A few weeks ago, I wrote about the origins of one of my earliest songs, Mr. Juicy Fruit. A song that actually predates that one in being written (but recorded later) is Compromise. It was penned around the same time Mr. JF was up to his antics on stage with our iteration of the Jeanine Mackie Band, and ended up being one of the few originals NeMo and I performed with her, Sam (her husband) on keyboards, and Greg Woods on drums.

By the way, she has a new website just launched, which you can check out. NeMo and I are the “couple of neighbours” mentioned in paragraph 9 on the bio page. Greg didn’t live nearby but worked with Jeanine.

Compromise has gone through a lot of permutations: at least 3 key changes, and a rewrite as a blues shuffle eventually scrapped. I still think there are things to do with it, so consider it a work in progress (a duo would be nice, perhaps).

The premise is utterly simple: two different people with divergent tastes, yet one compromising for the other for love. Pretty universal stuff. The fun was coming up with the contrasting bits.

Compromise ©  1997 Félix and the Cats/R. Pelletier.
All rights reserved. [SOCAN/ASCAP]

verse 1
I like it black
You like it white
You say I’m wrong,
I know I’m right
You like caviar,
I can’t stand the stuff
You like it gentle,
I like it rough

verse 2
You make the bed,
I mess it up
You want a mug,
Give me a cup
I drink scotch whiskey,
You prefer wine
What’s yours is yours,
And what’s mine is mine

Every day is a new surprise
Our love may fall, or it may rise
But when I look into your eyes
I know that it’s worth some compromise

verse 3
You don’t like gamblin’,
I love the thrill
You say you can’t dance,
You know I will
You like to garden,
I kill your plants
I’m way too fast
And you want romance

Every day is a new surprise
Our love may fall, or it may rise
But when I look into your eyes
I know that it’s worth some compromise

verse out
Compromise, compromise, compromise… (repeat)

Original version. Note the different title, which was strangely irrelevant to the song content, and the original “caviar” changed to “tofu” at Jeanine’s request. I changed it back. No offence, J.


Man Bites Dog

This week, just a short one…

One of the objectives for this blog is to, once in a while, talk about how some of the songs we play originated. I did that recently with Mister Juicy Fruit.

I never expected the reverse to happen, meaning that the blog was the inspiration to the song.

British Queen


Last week’s post got me thinking of a new tune which I hope to première at the Stir It Up Sundays session at Relish tonight. Since tomorrow is a holiday (thank you Vicky), I hope many more of you can make it there and stick around for all the regulars and the newbies that are likely to play.



Closure on overexposure

What is too much of a good thing?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the difficult state of affairs for live music in Toronto.

13083188_10153969121766001_916330513083677115_nSure, there are places to play, and plenty of talented people out there, but the opportunities to make a decent living at live performance are thin, to say the least. Part-timers like me with a decent day job can manage, if we accept that we are paying/playing for the pleasure, or “exposure bucks” as Pat Kelly has shared. Doesn’t help much with food and shelter though, or even the price of replacement guitar strings.

13177917_988258854543412_2735834000149003513_nMany clubs I have approached for shows have given up on the idea that they have some responsibility for attracting and retaining clientele by offering a great ambience, food and service. These clubs (not all) rely too much on the entertainment to fill the vacuum of their non-marketing. Of course, the reverse is almost unthinkable (see image). I know people in service industry work long and hard, but they need to get better at promoting their venues and curating the supporting entertainment as an added value, not a sine qua non.

But it’s not all their fault, and the more interesting question is, how did it get this way?

Music used to be something rare and special, and marked an event in people’s lives. The only way to hear it came through live performers: drummers in African villages, minstrels travelling from village to castle in the middle ages, buskers, troubadours, singing in the fields, and live bands of every description playing in parks, parades and dance halls through the 20th century. Live was the ONLY way to hear music.

The advent of recorded music made it more available, but still, the equipment required still limited the listening to radio (the only place where it was free — albeit sponsored), jukeboxes and gatherings at people houses around the turntable. Yes, there was a time we would invite friends over to hear the brand new album we just bought! Music was still something special.

Since the arrival of portable music players (Walkman/Diskman, iPod), cheap or illegal downloads, access to music is considerably easier. Ubiquitous and free elevator/mall music, tipped things over the edge. Music has become a commodity (just Google that one!) that is much too often taken entirely for granted, much like air-conditioning (I’m of an age where I remember signs like this one).air-conditioned

I believe that when something is taken for granted, it loses perceived value. As a performer, I have to accept that some of my audience may have lost sight of the specialness of music because it’s hyper-ambient. It seems like an imposition to ask for payment as many listeners may feel it should be free, whether it comes from a piped-in music service, or a band on a stage. I sometimes almost feel guilty about that, but I do have a band to pay.

I hope that my songs being original make them special enough.

Now, don’t get started on illegal downloads.


What Now?

First, of all just some new shows confirmed: Saturday, July 30 back at the Black Swan, and Friday, August 12 at Relish again. More updates as we receive confirmation of pending gigs.

img-thingIn the interim, we will be keeping our heads down a bit more from a performance stand point due to the pressures of the DAY JOB, but also to take the time to finally properly record the songs we have been playing live. For that, I have enrolled in a course in audio recording and will be seeking out a good and reasonable studio. Something good should hopefully come of it.

While there are few Félix and the Cats recording out there in the wild, every song ever played has a corresponding home demo, using Garageband on a Mac computer. On those demos, all the instruments are live except the drums which are built-in loops. The idea was to use these recordings as musical notebooks to share with the rest of the bad and guest sidemen.

Unusually, I will share one of these with you: Mr. Juicy Fruit. When the “proper” recording is done, it may be interesting to compare the two. We’ll see.

Mr. Juicy Fruit was first recorded over 10 years ago on GB, and written even before that. It was a reaction to an individual at a bar on Danforth and Donlands when NeMo and I played for Jeanine Mackie. While the band was playing, this odd and likely very drunk man would dance wildly on his own, do somersaults, then leap onstage and hand out sticks of gum to the band mid-song. He deserved a back-story, so I made one up.

Here it is. Warts and all.

Mister Juicy Fruit © 2005 Félix and the Cats/R. Pelletier.
All rights reserved. [SOCAN/ASCAP]

verse 1
Mister Juicy Fruit likes to leer and cuss
Mister Juicy Fruit ran off to the circus
Mister Juicy Fruit loves his exercise
Mister Juicy Fruit drinks too much to be wise

Say hello, say hello, hello
Say hello, what do you know?
Say hello, say hello, hello
Say hello, what do you know?
Say hello, say hello, hello
Say hello, what do you know?
Say hello, say hello, hello
Say hello, what do you know?

verse 2
Mister Juicy Fruit is a desperate dancer
Mister Juicy Fruit knows he has the answer
Mister Juicy Fruit rumbles and he tumbles
Mister Juicy Fruit shouts even when he mumbles


Mister Juicy Fruit’s soul is full of bile
Mister Juicy Fruit will go out in style
Mister Juicy Fruit, he won’t want your help
Mister Juicy Fruit, he’ll see you in hell

solo over chorus

verse 2
Mister Juicy Fruit ,behind the rough façade
Mister Juicy Fruit, is he truly bad?
Mister Juicy Fruit, behind his liquid eyes
Mister Juicy Fruit, is there a kind surprise?



Gear Lust

There’s more…

My name is Félix and I am a gear-a-holic.

I, like most guitar players, can never have too many guitars/amps/pedals. It’s a well known thing. Just ask any guitar player. Fortunately, I don’t handle the finances in my household, so the urge to procure even more is kept in check by outside scrutiny, and forces me to think long and hard about getting new stuff, rather than act on impulse. It’s all good. Thanks, H!

And while other players are less restrained, the purpose of this current blog is not to denigrate the desire to collect. Rather, I would like to talk about making reasonable choices of what to bring to a show, when there can be so much to choose from when you have a mini-music store in your basement.

This idea stemmed from some recent shows when, in some cases, I went out too light, and in others, a lot of gear should have been left at home. So I made some notes that I thought I’d share with any players interested.

  1. Transportation: the vehicle you are using to get to a show may only allow so much. A Vespa vs. a SmartCar vs. a van, for instance. Or even transit. Not a big deal, but worth saying.
  2. The room: it’s simple—small room, small amp, big room—bigger amp, or small amp through PA.
  3. Set-up time/sound check: the more gear you set up, the more complexities work themselves into it, and the greater chances something technical will go wrong. Just connecting everything up may gobble up all your pre-show time too, time better used reviewing songs, or even chatting with friends who took the time to come out to support you. You don’t want to be stressed out worrying about a late start before hitting the stage. For instance, I have a two-amp setup that sounds awesome when working well, but it takes nearly 45 minutes to put in place, and balancing it requires at least one run-through to balance with itself and the band. Don’t fall in the trap of thinking you HAVE to use the gear because you bought it and spent so much time putting the system together. Its time will come.
  4. Same applies to guitars; you don’t need to show off your entire collection. Remember that unless you have a tech tuning them for you before very song, they are likely to need a tweak before the song, which stalls the performance. In some cases, if you are playing some songs in different tunings, a dedicated guitar for that can make sense, but if you can retuned faster than switching, stick to the one. Set breaks can be an opportune time to switch as well. Learn to play your material on any of your instruments and in standard tuning, no just the open ones for specific songs.

Keep in mind that for most non-musicians, who generally compose you audience, they neither understand or care about your new rare-bird 1950-something with the PAF humbuckers and the Bigsby vibrato. That’s guitar geek talk for a select group. Regular folk just want to hear and see you having fun and share that feeling.

As Fred Thériault, Senior Vice-President for Long and McQuade told me wisely many years ago, when I worked for Yorkville Sound, “People listen with their eyes.” He did not mean that derogatorily for the audience. It spoke a truth about people’s expectations that I still need to remind myself of from time to time.