, Bad Brains, Romeo Void, Hole, Nada Surf, Bad Religion, Black 47, Guided by Voices, Weezer, Bebe Buell, No Doubt, Johnny Bravo, D Generation, Possum Dixon, Martin Rev and going full circle, Jonathan Richman. He also produced books of poetry and photographs.

THE CARS ~ "YOU MIGHT THINK";


Ben Orr died in 2000 and Ocasek shunned any band reunions saying he had no desire to perform live and was especially not interested in touring. The Cars did do a reunion tour without him in 2005-06 with Todd Rundgren on vocals which Ocasek at first gave legal permission for but then mocked, as did most fans. There would finally be a proper reunion (without Orr of course) in 2016 with a new album and tour. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2018 which would be their last gig. Ric Ocasek was found dead of heart disease in his New York townhouse this September 15 aged 74.

THE CARS ~ "SINCE YOU'RE GONE";

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Throwback Thursdays Retro Video Project; Cabaret Voltaire pt.3

I already made a bunch of Cabaret Voltaire here and here but since then I've made a few more so....

CABARET VOLTAIRE ~ "THE SET UP";


For this early track I used an early colour film by George Melies.

CABARET VOLTAIRE ~ "PREMONITION";


This vid uses another George Melies short "Satan In Prison".

CABARET VOLTAIRE ~ "NO ESCAPE";


This vid for a live version of a cover of a Seeds song uses an early short about an attack on a train.

CABARET VOLTAIRE ~ "LANDSLIDE";


This bid uses a short doc showing a ship entering a harbour in Holland.

CABARET VOLTAIRE ~ "PARTIALLY SUBMERGED";


This vid uses footage of Edie Sedgewick from Andy Warhol's "Poor Little Rich Girl" (1965)

CABARET VOLTAIRE ~ "NEWS FROM NOWHERE";


This vid uses more footage of Edie, this time doing her laundry

CABARET VOLTAIRE ~ "WALLS OF KYOTO";


This vid for a live version off "Hai! Live In Japan" uses an Op Art film by George Cupp from 1977.

CABARET VOLTAIRE vs QUEEN ~ "WE WILL NAG YOU";


This track is a mashup of the Cabs and Queen and uses another Op Art film by George Cup from the 1970's

Thursday, 29 August 2019

The Throwback Thursday Retro Video Project; Modern Eon & Section 25

Joy Division had a heavy influence on the post punk scene with a couple of groups showing an obvious influence.

Section 25 were the most obvious band to take after the Joy Division. They had actually toured together and not coincidentally for their first album, "Always Now" (1981), they had the same producer (Martin Hannett), album cover designer (Ian Saville) and record label (Factory Records). Not surprisingly they sound exactly like Joy Division albeit with a singer who has a more airy sound than Ian Curtis.

SECTION 25 ~ "FRIENDLY FIRES";


This spooky track uses a George Melies short "The Haunted Castle";

SECTION 25 ~ "BABIES IN THE BARDO";


This vid uses a strange 1900's short featuring some early stop-action animation.

SECTION 25 ~ "INSIDE OUT";


This vid uses a 1960's Op Art film by Robert Breer.


Modern Eon were a Liverpool group who put out one album in 1981 which tempered their Joy Division influences with a more ethereal sound. They showed altogether more original potential than Section 25 and earned good reviews from the fickle UK music press for their one and only album (and a couple of indie singles) but just as Joy Division met disaster on the eve of their first North American tour, Modern Eon had to cancel their proposed tour after their drummer, who was integral to their sound, was injured. They broke up soon after and none of the members went on to have any noteworthy careers.

MODERN EON ~ "WAITING FOR THE CAVALRY";


This vid uses an early silent film by Segundo De Chomon which feature some cool stop-motion animation.

MODERN EON ~ "HIGH NOON";


This vid uses a Segundo De Chomon short from the 1900's "The Chinese Dancers"

MODERN EON ~ "MECHANIC";


This vid uses a 1900's travel doc which has some unintended lighting effects caused by the degradation of the film stock.

MODERN EON ~ "EUTHENICS";


This vid uses another silent travel doc

MODERN EON ~ "CHILD'S PLAY";


This vid uses some spectacular 1900's nighttime footage of Coney Island

MODERN EON ~ "CARDINAL SIGNS";


This vid uses one of series of short Op Art films by George Cup made in the 1970's.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

The Throwback Thursdays Retro Video Project; Cancon Edition

Cancon; New Wave Edition;

STURM GROUP ~ "TO THE BALTIC";


Sturm Group were a Toronto band in the 1980's who were basically in a similar genre to artsy post-punk groups like PIL, Joy Division, Wire, Pere Ubu, Section 25, Modern Eon, Clock DVA, Jass and Section 25. They put out three albums along with an earlier cassette before breaking up in the early 90's. There was also a side project named Norda who put out an ep. Bassist Walter Sobzjack went on to be a producer and play in Raggadeath in the 90's.

STURM GROUP ~ "TWENTY";


For both these instrumentals I used two George Melies films from the 1900's.

SIMPLY SAUCER ~ "MOLE MACHINE";


Simply Saucer were an Art Punk/Noise band from Hamilton in the late 70's somewhat similar to the Fall and Wire with a heavier Velvet Underground, Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. They only released a single but did record an album that was released some years after the band broke up. This instrumental track uses a 1920's German Dada Art film by Walter Ruttmann.

FM ~ "STARLESS";


FM with Nash The Slash were part of the first wave of Toronto Punk scene of the late 70's although they were really more of a Prog Rock band. They recorded one album before Nash quit and the band carried one for a couple more albums with Ben Mink. This King Crimson cover is from the early Nash era and uses a George Melies space travel film which seems fitting as Nash was also known for composing music for silent film showings.

THE SPOONS ~ "NOVA HEART";


The Spoons were one of the few bands of the Toronto early 80's scene to find some degree of international success. They started out as a similar vein to early Simple Minds and Ultravox before adding more layered keyboards similar to the Human League and OMD when the had a couple of hits like "Nova Heart" and "Arias & Symphonies". After that there sound became more mainstream and less interesting although they did have a few more hits. This vid uses an art film from the 1970's be George Cupp and Steve Elliot.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Some Figures From The Toronto Music Scene Pass On

Frankie Busseri of 1950's Toronto pop vocal group the Four Lads, the first Toronto group to score international hits ("Standing On The Corner", "No Not Much", "Moments To Remember", "Istanbul");

THE FOUR LADS ~ "STANDING ON THE CORNER";


THE FOUR LADS & FRANKIE LAINE;



Fred Keeler ~ Guitarist with 1960's Toronto band David Clayton Thomas & the Shays

DAVID CLAYTON THOMAS & THE SHAYS ~ "WALK THAT WALK";



Jackie Shane ~ 1960's Toronto R&B singer;

JACKIE SHANE ~ "WALKING THE DOG";



Joanne Brooks ~ 1970's R&B singer and later singer in New Wave band Rough Trade;

ROUGH TRADE ~ "BIRDS OF A FEATHER";


ROUGH TRADE ~ "BUTCH";



Johnny Lovesin ~ Rock & Roll singer/guitarist and a fixture on the Toronto scene from the late 70's onward including opening for the Ramones first Toronto gig;

JOHNNIE LOVESIN ~ "WORKING GIRL";


JOHNNIE LOVESIN ~ "BAD TALK";



Dave Bookman ~ Radio DJ from the 80's onward on CIUT, CFNY and INDIE 88m club booker and supporter of indie music, also singer in 80's for indie band The Bookmen;

VIDEO TRIBUTE FOR DAVE BOOKMAN;



Leon Redbone ~ Ragtime Folk Rocker from the 1970's and an influence on Tom Waits;

LEON REDBONE ~ "DIDDY WAH DIDDY";


LEON REDBONE ~ "SHINE ON HARVEST MOON";



Joe Hall ~ Artsy Folk-Rock and Comedy singer songwriter and another fixture on the Toronto club scene from the 1970's & 80's

JOE HALL & THE CONTINENTAL DRIFT ~ "SWEET GYPSY NOSE";


JOE HALL & THE CONTINENTAL DRIFT ~ "LOS HABLOS TELEPHONOS";



Ed Bickert ~ Jazz guitarist from the 1960's onward;

ED BICKERT ~ "JUMPIN' THE BLUES";



Mose Scarlett ~ Folk & Blues singer from the 1970's onward;

MOSE SCARLETT ~ "SWEET GEORGIA BROWN";



Herb Dale - Toronto Country singer/songwriter;

HERB DALE ~ "JUST LIKE GOOD OLD WILLIE NELSON";



Justin Haynes ~ Toronto guitarist & mandolinist;

JUSTIN HAYNES;



Brian LaHaie ~ Drummer for Toronto folk band the Donefors & Cindy Doire;

THE DONEFORS ~ "IN A CORNFIELD";


Thursday, 15 March 2018

Throwback Thursdays Retro Video Project Pres; Black Sabbath & Monster Magnet

This week on my Throwback Thursdays Retro Video Project; Black Sabbath and Monster Magnet.

You wouldn't normally think of Sabbath as subject for some artsy film mashups but there's a couple.

BLACK SABBATH ~ "EMBRYO";


This one uses one of the earliest short clips from Edison Studios circa 1894.

BLACK SABBATH ~ "FX";


For this little effects noodle I used some Edison Studios footage taken from the 1901 Pan-Am Expo in Buffalo which was incidentally where President Willaim McKinley was shot.

MATMOS ~ "FX";


This cover of the Sabbath song was from a Black Sabbath cover album and I used some more Edison Studios footage, this time of the aftermath of the San Fransisco earthquake and fire of 1904.

MONSTER MAGNET ~ "INTO THE VOID";


This epic cover came from yet another Sabbath tribute. Uses a Polish film based on the Gogol story "The Portrait".

MONSTER MAGNET ~ "EGO THE LIVING PLANET";


With their 1995 album "Dopes To Infinity" album Monster Magnet produced the greatest album Black Sabbath never made. More footage from the Edison Studios footage of the San Francisco Earthquake for this instrumental.

MONSTER MAGNET ~ "MASTERBURNER";


For this track I used a short art film made by Yoko Ono as part of Flux Films, a Dada art Collective in 1967.

MONSTER MAGNET ~ "KING OF MARS";


This video used another art film, by Robert Breer from 1970

BLUE CHEER ~ "MAGNOLIA CABOOSE BABYFINGER";


Before there was Black Sabbath there was Blue Cheer. This vid uses some test footage from a horror film from the British studio Hammer Films in the 1960's

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Throwback Thursdays Retro Video Project Pres; Ramleh

Ramleh were one of the bands to emerge from the early Dada-Industrial scene of Northern England led by the likes of Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire (who also made a series of vids for to be scene here and here) and Clock DVA (ditto here). Starting in 1982 they have continued (with an ever shifting lineup) to today releasing records on various small indie labels. Ramleh differ from the other bands mentioned in that while these bands would embrace electronic and even dance music, Ramleh have continued to work within the original Noise-Rock framework of traditional guitar, bass and drums drenched in screeching feedback, distortion, droning echo, shouted vocals (if any) and long, apparently free-form jams.

RAMLEH ~ "FAG-ENDERS";


For this track off the 1994 "Homeless" I used an early silent animated film by Winsor McCay, the father of animation, who incidentally I've also written about here. Note that the "Fag" in the title probably refers to the British slang term for cigarettes but I can't be 100% sure since the vocals are completely indecipherable.

RAMLEH ~ "CHICKENHAWK";


This track from "Homeless" uses a weird early sci-fi film from the great French director Abel Gance ("Napoleon") which includes some hallucinogenic camera tricks.

RAMLEH ~ "MAGIC TIGER";


This track uses another early French film, this time from George Melies which includes some early hand-tinted colour.

RAMLEH ~ "THUMB BUSTER";


This track uses a short art film made by Yoko Ono for the Fluxus Film art collective in New York in about 1967