Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Music of Tumblin' Dice

It's a novel with a rock band as the main characters, so yeah, there's a lot of music references in Tumblin' Dice.

The song above is As the Years Go By by Montreal's own Mashmakhan and the mention in the novel is this:

On the bus, waiting hours to cross the bridge back into Canada from Buffalo, Cliff actually sat down beside Ritchie and said, why don’t we put the guitar solo back into “As Years Go By”? Ritchie said, “You serious?” and Cliff said sure, “Why not. The way it should’ve been.”

You'll notice right away I screwed up the title, leaving out the the. But I wanted to have Mashmakhan in the book. As the Years Go By is the only song of theirs to have really survived and it makes them seem like pop band but the rest of their music was a lot more psychadelic. They were, afterall, named for a kind of hash that was popular in Montreal in the late 60s.

The fictional band in Tumblin' Dice is called The High and they had some minor hits in the late 70s and early 80s but then, well, here's what it says in the book:

Back in ’84–’85, towards the end of the High, instead of going hair metal and Poison and Cinderella, they’d gone keyboards and tried to hang on to the pop charts. Ritchie hated it, didn’t care that Van Halen was Jumping or the Stones had gone Undercover of the Night or Rod Stewart had his Infatuation, he just wanted to play guitar.

Another Montreal musician I wanted to have in the book is Michel Pagliaro.

Pagliaro wrote and recorded songs in both English and French and had a few big hits in the seventies. I wish he'd tour with Ringo Starr's All Star Band or something like that, it would be great to see him live again.

One Canadian band that's not mentioned in Tumblin' Dice is Max Webster.

I first saw Max Webster live at the Montreal Forum with RUSH, must have been '77 (now thanks to the magic of Google I can just look it up and see that it was, in fact, March 31st 1977) and at the time the Frank Zappa fans I was with were really there to see Max Webster. Today the lead guitarist and vocalist from Max Webster, Kim Mitchell, is the afternoon DJ on Q107 here in Toronto.

Max Webster isn't mentioned in the book because it's The High that toured so much in the late '70s with RUSH.

Made him think of that line, Geddy screaming it out. Shit, Rush, those guys still getting along, still having fun. Shit, playing high schools from St. Catharines to Oshawa, the High and Rush in the ’70s.

That line, something about if you choose not to decide you’ve still made a choice.

Ritchie laughed, thinking only fucking Neil Peart could make a rock’n’roll lyric out of that and only Gary Lee Weinrib could sing shit like that and get twenty thousand people singing along.

After that it's pretty much all American and British music.


Peter Rozovsky said...

This has me thinking back to when I saw Chuck Berry with Offenbach as his backing band, and Chuck Berry walked out after about ten minutes and didn’t come back, so Offenbach played the rest of the show themselves.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

John McFetridge said...

Bruce Springsteen wrote a funny introduction to a Chuck Berry biography and talked about being hired to open for Chuck and finding out at the last minute that also meant being the backing band. When Springsteen complained they wouldn't have anyntime to rehearse, Chuck said, "We're going to play old Chuck Berry songs, everybody knows them."

It's possible that Offenbach may have had somewhat different musical roots. I bet that woildn't have happened with the Ville Emard Blues Band.

Peter Rozovsky said...

What would the Ville Emard Blues Band have done?

Man, this is a fun nostalgia trip, reading the names of these bands' lineups: funny French names, funnier English ones, none of it part and parcel of Cote St, Luc life except for the bits we gleaned from the radio.

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