Sunday, July 29, 2012

Falling into Bad Habits is a lot of fun

Photos by Jeff Ross.

This article may not mean anything to you if you're not Canadian, but if you grew up in the country (particularly Ontario) and were a teenager 33 years ago, there's a good chance you know and love The Monks' Bad Habits.

The Monks were formed by John Ford and Richard Hudson, who'd made a name for themselves with British prog-folk band Strawbs earlier in the decade and decided to make a new wave-punk album. That didn't sit well with U.K. punks, but Strawbs had a much lower profile in Canada and past associations were no obstacle.

Bad Habits came out of nowhere and went on to sell more than 150,000 copies in Canada within a short period after its release. "Drugs in my Pocket" became a hit (even though there are a lot of other songs on the album that may be better), The Monks played before large crowds and the follow-up album -- Suspended Animation -- was only released in Canada.

That set the stage for the July 26 tribute to Bad Habits at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern, which was put together by Small Sins' Thomas D'Arcy, who recorded a cover of the album (complete with him in a nun's outfit to mimic the original's cover) along with a number of fellow fans and musicians, including Ian Blurton (C'mon, Change of Heart), Chris Murphy (Sloan), John Kastner (Doughboys), Kurt Dahle (New Pornographers) and Ryan Dahle (Age of Electric). The album can be downloaded for free from D'Arcy's website.

The evening began with a set by The Order of Good Cheer, which lived up to the name with with a set of fun power pop and garage rock that was a good fit with what was to come later.
John Ford and his double-platinum award for Bad Habits.

But before the main event, Ford performed a solo acoustic set. I'd seen a guy sitting against the wall earlier who looked like the David Spade film character "Joe Dirt" and said to myself, "There's an '80s burnout who still has enough memory left to be here." I was pretty surprised a half-hour later when I realized that "Joe Dirt" was Ford.

The audience seemed pretty uninterested in the 64-year-old's material, so he threw in an Oasis cover to get its attention, and then followed up by keeping on a roll with the 1974 Hudson Ford hit "Burn Baby Burn," "Big Hit in India" and the title track and "Don't Bother Me -- I'm a Christian" from Suspended Animation. I requested that last one and the final song of his set, Strawbs' "Part of the Union" -- which was a childhood favourite.

The Bad Habits tribute followed and eager fans surged to the front to sing along. Murphy was vacationing with his family in Prince Edward Island so D'Arcy recorded a good-natured "Fuck you, Chris Murphy" message on an iPhone before singing "Love in Stereo" himself.

Grapes of Wrath's Kevin Kane was the first guest and had just the right amount of nasal whine to do "Bad Habits" justice. Chris Colohan from Cursed  sang an aggressive version of "Drugs in my Pocket" that reminded me of what  I probably would have sounded like if I'd been invited on stage.

Ian Blurton

Blurton came out for "No Shame" and the volume and intensity were instantly cranked up -- topped off by the guitarist throwing his instrument into an amplifier to end the song.

Ford was presented with a double-platinum award for Bad Habits when he came on stage, and he sang lead on "I Ain't Gettin' Any." Sadly, it could have been my theme song when it came out and still could be all of these years later. Ford stuck around for "Out of Work Musician" before everyone briefly left the stage.
John Ford and Thomas D'Arcy

The group had performed 11 songs, but there was one remaining track that we hadn't heard. The band came out, invited women on stage to dance and launched into the politically incorrect but terribly entertaining "Nice Legs Shame About Her Face."

Facebook chatter has been overwhelmingly positive over the past few days and folks who couldn't make it to the show are asking for another gig. It's worth seeing if it happens.

And if you're still scratching your head and wondering what all the commotion is about, try and find a copy of the original Bad Habits and put it on at a party. Then you'll understand.


Unknown said...

I loved the Monks. What was it, 30 years ago when 'Bad Habits' came out? CFNY played the hell out of that record and I still have a pristine vinyl copy. 5 years ago someone uploaded the album and I grabbed it digitally and the songs sounded as fresh as ever. Glad someone felt compelled to honor them and thanks for sharing the back story. I knew they were an outgrowth of the Strawbs but didn't know the specifics.

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