Archive for the music and art Category

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?

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.


What Kind Of A Man Reads Playboy?

Posted in music and art, popular culture, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

What Kind Of A Man Reads Playboy?

When I started this blog I swore to myself it was going to be about looking forward – new concepts and trends in music, new technologies, etc. And definitely NO nostalgic nattering, droning on about how much better vinyl records are (though they ARE) or the “golden ages” of various styles of music. But we seem to be at a crossroads in today’s pop culture; I see many young up-and-coming bands taking a back-to-basics approach to production values and songcrafting, and the popularity of musical competitions on TV igniting a new interest in forgotten pop classics. New musical technologies are about making things simpler, to not impede the creative process. I remember this arc of the music cycle very well, because at the dawn of NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, I had just moved to Toronto, seeking a new start. Freshly fired from a BostonKansasStyxSupertramp cover band, I wanted to shed that glossy pop and re-invent myself.
So this post is going to be about how sometimes leaping ahead takes you to a place further back than you started from…
I got a job at Roblan’s Warehouse, the main distributor for Sam The Record Man, thinking about the networking possibilities, as well as how great the fit for my skillset. That didn’t matter- Sam wanted cheap, didn’t even care if you spoke english, most of my fellow bottom rung-ers were Chinese (If  you ever wondered why your special order from Sam’s was wrong….) My only stroke of luck was that I was hired just prior to summer holidays, and demonstrating a knowledge of records got me rotated through the various departments as a temp replacement. The first adventure was “the Returns Basement”…. (spoken in a contemptuous voice, implying a Stygian crypt of uncleanliness)
Surprise! Matt & Dave were very friendly, funny cats who had converted a dank cement basement into a colorful tribute to the history of vinyl. The walls were covered everywhere with all the records that featured the female form. Herb Alpert, Ray Conniff, Boots Randolph, Roxy Music, and hundreds of unknown lounge lizards who had discovered marketing rule number one;
(drum roll) SEX SELLS
But it wasn’t just the girls, these guys could discuss the relative merits of Acker Bilk and Ace Cannon, in the same breath as Killing Joke or Joy Division. I had never met such musical non-partisans before- they had a deep appreciation for ALL music, and could intelligently discuss the commonalities that linked Engelbert Humperdinck and Adam Ant, or the classical themes that appeared in both Beatles and Black Sabbath. They showed me that everything old is new again – one night we got invites to a record release party for Jack De Kyzer’s Rockabilly band “The Bop Cats” (The Stray Cats were currently no 1) and we wound up in the A&R guy’s office listening to the REAL stuff; Sonny Burgess, Vernon Taylor,et al.
(much, much later that night, after a few ‘shish bowls-full, he started pulling out all his ‘slush pile’ demo tapes. All the wanna-bes and earnest hopefuls that should have considered a career in comedy instead. Laughed until it hurt…)
That same week, Wayne Kramer’s Air Raid played at Larry’s Hideaway and blew the doors off with a heavy rock version of the Supreme’s  “Stop, In The Name Of Love”.  Saw tons of new/ modern bands too (Kinetic Ideals, Breeding Ground, L’Etranger, etc.), went to auditions seeking that SOUND no-one else was doing (paging Lorenzo St Dubois !), but the mirror had been shattered. In every Talking Heads song I heard Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66, in every Bauhaus lurked Ziggy Stardust. And when The B52’s “Rock Lobster” infected all of Toronto later that summer, all I could think was:


Posted in celebrity, Electronic Musicians, music and art with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

We lost someone very special in Canadian Music this week. Jeff Plewman, A.K.A. NASH THE SLASH died, taking with him a uniqueness that deserved far greater acclaim in today’s sterile Beiber-ized pop landscape.


He was a HUGE influence on me, showing that a solo electronic performer could do so much alone and still ROCK; he broke the barrier of using (at the time despised) Drum Machines, he’d create a textured sound with a few devices that could serve as a shimmering backdrop for his Violin and Mandolin virtuosity, and using simple costume, light effects and slide shows, created an eerie environment that transported you along with his otherworldly music. He started his own Independent record label, and built a successful multi-album career, totally without any Government grants!! Only person to ever release a vinyl album (“Decomposing” –so clever) that could be played at any speed (‘tho playing at 16 r.p.m. only suitable for acid hangovers)

First saw him performing on NIGHTMUSIC, a 1970’s late-night TVOntario program that featured uniquely Canadian bands way WAY before MuchMusic. Alt-music fans of today have NO IDEA how special that was, in the days before remotes & 500 channel digital, sitting on the floor right up to the screen, with the sound down low so as not to ssssh! wake the family!!
In addition to playing with Cameron Hawkins as duo FM, NASH performed solo, musically interpreting the abstract art of his friends Rob Vanderhorst & Paul Till, and also doing a soundtrack to Salvador Dali’s 1928 film “Un Chien Andalou”
(also performed to special live screenings of that film at the ROXY theatre, and I still insist he originated performing live music to silent BW movies – he did “Metropolis” YEARS before QUEEN did) Through him and NIGHTMUSIC I discovered David Pritchard’s NOCTURNAL EARTHWORM STEW, a seminal Canadian electronica album, and another NIGHTMUSIC performer with SLASH . BTW; also saw Joe Hall & the Continental Drift on that show, another HUGELY under-appreciated Canadian act.

ImageA friend of mine had the special treat of seeing him play violin in early prog-rock band BREATHLESS at the Canadian National Exhibition way back in the early 70’s. After he did a solo, he tossed his violin in the air and had it explode, presaging the pyrotechnic performances that would be his trademark, long before many other acts would get the actual credit for (CURVED AIR e.g.). Chainsawing his instruments, a skull-shaped electric mandolin that spewed blood, and his “Invisible Man” costume helped me turn even the most die-hard metalhead into a fan.
Saw him many times at THE EDGE, another lost Canadian Musical Heritage landmark. I convinced a date that his Valentine’s Day Show counted as “romantic”, but was left to enjoy the show alone when it turned out to be projected images of the Valentine’s Day Massacre– alas, she never talked to me again. Later on, I worked at Sam the Record Scam’s warehouse with his lyricist John a.k.a. “Toby Dammit” and came to know his brother, who owned a Classical record store in London, but never got to meet him personally.


I won’t say “rest in peace Nash”…. because if there were ever anyone that would come back from the hereafter to haunt us with his incredible music, IT. WILL. BE. HIM.!!

Andy Warhol’s Curse

Posted in celebrity, digital economy, music and art, popular culture with tags , , , , on February 10, 2011 by theEARLofSWIRL

The EARL of SWIRL in the style of Andy Warhol“In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”

Andy’s words were never interpreted as the threat they truly represented. Today we see the awful consequences of them – a narcissistic, oblivious popular culture that lifts banality onto a pedestal, while belittling and dismissing those with true ability. Video games that give the user a false sense of accomplishment, brainwashing them to believe they can instantly possess skills it takes years to acquire. Television programs that create a cult of personality around people whose only ‘talent’ is obnoxious behaviour, training viewers to accept lying, conniving, & gossip as desirable traits.

It is now considered a normal situation that talented performers can only achieve a brief, transitory fame by submitting to a degrading contest where they are pitted against other hopefuls,  harshly judged by vacuous has-beens,  only for the sake of getting the public to  ‘vote’ by 1-900-BLEED-ME-DRY phone. Why can’t their talent simply be presented for viewers to enjoy, instead of this disgusting roman circus?

The economic engine that once supported music by selling records to young people has been supplanted by ringtones and downloads, that deprive the artists, while enriching the multinational telecommunications industry. Vinyl records and CDs created jobs, and a physical commodity that could be held,  listened to , and APPRECIATED. Today’s stream of digital phantoms employs only computers, and can be programmed to vanish, leaving nothing behind.

“Reality Television is people who aren’t actors, saying things written by people who aren’t writers… it’s like an amateur production of nothing,  or a photo of a drawing of a hologram”~Dana Gould

Copyright law needs a digital-age upgrade

Posted in music and art on September 27, 2010 by theEARLofSWIRL
Digital Divide

Digital Divide


Pamela Samuelson in the San Francisco Chronicle analyzes how important a total rethink of this issue is to everyone who downloads any type of media on their computers– it’s not just artists & musicians getting the shaft anymore ….

“We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are – that is the fact.” ~ Sartre

“I’d love to sell out completely. It’s just that nobody has been willing to buy.”
John Waters

“My mind is filling up with many voices it seems there’s a little more room @ but all of  these voices keep me from deciding, I can’t help from changing my tune @ I can remember when I had a conscience, it’s voice was dependent and pure @ but now I think that I might be indecisive but then again I’m really not sure…….I REALLY REALLY GOTTA DECIDE…..”

Jaymz Bee & the Look People

r.e.s.p.e.c.t & c.r.e.a.t.e

Posted in music and art on August 25, 2010 by theEARLofSWIRL

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." - Maya Angelou

“The nation that complacently and fearfully allows its artists and writers to become suspected rather than respected is no longer regarded as a nation possessed with humor or depth.”
James Thurber


Posted in music and art with tags , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2010 by theEARLofSWIRL

If you develop an ear for sounds that are musical it is like developing an ego. You begin to refuse sounds that are not musical and that way cut yourself off from a good deal of experience.
John Cage

"Flesh Kittens" promo poster

Beneath the Valley of Chaos

“Everything in the universe is … is … is made of one element, which is a note, a single note. Atoms are really vibrations, you know, which are extensions of THE BIG NOTE … Everything’s one note. Everything….”

Spider in Very Distraughtening ~ Lumpy Gravy~Zappa

Spider: We are … actually the same note, but …
John: But different octave.
Spider: Right. We are 4,928 octaves below the big note.
Monica: Are ya … are you trying to tell me that … that this whole universe revolves around one note?
Spider: No, it doesn’t revolve around it; that’s what it is. It’s one note.
Spider: Everybody knows that lights are notes. Light, light, is just a vibration of the note, too. Everything is.
Monica: That one note makes everything else so insignificant.

A Different Octave ~ Civilization Phaze III~Zappa

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