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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Simon Slinger of The Start remembers 70s music

Many thanks to the Morty's Cabin blog for first posting this in 2009. I managed Simon's band Interchange briefly in the mid 1970s, and also became friends with the guys in The Specs, the band that formed after Simon left Interchange. The Burlington / Hamilton area was a lotta fun in the late 1970s, with Teenage Head and The Oh No's being two great live acts.

The Useless Minstrel

By Simon Leblovic (aka Simon Slinger, when fronting The Start)

If music be the food of love play on. Let sweet sounds lift my spirits, spiraling at the sky. Music is the life blood that expresses matters of the spirit that are beyond mere words. Music fills us with wonder and joy, and as a form of artistic expression brings us closest to the divine. In descibing the musical genius of Mozart's musical compositions, it was said that he was taking dictation from God. In other words don't that music make you want to get up and dance and feel good like you knew it would.

When I was young my parents had a calypso record by Harry Belafonte that used to get me dancing around the living room of our house. I remember hearing "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" and "Jamaica Farewell," as well as a rhythmic number called "Do Adore Her." Then when I saw Peter Sellers playing the imcomparable Inspector Clouseau, I remember hearing the Pink Panther Theme by Henry Mancini. And I also heard Shirley Bassey sing the theme song to the James Bond movie Goldfinger. All unforgettable blasts from the past.

When I became a teenager I started to get into rock 'n roll music seriously. I remember hearing a 1960's compilation album with a couple of psychedelic songs on it called "Journey to the Center of the Mind" by The Amboy Dukes and "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" by The Electric Prunes. I also remember hearing that great make out song called "Go All The Way" by The Raspberries, as well as a sweet song called "Loving You" by Minnie Riperton that became our song with one of my first true loves. I also remember tripping under headphones to "Sweet Leaf" by Black Sabbath and grooving to an American Gangster number called "Superfly" by Curtis Mayfield. And how could I not get down with Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels when I heard songs like "Sock It To Me Baby," "Devil With A Blue Dress On" and "I Got You," the latter of which was originally performed by James Brown. And there were great Canadian rock 'n roll songs like "American Woman" by The Guess Who and "You Could Have Been A Lady" by April Wine. And there was a a song called "Nothing" by a Toronto band called The Ugly Ducklings, who were also known as The Strolling Bones.

At my high school in Burlington I met a guy named Dave McLean. Dave had become a fan of The Rolling Stones after seeing the band play live at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto in the summer of 1972. After meeting Dave my life took a drastic turn down the left hand path. One night I remember hanging out in the basement of Dave's house and hearing "Sympathy For The Devil" by The Rolling Stones. So right then and there, in the fall of 1973 at the age of eighteen, I decided that I wanted to be a rock'n roll singer.

Hanging out with Dave I got into other songs by The Rolling Stones like "Jumping Jack Flash," "Child Of The Moon," "Stray Cat Blues", "Midnight Rambler," "Monkey Man", "Brown Sugar," "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and "Moonlight Mile." In the basement of Dave's house I also heard songs by Alice Cooper like "Under My Wheels," "You Drive Me Nervous" and "Never Been Sold Before." And the super fine "Something/Anything" album by Todd Rundgren, with songs like "I Saw The Light," "Hello It's Me" and the amazing "Couldn't I Just Tell You."

Dave played guitar and piano, and I wanted to sing in a band with him. And though he wasn't into playing in a band with me, I can still recall singing some songs by The Rolling Stones around town with Dave playing guitar. Those were my first times singing on stage in public at my high school and upstairs at a bar by Lake Ontario called The Tree Top in Burlington. I also remember sitting down with Dave at his house as he played piano, and I wrote lyrics for a concept album that I called "Reflections In Blue." After Dave and I stopped hanging out I found a band called Interchange in Burlington to sing with in 1975. And when my father discovered that I was singing in a rock 'n roll band he called me a useless minstrel.


In 1975 I heard the "Toys In The Attic" album by Aerosmith. After that I got into a lot of their early songs like "Dream On," "One Way Street," "S. O. S. (Too Bad)," and "Seasons of Wither." Back then I also liked songs by The Yardbirds like "Heart Full Of Soul" and "Evil Hearted You," as well as "Rebel Rebel" by David Bowie. But at that time I think I especially liked The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith, because for me the song's the thing.. And to my ears the guitar playing of Keith Richards and Joe Perry complemented perfectly the songs that Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler were singing.

In 1976 I ran into another guy from Burlington named Rob Sikora, who loaned me the "Raw Power" record by Iggy Pop & The Stooges that had the song "Search And Destroy"on it. Rob also lent me the the first album by The New York Dolls with songs like "Personality Crisis," "Trash," " Bad Girl" and "Subway Train." He also loaned me the second album by The New York Dolls entitled "Too Much Too Soon" that had songs on it like "Babylon," "Stranded in the Jungle," "Human Being" and a cover of a Sonny Boy Williamson song called "Don't Start Me Talkin." Speaking of Sonny Boy Williamson, I consider him to be the best blues harp player ever. No doubt.

After hearing The New York Dolls I later got into a solo album by their singer David Johansen with songs called "Funky But Chic" and "Girls."(I also liked songs by Johnny Thunders, the guitarist for The New York Dolls, like "You Can't Put Your Arm Around Around A Memory" and "Chinese Rocks." And back then I also got into Robert Gordon singing songs like "Red Hot, "Sea Cruise" and a song that Bruce Springteen wrote called "Fire." At the time I was also listening to the first two Patti Smith albums, called "Horses" and "Radio Ethiopia." And later I really liked a song on the third "Easter" album by Patti Smith called "Because The Night" that Patti co-wrote with Bruce Springsteen. And on the fourth Patti Smith album called "Wave" there was a wondrous song called "Dancing Barefoot."

In early 1977 I was hanging out in Hamilton, the city of my birth. At a Saturday afternoon jam session that was held downstairs at a club called Duffy's Rock Pile, I ran into a drummer that I knew from Burlington named Lance White. Lance introduced me to a guitarist at Duffy's Rockpile on that day named Sparky, who had formerly played in Teenage Head. After that initial meeting Sparky and I tried to put a band together with another drummer that I knew from Burlington named Richard Citroen. We called the band "The Loved Ones," the name being taken from a movie that I had seen called "The Loved One."

The Loved Ones

As for the Loved Ones band, besides bombing at a few live shows, all we did for the most part was rehearse in the basement of Sparky's house, which was located right across from McMaster University in the west of Hamilton. On a positive note I will never forget hearing the "Never Mind The Bollocks - Here's The Sex Pistols" album at Sparky's house for the first time in 1977. Sparky also played early Roxy Music for me, which I came to appreciate.

As far as my taste in music in 1978, I remember hearing Billie Holiday singing for the first time on her album called "Lady Sings The Blues." Lady Day remains my favourite vocalist to this day. "God bless the child thats got his own." Besides falling for Billie Holiday in 1978, I also decided to look for a band to sing with in Toronto. So I paid a visit to a bar that I knew on Queen Street West in Toronto called The Beverly Tavern. And after picking up a copy of a local entertainment newspaper I answered an ad and phoned a bass player named Paul O'Connell, who had previously played in a Toronto band called The Cardboard Brains. Paul and I put a band together in Toronto called The Hits, and after awhile we started playing a few clubs around Toronto like The Turning Point. I remember that gig because we opened for a band called The Demics, who later had success with a song of theirs called "New York City."

The Hits also played at The Hotel Isabella and The Beverly Tavern in Toronto. I remember when we were playing at The Beverly and I was sleeping on the stage one Saturday afternoon before we had to play that night. And this guy named Jim kicked me and woke me up and told me me that he wanted to join the band. After an introduction like that, how could I say no? So Jim from down east started playing guitar in The Hits. We played songs like "I Got You" by James Brown and "Baby Please Don't Go" by Them, and "It's My Life" by The Animals. We also played a couple of songs by The Doors called "I Looked At You" and "Strange Day," and some early Rolling Stones songs like "Around and Around," "One More Try," "Surprise Surprise" and "Miss Amanda Jones." Paul and Jim ended up sharing an apartment together in Toronto on Bloor Street West. I remember hanging out with them one day, and hearing the great song "Bored" by Iggy Pop for the first time at Paul and Jim's place.

The Start at Lee's Palace

Simon Leblovic of The Start, musical influences, early bands

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