I have always been more intrigued by Neil Young’s lifestyle more than his music. I now love a lot of his music but it took me a while to get on board the Lionel train (he collects them). I’m pretty sure this was due to my sister. Kelly is two years older than me which now makes us close, but, during our teenage years that gap seemed enormous. Our musical tastes could not have been more different. We moved a lot as kids but always seemed to have bedrooms right next door to each other. We had stereo wars and music wars. We both continually upgraded our stereos as our record collections grew.

In the early seventies I was listening to Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Mott The Hoople and The New York Dolls. In the next room I was bombarded by James Taylor (“Mud Slide Slim”), Cat Stevens (“Tea For The Tillerman”), Carole King (“Tapestry”), Bette Midler (“The Divine Miss M”), Simon & Garfunkel (“Bookends”) and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (“Déjà Vu”). I learned to despise those records. If I played Deep Purple’s “Woman From Tokyo” she would jack the volume and retaliate with “Wild World” from the not yet Yusuf Islam, then a “Billion Dollar Babies” retort would be quickly neutralised by the double-whammy of Carole King and James Taylor together singing “You’ve Got A Friend”. This went on for years. With the exception of Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells A Story” I really hated her record collection. Over the years we have become more tolerant of each other’s musical tastes and can now sit comfortably poolside and have family iPod showdowns.

I am pretty sure that the constant playing of “Déjà Vu”, and to a lesser extent “Harvest”, soured me on Neil Young. Hey I was a rock and glam guy soon to be immersed in the punk scene, and, although he was a fellow Canuck, Neil was pretty much a hippy. I don’t remember how he got them but Segarini scored four great tickets and backstage passes for Neil Young & Crazy Horse at Maple Leaf Gardens in October of 1978. Neil and the boys were touring in support of “Comes A Time”. I really didn’t want to go but the allure of the backstage pass was pretty cool and Segarini said I wouldn’t be disappointed. Off we went to the pride and joy of Carlton Street. Things were not looking too promising outside as hoards of hippies stood around smoking pot. I never liked hippies, I never liked pot. We worked our way up to the front of the stage and settled ourselves just behind the public on stage right. It was pretty obvious that was going to be no ordinary show and little did we know at this point that this was not a tour in support of “Comes A Time” but in actuality the “Rust Never Sleeps” tour. Giant amps adorned the stage, there were over-sized microphone stands and little hobbits with glowing red eyes scurried about the stage. It was awesome. I recognized a lot of the songs in the first set as they had seeped through my bedroom walls for years. The first half of the show was Neil acoustic performing “Sugar Mountain”, “After The Gold Rush” and other “softer material”. For the second half of the show he was joined by Crazy Horse and they rocked out to “Cortez The Killer”, “Powderfinger”, “Like A Hurricane” and the soon to be classic “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)”. OK, the guy could rock and even name checked Johnny Rotten. He went way up in my books.

In 1991 I was working for MCA Records and doing marketing for DGC Records (an offshoot of Geffen). The year before DGC had signed Sonic Youth and released their commercial breakthrough “Goo”. The band was set to open for Neil Young & Crazy Horse on their “Ragged Glory” along with Social Distortion. There were dates in Montreal, Toronto and Hamilton and I attended them all. The show at the Montreal Forum was interesting and the crowd was pretty receptive to Social Distortion but not so kind to Sonic Youth. Neil wanted to challenge his audience and did a pretty good job of it. At that point I don`t think that anyone from the Sonic Youth camp had actually met Neil on the tour but we did see him backstage a couple of times. In Toronto both Social D and Sonic Youth got a much better reception. Crazy Horse were crazy loud and I know that Sonic Youth were having some issues with their sound and they were not getting a lot of help from some of Neil`s crew. They mentioned it to the tour manager and I think Thurston Moore may have said some things about Neil`s crew in a print interview. Rumour has it that article was seen by the crew and things were getting pretty tense by the time we reached Hamilton and the band was pretty sure they were going to get tossed from the tour. Now Sonic Youth were a very non-traditional band when it came to marketing and promotion. They did things their way and didn`t really like to play the major label game. The beauty of DGC was it was an indie label with major distribution and clout. One way that the majors liked to promote their artists was the dreaded in-store. Anyone who has ever seen “Spinal Tap” knows how this can play out. Kick me.

Our sales guys had hoped that the band would do an in-store in Hamilton and it was left to me to try to convince them. I spoke to their management company and they said it was unlikely but left the final decision up to the group. Although they were not into the idea I managed to convince (bribe) them by telling them they could each shop for a couple of hundred bucks worth of records when the in-store was done. It went well and Thurston and Kim both knew their Hamilton punk history and were big fans of locals Simply Saucer. We headed over to Copps Coliseum and got ready for the show that night. You could feel the tension as we headed to the dressing room. I was happily playing something on my then very hip “Gameboy” with Lee Ranaldo’s young son Cody when I heard a very familiar voice. “Thurston, Kim, Steve, Lee. If you guys have a problem you come and talk to me directly. I want you on this tour and I want you to be happy. Tell me what you need and I will take care of it”. I put Mario on pause and there stood Neil talking to the band and working everything out. The band stayed on the tour and Neil went up a few more notches in my books.

I spent last week with Neil’s autobiography “Waging Heavy Peace”. Although it skipped like a bad piece of vinyl it was a fun read. It is very folksy and I imagined it would be like having a beer with Neil (even though he is currently on the wagon) and swapping stories. I have read books about him by his father Scott (“Neil And Me”), crazed super fans (Kevin Chong’s “Neil Young Nation”) and cranky biographers (Jimmy McDonough’s “Shakey”) but “Waging Heavy Peace” made me feel that I knew the man. It was Neil’s 67th birthday this week. Happy Birthday to Canada’s “Southern Man”. It was also my Dad’s 81stbirthday this week, Happy Birthday Bucky!

Here’s your freebie of the week as England’s My First Tooth has offered up their latest single. Download ‘Past Broadcasts’ for FREE now: http://soundcloud.com/alcopop/my-first-tooth-past. Great song and be sure to go to iTunes to discover more of their music.

Jay Sparrow and James Murdoch are just playing their final couple shows on their cross-country tour. James and Jay released the album “Dominion Day – The Story Of Madeleine & Laverdiere” earlier this year. Jay also has just released his latest solo album “White”. It is available on iTunes and as of the end of the month will be up on “Record Mob” which I will explain in the coming weeks. Jay has made a video for every song on “White” and they all will connect. Hopefully you saw the first video “Until We Run Out” a few weeks ago and now here’s video number two “Cold Winter Song”


Jay has also been producing and has just finished the latest album from Alberta’s “Owls By Nature”. They played the Horseshoe this week and were accompanied on stage by former Murder City Sparrow member Doc deGroot. Great little alt country rock band and you can have a look for yourself down below. They were fantastic live and the only negative for the last night of their eastern tour was having two of their iPhones ripped off in their dressing room. Karma is hopefully about to pay someone a visit.

Picked up the other new song from The Rolling Stones new greatest hits album “GRRR!” and although not as good as “Doom And Gloom” “One More Shot” is still a pretty good song. Great to hear Keith and Ronnie’s seamless guitar interplay. Not bad for fifty.

Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com.

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