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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Punk from Canada

George & David Smile for the Camera
George Cabaniss & David Quinton from Stiv Bators Disconnected Band, 1979

The young man on the right who's giving us the finger is David Quinton, the Teenager from Toronto who ascended the drum throne vacated by the Dead Boys Johnny Blitz. In the first of a series of punk rock coincidences, Johnny Blitz lives in Canada. NOW.

Stiv Bators was some kind of Good Will Ambassador to our northern neighbors. In 1978/79, he brought attention to Toronto's B Girls and helped them build anticipation for and eventually sell out the Whisky A Go Go...he had brought his then-girl friend, B Girl bass player Cynthia Ross with him everywhere he went, and her presence, personality and pop punk music made everyone take notice.

cynthia portrait
Cynthia Ross

And the B Girls didn't disappoint live audiences either.


Fans appreciated the tip of their hats to American Girl Group and beach blanket movie culture. The B Girls wore that homage on their record sleeves.

fun at the beach

If you really stop and take a good look at a map of North America, you will see that Canada is mighty big and while lots of her square miles are far up north and inhabited by moose and tundra, there are a fair share of cities and many, many musicians. Some of the most influential and important musicians from the 60s hailed from Canada - Neil Young, The Band, and Joni Mitchell. The 70s brought a shift in the whole musical paradigm, as we celebrate here daily, and Canada gave us punk rock too!

I remember the first time I heard the Diodes and their clever single, I'm Tired of Waking Up Tired, because quite frankly... it was genius. Not to mention their manic cover of the Cyrkle's Red Rubber Ball was pretty genius too. I saw them but never photographed them. There was in recent years, a reissue of their original recordings on Canada's Bongo Beat label, which I highly recommend.

Pointed Sticks from Vancouver, a power pop / punk band were the first Canadian band signed to the legendary Stiff Records. I saw them at the Hong Kong Cafe on a bill with the DOA. At least I think that's how it was... there are notes on my calendar from 1978 - 1980 that attest to this line-up. Actually, one of the members of DOA camped out on my apartment floor with some of the Avengers when they were all playing shows the same weekend in Los Angeles. And somewhere in all the stuff that has been stashed in NYC ever since I hit the road to tour with a chunk of the punk pix are more punk pix, DOA and Pointed Sticks among them.

In any event, if you are interested in The Diodes, you can still get their music from Bongo Beat, and if Pointed Sticks and DOA are your thing, the label, Sudden Death can satisfy your craving. Sudden Death is run by DOA's Joey Shithead Kiethley. This is a man whose ethos I can get behind... and besides his name is Joey Shithead and he once GAVE me this cool single.

There are so very many excellent bands from Canada's largely unsung punk rock era. I used to complain that California and West Coast punk got the short end of the deal, but Canadiens are even more over-looked. Not to worry... someone's taking care of that. Of course, you can spend hours of time surfing the web and finding sites and photos, but in this day of instant gratification, you might want to just sit back and watch all the info unfold before you.

Filmmaker Colin Brunton has been revisiting The Last Pogo, an event he filmed in 1978 when Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern had its final punk rock show. Well, as in all things postmodern... there was a reunion and he filmed it and is talking to people who were at the FIRST Last Pogo!

Yes, we on the West Coast recently had a Fab Mab Reunion (as in San Francisco's Mabuhay Gardens) which its founder Dirk Dirksen was able to attend and feel the love from all his club's alumnae before he passed away late last year. Perhaps these dives closing is what catalyzes the deaths of their founders.... Hilly Kristal passed away recently as well, a year after CBGB closed its doors for good. One wonders if the club life vitalized these older gentlemen...

But I have digressed...You can read about The Last Pogo at Colin's website and follow the trials and tribulations of his punk rock Michael Apted - 7-Up approach to covering the Toronto punk rock scene on his Blog.

Canada has never stopped cranking out the great music. Currently, I'm loving some distinctly different bands that hail from the big country across the border.

leather uppers 9

The Leather Uppers from Toronto have been churning out instant garage classics since the dawn of the 90s. Greg and Craig were the first Canadien band on the venerable American garage label, Sympathy for the Record Industry, home of some of the most notable and stylish 2-piece bands to ever release records, from Detroit's Bantam Rooster (my favorites!); the 2-girl swampy, sexy and stomping Mr Airplane Man; and one other really famous 2-piece Detroit band, well... you get the picture.

But back to Canada, and this time, Montreal. The classy European-styled city is home of Demons Claws, Mark Sultan aka BBQ, The King Khan & BBQ Show and many other permutations of their collaborations with one another. Mark Sultan was in the garage sensation, Les Sexareenos, and does quite a lot of music as a one-man-band. His two-one-man-band combo (get it?) with ex-Spaceshits The Blacksnake aka King Khan is the King Khan and BBQ Show which plays an eclectic range of musical genres...all very noisily! As a member of Mind Controls with Demons Claw Ysael Pepin, Mark plays a deliciously true straightforward punk rock.

Pat Meteor and BBQ
Demons Claws Pat Meteor and Mark Sultan, aka BBQ

These Montreal men are maleable in music and in their on-camera looks.

King Khan/Tina
King Khan, from the inner sleeve of their album, "What's for Dinner," photo by me!

demons claws in columbus, oh
Ysael, Pat, Jeff, Piero, Brian - Demons Claws

Demons Claws as captured in the garden of Cheater Slicks brothers Tom and Dave Shannon's Columbus, Ohio home. It just occurs to me that the previous sentence unleashes more insane, heavy guitar that anything... even a guitar shop catalog!


A Hollywood character actor whom I recently shot (as in cinematographed! with a camera... not a gun) told me that I spoke French with a Canadien accent. Some people in the room thought I might be offended... but NO! Perhaps my actual lived-in-Paris-as-a-tot French accent has been superseded because I spend so much time with these Quebecois! In any event... its always good to acknowledge the Canadien influence. I haven't come anywhere NEAR to even name-checking some of the superb bands to come out of Canada... but you have some starting points. So START listening, why don't you!

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