Live Music Head
|Gary Gold, International Pop Overthrow (IPO), New York City 2010|
In 1975, Gary Pig Gold was a pioneer in the world of the small press, launching Canada’s first-ever self published music magazine. He called it The Pig Paper. An interview with Edgar Breau from the band Simply Saucer appeared in its third issue and it was this band that Gold first began managing and producing, releasing their vinyl debut on Pig Records in 1978. By the end of the decade, The Pig Paper was publishing in-depth interviews with the Ramones, Elvis Costello and Talking Heads, with distribution throughout the U.S. and Europe. In the summer of 1980, Gary attended a Jan & Dean concert on the revolving stage of Toronto’s Ontario Place Forum and immediately relocated to California with his own band The Loved Ones. Settling in Orange County for the next few years, Gold also worked as a concert promoter. By 1985 Gold had returned to Toronto, and was soon touring as a vocalist/guitarist for the very popular Beach Boys tribute band, Endless Summer. The surf combo opened for and backed up such artists as Del Shannon as well. Gold met Teenage Head front man Dave DesRoches in 1988 and by the time 1989 rolled around, they had entered the recording studio of Daniel Lanois, which resulted in Valentino’s Pirates, an album by the Dave Rave Group. It was the first independently-recorded Western release to be issued in the Soviet Union. By the 1990s, Gold had settled in Hoboken, New Jersey and with the help of Shane Faubert of the Cheepskates formed the indie label, To M’Lou Music in 1998. Gary continues to write and contribute to online and print publications such as The Rock and Roll Report, Lost In the Grooves, Roctober and Looking For The Magic, and has contributed to such books as Encounters with Bob Dylan, Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond, 1977-1981, and Paul McCartney: I Saw Him Standing There. His syndicated Pigshit column has just entered its thirty-second year of operation, and today, Gary Pig Gold describes himself as... “Hoboken’s Happiest Entrepeneur”.
Did you enjoy a Breakfast of Champions this morning?
Absolutely. I finished off my last remaining box of Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies.
(laughs) What music have you been listening to?
Mainly the Bee Gees because I’m writing about their new dvd release, In Our Own Time. Interesting how, when stripped down to simply three voices and an acoustic guitar, the songs of mid-70s Bee Gees sound just like the songs they made in the 60s. And that's a good thing, by the way!
What are you currently reading?
I just finished reading Life by Keith Richards, a great gabbing-at-the-bar-behind-the-jukebox kind of book, and I must say I place it right up there with Chuck Berry's autobiography and possibly even with Dylan's magnificent Chronicles, Volume One. Next I’ll be reading Seth Rogovoy’s Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mystic, Poet.
It was recently in the news that a New Jersey native claiming to be in Dylan’s road crew ordered 178 pizzas from a Massachusetts pizza parlour following a show at the Mullins Centre. That New Jersey native wasn’t you, was it?
No, but close! My oldest pal Doug (the Pig Paper's Rock Serling) and I used to have a telephone prank back in high school called 62,000 Pizzas. We would phone various parlours ordering outrageous amounts of pizzas for the United Nations, and marvel at how few times the victims ever caught on. "You can fool all of the pizza delivery people all of the time," I think Abraham Lincoln said that. I still have "best of” recordings of these pranks; some of which even ended up on mixed tapes. Scarier still, a good friend of mine is busy digitizing them in Florida.
|Gary as a boy in Port Credit, reviewing his first records|
I still listen to all music. All the way back to Stan Kenton and especially Judy Garland's old crush Artie Shaw (whose monumental 1952 autobiography The Trouble With Cinderella: An Outline of Identity is absolute required reading, for anyone with pockets deep enough to find one). And speaking of big bandleaders, I just met a gentleman at a New Year’s Eve party who hung out with Duke Ellington via the U.S. State Department way back in the daze!
Do you still have any of those 45s from when you were 8?
Boxes and boxes of them! And they’re all stored in my original childhood six-transistor-back-to-mono bedroom, mere feet from where I first heard them.
Were you really the owner of The Very First Cassette Tape Recorder in your Entire Town?
Yes, and it was Christmastime, 1968. It was brought home for me all the way from Tokyo by our next-door neighbour, who was a senior-rank Air Canada pilot. A few years earlier he'd brought home Beatle pictures for me from London. A very, VERY cool man, needless to say!
You spent your childhood dj’ing your own radio show with a Philips microphone, spinning Beatles and Monkees. Do you still have copies of those tapes?
No! And you know why? Because there was nowhere I could buy blank cassettes back then (at least not close by), so I had to keep using the same tape that came with the recorder, over and over again. I literally wore it to shreds.
When tape decks came ‘round, were you like most of us who made endless amounts of mix tapes? If so, do you recall a list of songs from any of your favourite tapes?
For years and years I'd make mix tapes for birthday and Christmas presents; theme tapes of the Everly Brothers' Warner Brothers years, Toronto Punk Samplers, and the incredibly long-lasting series, Music Gary Likes. If any of the people around the globe have kept those tapes I sent them, they could start their very own Theme Time Radio Hour!
|The record Gary made with Pat Boone, 1989.|
I listen to Elvis constantly. After all, before him, “there was nothing" as no less an authority than John Lennon always said. Elvis liberated white America, and not only from the waist down. But I must admit the closest I ever got to Memphis was a recording session in Nashville with "the anti-Elvis" (as some would call him); none other than the very likable, Pat Boone! Our first night in town, Pat invited my producer and I over for dinner at his parents' place and told us some great Elvis stories; stories that will keep me going until I actually get to Memphis myself. I'm waiting for the tour that includes the upstairs of Graceland.
Do you still listen to radio? If so, what role do you think radio plays in music today?
I'm not sure that Top 40 radio, at least the way I fondly recall it, even exists anymore. And I'm not really sure that it needs to. The internet has fractured how and what we hear, see, and maybe even do, into a thousand million pieces. You know, in many ways I wish we had iTunes back in the 60s. I could have made my own playlists rather than having to sit through all the "Bobby" music (Bobby Vee, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Goldsboro, Bobby Curtola) on the radio, just waiting to get to the Beach Boys or Beatles. Then again, I suppose sitting through dozens and dozens of "extraneous" tunes did expose me to a lot of music, some of it very good, that I never would have heard otherwise. But other than podcasting and specialized satellite radio shows (Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour to cite the most obvious and best), music via the www is absent of great musical personalities; golden jocks such as Dewey Phillips, Alan Freed, Wolfman Jack, Murray the K and Toronto’s own Jungle Jay Nelson of 1050CHUM fame. These kinda guys would not only spin the discs, but teach you about them, the artists, and the songwriters. I always say, “I went to night school at CHUM”.
|Gary as a teen in Port Credit, 1970., playing along to CCR|
Pornographic Cornflake was the first band my friends and I were ever in. I was thirteen years old. We had aspirations to be a Cream cover band if anything, and we rehearsed every Saturday afternoon in our drummer’s bedroom (strategically situated over his parents' garage, so as not to disturb them ...TOO much). I stuck a microphone inside my twenty-dollar acoustic guitar and ran it through my trusty cassette recorder (stuck on "pause" and using its two-inch speaker as my "amp," I kid you not). My friend Dave played bass (through an old TV speaker, I seem to recall), and we spent months struggling to learn such standards as Summertime Blues (the Blue Cheer version), Fire by Jimi Hendrix (my first-ever concert was Hendrix in Toronto, 1969) and In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. That last one because it was SO long, it saved us from having to learn any more songs! We performed in public, if you can call it that, only once, for a backyard weenie roast. I blew my big guitar solo during In-A-Gadda because I was trying to use a nail clipper as a slide. This explains why (a) Pornographic Cornflake sorrowfully disbanded as soon as all the hot dogs ran out, and (b) why I have seldom been allowed to play lead guitar ever since.
(laughs) What was libellous about the film This is Port Credit!? And is the film available anywhere?
That film was last seen being shipped from Port Credit Secondary School to a PBS Television station in Buffalo, New York. My film arts teacher helped me bundle the 16 millimetres to take ever so carefully to the post office. And that's the last anybody has ever seen of the classic, Peel Film Festival Award-winning, all-Canadian mockumentary. Perhaps that wisecrack I made about the Mayor of Port Credit was more libellous than I thought!
|Simply Saucer on Pig Records, 1978|
Pig Records began for the same reason as The Pig Paper: I just couldn't find any quote/unquote real people who wanted to put out what I was doing! Back in the Spring of 1977, Edgar Breau slyly arranged for "PP" photographer Johnny Pig and I to "overhear" his band Simply Saucer rehearsing in his Hamilton basement while we were waiting to interview him for the Kinks Pig Paper. We liked what we “overheard”. Saucer didn't sound like ANYBODY (and they still don't, by the way). They'd already been together three or four years and cut a demo tape in 1974 with Bob and Dan Lanois in their mother's basement! I booked them a few Toronto shows during the Summer of Hate and then held a charity corn roast up on Hamilton Mountain so I could get them back into the studio. We cut two songs in one night while the studio owner, mightily pissed off at the “noise” we were making, sat upstairs watching Hockey Night in Canada. This is how, and why, I had to become a record producer. Quickly! Next, I pressed a thousand 45s on my own label and lo and behold, a couple months later, She's A Dog by Simply Saucer was Single Of The Week in Record Mirror magazine in England! See what can be accomplished when you sell enough corn-dogs?
(laughs) Tell me about being a concert promoter.
The first show I actually put on was Simply Saucer and the Forgotten Rebels at the Hamilton YMCA, February of 1978. It was the Rebels' first-ever show. But it seems the powers-that-were didn't take kindly to those guys burning a Canadian flag on stage, so not only was the plug pulled, but I got sued for $400 (including $25 for "Damage to Vegetables, Carrots and Lettuce”) and my, um, career as a concert promoter, at least in Hamilton, was effectively over.
|Gary as Human Surfboard with Endless Summer, 1987.|
I was busy putting together a new version of my band The Loved Ones in 1985, looking through the Musicians Wanted ads for candidates with the ability to sing, preferably harmony parts, and play an instrument at the same time. Chewing gum was optional. Suddenly I started getting calls from this agent out in Scarborough who'd noticed my "harmony" word in the ads and wanted ME to join HIS band. He called at all hours of the night and day, and when he promised to pick me up at the subway and give me dinner if I went to Scarborough, I said, “Free food? I’m THERE!” Turned out this man was trying to put together a part-time Beach Boys "tribute" band and I was asked to attend some of his auditions, more as a coach. Having gone to school on hundreds of Brian Wilson records, it was second-nature to me. But eventually I was contracted to be in the band myself, and someone got the idea to start booking us (complete with inflatable palm trees, inflatable dancing cheerleaders, and tons of used sand) around college campuses and corporate parties. We were very successful (actually endorsed by the Beach Boys themselves!). Heck, we even got to wear fluorescent shorts on stage, fly first class to our gigs, stay in all the best hotels, and eat all the best hot dogs and ham-and-cheese subs. It was a lot of fun. I mean, how can you NOT have fun, singing those songs? Oh, and the pay checks were not only big, they never ever bounced. I built my first fully-equipped home recording studio and stocked it with all the coolest guitars. Too bad I was never at home long enough to actually use them.
And of your history and friendship with Dave DesRoches, what can you tell me about him?
Back in 1970’s Hamilton (seems EVERYTHING leads back to Hamilton sooner or later), my Loved Ones band was always being compared to Dave's band, The Shakers; both being very Dave Edmunds/Nick Lowe-based, or "Power Pop" as they call it today. Soon Dave had joined Teenage Head, but we ran into each other in New York in the winter of 1988 and exchanged phone numbers. Dave mentioned he'd been writing this big song-cycle suite which he didn't think would be at all suitable for the Head. I asked to hear it. He gave me his little boom-box vocal and guitar recording of the song, which I duly overdubbed extra guitar, keyboard, and MANY vocals onto in my studio. When I gave the cassette back to Dave, he called and said, "We're going into Grant Avenue Studio on Sunday morning to record." "With who?" I asked. "Just you and me," Dave replied. "Who's gonna produce?" I asked. "You are," was Dave's answer. Just a few sessions later, Dave's epic Farmer Needs Rain was totally "in the can" as they say in the record biz. Turns out Dave had THREE 90-minute cassettes full of other such unheard songs, eleven of which ultimately became the Valentino's Pirates album. In the middle of all this we made an unexpected move to New York City, and one night a curious man who identified himself as a Russian rep from Melodiya Records saw us playing a small gig in Greenwich Village. He invited us to his office (which turned out to be a pawn shop on East 14th St). Because his "lawyer" couldn't understand English, Valentino's Pirates became the first original Western release ever exclusively signed to the official Soviet State recording conglomerate! Now by then we'd put together a band called The Dave Rave Conspiracy so we could play this material live, but Melodiya (with the Soviet Union crumbling at that time) refused to have anything whatsoever to do with the word "conspiracy." So they called us The Dave Rave Group on the album cover. Melodiya, and the USSR itself, is long gone now (Melodiya were actually using their pressing plants to manufacture cheese the last I heard), but the "Valentino's" album lives on, continues to make new friends, and I still play, write and record with Dave wherever and whenever possible, including on his grand new Bongo Beat CD “Live With What You Know”.
In California, you put a band together called The Loved Ones and started recording demos that actually made it all the way to L.A. and the legendary Rodney “Mayor Of The Sunset Strip” Bingenheimer’s radio program at KROQ. Tell me something about the Loved Ones and Rodney.
The Loved Ones began life, as so many things did, in my parents' Port Credit basement during the mid-1970s. Like most things Pig, my Loved Ones were simply a reaction to the stale and utter predictability of pop(ular) culture back in those long dark days of “Frampton Comes Alive.” So here's the story, as the Bradys would sing: After running away from York University to "tour" Newfoundland with my good pal Roy and his band The Specs in the summer of '76, I decided to form my very own "rockin' little teen combo," as Frank Zappa would call it. Which of course meant moving to Hamilton, Ontario, where all the best Canadian musicians still come from. I soon found a former Teenage Head, a future Diode, grabbed Roy, and off we went to Huntington Beach, California in search of Jan & Dean, amongst other things. I eventually got in touch with Dean's people and was asked to tour Australia as J&D’s bass player, but not only didn't I have my bass with me, I didn't have my passport. Nevertheless, I duly put a new Surf City-version Loved Ones together, kicked everyone out of our band house, and turned the living room into a cool little demo studio and got straight to play... I mean, work. I’d already connected with Rodney years earlier via The Pig Paper, so it was simply a matter of sending him some of my tapes with "Hey, remember me? It's Gary Pig! I'm living down the coast from you now! Wanna listen to my music?" written on the outside of the package. Not only did he listen, he started playing the tunes over his sacred KROQ air! That was several dreams come true for a rockin' little teen like me. And it was also proof that musicians need true, good people like Rodney. Unfortunately, there just aren't many left.
|The Loved Ones (Gary Gold, bottom right), on the stairs of the Beverley Tavern in Toronto, 1978.|
Actually, it was after the California period that I ended up in Vancouver, (a fantastic city, by the way) to play in my pal Robin Stanley's band Fun With Numbers and put out a few more Pig Papers. I night-managed the local 7-11 for a few months which came in handy in oh so many ways ... not only for the free ham and cheese subs (a priority with ALL self-respecting, self-providing musicians), but being alone between the hours of midnight and 4am, I turned that store into my very own Left Coast office and rehearsal space. Using the phones to look for gigs and interview potential Loved Ones; using the cereal aisle to audition guitarists and the space behind the freezers to store gear and equipment. And as a certified CanCon sidebar, Brian "Too Loud" MacLeod lived right around the corner, and was an often most-willing accomplice in all these shenanigans. I think he was still in the Headpins around this time.
(laughs) In the 90s, you moved to NYC and lived in an illegal sublet on Manhattan's East Side while playing the coffeehouses of Greenwich Village. Did the gigs pay the rent? Did you have enough left over for cereal? What memories immediately spring to mind when you think of those days?
During the summer of '89 I was still in pre-production at Grant Avenue Studio in Hamilton on Dave's Valentino's Pirates album when we decided to attend the New Music Seminar in NYC. A friend, that same Floridian who's threatening to re-release the 62,000 Pizza Tapes, tracked me down wondering if we knew anyone who'd take over an apartment on the Upper East Side. I turned to Dave and said, "Would you like to move to New York?" He asked "When?" I said "Oh, in a few weeks I guess." Gawd bless Dave for taking only twelve seconds to reply "Sure!" The apartment turned out to be absolutely luxurious, fully furnished and equipped with a professional cassette dubbing deck on the premises! This was turning out to be nearly as handy as the 7-11! Even luckier, the rent was cheap, DIRT cheap, even by New York City standards. So, you bet, lots of money was left over for breakfast. I remember buying one of the first packages of Batman Cereal, complete with a cool hologram on the box-front.
(laughs) Currently living in Hoboken, New Jersey, do you really live down the street from where Frank Sinatra was born?
Up the hill, actually. The day he died, I remember watching the CNN crew filming people building a shrine of empty whiskey bottles and cigars on Frankie’s driveway. Hoboken truly is the Hamilton of the USA.
(laughs) I’m a big fan of Sinatra... what do you have to say about him and the Rat Pack?
I'd say they were the first punk rockers …only with better clothes and MUCH better record deals!
|Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, New Zealand 45, 1996.|
I once rushed home, in the snow, after shopping for the first Ginger Baker album, just so I wouldn't miss those bikini'd Bradys when they visited Hawaii on ABC. Marcia Marcia Marcia was indeed written for that second Brady Bunch movie, but someone must have paid too close attention to the lyrics because I got bumped in favor of Zsa Zsa Gabor. Or was it Davy Jones? Never fear, Marcia was duly recorded by my severely alt. C&W band, the Ghost Rockets instead. It was featured as an International Country Pop Crossover track on the Roto Noto Music "Total Fun" CD in O Canada …and in New Zealand on a clear-vinyl 45! I'm still wondering if all this, plus getting a ton of airplay in Holland, officially qualifies Marcia Marcia Marica as "world music." P.S.: and I later made a record for a French label that was produced by none other than Cousin Oliver. So you see, there is NO escaping the Bradys!
(laughs) My first concert was the Bay City Rollers, even though I told everyone it was Rush. I hear you took part in a BCR tribute album called Men in Plaid. Were you a fan, like me, dressed in Roller gear back in the 70s?
I'm afraid I was busy listening (and dressing) to the Ramones, not Rush, when the Rollers first hit 1050 CHUM. Interestingly enough though, Joey Ramone once told me that the "D-U-M-B" in Pinhead was actually based on "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night"! That said, I never tire of playing with the Rollers' original British multiple-foldout “Once Upon A Star” album cover. And I always thought Rock and Roll Love Letter would've made a great single for the Who. Pete never returned my calls, so I did the next best thing and recorded my own version with New Jersey's Grip Weeds. THAT came out on a French 45 too!
(laughs) When did you first get involved with David Bash and the International Pop Overthrow?
David and I have mutual pals scattered throughout the international pop underground. But I believe it was Chris Breetveld of the (in)famous Breetles band who first connected us, "all those years ago”. David called me up one momentous afternoon to talk about Pagliaro and the Flamin' Groovies, and duly invited myself and Shane Faubert to Los Angeles to play at the very first IPO Festival in 1999. Not only did we perform, ending up on stage with the Breetles, Mark Johnson, Dave Rave, and a Who-Really-Is-Who-of-the-Power-Pop scene, but later, we caught the debut performance of the fabulous Masticators. Shane and I liked them so much that we started up a record label, To M'Lou Music, so we could release their material! Meanwhile, just this past November, Shane, Jeremy Lee of the Cheepskates and I performed as The Next Big Thing at the 10th annual IPO in New York City, where we actually made up a song, on stage, as part of our set. If you'd like to witness this marvellous musical act of creation, captured via someone's trusty cell phone camera, go straight to YouTube and type in Don't Drink The Water + Next Big Thing.
|The Pig Paper, 1978.|
Mongrel is a fine, fun and info-packed publication lovingly edited, designed, photocopied, folded, and stapled by Janelle Hollyrock and Bob Scott right out of Vancouver, B.C. It really is the Century 21 equivalent of Kicks, Next Big Thing, and other such trend-setting socio-musical fanzines of the 70s and 80s. That, plus the fact that they're pals with none other than Nardwuar, the Human Serviette meant that it’s precisely the perfect place not only for my thirty-year-plus syndicated Pigshit column, but for my own particular brand of self-made, self-recorded Pig Pop as well (one of my very first Port Credit basement recordings has just been released on a Mongrel CD!). Meanwhile, my syndicated-all-over-the-darn-place Pigshit column can still be found and read in various places any day of the week, here there and anywhere, all over the www. Also, The Pig Paper, having just celebrated its 36th (!!) anniversary, has just been added and featured at the great ZineWiki site, plus all the back issues have been assembled and are even available for download at the Internet Archive. So now you don’t have to mortgage your garage bidding for those old issues on eBay.
(laughs) Any other current activities to end off with?
Well, I was just asked to be a part of a big new Dylan book in England, which is gathering together all the best stories written on and about the man over the past half century. Plus I now have a very fine new pick-up system installed in my trusty old acoustic guitar… no more running it through cassette decks any more! The long-awaited Simply Saucer documentary is finally nearing completion too, so for everyone who loved me in the “Jandek On Corwood” film, stay tuned! And there’s even word that a Gala Anniversary “Valentino’s Pirates” album and maybe even a tour is on its way. So much music; so little time! I guess I’m just lucky that, after all these years, my full-time hobby still keeps me too busy to get a “real” job.
Gary Pig Gold
All photos courtesy of Gary Gold.