Music News Digest, Nov. 9, 2020

Top Toronto venue The Mod Club closes its doors, Michael McCarty (pictured) is set to leave SOCAN, and Robert Bennett is named as that org’s CFO. Also in the news are The Weeknd, Sam Roberts Band, John Till and Ken Kalmusky, Serena Ryder, Quartetto Gelato, Chilly Gonzales, The Commodore Ballroom, Colin James, and farewell Ken Hensley, Len Barry, and Bones Hillman.

Music News Digest, Nov. 9, 2020

By Kerry Doole

In another blow to Toronto's live music scene, one of its most important concert venues, The Mod Club, has announced it has closed its doors. On social media on Friday, the club posted that “We regret to inform you that The Mod Club Theatre will be closing its doors and operations at 722 College Street, Toronto ON effective immediately,” they wrote. “Serving you for the last two decades has been full of great memories and good times! We hope we have been successful in adding to the community since we first opened doors in 2002." No reason for the closure was cited, but the pandemic lockdown is likely to have been a contributing factor.


The 600-capacity venue (housed in a four-storey building that was previously a Portuguese cultural centre) was the brainchild of co-owner Mark Holmes, frontman of the '80s hit rock band Platinum Blonde. In its earlier years, it functioned in part as an indie-rock dance club, then grew in popularity as a concert venue. Often used for music industry functions, it was a regular host venue for Canadian Music Week (CMW), NXNE, and events like Honey Jam. It is credited with presenting the first-ever concert by The Weeknd in 2011 and hosted shows by such local favourites as Metric, Daniel Caesar, and Jessie Reyez, as well as a wide array of international acts, including Amy Winehouse, Muse, and The Killers. It will indeed be missed. Sources: NOW, Nicholas Jennings

– Last week, SOCAN announced the departure of Chief Membership & Business Development Officer Michael McCarty, effective Nov. 30. After that, he will provide consulting services for the organization until April 2021, assisting with the transition to the Membership department's future leadership and structure. "We thank Michael McCarty for his leadership, creativity, and commitment to our members over the past seven years," said Jennifer Brown, Interim CEO of SOCAN. "During this time, he has transformed our Membership services and strategy, built one of the strongest member bases in our industry, and helped to change our company culture to being even more optimistic and leading-edge, serving music creators and publishers in Canada and around the world."


McCarty has a 40-year career in the music industry. Before taking the position at SOCAN in 2013, he was president of EMI Music Publishing Canada for 17 years and contributed many years of service as a member of the SOCAN Board of Directors. In 2019, he was inducted into the Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Hall of Fame. Look for an FYI feature on the highly-respected veteran soon.

– In other SOCAN news, the performing rights org has also announced the appointment of Robert Bennett as the company's Chief Financial Officer. Bennett most recently served as Lead Financial Officer, Capital Markets, Technology and Operations, BMO Financial Group. " Robert Bennett's more than 20 years of financial expertise will serve SOCAN well," said SOCAN Interim CEO Jennifer Brown. "His impressive financial management, revenue reporting and strategic financial planning experience make him an excellent addition to the executive team." Bennett's career with SOCAN begins today (Nov. 9).


– The Weeknd has teamed up with Maluma to release a remix of global hit, Hawai, long with its new music video via Sony Music Latin/RCA Records. The Weeknd's signature vocals go bilingual (English/Spanish) here, marking the first time he has sung in Spanish. Hawai has spent multiple weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Latin Songs, Latin Streaming Songs, and Latin Airplay charts.

– Since its release last month, All Of Us, the latest release from Sam Roberts Band has earned praise from fans and critics alike. UK mag Uncut terms it “…the first great rock album of the Covid era." Just shared now is this video for the title track, directed by Jordan Allen. 


–Two of Stratford’s most noted rock stars were recognized by the city in a small, private ceremony Saturday. Guitarist John Till and the late bassist Ken Kalmusky were original members of Stratford-based teenaged rock band The Revols (a young Richard Manuel was also a member) and later enjoyed international success with the likes of Ronnie Hawkins, Janis Joplin, and Ian and Sylvia, among others. They are now 2020's Bronze Star recipients. The accolade, handed out annually, recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the cultural or social fabric of Stratford on a national or international scale. Source: Stratford Beacon-Herald 

– One of North America's leading community teaching hospitals — Toronto's Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) — is presenting a live-streamed virtual edition of its comedy event, Laughter is the Best Medicine: at Home, presented by BMO Financial Group, on Nov. 14, at 8 pm. Former east-ender Will Arnett returns as host, joined by Toronto native Howie Mandel as a headliner, musical guest Serena Ryder, and opening acts Gerry Dee and Patrick Haye. MasterChef judge and restaurateur Michael Bonacini is also featured. The fundraising event sold out in presale, but the live-stream can be accessed here.

– On Nov. 11, at 7 pm EST, internationally-lauded classical quartet Quartetto Gelato performs a live-streamed concert, one presented in partnership with The Cotton Factory, Steady Canoe and The American Federation of Musicians. The group performs at Hamilton's The Cotton Factory, and a typically musically eclectic and entertaining show is anticipated. Access it here.

– Maverick composer/keyboardist Chilly Gonzales releases a holiday-themed album,  A Very Chilly Christmas, on Nov. 13. Guests include Feist (the pair have often collaborated), and British star Jarvis Cocker (Pulp). 


– In a major milestone, The Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver's historic concert venue, celebrates its 90th birthday on Dec. 3. Helping mark the occasion is local blues-rock hero Colin James, who has played there 32 times. He'll play two more on Dec. 3 (at noon and 6 pm PST) as part of the venue's Live From Inside streaming series. Tix ($18) here are priced at $18, with $1 from every purchase going to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. Source: Georgia Straight



Ken Hensley, the English songwriter and multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with 70s rock band Uriah Heep, has died aged 75. His press representative said he had died “peacefully following a very short illness”.

As well as playing guitar and keyboards with the band – and helping popularise the latter instrument as part of an emerging harder rock sound – Hensley penned and sang lead vocals for one of the band’s key tracks, the stirring folk-rock song Lady in Black.

He also wrote Easy Livin’, which was a hit across Europe in 1972, as well as a large number of the band’s other songs.

Born in London in 1945,  Hensley came of age amid the British blues-rock explosion of the 1960s, playing in his early band the Gods with Mick Taylor, who would go on to join the Rolling Stones and John Mayall’s band; Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer also passed through their ranks.


In 1969, Hensley joined Spice, who soon renamed themselves Uriah Heep. He spent a decade with the band, recording 13 albums with them that straddled prog, blues, heavy metal and more, before leaving in 1980. Their biggest chart hit came with Return to Fantasy, which reached No 7 in the UK album chart in 1975; four of their albums from this period also reached the US Top 30.

After he left, unhappy with the band’s musical direction, the 80s featured spells with hard rock bands he had influenced, including WASP, Blackfoot and Cinderella. As well as occasional one-off live reunions with Uriah Heep, he sporadically released solo material, including the ambitious Blood on the Highway (2007), an autobiographical rock opera featuring the Alicante Symphony Orchestra, hard rock vocalist Glenn Hughes, and more.

He had recently finished a new album, My Book of Answers, due for release in February. The Guardian

Len Barry (born Leonard Borisoff), a noted singer, songwriter, and record producer, died on Nov. 5, of myelodysplasia, a cancer of the bone marrow, at age 78.

Born in Philadelphia, he broke into the music business as the lead singer of Philly’s Dovells in 1961. The group’s The Bristol Stomp hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts, earning a gold record.

Barry quickly followed that with another hit record, You Can’t Sit Down, which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard charts. Both hits were popular dance songs for teens, here and across the nation.

After leaving the Dovells, Barry recorded on his own. His 1965 song 1-2-3, which he also wrote, hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 in the United Kingdom, earning him another gold disc and a Grammy nomination for best contemporary rock male vocal performance of the year.

Barry became a singing sensation in the United Kingdom, touring with the Motown Revue. He also performed solo at the London Palladium and Royal Albert Hall. He appeared on Top of the Pops, a weekly BBC TV music show. In the United States, he made guest appearances on Dick Clark’s Bandstand as well as the TV shows Shindig and Hullabaloo.

He was also a prolific songwriter and record producer. He wrote the hit singles Zoom for Philadelphia’s Fat Larry’s Band and Love Train for vocalist and keyboardist Booker Newberry III. He produced hits with the R&B group Blue Magic, Brandi Wells, the soul group Damon Harris & Impact, and Newberry. He also produced albums with Las Vegas performer Lolo Falana, and Isis, the New York all-female rock band.

In 2008, Mr. Barry released his first novel, Black-Like-Me, published by Bank House Books, England. His new book, Prose & Cons, is targeted for release later this year. At the time of his death, he was working on a new single, Poetry. A documentary about his life is in the works, his friends and business partner said. Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

Bones Hillman (born Wayne Stevens), a New Zealand bassist who worked in Midnight Oil, The Swingers, and with Matthew Good, died on Nov. 7, of cancer, age 62.

The New Zealand-born musician was a member of one of that country's first punk bands, the Suburban Reptiles, in the late '70s. He then joined former Split Enz co-founder Phil Judd in The Swingers, a band that had a big Australasian hit in 1981 with the song Counting The Beat. 

Hillman joined the Australian rock band Midnight Oil in 1987. That band paid tribute to him on social media, noting that "he played and sang on every Midnight Oil recording since Blue Sky Mining and we did thousands of gigs together. He was the bassist with the beautiful voice, the band member with the wicked sense of humour, and our brilliant musical comrade."

During the long hiatus of Midnight Oil, Hillman returned to New Zealand, working as a studio and live musician with Dave Dobbyn and recording the album Available Light. Hillman moved with his family to Nashville, Tennessee, in early 2007 to participate in the more active musical scene there.

In 2009, Hillman recorded albums for Anne McCue (Broken Promise Land) and Elizabeth Cook (Welder). Two years later he worked on the musical adaptation of Diner, recording tracks for Sheryl Crow. In 2014, Hillman reunited with Midnight Oil producer Warne Livesey to record songs for his new musical project the Graysmiths. The following year, Hillman recorded and toured with Matthew Good.

In 2017, Hillman participated in a Midnight Oil reunion and tour.

On Facebook, Phil Judd posted that Hillman "was a great guy... and wonderfully intuitive bass player. The Swingers' band practises & gigs were the highlight of my musical life." Sources: Audioculture, Wikipedia

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