Tag Archives: Music

Two Chuck Berry Stories From Michael Cohl And Triumph

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry, the true king of rock ‘n’ roll died yesterday in St. Charles County, Missouri. He was 90 years old.

Though Berry stopped touring a few years ago, I always held out small hope that I would get to see him perform live. Clearly that will never happen now.

While Berry will be lauded for his music, almost as much will be made about his mercurial and sometimes controversial behaviours and personality.

What’s absolutely clear is that Berry was a bigger-than-life music personality who won’t soon be forgotten.

I went through some of my old interview transcripts and found a couple anecdotes about Berry.

The first is an outtake from an interview I did with super-promoter Michael Cohl for a story at Huffington Post Music Canada. When the conversation turned to some of the stranger music personalities he’d dealt with in his career, Cohl was very discreet. He did, however, provide this one Berry-related tale:

“I think I’ve dealt with most of them,” said Cohl, of the most idiosyncratic entertainers. “I think that Rodney Dangerfield story’s pretty eccentric. So’s Bob Marley’s. I mean, listen, we’ve dealt with Chuck Berry. He’s nerve-wracking. He wants to be paid for every little thing. He wants to be paid per smile in some cases, but at the end of the day he says, ‘Don’t you worry, it’s an 8 o o’clock show? I’ll be at the building at 7:30 and have my money ready.’ And doesn’t want anyone to pick him up… so in some ways he’s the simplest, but the simplest can also be the most nerve-wracking because you’re sitting there and it’s 7 o’clock and you go ‘I have no idea where this guy is.’ He’s not in his room. He’s not in the building. He says he’s going to be here at 7:30… I wonder. Inevitably, he shows up.

“Yeah, he’s extraordinary, let’s face it. He’ll make you crazy.”

The other good Berry story I uncovered came from Triumph bassist Mike Levine, who I spoke to when the band released their Live at Sweden Rock Festival CD/DVD a few years back. Levine apparently experienced the unique challenge that is being the local band backing Berry.

Levine explained why in this outtake from my interview with him:

“I got a good Chuck Berry story,” said Levine. “I can’t remember the name of the band, but it was in the early ’70s and we were pretty popular, playing high schools and colleges and stuff, and we get a call from Queen’s University and they say, ‘Can you back up for Chuck Berry?’ And he’s playing here, blah, blah, blah, you play a set and you’ll back Chuck up, so we said, ‘Oh that’ll be great.’

“So we played our set. We’re sitting in the dressing room. We still haven’t met Chuck. About 10 minutes before show time he arrives and he opens his guitar case and there were three things in it other than his guitar: airplane bottles of liquor, a wad of cash, and a gun. And he said, ‘I don’t think we’re going to be playing tonight.’

“We go, ‘What do you mean?’

“‘Well, the place is sold out and I told the promoter I want more money or I’m not going on.’ Which I found out later he’s very famous for doing.

“So we were, ‘Well, just in case we do play, what songs are we going to do?’ And he said, ‘Just follow me.’

“We go ‘OK’ and the promoter comes in and Chuck wrangled an extra $5,000 out of him or something. Insisted on being paid in cash before we got on. He got everything he wanted. We got onstage and he’d turn around and yell ‘Johnny B. Goode, E. Count it in.’ We played all the songs. It went really good. We had fun. And after it was done he said goodbye, packed up his stuff and left.”

Watch Chuck Berry perform “My Ding-A-Ling”

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Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White — Gentlewoman, Ruby Man (Album Review)

Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White — Gentlewoman, Ruby Man

Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White — Gentlewoman, Ruby Man

It’s fitting that British triller Flo Morrissey and American drawler Matthew E. White met for the first time at a Lee Hazlewood tribute night in 2015 because the pair’s new album Gentlewoman, Ruby Man has a clear “we want to be like Lee & Nancy” air throughout.

If it is an act of copycatting it’s a respectful one. Where Lana Del Rey gets her retro cues by searching through Jackie Kennedy photo archives on Pinterest, one gets the sense the 10 duet covers on Gentlewoman, Ruby Man were selected after exploring a well-curated record collection in someone’s rec room basement.

It’s not a total ’70s revival trip. The pair manage to turn Frank Ocean (“Thinking ‘Bout You”), James Blake (“The Colour In Anything”) and Charlotte Gainsbourg (“Heaven Can Wait”) tracks into effective grayscale mopers.

That said, Morrissey and White’s best work comes from their classic reinterpretations. Their take on Nino Ferrer’s “Looking For You” has even more gravitas when you know the French-Italian singer’s tragic story. It’s exceedingly difficult to mess up Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” and their version’s tinkling keyboard flourish will lock itself between your ears long after you listen to it. Even more addictive is Morrissey and White’s buoyant reimagine of the Grease theme song. Striped of its context as part of a musical and careful calibrated to avoid any American Idol talent show-type airs, “Grease” turns into a groovy, Feist-ian bedroom jammer. Best, though, may be the pair’s take on the George Harrison spiritual “Govindam.” At risk of Beatles blaspheming, this modern redo, complete with its winding, mobius strip rhythmic track, may perhaps be better than the original.

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Arcade Fire, Blue Rodeo, Patrick Watson On Polaris Podcast EP4

Arcade Fire photo courtesy Polaris Music Prize.

Arcade Fire photo courtesy Polaris Music Prize.

Arcade Fire, Blue Rodeo and Patrick Watson were among the acts we spoke to for episode four of the Polaris Podcast.

This episode was focused on four of the albums that received Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize designation last year.

Those were:

* Blue Rodeo’s Five Days In July, which won in the 1986-95 public vote category
* Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Miss America, which won in the 1986-95 jury vote category
* Arcade Fire’s Funeral, which won in the 1996-2005 public vote category
* Lhasa’s La Llorona, which won in the 1996-2005 jury vote category

Listen to the podcast via iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or Acast. Or right here…

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Stevie Nicks ‘In Your Dreams’: Fleetwood Mac Singer’s Doc Almost Foiled Due to Vanity

Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks

Toward the end of In Your Dreams, Stevie Nicks and Dave Stewart’s documentary about the making of their album of the same name which opened at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox last night, Stewart muses about the magic that he experienced in that year of writing and recording with the rock ‘n’ roll legend and his hopes that a piece of that comes across in the film.

“I hope it brought you a little closer to Stevie’s heart,” he says in his closing narration.

The film certainly lives up to Stewart’s expectations. The result of the producer and former Eurythmics member’s almost obsessive need to film and document everything in his life, In Your Dreams takes viewers deep into the year-long creative process behind Nicks’s 2011 album — her first solo release in over a decade — and just as deep into the heart of its co-writer and co-director.

With his omnipresent camera essentially becoming part of the gang, Stewart documents almost every detail of what happened from the time that Nicks asked him to produce her new album to the assembly of her band and crew (including superstar producer Glen Ballard and her Fleetwood Mac bandmates Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham) to the videos the crew made to accompany each song on the disc.

Obviously comfortable with her creative partner, Nicks opens up about almost everything. Her family, her early music history, her sometimes rocky history with Buckingham, and her current inspirations are all covered. She even waxes poetically on her love of the Twilight films, which were the inspiration for the song “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream).”

“I was taken with this movie because what happened to Bella absolutely happened to me,” she says about Bella’s post-Edward heartbreak in New Moon.

The result of this intimate and open atmosphere is a documentary that actually does make you feel like you’re part of the action, as cliched as that phrase may be. And, as it turns out, the film was only really the opening act for people who attended one of the two screenings and Stevie Nicks Q&As last night. In the flesh, the rock star was even more personable and charming.

Clad in one of her trademark flowing outfits, Nicks amiably sauntered on stage after the screening, settled into her seat and started regaling the sold out crowd with a story about the genesis of the In Your Dreams film, and how her own personal insecurities almost destroyed the project before it even began.

Stewart, she explained, original brought up the idea of filming the whole process when he first agreed to produce the album for her. Nicks wasn’t big on the idea, as it stood in the way of all of dreams of recording and home and dressing as a complete slob.

“That means serious hair, makeup and clothes,” she said, in mock horror.

In the end, though, it was Running Down a Dream, the 2007 Tom Petty documentary, that convinced her to give the camera a shot.

“I remember the footage from Tom Petty’s very, very long four-hour documentary, which I personally loved, every minute of it,” she said. “But there was a part on the Traveling Wilburys that was so brilliant and it really showed the five of those guys like they were in the James Gang or something. And we got to see them for a half-hour really be who they were and just looking so handsome and playing this amazing music and then, within minutes, it seemed, two of them died. And if they hadn’t have done that, what a shame that would have been.”

This got her reevaluating her own priorities.

“What a shame it would be if you, Miss Vanity, said no to this because you don’t want to spend a half an hour doing makeup and picking a uniform,” she continued. “What if we come up with something that’s really great and we don’t film it? And then how are you going to feel a year after that? You’re going to go, ‘Wow, now you really can admit to the vanity of women because you lost out on something really brilliant.’ So I said ok.”

Soon, she said, her appearance wasn’t even on her mind.

“It’s amazing how easy the process becomes because of the people involved.”

Taking questions from the crowd, Nicks indulged the audience in questions about making the classic Fleetwood Mac album Rumours (“It wasn’t a very pleasant experience,” she quipped before embarking on a more philosophical reflection on the romance and the drama behind those days), and opening up about the death of her mother.

She also talked about how the promotion of In Your Dreams really forced her to adapt to the new realities of the music business. For someone who came of age in a wildly different music industry, it hasn’t always been an easy transition.

“The music business has turned to stone,” she said. “I can’t expect anyone to help me.”

She also pointed out that record companies just don’t have enough money to invest in bands for the long term anymore, using Fleetwood Mac’s post-Rumours career as an example.

“If it had been now and we had done Rumours and had that success and then we did Tusk, the double record from Africa? Warner Brothers would have said ‘Get out and take your African tusks with you!’ It’s such a different age now.”

Nicks credits her fans and their support or allowing her to tirelessly tour and promote In Your Dreams and help her make it the modern day music business success that it is. As such, she pointedly thanked those in attendance for their part in it.

“I’m not going to worry about record sales anymore and I’m not going to worry about what people think,” she said.

“Because what really matters is what I think, because if I’m thinking good and I’m thinking happy, then what I do is going to turn around and make you feel good. So we just bounce off of each other. I throw the dreams out there and you throw them back at me. And that’s how we make this together. This is not anything that is done by one person. It happens because we’re a team. And you’re my team. You are. I mean that.”

This story was originally published April 16, 2013 on Spinner.

 

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Samaritan News 10 Pack: Madonna, Prince Harry, U2, More

Madonna marches on Washington.

Madonna marches on Washington.

Here are some of the news stories I wrote for charitably-minded entertainment site Samaritanmag in January:

Read Madonna’s Women’s March on Washington Speech

Arcade Fire and Mavis Staples Release Charity Song To Support American Civil Liberties Union

Watch Video: Prince Harry Visits Botswana, Signs on to Help Protect Rhinos

Buffy Sainte-Marie to Receive Allan Waters Humanitarian Award At Juno Awards

U2 Private Concert, Tea With Bono and Julia Roberts Raffled Off to Support AIDS Charity

9 Civil Rights Museums To Visit For Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Hockey Team to Honour The Tragically Hip, Auction Custom Jerseys for Gord Downie Fund

What Is The Committee to Protect Journalists Meryl Streep Mentioned At Golden Globes?

KIND Foundation Gives $1.1 Million USD To Seven People Doing Good

Little Big Town to Help Launch Music in Our Schools Tour

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Filed under Environment, Health, Music, Shameless Promotion

Mother Mother’s Identity Crisis

Mother Mother

Mother Mother

Vancouver alternative-pop band Mother Mother’s newest album No Culture was the result of some deep soul searching.

As the band explained to me in a feature for SOCAN’s Words & Music, the combination of writer’s block and an identity crisis made making the album difficult.

To read about how they navigated this, click here.

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Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Rush Among Topics On Polaris Podcast EP3

Albums talked about on Polaris Podcast EP3

Albums talked about on Polaris Podcast EP3

The third episode of the Polaris Podcast focused on four albums that won Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize designations in 2016.

They were:

* Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush
* Leonard Cohen’s Songs Of Leonard Cohen
* Rush’s Moving Pictures
* Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s self-titled album

For this episode we interviewed Anna McGarrigle, Young Galaxy and a number of expert jurors.

Please listen, subscribe and validate my employment.

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