When Heroes Die ~ David Bowie (January 8, 1947 – January 10, 2016)

Admittedly, I am adding my voice a bit late to the millions of others expressing shock and grief over the death of David Bowie (nee David Robert Jones) on January 10. My reasons include the inability to come to grips with my emotions and to make sense of the flood of confusion and depression that has washed over me, the likes of which I haven’t felt since losing Daniel, my beloved husband, over 3 years ago.david-bowie-174

There have been sad, hateful people who have belittled those of us in the throes of grief, not understanding the powerful hold this man held over us, and the positive influence he brought to lives wracked with hopelessness and despair. I feel sorry for those wastes of space and oxygen, for they will never know the joy that a lyric, the bend of a note, the croon of a voice, the sight of magnificent oddity can bring, when all a lost soul is looking for is some light toward which to travel with hopeful anticipation.

400full-david-bowieMy own story involves musical salvation from the darkest period of my life that included an inexplicable and debilitating addiction born of self-loathing. Something in Bowie’s music hit me at a time (late 70s/early 80s) when I could very easily have checked out on life in a drug-induced haze of oblivion. It spoke volumes to a lost soul who felt very different in an uncaring world. Suddenly, “different” was OK–acceptable and cool, even–and the earth shifted back on its axis, instead of tumbling haphazardly toward reckless destruction.

David Bowie taught me to have the courage to face down my demons, much as he had accomplished with his move to Berlin. He held my fragile psyche in his arms night after night, as I fell asleep in huge headphones, plugged into the stereo piled high with his vinyl platters, lulling me into fitful sleep and the healing needed to get back on track. His words lifted me, his music inspired me, and his lion-like courage was the model that I used to find my own way back to a world that no longer seemed as cold and full of rejection as I had once perceived it to be. I felt validated, renewed, and determined.

Mr. Bowie gave me back my life. And Daniel, when I met him years later, continued to anchor me and gently guide me along all the right paths. How can one damaged-yet-renewed soul thank another soul for a second chance? I’ve never felt that I adequately thanked either one of these brave and brilliant men during this physical phase of existence, but I hope to have another chance when I, too, begin life among the stars.david-bowie-2013-superpride

Rest in peace, David Robert Jones Bowie (and Daniel, my true love). You’ve both earned your wings and the opportunity to shine your love radiantly, beautifully, and eternally upon us all as we somehow attempt to navigate the rough seas of life without your physical presence. Every tear we cry waters the tree of your memory. Long may it grow tall and strong, sheltering us all with branches made of the endless beauty and joy you gave to the world.

80’s (and sometimes 70’s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ ARSON

Photo by Santiago

 Over the past few months here on Rave and Roll, you have read about the criminally underrated group Vis-A-Vis, and lead singer Rude van Steenes (“Angelic Voices Part II”). Today, it’s my pleasure to bring you an additional piece of related history: ARSON. Deep gratitude to Rude van Steenes who graciously allowed me to use the biographical information that he provided, much of it in his own words.   

ARSON began its foray into the Toronto (and beyond) punk scene in the summer of 1977. Drummer/vocalist/composer Rude van Steenes morphed into Rudi Tuesdai and, along with an eclectic mix of acquaintances, recorded an original french punk song he wrote called “je tenais” (I’m fed up). Recorded live onto a TEAC 4-track reel-to-reel, the song was a spare mix of guitar, drums, bass, and vocals reminiscent of one of Tuesdai’s early influences, the MC5. Unfortunately, a self-proclaimed“manager,” claiming to have contacts, took the master tape presumably to make dubs to shop around, and promptly vanished.   

Shortly after, Tuesdai had the good fortune to meet up with Marcel La Fleur. The match produced lyrics by Tuesdai, music by LaFleur, and a friendship that would last more than 30 years. They picked up bassist Crazy Alex and a drummer named Gary and began rehearsing in the back of a junk shop/former theatre (The Rose) on Queen and Bathurst, Toronto that had burned out long ago. It was dirty and dark with two light bulbs hanging on frayed wires from the ceiling, but it provided then with the necessary and vital place to hone their craft.   

Late Spring of ‘78 saw their first live show guesting at the local start-up for most bands called The Turning Point. That was followed by opening stints for The Ugly and later, The Viletones. At that particular show, ARSON played with such intensity, the capacity crowd gave them 3 rousing encores. Two weeks later, the Garys offered them The Dead Boys shows at The Horseshoe along with friends, The Demics, from London.   

During that period, ARSON shows consisted of 12 original songs and a few select covers, with their opening signature being The Stooges’ Raw Power. ARSON material was socially motivated and influenced by the likes of American forerunners The MC5, The Stooges, Velvet Underground/Lou Reed, New York Dolls, Television, Richard Hell, etc., and from overseas, early versions of The Animals, Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Vibrators, John Cooper-Clarke, The Stranglers, The Cure, and Chris Spedding. Other covers ARSON performed live were The Animals’ We Gotta Get Out of This Place, The Kingsmen’s Louie, Louie, and The Dolls’ Vietnamese Babies.   

 The band toured successfully and encountered a few personnel changes over the next couple of years. Van Steenes recounts the following:   

 The Chicago dates were another turning point for ARSON where the inspiration for the song ‘COHO COHO’ was born. In the words of ‘Shades’ writer, John Hamilton;   

 ‘It was at Mother’s in Chicago that the band took the stage to cries of what they thought were “GO HOME, GO HOME”. What didn’t fit was the cheering and applause after every song. Later on they discovered it wasn’t “GO HOME” but, “COHO” the crowd of rabid maniacs was screaming.    

 COHO, for the uninitiated, is a group of anti-disco fanatics in the mid-west. Led by head loon D.J. Steve Dahl of WLUP radio in Chicago, they’ve begun an all out war on Disco. ARSON was so affected by the meeting, they’ve produced a single, ‘COHO, COHO’, which would become the anthem for the emerging army.’    

 ARSON was gaining serious traction in America, actually breaking even or better, and promoting/booking themselves at sold-out venues as they went along.This was amazing for a band with no financial backing or a recording contract.   

 ARSON recording their first single Livin’ With The White Folks B/W Coho COHO at Cottingham Sound in Toronto, in the Fall of ’79. They self-produced and financed approximately 1,000 copies which promptly sold out. A mini-tour followed with dates in Toronto (Rock Palace) and a 10 day promotional jaunt to New York City where the band played dates at Max’s Kansas City, Stickball, and Club 88, as well as being guests of The Plasmatics at a Long Island gig on Halloween. Return dates in Toronto at ‘The Horseshoe’, ‘Hotel Isabella’ and ‘Larry’s Hideaway’ to promote the single’s release followed before the band decided to take a well-deserved break.   

 In 1980, ARSON continued to make the rounds at various local clubs before going back into the studio to record a cover of The Animals song, We Gotta Get Out of This Place for the No Pedestrians compilation on Chameleon Records. The album was released in July and was critically acclaimed as one of the best compilation albums highlighting the ‘new’ music. Unfortunately for this version of ARSON, undoubtedly the best, this would be the end of a successful run.   

Over the years that followed, both Rude and Marcel pursued different projects. Their paths crossed sporadically which would include some creative collaboration and putting ideas on tape. Recently, they have been writing and arranging the old and the new for both recording and performing projects. The result: be sure to watch for a return of ARSON, better than ever. Rude van Steenes reports:   

 We’ve been working on arrangements and new material for a while now. Everything is moving nicely through the planning stages and everything sounds fresh and alive. The best part of our writing and friendship is that we’re like two kids getting excited and having fun being creative!    

 ARSON was a special project for me as it was my first foray into lead vocals and being stage front as opposed to hiding behind a drum kit, my first instrument. For Marcel, it was his very first real band.   

Lucky for fans of the original punk and post-punk scenes, ARSON is rising from the embers that never stopped glowing. For more information, and to listen to some great tracks, check them out here.  Also, contact Rude van Steenes via Facebook here.