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



Thursday, 4 August 2016

Fresh Ears on Pink Floyd

a beautiful conversation with nicole robinson
nicole did GIG with me
we’ve been tight ever since

she’s working on the dark side of the moon album
it’s wonderful to be able to introduce a new piece of work to someone
and have them completely grok it

nicole said that the album reflects the way she sees the world right now

because forty years ago
that’s what we thought

i get asked all the time
what constitutes a classic album?
the above is your answer
the endurance

sure mariah carey outsold everyone for a blip
but the work doesn’t hold up as whole
or as a defining piece of art
it’s disposable razors

i told my oldest son once
that one day he would call me and tell me that he loved dylan
and as with rob phillips
i’m still waiting
but it will happen
the claws of creativity find the open ears easily

pink floyd is immediate
you listen and plug yourself into the sound instantly
the lyrics bend to your way of seeing things

nicole got it
the message of the album became hers and hers alone
for some reason
that’s important to me

august 4, 1976

coca cola and spinach dip

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Summer Sunday

summer’s peak here in toronto
rain today
put on some doobie brothers and started in on the chores

it’s been a trip not having cable
i’m way behind on news
the papers are good
but i always drift to the entertainment section
cbc no longer cares if i listen - they’re adrift today as well

to our american cousins
fear not
while all the rumble sends mixed messages here north of the border
we canadians know that no matter what
the american spirit is tough 
and kind

it’s been one of the great joys of my life to play in the CAL CCR band
cowboy chords for me
i’m good at those
but i’m nowhere near the level of musicianship that the others are at
mark stewartson did some things on this show
that rivalled hendrix for innovation

time passes and things change
i now live in cabbagetown 
right down the road from maple leaf gardens
there’s an opera outside the window
there’s a ballet being fought in the alley
this is how a neighbourhood should work
old historic houses
up and comers
down and outers
all getting along
and using the neighbourhood
it’s gritty
and beautiful 
this is my favourite part of toronto
and my boys are walking distance from me now
it’s all starting to work out

i’ve been working with some new musicians
some of us are getting old
we don’t sound like 20 year old men
onstage it’s nice to see young people playing alongside some oldies
that is the new face of rock n roll

i may have overstepped my opinion
sometimes i should keep my mouth shut
who am i go give advice?
i’ve been telling the musicians to stop buying gear
and stop spending money on studio time
of course this is wrong
but i only want what’s best for them - especially in the long term
my argument is sound
while new gear is always a plus
will it translate to better sound? audibly?
if you haven’t got the sound by now
a new pedal isn’t going to fix it
and regarding the studio time
i’ve been recording with garageband
this is a powerful piece of software
and i’m very happy with the sound
recording studios are of another time
certainly the big acts can afford this luxury
but i’ve never met anyone whose gotten signed or sold a song based on a good sounding demo
that said
we all have our weaknesses 
i should keep my mouth shut

the upcoming show at maple leaf gardens is going to be heavy
the 50 year anniversary of the beatles playing there
it’s my understanding that this show was the show that changed toronto’s state of mind
the show happened on august 17, 1966
the next day it was as though a collective coolness came over the city
the 60s kicked in
time had passed
things had changed
we’re tapping into that
we’re going to be performing studio versions of their set list
then our outro set is going to blow some minds
50 years to the date

if anyone from melbourne reads this
what do you think of this years new years eve party
CCR and stones?
it’ll have a real party vibe
i think steve is going to take out the front seating
and put a dance floor in
share your thoughts!

my closest friend had a terrible death in his family
his young nephew didn’t wake up one mornig
so many of us have had life altering events 
it brings out our best - our compassion
but i don’t know what to say or do
i always defer to music
that’s a comfortable way for me to communicate
i wonder if i should start a thread 
where everyone can tell a story and remember friend through music
too heavy?
it would rattle some us
force us to feel some real
go kiss your kids!

and it’s been a few months since david bowie passed
it feels a bit empty doesn’t it?
my vibe changed 
sure i miss him
but i didn’t really know him
i know him like i’ve always known him
through his music
and that’s still here
what his death did for me
was start my own meter
and it’s clicking away
my mortality has been awakened
i’m going to continue to use up the days
like there’s no tomorrow
love big
and go to bed tired overnight
and full of life

july 30, 2016
coffee and ginger nut biscuits

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


i met anthony davey in the very early 80s
we were dating sisters - janet and heather armstrong
beautiful young women who helped us both figure out our early 20s

tony was immediately cooler than i was
he dressed cool
spoke cool
and just had that kind of cool swagger about him
but i was a better musician than him
so our relationship began with me teaching him how to play bass
he had some horrible hockey stick of a guitar
but we sat upstairs in janet’s bedroom and jammed
i showed him where to put his fingers
and how to do a walking bass line
he took to it effortlessly
a couple months later
we were on the road together
and this went on for 30 years

we travelled non stop
quebec and ontario
we learned how to play in these crazy clubs
hundreds of them
all through our twenties
we played in bars
bingo halls
strip joints
the hells angels clubhouse
we got hired by prisons and for a while - we were the select band of inmates in ontario and quebec
we always had money
and if we didn’t - tone would find a job
and then get me in
that was the way it was
we were a package deal

the happiest i remember being was in minden ontario
we were playing at the rockcliff hotel
we were 23
6 nights a week with a saturday matinee
we stayed in these run down rooms above the bar
no tv
just a bed and a dresser with one washroom down the hall
it was about 11am
we were just waking up
randy was standing in the hall running a brush through his long black hair
randy was asking tony if his ancestors came from zimbabwe
tone was telling him that his family actually came from scambatty 
it made no sense
it was a ridiculous moment
but it belied a carefree lifestyle and mind set
a bohemian way of life that in that moment
i knew i would never veer from
that day me and tone had a greasy breakfast with a beer
floated on inner tubes down the river that ran through town
ate the best ceasar salad for lunch
drank milk shakes for afternoon tea
and had dinner with one of the locals - he was a comedian and he did bits for us during the dinner
that night we played for a crowd of maybe 30 people 
met some girls and went down to the river where we all made out on benches
this was a wednesday
it was glorious

tone was into thrift shopping decades before it became a thing
he had that kind of vibe that allowed him to wear anything 
and make it look cool

tone myself and adam played a ton of hockey in our 30s
we were on a house league team
but the real fun was at the pick up games at UCC
one game - tone was put on the other team
i was playing defence
i knew his game
he was an excellent hockey player
but i knew his game
and i spent the entire game shutting him down
and it bugged him so much
he got scrappy with me
at the end of one shift
he punched me
i didn’t go down
he was fighting irish at times
i like that
that attitude served him well
he didn't suffer any bullshit from anyone
he was true iron hearted irish

we loved the same music
we liked the same bands
we almost liked the same clothes
tone got caught up in the hair metal thing for a bit
des and i made fun of him for this

we took Lsd together and had some enlightening trips
we were young men 
free and full of adventure
our lives were ours
with no one to answer to
we were independent thinkers
our education came from surviving with only a self provided structure

another one of the happiest times of my life
was with tone in wawa ontario
we’d been on this killer tour
3 - maybe 4 months 
drive all day sunday
arrive and play for 6 nights
you can get a little stir crazy on the road 
so one day
myself tone randy and glenn 
got all the mattresses from our rooms
and set them up like a padded chamber
and commenced with an afternoon of tag team wrestling
turns out our rooms were right about the hotel office
the owner comes upstairs - opens the door - takes stock of the chaos
and calls our agent wanting a rebate on the agreed fee
we’d had enough
we had been gone for so long
we had changed
we packed up and left - forgoing any money that we were owed
the bar owning left screaming in our dust
it was time to go home
when we pulled into toronto - we sang oh canada at the top of our lungs
we had changed

an agent came to see us - gary pring
we were playing original music
we were okay
but not great
he suggested that we put together a stones band
i had just met des
and i knew jim cassels from my early teens
all we needed was another guitar player
tone said that his brother was getting pretty good on guitar
okay - pup was in
and with that the midnite ramblers were formed
and we never stopped working for the rest of the 80s
these were magical defining times
we’d graduated up a level
we no longer had to pay for pop
in fact - bars started giving us free beer
tone pup des jim and me
we were on an adventure
young men playing in a rock n roll band
travelling and carrying on
blazing a trail
there was vulnerability and compassion
we took care of each other
we shared music and ideals
we had opinions
we fought and argued
but most of all we played
and played
me tone des jim and pup
the five of us went through some hidden door together
came out different - bonded
it was glorious

tone really started honing his bass skills 
and he started encouraging me to play harmonica
i’d practice in the car with him
then only to wimp out on stage and opt instead for another guitar solo
but tone was persistent 
and with that i started playing harp onstage
years later - me tone garce and buttles were in a band
and i was beginning to play piano
i’d bring it to the gig - set it up
but wouldn’t play it 
tone would have nothing of it
he pushed
and one night - in jackson’s point ($750 for 4 nights) (seven five oh)
i played piano on stage
i was so pleased - i looked up at tone for approval
but he was so cool
he kept his back to me and took a swig from a beer 
and then - as the next song started - he looked over and nodded at me
i owe a big part of the man i am today to anthony davey

tone got a gig in dubai
it was 1993
where was dubai?
what kind of a gig?
what what what what?
tone got me on the gig as 2nd guitar player and keys
this is how i got to meet brian and troy and randy
so we flew to the other side of the world
and discovered that the gig was on hold
we’d still get paid 
but there was no gig
i can’t explain the absolute surreal vibe that our lives took on
we were living in a really nice hotel
3 meals a day provided
all the free time in the world
those kind of circumstances change a person
tone stayed on with troy
and did a victory lap with another band before coming home
me - i came home with a brand new plan
this experience - it set me up with new maps
i came home dreaming bigger
all because of tone

we went off and got married
and had babies
we fell out of touch for a while
but we were always connected
i was proud when i heard about all of his successes as a runner
run anto
run like the fuckin’ wind
leave the ghosts in your dust

i'll remember us laughing 
i don’t think i’ve ever laughed more with anyone else
we had so many silly sayings and bits
we were happy

anthony davey was my friend 
he lived his days with strength and grace
he remains a strong beautiful man
nothing will ever take that away

november 24, 2015
irish whiskey


Saturday, 24 October 2015

Mark Yannetta phones home

Classic Albums Live, 2015, OCT 17
Jimi Hendrix - Are You Experienced
Folsom, California
Toronto crew = Clifton and Mark Y.
Flight departed Toronto, arrived in San Francisco.
At Pearson airport it took almost 1.5 hrs from check-in to clearing customs.
This seems to becoming typical for US flights out of Pearson.
Arrived almost on schedule in San Francisco (10:30am-ish). Rental car was reserved by Tracy which was very important because there were people showing up with no reservation and no cars available.
Since we arrived the day before show, we took advantage of some San Fran sight-seeing. Awesome day !
Left San Fran about 5:30pm and arrived in Folsom about 8:30pm. There were some minor traffic delays and we stopped for a coffee.
Went to Hampton Inn in Folsom. Rooms are quite large and very comfortable. Would recommend same place in future.
Day of show lobby call was 1:30pm. The LA crew was also there at that time. All are very nice guys. Spent some time hugging and chatting.
LA crew = Blair-drums, Andrew-guitar, Matt-keys
Venue is less than 10 minutes from the hotel.
Arrived at venue just before 2pm. Met with Mary Carrera (booking/promoter) and got along very well.
Backline company arrived about 2:15-ish. Although they seemed to arrive a little late, they had things set up quickly and we were running sound check around 3pm-ish.
Sound check went pretty smoothly with John at FOH and Eduardo on monitors. I think Eduardo is also the stage manager.
Since sound check went fairly quickly, we were able to run through almost every song on the list. This helped us iron out a few bugs.
Afternoon snacks were available and dinner was provided at the venue.
Show time was 8pm. The band did a very good job and Clifton was awesome. There were some very minor imperfections but that’s gonna happen with 4 new guys. The audience seemed to really love the show and Mary was also very happy.
I didn’t get an official number from Mary, but she said we had most of the floor and first 2 rows of the balcony. My guess is it was about 600 people. See attached photos for venue.
Drove back to San Fran the next morning (3hrs) and flew back to Toronto. The drive from Folsom to San Fran was beautiful.
Me and Clifton would like to thank Tracy for sending us from Toronto to San Fran instead of the Buffalo to ????? to Sacramento.
Conclusion : Classic Albums Live put on a great show, the audience loved it, and me and Clifton had a lot of fun.