Posts Tagged ‘Jim Samson’

The Freedom of Music: Nothing Comes Easy

October 9th, 2011
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

I slipped out the door at 9:00 last Friday night, hoping I wasn’t too late already. The 515 Concert club is a 15 minute walk, and the doors open at 9, so if there’s a crowd… Earlier my sister-in-law had commented that there was terrible traffic in downtown Hespeler, perhaps, said she, they were waiting for the 515 to open.

sidebar-2It seemed to me it could be so. The 515 is not that big, tickets were not sold in advance, and at $8.00 to see a band as good as Canadian classic rockers Moxy, why wouldn’t there be a good sized crowd?

Moxy started in Toronto in the early 1970’s. Their first album, known as the Black Album because it was black with the block letter logo, isn’t just a good album, doesn’t just have Tommy Bolin adding lead guitar parts to it, it is one of the best albums of the early 1970’s. Not Canadian albums – combined with Moxy II, they are the best hard rock Canadian albums full stop – but overall. In a year that featured the best of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, were Elton John was going by the handle Captain Fantastic, Aerosmith had Toys in the Attic and the Who were writing themes songs for the CSI franchise, Moxy stands up with the best of it.

Their second album, known as the red album because of it’s red cover, otherwise almost identical to the first album, was just as good as the first and had on it a big time hit, Cause There’s Another. Touring heavily behind Moxy II, Moxy’s brand grew and they became fairly big in Canada and Texas (To this day Moxy has a strong Texan fan base).

Trouble was, however, brewing and lead singer Buzz Shearman had both a drinking and a throat problem. Touring for their third album, Ridin’ High, took it’s toll. Within a year Buzz along with guitarist and main songwriter Earl Johnson had left the band. Despite the fact that future Loverboy lead singer Mike Reno, then going under the handle Michael Rynoski, the changes took away the momentum that Moxy had going.

I’ve seen them four times, at my high school with Rynoski singing, and twice after Shearman rejoined the band: at the Canadian Music Festival in 1979 and opening for Triumph at Ontario Place somewhere in the 80’s. At the Ontario Place show the power went out halfway through the set, an impromptu drum solo kept the music going for a couple of minutes until the power came back on, proving their professionalism.

The fourth time was last Friday.

Showing up at 9:15 and fearing the worst, I wasn’t prepared for what was there. Less than a dozen people milled around the bar, and the room where the stage sat was empty. I took up a choice seat, assuming it would fill: it never did and I spent the show moving from seat to seat, getting the best vantage point I could.

Nonetheless, Moxy is still a great band. The rhythm section is one of Canada’s best, Kim Hunt and Jim Samson from 70’s prog-rockers Zon, and guitar duties are being handled by original member Earl Johnson. Singer Russell Graham is a spot on Buzz Shearman, handling his songs better than Buzz himself could by the end of the 70’s. It was, in short, a great show and what a damned pity it is that virtually nobody was there to hear them.

They played all the songs you would think to ask to hear, Fantasy, Sail On Sail Away, Moon Rider, Nothin’ Comes Easy and “Moxy’s Stairway to Heaven,” Cause There’s Another. It was a great show and Johnson is such a good guitarist you don’t even notice that he’s playing two guitar parts all night as a single.

It was a great night of rock and roll in Hespeler and if you thought to go and didn’t, yes, you missed something. But that’s OK, I had a great seat.

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The Freedom of Music: Your A Riot Alice

May 29th, 2011


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

The headline in yesterdays entertainment section said, “Alice Cooper cancels first concert in 30 years.” sidebar-7

Hmmm… Alice Cooper…cancelled concert… 30 years ago… it all sounds so familiar, as if it’s there somewhere in the memory bank just waiting. Alice Cooper…cancelled… 30 years… 1980…

Ah yes!

The headlines on August 20, 1980 read, “Alice Cooper cancels concert, fans riot.” The concert was at the CNE Grandstand, and I was underneath the stream of folding chairs that told the world, riot on. At 17, they were the best concert seats I ever had at that stage of my life: sixth row floors, slightly stage right. For a guy like Alice Cooper, who does so much in a show, it would be great to be that close to the action.

At the approximate starting time, local band Zon came on, and did the usual opening act thing, that is to say they were completely ignored for about half-an-hour. The truth is, we had no idea it was Zon playing, a band who’s album, Astral Projection, got played late in the night at parties. (Side note: Christmas Eve a few years later at a girlfriends house, I talked about the Alice Cooper riot of 1981 with the mother of Zon bassist Jim Samson).

Zon left the stage and the roadies took over, changing the equipment out. Drums were moved into place, props set up, guitars put on stands and microphone’s check, checked. Everything was ready, the pump was primed, the crowd cheered every time some roadie triple checked that the snare drum was just so. Surely it would be any minute now, any second even.

Watching news reports from the day now, I’m struck by a number of things: how primitive CNE stadium really was, how skinny we were, and that the decision was made at 10:00PM that Alice Cooper couldn’t go on. About 90 minutes after Zon left the stage, and hour after the last roadie tweaked the last bit of gear, and Alice Cooper was just then deciding it wasn’t going to happen.

They announced from the stage, long after the crowd had lost patience, that Alice Cooper would not be performing. Zon, however, would be happy to come back on and play some more songs for you, said Cooper’s lead guitarist (Dick Wagner?), who had the unenviable duty of ducking the first chairs to start flying.

If you see footage, and want to know where I was, I was under the flying chairs. My best ever concert seats suddenly turned into the worst ever concert seats. They were about to get worse.

Here’s what none of the reports from the time mention. The police arrived on horseback, entered the floor area of the stadium at one end, and slowly forced the crowd through one open gate at the other end. We went form ducking chairs to trying desperately not to fall and get trampled.

How bad were things? Here’s a line from a news report at the time:

…they tore out 200 seats welded to steel posts and bolted to concrete.

It’s possible PCP was involved but none the less, 200 seats welded to steel posts ripped out.

I stumbled home that night in a drizzling rain, mascara running down my face (we had done the whole black eyes schtick). Within’ days t-shirts would pop up: “Your a Riot Alice” and “I Survived the Alice Cooper Riot of 1981,” being the ones I remember. I never bought one, having actually survived folding chairs flying over my head, I didn’t need the t-shirt. I was just glad to be alive, and what else can you ask of rock and roll?

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