Saturday, January 23, 2010

Still Twisting - Chubby Checker & the Wildcats

In 1959 Hank Ballard and the Midnighters released a twelve bar blues song called the “The Twist”. It peaked at 28 with a moderate success. One year later in September of ’60 the song would rocket to the top of the charts and claim the number one spot when covered by an up-and-coming rock n roll sensation Chubby Checker. The song was so popular that it would show up again and top the charts in January of ’62.

The Twist was a hit song that would go on to be recorded under multiple different titles such as 1982’s T-82 and be recorded in different variations such as "Let's Twist Again (Like We Did Last Summer)" which is arguably more popular than the original.

I jumped at the chance to go to this show when I was given the opportunity. I love this golden age of rock n roll. I have often found myself telling people I wish I was in my early 20’s during the late 50’s or early 60’s. Music was racy, fun, new and it was an product of a simpler time. As a young boy I was fascinated by this style of music… the blueprint of rock n roll. Dad always had 620 oldies radio on when ever there was a radio in use, so I was quite familiar. I have always enjoyed watching that old footage of those days. Often times I felt as though that the footage and music was as close as I was ever going to get to it. Buddy Holly is my all time hero and I love early Elvis Presley. This is why I didn’t blink when the opportunity arose. This is as close as I am ever probably going to get to see that generation live. Although I would love to see Chuck Berry, he’s 83 years young and I may not ever get to live that dream. I remember wearing out Mom and Dad’s Chubby Checker cassette, so last night I was ready. Bring on Chubby!! This is funny for more than one reason.

JJ Ramone, his folks and I got to Casino Regina early so we could have a bite to eat before the show. I could only try to keep the excitement in as my thoughts ran rampant of what to expect out of last nights show. All day I had had three words in my head "Come on everybody!" and it was starting to drive me crazy as the anticipation was killing me. A little after 7pm they opened the doors and we got settled at our front row table and had a couple drinks before the 8pm show time. As the show started, there was a large screen showing a video of 19yr old Chubby Checker doing his twist. When this was done that Wildcats would hit the stage and directly after a 68 years young Chubby Checker. He and the band wasted no time getting to it with opening song "Good Lovin'". The band sounded huge as did Chubby’s voice. What I did not understand was how this man could be in such great shape. He could really move.

About three songs in he began to tell us how he loves coming to The Great White North. Chubby advised that he noticed a couple years ago that when ever he plays here us Canadians take 15% of everything he makes while here. He chuckled and mentioned that it was okay as long as he got to spend his time with us people. You could tell he was really appreciative and loved doing this. He’d also shared stories about a simpler time on his parent’s tobacco/sugar cane farm and that he could make syrup. He said it was around this time when he was young that his mother took him to see Ernest Tubb and that was when he turned to his mother with a smile on his face and said “I want to do that!”

The show would go on and when he got to his song “The Fly” he asked all the ladies to come up on stage. I have never seen so much blue hair in my life. These ladies were having a wonderful time to doing the Fly with Chubby Checker.

Shortly after Chubby would explain how that in the 60’s you could only do the dance “The Hucklebuck” in your bedroom to the radio as it was too nasty. Well now it’s 2010 he said and everything is nasty, so we are going to do the Hucklebuck to the song of the same name. People are smiling everywhere when Chubby does his hip gyrating ass shaking hucklebuck.

When it was time to do the twist and all the gentlemen in the crowd got up on stage to do the dance with the legend. JJ got up with about fifteen other men and twisted it up! I couldn’t as I probably would have fainted. This for me was the equivalent of my hockey addicted brother scrimmaging with Gordie Howe. It was insane I could not believe I was there.

Chubby would also do an Elvis impersonation and tell stories of hanging out with the King, Linda Lovelace and Liza Minnelli. How he had wanted to ask Linda how she “did her thing” and while Elvis would try and discourage him, he asked Linda how she “did her thing” anyway.

Chubby’s band the Wildcats were exceptional the whole time. Jerry Cherry the young guitar player was awesome and so were his background vocals. Saxophone player and band leader Tommy C was brilliant and really kept both the crowd and band on their toes. The band was very reminiscent of the E Street Band, they had that vibe of camaraderie. The hour and ½ set was full of Chubby Checker hits like “The Fly”, “The Hucklebuck” and “The Twist” as well as hits by other icons of the time. We heard covers like “Blueberry Hill”, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “My Girl. We also got to hear medleys of “Rock Around The Clock” and “Blue Suede Shoes”. The show ended with an electric "Let's Twist Again" encore and electric it was!

On two separate occasions Chubby was mingling with the crowd, very exciting! He wandered through the crowd, singing and shaking hands. When he got to me he did put out his hand and then smiled and pulled it away and bumped my knee with his. Chubby Checker just more or less joked with me in a way. This was great.

By the end of the night my cheeks hurt from smiling. At times my eyes started to well up as I was that excited to be there. Lastly, the next time someone asks my about my skinny jeans, don’t be shocked if my response is “!@#$ you, Chubby Checker wears skinny jeans!”

This was the show of my life. Thank you Chubby!

Cheers Rockers!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Home - Neil Leyton

Cover photo by Ana Isa.

In September of last year Neil Leyton released "Home", ten tracks for digital download made available via his website Without waiting a second I paid the $8.58 Canadian without previewing it to get the record. You can pay what you like but there is a minimum of ₤5. I should have paid more. The reason so is because I should have known I would like it. I love Neil's old band The Conscience Pilate (of which I would love to know how to pronounce). See I found them when I got interested in Canadian glam rockers Robin Black and the Intergalactic Rockstars. Two members of The Conscience Pilate helped form Robin. I have spent countless hours listening to “Living in a Movie Scene” (1996) and “Sunday Refugees” (1998). While Robin has produced probably my favorite band/personalities and records to ever come out of Canada, The Conscience Pilate easily produced the best songs to come out of Canada.

Anyway Neil Leyton is a Canadian singer and guitarist that has worked with several bands in and out of the studio as well as his own projects and bands. He has kept himself busy releasing solo records and writing for the last fifteen years or so.

His newest record "Home" is for me, a stripped down version of The Conscience Pilate. It's less glam and more singer/song writer. Neil’s voice has still has that neo-glam yet wistful sound. It's catchy and seductive like The Manics meet Seude.

The record starts off with the super catchy "God Speed to You". "Slow To Dark" is okay but seems to grow on me the more I listen to it. On "The World" I am kind of distracted by the production quality but am drawn right back in with "I Don’t Want to Fear the Future". What I like about this song is the how the guitar reminds me of 1980's country like Alabama's "Dixieland Delight" but still has an eloquent voice. "Second" takes me right back to C.P. which again I adore. Euthanasia (Our Love) is a relaxing lament, while I get lost on "To Have To Be" and "Sorrow Is Not The Answer". "Ordinary Matter" is a damaged art sing a long. It sputters along in an indie rock tone that once again has catchy hooks. Blossom is not only the final track on the record but it's your last chance to slow dance. This is by far the best slower track on the record.

Overall I really enjoy this record. Maybe I expected too much from ten tracks that are admittedly a home recorded collection. Although it cannot compete with the Neil's old band as I don’t know that anything ever will this is not a slight as it is a really great listen in its own right. They are definitely enjoyable well written songs that are way better than 90% of the music on the radio.

If I rated this record it would be 3.5 stars out of 5, almost 4. But don't take my word for it buy the record.

Preview the album here:

NOT from this record but I always like to include a video for those who are visually stimulated.

Here his Neil Leyton from 2001 "My New Soul"

Cheers Rockers!!