Friday, January 31, 2014

Getting my chops from the master. An interview,(though dated) with Gordon Lightfoot.

"Turn around
Go back down
Back the way you came
Can't you see that flash of fire
Ten times brighter than the day
And behold a mighty city
Rich in treasure, wide if fame
O Lord,the pride of man
Broken in the dust again."
Well, after hearing this on radio and almost crashing my car, I just had to meet the man who wrote this.
He was still readily available, at old Steele's Tavern on Yonge Street, Toronto. Heh. Try for a personal interview with Gordon now!
A frustrated songwriter-turned journalist,I just had to write like Lightfoot. He would have to show me.
It was still the sixties. He was still then available. I got him to talk over break.(But not before showing me how to de-tune my guitar for that haunting song, "The Way I Feel...Is like a robin." Migod! Getting my chops from the master! Then he talked about songwriting.
The title, then the chord progression, that’s an obvious one.  Then get the melody to marry in with the chord progression. I do that by listening to the harmonics and sitting with the guitar. The chords, the melody, and third comes the lyrics.
You can start with a title if you want, or go fishing for words in a magazine, like People magazine or something, you’ll see an ad with some fancy language to it. I’ve done that, honestly, I’ve even gone into a paint store and picked up the titles of paint samples. Honestly.
You can bounce around from pillar to post trying to figure out how to do these things, but once you get into one of them — a song — you just let the imagination do the work. I’ve done that many times, just let it fall the way it may.
Sometimes [songwriting] takes a short while, sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes you’ll have one kickin’ around for seven or eight years and you’ll dig it out and it works. Usually it’s been sitting in the dust closet somewhere.
Forty years later, I am still trying to write songs. Now I write blogs.
Ultimate fate? End up on Facebook?
Aw what the hell. Nowadas my god is on facebook too. :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Rockin' and Rollin past forty.

A push-me-pull you kind of guy, one of my writing jobs was covering rock'n'roll in Toronto in the late sixties and seventies.
Wow, what a switch from trying to be the Nicholas Gogol of Newmarket.
Get out  your guitar and now we're going to sing the blues?
I guess to some extent I was always sort of the white Russian  guy  who dug bluegrass, and in fact one of my favourite movies had been "Bering Strait", where this Russian bluegrass group,  tried to make it in Nashville. You can imagine.
But I was hooked on country and rock and roll since a kid in  Hamilton, so the transfer from straight writing to rock column wasn't that difficult.
But wow, the Toronto rock scene in the late sixties and seventies:
Major Hooples Boarding House
Robbie Lane and the Disciples.
The Band ("Virgil Cane is My Name.") And Robbie Robertson.
Blood, Sweat and Tears
... many many others for whom Canadian content rules allowed local Ontario bands to make it big.
Well, there I was with my three-piece suit, covering a Brower-Walker rock event...and it seemed to all that I was so square.
But at the Toronto Sunday Sun they gave me a rock column.
I was to use the pen name of John Pope, and once I started to write about rock (after consultation with entrepreneursRitchie Yorke and Richard Flohill,  I as n my way.
To my surprise my column sort of rocked and I was soon in the middle of Toronto's rock scene, interviewing the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, Whiskey Howl, Tokyo.
(I must say that today, listening to old tapes, they're all about as old as me, with only Gordie carrying on and on--and good for him!). Today, everybody seems to have grown old, like me, but they have those wonderful memories. And me too, of them.
Ah, it was great to have been a rock critic.
Except that my subjects all today have royaties.
And I am close to hearing old blues tapes and living in a tree...Well, that's blues ain't it?