Archive for April, 2017

The Freedom of Music: Chuck’s Children

April 9th, 2017
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

I once danced onstage with Chuck Berry. Or, to be more precise, Chuck Berry played Johnny B. Goode while I danced five feet away from him. Not, you understand, go-go dancer style in a knit mini or anything weird like that, just danced. Onstage.  

It was 1987, August 8th to be specific. Berry was doing a two show gig at “Mount Chinguacousy” during the Brampton Flower Festival. The first show is a bit legendary in Chuck Berry circles because he fired his band during School Days. Berry was infamously difficult, but even for him firing the band, onstage, mid-show was notable.

The second show went better, however, and Berry got to the last song without so much as a sour word towards the musicians who had been hired to back him. So while closing out Johnny B. Goode, Berry invited some young ladies to dance onstage. One of them was my then girlfriend. Berry called her onstage, and from the angle he called her, I thought he motioned to me. Sadly, both she and I pointed to ourselves and said, “me?”
and when he nodded yes and said back “yes you”, I took my cue and went. It wasn’t until I read about the spoil sport bastards who crashed the stage when Chuck was calling on some girls to come up in that weeks Brampton Guardian that I realized, no, not me.

So I’m dancing beside a guy with a notorious temper on a night when he’s already fired his band once (i.e. maybe not a good night). Looking back I can consider myself lucky I didn’t get conked with his legendary ES-355.

The band Berry fired that night were hired by the promoter of the show. As was Berry’s practice from fairly early on, he toured without a band, and every town he went to his contract stipulated they hire a band. The band would get no rehearsal time with Berry, no chord charts and no set list prior to show. In the recording of that August night, Berry stops School Days and tells the band, no playing during the breaks. He continues the song and in their enthusiasm, they can’t help themselves but add some pickup notes at the end of each break. At songs end he gives them shit in front of everybody and does five songs without them before they return chastened but apparently much improved.

It seems strange to hire a different band for every show, and it can’t have been easy to be one of Berry’s back up players. Bruce Springsteen did the gig once in his pre-fame days, and writing about it years later noted that Berry played his songs on odd keys like Bb and Eb (while everybody and their brothers band plays Johnny B. Goode in ‘A’, the original is actually in ‘Bb’ for instance). But by the same token, it speaks to how common his songs are to play for local bands that he could always find three or four guys, in every town, who knew so many of his songs.

In Rock and Roll Never Forgets, Bob Seger sings about “all of Chuck’s children are out there, playing his licks.” This is what he’s talking about, so many musicians over the years cut their teeth, earned their money playing Chuck Berry’s songs. And occasionally, if you were lucky, Chuck’s children got to step on stage and actually play with him. Lucky, that is, if he didn’t fire you in front of everybody.

Chuck Berry passed away on March 18 at 90-years old. He was one of the truly great performers, and he left a legacy that may be unmatched in rock and roll. May he rest in peace. And if there’s a rock and roll heaven, NO PLAYING DURING THE BREAK!







for certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

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RCMP Cambridge Takedown

April 7th, 2017
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Exciting business across the 401 yesterday as RCMP tactical unit in camouflage gear arrested a truck driver in the parking lot of the local Walmart.

What’s interesting is, this is the result of a year long investigation and fourteen search warrants were executed and multiple arrests were made.

There will be more later information today.

Update: it’s an LA to Waterloo coke ring.


For certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair


Pursuant to Yesterday’s Post about Stevie Nicks

April 5th, 2017
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Stevie Nicks, Edge of 17, 1982.




For certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair


Stevie Nicks: Visions Dreams & Rumours

April 4th, 2017
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Like most guys my age, I had a crush on Stevie Nicks back in the 70’s and early bit of the 80’s. Besides being gorgeous, there’s a real sexiness to her, the long flowing dresses being far more intriguing than the more usual attempts to stimulate through under-dressing.

Reading Zoë Howe’s Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams & Rumors, it’s clear I was not alone. As Nicks’ friend Sara Recor comments, “Jim (Recor, Sara’s then husband) had a crush on her (Stevie), but who wouldn’t?”

The thing that comes across in Visions Dreams & Rumours is outside of the rock star adoration young adolescents like I gave Nicks, she was worthy of those attentions and crushes. She was, is, what she seems to be, an entirely likeable, classy, and classic, lady.

Howe balances the writing of a biography very well between not hiding the foibles of the subject, and presenting her as a likeable human. Nicks comes across as very much a real person, not some caricature or over the top personality. In fact, what becomes clear is that what you see with Nicks, is pretty much the real thing. Her onstage persona is not a character so much as an exaggeration of her true self. Nicks really does dress like that. Nicks really does talk like a dreamy hippy. She carries around notebooks of poetry and will stop what she’s doing to write down a line she heard or thought of.

On top of presenting a likeable Nicks, reading Visions Dreams & Rumours has made me go back and re-examine Nicks’ catalogue. I had forgotten how good a singer she is, and the great songs she writes. Her first solo effort, Bella Donna, is a revelation, although there was a time when I gave it a lot of airplay. It is better than I remembered.

It’s nice when you read a biography and come away liking the subject more than when you went in, and get a chance to rediscover a forgotten artist. Visions Dreams & Rumours did exactly that. It is a well written enjoyable read, which makes Stevie Nicks seem a vivid and real person. It presents her life in the context of her work, without belabouring the salacious details inevitable in a 70’s rock star biography. And it reintroduced me to some great music.



For certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

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