Alan Neal from CBC Radio One‘s All In A Day in Ottawa is celebrating the fact its been 30 years since Video Hits hit the air. Who remembers Samantha Taylor? We sure do! Alan asked my thoughts on Scandal’s ‘The Warrior’ which is my pick from the first videos that aired in that first month, October 1984.
I have a love/hate relationship with 80s videos mostly because they rarely made sense. Directors hadn’t grasped the art of the medium yet, nor did they understand how to manage a ‘story’ in 3 minutes (some would argue most still can’t, but that’s for another discussion).
Our first sighting and introduction to ‘The Warrior’!
Most importantly though, you also have to understand: it didn’t matter in those days. People were so enamoured with watching their favourite bands perform hit songs – actually SEEING these people in action – no one cared how bad the video or story or dancing was (and that is probably why we eventually got backlash videos like this, arguably one of the greatest of all time, 5 years later).
This particular 80s ‘classic’ always makes me itchy because my earliest memory of it is walking through a huge cornfield, picking corn as a summer job when I was 14. The leaves from the 8 foot high corn stalks would brush against my bare shins and leave huge welts on my skin. The soundtrack to this sweaty, miserable existence was, among other classics of the era, Scandal’s ‘The Warrior’:
Watch it and read on!
Yikes. That’s one seriously exaggerated evil claw scratch to start this video. The drama!
I love how the singer’s ‘Whoooooooa’ as a result of that scratch goes on for about 9 seconds. By 18 seconds in, we’re finally off and running with this video. That’s the equivalent of 3 whole Vine videos. Also, an eternity compared to the length of today’s attention spans.
The epic, opening ‘Whooooooa’
Though the song plays in my jukebox brain often, I have to admit I didn’t remember this video.
As such, I immediately had to ask myself if it was a coincidence that Cirque Du Soleil started around this time. This dancing is what I would imagine an early concept for the now illustrious circus enterprise might have looked like in demo form.
Ode to the production of Cats, Dancing with Ropes or early Cirque Du Soleil demo?
So if the singer, Patty Smyth (please don’t confuse with Patti Smith) is ‘The Warrior’, it takes forever before this seemingly bizarre scratched bystander actually does anything besides stand there and lip synch. And even then, when she does, she turns into a David Bowie-esque character which only lasts for a minute or so. So random.
Aladdin Sane briefly appears for no significant reason that I can tell
Then, just like that, the David Bowie make up is gone and we’re off into that incredibly awkward bridge/solo part that comes completely out of left field in the song structure. Forced bridges, I call them. But who am I to argue with Nick Gilder?
Soon after she joins the dance troupe for their loose rendition of Cats-with-ropes meets interpretive break dancing (did you catch the guy doing ‘the Worm‘?). Also, I have no idea why Stripe-y Suit Guy is keeping score on that clothesline. Keeping score of what?! It’s almost like the director forgot to leave this part on the cutting room floor: “Not enough time to evolve that character into the storyline? No problem, we paid him, he looks cool, leave him in for a bit. No one will notice.”
One of my favourite parts is the last shot of the Creepy Claw Man who is kind of an important character. What is up with that unceremoniously dull exit? Oh right. Get back to focusing on The Warrior as she’s got a song to end.
I have no idea what this video means. But in all truthfulness (and corn stalk irritations aside) I can’t hold it against the song which I think is a fantastically executed pop number that really stands the test of time and I often find looping in my head. I’m almost afraid to admit my 30 year relationship with Patty Smyth’s voice and Nick Gilder’s hooks (credit also to Holly Knight who co-wrote and incidentally also wrote Pat Benatar’s ‘Love Is A Battlefield’. Wait a minute…!).
What are your thoughts? How would you interpret the Warrior? Love it? Hate it? Let me know.
I’ve always been a big fan of covering songs that mean something to me…songs that have touched me in some way or left some kind of indelible mark. That’s why I’m always flattered and spring to attention when someone takes the time to learn and perform one of mine.
I’ve spoken before about the great version of ‘Hello Danger Bay’ my good pal Lorrie Matheson did a few years ago.
Bob LeDrew performing ‘Hello, Danger Bay’ as part of the
BobCat House Concert series in Ottawa, Canada.
Not only did I enjoy it, but I also got a kick out of Bob’s interpretation of some of the lyrics…another one of the interesting nuances when someone puts their own spin to a cover.
All of this got me thinking it might be interesting to document a bit about the history of the song and share it here for those interested.
I’m not going to lie to you.
Hello, Danger Bay started out as feeble attempt at a love song. But as with many (most?) songs I write, the vignettes in the song twist and turn in the hopes of challenging the listener to formulate their own thoughts and ideas of what is happening in the story.
The title is an indirect reference to the classic CBC TV show ‘Danger Bay’. I say indirect because the song was inspired by a girl I was crushing on at the time who used the term as an expression to describe ‘trouble’.
For example, I might say ‘Let’s go out tonight’ and with a smirk she’d reply, ‘That’s Danger Bay’.
She used it so much you may have noticed it stuck with me.
“…And a talent for DANGER!”
As for some of the key lines in the song,”I wonder who’ll invent the true free ride upon the captain’s chairs, hell bent” is a reference to the amount of touring I did with The Stand GT. Of course the ‘true free ride’ part is quite sarcastic and the ‘hell bent’ reference is a reflection on our collective state of mind in those days: tour and play music, non-stop, at any cost. Hell bent was almost an understatement.
I got a kick out of Bob’s slight alteration here, singing ‘heaven sent’ instead of ‘hell bent’. I’m going to suggest that may have been a subconscious insert, though, being the nice guy he is.
“No one thinks to save your back or leave the window open just a crack…until the hurt becomes fresh air” is probably one of my favourite lines in the song, though it really contains more than one of those vignettes I mentioned earlier. I was always proud of the line and I thought it set up the introduction to the chorus well while intriguing the listener, coaxing them out of that first verse.
During the climax of the song, the main character is expecting an apology, yet is already firm in the idea that all will never be forgiven. So sad!
The chorus has a melancholy resolution (and minor chord for effect) as the first person compares the likelihood of forgiveness to their own space travel (which of course is a ridiculous notion): “You want to explain, I know, and try to save your face / Well that might fly when I log time in space“.
Personally, I really like Bob’s interpretation of this line which is also melancholy in its delivery and sums up the sentiment in a less dramatic fashion, but with equal potency: “That might fly in your own time and space“. Awesome.
All in all, I remember being pretty excited when HDB first came together. It was a track ultimately destined for The Stand GT LP ‘Good On The River‘ and was recorded in 1999, one of the first of many sessions I’ve done with Dave Draves.
Dave came up with the beautiful piano hook in that version which starts mellow and explodes for the second half. I remember being nervous about having to sing that high when it really kicks in:
I honestly felt at the time like the song took me to a different level of songwriting and I’ve been fortunate the reaction to it has been very positive. That was one of the reasons why I decided to re-record it for my 2010 solo LP ‘A Date With A Smoke Machine‘. It ended up being a much mellower take, and again, with great support from Draves on guitar and backing vocals. Though I almost regret not including that amazing piano line from the previous version:
Thanks for covering the song, Bob!
If any of you are interested in more details about the song or others, hit me up and let me know here.
I promise I’ll try not to respond by stringing together random vignettes.
The Stand GT didn’t play Ottawa much in our early days.
It wasn’t that we weren’t shown any love in the nation’s capital. It had more to do with our proximity to Montreal, being from the rural county of Glengarry. We were very connected with that scene and were fortunate to be playing shows with legendary Montreal bands like The Gruesomes, Deja Voodoo, Jerry Jerry and of course our touring pals, Ripcordz.
Our first show in Ottawa was at the “Downstairs Club”, which became “Lucky Ron’s”, then “The Hi-Fi” and is now a beer store on Rideau St. We opened for scene vets Fluid Waffle (who later became Furnanceface) and I would have met Dave Dudley (Dave’s Drum Shop), Slo’ Tom Stewart (Spaceman Music) and Patrick Banister for the first time that night – great guys who I’ve been friends with ever since.
But my memory of that evening is pretty hazy over 25 years on… (continued)
There’s a fantastic exhibit going on here in Ottawa by local photography/drummer Jamie Kronick which captures many of Ottawa’s songwriter types in their creative spaces.
Why is this guy playing an acoustic tenor guitar?
Unfortunately I missed the opening night party (or vernissage, if you’re so inclined), but caught up with the show on the weekend. I went during a very quiet time at City Hall and pretty much had the room to myself to absorb the work.
What struck me right away is Jamie’s knack for capturing these intimate moments. The lighting of each portrait reveals the layered elements contained within and you feel drawn into each creative space. If that elusive songwriting magic is really going on, you kinda feel like you’re getting a peek at it.
I was also taken aback by just how much Ottawa talent is hanging in that show and wondered if the city at large has any clue.
Besides, I’m sure Jamie will be the first to tell you this is only a sampling of the many songwriters that call Ottawa home.
Anyway, I encourage you to check out the exhibit which runs until October 12th at the Ottawa Art Gallery Annex at City Hall.
It is a really good show and quite immediately evident that a true labour of love is on display.
This wall had some nice bilingual things to say about Jamie in his quest to capture a craft that in my opinion is often superficially appreciated, but rarely understood:
It’s been a week now since our beloved Charlie passed away.
And what a sad, empty and lonely week it’s been.
As many of you know, he was truly one of the sweetest, most loveable cats we’ve ever known.
He has been a constant little rock since he first arrived in our lives as a rescued kitten during the great 1998 ice storm.
Charlie has been diabetic since he was 9, so it’s a great story to share knowing we were able to manage that with him through to almost 17 years old. Despite the 2 needles of insulin daily, he never once kitty-complained and remained ever stoic, content, cuddly and a real entertaining character.
I’m going to miss his meow-speak, his constant purrs and his unconditional love terribly.
Safe travels, our little old soul.
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