REFLECTIONS AND RANTS

(Originally published on February 28, 2011)

I’ve told this one too many times, and I might as well retire it now.

I’m a 21-year-old reporter, and I am in the Empress Hall, London, in May 1956 to see my hero, Louis Armstrong. My ticket has cost a week’s wages, plus train fare from the north of England, and a night in a dire bed and breakfast.

It’s hard to explain, on a different continent half a century later, how significant Armstrong’s appearance in Britain was. The hippest, hottest pop music in Britain at that time was called “trad” jazz — the attempt by British players to emulate the American classic jazz of the ’20s.  Today, only a small handful of bands keep the tradition alive; the audience and the players are, literally, dying off. [click to continue…]

(Originally published on February 28, 2011)

It’s been a busy week. Here’s a couple of short stories and a musical diary.  And two daffy videos to finish up.

THIS TIME: The Mariposa Folk Festival, Neill Dixon, Jackson Browne, David Lindley, Odetta, Bobby King, Jonathan and Darlene Edwards. Spike Jones, Shauna de Cartier, Luke Doucet, Holger Petersen, The Breakmen, Harry Manx and Kevin Breit, Billy Connolly, Run with the Kittens, Jay Aymar, the mysterious and forgetful Leon Redbone, and many, many others…

Jackson Browne’s carbon footprint  [click to continue…]

(Originally published on February 28, 2011)

What’s happened to Canada’s most amazing city?

A few years back, I did some publicity work in Toronto for Luc Plamondon, the famous Quebec songwriter and the creator of Starmania and other internationally famous musicals. As we drove from interview to interview, he mentioned that he had not been to Toronto for 25 years.

Appalled, I asked him what his opinion of me would be if I admitted that I had not visited Montreal in a quarter of a century. “Ah,” he replied, “perhaps you are, how do you say, a philistine?” [click to continue…]

(Originally published on February 28, 2011)

THIS TIME: Greg Godowittz, Dave Bidini, The Rheostatics, Paul Quarrington, Porkbelly Futures, Miles Davis, Donald K. Donald, Kendel Carson, Chip Taylor, Peter Karp & Sue Foley, Steeleye Span, Maddy Prior, Roseanne Cash

Such an old-fashioned pursuit, reading

A few years back, I taught a course at Toronto’s Harris Institute called Music & Media, and I soon discovered that hardly anyone in any of the classes I spoke to had ever read a book about music.

However, since we’re grown-ups here, I feel safe in recommending three amazing autobiographical books about music that will widen your horizons. Warning: Do not read these on public transportation, since laughing like an idiot on the bus causes people to react nervously.  [click to continue…]

(Originally published on February 28, 2011)

RANDY NEWMAN: CLASSICAL PIANIST

Randy Newman turned 67 on Sunday. Arguably, he is one of the greatest American songwriters since the glory days of Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter,and the Gershwin brothers.  He has a keen eye, a brilliant sense of observation; he breaks most of the songwriting “rules” and he tackles risky subjects. He has a wicked sense of humour.

He can also be terse, grumpy, non-communicative and sarcastic. Interviewers approach him with a considerable degree of trepidation; it is best to be prepared.  [click to continue…]

(Originally published on June 3, 2011)

Here comes NXNE, all over Toronto like a rash. June 13-19, we trust, is already in your calendar…

And, herewith, our list of the event’s silliest/daftest band names. Warning: This will be a tradition at both this event and Canadian Music Week.  [click to continue…]

(Originally published on February 28, 2011)

MY VERY FIRST PUBLICITY JOB

It’s 1956, and we’re in York, a picturesque city in the north of England, at a nearly empty Rialto Cinema on a Sunday afternoon.

We’re at the sound check of a new band, which plays Bill Haley covers. As the band rehearse, a tailor fusses about, making the final alternations on the identical powder blue suits he has made for the musicians. This is an important gig, because the band will make a surprise appearance tonight at the first showing of a Glenn Ford movie called Blackboard Jungle[click to continue…]

(Originally published on February 28, 2011)

SCOTLAND’S BIGGEST BAND COMES TO WINNIPEG. ANOTHER TRUE BACKSTAGE STORY

All is not well backstage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. It is 1987, and the festival’s new artistic director, Rosalie Goldstein — a tough. short, red-haired woman — is discussing the programming with an equally feisty woman who manages the Scottish band Run Rig, which is making its Canadian debut at the festival.

“What’s this?” says the Scottish woman, waving the festival programme in Goldstein’s face. “What’s this workshop thing on Sunday?” “A workshop,” responds Goldstein equably. “It’s like a little concert, but with other musicians sharing the stage.”  [click to continue…]

(Originally published on February 28, 2011)

Hello. My name is Richard.

I’m in trouble. And I need help.

My problem is costing me my sanity, it’s taking too much time from my life that I can’t afford. And it’s ruining me financially. And I am helpless.  [click to continue…]

(Originally published on February 28, 2011)

A salute to one of the great American artists of the 20th century, Antoine “Fats” Domino, reviews of a couple of interesting books,  a really bad joke and some killer video links.  What more do you want for free?

AN AMERICAN GIANT: FATS DOMINO

Well, he’ll probably never perform again; he’s 82 years old, and his life was irreparably damaged by Hurricane Katrina. He is Fats Domino, and — with the exception of Louis Armstrong — the greatest musician to emerge from New Orleans, the cradle of American jazz and rhythm and blues.

Amazingly, he had 78 charted records on Billboard’s pop charts, and 61 on the r&b charts, not to mention 25 hits in the UK. And you know most of those songs: “Ain’t It a Shame,” “My Blue Heaven,” “Blueberry Hill,” “I’m Walkin’,” “Walking to New Orleans,” “Let the Four Winds Blow,” ”I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Some Day” and dozens more.

[click to continue…]