Another rejected podcast idea I pitched to CBC in recent years was about people who changed career paths. The point wasn’t to dwell on what changes they made or whether they felt good about it. The angle that interested me was the friends and family who were confused and who forever stayed confused. That seemed a more interesting story, that they never got it. Wanted to start with Graeme Kirkland but it was complicated, he wouldn’t let me interview him and when I explored people from back in the day, some were still hurt about their past dealings and just like Graeme, declined to be interviewed. Graeme was a drummer and a composer and a madman not always in that the sequence. Wonderful memorable compositions unusually so for someone in their early 20s. I was always on the lookout when I moved to Toronto for places to practice, I didn’t have a piano. The community centre at 519 had a grand piano on the 2cnd floor, I was in that room for an hour practising and when I opened the door to leave there was Graeme standing expressionlessly like a cop with a serious message, “was that you playing in there?” I said yes. He threw his arms around me.
Probably he had come for the jazz in the basement with David Mott, the inspired saxophonist and York Professor and mentor to many. I didn’t realize it then but he was 3 or 4 years younger than me, he must have been 17 or 18 that day. Teenage student of the much admired drummer Claude Ranger. He was devoted and innocent then but over the next 10 years he changed substantially. He dived into substances that brought out Mr. Hyde but because my first encounter was being hugged by Dr. Jekyl, I felt allegiance towards him. Was that innocent guy still alive somewhere inside him?
When trying to promote his concerts at the Rivoli or the Cameron etc. he went on suicide missions regarding how high up the telephone pole he could place his posters and it was a thing of beauty how they stood out. He started as drummer-composer but later was all about jazz spectacles. “jazz with Kung Fu”, “jazz with chainsaws” and “jazz with Italian cooking”. He toured the UK with Mary Margaret O’Hara and one time Lennie Kravitz saw him playing buckets on the street then flew him to New York to audition for his band. Maybe those singer songwriters are what got him writing songs with lyrics. There was almost a pop song called Don’t Tell Me and it summed up who he had become, unwilling to accept defeat.
“don’t tell me you don’t love me because
I can see your pain’s love inside out,
don’t tell me you don’t love me because
I can see something better I know”
And then without warning he became an investment banker named Bing. He gave me his card. He wanted to know if I knew people that wanted to invest. He’s been that guy ever since. Suggested title for the podcast: What’s Wrong With This Picture?