Friday, 19 October 2018

The White Album

the beatles lost their minds!
they did not listen to reason
they were the kings of the world
hit after hit
the money was rolling in
then they recorded the white album
a double album of electro shock therapy
it changed people
it scared people
the mop tops were dead
long live the free thinkers!

imagine the white album getting released in this day and age
taking ‘piggies’ or ‘revolution #9’ into a record label
i think the conversation would go something like this:

JOHN: Well, Mr. Record Company Executive, when are you releasing our album?
RECORD COMPANY EXECUTIVE: This album is unreleasable! You’ve got too many songs and not enough singles. For goodness sake, you’ve got an eight and half minute song of nothing but sound FX!
PAUL: “Mother Natures Son” is a lovely track.
RECORD COMPANY EXECUTIVE: And what’s all this about hiding a monkey?
RINGO: I like me drums on that one!
RECORD COMPANY EXECUTIVE: Can’t we get back to the happy, snappy songs like ‘She Loves You’ or ‘Can’t Buy Me Love?’ This Bungalow Bill fellow! He’s a murderer!
GEORGE: I don’t like your tie

the white album is a trip
a journey
it’s a war of acoustic vs. electric
arrangement vs. improv
john vs. the world
this is massive music
a full continent of music
detached from the rest of the world 
and viewed through a kaleidoscope

i’m 57
when this album came out in 68
the people who were 10 years older than me
made it an event to listen to this record
it became an energy
a movement
so much so that it was the biggest selling album of the 60s

we know how to perform this album
we care about this album
we - dare i say - understand this album
and dammit - we love the beatles
unraveling this album on the roy thomson hall stage is going to be a journey
all aboard

craig martin
october 19, 2018
toast and tea

Sunday, 26 August 2018

5 Albums You Didn't Know You Needed

5 Albums You Didn't Know You Needed

ram - paul mCartney
i’ve been raving about this albums for years
linda sounds great
and the songs flow seamlessly into one another
creating a homey vibe
if i could travel back in time
i’d choose to go to paul’s farm and sit in on the recording
perhaps make tea and soldiers 
and make myself available to do a funny voice
on uncle albert / admiral halsey
play this album on sundays

marvin gaye - what’s going on
a concept album 
a lot of people don’t realize this
but marvin had a firm grip on what indeed was going on
and this album was a warning shot for society
global warming
it’s all here 
marvin takes the issues and through the beauty of 
his voice
his lyrics
his arrangements
he makes it all sound hopeful
plus this is a great album to put on when you’re having sex

the pretenders
this is a rock ’n’ roll record
chrissie is open and honest 
the first feminist for me
she can snarl
and she phrases her songs like joni 
the band is crisp and a little bit angry
i put this album on when i’m cleaning the house
statistics showed a surge in effective cleaning
all motivated by the sound of 80s kicking in

gord downie - introduce yourself
for all of our american cousins
i implore that you buy this album
and consider it an introduction to canada
it’s not a geography lesson
nor a history recital
but it’s poetic and graceful
and it understands that canadian heart 
i wrote a previous blog about this album
the scratch of sadness that shows through 
makes me ache a little bit
and it makes me feel alive
gord wrote this album knowing that the great gig was coming
every song is about someone
and every song is about us

the rolling stones - goats head soup
this album is for all the bad girls and boys
who remember their teens 
and what a saturday night felt like
maybe you were alone
or maybe you were in somebodies basement
but goats head soup was probably on the turntable
and it made you feel good
and bad
lyrically mick’s at his best
‘winter’ is the stand out track for me
it makes me wish for snow in june
just so i can tap into that vibe of being bad
i love the stones
i don’t like people who don’t like the stones

craig martin
august 26, 2018
tea and soldiers

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Summer Ends

sometimes it feels 
like the only true thing in my life is music

i’m tired
there’s so many messages
it wears me down

music is as true as it’s going to get for me
i can’t see clear of much else
life has altered expectations

this past weekend
we played a small club in austin
the bar smelled like a bar should
we all changed in front of each other in a small room backstage
and we crammed up against each other on stage
it was glorious

after the show we all spoke about how much we loved dark side of the moon
and how performing it felt important
everyone spoke like there was iron in their voices
it was a true thing
you could feel it

we’re so protective of this music
all of it
i have no claim other than caring
but i feel like it’s our job to make sure the music is properly performed
that’s what we are
the performances are books

i just posted a video of us doing CSN’s suite judy blue eyes
it’s so beautiful
the song is transcendent 
rob soars 
i wonder if it’s just me who gets so emotional about performances like this
but then i get emails from people 
and posts
and we all connect for a moment in time

our summer is soon coming to an end
it was planes and vans and stage doors and after show pool hangs
it started at the wolf trap on june 1
and gets close to ending this weekend with the white album shows

and another season begins
lots of shows
i’m figuring it out
i’ve got a good behind the scenes staff
our mandate is simple
note for note - cut for cut
keep the musicians working
and stay true

august 14, 2018

starbucks coffee and egg bites

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Stones

oh i love the stones
always have
when i was a boy in the 60s
my dad - knowing how much i loved music
called me in from playing 
to show me a tv show with them on it
baited and hooked

years later 
when keith had to play the benefit concert in oshawa
our local new station went live (CFTO - scarborough baby)
and there’s mick leaning into the crowd singing ‘starfucker’
i remember writhing about because my favourite rock star
was swearing on national TV and the censors didn’t have a clue
that was 79

mick’s lyrics are amazing
fat nouns and jangly adverbs
and keef is riffalicious
and with that i realize that
i don’t like people who don’t like the stones

i got to see the stones play the club shows in toronto
RPM, horseshoe, phoenix
i have all kinds of stories (just ask me)
i remember the set lists
the clothes
the audience
it was like seeing royalty

and isn’t that the point?
the stones are still out there
enduring well past the 'getting old' jokes
and riffing their hearts out
touring like no other band ever has before
committed man!
a while back - i spoke the above comment
someone retorted with ‘the beach boys have endured!’
i punched them in the face
i’m writing this from prison
drunk on cell block booze

we’ve been rehearsing the sticky fingers album
it’s been emotional 
and i’m happy to be amongst people i have genuine love for
the other night - i looked around the room during ‘waiting on a friend’
and realized that for 15 years, we’ve all been touring together 
in and out 
up and down
through and through
like bastardized royalty
one month bobby spent more time with us than he did his family
we belong on the road
that’s where the real musicians go

tonight we return to the roy thomson hall patio for 2 nights
the band is smart and tight
and happy
and i’m excited to be back on stage
it will be emotional 
i’ll be carrying the canoe 
but these songs elevate your mojo
and get you kicking at the stall

we’re playing in delaware this weekend
so expect the RTH shows to have a heavy dose of sticky fingers stuck to them
and of course my love of 'exile on main street' is well documented
so an unhealthy dose of those songs will also be featured
we won’t be playing miss you or satisfaction
this is a musician’s show
we want to shine
the entire week is being filmed for a episode of undercover boss

sometimes the world gets spinning on some kind of axis
that throws me off balance
and makes me feel out of sync and untested
but getting on stage with people you care about
and playing music that vibrates your soul
in venues that cloak you in cool
that’s the stuff that raises the dead off the battlefield 
hoists the flag
and gets you fighting another day

craig martin
august 1, 2018
amanda’s smoothie

Monday, 19 February 2018

Gord Downie's "Introduce Yourself"

i’ve been listening to nothing but this album for two months straight
gord downie was a family man
and this album takes you into that side of him
he had a nice big family
i’m jealous of that
i have a tiny family

for our american cousins
gord fronted a band called the tragically hip
he was one of the greatest frontman ever
right up there alongside mick, freddie, scott

i've seen the hip so many times
i lived in kingston for a while back in the extreme early 80s
i think i saw them at the lakeview manor
those were different times
but i am so happy to have seen the hip with my son lucas
he kept looking over at me and smiling during the show
as if to say 'he's weird but cool'

the songs on introduce yourself are each about a person
you can only guess 
lyrically ol’ gord’s colouring life with a small observations
and deft philosophy
‘love over money’ i think is about the band
“love over money - that’s how we got good”
great line

there’s songs about putting his kids to sleep
buying T shirts at concerts
and my favourite - the title cut - introduce yourself
about writing a message on your hand 
with the exception of AC/DC 
my music always needs to have an element of poetry to it

my son jackson goes to the same school as gord’s kids
kids with tragedy printed on them
ours has been private and theirs has been fireworks
i wonder how they’ll deal with it all in the years to come
of course they’ll be fine

kevin drew co-wrote the album with gord
just excellence and nothing more from their pairing
if anyone knows kevin
please send word that his work has touched me in a profound way
and i’m a better person for having this album in my life

music finds us 
we don’t find it
we’re bombarded with music - shell shocked
but there’s that beautiful moment when you find an album
and that album starts to bind to you
and heal you
and help you remember
and then you share that album with people you care about

feb 19, 2018

poached eggs and coffee

Friday, 9 June 2017


i live right next door to rush’s head office
i see some action here and there
but i keep my distance
i am not a long awaited friend

years ago - des showed me the home in the beaches that geddy used to live at
i was fairly accessible - nothing like the fortress one expects of royalty
we joked around about showing up at his family barbcues 
and saying things like ‘caress of steel is under rated” and “have you really ever gone dog sledding?”

what i love about rush
is that they’re at the centre of hypocrisy
on one hand their intelligent and acerbic
on the other they’re really funny and self deprecating 
those movies at the beginning of the ‘time machine’ tour were fucking funny
they let us all in on the joke

at rehearsals we all talk about our favourite album
one thing is clear
rush never phoned it in
they never pretended to be anything other than musicians
if you go deep into their catalogue 
you’ll hear some gems in the later albums - driven / the wreckers / dreamline
rush worked hard 
they followed their own compass
and now millions of us love them

the 2112 show was a massive undertaking
we took a deep breath and dug in
i started adding more and more musicians to the show
for a trio - they made a big sound
no other trio in the history of rock made anywhere near as grand a sound

i hope that all the fans dig the show
we put our hearts into it

it’s funny - after the oshawa show
i got a ton of emails - a lot people getting upset because we have 9 musicians on stage
other’s getting upset because we look nothing like them
of course i find this all hilarious

be sure of this
no where else in the world will you hear this music performed ‘note for note - cut for cut’
we know how to perform this record
our lifetime investment in our ‘hometown boys done good’ apparent

i hope that geddy gets to see another pennant win
i hope that neil finds a perfect stretch of road
i hope the alex never runs out of stages to jump up and jam on

and i hope that everyone has a good time and remembers and celebrates
the toronto band that figured out how to sound true
and share it with the rest of the world

june 9, 2017

(IPA beer and Planters peanuts)

Saturday, 6 May 2017


i feel lost
afloat on the waves
up and down
it’s as though all the work and all the road
might have been in vain

when i started CAL
it was effortless
but it was an effortlessness that took a ton of hard work
over 150 shows this coming year
and we’re still just getting started

when i was a teenager
going through school
i paid no attention
i was below average with an occassional spark of interest
my report cards were dismal
my vibe with my parents was deteriorating
i was a loner
i laugh today - because no one from my high school remembers me
it was like i didn’t exist
i would spend all of my time listening to albums
i knew them all note for note - my capacity to remember lyrics exceeds that of anyone else i know
i could sing the entire top 40
i could recite a hundred albums

this of course would not do with the powers that be
and i was pushed towards straight and true
get a good education - get a job - get a routine
and while i always admired that in others
it wasn’t for me
i had that huck finn moment
the one where huck decided not to turn jim in
and is prepared to damn himself to all eternity
and in doing so - ultimately does the right thing
i decided that i would follow the music
become a musician
a band leader
set out

in 1980 i quit college
broke up with my girlfriend
and quit my job at the bay
to go to parry sound ontario
for a week long gig that paid $40 for the entire week
we did the gig
i was happy 
all the bridges burned - i had set out

and so began my life
my life
a happy time inside decades of bars 
it’s what i did
and it came at a price
by the time i started closing in on 30
friends were cutting bait and disgruntled with my lack of realism
to them i was uncontrollable 
i should have a job and be making plans for a family
but it wasn’t for me
of course i had dire moments of doubt
driving home from gigs - up all night - the crack of morning
and you’re in a traffic jam full of people on their way to work
what was i doing?
there was no record deal waiting - i was too old and i just wasn’t good enough
i had no real skills - my currency was all that came with a troubadours life
i lived gig to gig - no savings - no real plan
it didn’t matter
i had my father’s genetics - do it yourself - stay true - don’t be afraid to love
i had my mother’s common sense - get on with it and stop second guessing yourself
they had come to respect my decisions 
i was always a good son
they saw that i was happy and quick to love
fuck it 
i’m stayed true to myself
and followed the music

i did cabaret shows
tribute shows
track shows
emcee shows
and countless bar gigs
i worked hard and made money
i started composing music for television
i invented a system that made it easy for television producers to use my material 
without the red tape of forms and sign offs
and with that the money started rolling in
i met susan
got married 
had 2 beautiful sons
we had a house a car a dog and life was stable

i reinvented myself again at the age of 41
i always understood the press
and when asked how i started CAL
i had a tight sound bite ready to roll out
but the truth is
i don’t know
it was like artists describing their muse
it just happens
but that doesn’t make for good copy
so i had some storys prepped
and when asked if this was a true story
i would say it’s true it’s a story

the joy of hiring musicians and paying them well
is only rivaled by love for your children and partner
i seek out the best people and they seek me out in turn
you get into CAL - you’ve got the keys to the kingdom
the best music
the best musicians
the best venues
the best hang
the best pay
and all this without the drudgery of playing the same set night after night
or vapid fame
we play on the weekends
we fly into places - set up - play - and fly home in time for sunday dinner
it’s perfect
and it’s getting more perfect

i cut bait on some real downers over the years
the artistic temperment is a fragile one
but that’s bullshit
people in offices and construction sites tip toe around malcontents too
i’m lucky - i’m the boss - i give them a chance 
and if they don’t buck up
i fire their ass
that said - i always keep the door open
i don’t carry grudges
life is too short
and my energy is maxed out these days

the tough part for me 
was being the boss and staying friends with the musicians who worked with me
i never was one to seek the advice of others
there’s all kinds of books on how to succeed
and i’m sure they all say that when you’re a CEO
you have to keep yourself guarded from the people you work with
and show nothing but a strong side
fuck that
i am a mess of a man
a kind man
and a sensitive man
it’s an honour to share my vulnerabilites with my fellow musicians
it’s the glue in our resolve 
when we roll into town
we’re all the best we can be
because we lean on each other

up until a few months ago
life was rolling along nicely
i had broken another rule and started seriously getting involved with amanda
previously we’d spent years together traveling side by side
the three of us - myself amanda and alex
we have theme songs that we call upon when we’re all on open road together
so when amanda and i connected
it was easy - we were well aware of what we were getting into
things moved fast
i felt true love for the first time in a long time
and with that
i would often say to her
it’s a happy time
therefore - something bad is going to happen
hard times come and hard times go and hard times come and hard times go
just to come again

my oldest son lucas started feeling sick in late october
we checked him into the hospital
and the worst sentences were spoken
lucas had a rare and aggressive cancer
and it was killing him
myself and his mother - susan
we did what any caring parent would do
we loved

lucas passed in late december
2 months after the diagnosis
his strong young body compensated for the discomfort
as rare as the cancer was - it wasn’t uncommon for young people to push through discomfort
there was nothing that anyone could do
susan and i never left his side - never
we did 24 hour shifts one after the other for a solid 2 months
my beautiful son
he’s gone
and i’m lost

my life has taken a turn against nature
no parent should survive their child
it’s not right
and it makes no sense
and that’s the frustration of it all
there is no sense to be made of this
it’s maddening
and it’s never going away
i’m aware that there will always be a palpable element of sadness to my life

i’m also doing my best to keep myself in check
it’s hard being around people
if i hear someone complain about something
i get really anxious
i breath deep
amanda watches me out of the corner of her eye
i let it go
but i have zero tolerance for any bullshit
and my tact meter has been switched off

last month
i started back to work
it still gets foggy
but having the musicians as my friends strengthens me
i’m glad i’ve steered the company like i have
to all the alumni
my deepest heart felt thanks for taking care of my company
and each other in my adsence
your true colours are brilliant and fierce
your capacity for compassion is perfectly set

i finding my way slowly
i know enough to stay away from people who don’t really know me 
i don’t want commiseration
or hugs
or consoling
i just want to work
and quietly honour my son’s legacy
by being the best i can be

susan, jackson amanda and i have a saying
recently they all had a birthday 
and i told them that they were turning one
our little family is also turning one
those of us on the front lines
life is brand new
everything is a first
we are waiting for our first birthdays

there are moments while mixing the shows
that i feel so emotional - equal measures of strength and weakness
it’s the music
the beauty and power of the music
it is life to me
it makes me feel something that isn’t bordered by absolute grief
it is hopeful and strong
it revives me and helps me remember to seek out beauty
it has been the constant in my life
i’m thankful for that

last week i stood in a field and played baseball with jackson
we hit caught and threw the ball silently to one another
we were both aware that we were missing a fielder
but we stayed the course and a calm found us

when we played massey hall
if you were there - you saw it
the lights from the phones during candle in the wind
how could you not feel connected at a time like that?
the spectacle let me hide my tears
the hall aglow 
the music - perfect
in that moment i knew that my life - all life - is defined by moments of grace
some people find it in a church
some in volunteer work
some in movies
i find it in the halls of my life
the stages - the metaphor gaining gravitas 
i want this to continue 
my huck finn moment proving worthwhile

and with that
now more than ever
i wish nothing but love for everyone we cross paths with
dream big
live a life that matters
fix the old wounds
let go of the weights
aspire and soar
and take care of each other