My Liner Notes - Jeff Rogers - When Music and Hockey Collide
By Jeff Rogers, Music Entrepreneur on Oct 11, 2011
I want to tell a really good story here and I know that it is not a competition but how do you compete with Graham Henderson and his toilet digging and his brush with Led Zeppelin?
I have been lucky enough to have my experiences in music deliver many other experiences to me.
One of my favorites is the time when Crash Test Dummies were on tour with Elvis Costello and The Attractions in 1994. The tour was ill timed because for the first time in my life it looked like the Toronto Maple Leafs could win the Stanley Cup. They were playing San Jose when I left Toronto for the tour and I got to go to the first home game of that series. Our tour started in Vancouver and the first show was a bit of a mess for the Dummies. With no sound check they hit the stage with cords everywhere but it only took our sound man Paul Tozer one song to get things together and the audience was already on our side. The show ended wonderfully.
By this time I had forgotten all about hockey. We were actually on tour with one of the greatest artists of all time with his most legendary band. Only a few days later we were playing San Francisco with him. The show was promoted by one of the best companies in the business: Bill Graham Presents. In 1994 Bill had been dead for three years but the company was still run in his image via his attitude and philosophies. This worked very well for the artists.
I realized when I arrived in San Francisco, that San Jose was pretty close. Hockey returned to my thoughts. I could probably even take a cab there if I had to. I would have to miss the San Francisco show but I would see the game. I was informed by our agent Steve Martin that Bill Graham himself had helped design the arena in San Jose and that BGP would likely get me tickets. They did and I went to the show – I mean game.
When I arrived I found some other people wearing Leaf jerseys. One of them was Paul Farberman who was working with Celine Dion. I first met Paul when I was 16. He was the lawyer for the famous Police Picnic in Toronto. When I went over to his office to pick up the free tickets for that show I encountered Paul. He was wearing a pink shirt and black leather pants. He was swearing on the phone just before he gave me the tickets. I thought he was the coolest guy I had ever met. Here in San Jose he was hanging out with a couple of the Leaf players who were injured and their lawyer Lanning. He was still cool but now we were friends. I showed him my seats and this time he was impressed. I was sitting one row away from Neil Young and a couple rows from the guys in Metallica.
The seats I had were used by the GM of the Detroit Red Wings during the previous series. The game ended. The Leafs won and returned home and I jumped back on the bus. A few days later we are in L.A. where Paul Faberman lives. He came to Universal Amphitheater to see one of the legendary Elvis Costello shows and we decided that if Toronto advanced, we would go to Vancouver for those games of the next series.
The day before that Elvis had played the David Letterman show. On the show Letterman said to Paul "that Elvis Costello sure can play that there guitar". That statement is true but it is not the first thing you usually say about Elvis. When he hit the stage he said, "I have it on very good authority that I sure can play this here guitar". They set was probably one of the best shows I have seen in my life and certainly the best of the 30 on that tour. He opened with Radio Radio and although every show was great, there was some sort of added electricity in the air. Elvis knew it, his band knew it and the audience knew it.
That night Toronto won the series against San Jose. I called Bruce Allen and Sam Feldman. They got us tickets for the first two games in Vancouver. I skipped off the tour and Paul joined me for the trip.
The most memorable thing was wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey and feeling afraid for my life. Paul and I started walking quickly when a crowd had gathered behind us telling us that if we liked Toronto so much why don't we move there. We walked/jogged/ran towards a long haired group of guys in Leafs gear. It turned out to be Micheal Hollett who owns NOW Magazine. He became our guide through the tough terrain of being an away supporter. As the world knows the Leafs did not win those games and all hopes of a Stanley Cup in our lifetimes were dashed.
I returned to the tour. More great shows with Elvis and the most amazing thing was happening: the Crash Test Dummies record was exploding on radio. We had early support from Saturday Night Live, MTV and several radio stations. Triple A radio was new and we topped that chart quickly. This was no surprise for us. The chart was new but the people that ran those stations were the people we loved at radio from the last tour. They were our friends and supporters. People like Lin Brehmer at Cities FM in Minneapolis (he loved the Dummies and had been a big supporter of my other client The Pursuit of Happiness back at WXRT in Chicago), Ginger Rock at KBCO in Boulder and others. We had early support from someone who would become a new friend, Leslie Fram. She worked at 99X in Atlanta who had also supported The Pursuit of Happiness. Linda Alter who did promotion for Arista told me that Leslie said the record was a hit and in Linda's words, "if Leslie says it is a hit then it is a hit". Leslie was right. KROQ came next (they were also supporters of TPOH). This time they blew it out of the park. All of this led to us being on this tour and me getting to go to all these hockey games. It also launched the band across America and ultimately around the world.
We were now focused on the business and not on hockey. Things were moving fast and Europe would be next. When the tour was coming to a close we were in New York City for some fantastic shows with Elvis in Central Park. Micheal Moore called me to tell me how much he loved the band and could he and his daughter come to the show. The event was star studded and hockey was the furthest thing from my mind until I realized that Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final was coming to Madison Square Garden. Vancouver was in town to play the Rangers. I actually hated both teams at the time but hated Vancouver more because they had broken my heart by beating the Leafs. I wanted to go. Steve Martin unbelievably got me comps for game 5. I stayed in New York and said goodbye to the tour.
A friend of the band worked for the NHL and couriered over laminates for the Garden with a bunch of Stanley Cup swag. Vancouver won it and if they could win at home I was going with them to Game 7. They did. I found myself running round the arena with Ken MacNeil of Rusty (my new client) and actually cheering for the Vancouver Canucks. Sadly they lost but for the good fortune of all of New York City and me I was in the belly of the beast with an all access pass. I grabbed Rangers fan and music industry vet Patrick Clifford and took him to the press conference where he and I were the only two people there who had long hair and did not host a sports TV show. We cheered for the heroes on both teams. We got to listen in when Bill Clinton called Brian Leetch on the phone to congratulate him for being the first American to ever be MVP. We chatted up Don Cherry as he tried to bribe an ambulance to get him out of there. We also slid on the ice and called Vancouver to speak to Keith Porteous and wish him our regrets while we stood in the net.
I did not get into music because I thought it would get me on the ice at Game 7. I got into it because I loved it. I did not even think that it was about success or money. I thought it was about telling people about great music they have not heard. That year Crash Test Dummies sold 10 Million records. Last year’s biggest selling act Eminem has sold less than half of that and we did not even have the biggest selling record of 1994. Although there is certainly less money going around in the music business you can still tell people about cool music that will change the way they think and feel. It might just make them happy for a while and I like to imagine music can get you to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Who knows, by the time copyright in Canada is sorted out, the Leafs might even get there.
Jeff Rogers is music director with Aux TV, based in Mississauga, Ontario. He has been in the music business since the age of 16 as a band manager, “booker,” music director, and film producer. Among others, Rogers managed Crash Test Dummies and produced the vampire rock film SUCK. Jeff was nominated for a Grammy for producing Moby's DVD.