Thursday, July 08, 2010

Roxy! Roller!

Long before I learned about the long and storied history of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, I only knew "Sweeney Todd" as the glam rock band (from Vancouver, by the way) whose hit Roxy Roller is a staple of classic rock stations across Canada. From their self-titled debut album, the song went to #1 on the Canadian charts in 1976 and won a Juno for Single of the Year. Around that same time though, Sweeney Todd's lead singer Nick Gilder and guitarist Bruce McCulloch both left the band to pursue solo careers. In fact, Gilder would later win Junos for Single of the Year and Most Promising Male Vocalist in 1979. Meanwhile you might be surprised to find out who was recruited to replace Gilder as Sweeney Todd's new vocalist: a 16-year-old Bryan Adams! Fun fact: it was Bryan Adams who attended the Juno ceremonies in Gilder's place when Sweeney Todd actually won their Juno. The band recorded a second album If Wishes Were Horses with Adams before ultimately breaking up. Although it's not on the album, they also re-recorded Roxy Roller with Adams on vocals.

Sweeney Todd - Roxy Roller
Sweeney Todd - Roxy Roller (with Bryan Adams on vocals)
In between Gilder and Adams, Clark Perry had a short stint as lead vocalist. Of course, they re-recorded Roxy Roller with him too, though I couldn't track that down.

On Nick Gilder's 1977 solo debut You Know Who You Are, the record company included Roxy Roller on the US release, though whether it was re-recorded or not I can't tell since they sound exactly the same. But I'm curious if American listeners know Roxy Roller more as a "Nick Gilder" song rather than a "Sweeney Todd" song. I just noticed too that the recent soundtrack to The Runaways movie features Roxy Roller as the lead-off track, as performed by Nick Gilder...

Nick Gilder & Time Machine - Roxy Roller
Gilder did re-record Roxy Roller (with altered lyrics) for his 1999 album Longtime Coming.

Crash Kelly - Roxy Roller [originally by Sweeney Todd]

Suzi Quatro - Roxy Roller [originally by Sweeney Todd]

Jimmy Zee - Roxy Roller [originally by Sweeney Todd]
The best cover of this lot, Jimmy Zee switches gears and serves up some swaggering blues rock.

The 100th anniversary of the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) is coming up here in Vancouver and Bryan Adams is kicking off the festivities with a Brian Wilson-less Beach Boys. Almost tempted to go.

Sodom - Kids Wanna Rock [originally by Bryan Adams]
This metal cover is good for a chuckle.

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