Backstage: Tom Cochrane Was in My Pool

Red Rider, back before Tom Cochrane's life was a highway.
Red Rider, back before Tom Cochrane's life was a highway.

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares stories of memorable rock 'n' roll encounters that took place in our local environs. This week: Friends with quirks... 

Only rarely have I had the chance to spend real social time

with the musicians with whom I've worked. For the most part, our

socializing has been somewhat perfunctory -- an interview, a greeting at

the hotel, a press tour -- nothing that really enhances a personal bond

beyond the standard business connection. Still, most of my musical heroes I've met been pretty nice people, and in a couple of cases, I've even made connections that linger long after our initial encounter.

When I worked in record company promotion, things were a lot more casual. Bands would come to town and actually spend a day or two between gigs. For the most part, they were only too happy to treat South Florida as a sunny getaway, given that they often hailed from places where the sun rarely shined and winter occupied the majority of the year. I recall one particular occasion when the Canadian band Red Rider came to town. Known mainly for their rock radio staple "Lunatic Fringe" (and lead singer Tom Cochrane later had the hit "Life is a Highway") the band proved to be a genial bunch, exceedingly friendly and eager to simply settle down and have a good time during one of their few real breaks from a demanding Stateside tour. After they arrived, I invited them over to my house simply so they could hang out and lay back for a few days, allowing them to take advantage of my swimming pool and some home grown hospitality. Indeed, they seemed most interested in soaking up the sun, and within minutes of their arrival, they sprawled themselves out on my front yard, oblivious to the fact they were basking by the street. To me, it seemed odd to stretch out in a place where they could be observed so closely, but none of them seemed to mind. While my wife and I offered them drinks and sandwiches and left them to their own devices, my neighbors probably found the scene somewhat strange. 

I also entertained a British band called Renaissance when they took a few days off before their Miami gig. Like Red Rider, Renaissance weren't necessarily big names, but in the early '70s, their songs "Carpet of the Sun," "Northern Lights" and "Mother Russia" made a big splash on progressive rock radio. Only two members of the band took me up on my offer -- guitarist Michael Dunford and keyboard player John Tout. Dunford didn't stay long, being that he was apparently obsessed with the group's stunning, willowy-voiced singer, Annie Haslam, and he was obviously anxious to be back at the hotel with her. Tout, on the other hand, was one of those Englishmen who had a penchant for partying. Like his countryman Keith Moon, he could be low-key one moment and then when given the chance, a mad man the next. When he heard there was a party taking place down the street, he took off in the direction of my neighbors' apartment, unconcerned about the fact he didn't know a single person there. But being an enthusiastic drinker, he had no problem breaking the ice and making friends. I wished him well and didn't see him the rest of the night. 

I never invited Anne Murray to the house, but when I worked for Capitol, she was as familiar as family. The Canadian songbird, whose songs "Snowbird," "Could I Have This Dance," "Danny's Song" and "Love Song" made her an international star throughout the '70s, toured frequently in South Florida, which was, and is, a favorite place for her fellow countrymen while on holiday. She came down so frequently in fact, that whenever we would visit backstage she would greet us like we were old pals. So when I skipped one of her regular visits one time, she reminded me -- make that, reprimanded me -- the next time I saw her. "Missed you last time," she said, scolding me oh so subtly. I got the hint, but had no excuse. And she knew it.

"I'm really sorry," I sputtered. I promise it won't happen again. And it wouldn't have, had I not been laid off from Capitol Records just prior to her next visit. 

If you happen to see her sometime and she asks for me, tell her my subsequent absence really wasn't really my fault.

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