Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Friend Lost

Once, I was friends with super-producer Bob Rock (with whom I co-produced my Columbia Records CD), and now I'm not. I feel sad about this, not least because as far as I know, there's no reason why we shouldn't still be buddies.

And when I am honest with myself, I suppose I feel sad most of all for selfish reasons. You see, the last four years have been the most tumultuous of my life, and often I've wanted to talk to another guy about being the father of so many children, how to handle certain wife issues, child discipline issues...and for a few reasons, I can't talk to Dad about those sorts of things. I've often wished my granddad was still alive so I could talk to him, but he died fourteen years ago. I've wanted to talk to Bob most of all - he's the only other guy I think who would understand things. (He has seven kids and has been through a few wars with them, but managed to keep things pretty together). seems, he doesn't want to talk.

I first found out there was a problem when I returned a phone call of Marc Reiter (of Q Prime Management, my then managers) a month or so after the 2000 Juno Awards (Canadian music awards). After a bit of chit-chat, Marc said, "Tal, you really ought to call Bob. He's pretty upset about this Juno thing".

"What Juno thing?", I said.

There was a pause.

"Come on...", said Marc.

"What do you mean, 'come on'? What are you talking about?". I felt my throat constricting.

"You're trying to tell me you don't know?"

"What are you talking about?"

Well, the story he told was this. Evidently, when the presenter at the recent Juno Awards ceremony (which I didn't attend and didn't see on TV) announced the winner of the producer of the year award (which Bob and I won), he or she didn't announce Bob's name at the podium - only mine. (To this day, I don't even know if that's true, but that was the story). Supposedly, the Juno people told Bob's manager Bruce Allen afterward that the reason they only announced my name, was that I had called up the Juno committee prior to the awards and demanded that the award be given only to me. And now, Bob was upset that I had backstabbed him by trying to steal his glory!

"WHAT?", I exploded.

The skepticism in Marc's voice when he asked again, "You're telling me you don't know an-y-thing about this? Not even a bit?", still stings when I think about it.

I hung up with Marc, grabbed my cellphone and jumped into the car to pick up my kids from school in Langley (BC).

I dialed Bob's house. His wife Angie answered the phone. "Bob's just leaving", she said.

"Angie", I said. "I just heard this totally insane story from Marc Reiter about the Junos...have you heard anything about it?". I was hoping she'd say no.

"Actually, yes".

"Okay - Angie - I don't know anything about this at all. I have to talk to Bob. Can you get him? This is important".

After a few minutes of dead air (turns out cellphone calls from BC to Maui are pretty expensive :P), I heard a click-clack and then a gruff-sounding Bob.


"BOB - I just got off the phone with Marc Reiter and he told me you think I somehow arranged to get our Juno just for myself or something. It's-"

Bob interrupted. Still very gruff, very low voice. "I thought we were friends".

"Bob - listen - I don't know ANYTHING about this. This is totally insane. I didn't even know when the ceremony was. I only found out about that we'd been nominated because I read it in the paper! I've never talked to anyone at the Junos and I'm PROUD that we both did the album - it couldn't even cross my mind to claim the award for myself. I don't know anything about this, really".


"I was really surprised you would do something like that".

What the...?

I tried to calm myself.

"Okay", I said, breathing deeply. "Let me ask you a question: Why do you think I could have gotten the Juno committee to not give you your award, when we're both listed as co-producers on the CD? It's absurd".

"Because you're a Bachman in Canada", he said.

That got me a bit riled.

"I've had one hit in Canada! That's nothing! Listen - if you and your co-writer get nominated for song of the year, you can't call up the Grammys and say, 'hey, I want the award all to myself, so just give it to me alone'. It's totally crazy! How could you guys even believe this? You guys have been in the music business for like twenty five years! It doesn't make any sense. If someone forgot to announce your name at the Junos, it was probably some printing error on the card or something".

More silence, and then:

"Like I said, I thought we were friends".

"BOB - what I'm saying is, I DIDN'T DO THIS AND I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT. That's the whole point! We ARE friends and it couldn't even occur to me to do something like that...".

But for whatever reason, Bob didn't seem to really hear me.

Well, I have to say that I felt pretty stung that both Bob, and evidently, the guys at my own management company, could have so swallowed such a cockamamie story, and imagined I was so petty...I kept wondering, "What is it about me that would make them think that? I must not be the kind of guy I like to imagine I am".

So the next thing I did was have a couple of people at Q Prime call the Juno committee (called CARAS) directly to try to get to the bottom of everything. Within days, I'd received a faxed copy of the original Sony submission form, which - of course - listed both Bob and me as co-producers of the album, and a letter of apology from the head honcho at CARAS saying that the error had apparently originated in their publicity department. I immediately faxed copies to both Bob's studio in Maui and to Bruce Allen's office in Vancouver. But...they didn't fax or call back. Hm.

Well, I called up Bruce Allen at home that Sunday to talk to him about it. He said to call him at his office the next morning. "What time?" I said. "Ten", he said, then hung the phone up.

The next morning at ten I called up Bruce's office to just make sure he and Bob had gotten the material from CARAS and were clear about everything...but do you know, that when I called, Bruce wouldn't take my call? "Bruce is busy", said his assistant, Sandy.

"Uh, okay. When should I call back?"


"What time?"

"Ten", she said.

The next morning at ten I called again. Sandy put me on hold, then came back on a few minutes later and said, "Bruce is busy".

"When should I call back?"


"What time?"


Wednesday at ten I called back...but...(surprise)...Bruce wouldn't take the call. I don't know if he was embarrassed that it hadn't had anything to do with me when he'd been running around telling everyone it did for six weeks, or what...but, he never would take my phone call. This is the same guy who I'd chummed around with just a couple of months earlier at a Christmas party, who came to my wedding reception, who I've known since I was five, who I'd talked to on the phone, with whom I'd discussed the possibility of him managing me...and so, we haven't spoken since. (I found out later that Bruce had been slamming me week after week on his CFOX radio show!).

Well, all I could do after that was write a letter to Bob and Bruce, which I faxed to them, just trying to clear things up...but again, no response I've since left a few phone messages for Bob, sent an email...but Bob's never spoken to me since.

The only thing I can think of that I might have done to ruin things was this. When I had my first meeting at Q Prime Management (early 1999, almost a year prior to the Juno fiasco), I was very desirous that they would take me seriously as a songwriter and musician and producer (after all, quite a few journalists and industry execs up till then had seemed to think I was only a company creation, and I wanted to really make my mark as a musician; I wanted Q Prime to help me get producing gigs - it's something I always thought would be fun to try). So, I made a point of telling the Q Prime guys during that first meeting that I really had co-produced my album - that the co-production wasn't just an idle credit. So, I mentioned that I'd arranged a lot of the material, played a lot of it, and that I thought I could help other artists as a producer or co-producer, etc. And...maybe I either came on too strong that day, or what I said was exaggerated before being repeated to either Bob or Bruce, or both, at some point by someone at Q Prime, as if I'd meant to say that Bob hadn't done anything at all on my album. Heck, I don't know.

What I do know is that Bob's reputation as a world-class producer is well-deserved, and I'll always feel grateful I had a chance to spend five months in Maui recording down there with him. It was a fun, challenging, and educational experience. We had a lot of laughs.

For years, I stuck up for Bruce Allen when I heard others tell stories like the one above. I guess I couldn't really believe them, and I probably wouldn't even now but for this happening. It's really made me wonder...

There have been a lot of times over the past four years I really wish I could have talked to Bob about all those things we used to talk about: being a dad, being a husband, trying to teach your kids right from wrong, how to even tell right from wrong in a lot of cases...but I guess those days are over.


rick mcginnis said...

Heck, Tal, it really sounds like some people had a lot invested in their anger, as you said, and won't be cheated of the feeling of righteous wrath (and comforting self-pity, even more to the point.) Losing friendships hurts, especially when you're no longer young, and the ones you have start to feel more precious - I know this from experience. Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do, especially when you're in a business where you discover that you really didn't have a direct line between yourself and someone you called a friend, and that there were all these distorting filters in between. A sad story - you have my sympathy.

zalia said...

Tal, is that the Bob Rock that produced Metallica? He sounds like a cry baby, but if he was a friend and you miss him...that's sad. It's like you had that big hit single in '99 and then your life got really hard. I think it's a good thing we don't know what's coming.

Talmage said...

Hi Zalia

Yes, Bob produced Metallica.

I don't think he's a crybaby (though I did wonder why he was so concerned over an announcement at the Junos, when he makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on royalties and lives in a mansion in Maui!). I just think that Bruce Allen, for whatever reason, snowed him and got him all riled up.

One follow-up: After finding out Bruce Allen had been slagging me on his radio show, I asked my lawyer to give him a buzz to see if he could calm him down and explain stuff (since Bruce would no longer take my calls! These people seem nuts!). My lawyer told me that as soon as Bruce got on the phone with him, he started ranting about what a jerk I was, and how rotten I was to Bryan Adams when I opened for him on his European tour.

Very strange - I only ever bumped into Bryan Adams once on the whole tour. I walked into a room, there was Bryan, I said "hi!" and held out my hand, and Bryan just said, "Who are you?" lol. That was after, like, four dates. I said, "I'm Tal", he said, "Oh. Nice to meet you", and then excused himself and left. So, once again, I don't have any clue as to what Bruce was talking about...He seems like a very strange cat.

Besides, every night onstage on that tour, I would mention - in the native language of where we were playing (Italian, German, or French) - that Bryan and I were both from Vancouver and that it was a big thrill to be playing with him. I guess that's "dissing" in Bruce Allen's world!

I don't know that I'd say "my life has been hard"; there are always a few challenges to overcome. I have a lot to be thankful for.

Thanks for commenting, and thanks Rick for your comments.

zalia said...

I hear you. But, you have suffered a lot of disappointments in a couple of important areas in your life (spiritual, professional). Everybody has their burdens to bear, certainly there are a worse things that could happen, but I think the loss of a trusted friend is near the top of the list.

So, I always kind of envisioned musicians kind of "hanging out" if they were on tour together. I guess that's not true? Did Bryan Adams really not know you...when you were opening for him. That seems weird.

wishiwasjane said...

In my experience, sometimes people are looking for a way out of a friendship for whatever reason. This could have a lot more to do with your friend, then it acutally does with you. Above all, and when it comes down do it, you have never been a liar. Not only can I never, ever, remember you lying in my entire life (or even alluding to something that wasn't true), but you have the unique ability to remember details and accuracies in a very 'photographic memory' kind of way. The feeling in your post is that that loss is yours, when in fact, I believe it to be the other way around.

Tal said...


I don't know if Bryan really didn't know who I was, or if it was some weird dominance put-down thing under the guise of ignorance. No clue.

I got to talking once with a prominent Vancouver journalist who's known Bryan and Bruce for years, and began to tell her this story. She ended up interrupting and said that Bruce does stuff like this all the time, and that he is "nuts" and "paranoid" - that artists who in no way could ever be a threat to his artists he perceives as such, and tries to blacklist them...She said, "Bruce does stuff like this all the time. They're all totally insane in that office. Sometimes they crush people just to crush them".

I must say, for insane people, the people at the Bruce Allen Talent Agency seem to have had their fair share of successes over the years. Once, before any of this happened and I still thought that people were exaggerating when they told me stories about Bruce's insanity, I asked him to manage me. I later heard from a well-placed source that Bruce had asked Bryan directly whether he had any objections to him (Bruce) managing me, and that Bryan had indeed objected - so Bruce and I ended up not working together. I suppose if Bryan hadn't have objected, he might still be managing me!

Jane - I seem cursed with no ability to lie :P...I've tried a couple of times, I really have. Each time I start stuttering and flushing and I always end up confessing a second or two later.

The last time I tried lying was, I think, 1999. I had been traveling a lot and I was REALLY exhausted. I got home late from somewhere and had to fly out early the next morning, and as it happened, I hardly got any sleep. So I showed up at the Vancouver airport for my flight to Denver I think it was, and I was at that point of tiredness where you're like a little kid who hasn't had his nap - like you're almost crying and stuff. Like, I *hurt*, I was so tired.

So when I got to the check-in counter, I said, "please - I gotta pass out on that plane. Can you book me where there are three vacant seats in a row so I can lay down?".

The lady said, "Well, I think everyone's already checked in and we've just released the last row, so I'll book you there. You should have it all to yourself".

A princess in the flesh..."THANK YOU", I said. I felt like hugging her.

So, I get on to the plane, make my way to the back row. I'm wearing my giant wooly lamb coat and I am spontaneously passing out from second to second as I'm putting my belt on: "zz... huh?... zz...huh?...zz..huh?..."

I snap the belt, and I can't WAIT to lay down. Everyone's seated, I'm in the back row all by myself, sitting on the aisle, and everything's going according to plan. They're just about to close the plane...and then I can sprawl out...

And then...



oh no....



Allah help me...please Jesus...anyone...please...NO...

Walking down the aisle, straight toward me, comes this big doofus fifty-something looking cowboy with tinted aviators, with his rhinestone-laden wife, and there's nowhere to sit...but in the two seats next to me. And sure enough, they stop at the end of my row, open up the overhead containers...and I'm frantic. I'm beside myself...because - I'd taken a risk at the counter: the back row seats didn't recline! So, the backs are at like a 95 degree angle - like being strapped to an old wooden chair at the Hanoi Hilton or something. How can I sleep bolt upright? NO!

So - I'm really ashamed of this - I don't know what I was thinking - I felt desperate, what can I say? - I said, "I - I - no - you - you can't - these are - these are - these are my - you can't...". Just then the flight attendant appears from behind us in the little back cabin and says, "Is there a problem?"

"Yeah, they - I - they can't sit - these - "

(...there's no hope...what can I do? What can I say?...)

And all of a sudden I heard myself say, "They - they can't sit here...because..........I - I booked all three of these seats".

"You bought three plane tickets?"

"Uh - uh - one else can...sit......zzz....huh? Oh - no, no one else.....cannnn..."

And then the attendant's eyes narrowed, and she snapped, "Don't be ridiculous. Please move over". (She didn't even bother to ask me if I could produce three ticket stubs...!).

Addendum: It turned out the cowboy and his wife were intoxicated, and grew very belligerent during the flight. I missed a bit of it because I was able to doze off finally (bolt upright), but at the very least, I had the pleasure of watching airport cops take Cowboy into custody as we walked off the plane. HA HA HA.

And if I remember right, I haven't been able to summon the nerve to attempt another lie since. That one was embarrassing enough!

IlĂ­on said...

Human beings are insane, aren't they?

Anonymous said...

I have heard many times that it is “the winner takes all" in the music business. I have also believed music is a very competitive profession. However, I was still surprised to hear that big guys like Bryan Adams would feel so threatened by a young star. If you were in academia, a bigger star would very likely try to team-up with you instead of try to crush you!

Actually, Tal, when come to think of it, your beautiful voice alone is definitely a threat to Bryan Adams.

I read an interview of Bruce Allen in a music magazine recently. He was named as a top artist manager. He said many things but one thing that I remembered was that he decided long time ago not to manage more than one artist in the same genre because there are just too many conflicts. Wondered whether his decision was made before or after your interaction with Bryan Adams.

I am sorry that you lost a friend that way. I am kind of scared for young people walking into the music profession. Would you encourage your son Ashton to follow your footsteps if he shows interest and talent in music?

Best wishes.

rachael said...

A sad and frustrating story for sure. Its hard to know what exactly motivates another person, but in my experience, people who are willing to be unkind or unsupportive to others, are doing so to feel better about themselves.

I got a kick out of this comment....


"Each time I start stuttering and flushing and I always end up confessing a second or two later."

LOL that could be me, my Mom once told me I am a horrible liar, and it has scarred me forever. Now that I am a parent I suspect that she was just saying that, to convince me that she could read my mind, but it had the same effect in any case. I get nervous at the thought of telling untruths, and I suck at it.

Practising deception seems to me to be such a great deal of hard work anyway, the stress doesn't seem to be worth it. How do chronic liars keep thier stories and facts in order? It must be exhausting. Telling the truth, its is so easy, you can never mess it up.

Geotopia said...

Tal, hopefully it's not too late, but it sounds like your friendship with Bob means a lot more to you than the Juno. I don't know how many physical Junos there are, if each credited artist received their own to put on their mantle, or if by virtue of his name being left out of the announcement, he didn't get an actual award.

Anyway, if Bob didn't get one, pack yours up and send it to him. I know it means a lot, it's the highest honor in Canadian Music, but you seem so down to earth and clear headed, you know it means more to him (or he thinks it does) and you'll show him that his friendship means more to you than the trophy.

Heavy price to pay, but a friendship is only worth what you're willing to sacrifice. You'll still be remembered for the honor of the award, but you'll also be remembered for your friendship.

Geotopia said...

Oh, and take a picture of the Juno with you and your family first. I'm sure they have sacrificed a lot to help you attain that level in your profession and they'll be more proud of the picture of the Juno you gave up, than the Juno that cost you what sounds like a valued friendship.

Anonymous said...

Bruce Allen was involved in the opening of the Olympic Games 2010 (Vancouver) i am surprised he was after these remarks:

"If you choose to come to a place like Canada, then shut up and fit in,” Allen declared, adding: “There is the door.
If you don’t like the rules, hit it. We don’t need you here. You have another place to go. It’s called home. See ya.”

Not that i agreed to the people involved but the way he said it was just not right.

but i think things went ok in the end and i bet Bryan Adams and Bruce Allen paid a lot of dosh to the organisation
to have them have there

and Tal that friend wasn't a friend at all, i bet he used you and his plan didn't go the way he planted it, if he was
a real friend he would listen

the phrase you measure my corn by your bushel counts here i bet he thought you were in the wrong
because that is the way he thinks

rachael chatoor said...

I think wishiwasjane has a very valid point, sometimes people have their own reasons for putting an end to things (which may very well be unrelated).

It does feel quite dreadful to be misunderstood and find out that your words or actions (or lack of) have been misconstrued or taken out of context and judged. Then, to find yourself discarded because of it..... Not nice.

You asked yourself "What is it about me that would make them think that? I must not be the kind of guy I like to imagine I am".

Fair question, I would guess other's struggle with similar questions over their own personal issues.

So glad you got this out at least, it must have felt good to put pen to paper ( so to speak ). It certainly sets an inspiring example for others.

This as well as some of the other stories you've shared or posted, are valid explorations and may very well help encourage others to open themselves up and face or share their own thoughts.

I only hope they find an understanding audience or place to vent, unlike the people who judged and discarded you.

Sorry you lost your friend. That really sucks.