ALAN FREW

Musician. Author. Speaker.

ROADSTORIES with Alan Frew (Retro)

Buongiorno! Come stai? Lol, I can hear some of you saying, “Oh, he’s away with that Italian again!” 

During the Johnny Reid tour, as many of you know, I wrote my “Dear Canada” blogs consistently, all SIXTY of them, lol. Blog #4, has a subtitle,“Tour Dei Misteri Magici Italiani” basically meaning, The Italian Magical Mystery Tour. To say I condensed the story in blog number four would be a monstrous understatement. I merely wanted to impart to you, my love for Italy and a silly story about the ONLY gig we did there, in about the six weeks or so, of traipsing around. 

So for this ROADSTORIES (Retro),  let’s go back and see what we can find, shall we? 

  il Colosseo a Roma    We followed our little “Pied Piper of Panni” Tony, until mutiny started to set in. We were frustrated and tired and bored. We had come to perform but that was just not happening. 

il Colosseo a Roma

We followed our little “Pied Piper of Panni” Tony, until mutiny started to set in. We were frustrated and tired and bored. We had come to perform but that was just not happening. 

  “Come on lads! Keep up Alan! You’re lagging!”  

“Come on lads! Keep up Alan! You’re lagging!”  

We started to venture out. “Fuck it! Let’s go to the beach! Fuck it let’s go to Rome. Fuck it! Let’s find a place to write and record a song..........Foggia was that place.

Similar to Quebec, the city and Quebec, the province, so it goes for Foggia and Foggia, a like-named city within the province of the same name.

The name  "Foggia" might derive from the Latin "fovea", meaning "pit", referring to the pits where wheat was stored. The name's etymology remains uncertain however, as it could as well stem from “Phocaea”or most probably from the Medieval Greek word for "fire", which is "fotia", as according to legend, the original 11th century A.D. settlers were peasants, allegedly after having miraculously discovered there, a panel portraying the Madonna, on which three flames burnt.

  Please don’t eat the  “Virgin Mary.”

Please don’t eat the “Virgin Mary.”

Even back then it seems, Jesus & The Madonna we’re showing up on panels, trees, dog’s ears and slices of toast!

I rented a van and we booked a small studio room to just fire up some instruments and jam out potential songs. Life had gotten hilarious. By this time we were beginning to look like beach-bums, all tanned-up and scruffy. Even my drummer Chris, who’s normal flesh tone is something between a dead guy and a vampire had this golden colour going on. When back in Panni on the top of the mountain, there was no water for recreation, like the ocean or a lake, nor even a stream. Just scorching sun and dusty sand. The beach therefore, was a welcomed respite from being trapped up there with nothing to do except eat, drink and sleep. As exercise, I had started hiking up to the very peak of the mountain almost daily in order to stay in shape and I must admit that it was while up there, alone one morning, as the sun was just raising its head above the horizon, that I felt more at peace, than at any other time in my life. Yes, we were sort of, trapped there. Yes, the cost of it all had gotten so out of hand that Tony couldn’t handle it and I was now being pulled into help finance something that I had no part in creating. He had come to me, he had wanted this to happen and now I had a non-functioning band on my hands...in Italy!!

All that melted away however, as I stared out through the majestic silence, across a landscape of such beauty that I hadn’t a single care in the world.

  One can only imagine...... 

One can only imagine...... 

My being there was like the purest kind of “singularity” with the nature and the history of it all, and I  was perfectly happy. I imagined a voice saying, “So what do you think?” I turned to find Spartacus sitting beside me. “It’s glorious,” I would say. He would smile softly, “Isn’t it though?” And that’s the moment I fell in love with Italy.

  i turisti......Tom Lewis,Paul Stephens,Joe Natale,Chris McNeill and me. 

i turisti......Tom Lewis,Paul Stephens,Joe Natale,Chris McNeill and me. 

So we gathered in the studio and started hammering something out. For the life of me don’t ask me what it was but it was something, and it was musical, and it was a welcomed distraction from the day-to-day of being unwitting “tourists,”  as opposed to working musicians. 

After we finished at the studio I decided to take the guys for dinner. That’s not difficult in Italy and we ended up in a simple but pretty little restaurant ordering pastas and pizzas etc. Now this is almost 20 years ago and the “internet” was not just something that you had at your fingertips on a phone. No, this was still Internet Café time whereby one had to go to a place like a Starbucks, purchase a coffee and purchase time on a computer hooked up to the internet. It’s how we kept in touch with home.

  “E.T. phone home.” Yes kids this was the Internet. This one in Rome.

 “E.T. phone home.” Yes kids this was the Internet. This one in Rome.

Chris, our newly-tanned drummer was a little more obsessed with being on a computer than the rest of us were and every chance he got he would say, “Just popping into the the Café.” And off he would go. So after he ordered his food he did just that, telling me that he would be right back. I thought nothing of it until everyone’s food arrived and his sat there untouched, with no sign of him. After about 15 minutes or so the Maître d’ approached me saying, “Signore, il tuo batterista è con la polizia!”.... “Your drummer...polizia! polizia!” I jumped up immediately and headed for the door. What I witnessed was like something out of a DeNiro or Pacino movie. There before me, across the street, was Chris, face-down, on the sidewalk. A police officer was holding an uzi machine gun to the back of his head while his boot was placed between his shoulder blades. Two more officers ( one female ) were keeping watch around them while a fourth was rummaging through Chris’s knapsack and dumping anything of nonconcern on the ground around him. Chris raised his head up and to this day I will never forget the look of sheer and utter terror on his face. His tan had suddenly vanished. He was ashen. “Alan! What the fuck?” he got that out before the gun was prodded into the back of his head signifying,“Shut up! Head down!” My natural reaction was to cross the street and address these people. I didn’t get too far before the female police officer pointed her hand-gun at my head saying, “Stop!” as she motioned with her hand for me to get back to where I came from.

   “Yup! Ok! Right! You want me back here, huh?”

 “Yup! Ok! Right! You want me back here, huh?”

A gun in your face will help you follow instructions quite readily and so go back I did. She lowered her gun as her partner continued to rummage through all of Chris’s belongings including his pockets. Then within a blink of an eye, they sort of “shrugged” jumped into their vehicle and sped off like nothing had happened. 

I crossed the street with the guys as we helped him up and helped pick up his stuff. “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?” he yelled. I must admit we were all dumbfounded.  

We got him back to the restaurant and got a couple of beers for him. He was shaking still and rightly so. I know when she pointed her gun at me my sphincter did a little “Cha-Cha” dance. 

We sat around chatting, picking at our food trying to make sense of it all when one of the waiters came to us with the explanation in English. He had gone out and asked around and here is what had happened.  

Ever since I have known Chris, he likes to wear a baseball cap. It’s a fixture with him. Now I don’t know about 2018 Foggia but twenty years ago, I KNOW for sure that baseball caps were not common attire. I know this because a) I never saw any and because b) it was the key to what had happened to Chris. No, they didn’t do that to him as punishment for wearing a cap but because he wore a cap, he became a suspect in a crime. They say,“Timing is everything huh?” Well for the record books, so do I. For you see, just as Chris was finishing up his internet conversation at the Internet Café in his unusual-for-around-these-parts, baseball cap, a dude in a very similar baseball cap, was robbing a small shop of money and cigarettes. And just as Chris stepped out onto the street, the 911 call had been placed by the shop owner. The rest as they say....... “was timing.” 

  Yeah, it looked something like that!! 

Yeah, it looked something like that!! 

BOOM! They brought him down faster than a lion on a baby gazelle. What a freaky coincidence. The type of coincidence of course that under different circumstances could escalate into something far worse. As it was, we were left shaken up, especially Chris, but overal none-the-worse-for-wear.  One thing that struck me was the fact that had they just whisked him away what a nightmare that would have been. We would have had no idea where to begin. Of course we would have reported him missing at the nearest police station but trust me, it would have been a long haul for there are several different levels of police in Italy, it’s really quite convoluted and complicated, especially to foreigners and we would probably just have walked into a small local station and reported a Canadian lad missing. After that who knows what we would have done. The power of smart phones today has certainly changed the landscape of incidents like this one. From that moment on, I had everyone carry the phone number for the Canadian Consulate in their wallets. 

   “Chris, you can put your hands down now, they’re gone.”

 “Chris, you can put your hands down now, they’re gone.”

There are lots of stories from that Italian trip and there are lots, lots, more from my life on the road. Come join me. ~ Alan 

ROADSTORIES with Alan Frew April 26th 2018. #2.

 Bonjour Montréal! Good morning Montreal.

   The rain continues outside my window in Old Montréal. 

The rain continues outside my window in Old Montréal. 

 Woke up to an extremely wet & chilly Montréal with no time for breakfast. We were met in the lobby by Hélène Morin, our rep from Warner Music Canada. She has arranged an extremely full schedule for us today.

I LOVE Montréal. I have been coming to LaBelle Province, since back in my bar days of the 70’s. My band Onyx, played many times up here and of course even further north into the small towns and as far up as Québec City. Those of you who are not familiar with Canada, please note that the Province (the region) is called Québec but there is also a Québec City, which is just another big city like Montréal.

Montréal is the largest city in Canada's Québec province. It’s set on an island in the Saint Lawrence River and named after Mt. Royal, the triple-peaked hill at its heart. Its  neighbourhoods range from cobblestoned, French colonial Vieux-Montréal – with the Gothic Revival Notre-Dame Basilica at its centre – to bohemian Plateau. When in Old Montréal, (the older part of the city), it feels so European, feels so cultured, I cannot help but have an almost reverent respect for the “old girl” when I am walking her lovely cobblestoned roads, between the narrow straights of her streets.

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Ahhhhh, I give you la Belle Montréal.

We’re staying at, The Hôtel William Gray, in Old Montréal. It’s so great, even though we never truly got the chance to fully appreciate it due to checking in super late and having to leave early in morning. We have already decided however, that in these upcoming Québec dates, May 8-9 10, where we use Montréal as our hub, we will stay here again if available.

   With old friend to Glass Tiger, Mike Gauthier, here interviewing us at Energie 94.3. His memory recall of past interviews is uncanny. 

With old friend to Glass Tiger, Mike Gauthier, here interviewing us at Energie 94.3. His memory recall of past interviews is uncanny. 

So I won’t bore you with each and every radio and TV station we visited but they were all great and all A-listers, important communicators within the Province and all so happy to see us again. 

Glass Tiger has had a long and loving relationship with the people of Québec, for many years. We were as popular here as any Anglophone band possibly could be. Fans turned out in their thousands for us, equally as many, if not more, than any of the English speaking provinces. It’s a big deal in Canada to be an anglophone artist as readily accepted as their top Francophone acts. Reacquainting with our French fans is so very important to us and we plan on coming back here as much as possible to perform in the near future. 

So, the COOLEST thing happened today. We had just completed our very last interview of a very long day of promo and as we were exiting the CBC building, Hélène stopped to chat with an old colleague. Sam and I thought nothing of it and indeed, we were deep in conversation ourselves. When Hélène returned to join us she said, “That is my old friend, Martin Leclerc, he is working with Petula Clark. Do you know Petula Clark?” 

For those of you unfamiliar with Petula Clark, this blog is just not nearly enough space for me to write about her. You MUST, if interested, go on Wikipedia and learn about her. Trying to fit her history in here would be like me trying to write about Lennon & McCartney. Her career is THAT legendary. The main song that she is forever known for however, throughout the world, is a song called, “DOWNTOWN.” 

Released in four separate languages in late 1964, "Downtown" was a success in the UK, France (in both the English and the French versions), the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Italy and also Rhodesia, Japan and India. During a visit to London, Warner Bros. executive Joe Smith heard it and acquired the rights for the United States and took it to No. 1 on the American charts in January 1965, and 3 million copies were sold in America alone. 

   Number One U.S. hit.  

Number One U.S. hit.  

Downtown" was the first of 15 consecutive Top 40 hits Clark achieved in the United States, including, “My Love” (her second U.S. No. 1 hit), and "Don’t Sleep in the Subway.” The American recording industry honoured her with Grammy Awards for, ”Best Rock & Roll Recording Of 1964 for “Downtown” and for “Best Contemporary (R&R) Vocal Performance Of 1965 for "I Know a Place." In 2004, her recording of "Downtown" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. She has done it all. Seen it all. Lived through it all, in truly amazing fashion. 

Know her? I said. Absolutely I know her. She is British pop Royalty!” “Well then, said Hélène. That is her over there!” And sure enough, this tiny little figure, looking unbelievably stylish, and radiant and who is now, 85 YEARS OLD, was indeed Miss Petula Clark!! 85 years old guys and she has just recorded A NEW ALBUM!! and is over here doing PROMO!!!! “Would you like to meet her?” asked Hélène. Sam too was equally excited but at first we thought no, that we shouldn’t bother her. Then Hélène said, “You only live once!” (I had a flashback to a time when I had the chance to have a private audience with Her Majesty the Queen and for too many reasons to write here I passed on it and have never forgiven myself for it. It remains a sore-point with me.) “Okay, lets do it!” I said, and off we went. 

  When you're alone, and life is making you lonely    You can always go  Downtown When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry Seems to help, I know Downtown Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty How can you lose?    The lights are much brighter there You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares So go downtown, things'll be great when you're Downtown, no finer place for sure Downtown everything's waiting for you

When you're alone, and life is making you lonely

You can always go
Downtown
When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know
Downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?

The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown, no finer place for sure
Downtown everything's waiting for you

Miss Clark, what an honour it is to meet you. I am a Glasgow lad, who grew up on you. You are part of the very fabric of my boyhood and it is such a thrill to meet you.” 

She smiled at me and humbly thanked me, then, the loveliest thing happened. She must have been taken with the “slang” tone of my accent, because she led into a story about a famous British violinist, called Nigel Kennedy, asking me if I knew of him. I had to  come clean and tell her that I do not know Mr Kennedy. Upon hearing that she became a little reluctant to continue her story. I encouraged her though, to please go on with it and she did. She told us of how this famous musician, who lives and functions within the world of opera, and the classics and within the “upper-crust” of High Society has this very “Cockney” accent, which apparently you would never expect to flow out of him when you first meet him. Petula told us that she had just finished a concert in Paris and was backstage in her dressing room when she was told that “His Royal Highness of The Philharmonic World,” wished to come backstage to meet her. She readily accepted and back he came. This is how she told it to me yesterday. “So back he comes, and he enters my dressing room. We exchange greetings and then I ask him, did you enjoy my show?” She then puts on her best Cockney accent to tell me that he then said, “Well.........it wuz fuckin’ brilliant wa’n’t it!” We howled. You could tell she was just one of us. Just a singer working her songs. No airs and graces. Just real. I asked her if she would be so kind as to take a photo with us and she happily complied. Zoom in on her in this photo guys and remind yourself that she is EIGHTY FIVE YEARS YOUNG!!! 

   Pop Royalty. The-one-and-only, Miss Petula Clark. 

Pop Royalty. The-one-and-only, Miss Petula Clark. 

Sam and I then took Hélène for a well-deserved bite to eat at the restaurant now made famous by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama, called,“Liverpool House.”

   The “Bromance.”  

The “Bromance.”  

The pair met for dinner at the trendy Montreal restaurant, one of a string of establishments owned by celebrity chef, David McMillan. The food is exquisite, the wine list, A++. I had a lobster pasta to die for. 

After dinner Hélène dropped us off at the airport and within a couple of hours I was back home. I feel exhausted and a little worse for wear but I am proud of all the work we have put in on this project. Especially Sam and I. We have worked so, so, hard, from the beginnings of recording in Nashville, to the press and promotion required to make people aware of it’s existence, to the touring from Sydney BC to St. John’s, Newfoundland and everywhere in between. When the plane touched down in Toronto I said to Sam, “Well we won’t fail because of our lack of trying.” 

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And we won‘t. No matter how these next couple of years play out, we are giving this our all. It’s the only way we know how.

                           ~Alan  

  

ROADSTORIES with Alan Frew. April 25th 2018.

Early rise in St. John’s having just completed the REVIVAL tour. Of course it won’t sink in until the day begins to develop that this tour is indeed over.

  “Those days are past now, and in the past they must remain....”  

“Those days are past now, and in the past they must remain....”  

“Those days are past now, and in the past they must remain....”  

Had breakfast with Sam, Sean and Geoff (from Johnny’s team) and our waiter had the line of the week. He looks at my Toronto Maple Leafs sweatshirt and proceeds to “razz” me a little because he is a Montreal Canadiens fan. I hold my own with him as we banter back and forth and then he says this, “Well at least when we last won the Stanley Cup.....it was in colour!” We howled.

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Yup! He’s right!  

For those of you not understanding what he was meaning, he was referring to the fact that Montreal last won the cup in 1993 (in colour on your television) while the last time the Leafs won the cup was 1967.....Black & White 😂😂 nice one. I had to give it to him.

Headed with Sam to do morning television on NTV (Newfoundland TV), then it was off to the airport. We travelled as four, even although Sean & Al had a different flight and time. They get to go home while Sam and I headed to Montreal for television, radio and press. We ran into some of Johnny’s team in the lounge who are all heading home to various parts of the country. Some are also from The States and heading there. 

Our flight was smooth and I forgot to tell you guys that I am now alleviating my Peaky Blinders withdrawals by watching, Fargo. I am about seven episodes in and really enjoying it.

  Billy Bob, is sufficiently creepy as the psycho killer. 

Billy Bob, is sufficiently creepy as the psycho killer. 

Landed in Montreal where the pouring rain was making its presence felt. We received an email telling us that there wasn’t enough time to go to hotel and that we must head straight to the television studio to do rehearsals for tonight’s performance.

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Rehearsal.  

We got there around 4:30pm and went straight to see Véronic in her dressing room.  Those of you who may not know of what I blab of, on the new Glass Tiger CD, 31, there are duets, one of which is a French-English duet of SOMEDAY, performed with Véronic DiCaire. Her story is an interesting one because she began her career just like most of us in this business, singing, performing and recording a solo album, which in her case was for Warner Music. Véronic however discovered a special gift along with her voice, the ability to impersonate other great vocalists. Now she has honed this skill into an international career, impersonating the likes of, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Tina Turner, Cher, Adele, Édith Piaf to name but a few. Celine loves her act so much that she uses Véronic as her opening act all over the world.

Game 7, between the Leafs and Boston was also tonight and the folks at CBC, Montreal were kind enough to set me up back stage with a room and a large screen tv. The game was going great and the boys had taken a 4-3 lead as I left to do my performance.

With Véronic performing SOMEDAY

Véronic and I had a blast. A single performance of Someday in front of a small studio audience on a show called, Les  Échangistes. We both had shared a story earlier in the day, of how she was here to sing with me now, but as a young girl she had been a huge Glass Tiger fan and if you had told her this would happen she would have said you were crazy! Similarly with me and my story of being a fan of Rod Stewart and going on to sing with him later in life. It’s pretty incredible when it happens. 

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Easy for them to say. 

We both sang extremely well but lo and behold, when I returned to my dressing room, all of about, 8mins later, Boston had taken control of the game, eventually winning 7-4. Can’t say it didn’t hurt, but the team is young and on the right pathway. They will be back.  

We said our good nights and good byes to the staff of the show and to Véronic and headed back to our hotel. Tomorrow we have a FULL day of television and radio, with an 8 a.m. lobby call.

To say that I am tired would be an understatement. It’s 12:30 a.m. and I am off to sleep. Goodnight guys. ~ Alan