INTERVIEW with Canada’s iconic Rock n Roll Pretty Bad Boy, Greg Godovitz, releases his 2nd memoir, Up Close and Uncomfortable.
Canada’s iconic Rock n Roll Pretty Bad Boy bassist, songwriter, vocalist, producer, and author, Toronto’s one and only, Greg Godovitz, was born in Scarborough, Ontario on March 20th, 1951, and is 1 of Toronto’s iconic musical troubadours. He actually spent his first 13 years planning to be an archeologist when his older brother brought home the first Beatles album and the needle hit, he was hooked. From that moment on, music has been his passion. Greg’s early musical career began in 1964 at the age of 13, when he started Canada’s version of the British Invasion group, The Pretty Ones. In 1970, Greg left The Pretty Ones, did some songwriting with Ed and Brian Pilling, and formed the legendary act Fludd in 1971, which yielded 8 top ten Canadian hits including Cousin Mary, Turned 21, I Held Out, What An Animal, Brother And Me just to mention a few. A few years ago, Brother and Me and Turned 21 were 2 songs presented a Socan Classic Music Award during the 2014’s 25th Socan Awards.
In 1974, Greg left Fludd and formed Goddo with guitarist Gino Scarpelli, and original drummer Marty Morin, who was replaced in 1975 by Doug Inglis, and Goddo quickly became one of Canada’s biggest and most controversial rock trios of all time, going on to record 11 studio albums that produced classic rock staple anthems including Under My Hat, Sweet Thing, So Walk On, and O Carole (Kiss My Whip) and garnered a 1982 Juno Nomination for their Top 40 hit Pretty Bad Boy. I was sad to see Goddo retire in 2018, their music were staples for me growing up.
DEB: It is my pleasure as much as my honor to welcome Greg Godovitz to The Wire Megazine today, hope this finds you safe and keeping the faith during these bizarre pandemic times?
Greg, during your extensive career you were also a member of The Wanderers, The Backdoor Blues Band, The Pyggs, Sherman and Peabody, The Mushroom Castle (with future songwriting legend Eddie Schwartz), The Carpet Frogs, The Anger Brothers, and you even sat in with legends The Band and joined The Hawks as one of Rompin Ronnie’s alumni and later became a director for Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks. You were quoted as saying, “My Mom and sister were there when Dylan first jammed with Levon Helm and The Hawks.” As well, you produced a John Lennon tribute with Alannah Myles, Gowan, Stephen Fearing, and Murray McLauchlan, man you have lived quite a RAD existence my friend that others can only dream of. DEB: What was it like to have performed and shared stages with the likes of Ronnie Hawkins, Buzz Thompson, David Clayton Thomas of Blood Sweat and Tears, Meatloaf, Gowan, The Partland Brothers, Weber Brothers, Pat Travers, the core of the Janis Joplin Full Tilt Boogie Band, legends The Band, Jeff Healey, Burton Cummings, Daniel Lanois, Lonnie Mack, David Foster, Jack de Keyzer, Domenic Troiano, Bob McBride of Lighthouse, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Triumph, Journey, Johnny Winter, Nazareth, Moxy, Ramones, Alice Cooper, The Knack, Platinum Blonde, The Spoons, Honeymoon Suite, Max Webster, Chilliwack, Trooper, Steppenwolf, April Wine, Helix, and Tragically Hip, just to name but a few? GREG: “Every gig and every artist we shared a bill with was always a great experience and an opportunity for us to learn more about our own stagecraft. And most of the big names took the time to offer advice.”
DEB: You are about to celebrate a milestone on March 20th, I wish you a Happy 70th Birthday my friend! You have been in the music industry now 57 years, toured the globe, written close to 300 songs. Did you ever imagine your career and your songs would have influenced the world as they have and how does it feel to have your name included as an iconic Canadian rock n roll troubadour alongside music’s historical trailblazing legends? GREG: “Let’s put it this way, when I started my music career at 13 in 1964 I had absolutely no idea that I would still be doing it 57 years later at age 70. Getting painted on that 22 storey building on Yonge Street with a lot of the real Legends was something I never would’ve imagined happening to me, I’m very thankful!”
DEB: When you have been asked in the past if you have plans to retire any time in the near future, I love your response, “retire? I haven’t started yet!”
DEB: What was it like to be admired and quoted by the King of Rockabilly, Canada’s Grandfather of Rock, Rompin Ronnie Hawkins, as he said, “GODOVITZ has stories that would even embarrass Caligula.” GREG: “Typical Ronnie-ism. I’m pretty sure he’s used that particular line on other people but it’s always a thrill when he aims one of his sayings in your direction.”
DEB: What was the best advice you were given back in the day regarding the ins and outs of the business, especially since your career began at such an early age of 13 back in 1964? GREG: “Be nice to the Fans. They’re the ones paying your rent.”
Greg, your 2001 skillfully fast-paced debut memoir, Travels With My Amp, is filled with technicolor dreams with classical passages of comedic vignettes and “is the writing equivalent of a three-chord rock and is as equally entertaining,” says Jim Slotek of The Toronto Sun. It quickly became a national bestseller for you. It starts out with you as a teenager and your admiration for music that is lasting you a lifetime. You came of age during the British Invasion and it’s about life on the road, driving a path of rock and roll mayhem, wherever your bands traveled, totally depicting the Canadian version of that good old musical axion: “Sex and Drugs, and Rock n Roll.” Exploding on the music scene, you lived to outlive the rock and roll lifestyle. This amusing read shared tales including a riot in Toronto , mayhem a the church, toilet paper and the Royal yacht Britannia, and about the encores before 50,000 fans. You are vividly candid as we follow you from boyhood to your 1st apartment with no running water or electricity to becoming a dad, to the Sistine Chapel, and the Egyptian Pyramids, to losing your best friend to Cancer, I applaud you. This novel is a must have for any rock enthusiasts.
DEB: Greg, what was it like getting back together with the original Goddo band members Gino Scarpelli and Doug Inglis, which also featured special guests Fludd’s Ed Pilling, Gene Scarpelli, Brad Lovett, and Dr. John Bjarnason, on March 29th, 2010, at Toronto’s Sound Academy, for your GODDO – Pretty Bad Boys Return 35th Anniversary Reunion Concert just over a decade ago? I am so glad to see this concert was inserted into Goddo’s documentary In Goddo We Trust, which was filmed and released by your former tour manager, John Power of All Access Promotions, that hit Odeon Theaters in 2013. GREG: “That was a wonderful experience. Having all those old friends along for the filming was very nostalgic and the DVD came out looking great.”
DEB: After touring the planet, what is it like to perform in your hometown of Toronto with a sea of familiar faces in the audience? GREG: “It’s always nice to play your hometown. My Dad came to our shows until he was 92. He loved going out in the crowd and getting his picture taken.”
DEB: Outside of your love for the Beatles, who would you say has influenced you the most musically, then and now? GREG: “Rolling Stones, Kinks, Bowie, The Band, Ravi Shankar, Warren Zevon, Crowded House, Richard X Heyman, Pagliaro.”
DEB: Some of the most historical and revered music always plays a deeper role in the transformation of society. Some consider how their work relates to the current sociopolitical landscape or how the music can address these themes. Do you think some of your masterpieces touch on current social or political issues? GREG: “I’m not interested in politics. If anyone reads any political message in one of my songs it’s purely by accident. Musicians should stick to what they do best and leave politics to the politicians.”
DEB: Greg, you also wrote short stories for a proposed 2nd book to be entitled The Fartian Chronicles, and the 1st 6 stories you wrote, ended up in the National Post and in the Toronto Sun released back in 2011, are these still available to purchase or are they only limited editions? GREG: “I have them all on file. Perhaps I’ll add them as ‘bonus tracks’ in my next book.“
DEB: Before the worldwide pandemic, were you still actively performing with your new band The Greg Godovitz Coalition? GREG: “We only did one gig at The Duke on Queen Street. Such a shame as it was the best group I ever formed. Too many people involved, to make it a financial reality.”
DEB: You have known guitar icon Paul Dean of Loverboy for years, can you share with us how it came to be that he would produce your solo project as well as play guitar on your originals ‘A Jealous Fool’ and ‘Letting You Go (Gets Easier Each Day) inside your inaugural debut solo album, aMuseMe, which is a ride through the issues of relationships and women. and featured Russell Broom (Jann Arden), Mike Little (George Canyon), and classical guitar virtuoso Oscar Lopez. which released in 2013? GREG: “Paul and I have been friends since his days in Streetheart. He was living in Calgary when I arrived there. He loved my new songs and offered to produce the album. It was a smart choice as he did an incredible job. Greg guitar playing as well.”
DEB: You are a charismatic, honest, humorous, and passionate songwriter with an inspiring soul, who is no ordinary performer. You exude raw energetic emotion as a musician, and as a philosopher. Would you say your songs were based primarily on your personal experiences or life in general? GREG: “I have no set pattern when I write a song. Most of them just sort of appear in my head. The songs on aMuseMe just fell out one by one.”
DEB: Have you seen or felt a major shift in music today (pre-COVID), compared to 1964 when you 1st started your career? GREG: “Unfortunately there is no music business because of the pandemic. I’m thankful I had the career I did. I feel bad for everyone involved in music. Whether or not we ever get back to normal remains to be seen.”
DEB: I would love to get my paws on the Goddo Live 2007 DVD that was released featuring the 1979 performance and first-ever CHUM / CITY-TV simulcast, where might I purchase this rare entity? GREG: “True North Records.“
DEB: When we were teenagers, cameras would be confiscated at the door of a concert. Now, not only are we no longer holding up lighters like we used to, but everyone holds up cameras and cell phones. Does it bother you to look out at an audience so consumed with technology? GREG: “Not at all. it’s the times we live in.”
DEB: Let your fans know about your favorite moment as a radio host on ‘Rock Talk’ on Toronto’s Newstalk 1010 CFRB, and what it was like as an activist, upon learning Toronto radio station CHUM FM wouldn’t play GODDO’s record Under My Hat, you picketed outside the station with a sign that read, “CHUM FM unfair to local acts”. The song was eventually added to the playlist, becoming a staple and giving your hometown of Scarborough a rock and roll anthem. What do you think of radio today and its role in rock and roll? GREG: “Rock Talk is covered in a chapter in my new book, Up Close And Uncomfortable. With Bell Media firing radio personalities across the country the radio business is in big trouble.”
DEB: Contrary to popular belief, ‘making it’ in the art of music isn’t merely a game of luck. It requires talent, strategic, and determined effort based on your vision, goals, etc. If you can share with your fans information about your creative writing process? GREG: “I don’t really have a process.“
So excited to pick up my copy of Greg Godovitz’s 2nd memoirs, “Up Close and Uncomfortable is equally as funny, yet isn’t quite as disgusting as the first book,” states Godovitz. Your 2nd autobiography covers things like meeting Ringo Star, spending a night in jail for hiding a computer mouse, sitting next to a shape-shifting alien on a late-night flight, and your fascination with UFO’s, to your mishaps on the set of Schitt’s Creek, to your run-ins with your pet cat, Picky. There are even famous food recipes for Greg’s Goddozilla Ring of Fire Caesar Salad dressing and Moroccan Olive Pasta Surprise inside. Lots of laughs as you recall trying to finagle your way into the last will of Aunt Toni when you found out she had an original Van Gogh stashed in Geneva. “you know, normal, everyday stuff, everyone who has read it says it’s very funny and considering the current state of our word, that not a bad thing,” shares Godovitz.
Fans are thrilled to hear that you have been actively contributing your organizational skills to many charities over the years including Variety Village, Red Cross, Hospital For Sick Children, and Child Find and you were actively involved in an organizational fundraiser on August 15, 2013, in Alberta for
Flood Aid Benefit Concert in Calgary. Upon returning to Toronto in 2015, you organized the Friends Of The Dream Project charity auction in aid of the Dominican Republic Dream Project music school for children. On April 17, 2016, you also organized a special fundraising concert in aid of ailing Canadian music legend Kelly Jay of Crowbar. Also, you worked with Dragon’s Den star Michael Wekerle on the restoration of famed Toronto nightspot El Mocambo as archivist and historian, and that you have also been working closely with the Downtown Yonge BIA to pay tribute to the legends of Toronto music and encourage live music and the artists who make it. Totally amazing to see your likeness included in the famous 22 story mural in 2018, on Yonge Street, which also includes The Band, David Clayton-Thomas, Ronnie Hawkins, Oscar Peterson, and others.
I truly hope that your dream comes to fruition post-Covid-19 where you have been actively seeking out interested parties to support your dream for a Toronto Sound Museum, which will encompass all genres of music and the artists that created those sounds.
Fans can stay in tune with you by visiting https://www.shopgreggodovitz.com https://www.facebook.com/greg.godovitz.5 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDRe_KAX3VskrY8KqUNJDGw https://open.spotify.com/artist/0KevWg2iwZKDiVov6EKIHU https://open.spotify.com/artist/11HfVXr96EDR9io6XhWQUm