My First Book Review- Not Only Women Bleed-Dick Wagner

2015-07-29 15.00.07 2015-07-29 15.00.27Since today is the anniversary of Dick Wagner passing away I thought there was no better way to celebrate his life than a write up of his book.

I was at the thrift store a few weeks ago and they had a 50% off all books and music sale. Needless to say I stocked up. One dude asked me “Are there any left for me?” when he saw my pile. I was mostly interested in music, but decided to give the books a look. My eyes focused on the words Dick Wagner. I know that name. Not Only Women Bleed. Oh yeah. He was in Alice Cooper. I opened the book and much to my delight found it was signed. SCORE. I guess I can fork over the $1.50 for it. I was asked to do a blog post about this score, but since I found the 1st year anniversary of his death was fast approaching I dropped all of my other reading material to binge read this book.

I learned so much about Dick Wagner in this book. His guitar playing in Alice Cooper was possibly his most famous work, but only accounts for a tiny portion of his contribution to music.

The vignette writing style of the book is very easy to read for a dude like me getting back into reading. I have been too focused on music, computer and tv to be bothered by reading for many years now. Now that I’m getting back into it, I’m finding it quite enjoyable. It is peaceful and it stimulates the mind. This book flips from one section to another with individual stories that may have nothing to do with the story before, or after. While reading it I didn’t have to force myself to read until the end of a long chapter. The sections were often only a few pages long, and the next one is often completely unrelated so I can stop and start anywhere and not miss a thing.

There are around 200 different stories in this book so I will only fill you in on the ones that jumped out at me.

The book starts out with a story called Jerry Lee Lewis. Later a story called Roy Orbison. Dick’s band opened for both of these legends when he was just 17. In a later story called Treacherous Terrain we learn Dick was a straight A student with an IQ of 142. Not your average rock n roller.

Dick had severe asthma as a youngster but still wanted to play sports. On his first day of tryouts the coach told him to ‘take it out kid”, which meant to take it to the sidelines to throw back into play. Dick, however took it out of the school. he was so embarrassed he never tried sports again. I guess sports loss is the music lovers gain.

In a story called To Pluck a Rose we read about Dick losing his virginity to a 19 year old, when he was 15. We read he “struggled to find the entryway, but I did” and that he “arrived at the finish line, 2 seconds under the world record time previously held by Hans Biberdik, legendary premature ejaculator”.

Roy Orbison. Dick’s band were to open for Roy, so Dick had them practice every song of his until they knew them inside out. Roy was impressed. In his hotel room, he asked Dick if he would like to hear a few songs off his new album. He played “Crying” and “Candy Man” for Dick in that hotel room in Devil’s Lake Michigan before anyone else had ever heard them. WOW. Roy had an influence in Dick. he taught him that his voice is as powerful as his guitar, and it influenced Dick the rest of his life.

Freddie Greenleaf Goes To The Other Side. Freddie was a band mate in Dick’s first band and they were buddies. When Dick found himself out of work he asked Freddie to move in. Freddie said his dad had invented and anti-gravity machine but it had gotten stolen on the way to D.C. Ok. One night when Dick was low on cash he told Freddie they were low on milk. Freddie left and came back with a 6 pack of beer for himself, and no milk. Dick kicked Freddie out. 35 years later he wanted to re connect with Freddie. Since Freddie was off the grid, with no phone, he called a neighbour. When Freddie got to the phone Dick invited him to his house in Connecticut to re connect. Freddie said that would be fine as he was planning a trip to DC to present his anti-gravity machine. WHOA. (It kind of reminds me of the Facebook “friend” requests I often get. There is a reason we are not still friends)

Sandra Sue Gutterman. She was a girl that Dick was madly in love with for 2 years in high school. Dick and Sandy never had sex, however, they did fall asleep in his car one night and Dick was forbidden from ever seeing her again. Well fast forward 40 years and Dick tracks her down. She was unaware of his musical career, and they still have feelings for each other. They married in 2002.

Through The Eyes Of Youth. Here we find out about Dick’s father. How he had affairs, and never felt Dick would amount to anything good. We also learn Dick cried himself to sleep every night, and tried to comfort his mom by bringing her a bottle of Coke when she was sad.

That’ll Teach Ya. 2 stories woven into one. First about an early booking for Dick’s band, where the bar owner kept telling them to turn it down. They pleaded with the bar owner to no avail. When they turned it down so it was barely noticeable the bar owner gave them the thumbs up. Dick then cranked the amp to 10(his didn’t go to 11) and blasted “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On” Next a story of a rowdy bar in Flint wehre a drunken asshole kept coming up and giving Dick the finger. When the guy tried to touch his guitar, Dick hit him in the mouth with the guitar, and a big fight broke out, while the band kept playing on. That’ll teach ya.

Wild Bill Emerson. In the Mack Vickery band, Dick played with a guy that was left handed, played the guitar upside down, and set his guitar on fire on stage, years before Hendrix. “Who came first, the chicken or the egg?”

Frank Denny’s Party. While in The Eldorados, Dick was managed by Frank Denny. He was crude and most people loathed him. When he would meet someone for the first time, he would often say “I’m Frank Denny, manager of The Eldorados, I’m thinking of changing their name to The Pig F*ckers”. After a gig the band was at a party. Frank told Dick there was an even better party at his hotel room. Frank spiked Dick’s drink and had oral sex with him while he was passed out. Dick called him homosexual slurs out of sheer anger. However, Dick prefaces with the fact that his brother is gay and he is not homophobic. This rape caused Dick to not be able to ejaculate through oral sex again. He never told anyone about this incident until this book came out. Perhaps it further influenced some of the bad things that were yet to come. It was a very shocking point of the book from the readers perspective. Most readers probably went in thinking this was just another musician’s book about partying and life on the road, but this was not expected. I know it would have taken a lot of courage to bring this up for all the world to see after all these years.

Jeep & The Gang. His new bad is The Bossmen. His new manager was Jeep Holland. he was straight as an arrow. No drugs. Until one day at Jeep’s hose, someone slipped mescaline into his Coke. He quickly became addicted to drugs and sex. Sex and drugs and rock n roll was now his life.

The Grande Ballroom. This was a club in Detroit which was fashioned after the Fillmore West. The music scene in Detroit was one of the best in the nation. On any given night the national/international acts such as Yardbirds, Janis Joplin, Procul Harem, BB King, Johny Winter, Cream, The Who, Led Zeppelin, John Coltrane etc. would have to be at the top of their game to keep up with Detroit’s finest: MC5, The Frost, Ted Nugent, Iggy and The Stooges, The Jagged Edge, Bob Seger, Mitch Ryder, SRC, The Amboy Dukes, The Rationals, Third Power, The Pleasure Seekers(featuring the Quatro sisters), Savage Grace, The Wilson Power Pursuit etc.

Blood Sweat & Tears. Dick Wagner was called to audition to be the lead singer of the band. On the plane ride home Dick decided to carry on with The Frost, and the job went to David Clayton Thomas. (Probably for the best anyway)

The Fillmore West. Within 2 weeks of its release, The Frost has sold 50,000 copies of their album in Detroit alone, but when they got to San Francisco they found 0 copies there. Also, their manager had not signed the contract so when The Frost got there to open for BB KIng another band had taken their place. Dick pleaded and the club owner gave in. BB King had Dick and Elvin Bishop come up on stage and jam. Up until this point, that was Dick’s biggest thrill. When in Detroit, Dick leant BB his guitar(Lucile had burned in a fire), and BB again invited him on stage. “BB may you live and play forever.” Such moving words from and for 2 great guitarists that we unfortunately lost within the last year.

Suzi Quatro. Dick was very attracted to Suzi. She was not the norm. A rocking girl that stood out from all the dudes in the biz. She was well loved in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. She only became famous in North America with her role on Happy Days as Leather Tuscadero.

The Blueberry Smile. Dick starts off by saying his song “Only Women Bleed” deals with violence against women. He states he supports groups that protect battered women. During one night after a show with The Frost, Dick had sex with a particularly annoying groupie. When she went to leave, he threw a blueberry pie in her face. He hopes the lady reads this, as he apologizes for being a heartless, rude bastard.

So Sorry Officer. Please Take My Money…And Other Moments Of Intolerance. The next day after opening for the Allman Brothers(and trading guitar licks with Duane Allman-WOW), the band went into a diner to eat. After an hour of being ignored by the staff they left dejected. (It kind of reminds me of Turn The Page.)

Goose Lake. Dick never made it to Woodstock. But in Michigan in 1970, over 200,000 people gathered for a music festival. There were 2 revolving stages, and over 50 bands. The Frost were on fire that day and received 5 standing ovations. It was one of Dick’s most treasured live shows of all time.

Billy Joel and World War III. In 1970, The Frost was falling apart, Dennis Arfa thought Dick, Billy Joel and Rick Mangone would make a great power trio. Rehearsals went well, but Billy had to quit due to personal issues in his marriage. World War III was never to be.

Enter Bob Ezrin. Bob Ezrin was 21 years old when he worked with Ursa Major. Bob and Dick got along great and Bob opened the door in the music industry over the years for Dick. They loved the hard rock, but the head of RCa did not. He buried the album and without promotion it didn’t sell as well as it shoudl have.

The Rock N Roll Animal. Dennis Katz called Dick in 1972 to audition for Lou Reed. After one album, Lou felt the rest of the band were overshadowing him, and they were fired.

Meeting Alice Cooper. The first time Alice Cooper heard Dick Wagner he wanted him in the band. Back in the late 60’s, he said to his band ” Boy it would be great to have a guitar player like that in the band” (I can’t imagine that made his current guitar player feel good)

I Love The Dead. Alice, Dick and Bob Ezrin collaborated many times over the years, including the Billion Dollar Babies album. it was agreed though, that Alice was the only one getting credit on this album. Dick got $6,000 for his contribution, but he knows he would have made WAY more if his name was on the credits. However, as a team player it got him a spot in the band.

I Never Cry. Dick tells us why this song never reached #1 in America as it did almost everywhere else. WABC was the #1 radio station in America. Several years earlier the program director had been denied entrance to the backstage so he swore to never play an Alice Cooper record.

The Party. Allan Carr was famous for hosting huge Hollywood parties. He hosted one for Keith Moon’s birthday. Dick introduced his wife Elizabeth to Allan. He dismissed them by saying “OH I SEE… THE WRONG DICK AND LIZ” and turned his back on them. They left shortly after.

And Now… The Lighter Side Of Bob Ezrin. Bob liked to duct tape people. he once duct taped an engineer to his chair and push him out onto the street. During the recording of Peter Gabriel’s first solo record, he taped Peter to a pole several feet off the floor to get the right vocal effect for “Modern Love”

The Tonight Show. It was supposed to be Dick and Alice doing an acoustic song. Instead the chickens with machine guns came on stage and for Dick it was the beginning of a lull in his career as well as Alice’s.

Dancing With The White Lady. Dick used to extol the virtues of cocaine, and explain that it was harmless and non-addictive. “F*cking dumbass I was” also “Cocaine lies to you, and rapes you and holds you prisoner, until you find a way to escape-if you are lucky. It took me fifteen years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to finally choose life-and not a moment too soon.”

The Richard Wagner Album. Dick and Bob Ezrin worked together on Dick’s first solo album. Unfortunately the record label did little to promote the album, and they used his given name, Richard Wagner so it got confused with the classical composer and was often misfiled.

Aerosmith & Steven Tyler. One of Dick’s favourite achievements was playing on Get Your Wings. Joe Perry was unable to play one night so Dick played guitar on “Same Old Song and Dance” and a few others. Also, Dick and Steve Hunter play the guitar on “Train Kept a Rollin”. Steve starts off the song, and Dick finishes it. Dick’s portion was done in the studio, but he was asked to make it sound “live”. Neither Dick or Steve got credit on the album for their work.

Gene & Paul. Dick plays guitar on the Kiss Destroyer album. No reason why he was chosen over Ace Frehley on the tracks “Sweet Pain” and “Beth”, but he was again un credited.

Take Me to Bellevue Cabbie. Dick was walking in NYC with his girlfriend when they heard a women screaming. A man was beating her up in front of numerous onlookers. Dick steps in to help her. While on the road, Dick turns to look at the oncoming traffic and the man cuts his throat with a knife. Dick and his girlfriend hail a cab to the hospital and Dick is saved to “write another song, play another gig, to love another human, to better love myself, and to write this narrative for posterity.”

Good-Bye Mr. Pusher Man:Remember The Child. While in NYC in a drugged out state, Dick’s first wife called him. She wanted him to write a song for the San Antonio Coalition For Child Abuse. He started with the rhyme Ring-Around-The-Rosie. Writing this song, and crying all the while helped Dick begin to escape the lure of the drug he was addicted to. It helped him and many others.

After Word. “We are all products of our life choices and the people involved in those choices. You can only hope you can trust your instincts to guide you into a life that’s filled with love, personal fulfillment and happiness…..or something close to that.” and “What I am is what I am, and I tell you people, that’s just enough for me.” Peace on You. Dick Wagner.

After reading this book, I laughed, cried, was in awe, and sometimes in utter disbelief of what I had read. I would recommend this book, not only for the people that love rock music, but for anyone that wants to know the inside of a man that bares his soul for all to see.


I will also list the more famous things Dick has done for music. I only included a few of the songs he played guitar (or piano) on. He was also a great songwriter, singer, composer and producer. Here are some of the songs he performed, sometimes, as is the case for Aerosmith and others, uncredited.

The Bossmen

The Frost

Ursa Major


Lou Reed

Alice Cooper


Peter Gabriel

Burton Cummings

Mark Farner

Just Us Girls

Second last, a solo effort by Dick Wagner. This is a very powerful song. I actually cried when I heard it, and I don’t cry easily. Perhaps it was a bit of sadness of only really finding out Dick Wagner after it was too late to ever meet him. Oh well. In the book Dick states that it had that effect whenever he played it. The money raised from the sales of this song continue to go to help child abuse victims.

Dick Wagner’s last song ever was on the Kiss tribute EP A World With Heroes released last year. He does a version of Every Time I Look At You. You can access the song through iTunes here All proceeds of the song go to the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence.

There were 2 cd’s included with the book, and I will review them next time.


Happy 50th Birthday Slash

For his birthday I will list some songs that are not as well known, or have been forgotten over the years. Here is the list, in no particular order. Let me know what you think, or if I missed any.

Coma-Guns n Roses

Locomotive-Guns n Roses

Down on The Farm-Guns n Roses

Mean Bone-Slash’s Snakepit

Beggars & Hangers-On – Slash’s Snakepit

Dirty Little Thing-Velvet Revolver

Just Sixteen-Velvet Revolver

Give In To Me-Michael Jackson

Obsession Confession-Marta Sanchez

Halls of Illusion-Insane Clown Posse

Doctor Alibi-Slash(feat. Lemmy Kilmister)

Apocalyptic Love-Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators.

Happy Birthday Slash. I hope you keep rocking for 50 more.

Live Aid-30 years Ago today

Today marks the 30th Anniversary of Live Aid. July 13 1985. The year before this many famous musicians got together, called themselves Band Aid and recorded Do They Know It`s Christmas?(numerous other similar projects by other musicians around the world, including Northern Lights-Canada and USA For Africa among others).  All proceeds went to help fight famine in Africa. This project spawned talk of a summer event in 1985 with the same goal, and Live Aid was born. The main spark for the project was Bob Geldof. He was called a “foul mouthed fading pop star“, but he was so passionate he basically pestered musicians until the relented and showed up.

The first performance is Boomtown Rats(Bob Geldof)

Next is Dire straits

Here is Queen

Here is Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Now Black Sabbath

Here is Led Zeppelin

It is important to note that many bands reunited just for this event. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Black Sabbath (with Ozzy), and Led Zeppelin. The band members stopped their bickering that had contributed to the bands breaking up. It could be argued that Led Zeppelin stopped when John Bonham died, but there were some hostilities. Jimmy Page was upset that just before the event Robert Plant said he would not do Stairway to Heaven, and it took Freddie Mercury to convince him that it should be done. Also in the Led Zeppelin set Robert Plant`s voice was hoarse, Jimmy Page`s guitar work was a little rusty, and Phil Collins did not have enough time to practice the song. They were on stage but all probably did not want to be.

Here is a link to the first part of a BBC Live Aid Documentary

My first concert was in 1985 in Toronto, but I would have loved if this had been my 2nd. In memory I am glad this event happened, and even if it helped save one life, it was worthwhile.

For the help and effort, I give Bob Geldof and Live Aid


Big Sugar-Hit And Run-The Best of Big Sugar-Limited Edition 2 CD-2003

First off. How do I explain Big Sugar? Ummmmmmm. Ok. An eclectic mix of Texas blues, reggae, reggae fusion, southern rock, stoner rock, rock, rock n roll band with horns. To me it might be as if you molded Double Trouble, ZZ Top, Damian Marley, early Chicago, Queens of the Stone Age, and Foghat together in one band. Over the years they have had numerous line up changes, with the only constant being singer/lead guitarist Gordie Johnson. When the band first broke up he moved to Austin Texas and formed the band Gradie. He currently splits his time between 2 bands as he is also the bassist for Wide Mouth Mason, has produced albums for numerous bands including Gov’t Mule, Taj Mahal, Nashville Pussy, and is a valued session musician. Perhaps he is most famous in Canada though for his blistering, electrified version of the Canadian National Anthem.

In my humble opinion they are one of, if not the band that does the best cover versions of older songs. Often, they take an old blues or rock song, but they crank it up a notch or 50. More than one of my top 20 cover songs of all time are done by Big Sugar.

The regular version of this has 1 cd, with 13 previously released songs, and 3 new ones. This review is on the rare, limited edition 2 cd version. Up until today I did not know there were 2 version and I had the rare one. Score. My version has the first cd called Hit with the aforementioned 16 songs. It also contains a 2nd cd called Run. This cd has mostly previously unreleased live performances, with only In My Time Of Dying previously released on the rare El Seven Nite Club cd. It lists 5 songs, however they are actually 11 songs blended together in an spicy jambalaya mix.

The first time I saw Big Sugar my buddy dragged me to a small, smoky, dingy bar in downtown Kitchener sometime in the early 90’s. We had to walk down the stairs and when we got in there, we were packed liked sardines, and it felt like it was 1000 degrees. That was really unfortunate for everyone there, but none other than my buddy, Watch It Buddy. Mark(Watch It Buddy) decided that since Gordie Johnson from Big Sugar was such a fashionable dude(he has a long term sponsorship with Hugo Boss), that he was going to wear a full 3 piece suit to the show. A purple suit no less. Don’t judge, I had one too back in the day. However, I wore a t shirt and I was sweating my nuts off and this dude was in a full suit. As for the band, they must have been Spinal Tap fans and had a bunch of custom amps made. However, Big Sugar’s amps went to 12, not 11. I have been to tons of concerts over the years, but this was, bar none, the loudest concert I have ever attended. It’s one thing to be really loud, but another to also be really f*cking brilliant while doing it. It would be like watching Jimi Hendrix in 1969 with your ear planted firmly against the speaker on the stage. It was also my fist time experiencing reggae fusion music. Before that my reggae was limited to Bob Marley, but this was more like reggae, rap and improv all in one. It was a sweet blend.

For the 13 previously released studio album songs, I will include(in brackets) the liner notes from Gordie Johnson himself as they are interesting.

Hit(Disc 1)

Sleep In Late. Has an old 40’s blues song theme. Written by friends of the band David Wall and Andrew Whiteman from Bourbon Tabernacle Choir. I chose to include an old video clip. (Recorded two floors below Hypnotic Recordings Studio on a vacant floor of the building.  We strung wires out of the 9th floor window and recorded and shot a video in one take…no overdubs)

Ride Like Hell. If you thought after the first song, this band was a blues band, this song will convert you. It has some blues influence, but a much heavier guitar rock flavour.(This was the first song recorded for the ‘500 Pounds’ album.  It signals the era of amplifiers blowing up and things catching on fire for Big Sugar)

I’m a Ram. For years I thought this was a Big Sugar song. I love it. Scratch that. I f*cking love it to death. One of the 2 Big Sugar songs in my top 20 covers of all time. Take a great song, and make it harder, edgier and add blistering guitar in and you have my vote. A staple of their live shows, and the one that really hooked me completely the first time I saw them live, and is giving me goose bumps when I listen to it for this review. If you have not heard the original, check out the Al Green version as well.(The ultimate recipe for a Big Sugar song.  An old Al Green Memphis Soul classic with a reggae rhythm and 500 lbs of electric guitar.  It continues to be a staple in the Big Sugar live show.)

Dear Mr. Fantasy. Why not follow up an awesome cover with another one. The original was a great song. A timeless classic, but it was written in 1967. This is an updated, edgier, raw, heavy guitar oriented version. Also in my top 20.(Good friend and co-writer, Dan Gallagher had suggested this song for ages.  When someone at a show in Ottawa ran up to the stage during the encore and told me that Kurt Cobain had died, we decided it was a fitting song.) -For those that did not know him, Dan Gallagher was a popular Video Jockey VJ on the Canadian music station MuchMusic. He was a really funny guy that gave away toasters on his game show, he was host of the Pepsi Power Hour and was in the band Beat Heathens with other Canadian musicians surrounding him. He died in 2001 and I had no idea he was this close and influential on Big Sugar. I now have even more respect for him.

Diggin’ a Hole. I remember when this song came out. It was on every radio station, and still gets played today. It was in rock bars and dance bars. If me and my buddies had enough beers we would actually hit the dance floor. It had the same effect on us as Thunderstruck and Enter Sandman. We could not stand still while listening to it. Awesome heavy bass, killer guitar and amazing harmonica.(A lyrical idea given to me by Dan Gallagher.  I first played the music for Mr. Chill in a dressing room in Ventura Beach, CA., on New Years Eve 1995.  This was the first song on the Hemivision album that I played on the white Gibson double neck given to me by Alex Lifeson of Rush)

If I had My Way. Gordie skillfully switches between acoustic and electric on this song, Again killer bass and harmonica accentuate the awesomeness of this song. Part way through the song it seems to go off in a Tea Party/The Doors acid trip dream sequence but the guitar chords lead us back home, and the harmonica keeps us there.(The intro was recorded in the parking log of Presence Studio with Mr. Chill and I sitting on chairs, (traffic noise provided by Dan Gallagher).  The lyrics of the song are actually parts of two separate songs that I worked on with co-writer Patrick Ballantyne since the mid 1980’s.  The musical idea was originally inspired by the old gospel song Samson and Delilah that I first heard recorded by the Reverend Gary Davis)

Open Up Baby. Great harmonica and drums lead this song off, and great guitar is added in for effect.(Years ago, Mr. Chill and I played with Blues artist Wild Child Butler.  He had a lot of songs about being locked out and trying to ‘splain your way back in)

The Scene. Great song. Rhythmic drums, chunky bass mixed with great guitar and crowd noise. ‘Nuff said.(Musically, this song started out as a fast version of Ground Hog Day with a chorus grafted on from a very silly song written by Dave Wall and Andrew Whiteman (authors of ‘Sleep In Late’). The record company debated for weeks over the crowd noise in the middle of it. (P.S. I’m six foot one.)

Better Get Used To It. Great background vocals to along with the usually awesome guitar, bass and drums. I love the 70’s style sound from the Les Paul and it may possibly be the best sounding 5 string solo you’ve ever heard. (The chorus was taken from a comedy tape that had been passed around by Dave Wall to all our friends since the 80’s.  It took me a while to figure out how many dimes would equal a million dollars! I broke a guitar string during the first take of recordings…this song features a 5 string guitar solo.)

Turn the Lights On. Another bluesy song, with great guitar work, barking and some vocal ad lib. The ad lib is the start of the reggae influence in the band. ( That was the last song written for the ‘Heated’ alubm. It was written in 15 minutes, culled together from pieces of dub mixes that were going to be on the ‘Alkaline’ record.  This features Garry Lowe’s first vocal ad-lib.)

Red Rover. As a muscle car fan I am always hooked by a song that starts off with a finely tuned big block V8 rumble and some squealing tires. Then add in a groovy bass line, wailing guitar, and a sweet mix of reggae fusion and I am on board for the ride.(The third verse of Red Rover was taken from the ‘AlKaline’ dub record and served as an inspiration for the rest of the song.  The car running in the intro is my 1970 Dodge Charger which is pictured on the inside album jacket of Hemivision.)

Nicotina(She’s All That). “Light It Up” indeed. Nice cars, cigars, beautiful women, killer guitar and harmonica. Very sensual and catchy beat. “She’s my V8 motor, I’m her gasoline”(Everybody has their vices.  I suppose we covered ours in this song)

All Hell for a Basement. A song about working the oil rigs in Alberta. This a slower Big Sugar song. I love “slow” songs with a killer guitar and drum beat. I never included this in my favourite songs about Canada. I will now. (I was always intrigued by this turn of phrase used by Rudyard Kipling to describe the oil fields & gas flares in Alberta.  It must have seemed like the other side of the world to him – kind of like the modern day Newfoundlanders working on the oil rigs in Northern Alberta

I Want You Now. Another slower Big sugar song. Though previously un released, this is not a filler song. It is quite awesome and belongs on this album. Unique guitar, great background singers, spoken word during the song.

Trouble In The City. Best reggae vibe on the album. This would be an awesome song to sit around a beach resort pool and drink beer to. Everyone can get into it.

Three Minute Song. Fast driving beat. A  good song, with unique guitar effects.

Okay side a is done and there is not one filler song on this side.

Run(Disc 2) The first 2(5) songs were recorded in 2002 on the Brothers and Sisters are you Ready tour

Goodbye Train/Hammer in my Hand. Right off the bat it sounds like a great live show. It could easily have fit right in during the Crossroads Festival. Great bluesy guitar oriented killer tunes.

Skull Ring/Joe Louis/Nashville Grass. More bluesy, soul live goodness

I really can’t tell where one song and the other ends on this disc. They could have saved ink and listed these songs as 1. The title could have been “One big, long kickass, bluesy guitar jam.”

The next 3(6) songs were recorded in 2000 on the Alkaline Extra Long Life tour.

I’m a Ram/Rambo(featuring Whitey Don). I already mentioned how much I love this song. This one features an added horn section, which is nice, but seems to be a little softer than most live versions I’ve heard. That’s fine. It’s like early Chicago covering Al Green, which if you’ve ever heard Terry Kath play, you know that I mean it is awesome, when I say it’s fine. Rambo is a catchy, reggae riff that sounds like Whitey Don is singing though a megaphone.

Groundhog Day/Armagideon Time(featuring Willi Williams). The guitar starts off like a 40’s blues song, then gets heavy and blends into a Texas blues, SRV like song. Armagideon Time has a reggae mix, and Willi Williams singing with a sometimes echo effect. I usually hate that effect, but it seems fine here. The song ends with a not too long, but nice guitar solo.

Where Will I Stand/In My Time Of Dying. Reggae beat with a blend of heavy guitar and pounding drums. Kind of like Queens of the Stone Age playing a show in Jamaica with a local band, including a horn section on stage with them. In My Time of Dying is a more traditional bluesy way, mixed with harmonica and 70’s guitar goodness. The guitar sounds more Clapton/Peter Green/Hendrix than Jimmy Page to me, which is good either way, and the vocals sound more Steven Tyler mixed with Bob Marley than Robert Plant. Definitely not a Led Zep copy which is how I would assume most bands would have taken this song. It’s refreshing.

Not a bad song on side b either

Overall 10/10

The Tragically Hip- Concert Review

Well now the cat is out of the bag. This was why the series was not in order. I wanted to delay the Fully Completely review until the day of the concert. The Hip are the band I have seen more than any other. I lost count. I am not one of those people that follows a band around the world, although if I ever win the lottery I might be. Ever since the late 80’s though I have been a huge Hip fan, and they seem to be one of those bands that almost every Canadian likes. Back in my youth it would be no problem getting a group of girls and guys to go to a Hip concert. I think I personally only ever knew one guy that didn’t like the Hip, and he is kind of a loudmouth asshole, so his opinion didn’t matter to me. Besides he is a New England Patriots fan, so he obviously has no accounting for taste.

When my then girlfriend (now wife) and I had just started dating, I invited her up to Barrie where I was going to college to see The Hip at Molson Park. One problem. I left the ticket purchase up to my roommate. Basically it was like Bubbles giving his money to Ricky to buy Rush tickets. The outcome was the same. The city of Barrie at the time had the largest quotient of strip clubs per capita of any city I can recall, and he had to go past about 3 of them on the way to the ticket booth. Needless to say he didn’t make it. I’m sure he had fun with a wad of $5 bills an inch thick, but I didn’t get my tickets. I also didn’t find out until the day before my new girlfriend and her friend were coming up for the concert. I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks, and didn’t want her to back out. This was shaping up for an awkward conversation, especially since they drove for 2 hours to go to see The Hip.

It turns out there was also an end of year party going on as well, so I gave them the option of going to the party or trying to find tickets for The Hip. They said the party was fine, so we went there and had a blast. I always vowed after that experience that I would do whatever it took to see The Hip, and my wife was usually up for that. Most times she isn’t into the music I like, and vice versa, but something about The Hip bridges whatever musical differences people have.

I have seen The Hip in small, intimate setting with less than 100 others(perhaps more on that at a later date), and large outdoor concerts with 100,000 or more people there. They have never failed to amaze. When they announced this tour, I knew we had to go. The album Fully Completely in it’s entirety, plus 10 other songs. Awesome. Besides which the venue is about 15 minutes from my house, and I don’t have to fight Toronto traffic there and back. Sign me up.

My wife and I got there right at the scheduled show time, and we met some people we knew out front. My wife is a talker and I knew I didn’t want to miss any of the show, so I had to give her the old arm tug and the head turn that says “Come on just let’s go”, and I’m glad she didn’t kind of bite her lip and say “Jeez, I don’t know.”

Luckily The Hip were casually late so we got to walk around a bit. I have been to enough concerts that I keep my ears perked for the tell tale signs of when the band is about to hit the stage. We found the booth that was run by the band. If we signed up for The Hip app we had a chance to win swag, signed albums, and upgraded tickets. The people beside us at the booth won front row tickets as our apps were downloading. It took a while but my wife downloaded the app to her Iphone. It wasn’t working on my Samsung phone though. I went into the reviews and it appears that this app doesn’t work well on Samsung phones. Oh well. No swag for me. I was really hoping for some vinyl. My wife didn’t win either. No matter. It should be a cool app for her anyway.

I think the band brings out that friendly Canadian spirit. It was like a house party with 6,000 of your closest friends. The energy in the building was 100% positive. I even let it slide when the guy 2 in front of me let his buddy could cut in line for beer. That says a lot.

Just after I got my beer, I heard the usher yell that the show was about to start. We dashed to our seats, and found the seats on both sides of us empty. I LOVE having enough room at a concert to stretch out my arms and legs. Just like the difference between coach and first class in a plane. I crossed my fingers the people beside us would not show. I checked the setlist and the band changes the songs up every night, so other than the entire Fully Completely album, most of the songs were a mystery. I like when bands have so much talent, and such an awesome playlist to choose from, that they can mix it up every night.

Something I noticed tonight that I had never realized before. I always related Gord Downie to Joe Cocker because of his spastic movements, nervous energy, and giving it all every time he performs. Gord Downie tonight reminded me more of a mixture of Michael Stipe and David Lee Roth. Gord wore hats all night, wore leather pants, and had the mannerisms of both Stipe and Roth. He has an amazing stage presence, and can ad lib with the best of them. I think it would be interesting to hear a political debate or a history lesson with Michael Stipe and Gord Downie. No students would be falling asleep during that lecture. If they did, we could invite DLR along as well.

The Hip venture onto the stage with a thunderous roar of applause. Grace, Too is the opener as it has been for this entire tour. It is a great song to start a show, and pump the crowd up. The next two songs, At Transformation and Man Machine Poem are from the bands latest release, Now for Plan A. Decent songs, but the crowd is pro-older songs. Next is In View, again a newer song from World Container. Looking at the setlist from previous nights, most places did not get so many newer songs, but any Hip song is good,

Next is New Orleans is Sinking. Ok. Here we go. Gord will break the chains loose and go off on a tirade about Killer Whale tanks or some other nonsensical rambling about riding a roller coaster with Fozzie Bear or something, but no. There was New Orleans is Sinking. Don’t get me wrong that is a great f*cking song. I love it to death, but I wanted to hear rambling. I told my wife he would do some ad-libbing in the middle of this song, and he made a liar out of me. I am quite sure every other time I saw The Hip he added to the song.

The curtain lowers and the band go backstage. After a short break they re enter the stage and perform the album Fully Completely start to finish. I just reviewed this album for you on my last post so no need to elaborate on the entire thing again. It was nice to hear some songs that probably haven’t been played live much such as Lionized, We’ll Go Too,The Wherewithal, and Eldorado. There was also a nice sing along with the crowd during Wheat Kings, and of course the Zippo lighters came out. I’m glad I didn’t see a killers face.

Needless to say they performed the album flawlessly, other than one small detail. I am all about the cowbell. Not having cowbell during 50 Mission Cap is like having an Oreo with no filling. It’s still very good, just better with filling. I think it would have been awesome to see Gord Downie on stage doing his best Will Ferrell impersonation. Christopher Walken says it best. “I GOTTA HAVE MORE COWBELL BABY.”

Again the curtain lowers after the complete Fully Completely set. The band says goodnight, and a few people near us leave. Amateurs. No band as awesome as The Hip don’t have an encore. And in 2015 there is such a thing as being able to check previous setlists on the internet. I know there are 5 more songs, I`m just not sure which 5.

The band walks back on stage and the crowd roars again. Most of the crowd can tell as soon as the band starts to play that it is My Music at Work. Such a great song.

Boots or Hearts is next. Nice acoustic start. This song is unique because tonight Robbie Baker plays acoustic and Paul Langlois plays electric.

Fireworks. Great Canadian song which mentions the 1972 Summit Series, and is a song that demonstrates that when you love someone strong enough they may be more important than hockey.

Nautical Disaster. Gord shows he still has the chops, and he can do a pretty good impression of a rowboat across the stage.

Blow at High Dough. Great song to end the night, from my favourite Hip album.

It’s too bad that Gord didn’t go off on a rambling, incoherent tangent as he often does, especially for New Orleans is Sinking, but I wonder if they feel ” we’ve been there ,and done that.” Also more cowbell would have sealed the deal for me.

As it was