Art Bergmann Plays Air Guitar In My HeadSaturday, March 28, 2009
As the amateur that I am, I can assert without any compunction that the best rock guitarist I have ever heard is Art Bergmann. His unusual voice (like listening to someone talk on a faulty cassette tape recorder with wow) is secondary in my appreciation of the man. On the other hand there is his music. There are his lyrics.
An Art Bergmann performance without his guitar playing is an Art Bergmann performance diminished by more than half. While Bergmann has little respect for such mundane objects as microphones (he demolished one in this Thursday’s performance at Richards on Richards), perhaps he vented his anger at not being physically capable of playing the guitar on the microphone and its uncooperative stand. As I watched Tony Balony (a.k.a. Anthony Walker) play his guitar most competently and even with some touch of virtuosity I noticed how he stood and how he hammed it up. Bergmann always treated his instrument with respect even if he banged it here and there. The guitar was nothing to make fun of. With a guitar in hand Bergmann dominated the stage. With Jim Bescott on bass and Bary Taylor on drums the K-Tels/Young Canadians of 1979/1980 were the finest rock band I ever heard. Later Art Bergmann bands were tolerable and sometimes even wonderful as long as Bergmann sang and played that guitar.
Thursday Night I was right under Bergmann’s microphone leaning on a monitor. Few are aware that paradoxically the closer you are to the middle of a very loud rock band the less loud it is. Next to me was former Los Popularos bassist Tony Bardach and his lovely trophy daughter Alexa with painted red lips and a look reminiscent of Moev’s Madeleine Morris. Behind me was Ingrid (an old flame of Bud Luxford) and Solei (Soledad) an early old flame of Bergmann’s. I felt much at home.
I am keenly aware that there was no way that Bergmann could have played his guitar. He managed, more or less, to sing. Halfway through the performance he either decided to ignore the intense pain of his back and of his knees because he suddenly stood almost straight. In my studio, the day before, he had fallen face first when he leaned too far forward in my posing chair. While he insisted that everything was fine I am sure that was not the case.
Bergmann walked around the Richards on Richards stage without falling in spite of not wearing the glasses he almost stepped on. Few of the crowd would have known that Bergmann was pretty well blind without glasses back in 1980!
I watched young girls around me with constant smiles in their faces dance while Bergmann sang Our Little Secret. “What a lovely tune. What a lovely pop song this is,” they must have thought as I pondered on the fact that the song in question was about incest. As I drove home I experienced the instant satisfaction of listening to Lost Art Bergmann, the previously unreleased CD mixed by Bob Rock. It’s smooth, it’s lively, it’s clear; the tunes sound like pop songs. This is Bergmann at his best pop-song-best. Can that be possible? Am I getting so old that it sounds like stuff I could play to my granddaughters?
But then there are the lyrics. And there is that guitar. Art Bergmann did not play his guitar on Thursday. But his guitar was in my head and that was more than enough.
Outside, after the concert, I ran into Gord Nichol who played with Bergmann in Los Popularos. "Alex did you ever think in a million years that this would happen?" "No," I answered. He did not have to say what we both thought. This would never happen again as we smiled at our mutual good fortune of having been there.