Confessions of a Delete Bin Scavenger #2

Posted in Confessions of a Delete Bin Scavenger, Record Reviews, VINYL with tags , , , , , , , on July 11, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

After the last couple of posts, It’s time for some heavier music, have to prove my Rock credentials. LUCIFER’S FRIEND is a German band, fronted by Englishman John Lawton, who went on to sing for Uriah Heep. They have a definitely Metal image, but they have real Jazz/Progressive musicianship that takes the music in very surprising directions.LF_mindexploding-frontIt’s rare that I’ve seen multiple albums from a group in the bin all at once. If they were unknown to me, I would gamble on one, and hope the others were still there if it turned out good. Frequently I’ve returned to find the other albums gone. Not this time, however, and a very good thing too- the other 3 albums turned out to be as good or better! After much deliberating and nail-biting (at Records-On-Wheels in London, where I’ve made many great delete bin finds) I decided on the most recent one, after factoring in the artwork, and that Curt Cress (Triumvirat, Passport) was the drummer. When I played the first cut, “Moonshine Rider”, a fast rip-snorter that puts me in mind of Rainbow and/or Ronnie James Dio  (Lawton’s  voice is almost identical) I knew I liked them. Halfway through the 2nd song, “Blind Boy”. with it’s huge  catchy chorus and punchy horns, I knew I wanted the other albums. “Fugitive” sealed the deal with a pulsing Funk-rock bass line  from Dieter Horns that blew me away. Flip it over, and the speeding Deep Purple-ish riffs of “Natural Born Mover” lit a fire under my ass to get back to the store for MORE!!  Thiswas Lawton’s last album with them before joining Heep, although he returned for 1981’s “Mean Machine”. Later on in 2001 he formed The Hensley Lawton Band with Heep’s keyboardist Ken. He’s now doing travel documentaries for Bulgarian TV, and performing at “Heepventions” around  Europe.          is a Heepvention anything do to with hoarding interventions?LF_banquet-front1974’s Banquet is a puzzler of an album- the Leather Vampire cover art gives it an Ozzy aura. Their 1970 first album is the one that should have this cover, it has the stripped-down organ and guitar heavy metal doom and gloom, but this album is actually furthest stylistically from it. A thirty-piece orchestra makes this album the jazziest of their output. Guitarist Peter Hesslein, drummer Herbert Bornholdt, and keyboardist Peter Hecht played in James Last’s “Disco Dance Party” Orchestra prior to 1970; Including sax/flute soloist Herb Geller, most of the orchestra on this LP did too. The Horn and String arrangements (done by keyboardist Hecht) are extremely creative, showing long experience in working with an orchestra and knowing what it can do.  These four albums contain some of the best interaction between rock band and a large orchestra I’ve ever heard.  The American-release-only cut “Our World Is A Rock and Roll Band” has kind of a Beatles-meets-Rick Derringer style, more pop-rock than any of their other work. “Spanish Galleon” starts with a very jazzy Santana groove, but then takes off with Geller’s soprano sax solo into a pure fusion space-out. The vocal chorus returns to kick it into high gear for a smoking synth-solo fade-out. “Thus Spoke Oberon” begins  like a vocal jazz ballad, but suddenly tears into a guitar solo that really puts the orchestra through their paces. “High Flying Lady” is a straight-ahead rocker.  “Sorrow” is Chicago if they had Ritchie Blackmore trading solos with Eumir Deodato, some fantastic playing.  LF_justaRocknRollsinger-front 1973’s “I’m Just A Rock ‘n Roll Singer” -The cover art to this one is what kept me from splurging on all the LPs at once- would you buy a rock album from this man?LF_justaRocknRollsinger-back2 If he’s a Rock Star, then he must have sold his soul for fame. BUT listening to this for the review with fresh ears gave me a whole new appreciation for the musical abilities of Lucifer’s Friend.  Guitarist Peter Hesslein in particular does some very tasty playing. The boogie guitar riffs of “Groovin’ Stone” gets the LP nicely warmed up. “Closed Curtains” has a funky piano Joe Cocker drive, Lawton sounds great with the backup “Starlet” singers here. “Born On The Run” hits the ground at full stride, with Prog-ish fuzz guitar dueling with a twisting synth melody and it’s way too short! “Blind Freedom” is full of clever little progressive bits, from a leslied electric piano,  varied guitar tones, a sudden trumpet solo from Bob Lanese that downshifts into some great sax work from Herb Geller. Their mini-horn section help save side 2’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer” which suffers a bit from some cheese on Lawton’s part; “….my voice is getting wheezy, my hands are getting greasey” ?? Billingsgate-logo

And on the subject of cheese, how about that Billingsgate Records logo? I tried to find out it’s origin and/or meaning, but all I could find was that “billingsgate” is obsolete slang for ‘coarsely abusive, foul, or profane language’  and it arose from the Billingsgate Fish Market in London England, whose denizens were notorious for crude behaviour. I prefer to think it’s representative of  “kick-ass music”!!

“Lonely City Days” has a great solo from Hesslein again, perking up a kind of dull ballad. “Mary’s Breakdown” begins with a very familiar bass/conga groove that I know is on several albums by other people, but the only one I can remember at the moment is “Amar Cabarello” by Babe Ruth. Some more tasty guitar playing on this too. “Song For Louie” finishes the album with a piano ballad that drifts off into a mellotron keyboard solo space out.LF_wherethegroupies-frontAnd we finally arrive back in 1972 for their second album, recorded by legendary German producer Conny Plank. It’s the beginning of their change from hard rockers to jazz/progressive musicians (and then back again). “Burning Ships” begins the album with 12 strings and bongo leading into a synth solo a la ELP‘s “Lucky Man”.     “Prince of Darkness” definitely announces their new direction with jagged piano, heavy synthesizers and special tape effects.    “Hobo” starts with a quick drum/synth proggy intro that settles into a fast rocker with some great electric piano.  “Mother” goes through some  Gentle Giant complex sections with the keyboards and violin solo, while exploring the mental toll of divorce lyrically. “Where the Groupies Killed The Blues” doesn’t seem to be about Rock & Sex, although John O’Brien-Docker‘s abstract lyrics could be. Kinda reminds me of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band musically. “Rose On The Vine” gives Hesslein free rein to experiment with quirky riffs and odd time signatures. It gets stranger and stranger as it progresses. “Summerdream”‘ brings us back down to earth with it’s soft acoustic guitars, but then they morph into “Delerium/No Reason Or Rhyme” featuring a wonderful string quartet arrangement by Hecht that gradually picks up more orchestral instruments, drums and piano, brilliantly evoking the title emotion.LF_wherethegroupies-backNow it’s time to play Can you spot the band mascot ?                                   (hint; it’s not the banana….)

There’s several YouTube videos of these guys, I’ll leave you with one of the first of their songs that really made an impact on me. “Fugitive” from Mind Exploding, played live on German TV in 1978. Enjoy!

What did you buy me for Shark Week?

Posted in popular culture with tags , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

Of all the strange bullshit that television has shoveled on top of us over the years SHARK WEEK confuses me the most. Pseudo-scientific mockumentaries about fabled giant sharks and other fictitious sea life mixed in with shows demonstrating the real horror of shark encounters. Amusingly bad B-movies about double-headed sharks, shark and octopus mutations, or windstorms containing sharks are breathlessly hyped as if they’re Oscar-worthy. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE B Movies, the cheapness that comes with an actor in a wet suit and fish mask grabbing people’s ankles underwater is high art to me. But this new breed of Sci-fi is too blatant in it’s Cult Film wanna-be aspirations, like any company that plasters a giant “COLLECTOR’S EDITION” on some piece of yard-sale-destined crap. True B-movies take themselves DEADLY serious, and that’s where all the fun comes from. Tor Johansson stiffly pulling back the drapes and intoning “the spaceship entrance” without the tiniest hint of the smirk I see on the hero of “Sharknado 2” as he recites his bad puns.

Strangest of all though is that there’s no products, the lifeblood of TV. A friend of mine greatly treasures his “Creature from The Black Lagoon” lunchbox (it’s worth quite a few $$, but he’ll never sell) All they are producing is cable content – filler, time-wasting nonsense, the  TV equivalent of cardboard packing material. Where is the entrepreneurship, that famous American-anything-for-a-buck hucksterism?

Let’s make this a REAL holiday. Greeting cards, an FTD special flower arrangement for the missus, rubber shark heads for the kiddies!! Instead of casual dress Friday in the offices, let’s make it Bite-a-Co-Worker-Under-Their-Desk Day;  I’ll bet that will be a better tension relief than paintball. I can see a sideline in hiring cello players to have your attack announced in true “Jaws” fashion. Children going door-to-door for seal-shaped treats, and “chumming” the houses of those who refuse to play along (think of how great their lawns will grow after, and all the happy stray cats). The seafood restaurants can take advantage of this holiday the way Bakeries exploit Christmas! Parades of previous year’s victims displaying their scars, with Denturists handing out business cards! Richard Kiel look-alikes employed by aquarium stores in malls, having children line up to tell him their fishy wish list….. Let’s sink our teeth into this idea everyone! It's MY turn NOW!!

“Just give me TWO MORE MINUTES!”

Posted in Confessions of a Delete Bin Scavenger, Record Reviews, VINYL with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

For any collector, the story behind an acquisition is important, sometimes more so than the object itself. Many tales are only interesting to fellow collectors, the anal-retentive minutiae of where and for how much.
Vinyl records have so completely dominated my life,  even when I swore NEVERMORE,  they still found a way to connect with me. Friends, family, even complete strangers have shown up at my door bearing boxes of records “Saw these and thought of you”. An alcoholic determined to ride the straight and narrow is applauded and given the wide berth he asks to get sober- not ME!! Helping my Mother’s Church clear the unsold refuse from a rummage sale- a good deed that, instead of better karma, rewarded me with lugging 3 crates of country gospel box sets home.
My boss from the traveling promotion company tells my story to a delivery person at the far end of the province, and VOILA!. The next time I see him, he hands me a Bakker’s dozen of Jimmy Swaggart albums (on JIM Records no less)."I have sinned greiviously.."But then there are the times when you have a chance to score something worthwhile, and the universe is dragging you by your heels away from the pile that you just KNOW has to have at least ONE valuable album in there……
I was doing a D.i.v.o.r.c.e. move one hot summer day with Wild Willy. Movers hate these- everyone is super tense, and sooner or later the cops show up. Or worse, they don’t, and you have keep taking things off the truck while they argue.
On this day, we got the truck loaded alright, but just as we’re about to leave, our client discovers her car won’t start. Now she’s riding with us in the truck, which does NOT make Willy happy. He’s impatient at the best of times, with a very short fuse. When we arrive at her new place after a couple hour’s drive, Willy is even more upset to find out we’ve got a three story climb up a fire escape. Luckily, the washer and dryer are going in the basement- Will starts unpacking them and our customer takes me down to show where they go. Still not good, though; it’s a stinky damp mess with a tight fit for the appliances. She gestures at a door with a filthy window and says “Sorry, I’d rather put them in there but they can’t get the door open”. I walk up to the door and peer in (beam of angelic light with heavenly choirs singing “Holy Shiiiiiit!”) This room is FILLED with records. I’m talking THOUSANDS of records, piled up to the ceiling in huge leaning stacks everywhere! She’s still talking behind me, I catch something about a radio DJ getting evicted, but my attention (like any rabid vinyl freak) is on trying to see what the covers are. Willy has to literally pull me back up into the fresh air I’m so distracted.
We get down to the unload, slogging up and down the fire escape, eager to get this over with. I have mixed feelings about hurrying too much tho’- what if the landlord shows up and I can offer to “dispose” of the records for him? Every smoke break Willy takes, I’m back down in the basement with my nose against the dirty glass, and the knob turning futilely in my fist.
The last item, big ‘ole pig of a sofa bed, and now there’s that acrid ozone smell in the air of an approaching thunderstorm. Willy pretty much drags me up the fire escape with the couch in a superhuman effort – he wants to GO! But there’s one last pin in his voodoo doll today, our client has to walk several blocks away to get our money.
She walks off into the summer haze, Willy angrily puffs a cigarette at the back of the truck, and….you know where I am.
Perhaps inspired by my partner’s herculean sofabed stunt, this time my willpower actually succeeds in getting the knob to turn…… and the door shifts a pile of albums enough that I can get my…. head…. and…. shoulders into …….the room!!
Frantically I start rummaging at random through the piles nearest, looking for Something/Anything (already have THAT Rundgren album, but I’ll take another) I’m squeezing further into the room, and there’s a real danger of being trapped now, like a vinyl avalanche. All I’m finding is AM schlock, Olivia Newton John, Lionel Ritchie, Wham, Melanie, Barry Manilow, the deeper I dig, the worse it gets, and now I can hear Willy at the stairs. Ready to admit defeat, I give the top half of a pile a shove, maybe there’s something in the middle…… crap.In the pile of crap I see....






B.J. Thomas, but underneath I see “Promotional Sample – Not For Sale” and I flip it over.Where do I know that name from?

“Up, Up and Away”, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, and “MacArthur Park”, Jimmy Webb‘s music is universally known, even if he isn’t. His songs have been performed by; The 5th Dimension, Glen Campbell (first meeting at the studio, Ultra-Conservative Glen looked up from his guitar and told Jimmy “Get a haircut”), The Supremes, Richard Harris, Frank Sinatra, The Temptations, Barbra Streisand, Art Garfunkel, Joe Cocker, Judy Collins, Donna Summer, Linda Ronstadt, America, Amy Grant, Dionne Warwick, John Denver, Johnny Cash, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Tom Jones, R.E.M., and Carly Simon……. and there’s two of his songs on that B.J. Thomas album!
This 1970 album is his first attempt at performing his own songs. Jimmy played piano, organ, vibes, and accordion (also Craftsman 6″ power saw, psaltry, and plumbing sound effectsFred Tackett played drums, bass, all guitars, and trumpet. A very young Tom Scott played sax in a few places. Considering the year, and only two musicians, this record has some fairly impressive arrangements and sounds. To my modern ears though, it’s pretty dated, but it’s main drawback is Webb’s  cliche religious lyrics.

It was one of six albums he released that drew much critical acclaim, but didn’t chart at all.  Even George Martin producing 1977’s  El Mirage which contained the song “The Highwayman”  (later a number one hit for Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson, who also used the name for their supergroup) just couldn’t give Webb a hit in his own voice. Not that he ever gave up, his credits are faaaaar too long to detail here, check out his Wikipedia link.
In 2011, Webb was unanimously elected Chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, replacing Hal David who retired after ten years in that position.

And I’ve obsessed about that basement room for over ten years now too….

Universally Juvenile

Posted in music and art with tags , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

Universally Juvenile

“Line up crowds at the Pavilion,
Max is playing ‘Vacations’….
research at beach resorts!!”

Played a gig in cottage country this Holiday weekend and got to see an old friend, who took me for a ride in a time machine. Traveled waaay back to the era of monster jeeps, cruising the drag at Wasaga Beach, towels flapping from our roll bar. Max Webster cranking out of the stereo (cassette of course), Canadian flag cozies for our beer cans, even obnoxiously coloured hats with giant feathers. Honking at the girls in Harley Davidson t-shirts…… well, well! Actually fellow time-travellers; Yummy Mummies with incredibly embarrassed daughters in tow, furiously texting other teens about our ancient juvenile display. That’s right, kids…. Juvenile and PROUD TO BE CANADIAN!
“Hey, howz life on Lakeshore Road?
Big Revolutions in my black book
Written down in our teens…”

Stephen Harper Hates Music (because he sucks so bad at it)

Posted in Live Music, music and art, performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

Just when you might think the tiniest glimmer of common sense could happen in Ottawa, they backpeddle away and do the exact opposite! After Harper’s government quietly dropped the $275 dollar processing fee for foreign musicians performing in Canada (on top of a $150 work permit fee) they RE-INSTATED it, only now referring to it as a “Labour Market Opinon”!!  And now the fee has to be paid for every venue played, for every person in the band’s employ. As we have seen so many times with the HarperCONS, vindictiveness is at work here. We complained about foreign workers undercutting wages at fast food chains (coached by Employment Minister Jason Kenney in how to get around rules), so they target who they perceive as “Artsy Lefties”– independent music fans. As of today, 90,000 signatures have been collected in a protesting petition to Minister Kenney, but to no-ones surprise, he has no intention of listening. They never do.


This means nothing to most music fans, the large tours and venues are unaffected by this. This discrimnaTORY charge is leveled at small venues and struggling bands that are touring in station wagons and squeezing every cent already. The alternative acts and unknown artists playing for very little, out to spread their name, frequently only meeting their expenses but doing it for the love of music. Far from taking any Canadian performer’s job, their one-night stands help grow club scenes, or as opening acts give you value-added entertainment dollars. The part that truly baffles me here is the total lack of understanding of what helps grow a tourism economy – right-wingers love to lecture us how “cultural tourism” will replace our manufacturing base, yet turn around and do deliberate damage to events that comprise it. Recently one of these “Economic Development Consultants” (Hot Air Salesmen in my book) was paid $25,000 to speak to a local group and described Cultural Tourism as “Project Managers, Accountants, Lawyers, etc” WHO would take a day trip to watch a project manager or book-keeper? Is there a historical re-enactment village full of desk jockeys I’m unaware of?

Memories of a Stagehand

Posted in Memories of a Stagehand with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

#2 “I Hears You Comin’ Oh LORD!
The new Black Keys video “FEVER” reminded me of a story from the very early days of the C.C.C. Until we started booking better-known professional shows, a needed source of income were the Tin-foil Evangelists. They got the nickname due to the foil-covered KFC buckets they used as collection plates (often filled with 10’s & 20’s!!). There were several who rented the hall, peddling their phony grease-my-psalmistry.
But before I go any further, I have to explain The Booth– our refuge and armor against the tide of idiots that swept through constantly. The lighting control board was in a 10×10 room at the very back wall in the balcony, tucked up against the ceiling. Dim red lights (had to maintain night vision), reflective window angled down, it was impossible to see in, and nearly soundproof. We had a mike hanging from the lighting grid to listen for advance warning of anyone entering the theater. To get there, you had to thread your way through the entire crowd, risking being cornered for something (“there’s no toilet paper in the bathroom””can you turn the Air on?”) and if the Light Guy wanted to be left alone and locked the door, fight your way back. Or there was the emergency route that we tried our best to keep secret. The dressing rooms were up a flight of stairs, behind the backstage Fly Tower. Hidden behind one bathroom were thin slats nailed to the wall. climbing these took you through a small hole in the ceiling. This took you into the giant air system ductwork, where the slightest sound would be amplified down below on the stage. Climbing as silently as possible over the ducts, through a hole chopped in the Proscenium Arch, now came the dangerous part. Only the tiny bit of light leaking from below illuminated the metal beams of the ceiling- in between was nothing but thin plaster-coated chicken wire, with acoustic tiles lining the bottom, If you stepped off the beams and put your whole weight on that, you risked tearing a hole and plummeting 75 feet to break your back on the metal seating below.
One night, three of us were on duty, but hiding in The Booth and leaving Gilligan (I believe his nickname is self-explanatory) to deal with Franklin Walden’s Gawd Crusade. He’s tried the door twice, and stood on the armrests of the seats in vain hope of seeing in. He’s been gone for a while, so we’re now drawing straws to see who investigates, and BOOM!! ba-baBOOM BOOMboomboomboomboomBOOM!
Not only we have heard- the fervent testifyin’ of Walden’s Flock has faded to curious mumbling. Are their prayers being answered? The steady rumble of thunder is drawing closer, LAWD-A-MIGHTY!!
Gilligan finds & climbs through the Arch hole, and starts toward the booth, but STEPPING OVER THE BEAMS! From our vantage point in the booth, we can see the ceiling tiles bowing down alarmingly, with dust and pieces of tile raining on the slack-jawed Sheeple below. From THEIR vantage point JEHOVAH HIMSELF is striding across the ceiling, each footfall echoing loudly in the now DEAD silent auditorium….


It’s too much for us, we’re gasping for air and holding our sides in chest-heaving laughter, even Gilligan’s pratfall down the last four rungs of the ladder into the booth has no further impact (“What, guys, what happened? Wh-what?”).  Down below, the not-so-Reverend Walden has been thrown a whammy- he’s not gullible like his flock, and knows the source of the noise ISN’T divine. Glaring furiously up at the The Booth he calms the crowd, and sets them to singing along with his wife. By this time we have individually snuck out of the booth and vanished to far corners of the building, hard at our chores when he tracks us down.

“What in the DEVIL‘s name was that racket from the roof just now?”

Racket? Oh apologies sir, the raccoons must be back in the attic, this is an old building, y’know…. Reverend


yup, racoons. big ones.

(went back to mopping with a smirk on our face..)


“CHEAPSKATE!”- Confessions of a Delete Bin Scavenger

Posted in Confessions of a Delete Bin Scavenger, Record Reviews, VINYL with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

I’ve been wanting to post about my vinyl obsession, but to do something different in the way of reviews. Over the years I’ve gambled often on unknown bands in the delete bins of record stores, and found some real gems. When a record company decides to give up on you, they delete you from the catalogue, and flog whatever’s left in the warehouse really cheap. To add injury to insult, they mark these records with holes drilled in the album cover, or a corner cut off, or even just a notch with a table saw (and yes, sometimes I’ve opened the album to find they missed with the drill)
This will be an occasional series about the anonymous or forgotten hopefuls in my collection, the bands that should’ve gone somewhere, but fate and fortune decreed otherwise.


(nope, not those three, and definitely not THEMM-bop)

HANSON; Now Hear This & Magic Dragon


Junior Marvin (born Donald Hanson Marvin Kerr Richards Jr) I decided to do first, because he has come within a hair’s breadth of  “the big time” so often in his career. For example, as a young Jamaican emigre in London, he appeared in the BEATLES film “HELP” which led to a few TV appearances. He was in the British cast of the musical “HAIR” and can be heard on the original cast recording.  He travelled to America, and cut his teeth playing with T BONE WALKER and the IKE & TINA TURNER BAND. Returning to England, he quickly made a reputation and (as Junior Kerr) was invited to join the legendary KEEF HARTLEY BAND, famed mentor for many other British rockers. He appears on their acclaimed “Seventy Second Brave” album. After recording the follow-up “Lancashire Hustler” , he decided to try his own luck as bandleader with these two albums that I found in Port Huron’s Moondance Records for $3 apiece.They’re both on ELP’s Manticore label, and Emerson is thanked for the use of his MiniMoog on the 1st album. Label manager MARIO “The Big M” MEDIOUS signed them, produced both albums, and is paid tribute with the last cut on N.H.T.- the extended jam “Smokin’ to the Big M”.

HANSON Now Hear This inner gatefold

Even though NOW HEAR THIS has the incredible line-up of session-men extraordinaire JEAN ROUSSELL  (he really shines on this) ,  BOBBY TENCH,  CLIVE CHAMAN and REG ISADORE, I prefer MAGIC DRAGON as the better of the two. If only for irony’s sake,  because Junior played with LENNY KRAVITZ on SNL in 2001, and the 1974 M.D. album sounds just like Kravitz!!. What an ideal example of an artist born before his time. Now Hear This starts with  the Funkadelic-sloppy “Travelling Like A Gypsy” and morphs into a TRAFFIC loose jam vibe- hardly surprising because REEBOP KWAKU BAAH & CHRIS WOOD play congas and flute  on a few cuts. Junior also went on to do an album and tour with STEVIE WINWOOD. The whole album is rather laid-back, more R&B/Funk than rock, with some really tasteful playing.  One of the songs I could find on YouTube, “Rain” sounds very much like SOULIVE

Junior must not have been happy with the outcome, because when he recorded the second album, he went with then-unknown musicians. Judging from the more rehearsed and dynamic performances, they must have been playing this stuff live as his band. GLEN LeFLEUR drums, NEIL MURRAY bass,  and BROTHER JAMES on congas, with FRANK ZAPPA/JOHNNY GUITAR WATSON sideman ANDRE LEWIS (a.k.a. techno-funker MANDRE) adding clavinet & organ on some tracks. I would love to have seen this band live, their version of B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” cooks with a sinuous heat! And my fave cut “Modern Day Religion” is a driving rocker that should get any audience stompin’.

Magic Dragon back cover

American Beauty Rose is the song that made me most think of Kravitz. I could easily see this being a hit for him if it was remixed and re-released today. Fortunately for you, the entire album was posted to YouTube;

On Valentine’s Day, 1977 he faced the hardest decision imaginable; invited to join BOTH STEVIE WONDER and BOB MARLEY‘s bands !! His friends  pressured him to follow his roots, and he joined the Wailers, contributing his funky rock flavor to Bob’s relaxed island groove. After Marley’s death, he formed THE ORIGINAL WAILERS to keep that music alive. He also contributed to TOOTS & the MAYTALS and BURNING SPEAR albums.

And I’ve just discovered he’s still rocking; In 2014 Junior started a new band  JUNIOR MARVIN’S FORCE ONE. A  CD  is due by July/2014. He’s tweeting about his current tour right now at @JuniorMarvin09 and his website is

Memories of A Stagehand #1

Posted in celebrity, Memories of a Stagehand with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

I worked for several years as a Stagehand, Sound Engineer, and Follow-Spot Operator at the Chatham Cultural Centre. More than a few celebrities came through and performed there; between them, and the multitude of inept amateurs, I’ve collected some amusing stories. Full credit is due to Mike LeBrain for his most excellent suggestion I tell them here, after a discussion on his amazin’ blog about concert contract riders.
#1“Only The Pure Of Heart”

Voulez-Vous Avec Moi Ce Soir

ERNIE “MR DRESSUP” COOMBS toured quite often in our area, and he was a joy to work for. Some children’s performers copped an attitude because they considered what they did a public service or “higher calling” (e.g. Sharon, Louis, & Bram) as if the table upon table of merch in the lobby didn’t show their real motives.  But not Ernie, he was down-to-earth and humble about his luck in being able to earn a good living doing what he enjoyed so much.

The first time he was scheduled when I was there, we were sternly lectured by the administrator about being polite, and neatly dressed in our new, official polo shirts. We practically stood at attention as an old station wagon, pulling a small trailer, rolled up to the door. Ernie and his son, who acted as road manager, climbed out and approached us. “You boys the crew? Pleasure to meet you!” Completely un-assuming in a plaid shirt and jeans, and puffing on a cigar. We started  emptying the trailer, only took a few minutes before we saw it; The Tickle Trunk! there it was, wrapped in an old blanket. Carried it in and placed it on the stage. Now, in his contract rider, he had specified that only “Clean-Shaven, Morally Upright Young Men” could directly handle his props. As the new guy, I had been the subject of much ribbing, that some type of “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” situation would occur. As if the trunk would pop open, sensing my impure thoughts, and I would melt into a waxy puddle.

“We just did a few shows in Quebec, so you could say it’s now the French Tickler Trunk !” Ernie said with a twinkle in his eye. We all laughed, and his son quipped  “We might have to get Casey to sing Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir  to convince it to open!”  While we continued setting up, it was explained to me that the reason for the oddly strict rider was to make sure, through the office grapevine, we were on our best behavior.  From years of touring, Mr Coombs knew what stagehands and roadies were like, and wanted his reputation protected.  He didn’t want the kids exposed to any swearing, or lewd t-shirts, or alcohol-and-other-substances on the breath of anyone perceived as working for him.  Thoroughly professional ethos;  NOTHING interfered with the show.  We booked Mr Dressup a few more times, and the ribald humor during set-up, over headsets during the show, and tear-down afterwards, got dirtier and dirtier. But no Mommies ever had a reason to complain.



Sing Along With The Earl

Posted in music and art, performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL


Don’t laugh, but I have gotten hooked on the M3 show “It Takes A Choir”. English choir director Gareth Malone comes to an economically depressed town and recruits locals to join a community choir, working with them for a mere week and then staging a concert. The choir members are reborn- it is quite amazing to see some of their reactions; people who haven’t experienced singing in a choir get truly ecstatic about it. And this spills over into their daily lives, changing their outlook on the town for the better. That is the magic of music – scientists have done multiple studies that prove the psychological & physiological benefits. Singing and playing is capable of easing depression, staving off senility, even reaching the imprisoned minds of autistics. I would argue that music is the first civilizing force of mankind. Hunting is done in unison by many animals, but the beating of bones and howling around the campfire of our remote ancestors drew them closer together in concert against the night and it’s demons.

I was fortunate when I was younger to have the experience of filling in for our church organist during his summer vacation. It’s a powerful rush playing loud hard rock, but that’s only volume. A choir and organ working together has an awesome punch that is volume combined with group dynamics. When my feet hit the low notes on the bass pedals, and the choir’s harmonies flowed up into the rafters, I got chills! (Don’t tell them, but I also managed to sneak in Uriah Heep & Procol Harum as Postlude music) Churches now turn the service music into karaoke nights, soloists without choir gowns, guitars replacing the organ, headset mikes, etc. They are abandoning the unity of the choir and that is tearing away at the essence of community that choral music creates.

The colossal ego machine of TV-land sells dreams of stardom, tells you you’re a ROCK STAR, you’re one-of-a-kind, here’s the spotlight!! Too common are the spoiled tantrums of celebrities who think that they ALONE are responsible for their success. To those who think that I say, there was a hand guiding that spotlight, someone switched on that microphone, and cued the music.

I was never interested in the Guitar Idol or Rock Band video games. Everyone kept telling me how it was “just like being in a band”– No. It. Wasn’t. You are two competitors in a game, out to score points and outdo each other, but a band is teamwork. I had this argument with a gamer guitarist I was playing with “But it’s encouraging them to want to play music”said he. No, it’s encouraging them to desire instant stardom and adulation, I doubt if the games foster the patience to practice, practice, practice and achieve that. Those games instead re-inforced the wrong attitude that music equalled ego, that musicians only play solos at each other until one wins (The worst jazz music encourages this too). The true joy of playing in a group setting is listening to the other players and adjusting your pitch, volume & timing to blend together better – to create something as a unit. I have always preferred dynamics to show off a band’s ability, over constant soloing.Faced with a drummer who did Keith Moon solo endings to every song, I made him do a fade-out to display control. Fed up with a guitarist who constantly lost himself in soloing when we were ready for the next verse, I would lead the rhythm section in stop-start cues and soft-loud dynamics to get his attention. At first he resented this, until he saw how it actually forced him into putting a period on his solo, instead of just trailing off into the vocals. Only guitarists enjoy “cutting heads”-trading solos to one-up each other. The longer that goes on, everyone else (audience & other band members) get bored – the best performances I have been to drew the audience in with call & response vocals (Gospel!), or had the audience sing the chorus, to make them feel part of the event. A fave concert memory is of the audience slowly dispersing after a Police show, we were all singing the Yo-eyo-eyo-yo’s of “Walking On The Moon”. You could hear it for blocks, fading off in every direction.


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