Wednesday , July 24 2024

From Alanis Morisette to Bob Ezrin: Every Manner of Nonsense at the Junos

At the Juno Awards Alanis Morisette got faux-naked, the big winner was a guy I’ve never heard of, and my bud Bob Ezrin was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame:

    Canadian rocker Alanis Morissette didn’t bare her breast like Janet Jackson, but she did bare her soul Sunday night at Canada’s annual music awards, demonstrating her disdain for what she called “hypocritical U.S. censorship.”

    Hosting the 2004 Juno Awards ceremonies, Canada’s version of the Grammys, Morissette disrobed on stage to reveal a skin-colored, naked body suit with nipples and pubic hair.

    As part of the skit, Morissette was then told by the show’s assistant-director that “actually, we can’t show nipples or pubic hair on national TV,” at which time the Ottawa-born singer pulled off the fake body parts.

    ….”As you may or may not be aware, recently in the United States, I ran into a little problem with regards to a lyric in one my songs,” Morissette told the near-sellout audience of 17,000, referring to her latest release titled, “Everything,” which includes the lyrics, “I can be an a–hole of the grandest kind.”

    “It was requested that I change a word in the first verse. Well, I am overjoyed to be back in my homeland, the true North… strong and censor-free.”

    American radio stations threatened recently to ban the song, forcing Morissette to change the controversial word to “nightmare.”

    ….The big winner at Canada’s 2004 Juno awards was Montreal rocker Sam Roberts, who captured Best Artist of the Year, Best Album of the Year for “We Were Born in a Flame” and Best Rock Album of the year honors.

    “We’ve toiled in relative obscurity for 12 years, so I suppose we were the underdogs,” said Roberts, whose rock stock began to climb rapidly after playing on a benefit bill in Toronto last summer with several bands including the Rolling Stones. The all-day concert was organized in an effort to tell the world Toronto was safe to visit on the heels of the SARS scare.

    Other winners included pop singer Nelly Furtado, who took home Best Single of the Year for “Powerless (Say What You Want),” Sarah McLachlan, who captured Best Songwriter of the Year, crooner Michael Buble, who won Best New Artist of the Year, and Nickelback, who walked off with two awards, including Best Group of the Year and the Fans’ Choice honor. [Reuters]

Here is my profile and interview with Bob Ezrin from a few years ago:

Bob Ezrin has produced some of the most brilliant and successful rock music of the last 30 years: including all of Alice Cooper’s best work, Mitch Ryder’s searing Detroit, Lou Reed’s devastating Berlin, Peter Gabriel’s first solo album, and Pink Floyd’s multiplatinum magnum opus The Wall. He has also delivered fine albums and big hits from Kiss, Tim Curry, Flo and Eddy, Hanoi Rocks, and recently, Catherine Wheel, Spain’s Heroes del Silencio and Kula Shaker. Ezrin in also co-founder and CEO of CD-ROM giant, 7th Level, and is very active in charitable work (Communities in Schools, Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation).

Bob Ezrin was born March 25, 1949 and “grew up in the confluence of American and English culture that is Toronto.” From an early age radio was his “very best friend,” he recalls.

He reveled in the regional and stylistic variety of ’50s radio, “DXing” (long distance reception with a serious antenna) from the age of 8. Ezrin pulled in rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, pop and country stations from Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Boston, Wheeling, New Orleans and elsewhere – his imagination riding the radio waves back to their point of origin.

Ezrin played piano and guitar, and his siblings and he performed in commercials, plays and shows. His uncle, Sid Ezrin, was an attorney who owned the first stereo system in Canada. An avowed “hi-fi nut,” Uncle Sid collected audio equipment (including tape recorders) and over 15,000 albums.

He also lived right around the corner, and Bob “spent a lot of time in Uncle Sid’s basement, rummaging through his record collection and playing with his tape recorder. I had radio in my head and ferrous oxide in my veins,” Ezrin chuckles.

In his teens, Ezrin played guitar and sang in clubs, and helped his friends’ bands record at various low-end Toronto studios. “I was the guy who placed the mics and told people where to stand and all. I guess I was producing already,” he muses.

In 1968, Ezrin’s arranging and organizational skills, demonstrated through a local rock musical production, led to a meeting with Jack Richardson, head of Nimbus 9 Productions, and producer of the Guess Who.

Nimbus hired Ezrin for “around $100 a week” to help bands with their material and arrangements (preproduction) before they went into the studio with Richardson.

In addition to teaching him studio craft on the job, the company also sent Ezrin to the Eastman School of Music for a two-week summer course in record production, where his instructor was Phil Ramone.

In 1970, Shep Gordon, who managed Alice Cooper, was wandering the streets of Toronto, killing time as he awaited the arrival of funds to pay the band’s hotel bill after the Strawberry Fields Festival. His wanderings led him to the door of Nimbus 9 and an epiphany: What Alice Cooper needed to break through to the big time was THE GUESS WHO SOUND.

According to Ezrin, “Gordon plunked down the band’s first two albums and pictures of these five ‘things’ of indeterminate gender and announced his intentions. Jack and his partners were these straight Canadians in their forties who surely wanted nothing to do with this ‘Alice’ person.”

However, Gordon was persistent, and finally Richardson foisted the whole thing onto “the kid,” Ezrin. A decision was made to send Ezrin to see the band, and if he liked them, then Richardson would get involved.

Soon, a trip was set up for Ezrin to go to New York to see a few acts, including Alice Cooper at Max’s Kansas City.

In the city, Ezrin “followed the searchlights to the club, and suddenly I was in this dark den of spandex, spider eyes and black fingernails. I had never seen anything like it in my life,” he relates. A table was reserved for him in front of the stage.

“Suddenly,” he continues, “a breeze blew past my cheek, then three loud ‘whacks’ on the stage followed by an orange light each time. Then Alice launched into ‘Sun Arise’ no further than two feet from my face. With his eyes wide open, and his lips widely parted, and his red red gums, and his white white teeth, and his black black mouth and eyes, I thought I was in hell.

“I watched the show with my jaw on the table. Then my friend said, ‘What the fuck was that?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but I loved it.”

Hyped on the show and the alien atmosphere, Ezrin bounded up the stairs to the dressing room, and with a big grin on his face, announced, “We’ll do it!” Rather presumptuous, considering that Ezrin was a glorified coffee boy at the time.

He continues, “The material was almost there, and my favorite song was ‘I’m Edgy,’ which Alice kindly told me was, in fact, ‘I’m Eighteen.’ ‘Even better,’ I said. The band was terrible but wonderful. It wasn’t about ‘being good,’ it was about ‘being.’ It was the complete integration of the point of view and the personality into the presentation. They were the songs – the antics – the theatricality; they were Alice Cooper. In a world of t-shirts, jeans and beards, they were so refreshing and energizing.”

Ezrin flew back to Toronto the next day, rehearsing his speech the whole way: “This isn’t just about music, but a cultural movement. The whole building was full of people who looked like them and knew the words to the songs which weren’t even out on record yet.”

After hours of discussion, ranging from the rational to abject pleading, Ezrin finally wore down Richardson, who said: “If you like them so damn much, you do it.” Thus began, at 21, Ezrin’s production career.

He produced Cooper’s classic Love It To Death album, with the aforementioned “I’m Eighteen” – a deeply perceptive look at the ambiguities of young adulthood (“I’ve got a baby’s brain and an old man’s heart”) – and the rocking “Long Way to Go” and “Black Juju.” Shep Gordon never did get Alice THE GUESS WHO SOUND, and it’s a damn good thing.

Ezrin and the original Alice Cooper band (Alice, guitarists Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neal Smith) delivered two more stunners in a row: Killer (with “Under My Wheels”) and School’s Out.

These three albums conveyed danger and mystery – Who was this guy with a girl’s name who chopped up babies, cuddled with his boa constrictor, and hung himself onstage? – yet delivered tuneful hard rock with a raw edge that appealed to fans of everyone from the Stones, to Aerosmith, to the New York Dolls. The band’s greatness is evidenced by the influence it had on near-diametric opposites: the nascent punk movement, and hair-metal bands.

The original band was together for two more good, but not great albums (Billion Dollar Babies, Muscle of Love), and then Alice left them for a “better” band (Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Animal band, with Steve Hunter on guitar). By then, it was no longer about “being,” but about “being good,” and the magic was lost.

Ezrin also produced the slamming Mitch Ryder and Detroit album, featuring the finest version ever recorded of Lou Reed’s “Rock and Roll,” with guitarist Steve Hunter drawing blood alongside Ryder’s syncopated bellow.

In 1973, Ezrin produced one of rock’s most poignant and painfully beautiful albums, Lou Reed’s Berlin, a concept album about the deterioration of a beauty queen (much like Reed’s bandmate in the Velvet Underground, Nico), full of jagged, telling moments and gorgeous melodies (“Caroline Says ll,” “Sad Song”).

Recalls Ezrin, “Berlin was a turning point because it was the first album where I heard the record before recording it. Lou wrote brilliantly. The little lyrical moments tell it all. It’s the best representation of synecdoche on record. It was like making a movie – we went to hell and back.”

Ezrin also presided over another concept album, Pink Floyd’s multi-platinum The Wall, co-produced by himself and an estranged Roger Waters and David Gilmour.

“Initially the album was to be written by Roger alone, but there were holes. I insisted that we go through Dave’s repertoire. At that point, there was tension between them, and I had to be the glue,” Ezrin says.

“Dave played a bunch of demos, and after one – I don’t even remember what the lyric was – I said, ‘This must go on the album.’ Roger resisted, but demurred, wrote the lyrics, and that song became ‘Comfortably Numb.'”

The contoversy surrounding the song continued. Waters and Ezrin felt that the orchestra was integral to the song and Gilmour did not. They fought about it until the last three days of mixing. Imagine “Numb” without the orchestra and you will know how good Ezrin’s ears are, as well as his powers of diplomacy.

Which brings to mind Ezrin’s production philosophy: “The producer must wear the hat of the generalist, must have the eyes and ears of the specialist, have the personality of a humanist, and the good sense to know where you fall short in any of these areas (and when to bring in help).” Clearly, he has done so.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted,, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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