Friday, November 29, 2013

Art Bergmann - A Legend Right Now

Art Bergmann

In 1977 when I was 34 years old I would put on a black leather jacket (purchased in un-hip Sears) and the rest of my outfit, Big John boots, T-shirt and jeans were all black. Then with a Pentax MX loaded with Kodak Technical Pan film and three lenses, a 120, a 50 and and a 28 I would head to the Commodore Ballroom or such places as Japan Hall, Russian Hall, Wise Hall and a few more places that are long gone like the Smiling Buddha. In these venues (most were joints) I would take pictures while my buddy and Vancouver Magazine rock critic (In One Ear) Les Wiseman would listen, discern as only he could.

In short order, Wiseman, with an ear that was highfalutin and snobbish,  taught me, like the good music critic that he was, to appreciate rock music at its best. He could quickly separate the wheat from the chaff, 

“If you are going to insist on listening to heavy metal make sure it’s Motörhead. Lou Reed is God. I am proud to never have gone to a concert by Images in Vogue.” 

For some concerts where our interest was in the warm-up band we would leave right after to ovoid the uncool headliners.

When most music critics of the conventional media of the time (and still conventional as it fades away) were avoiding punk concerts, proclaiming that they were violent and dangerous we went to as many as we could.

I will never forget that first time I ever heard and saw Art Bergmann (1977) fronting his K-Tels (later the Young Canadians) at the Smiling Buddha. As soon as I could I found a corner in the place to put down my camera so I could pogo (jump) with all the rest that were there. What must be funny in retrospect was that I was the only one (dressed in black) with an expensive briar pipe in my mouth!

Since 1977, while I am not a music critic, but I have been taught by the best, Les Wiseman, I can state here that I know a bit about music. 

Jim Carroll -  Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
In those early years Art Bergman and his band, the Young Canadians was one of the tightest (if not the tightest) three piece band in Canada. Yes they were a punk band in the beginning. But from there they progressed to a minimal (and tight) music machine that played songs (composed by Bergman and bassist Jim Bescott) that had unusually smart lyrics attached to guitar riffs from heaven.

In later bands Art Bergmann, who had some addictions from hell, navigated this self-made hell in an almost auto destruct mode so that his career when it was almost at the top (this happened many times) would plunge by a simple insult, from Bergmann, to a record exec or business promoter.

His music was not the  raw punk music of the Subhumans or D.O.A. variety. It had strong melody and lyrics that someone only like Jim Carroll of the Jim Carroll Band could possibly be compared with. And then there is the humour, the bittersweet humour of Bergmann’s lyrics from one of my all-time favourites:

Hospital Song


albums: Sexual Roulette + Design Flaw

Yes I know

What I've done

And I know

That it's wrong

Cuz I talked

To your mom

We watched you

All night long

I put a pillow

Under your head

Laid down some rags

You'd read

Friends sent cards

And flowers

Said they hoped

You got well

From your hospital bed

To my padded cell

There's not one thing

We need

This is heaven and hell

Maybe later

We'll get together

Learn how to relax

Maybe later

We'll get together

And have a relapse

I watch you sleep

In your tubes

And IV's

They kept your face

So clean

Would it seem

Too mean

If I pull the plug

On your dream machine

Would I be

Losing you

Or would we

Meet again

How I wish

You knew

How to live

How I wish

We'd known

How to live


Copyright © 2013 Theodore Stinks & Dr. Applefritter - All Rights Reserved.

Art Bergmann may be a legendary punk, but I would amend that as a legendary former punk who was born February 8, 1953 he is much more than that. Now 60, Bergmann is a legendary singer, guitar player, songwriter who does all that with passion (now) and is backed by a band, Kevin Lucks, bass, Stephen Drake, guitar and Adam Drake, drums that for me has moments of the K-Tels at the  Smiling Buddha, with only one difference they are now better.

Those lucky enough to be present at tonight’s show featuring Art Bergmann and his band at the Pawnshop in Edmonton should count their blessings. The former legendary punk has grown up.