So of all the rock biography books that I have read lately for example Joe Perry/Paul Stanley/Stephen Pearcy/ Sammy Hagar the one that interested me the most was Carl Dixons Strange Way To Live(A Story Of Rock N Roll Resurrection) The reason is simple all those musicians I have mentioned above all ended up millionaires and more power to them but although Carl may have not tasted the Holy Grail of a Rock N Roll Payout. Dixon is a millionaire and has won the lottery in more ways than the Stephen Pearcys off the world have its just in a different kind of way!
Let me explain it to Ya……
Alright,so everyone knows my deal here at Arena Rock about how much the three Coney Hatch albums(the self titled and Outta Hand) had on my sonic senses as a young lad back in 1982 thru to 1985s Friction(title makes total sense now after reading Carl’s assessment of the recording and interband working relationships).
I’m getting ahead here….
The first part of Carl’s journey ( after two great forwards by Larry Gowan and Pat Stapleton) is about Carl growing up in Sault Ste Marie Ontario and he talks about the Dixon clan and his Grandma who Carl says is one of his heroes as in 2011 she celebrated her 100th Birthday. You know by reading in the early part of the book how much family has meant to Carl.
Carls career as a professional musician starts at the age of 16 and he gives credit where credit is due to his music teacher in high school a lady by the name of Sharon Sibthorpe who also contributes a page in the book as well and commends Carl on his dedication to being a musician and taking his craft seriously. They have the upmost mutual respect for each other.
From there Carl writes in detail about his earlier bands that he was in like Boots and than onto Olias back to Boots who borrowed a name of a band to become Hollinger(great story) back to Boots to which they finally called themselves Alvin Shoes who became a touring act like Carl says you drive all day Sunday to play your next bar in some forsaken Northern Ontario city to perform 4 shows a night 6 days a week and living in seedy conditions with cheap pay to do it all over again but the gratitude he says is when the crowd appreciates what your doing. Many are called….few are chosen! Eventually Alvin Shoes packed it in except Carl whose decides to keep going.
Firefly is the name of Carl’s next band which was based out of Montreal and he as he puts it had to fight to get his 2 songs into there set and like anything times were tough so Carl packed up and went back to Toronto and hooks up with Andy Curran,Steve Shelski and Dave Ketchum and they become Coney Hatch!
The Coney Hatch part of the book is a big reason I was looking forward to this read. Back when they were putting out records there was press but not too much. Carl here tells it how he remembers it as like he says he stayed pretty focused meaning he stayed straight so what he says is not just some juiced up rock n roll frat party!
Coney Hatch became a big deal in the Toronto area in the early 1980s being discovered by Kim Mitchell and this led to there deal with Anthem Records (home of Rush and Max Webster) Some cool facts from Carl in the early years of Coney are.
They signed for $10,000(1982) and there lawyer bill was $9,364 meaning Carl,Andy,Dave and Steve split $366 between them to get to there next gig! (Welcome to the Music Business).
Carl speaks highly of Kim Mitchell who produced the debut(1982) and guided them through the studio and showed them the ropes.
Coney started making the Rounds touring wise opening for Trooper/Saga/Peter Frampton but the one show that stands out in the book is when Coney returned home to open for Cheap Trick and Ted Nugent in Toronto. Cheap Trick were cool to hang with but Nugents road crew gave Coney shitty sound and basically sabotaged there homecoming but as Carl puts it you put your head down and get on with it even if people in the crowd can’t hear you!
Judas Priest is a band they opened a ton of shows for as well and Carl has nothing but high praise for Priest especially singer Rob Halford who would hang out with Coney and even occasionally drive with them to gigs! No ego whatsover and Dixon says that both Priest band and Crew treated them very well!
When Coney went to do the second record (1983s Outta Hand)they were manipulated by management and there record company in dumping Mitchell producing there second record and hiring Max Norman(producer of the first two solo Ozzy Osbourne records) and it wasn’t a pleasant fit! Band had no say in the matter…
Opened for Iron Maiden on Maidens 1983 Piece Of Mind tour and like Priest Carl says Maiden were awesome to tour with and still remain pals to this day. Watch out for those flying M80s In Seattle Carl!
By the time the Hatch record 1985s Friction there third release it is a aptly named record to say the least. Problems with producers ( they had to reluctantly go back to Max Norman) management,changing drummers(Dave Ketchum gets the boot) not getting on a big tour,and inner band turmoils and Dixons marriage was crumbling as well so he bid adieu to Coney Hatch and moved on.
This part of the story is about survival,working odd jobs to support his young family becoming a staff song writer out of New York than losing that job joining the Guesss Who as the keyboard guy basically doing the Burton Cummings deal! Moving on and joining April Wine as the keyboard/guitar slinger and Also there are numerous rock stories to go along with him joining these bands! Carl pulls no punches in regards to other musicians behaviours etc. I wouldn’t even so much say dishing the dirt as opposed to just calling it like it is! I think Carl tends to take the high road on most of it but he gives you great examples on what it like to be on other bands payrolls! Hired Gun I guess they call it!
Of course the book also goes into great detail on Carl’s car accident when visiting his daughter who was filming a TV show down in Australia and his long road back to recovery.( He has a pic of the car that he was in the accident,it’s amazing he survived. I’m sure that’s not the first time he has ever heard that or read that comment) I think this is the part of the book where he finds Resurrection and happiness in both his personal and professional life after something so traumatic.
Of course it all comes full circle as he reconnects with the original Coney Hatch fella’s and they put out the very good cd titled ‘Four’ back in 2012.
This book was a great read and as a fanboy of Coney Hatch from 1982 it was great to read about Carl Dixons obstacles and how he always survived and his journeys to do what he loves to do without the real fame and fortunes of rock stars! Carl just found fame and fortune travelling down other roads !