Bob Segarini has been called "Canada's Nick Lowe"; the honorariums don't come much higher. In some circles that might mean no more than being the best hockey player in Argentina. In my circles it means the guy is worth a listen.
The comparison comes from the close proximity, and similar successes, of their two seminal records: Bob Segarini’s Gotta Have Pop and Nick Lowe’s Pure Pop for Now People. (Lowe’s album was released as "Jesus of Cool" in the UK/Europe but in America, even in the ‘80’s, that was thought a little too irreverant.) The albums are amazingly similar in that they contain a bunch of 2 minute 30 seconds pop songs that will never leave your head. And speaking of head, the 2:30 pop song is something else that has not been substantially altered or improved since it’s invention.
2006 has been a year of retro music, where I've seen everyone from Alice Cooper to The Buzzcocks to BB King to Charlatans UK, and that’s only the front end of the alphabet. I scour the upcoming listings at the Cadillac Lounge periodically in order to make sure I don’t miss the next Robert Gordon show. Segarini has taken up residence as the Wednesday night house band. Prior commitments, general laziness and a substance abuse problem prevented me from catching the first two weeks but I managed to drag myself, and Cece, downtown this week. Another chance to pay respects to one of the many artists who have made this soundtrack that accompanies our life a little more interesting.
Bucking the trend to head west in the mid to late ‘60’s Segarini came to Toronto from California. He found himself surrounded by some friends and other artists who represented the best of CanRock; members of April Wine and Mashmakhan. (April Wine preceeded Rush in getting some international acclaim; had a big hit with Could Have Been A Lady. Mashmakhan’s flame didn’t burn as long or as strong but they hit the airwaves with the classic tune, As Years Go By AND were on that Festival Express train with the Dead, Joplin and the Band. For much more on the heroes of Sirius Radio 95 When I mentioned I was listening to a copy of a 1979 Much Music show that I’d received in a trade, Segarini relays that the show is being reissued, on DVD. I believe he said Gotta Have Pop is also being put out, or a ‘greatest hits’ type package, and he is embarking on a tour in the Sping of ’07 to support those projects. These Wednesday sets, as long as they last through the fall and winter, are the ‘rehearsals’. They are not playing on the 27th but it looks like every Wednesday in October so far.
Check the calendar at Cadillac Lounge.
Don’t dare miss it!
The bar is a little crowded when we arrive and raucously loud. That will all change before the show as one table was celebrating their new ring tone downloads and the other was too drunk to possibly last another hour. Band members start to arrive and plug in their various instruments and run a rudimentary sound check aided by Valerie Shearman, widow of Buzz Shearman of Moxy, yet another pivotal local band who carved a niche in the local, and extended Canadian, scene. The balance gets a bit skewed when the two ‘party tables’ have left and the 10 band members have set up. Not many left in the audience for this mid-week, unannounced, no cover, freebie. That’s ok, other people ‘getting it’ has never been a big part of the package for me…I mean, I’ve been a Dylan fan for over 30 years now.
Segarini and support vocalist Jay Dunlap are both under the weather tonight. Some type of bronchial infection or something Courtney Love is passing around. Show opens with a disclaimer…or two, since this is still ostensibly rehearsal time. It’s nice of them to let us in to watch. Bob has promised his friend will pick it up for him. Actually, considering the purpose and the price of this evening’s set it shows some respect for the art that they are out here giving what they have to offer. Everybody seems animated, especially Annette, one of a bevy of beauties adorning the stage. The beauties you can tell because they have change and places to put it.
Soon enough we are into a live presentation of … gotta have funk! A little Tom Waits meets George Clinton as the 10 man band warms up with some bluesy tunes, well suited to a gruff voice.
First song out of the gate is … unknown, a blues song with country overtones (“lost all my money, lost my woman, and my dog don’t run no more”), an easy, rambling tune to loosen the vocal chords. One thing’s for sure, they don’t want Mr Hard Time knockin’ round their door. That ain’t a bad way to start the night.
We step back in time (a theme we’ll develop more throughout the evening) for a Wackers song. Teenage Love opens with an extended instrumental solo and faux-applause from the audience at the break. The Wackers were Segarini’s third band, played together from 1970-1973 but Bob references them a lot. Everybody’s got that place where the needle sticks.
Ahhh, now we’re into a little ‘chuck-berry-cum-t-rex’ stuff in Rock N Roll Circus as Bob remembers his time with Roxy (1968-1970). This could have been done by Lighthouse too, if they had chicks. Did they have chicks? It was hard to tell with all that hair.
Bring it on, dude! Gotta Have Pop. If it’s ever been said better, it hasn’t been said more succinctly. Now the voice is having a little trouble but the heart is committed. “I remember when I was a boy….”, “none of it seems to make too much sense, it’s a synthesized mess!” “I love the Beatles up to Sgt. Pepper…” (don’t believe that), “I gotta have pop!, don’t let it stop!” If there’s anything simpler than a pop song, there’s nothing more beautiful than that simplicity.
Bob’s talking from the stage now and he’s a salty bastard. We get a little bit of everything from him, ranging from almost telling the couple at the back to ‘get a room’, to dedications. Some stuff about the travails of being sick that I’d best not relate. Bit of a stand-up comic hidden inside this DJ/song writer. I’d tell him to stick with the day job but I can’t tell what that is. A Renaissance man for the Boomer Generation.
Another Wackers tune in Hey Lawdy Lawdy before Bob breaks to introduce half the band members and hand out a printout with the other half to save on time. The first of many guest appearances and friends in the guise of Jade Dunlop (some people call her ‘Pie’ but we’re nowhere near that familiar). She drops a little Ronettes on us in the form of Be My Baby. Jade’s struggling with the same cold and I got no idea how that happened. Didn’t hurt her much on this song, sounded just right from where I was sitting.
Local RnB artist Max Brand had walked into the club a few minutes before and Bob invites him up for a couple songs. Quite the treat, I mean this stuff is unrehearsed but that’s a big part of the ‘fun factor’. He rips off a cover of Route 66 and picks the Jack Scott classic (recently performed at this very spot by Robert Gordon), The Way I Walk. The band huddles for a quick lesson in chords and anchored by veteran Segarini guitarist, Peter Kashur, they pull off a decent version.
Bob’s back chattin’ and drops another unfamiliar song that might have been called I Want You To Stay before the band breaks for a drink and breath of fresh air, or joint, I didn’t follow them.
Set 2 opens with more talk from the very accessible Bob Segarini before he launches into Money In the Pocket from 1981’s Vox Populi. Bob relinquishes the stage once again, this time to the three diva’s. We open their mini-set with the insipid Doobie Brothers song, Listen to the Music. That’s as bad as it gets all night though as Doc Ingles comes out from behind the keyboard to deliver a raucous version of Suite’s Ballroom Blitz. Dedicated to ‘yours truly’ by Peter Kashur. How’d they know Jack White’s my second favorite performer? Staying with the ‘screamo themeo’ the girls are back to deliver a blistering rendition of AC/DC’s All Night Long, sans the shorts but I don’t doubt their word.
Still more friends in the house. Valerie Shearman, who’s been helping with the sound, takes the stage for a mini-set consisting of the great House of the Rising Sun, Leaving On A Jet Plane (reminds me of acid, strobe lights and Galt Ave, don’t ask) and some raunch, assisted by the girls, in Mustang Sally. Oh ya, ride. We continue to highlight the girls as Yvonne does Mick…well, sorta, she covers Beast of Burden and I’m beginning to wonder if these girls are sending a message. The always smiling Annette closes this segment with Hot Child In the City, not doing anything to get my mind off the raunch.
Segarini’s back with another Gotta Have Pop staple in the ‘emo-before-it’s-time’, I Don’t Want To Lose You, followed by a cover of the Doors, People Are Strange.
We’re getting heavy on the classic album stuff now, which is great. Bob rolls out I’m Afraid of the Ocean, a fun little ditty about international air travel in the times when you’re only concern was wondering why the pilot was walking by wearing a parachute. Good songs don’t need heavy themes. Some nimble word play in this song.
Prom song #1, Don’t Believe A Word I Say. A gut-busting look at faking sincerity. More Grade A writing, excellent pacing and a cautionary tale for all our daughters. This closes the set and what I thought would be a quick 1 and a half set is turning into a marathon and I’m wishing it wouldn’t end, just keep on jammin’.
Valerie Shearman is back to open the third set with a couple jazzy numbers in What A Wonderful World and a cover of Patsy Cline’s Crazy. She’s invited another guest onto the stage and Sebastian Agnello tries out a couple new songs, Me & God followed by Quasi Love Song. This has shaped up to be quite a walk down memory lane for aficiando’s of Toronto’s music scene…circa 1965-1985 anyway.
Bob’s back with an unrecognizable country tune then into Gotta Have Pop for When the Lights are out before he closes with Goodbye LA and the closest we’re going to get to anthemic tonight, Juvenile Delinquent.
You’d be hard-pressed to get more bang for the buck than wandering into the Cadillac Lounge any Wednesday night in October to catch this band.