Sunday, 31 July 2016

Lucid 44 - Black/Veins (2016)


Holy crap, another tape from Bart Records! We feel like we've stepped into some Bizarro version of the city, where Stebner and his label are flush with cash and able to put out whatever he wants.

Anyways, whatever has happened here, we're not complaining. This is a really great set of songs from Markus Overland and his sad bastard folk. These are beautiful songs that feel like they're on the verge of coming apart, in very much the same vein as Mark Eitzel and the American Music Club. John Hadley's wonderfully textured guitar work helps to keep things together, just.

Looks like there isn't (at the time of writing this) a purchase link on the Bart Records site, but we've seen copies over at Sloth. Or you can grab the download from the Lucid 44 bandcamp.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Greyscreen - Chillebration (2016)


One of the things that most amazes us about Kevin Stebner is the range of stuff he puts out. Standing in start contrast to Prepared is his chiptune project, Greyscreen. We have no idea how he makes this fun, glitchy noise. Or what he's doing with those Gameboys when he plays live:



As always, you can pick this up from Bart Records or your local record shoppe.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Prepared/No Hands - Split (2016)



We're always happy to bring another tape from Bart Records into our collection, and doubly so when it's from Prepared. There's something visceral about this band that gets us in just the right place, with the short, sharp, and wordy blasts of post-hardcore scratching an itch we didn't know we had.

Get the tape from Revolution Winter or your local record store.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Rae Spoon - Armour (2016)


We have a HUGE pile of new tapes sitting here at the CCPS offices, and now that we've provided some old tapes to keep us true to our original mandate, we're going to forge ahead with posting a pile of stuff.

And we'll start with this, the newest offering from Calgary Songs Project featured artist Rae Spoon. Technically, they're based in Victoria now, but this tape has serious ties to Calgary, with the tried and true partnership between Rae and Lorrie Matheson making for another great mix of songwriting and electronica. It's danceable and meaningful, and we're super into ththeirs new video that celebrates gender diversity and inclusiveness:



Order the tape (or CD, if you're so inclined) from Rae's Coax store.


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Guilt Trip - Guilt Trip (1998)



Back to the all ages punk with this last tape from Yutaka Dirks. We posted another Guilt Trip tape from 2000 many years ago, and the comments were a bit divisive in terms of who was in this band. We've got made up names on this j-card, but we're pretty sure this was Jason Sinclair, Tyler Pickering and Dean Rud, based on what folks said back then.

Most interestingly to us, though - this tape marks the first release for Meter Records, which went on to put out a bunch of great stuff in the 2000s. And we can hear a lot of the basis for Rud and Pickering's work with the Failure/the Evidence on this tape.

Plead guilty here

Monday, 25 July 2016

Radio - Hey Kid, Want Some Candy? (1996)



This is the weird one in the batch of tapes from Yutaka Dirks. We're not sure what to make of this - we don't remember the Radio, so we can't even rely on faulty memories to piece together a narrative.

This is weird, surprisingly reasonably fidelity, psychedelic pop. It's a lot of things. And puzzling is probably the most significant piece, with the tape veering between bedroom pop, accordion drones and spacey psychedelia.

We're still scratching our heads.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Arson - Demo

We have so little information about this one, it's kind of embarrassing. Plus, the audio quality is nothing short of questionable But that's certainly never stopped us before!

Yutaka Dirks tells us this tape is from the mid-90's, features female singers, is hardcore punk, and has no j-card. We could have guessed almost all of those. In fact, the last one we know for sure. If you have any real information, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Or hate mail.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Chupacabra - Society's Monster (1998)


We love discogs, mostly because it greatly satisfies our love of clicking on hyperlinked names to get to more hyperlinked names. Which is exactly what we did with the Alex P. Keatons tape from yesterday, which took us to a listing for this tape from Chupacabra (not to be confused with El Chupacabra, or the new band we're considering forming, ChupaChupsacabra).

Our copy (via Yutaka Dirks) didn't have a j-card, so we're stealing an image from discogs and noting the membership via the post over there. There's a fair amount of  metal content mixed with the punk here, which makes sense when we see that drummer Ryan O'Neill went on to play with Thorazine.

Grab the download here.



Friday, 22 July 2016

Alex P. Keatons - Turmoil (1998)


We're saved (slightly) from the past few days' trend of posting tapes and having NO idea who was in the band by  (of all things) the discogs entry for this tape from the Alex P. Keatons. Kind of. We snagged two last names from that post, but not much else. We've listened to the tape a couple of times, and it's kind of, well, pre-emo hardcore.

Or something?

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Slow Kids Playin' Fast - My Mom Says I'm Punk (1997)



Another tape from the Calgary all ages scene! This one is waaaay better in sound quality than yesterday's. Slow Kids Playin' Fast fit in well with bands like All Rights Reserved and Showdown '76. Despite the band's helpful caricatures on the inside j-card, we're still not 100% sure who was in this band, and what else they played in.

Which is pretty much par for the course.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Wiggum - SKAm!


Let's carry on with the tapes from Yutaka Dirks, shall we? This tape from Wiggum suffers from a pretty poor recording. If you like super muddy, slightly distorted (but not intentionally) ska from Calgary's all ages scene, this is the thing for you. We pulled out our copy of the Mr. T Records compilation that we posted last year, and even when we put these two together, we still don't have enough to pad this post out any further.

So grab the download.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Jon American Car - Demo


One of the requests that has come into the CCPS offices over the years is about, well, what we're posting today. Huge thanks for former Chapter 16/Chupacabra member Yutaka Dirks for getting in touch with us last month and passing us a pile of tapes. We're starting with this because, well, the people demand it.

Yutaka describes Jon American Car as "members of AKA go emo", and we can't argue with that because (a) we're not sure who was in the band (so we'll assume it was members of AKA) and (b) it does sound a lot more emo than anything AKA did.

We're having difficulties tagging the songs on this tape; both sides are unlabeled, and there is effectively one track on each side (and a crap load of empty space). One track may be two that bleed together. We're extremely unsure.

What else is new?

Update: thanks to Shaun Cowan for filling us in on the band membership via our facebook page. Membership included folks from Nine Miles to Morgan and AKA/All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Nothing - Feverbliss Cop Out (1994)



Following yesterdays post, we finally have an excuse to to share this CD compilation that Djewel gave us a few months ago.

Nothing was the precursor to Yr Scapegoat and Pitchin' Woo, with a pretty fantastic line up of players from both of those bands. This is sloppy, thick garage rock that was probably way out of step with other stuff in the Calgary scene in the early 90's - but wouldn't be so out of place now. We're pretty sure we saw at least a few bands that sounded just like this during Sled Island - except without the brilliant frontmanship of Djewel.

Listening to this, we're also reminded that Djewel has never been afraid to recycle; the lyrics from Nothing's "Better Nights" shows up as "(Gotta) Justify You More (Than I Do Myself)" on the Ex-Boyfriends' To the Lowest Bidder double LP.

But you'll probably want to listen to this just for the band's take on the Ohio Express' "Chewy, Chewy." A mouthful of good things indeed!


Saturday, 16 July 2016

Will - Aimlessly Lost/Justine

Here's the last bit of stuff that Tomcat recorded off the radio in the 80's. This sounds like a live recording of a pair of songs by Djewel Davidson and the Will that we hadn't heard before. We hit up one-time Will guitarist Joe McCaffery, and he tells us that this is probably from the latter part of the Brent Cooper era of the band, with Dave Stevenson from the Crying Helicopters on bongos.

Important question: was having a bongo player in your band specifically an 80's thing in Calgary?

Friday, 15 July 2016

Exhibit A - Vitality

More radio recordings from Tomcat, we don't know much about Exhibit A one other than our donor's hazy memory that "the A was in a circle (like an anarchy symbol)". To our ears, this sounds a bit like the 21 Hundredz. But we're also grasping at straws trying to pad out this post. So maybe just go grab the track.


Thursday, 14 July 2016

Mode d'Emploi - A Roy

Here's another track from Tomcat, recorded off the radio in the 1980's. We know very little of this one, other than that it featured Rita McKeough on drums (we assume) and Gaby van der Velde (possibly on bass). This sounds like a live recording, kind of a funky Gang of Four (sans vocals). We could probably troll through the boxes of VOXes in the CCPS library, but we're too busy grooving to this track.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Left Book Club - Clifton Walker's Blues

We're trying to break out of the cycle of just posting Muretich articles, and thankfully a CCPS follower has sent us a few songs he recorded off the radio (we assume CJSW) back in the 80's. So we'll start with this one from the Left Book Club, mostly because we have a Muretich article to help wean us off his articles...


Out of left field comes the Left Book Club
By James Muretich
(Herald staff writer)

Flashback to last weekend’s Rock Expo: about 200 people are milling about in the cavernous Corral waiting for the next group up in the local battle of the bands.

The audience, light years' away in consciousness from The Left Book Club, is mostly made up of guys sporting baseball caps and people who look like they own albums by Van Halen and Michael Jackson, not records by Elvis Costello or Lou Reed.

The Left Book Club takes the stage and, amazingly enough, halfway through its set it has won over the audience, save for a few hecklers.

It’s just another sign that while Calgary’s alternate, underground (or whatever you want to call it) rock scene still plays before a small (Ten Foot Henry’s, HC’s, university) crowd, its music is no longer relegated to those who were inspired by the Sex Pistols somewhere down the line.

“I know that people would like our music if they were just exposed to it,” says lead guitarist Dave Bleakney prior to a practice in preparation for this Friday and Saturday night’s gig at Ten Foot’s (509 9th St. S.W.).

The Left Book Club’s influences “run from Judy Garland to John Cale,” says Bleakney. Its sound is left field, to be sure, fusing together the rough edges of rock ’n’ roll with more harmonious folk-pop elements - street-wise but intellectual.

It isn’t the usual staid fare of Calgary’s nightspots, recycling radio hits already played to death. It is original and challenging. And even when the band tackles a cover tune, such as the soul classic Dancing In The Street, it re-interprets it to make the song its own.

Aside from Bleakney, the band consists of drummer Darrell LeBlanc, bassist Chuck Gogan and guitarist Lisa Robinson (who leads the band’s vocal work with a voice that is gentle yet surprisingly powerful).

“I’m sick of bars, playing six nights in a row,” says Bleakney. “What kind of passion can you have after that?

“The idea that you have to play the bars to make it is baloney. When you think of all the great bands, like Lou Reed and Velvet Underground, who made it, they didn’t do so by just playing other people’s material.”

The Left Book Club, in its year’s existence, has studiously avoided top-40 bars but not without paying the price of having few places to play.

The band is known for always being in the process of breaking up, yet it continues on when its “unofficial manager” Bob Black keeps landing the band gigs.

The band credits places like Ten Foot’s and the U of C’s radio station, CJSW, with helping, keep the local alternative rock scene alive.

“Look at the bands that have achieved some local notoriety. People have heard of The Nex’d and The Now Feeling thanks to Henry’s. It seems everytime you go down there you hear something new,” says Bleakney.

“And the university station helps by playing tapes of bands recorded live on Friday night,” adds LeBlanc.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t still battles to be waged.

“The way record companies treat music in this country is just pitiful,” says Bleakney. “We don’t have the variety of independent record companies that they do in England which help keep everybody on their toes. And the public is to blame too. There was a time when the public told radio what they wanted to hear. Today, radio just tells the people what they’re going to be exposed to. It’s a vicious circle.”

Hopefully, with more and more bands like The Left Book Club arising in Calgary, that circle will not remain unbroken.


Note: James Muretich apparently goofed on a member's name - that's Lisa Boudreau on guitar/vocals.

It's hard to judge a band by just one song, but that's exactly what we're going to do. James is pretty astute, and his description is spot on - this seems like a good balance between smart and fun. Check it out here.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

CCPS Miscellany: Beware the punk vote, Joe Clark! (1983)

Here's something fun from the Muretich archives: a not-so-serious interview with Warren Kinsella about his early political ambitions after leaving Calgary to pursue higher education. And, in this specific case, the Liberal party leadership 


Beware the punk vote, Joe Clark! 
James Muretich
Calgary Herald, May 10, 1983

Punk-rockers of Calgary unite!

If you’ve been doing nothing politically but voting for the Rhinoceros Party in recent elections, now’s your chance to put a man in Ottawa who shares your interests.

All you have to do is disguise yourself as a nine-year-old Conservative party member and flood the Tory leadership convention in June.

Now, why would any self-respecting wearer of leather jackets and biker boots want to attend the ho-hum meeting of three-piece suit politicians?

Well, quite simply, one of the activists from the Calgary punk scene in the late ’70s is actually in the running for the leadership!

In case you missed it, last week The Herald ran a story stating that Warren Kinsella president of the Carleton University Student Association and a former vice-president of the university’s Liberal Association had become a candidate for Joe Clark’s job.

Now, before Kinsella headed out east in the pursuit of higher learning, he was the leather-clad bassist and lead singer of one of Calgary’s early punk bands: The Hot Nasties.

Kinsella entered the race to draw attention to some of the problems facing education (such as higher fees) and youth (the fact that one out of five Canadians under 25 are unemployed).

However, the sarcastic wit which marked Kinsella’s days as a punk-rocker hasn’t disappeared entirely while he’s been studying journalism. He told the assembled press last week that one of his greatest attributes in seeking the mantle of leadership was that “I sort of look like Brian Mulroney.”

Just consider the scenario: Several thousand “nine-year-old” delegates from Calgary (the key is to shave off all facial hair and dress innocently) invade the Kinsella vote.

Presto, a landslide victory for the 22-year-old candidate and former founder of Calgary’s Social Blemish Records.

Yes, instead of Joe Clark or the wise-cracking former finance minister John Crosbie doing battle with King Pierre, we’d have a political leader who once wrote such tunes as Kill Me If You Can and Teenage Lament.

Based on his platform of making the leadership race a little more absurd, we could expect punky decision-making if Kinsella then went on to defeat Trudeau and become Prime Minister.

“1 would definitely create a ministry of punk-rock,” says Kinsella in a interview with his favorite Calgary newspaper.

“I would also appoint The Ramones ministers of youth.”

Now, before you write Kinsella off as another Well-intentioned weirdo, keep in mind that his entering the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party has been noted by other candidates.

“Crosbie’s people have been phoning us to see what kind of support we have,” says Kinsella.

“They want to know if I’d support his candidacy, too. I told them if they say something about education then they may get my support.

“I mean, I already have three committed delegates to the convention - and they’ve all heard the Hot Nasties, by the way.”

Prime Minister Warren Kinsella . . . who knows, maybe God Save The Queen by the Sex Pistols might become our new national anthem?

Saturday, 9 July 2016

CCPS Miscellany: Second Wave? (1980)

Here's a second clipping that Rodney Guitarsplat Brent sent us, a nice companion to last week's clipping from 1979 about the new wave scene. Nice to see that Muretich was jaded even in 1980.


Second wave?
James Muretich
Calgary Sun, September 23, 1980


Last week I got a call at home from a friend who plays in one of Calgary’s new wave bands.

“Has someone told you to swear off new wave?" he asked in his usual direct manner. He wanted to know why I hadn't been out to any local gigs in the last while.

It was simple. What I had seen leading up to and culminating in a punk night at Stampede Grounds during Stampede discouraged me. The scene was stagnating, if not degenerating.

As well, in the words of one of the Hot Nasties‘ tunes. the whole scene was turning into a fashion show. More people were watching each other than dancing or getting off on the music. If you want to know what I mean just listen to the ad the National Hotel has on the airwaves to let you know it‘s into new wave. Sickening.

However, after catching the Remains (also known as Agent. Orange) and the Sandwiches at the Odtlfellows community hall on 9 Ave. S.W. last Saturday night. I must admit things are looking
better.

I got the feeling the stagnation may be over and the second wave beginning. Even my good friend, David Wilkie from CFAC (country) radio. was caught up in the tide of energy which swept the
hall.

The Sandwiches impressed me - the group has improved since getting back together in August after a brief, amicable breakup.

The band‘s music isn’t all relentless energy anymore but shows an ability to use different rhythms and even indulge in the occasional solo.

Musically, each member played like never before. The Sandwiches have become tighter, more varied, without sacrificing the energy and spontaneity which have always been its trademark.

As well. the first band up, billed as Agent Orange but preferably known as the Remains, really got the dancing crowd going with some fast-paced rock. The use of keyboards gives the band added punch.

With that said and with many of the other local bands, like the Sturgeons and the Verdix releasing independent singles and doing more original tunes, it looks like it might not be such a bad winter here
after all.

Friday, 8 July 2016

CCPS Miscellany: Heavy Metal's Ten Commandments

We posted this on the CCPS facebook page a while back, but in the interests of completionism, we're going to re-post it here. This one is really not about our scene, but considering how much of an influence metal has been on a lot of Calgary bands, we can't leave it out. 


Heavy Metal's Ten Commandments
By James Muretich

In the beginning there was rock ’n’ roll and parents thought that it was bad so, naturally, the teenagers of the land thought that it was good.

And the music grew in popularity until soon the electric guitars of rock had blown down the walls of the music establishment and become the best-selling sound around.

Elvis Presley was the first King and the rocking royal court included such hipsters and jesters as Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly and Pat Boone. Soon, the times changed and long-haired invaders from England became the rulers of rock, led by The Beatles.

But it Was the prophetic rock group Steppenwolf that foretold the future when sang of "heavy-metal thunder” in its song, Born To Be Wild. Soon, the rock landscape was thrilling to the decibel-decimating sound of Led Zeppelin, the true father of rock whose essence was volume cranked to the point of no return. A new age was born and from the musical loins of Led Zeppelin sprang such offspring as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, Kiss, Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Motley Crue.

And unto these practitioners of Metal was born a ritual to be followed in accordance with the unspoken laws of the land, the 10 Commandments of Metal.

Many of the devotees of the heaviest of Metal music are not aware of these laws, yet they follow the creed unwittingly as it is preached beneath the glare of myriad lights and dry ice in hockey arenas.

(1) Thou Shalt Have No Other Music Than Metal.


In truth, all other forms of rock ’n’ roll are false. Followers of Metal spit at the mere mention of Boy George and revile all manner of trendy campus radio rock bands. Music is to be loud and proud (the louder, the prouder). Rock was and is rebellion. You’ll never hear Iron Maiden music in a beer commercial.

(2) Thou Shalt Sport All Manner of Graven Metal Images.


Even Metal rebels know how to dress for success or at least acceptance among their peers.
Long hair is important (male or female). This is especially true for heavy-metal bands, for the concert ritual demands that the group’s guitarists stand in a line at the front of the stage and flail the air with their hair. Long hair also helps hide the fact that a lot of male Metal band members aren’t good looking. 


As for wardrobe, black is always back. It is the color of death, rebellion and goes very well with Nazi swastika jewelry. It’s also easy to mix ’n’ match your clothes when every thing you own is the same color.

Leather is also an essential. It’s tough material for tough people. Leather wrist-bands laced with studs are especially cool, though it’s important not to vigorously wipe the sweat from your forehead with your forearm while wearing one.

(3) Thou Shalt Never Take The Name Of Rock In Vain.


Rock is salvation. It is the force, the source of all that is party-time good in the world. The celebration of rock as an entity requiring mystical faith and devotion can be seen in the following song titles: Rock The World (Kick Axe); Don’t Damage The Rock (Montrose); For Those About To Rock - We Salute You (AC/DC); Rock You (Helix); and We Got Your Rock (Ace Frehley).


In fact, the latter track by ex-Kiss member Frehley explains the subtle nuances of the Metal ritual or concert, As Ace sings: “Well, I see you starin’ from the front row, girl, with a challenge in your eye; darin' me to knock you out of your seat. And you can’t believe that a guy like me could rock you ’til you’re paralysed and leave you beggin’ for more, like a dog in heat. Now, if it’s rock and roll you came for, it’s rock and roll you’re gonna get! Ya! Ya! Ya! Ya! Ya!"

(4) Thou Shalt Keep The Heritage Of Black Sabbath Holy.


Shortly after Led Zeppelin arrived on the scene, there arose a band called Black Sabbath which fused aural assault and the occult to come up with a brand of Metal worthy of Bela Lugosi’s acting skills. The band, originally led by venerable vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, established the form of ghoulish Metal that has persisted to this day. It utilizes religion, mythology and the supernatural to say boo to life.

For revered references, check out the following songs: Children Of The Grave (Black Sabbath); Children Of The Damned (Iron Maiden); Mr. Crowley (Ozzy Osbourne); Hells Bells (AC/DC); and The Number Of The Beast (Iron Maiden).

(5) Dishonor Your Father And Your Mother.

This is a pretty self-explanatory commandment. Your parents are old, you’re young. They breathe hard when they run up the stairs. You don’t. They like The Beatles. You like bone-crunching blasts of Metal. Never the twain shall meet.

As Van Halen sang on And The Cradle Will Rock: "Well, they say it’s kind of frightening how this younger generation swings. You know it’s more than just some new sensation. Well, the kid is into losing sleep and he don’t come home for half the week. You know it’s more than just an aggravation.”

(6) Thou Shalt Slay The Senses.


The popular phrase loud ’n’ proud is- the cornerstone upon which Metal is built. If the volume can’t crack tea cups at a thousand paces, it just ain’t worth listening to. That is why Hit Parader magazine’s recent Heavy Metal Awards included a category for Loudest Band Of The Year (the winner was Metallica, with the runners-up being Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Deep Purple). Says AC/DC guitarist Angus Young: “When I go on stage, I just want to blast away. I’m always asking the road crew to turn up the amps. They tell me they’re already up as far as they’ll go. So, I just tell ’em that we need bigger amps.”


There is no truth to the rumor that Metal bands play as loud as they do to hide the fact their lead vocalists can’t sing.

(7) Thou Shalt Commit Adultery And All Manner of Sexual Activity.


The height of Metal Manhood is in direct proportion to the quantity of one’s sex life. It is better to have loved in lust than never to have loved at all.

As singer David Lee Roth claims: "It’s like, anything you desire you can find here whatever your vice, whatever your sexual ideals. Whatever somebody else can’t do in his nine-to-five job, I can do in rock'n’roll.”

The result is such romantic Metal music as I Said The Wrong Thing To The Right Girl (Keel); Heavy Metal Love (Helix); Chain Gang Woman (Malice); Sink The Pink (AC/DC); Hot To Be Rocked (Lee Aaron); and Girls Girls Girls (Motley Crue).

As Motley Crue sings on the latter song: "For sex and sex I’d sell my soul.”

(8) Thou Shalt Steal Any And All Guitar Riffs.There is no such thing as original sin in heavy-metal. There is no such thing as originality. Everything is a variation on what’s been done before, a recycling of old rock riffs (proving Metal is ecologically-minded). Besides, it’s hard to think of original music when you’re busy partying.

(9) Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against A Metal Band In Concert.As a member of the fictional Metal group Spinal Tap said in its self-titled documentary spoof: "Have a good time all the time.” That is the philosophy of Metal maniacs when they attend a concert. It is their duty to raise their fists in the air at the appropriate moments, flick their Bics and generally cheer on any and all utterances by a Metal group - such as "Are you guys high enough?” or "You guys really know how to party don’t cha?” or "The best looking girls in the world are right here man!”

(10) Thou Shalt Covet Thy Neighbor’s Material Possessions.Metal followers need not worry about asceticism. The creed believes that if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Fast cars, fast women and even faster music is all part of the Metal lifestyle. Whether it’s makeup, flashy leather gear or having the biggest stereo system in the solar system, make sure people notice you. Shy sucks. Strut your stuff to the max.


To abide by these commandments is to be assured a place in headbanger heaven.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

CCPS Miscellany: Music scene and ALCB don't mix (1984)

Here's an interesting Muretich article that isn't about a band, but more about the forces that shaped the music scene in the 1970's and 1980's. Man, that guy could write...


Music scene and ALCB don't mix
By James Muretich
(Herald staff writer)
Calgary Herald, June 24, 1984

It is seen as a secret service.

The Alberta Liquor Control Board (ALCB) is feared to the point where many of those interviewed for this article refused to have their names used and one person, following an interview, called back to ask that his name not be used for fear of “retribution.”

The kind of atmosphere that exists between the ALCB, which enforces the province’s Liquor Control Act, and those people involved in Calgary’s live entertainment scene is not as it should be.

The relationship is one marked by anger, fear and frustration.

There are those who will defend the ALCB, such as Calgary lawyer Ron Ghitter, who authored a government report on reforming the province’s liquor laws in the early ’70s.

 “I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the complaints of the industry,” says Ghitter. “There are a let of operators who simply don’t respect the law. Besides, there will always be people who don’t like the policeman.”

Yet when the dislike and disrespect reach the level described earlier among those involved in the industry, especially among those concerned with bringing in top-notch rock and country acts, there is obviously something wrong. Something that goes beyond mere annoyance at authority.

“It’s like dealing with a 19th-century mentality when you’re trying to move into the 21st century,” says Lou Blair, manager of- the rock band Loverboy and former manager of The Refinery (Calgary’s leading live rock ’n’ roll nightspot between 1974 and 1980).

“The province’s laws and the liquor board’s application of them have created a sinister atmosphere between operators and the board. It’s like the old school system, where no matter how many times they cane you you’re determined they’re not going to break your spirit. Just thinking ’ of what it was like gets my skin crawling.”

Blair, during the ’7OS, was one of the few people who spoke out openly against the province’s liquor laws. Many feel The Refinery went under because of its longstanding “war” with the ALCB. Little has altered since Blair’s departure, despite changes to the Liquor Control Act on Dec. 31, 1980.

Outside of the Jubilee Auditorium and Calgary’s hockey arenas, the city’s nightlife remains a virtual wasteland of bar bands and small-time acts. The world between bar bands and acts performing at major concert venues is a virtual no man’s land.

Those in the industry have identified the major problems areas;

Despite the legal establishment, in 1980, of nightclubs where food doesn’t have to be served to patrons, it’s 'felt that the requirement for a 100-seat dining lounge adjacent to a nightclub negates any benefits, especially considering nightclub seating restrictions.

The nightclub seating limit of 275 dramatically reduces the kinds of acts that can be brought in, putting out of reach bands whose price tag is too steep for such a small seating capacity or, conversely, setting the need for unreasonably high admission charges.

In non-hotel quality entertainment nightspots, which are not legal nightclubs, the demand that food be consumed by patrons places a burden upon operators, especially in the case where people going out for live music (such as rock ’n’ roll) aren’t likely to be looking for a full meal.

The ALCB is involved in far too many aspects of a nightspot’s operation, exceeding the mere controlling of liquor.

ALCB inspectors are too heavy-handed in their surveillance of nightspots.

The attitude towards liquor consumption in Alberta officially remains a negative one where liquor is seen as something to be restricted.

Liquor laws create an unhealthy backstabbing atmosphere where operators “snitch” on one another if they feel an establishment is possibly getting away with something they aren’t.

“If you could open up the rooms in terms of seating, not have to serve food and concentrate on music, there would be a flood of people building rooms in this city. As it is, live entertainment is more of a liability than a possibility,” says one nightspot operator, preferring to remain unnamed.

Joe Forgione, general manager of the ALCB, says present seating limits were brought in, in consultation with other provincial governments, in 1980 because “we realized that there was a need out there for more seats if they (operators) were going to bring in a good level of entertainment because costs were rising all the time.”

However, seating remains “the rub,” as one operator put it. In a day and age when a top-notch act can command a hefty price tag (one act recently through Calgary received $18,000 for three nights), a nightspot owner is hard pressed to make money. With nightclubs limited to 275 seats and lounges with live entertainment limited to 250 seats, it’s hard to afford such acts.

As a result most nightspots in Calgary settle for lesser-known and less-expensive acts, or ask patrons to pay “through the nose.”

“You have to be looking at a $20 cover charge when your seating capacity is only 275 and the act you’re booking is asking $5,000,” says Tim Cottini, a local booking agent.

“The whole thing keeps the music scene in check, no doubt about it. There are a lot of acts I have to turn down for Calgary because I just don’t know if there are enough diehard fans out there willing to pay $20 a pop,” says Cottini.

Says one local operator: “You go to Vancouver and you can see the top acts at minimum price. The Commodore Ballroom seats as many as 1,200 people in there, which obviously means you don’t have to charge as much.

“Imagine if you could have such a nightclub here? You know what kind of groups you can bring in then even if you’re only charging $12 at the door?”

Blair, who now lives in Vancouver, agrees.

“It’s great and the Commodore hasn’t killed any clubs here either.”

Even the current rules which say nightclub patrons do not have to eat aren’t seen in a favorable light.  Food must still be available, not to mention the requirement of a 100-seat adjacent dining lounge.

“Hotels aren’t required to serve food, so what’s the big break?” asks one operator.

Aside from seating and food beefs, people involved in the Calgary live music scene express an almost uniform opinion that the ALCB has far too much say over a nightspot’s complete operation.

“You can’t open up a licensed establishment without going to the liquor board and showing them everything about your establishment, from the plans to the finishing on your tables and seats,” says one person involved in a local nightspot.

“If they don’t like the color of your chairs, if an inspector walks in after you’ve finished everything and says he doesn’t like your tabletops, then he won’t give you your licence,” says Blair.

Or as one person put it: “If they get it in for you, then suddenly your broadloom’s no good.”

Forgione says the ALCB does check out plans for any licensed establishment in order to assist operators in the design of their nightspots. Ghitter says the ALCB just “wants to make sure the food isn’t going through the washroom.”

However, Al Robertson, the Calgary zone president of .the Alberta Restaurant Association (the umbrella organization to which all live entertainment spots belong), sees it differently.

“I’ve had a case where a liquor board inspector told me ‘you can’t do that, it’s against fire regulations.’ The fire board rep then came by and said: ‘Oh, the liquor board doesn’t know what it’s talking about.’ But they’re (the ALCB) the law. They’ll hit you hard in a minute if you don’t do what they say.”

Other operators have stories of ALCB inspectors telling certain establishments to take certain drinks off their menu because of their names, including TestoTube Babies (a shooter) and even Bloody Caesar.

In fact, a major reason for the anxious atmosphere that exists between the ALCB and nightspot operators seems to come down to the attitude exhibited by far too many of the board’s inspectors, who number 50 for the province.

Forgione can’t understand why this problem exists.

“I’m always cautioning our inspectors against being God Almighty. I tell them to be careful what they say in dealing with“ licensees because they’re the front-line PR (public relations) for this board.”

Somewhere, somehow, something seems to have gone terribly wrong.

As one Operator says: “My problem is not with the liquor act per se, but with the ALCB’s method of applying it. Their inspectors are overly zealous. People resent their attitude and Gestapo techniques.”

“They don’t come to you and say you’re doing this wrong, don’t let it happen again,” says another operator. “They come on like gangbusters, flash their ID and walk in like they own the joint. People think they’re rude to the point of being obnoxious.

“On top of that they have undercover people who blend in with the crowd and sit there with their little counters keeping track of how many people are in the room, just waiting for you to do something wrong.”

“It’s like you’re guilty until proven innocent, when it comes to an infraction,” says Robertson.

“It gets to the point where you’re so exasperated with these people that you either reluctantly go along with them or else you say to hell with them.”

Part of the problem seems to stem from the fact that liquor is still viewed as a negative commodity which has to be tolerated, but never encouraged. The attitude that saw Alberta forbid men and women to drink together until 1958, and not introduce open taverns where men and women could go without escorts until 1967, still persists to a certain degree.

“I feel that a lot of Albertans still drink to excess because there’s an element of naughtiness to it,” says Blair. “I think there’s definitely still the attitude in Alberta that liquor is an evil thing.”

Forgione disagrees saying that the province has greatly liberalized liquor consumption in recent decades.

“In 1958, you couldn’t buy spirits publicly. All you could get was beer and that was in a beverage room. We’ve come a long way since then,” says Forgione.

Most operators feel that while 70 per cent of liquor sales are made in Calgary and Edmonton alone, the provincial government is still highly sensitive to rural, religious-based concerns when it comes to the Liquor Control Act.

“Premier Lougheed refuses to deal with the liquor issue because it splits his caucus along rural-urban lines,” says Blair.

“It’s ironical because here you are in what’s supposed to the bastion of free enterprise and you’ve got a bureaucracy strangling such an important industry.

“The problem of the rural-urban conflict has to be addressed. Cities like Edmonton and Calgary are unique within the province. I think rural areas that want-to stay dry should be able to. But the province should be more flexible,” adds Blair.

Yet. the only way changes will occur is through lobbying, and so far, those involved in the entertainment industry have been unable and unwilling to form a common front.

“It’s up to the owners, but they’re afraid of speaking out,” says Cottini.

“We bitch and bellyache,” says one owner, “but club and restaurant owners seem to change every year. No one’s going to listen until we get a strong lobby . . . but it’s not just going to happen.”

In fact, if anything, nightspot operators in the entertainment industry are more prone to back-stabbing than organizing. Even the ALCB admits that most of its leads regarding infractions come from operators and not its own inspectors.

“We’re the biggest offenders,” says one person involved in a local nightspot.

“If one guy sees somebody trying to do something different or maybe bend the rules a bit, he’s on the phone to the ALCB right away.”

“I agree that accommodation for high-quality entertainment isn’t there right now,” says Forgione. “But you have to be careful with change. Especially in these times, if we were to change the laws, to open up rooms to 500 seats, it might create havoc out there for people who are just barely surviving.”

“It is a Catch-22,” says one nightspot owner. “What can you do? You’ve got all these people who have invested all this money according to the laws as they now stand. If you suddenly change things, it would be unfair to those who already have existing establishments.”

Says Forgione: “If I gave someone 500 seats for expensive, quality entertainment and they just used the seats for selling more liquor and ignored the entertainment aspect after getting the licence, what am I going to say to the community?

“For the guy who wants to bring in high-priced legitimate acts it sounds fine. But how do you guard against the guy who’s going to abuse it?”

The ALCB is trying to loosen the laws gradually. For example, the ALCB recently instituted a one-year trial period which allows hotels and convention centres to use its banquet rooms for licensed public functions rather than just private functions.

It allows such rooms to be open once a week to “musical presentations, theatrical productions, nightclub acts,” among other things, which would allow for liquor consumption and dancing, provided food were served.

“It’s an opening for an operator willing to give it a shot,” says Forgione.


An opening, yes, but hardly anything that will vitalize a sagging Calgary entertainment scene. Limited to one night a week, at most, and to hotels and convention centres (not known for their abiding interesting in high-priced, quality entertainment), it is unlikely to bring in the kinds of popular music acts that this city lacks.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

CCPS Miscellany: Rock Retro - 1966-72

Here's the second part of James Muretich's early history of Calgary's music scene, with some great info about one of our favourite early bands, the 49th Parallel.


Rock Retro
1966-72

Explore Calgary’s rock ’n’ roll legacy this weekend as Herald rock critic James Muretich documents a pivotal era in the city's music scene. Saturday, in the first of a two-part series, he looked at the roots of rock in the late ’505. Today, he concludes with the rise to success of The Stampeders and the full flowering of the hippie movement in 1970 when Janis Joplin and Festival Express rolled into town.

By James Muretich
(Herald staff writer)

Calgary may not have been a music mecca like London, but the swinging Sixties still affected the local scene as rock’s early innocence gave way to an age of new experiences just as surely as The Beatles had gone from“ She Loves You" to singing about turning people on.

It was a time when the Calgary rock scene grew up, step by step.

By the time the Sixties had run its course, spilling over into the early ’70s, two expatriate bands had achieved international success, many other local acts released impressive records, hippiedom arrived and the city experienced its own mini-Woodstock.

A teen-oriented club like Surfers A Go Go was a sign of things to come. Located in downtown Calgary, it had a 16-foot cut-out of girl in a bikini straddling its door.

“You had to walk through her legs to enter and then you could either take the stairs or use a slide to the basement,” says owner Dave Horodezky.

Spanning the mid-’6os, Surfers A Go Go was one of the spots that, like the Blind Onion and Haunted House, catered to the youthful rock crowd. All of them were non-alcoholic, though many patrons brought their own libation.

“The police turned a blind eye, as long as you weren’t bootlegging,” says Blind Onion owner Harris Dvorkin.

The scene could and did get rowdy regularly.

“It got pretty crazy sometimes at Surfers,” says Horodezky. “There were nights when a bouncer would send someone up the slide. And there was one Stampede where we had a midnight bash with 300 people in the place, but there were at least 3,000 people in the street Outside. So, we piped music out to them. Eventually, the city had to come with firehoses to disperse the crowd.”

In 1966, Calgary was still conservative in its lifestyle compared to the drug-influenced hippie scene in San Francisco. As well, most bands were doing cover material rather than original compositions.

However, the scene had altered enough to make The Esquires - which had formed in 1958 and originally modelled itself after The Ventures - feel out of step with the times.

“The changes in music became disillusioning for us. I remember when The Beatles first came out, I didn’t like them because I thought their harmonies were off,” says Esquires drummer Greg Thomas.

The Esquires had recorded a series of singles on the Barry label in the early ’6os and decided to head to Los Angeles in a last-ditch attempt to make it big.

“I remember we were in one studio and The Rolling Stones were in another one re-dubbing some things from the night before. We were so green that when the engineer asked us what kind of sound we  wanted, we said, ‘Well, sort of like what Phil Spector did with the Righteous Brothers,’ ” says Thomas.

In the end, The Esquires were so disappointed with the outcome that the songs were never released.

Still, the beat went on in Calgary.

“Calgary had some amazing talent. There was a buzz in this town like no other town I went to, and we travelled coast to coast,” says guitarist Danny Lowe who was the leader of the popular Shades Of Blonde, which later became 49th Parallel.

“Back then people thought some of the best music happening in the world was right here in town,” says Neil MacGonnigal, an interested spectator during the era.

Certainly, the Shades Of Blonde, with their dyed hair and bell-bottom trousers, was a local band that was happening.

“Danny Lowe was just a downright, filthy rock ’n’ roll guitarist. He knew how to make his guitar honk,” says musician Dennis Planidin.

The Shades of Blonde even had their screaming legions, a la Beatles.

“We played at some event Hudson’s Bay sponsored downtown and it was just like The Beatles,” says Lowe. “We were literally mobbed and we thought, ‘Hey, we’re happening now.’

Mel Shaw, who was managing The Stampeders, thought the same thing.

“The Shades Of Blonde were starting to become more popular than The Stampeders in ’66. So, we decided to try our luck out East. I knew that the lethargy of playing in one city would kill The Stampeders if they stayed.

“That was the trouble with Calgary,” says Shaw. “The bands playing here would become really good, but once they got to the tap there was nowhere to go but down.”

So, the six-man band, Shaw, his wife and two kids piled into a 1956 Cadillac, with a 10-foot U-Haul trailer in tow, and set out for Eastern Canada.

Success didn’t exactly embrace The Stampeders immediately.

“When we were recording Be A Woman for M-G-M in New York (in 68), I used to give blood for five dollars just so I could send postcards back home telling people that I was having a great time in New York while I was actually eating salami on dry buns,” says bassist Brendan Lyttle, who quit the group in 1969 but later rejoined them as their road manager.

It wasn’t until 1971 that The Stampeders (then a trio) enjoyed their international hit Sweet City ,Woman and returned to Calgary to perform at the Jubilee Auditorium after a five-year hiatus.

The other major success story to come out of Calgary was The Original Caste.

The group’s creative core, Bruce Innes and Dixie Lee Stone, met at The Conquistador club and soon became musical and marriage partners with the formation of the North Country Singers, later renamed The Original Caste.

Innes was a highly respected guitarist and former college chum of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, while Dixie Lee was Calgary’s best-known female singer, having appeared on such TV shows as Guys And Dolls and Calgary Safety Roundup as well releasing her first solo single in ’63 Come To Me - on Shaw’s Sotan label.

Unfortunately, there were only a few places for their folk-oriented material in Calgary, such as the Pig’s Eye and the Bombay Bicycle Club. A singer by the name of Joni Anderson (later known as Joni Mitchell) also performed at these spots while attending art college here.

They, too, took to the road and ended up in Los Angeles with a record deal.

“After One Tin Soldier became a big hit, Quality Records in Toronto sent us a telegram in LA. saying they had heard one of the band members was Canadian," says Dixie Lee. "We said, 'Hell, we're all from Canada.'

"That's why we left the country... because nobody knew  or cared about their own musicians."

Another band that left the city in pursuit of success was Shade of Blonde, which, after arriving in Los Angeles, changed its name to 49th Parallel.

“We ended up staying at the Hollywood Centre, which was THE place to live if you were in a band,” says Lowe. “We used to eat breakfast with The Doors at a place called Stan’s Restaurant and I’d be in the parking lot at the Hollywood Centre playing my acoustic guitar, and Janis Joplin. would come over and sing along. At the time, she was just another girl - of sorts.”

49th Parallel sounded like a cross between The Rolling Stones and B.T.O. and was signed by RCA, which released its 1967 debut single, Labourer.

“The single was picked by the Gavin Report (an important music trade report in the U.S.), along with a Rolling Stones song and Sonny Cher’s The Beat Goes On, as a guaranteed hit. Oh well, two out of three picks ain’t bad,” says Lowe.

By the time 49th Parallel returned to Calgary for good in ’69, a lot had changed.

Clubs like Fryar’s Den, Piccadilly Square, Haunted House and the San Francisco Streetcar had come and gone. The latter had featured a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge that people could walk across to board a streetcar that then moved back and forth over the dance floor while the band performed on it.

Rock radio had also finally hit Calgary in 1967 when CKXL became a top-40 rock, 24-hours-a-day station. It sponsored battles of the bands where the best groups became known as XL bands and had their gigs promoted on air.

One of the city’s most popular bands from 1968 to the early ’7os was Happy Feeling. It released a self-titled album, four singles and even had its own Calgary TV show, called Happy Feeling, which featured the band performing both in the studio and in film clips (sometimes using slow-motion or fast-action footage) shot on location in the city.

“We had a real light image, but I think Happy Feeling was really more of a white black group in that we did songs like Sweet Inspiration and Rascals’s material,” says singer Jim Aiello. “We toured with Roy Orbison and he told us that we had something he hadn’t heard in a long time.”

The group signed with the Avco/Embassy label in the US. and Barry in Canada. In 1968, Happy Feeling travelled to Clovis, New Mexico, to record with Norman Petty who had recorded Buddy Holly’s classics and managed him as well.

The Clovis connection remains one of the most intriguing aspects of the Alberta music scene in the ’6os.

It stemmed from a friendship between George Tomscoe of The Fireballs (a popular New  Mexico act that often performed in Alberta) and Edmonton’s Wes Dakus of Wes Dakus and the Club 93 Rebels. Dakus ended up recording in Clovis, and other Alberta acts followed.

“Going to Clovis was like walking into a scene from The Last Picture Show,” says Aiello. “It was a little town and we ended up recording in the same garage that Buddy Holly did all his material in.”

Unfortunately, Petty’s hit-making days were over. Happy Feeling’s album sounded dated, despite some strong soul-pop material, and the group failed to make it big outside Alberta.

Gainsborough Gallery also suffered the same fate when it recorded two singles with Petty in 1970: Life Is A Song and Ev’ry Man Hears Different Music.

“We were less than moderately successful with those records and I think that if we had been in Los  Angeles, with a more free-thinking producer, we could’ve been very successful,” says Planidin, who played with Gainsborough Gallery from 1967 to 1972 under the name of Denny Paul.

“Stylistically, we were into a jazz-rock thing. We had 20 tunes and could do a four-hour gig with those.

“We opened for Country Joe and The Fish and blew them off the stage. They had the record, but we had the band.”

Gainsborough Gallery also opened the Apollo in 1969, a posh rock club located in the old Prophetic Bible Institute on 8th Avenue SW. used by former Alberta Premier William Aberhart for his Sunday radio broadcasts. The irony of a rock club operating out of a former Bible Institute earned the Apollo an article in Time magazine.

With its history, pipe organ, balconies and two-tier stage, it was indeed an impressive nightspot and hosted such acts as The Kinks and the Guess ,Who as well as numerous local and regional bands.

Apollo owner Horodezky remembers the scene changed dramatically in ’69.

“It was like the beat generation suddenly came to Calgary. There were never any problems at the Apollo, unlike Surfers, because people were into smoking grass rather than boozing, and booze was what brought out the ornery element.

“We even threw open the place, at times during the week so that the kids in sandals, army jackets and jeans had a place to crash,” says Horodezky.

Local bands also began experimenting more.

Richter Ten (formerly Adanac Reply) scored an original 30-minute concerto and opened for Iron Butterfly at the Corral.

“The bands were becoming far more original, even psychedelic and were doing pretty off-the-wall lyrics,” says keyboardist Miles Jackson of Richter Ten. “Around that time it seemed like everybody on the rock scene was doing acid.”

The Stampede also got back into rock in 1969 with the three-day long Summertown, which included
Canadian rock bands.

“It was a response to CKXL’s criticism of the lack of things for young people to do at Stampede,” says Ken Staroszik, one of the organizers.

“The next year it expanded to seven days and we had acts like Edward Bear and Chilliwack. It was a time when 'we thought we could do anything.”

The full flowering of the local hippie movement and its attendant rock scene came in July of 1970, when the Festival Express rolled into McMahon Stadium. Featuring such acts as Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Band, Sha Na Na, Montreal’s Mashmakhan and various local acts, such as Gainsborough Gallery, it was Calgary’s Woodstock, with music spread over two days and 24 hours.

Bill Musselwhite summed it up in the Herald as “a two-day high in a different world, a remarkably good world.”

Festival Express acts also went to the Apollo for an all-star jam session.

However, the euphoria was short-lived. In 1971, the liquor laws changed the legal drinking age from 21 to 18, effectively killing the non-alcholic, youth-oriented clubs.

Soon, With bar bands pushing liquor rather than creative boundaries and With the hippies gradually going into hiding or simply disappearing, an era in Calgary’s rock history came to an end.


Saturday, 2 July 2016

CCPS Miscellany: Rock Retro - 1956-65

We have a bunch of old James Muretich clippings that we've been sitting on, so let's carry on with this, the first of a two-parter about Calgary's musical history.


Calgary Herald
Saturday, March 21, 1987

Rock Retro
1956-65

Explore Calgary's rock 'n' roll legacy this weekend as Herald rock critic James Muretich documents a pivotal era in the city's music scene. Today, in the first of a two‑part series, he looks at the roots of rock in the late '50s, when Tommy Chong led The Shades and the world was relatively innocent. Sunday, Muretich follows the rise to success of The Stampeders and the full flowering of the hippie movement in 1970 when Janis Joplin and Festival Express rolled into town.

By James Muretich
(Herald staff writer)

Tommy Chong still vividly remembers being summoned over the telephone to Mayor Don Mackay's office in 1958. "I was told the mayor wanted to see me at his office. I thought `Great, what am I going to get, the key to the city?' " says Chong.

It wasn't likely since the future member of the comedy team Cheech & Chong was in one of Calgary's few rock 'n' roll bands at the time, The Shades. The group played a tough brand of rhythm 'n' blues and rock (Little Richard, Chuck Berry) in a city where such shows regularly ended up in fights.

"Many times I remember putting down my instrument, going into the crowd to kick ass and coming back on stage to play. We never did need a bouncer at our gigs. I could take a beating as well as the next guy," says Chong.

So, it was no surprise when Chong was greeted by a stern-faced Mayor Mackay (forced out of office a year later for improperly using 35 sacks of city-owned cement), the Chief of Police and the people who ran the Legion halls.

"They said legally we can't close you down, but we've had so much trouble after your dances we'd like it if you didn't play this holiday weekend.

"He made it clear it was a threat to get out of town without really saying it in so many words. I thought it was a great excuse to leave Calgary," says Chong.

Rock 'n' roll in Calgary was here to stay, but Chong wasn't. Still, there were other people in town purchasing Silvertone guitars at Sears and imitating their newfound musical heroes.

Like most cities in North America, many of Calgary's early rock acts — such as Keith Hitchner and The Bebops — came out of country music and its rockabilly offshoot, as had Elvis Presley.

In 1956, however, two events left the youth of Calgary all shook up: the appearance of Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan show and the release of the movie Rock Around The Clock, with its famous title track by Bill Haley and The Comets.

It wasn't long before city teenagers were heading out to dance to such bands as Lance Riley and The Renegades ("I remember Riley didn't know how to play his guitar, so he never plugged it in," says Greg Thomas of The Esquires).

It was the beginning of a surprisingly vibrant Calgary rock scene. Its age of innocence lasted from the days of Presley shaking his hips to the mid-'60s, when rock 'n' roll was a fresh frolic.

Gradually, innocence gave way to an age of experience when Calgary bands and clubs became more experimental, more creative, as did the '60s in general.

It was a strange yet fascinating musical trip that ultimately led some Calgarians to fame and fortune, such as The Stampeders or drummer Floyd Sneed who went from playing in an early '60s Calgary band, The Virtues, to bpcoming part of Three Dog Night.

Naturally, in the beginning, the music was mistrusted by the media. A 1956 Herald article on a Bill Haley concert commented: "youngsters flipped, spun, twirled and clapped to the boisterous thumping beat almost completely devoid of tune."

Still, by 1959, CFAC (then known as CHCT) radio had a rock 'n' roll program hosted by Stu Phillips which ran for 30 minutes weeknights and a full hour Saturday afternoon. And by 1960, when Calgary's population was just over 235,000, much of the musical emphasis had shifted from rockabilly and early rock numbers to the popular guitar instrumental style of the day.

Epitomizing the new sound were The Ventures, of Walk Don't Run, and a New Mexico band, The Fireballs, whose 1959 hit Torquay established them as one of the most popular bands here.

Both bands performed at a downtown ballroom called The Gardens which, along with Penley's Ballroom, held teen dances on Saturday afternoons. There were also dances at Bowness Park, though they were eventually shut down because of problems with drinking and fighting.

One of the most popular bands was The Esquires who had the twangy style down to a fine art. "Our big influences were The Fireballs, Ventures and The Shadows. We tried to duplicate their songs exactly by using echo machines and the same kind of guitars," says drummer Greg Thomas.

"We also worked hard on choreography and had about seven routines, all of them numbered so we could yell out to each other which one we were going to do."

The first local pop hit came courtesy of Mel Shaw who recorded the single Mean Lover on his own label, Sotan Records, in 1960. It featured Shaw talking over a honky-tonk beat ("I phone you up and say hi baby and you take too long to guess it's me") and made him a minor celebrity.

As a result, The Royals asked him to become their manager. Shaw accepted and soon changed both the band's name and image.

"I changed their name to The Masquerades and had them go undercover so people wouldn't know who they were. Now that I think of it, they looked like terrorists. They were totally in black and their faces were covered," says Shaw.

"One of the reasons they did it was," says Thomas, "everybody in the band was so ugly."

Another popular young act at the time was The Echos (later becoming The Echo Tones), anchored by future Stampeder Ronnie King. Like many other bands, it often turned community halls into sock-hop havens.

"There was a lot of competition to draw the bigger crowds," says King. "There was one time when we were playing the same night as Floyd Sneed's Virtues. So, to get more people out, we had the wrestler Sweet Daddy Siki — a big black dude with white hair — come out and sing Stagger Lee with us.

"I remember he was on stage, doing the song, when a fight broke out. He jumped off stage, pulled them apart and came back up to finish the song," says King.

Despite its growing popularity, the rock scene was largely ignored by the city's newspapers, leaving the field wide open for a fanzine called The Voice and published by Shaw.

"There wasn't one article on The Stampeders, for example, until 1971. So, The Voice was a forum, a voice for bands when there was none," he says.

However, radio and television cautiously tried to tap into this new market.

By 1962, CFAC radio had - deejay Don Lamb spinning rock 'n' roll platters. It also presented a TV show called Guys And Dolls, hosted by Bruce Northam and featuring The Masquerades and later The Stampeders as its house band.

CFCN had Don Wood as its premiere rock radio disc jockey and host of its TV show — Teen And Twenty. The house band was The Esquires and one of its camera operators was a young man named Ron Barge who went on to local fame as Buck Shot.

Wood, whose nickname was Whoopee (which led to such things as 'Whoopee's One To Watch' — i.e. his pick of the week), often took good-natured verbal shots at his on-air rival: "This is the show that comes on like a lion and not a Lamb."

The two programs were Calgary's answer to Dick Clark's American Bandstand and were exceedingly popular locally. In fact, a 1963 Teen Party sponsored by Teen And Twenty drew about 5,000 people to the Stampede Corral.

Teen And Twenty embodied the innocence of the era.

"It was good clean fun. We cut the audience off at age 19 to keep any potential problems down," says Wood. "We had a dress code and the Teen And Twenty Regulars, in their cardigan sweaters, who would help with things like running the soda fountain," says the television host who was barely older than many of his audience.

"I was 18, just having a good time playing the hits for people. Girls liked me but, to be honest, I was more into cars."

Guys And Dolls also had its own extravaganzas, including broadcasting one of its shows live from Frank Sisson's bowling alley, Triangle Bowl, while a 26-hour dance marathon was under way with 32 couples and eight dance bands.

"The police told me I was crazy to hold a marathon like that because we had some pretty rough gangs in the early '60s," says Sisson.

To ensure it went off smoothly, he assembled the "ringleaders" in his office and made them swear not to cause problems. "The cops told me afterward they didn't have one robbery that night."

As the '60s progressed, and with The Beatles and the British Invasion making an impact, a new sound and style emerged.

One of the popular new bands was The Paint Brushes, which had evolved out of The Echo Tones; it also featured Ronnie King on guitar.

"In 1963, The Paint Brushes was an original psychedelic idea," says King. "We would tape up our guitars and paint them so they lit up in the dark. We were the band that glowed in the dark."

"And when The Beatles were happening, I remember doing some Beatles' tunes and even wearing Beatles' wigs one night."

Meanwhile, the band King was soon to join, The Stampeders, was still known as The Rebounds. The Rebounds, formed by Rich Dobson and Brendan Lyttle, played their first dance in 1963. Their first recording was a radio spot for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

However, when the omnipresent Mel Shaw began managing the band and brought in King, the name was changed to The Stampeders in 1964. As usual, Shaw also had a new image for the group.

"Mel said we were going to be cowboys playing rock 'n' roll music," says King. So, they donned cowboy hats, began appearing on Guys And Dolls regularly (where Shaw booked bands for the princely sum of $10 a week).

The Stampeders cut their first single in 1965 — House Of Shake, their nickname for a local club called The Conquistador.

It was a pop-rocker in the early Liverpool style: "C'mon along baby, lay down your dollar. Get ready to scream and I mean holler. It's a swinging spot for the wide-awake, right in the heart of town, it's called the House of Shake."

But the times were a changing and when Woodward's stopped sponsoring the Teen And Twenty show in 1964, CFCN altered the program.

"We picked up on the girls in the cages from that period and, as a result, changed our name to Whoopee A Go Go," says Wood.

"We even started scalping clips of the latest British bands from American program tapes sent to CFCN, like the Red Skelton Show.

"We'd tell the kids they could see more on Red Skelton but, what the hell, we showed it first."

Rock 'n' roll even invaded the Stampede in 1965 when it held a Teen Fair on the grounds, featuring such acts as Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs, The Stampeders, The Esquires and The  Skeptics.

An advertising supplement for Teen Fair promised "the best time for the beat music crowd in a long while."

However, the early innocence of the Calgary rock 'n' roll scene was slowly coming to an end: the Beatles were about to experiment with sitars and drugs. Local bands were changing too, with heavier acts like the Shades Of Blonde doing raucous versions of The Who's My Generation, burying the appeal of Ventures-style instrumentals.

So, it was only fitting that on New Year's Eve, 1965, Whoopee A Go Go — a symbol of the earlyyears went off the air for good.

Friday, 1 July 2016

CCPS Miscellany: New wave washes over Calgary (1979)

Oh, crap! We missed our own birthday! The CCPS is officially nine years old as of last Sunday (we were too busy with Sled Island-related shows/drinks/naps to remember on thee glorious day). So as a belated present to all of you, here's a great James Muretich article we had never seen, courtesy of Rodney Guitarsplat Brent...


New wave washes over Calgary
James Muretich
SUNDAY TAB October 28, 1979

In a second-storey window across from the Oddfellows St. George Lodge No. 39, a nude mannequin stands illuminated by neon lights. The female mannequin's arms are missing and her bald head looks down onto 9 Ave. S.E.

Outside cars drift by, their lights trailing in the distance, while people enter the Oddfellows centre in clusters. Inside another local concert is happening. Some say it's new wave. Some call it punk. Others just say it's rock'n'roll. Whatever it is, whenever groups like the Verdix, Hot Nasty's, Sandwiches and Black Shirts perform at different Calgary community centres they draw hundreds of youths.

The groups play loud, raunchy rock drawing inspiration from recording artists like Elvis Costello, the Ramones, Sex Pistols, early Rolling Stones and The Who. Whatever the label, the local bands play with a raw energy that makes up for their lack of finesse.

The vocals are usually barely audible, the music a fusion of electronic power and feedback, and the pace fast and furious.

On the dance floor dozens of people bop up and down frantically. An Oriental girl dances about in a long white shirt that barely reaches her legs, which are covered only in white tights. A dozen eyes watch her as she negotiates in her black high-heel shoes.

On stage the Hot Nasty's are playing, sweat staining the brows and shirts of each musician. Lead singer Warren Kinsella is screaming into the microphone. At one point lead guitarist Pierre Schenk leaps off the stage onto the dance floor, picking all the while. Schenk has been known to strum his guitar so hard that he's slashed his fingers until blood flows. Tonight, the Nasty's ends its set by writhing upon the stage floor while the members play their final chords.

* * *

Downstairs in the kitchen area, the Sandwiches sit around discussing the band and the local scene. The group is to follow the Nasty's, The Sandwiches project movies, with a slight stag twist at times, on on the wall behind the band while playing.

"It's not really a state of music, man," says lead vocalist and guitarist Doug Smith. "It's a scene, it's people." 

The group's bassist and philosopher Kim Solar agrees. "There's no defining it. If anything it's modern. The really contemporary thing has no definitions," he says. 

"Our songs are immediate," adds guitarist Tim Campell. "They're written about things that are happening now. They're about the area. When you listen to us you're not listening to someone who comes from 1,000 miles away."

Solar says the Sandwiches "are afraid of over-production. That can get you sounding very superficial. Virtuosity is not an end in itself. It's the power that occurs in the instruments that counts."

Drummer Bill Betzler taps away at the table while fellow band members talk. He has little to say while they're around. He listens and punctuates the conversation with nods and "yehs" of approval. Betzler had put away his drums until he heard punk for the first time. He then decided that would be the only kind of music he would ever play.

* * *

The Hot Nasty's is one of the better local new wave groups. The band plays with an energy that is infectious. The nasty quality to the group's music belies the Beach Boy image Kinsella creates visually when he sings in his red and white striped T-shirt.

Along with guitarist Schenk, Kinsella was a member of one of Calgary's early "punk" bands called the Social Blemishes. When the Blemishes broke up in the spring, Kinsella got Wayne Ahern on guitar 
and Tom Edwards on drums to join him and Schenk. The Hot Nasty's were born.

Sitting in the basement of a community centre, wiping his brow after a set, Kinsella says punk opened him up musically.

"In the summer of '77, I heard the Sex Pistols for the first time. I went home with the record and that was it. I had never heard anything like it in my life. It had so much emotion, so much life. And I sat there and said, hey, I can do this."

With no musical training, and still in high school, Kinsella got together the Social Blemishes and debuted with the Verdix last March. Fellow highschoolers called him a "punk faggot."

"I don't care what people say or for monetary things. It's just fun."

That's what the whole thing is about, just going out and having fun. All you need is a cheap second-hand guitar and you're on your way. After the initial expense of about $100 or so, it's cheaper than getting stoned."

Kinsella said he doesn't see any conflict between the rebellious na-ture of the music and his living at home with his parents and going to university.

"We're weekend punkers. During the week it's not around. You go to school, do your work, listen to your parents and then on the weekend you just go out and have fun. It's the most incredible release."

While he sees the group as making a dent in "Calgary's cultural wasteland," Kinsella has no pretensions about being a great musician or about the people who come to watch the Hot Nasty's.

"The people who come out cause me some consternation. I feel for a lot of them it's just a fashion show. It's a parade. They're not even listening to the music.

"This bunch of people are just as conservative as anybody else."

* * *

Another evening, at the Ogden Community Centre, the show un-folds much the same as it does any time one or more of these groups get together.

The hall is crowded. With a minimum of notice, a few posters around town, nearly 200 people have shown up. The feeling is incestuous. The same faces are seen over and over again at these gatherings. Once, the site of a Hot Nasty's/Sandwiches concert was shifted 24 hours before it was to begin. In-credibly, still more than 150 people showed up.

Alcohol is never legal at these meetings yet the police seldom create hassles. Liquor flows like the rivers of Babylon and dope makes its predictable rounds about the tables.

The average age is young, with many high schoolers making the scene. Appearances vary from Sid Vicious look-alikes to latter-day freaks who seem like they're just about to head off to Woodstock to catch Jimi Hendrix.

Because the music is decidedly punk or new wave, the audience decides they should be as rough as the music they're listening to.

If there's a breakdown in the sound system, a chorus of f---offs echos throughout the hall and is usually spat back by members of the band. Yet it's all verbal. No fights, no Altamont knives are brandished. A guy still pulls a chair away from a table for his girl.

* * *

Mick Memorex, vocalist and guitarist for the Verdix, sits in Mission Pizza sipping coffee with a female visitor from England. He's dressed casually in running shoes, no socks, a blue T-shirt and a checkered light jacket. His blonde hair is in disarray, his speech is slow and hesitant. As the German expression goes, getting words from Memorex is like trying to pull worms from his nose.

"Our music is mostly just observations. There's no statement within the lyrics or anything.

"You have to see us. It's not really planned out . . . though it's really very complex . . . yeh, just come and see.

"We've progressed as a band but yet we still do it for fun."

The Verdix took a couple of months off this summer to practise. The band, which consists of Memorex, Hostility on drums, and Murray Keene on bass, feels it's gotten much better during its musical retreat. Yet Memorex doesn't really know how much better.

"I don't know what we sound like. I know that we have fun when we play and I like the music that we're playing. But I don't know what it sounds like out in front of the PA system.

"All I know is that when we do a gig it seems to get better and better as we go along. But then it's partly because people get more and more loaded."

While Memorex, a part-time cabbie with Shamrock, says fun is the central reason for being in the band he admits to having rock'n'roll fantasies.

"We all want to be rock'n'roll stars I guess."

The Verdix may move out to Vancouver in the near future.

"We want to move. We want to move out of this town. Calgary's a drag. I'm sure that'll happen now that we're playing better. Besides, I've lived in this town since I was four."

 In Calgary, the Verdix has played community centres and stayed out of the bar scene.

"We like doing the kind of gig that we do. We have a better chance to do our own thing then. Here the bars play mostly top 40 stuff and you have to play it if you want to play there."

Despite Memorex's alleged aversion to bars, the Verdix recently signed with Studio City, a booking agency, which should take them out of the community centres and into the bars.

* * *

It's Saturday night at the Airliner. The Unusuals are milling about the stage readying for the band's opening set.

The group is often mentioned as one of Calgary's "new wave" groups since much of its material is drawn from artists like Costello, The Knack, Patti Smith and Joe Jackson. However, unlike the other bands, the Unusuals do play the bar scene.

Tonight is not one of the band's more receptive audiences. They look more ready for a brawl than a rock gig. People play pool off to one side of the room. One man with a deep scar on his left cheek looks about the room with disdain. He chalks up his cue and moves unsteadily towards the pool table to scatter the balls with his opening shot.

The Unusuals take the stage and open with My Sharona by The Knack. An employee wanders up to a reporter sitting at a table covered with other people's beer bottles.

"Are they all like this?" he asks. "Don't let them get in here if they are!"

The Unusuals continue playing, disregarding the negative atmosphere, Ron Matsalla enjoys lengthy, rapid solos on his lead guitar reminiscent of the '60s style of rock.

Drummer Rick Valleau pounds away trying to keep up to Matsalla's leads while bassist Danny Patton turns in an admirable effort considering he's playing this evening with a separated shoulder following a car accident with his brother.

* * *

Matsalla sits in a rundown arm-chair in his house, one leg hanging over the side of the chair. Both he and Danny Patton, sitting on the couch, have a beer in their hands which they nurse slowly. In an adjoining bedroom a snare drum lies on the floor, its skin revealing a gaping hole.

"What's really neat is that there's starting to be an underground thing again here," says Matsalla. "I remember what it was like about 10 years ago when then was kind of a hippie, militancy thing happening. Well, it's happening again in a different way. It's music, it's art, and it's people like us, and it's all going down."

Patton joins in. "It's like Frank Zappa says, we just went through a post-Beatles depression. I mean, after the Beatles it takes a while for anything to hit that big again."

Matsalla, an ex-grade 10 social studies teacher, says new wave is the inspiration behind the Unusuals and other groups like the Verdix.

"It's been the catalyst. We're trying to do a little bit with the new wave sound thing and get people exposed to the new music that's around.

"I like to make my guitar sing and scream," says Matsalla. "I play like today is the last day. I'm really just a punker who's been doing it for a while. I've been playing that kind of stuff since the beginning. It's the only stuff I've ever liked, stuff like the early Who."

Matsalla dropped out of teaching more than two years ago, which is about how long it took him to pen some tunes and get; his band together.

"We're playing rock'n'roll and that's it. We've taken the whole field of music and picked this little tiny pin-point and with it we do the best we can.

"When I write these songs I know exactly what the medium is that I'm working with. And I know what the tools are. You can't overwrite. You have to keep it as simple as possible. You can't use anymore than four chords. And you can't rhyme any more words than a certain amount or it's not that kind of rock anymore.

"It's an artistic endeavor. I'm just trying to create using these materials."

Matsalla and Patton continue talking while a stereo in another room blares out Frank Zappa.

"The agencies are the people who have been controlling the music scene so much. All the bands from Western Canada are productions of the agencies. 

"I've seen it. I've been there. They just try and tell you what to do, like they're doing to us now." The Unusuals have also signed recently with Studio City.

"I want to play rock'n'roll. I want to sing about life in the '80s, about life as an image in which you can pretty well make that image whatever you want."

* * *

Part of Calgary's incestuous new wave scene is Allen Baekeland. He runs the radio station at the U of C, is a big booster of this new genre of local music, a good friend of Kinsella and the Hot Nasty's, and may sing for the Sturgeons, a new local group, when the band makes its debut in Edmonton this coming weekend.

"The whole thing has really picked up just in the last few months. There's a lot more bands and a lot more gigs. Things are finally happening for once.

"This scene is developing apart from the musicians' union and the like, which is nice to see. That's what I like to see — people taking it into their own hands.

"I'm really excited by what's happening this fall. New wave is really going to start to make it in Calgary."

Baekeland sees the whole thing in terms of relevancy and rock having grown too immense.

"We shouldn't let the music of the '60s die. It still makes sense today, is still relevant. I don't think there's anything wrong with gathering inspiration from that. I don't think any of the bands are being ripped off. I mean, even the Stones used to do Muddy Waters tunes in the beginning.

"I think a lot of the new music really is new music. I also think it's a reaction against rock which became too big. I think these bands reacted against that and wanted to go back to a smaller base. No band should have to play in front of 200,000 people like Led Zeppelin did in England. Rock had just grown too enormous to cope with.

"I refuse to go see a concert at The Corral. The band is just a couple of ants on stage.

* * *

The house is nice and cosy and middle class. It stands in contrast to the home of the Unusuals which always looks like the morning after a party. This home could easily be used as a setting for an episode of Happy Days or Mary Tyler Moore. On the furniture is a picture of the family together and all the little knick-knacks that families ac-cumulate over the years.

Borrowing Kinsella's term, it's the weekend punker syndrome. Come the weekend, the MacDonald boys, Al and Ron, turn into punkers either on stage or pogoing all over the dance floor.

The MacDonalds were members of the Social Blemishes and now form the heart of the Black Shirts. 
Interviewing them is a bizarre experience. Drummer Ron, guitarist Conan Daly, and bassist Brian McGugan are prone to arguing among themselves while vocalist/keyboard player Al tells jokes to the tape recorder on the table.

Ron says individually they have "been playing longer than it would seem when you hear us."

There are a lot of things the Black Shirts don't like, either individually or collectively. They don't like the Smarties from Edmonton who spit at them at their last concert, Van Halen or Van Halen freaks, Kinsella's "woman's voice," the Verdix, music of the '70s, and hippies.

"We don't dare play our own high school man because they're all Van Halen freaks," says Ron. "they have long hair, go around in running shoes, and have an IQ of 100."

Daly jumps in. "They walk around and all they can do is say 'cook my brain, give me a toke, where's my pot.' They're always talking about drugs."

"I like doing Mersey Beat music," says Al. "I like wimpy music. I don't like the '70s at all.

"Basically, I heard God Save the Queen and Anarchy by the Sex Pistols and it really impressed me. And then Warren (Kinsella) got into the stuff — I heard the Sex Pistols way before them and it bothers them, though they'll never admit it.

"The hippies were the punks of the '60s. Now, they've become complacent. Now, it's the new people that aren't into the bullshit and commercialism and who go against the establishment. It's the hippies who are anti this stuff and they don't give it a chance. And in 10 years, the punks will be the establishment."

* * *

Few people outside of the local new wave family and friends know about what's going on. However, once you're inside it's easy to know everything through casual conversations. One group whose name keeps popping up is the Sturgeons.

The Sturgeons have yet to play anywhere for one simple reason —the band doesn't have a lead singer.
However, when they do they should be accorded a warm welcome. The three current members in a practice session showed them-selves to already be one of the better groups musically.

Al Charlton is an energetic and good guitarist with a penchant for the early Who, despite receiving a form letter from Pete Townsend when he requested the chords to one of the Who's songs. Mark Igglesden has been playing drums for several years, emphatically denies he's a punker and is an avid reader of music mags like Trouser Press. Pete Toulgoet is the quiet, serious member who's credited with get-ting the band to practice and keep improving.

Like every other group, the Sturgeons are out for fun and rock'n'roll.

"All these titles are meaningless, because it's all just rock'n'roll," says Charlton. "Everything's been done before," says Toulgoet.

"They expect that if it's a new band they've got to invent a new guitar sound. It's got to be a new music but hell there's only 12 notes and they're bound to repeat themselves," added Igglesden. The band loves the energy of new wave and dislikes, with the same passion, disco and sophisto-rock.

"The thing I hate about disco is that it's accountant rock, laid-back and for 40-year-olds," says Igglesden and Toulgoet almost in unison.

"And in rock, groups like Led Zeppelin, ELP, and Yes got seperated from people. What guy goes home from work in a factory and wants to listen to a song about crimson mountain tops?" asks Igglesden.

The Sturgeons, however, make no mistake about transplanting the anger of British punk and new wave to Calgary. Anarchy In The U.K. just doesn't wash philosophically in oil-rich Alberta.

"I don't know, we live in a fine house," says Igglesden. "I mean when you hear the word punk you picture some guy who can't count to five. I don't know. I've got nothing to complain about except personal things."

Charlton looks at his buddies and adds, "We're not out to make any major statements. We're just out to have a good time and hopefully others will too."

Energy. That's the main thing. It powers the universe and is strongest in human beings during their youth. Rock'n'roll is in response to that need, especially in our century of extended youth and education.

It's fun, something to do, and the music's not bad either. Some of it is on the rough and not-too-ready side. But, then again, some of it is rough and ready. Some like Matsalla's guitar playing, others like the Nasty's Calgary raunch, others feel the Sturgeons will be the biggest thing since Stetsons.

Punk is dead, a sociological and musical phenomenon that had its brief moment like a shooting star. New Wave is just another label attached by people who need labels to stick on everything from cam to artists.

Almost every group says its music is rock'n'roll and nothing else. And its basic rock. Not the best in the country and not the worst. But it's something that's happening here. And like the title to the Who's rock movie, it shows in Calgary that The Kids Are Alright.