This Week in History: April 16 to 22

Apr 16, 2012

By David Ball

I still think their forced Canadian-only moniker was an improvement…

On April 17, 1997, Bush finally settled their long-standing “intellectual property” dispute with respected Toronto guitarist Domenic Troiano regarding the use of the band’s name. Troiano, who had been part of The Guess Who, the James Gang and Mandala, and who was inducted to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1996, had fronted an outfit also called Bush in the 1970s and legally owned the name. As a result, the international chart-topping British rock group led by Gavin Rossdale were forced to add the exponent “X” to the end of their moniker. Thankfully, the Canadian-only name certainly didn’t hurt the band’s popularity in this country.

Those like me who are old enough to remember the skirmish will remember that Rossdale openly hated being called BushX. But it’s still infinitely better than name change runner-up: Bush XXX. I kid! The final terms of the legal agreement allowed for the dropping of the “X” in exchange for two donations of $20,000 each to the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund and the Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada. So in the end everybody won.

On a semi-personal note, later that year, it must have come as a minor relief to MuchMusic VJ Rick Campanelli – and Rossdale for that matter – that the former didn’t have to introduce the BushX version of the band to the thousands of screaming kids packed into the historic Chum Building’s parking lot/mainstage before Bush’s 1997 MuchMusic Video Awards live performance of “Swallowed.” (At least I think it was “The Temp” who was doing the intro; I worked the mainstage, but I believe those “pops” I downed before the show at the late-great Beverley Tavern caused slight memory loss.)

Bob Rock, the talented guitarist-turned-big-time-record-producer, was born in Winnipeg on April 19, 1954. Rock began his musical journey in Victoria, B.C., in the late 1970s when he co-founded one of Canada’s most important new wave bands, Payolas, with singer Paul Hyde. Payolas developed a healthy fan base and several hits in Canada, including their Top 5 single and JUNO Award-winning “Eyes of a Stranger,” but recognition south of the border never materialized. (Although, the rebranded and short-lived Rock and Hyde and the song “Dirty Water” from their only album Under the Volcano – which was produced by Rock and Bruce Fairbairn – managed to crack Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1987.)

After Payolas split up in 1988, Rock didn’t need to make the sometimes awkward transition from musician to full-time engineer and producer. He’d already established an impressive behind-the-scenes side career beginning in 1979 when he helmed the Young Canadians’ first EP, Hawaii, and worked as Fairbairn’s engineer on Prism’s third studio album, Armageddon. (Note: Rock’s final engineering credit was in 1987 on Loverboy guitarist Paul Dean’s solo effort, Hard Core). While Rock had his first big hits as a producer on both Colin James’ and Kingdom Come’s 1988 self-titled efforts, it was his work the following year that brought him worldwide attention. In 1989 Rock produced The Cult’s platinum-selling Sonic Temple and Mötley Crüe’s No. 1 smash, Dr. Feelgood, the latter of which is widely considered one of the best metal albums of the 1980s (and is probably a big reason why my brother-in-law Nick named his new dog Crüe, much to his future wife’s chagrin… not to mention the dog’s).

But back to Dr. Feelgood: Rock’s keen ear and deft hand helped deliver a masterpiece of controlled excess and over-the-top glammy metal goodness to the head-banging masses. So impressed was Metallica’s Lars Ulrich by what he heard on Dr. Feelgood that he hired Rock to produce his band’s fifth album. With Rock anchoring the often tumultuous but ultimately fruitful eight-month recording session, Metallica’s 1991 self-titled effort (a.k.a. The Black Album) spawned six hit singles, including “Enter Sandman,” and has sold over 28 million copies since its release.

As seen in the fascinating documentary A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, Rock often butted heads with the foursome during the making of the record, partly because he encouraged the band’s main collaborators, Ulrich and singer/guitarist James Hetfield, to take a different approach to the creative process: He wanted the group to work out arrangements together and to simplify their songs, offering a stark departure from the complex, thrashy forays heard on previous albums. Rock won the war and Metallica went on to become one of the biggest rock bands of all time.

Rock remains one of the era’s most respected, successful, adaptable and hardest-working producers. Since the early 1990s, he’s collaborated with an impressive and diverse group of artists, including Bryan Adams, Cher, Bon Jovi, the Moffatts, Skid Row, Our Lady Peace, The Tragically Hip and Michael Bublé. Speaking of Bublé, Rock produced his acclaimed Billboard No. 1 album, Christmas, which won the hotly contested 2012 JUNO Award for Album of the Year.

On April 21, 1977, three-time JUNO Award nominee Jesse Winchester performed his first gig in the United States in 10 years. The Louisiana-born, Memphis-raised singer-songwriter fled to Quebec in 1967 to avoid the Vietnam War draft. However, in early 1977, President Jimmy Carter – and noted fan of good music – granted draft dodgers amnesty, so Winchester made the best of it and took to the stage in a club in Burlington, Vermont. Winchester continues to perform on both sides of the border today; check your local listings.

The Rolling Stones arrived in Montreal on April 22, 1965, signifying the group’s first trip to Canada. The following day, they kicked off their first-ever North American tour with a concert at Montreal’s Maurice Richard Arena. Only a few hours after they cleared customs, all five Stones appeared on CFCF Channel 12’s “Like Young.” Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the boys didn’t perform on the popular local music program, but they did tape a lengthy interview (broadcast on April 24) at Hotel Maritime with the program’s iconic host, Jim McKenna. The Stones, looking jet-lagged and perhaps a little tipsy, were playful, polite and chatty throughout the interview, especially Brian Jones; in fact, the late Stones leader did most of the talking. McKenna did a fine job getting all sorts of interesting tidbits out of the bluesy rock band on the cusp of superstardom, less than a month before their historic second appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Heck, McKenna even managed to get Charlie Watts to speak!

Next week: The Rolling Stones and Brian (Too Loud) MacLeod.

The Rolling Stones with Jim McKenna of “Like Young”