Someone who had a radio show in Edmonton once told me campus radio station CJSR received a complaint about City Of Wood when they broadcast it in 1993. Not too surprising because the lyrics to the first verse were comprised of a lot of swearing about men that raped. When I wrote it, I was partly trying to figure out how one might write a song like that. I thought since it’s shocking the song should be shocking
The cover was a painting of 14 empty chairs in the snow by Mendelson Joe commemorating the murdered women from the Polytechnique massacre. What he painted got to me like this Alex Coleville painting. A few years after that record was released I stopped playing it, moved on to newer songs plus there was weirdness in a room when I played it, drama time. But I remember the last time I played it – at Clintons in Toronto 6 or 7 years ago at a comedy show
I was the musical guest and one of the hosts asked me to play the song so I did and they all laughed which was confusing. They laughed as though that was my intention all along. I wasn’t sure if the meaning changed over time or if certain audiences are programmed to receive information in only one way. Maybe the joke’s on me.
When Steve Kado produced “It’s True” I made an agreement with myself to let him do whatever he wanted even if it didn’t make sense to me because that’s what I expect from people I produce and rarely get it. The only insurance I had was bringing songs I wasn’t attached to so if I hated the results I wouldn’t cry later. But I liked results and some songs which were dead for me came alive like Queen of Sheeba which ironically was the song most people told me they liked the most, go figure.
I think I’m thinking about it today because I played with Ron Hawkins last night. The thread here is that Ron’s voice reminds me of Elvis Costello and my song (preSteve Kado) also reminded me of Elvis Costello.
I saw Elvis Costello in 1979 at the Playhouse in Winnipeg. It was a bit of a drag because I bought myself a single ticket and some kid was there with his father and their seats were on either side of me because I guess he didn’t want people to see him there with his dad. Worse my plan to alter my state of consciousness was complicated by not wanting to be witnessed by the youth or chastised by his dad so at intermission I ran outside to do my business privately and lost everything to a strong Winnipeg wind. Some might say oi vey at this point.
Even more memorable was the opening act The Battered Wives maybe the worst band I ever saw. I didn’t get it. Toby Swann spit at the audience or at least somebody near the front told me so the next day at school. I was so unimpressed 6 years later when Greg drove me to the first Blue Rodeo rehearsal and bragged that the drummer was in the Battered Wives. Yawn, I thought but as it turned out Cleave was a king. I guess there’s some lesson there about what one assumes and what might not necessarily be so.
I was going to insert a Battered Wives video below but in truth I still don’t like it (don’t defriend on Facebook me Toby) so I put this in instead.
Jerry Harrison in Talking Heads played a Prophet 5.
It cost $600 which was clearly unattainable to my 70s teen self so I made an appointment with the loans officer at the bank. I was just trying to figure out how you do it, like when I was 21 and wrote to George Martin to let him know I was available if he needed someone. A very reasonable offer I thought.
The Bank of Montreal loans officer, in his green leisure suit, told me he used to be in a band when he was younger and I shouldn’t pursue it he added he knew people who made it and people who didn’t and kid – it’s not worth it.
I said what band were you in? He said the Squires. The Squires? You were in the Squires with Neil Young? He was surprised that a teenager 10 or 15 years later knew them but by then I had a respectable command of Neil Young’s bio especially being a Winnipeger.
I was impressed – he wasn’t a loans officer at the Bank of Montreal he was the god damn drummer from the Squires! But me being impressed was not his goal; he wanted to set me straight.
A few years later I was in that band that people who don’t know me think of as my last name. We were doing very well and traveling all over Canada playing to big crowds. Next time in Winnipeg I thought I would pay a visit to that loan officer and more or less brag to him that he was wrong.
At the bank they were freaked out by my nerve asking if they could find him for me. He no longer worked at that branch and I said can you look up where he is? I think they pressed the emergency button under the desk to alert the cops. I got the message. I never met him again.
I get where he was coming from but why kill an idea inside the mind of an enthusiastic youth? Or maybe it’s necessary for anyone who sticks to the life of being an artist that they have to move through 50 people trying to stop them. Like it’s all various levels of survival in a video game.