Tom Cochrane part 1

tom cochrane comfort doll project

Tom Cochrane

By February 2007 we started to look for our next batch of Comfort Doll Project participants. I spent more time on Myspace and found more musicians and bands but none ‘jumped out’ at me…. until I landed on Tom Cochrane’s page one day. I can say this because I’ve said it to Tom and he knows 🙂 –  I didn’t like his music very much back in his heyday of Red Rider. It was too hard edged for me, and I couldn’t seem to identify with Tom or his music on a personal level; I was much more into U2 and other acts at the time.

So when I stumbled upon his page, and listened to his Myspace music player, I didn’t hear White Hot, or Boy Inside the Man, or any of the older radio hits; I heard White Horse, The Party’s Not Over (which speaks of being in Mozambique) and Northern Star and I had a hard time believing it was Tom Cochrane. Instead of a young guy with floppy bangs and a frown, I found a mature silver haired, smiling, softer person that I was instantly drawn to. I loved the new music – much more personal (I thought), softer, more introspective and emotional than the songs I remembered way back when. On a whim I sent him a message via Myspace outlining what our charity was and how we did things – I suggested that as he was coming to Vancouver in a month, if he was interested, we could set up an in-person photo op. I sent the message off, not expecting to get anything back and then went to Google to find out what he’d been up to for all the years I’d not paid attention. I was stunned actually. I found pics of him from World Vision’s website – he’d been to Africa – Kenya and Mozambique – and there were photos of him playing soccer with the children in one of the villages. He supported the Canadian Make Poverty History campaign; had a spot in their commercial/ad wearing a white band on his wrist. There was so much I found out about this Canadian legend that I didn’t know, and I began to realize how I had unfairly judged him for all those years.

A few short hours later, I had a personal message back from Tom – lets do it. Short, to the point and wonderful 🙂  So I sent another message with particulars and we messaged back and forth a few times, sorting out details (always there are details – I can never ‘just’ walk into a venue to do a photo op) and then the day came for me to meet Tom in person. Was I nervous? Actually, truthfully? No. I was more concerned about taking a crappy photo of him (I was using a 35mm film camera at the time and only on ‘auto’) than I was about meeting multi Juno Award winner Tom Cochrane. I think because he had corresponded with me himself rather than through a PR or Mgt person, and because he seemed to be a ‘straight from the hip’ sort of person, I wasn’t nervous about meeting him.

The day of the photo, it was miserable and rainy; a typical March day in Vancouver – and when I arrived at the venue, the staff weren’t sure about what I was asking, but I gave the info they needed, they called to Tom’s tour manager and out he came, and said yes, come in, and that was that. He told me that Tom was in an interview for a TV spot, then radio, then had sound check to do and would be with me after all that was finished. (busy schedule! and they still fit me in!) I’m good with waiting – but this experience was unbelievably cool… I was invited to have a seat in the venue ‘anywhere I wanted’ while waiting. I was told to help myself to muffins and juice set out for the road crew/techs up on the stage, and when I said ‘thank you’ and didn’t move to get one, I was told again, ‘help yourself; make yourself at home’. So I did 😉 The road crew all smiled at me and I returned to the best seat in the house to wait, and to visually check for the best spot for lighting. Film camera and an amateur photographer (at the time) remember?

Tom and the band came out on stage and started doing sound check. Only this was more than any sound check I’ve ever sat through – before or since. The band ran through each song they were going to perform that night – not just a few bars, but nearly half the song.. tweaking things here and there, making sure the sound was excellent in all areas of the venue. Tom’s bass player, Jeff Jones (Jonesy), saw me sitting there 3 rows up, dead center, and started smiling at me as he played, and I couldn’t help but tap my hands to the beat – and by the end of the sound check we were grinning at each other like old friends! He came over to talk to me and wanted to know what was up, so I showed him the Comfort Doll ready for Tom’s photo and explained our project and he thought it was great.

Jonesy left and Tom came over, introduced himself to me (that made me smile) and when I introduced myself back, he seemed startled – explaining that he thought I was my partner.. and then in a shocked voice said – you cut your hair! (I had long hair in my Myspace photo but after the chemo treatments it was just starting to grow back and was about 4 inches long all over). I was as stunned as he, and blurted out – no it was the chemo. That seemed to break the ice for both of us and he asked me some questions about treatment and wanted to know how I was (in truth, very tired, but very glad to be there). He asked me where we wanted to take the photos, and I told him as much light as possible was what I needed, so we did a few photos right there. Then surprisingly he suggested going out to the lobby of the venue and doing some there as well. We went out and I did 4 more photos, aware of how valuable his time was and not wanting to delay him from other things; but he suggested more photos on the stage with the lights on, so off we went for more.

All told, I did about 10 photos with Tom (without a digital, of course there is no way to know what you have until you develop the film). I was so impressed with Tom’s generosity of his time and his patience of me doing the photos slower than a pro would, of course. He and I had some conversation about his Make Poverty History support, and about World Vision. He’s supported them 110% ever since he and his wife Kathy sponsored a child, and World Vision contacted him to end that support when his sponsor child no longer needed it – he was so impressed with not being ‘duped’ into still paying, that he sponsored another child immediately. He’s also been to a World Vision sponsored village unannounced, on a fact finding mission, and again was so impressed that he’s thrown himself into helping them whenever he can – in big ways that most people have no idea about…. I was impressed too, with him. He’s the epitome of charitable giving; of being behind the scenes not drawing attention to it. Just doing it.

I finished the photos and thanked him for his time, told him I’d contact him about the auction (about him helping us promo it somewhat on his Myspace as he didn’t have a fan club at that time) and I thought like all bands before him, that was it. I was mistaken 🙂

Part 2 of Tom Cochrane is further along in our blog!

A Sheep at the Wheel

I met Courtney through the U2 fan forum and got to know him online then we had a bar-b-que and invited some ‘U2’ friends over to brainstorm ideas on how to support the One Campaign at some of the U2 shows.. Courtney was one of the invites.

Courtney has a band called A Sheep at the Wheel and they were in the middle of recording their second album at the time, so I asked if he’d be interested in doing a comfort doll photo and he said he’d talk to the rest of the band. It took a month or two but he came back with a ‘yes’ answer and so one night I headed downtown to their rehearsal studio and got to watch the band rehearse for a good couple of hours, including Sheep singing a new song that was to be on the new record. It was pretty cool. We could hear other bands down the hallways of the rehearsal space also banging it out – a very cool atmosphere for a music fan. After their rehearsal, we headed out to the hallway, and I got them to all jump on the couch with the comfort doll. Sheep/Courtney is holding the doll, the drummer is wearing the glasses, guitar player in yellow and black, rhythm guitarist in green and bass player in the back in black.

A Sheep at the Wheel’s photo was auctioned with Rocko and the Devil’s photo in May 2007 and the proceeds went to Music Rising – a charity created by U2’s The Edge to help musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Since we were both big U2 fans, since thats how I met Sheep and how we both met Rocko, it seemed a fitting place to put the proceeds.

Rocko and the Devils

With two auctions under our belt, and a few photos waiting to be auctioned off at a later date, we decided to take a break, especially as we ran into holidays – Canada celebrates their Thanksgiving generally a month before the USA does, so that put a Statutory holiday smack in the middle of October, and then again in November. As well, Canada has Remembrance Day in November. (Equivalent to Veterans Day in the USA). We also weren’t sure who else to approach for a doll photo. We lucked out with the people who had helped us so far, but most of the people we had on our current ‘wish list’ were too popular and we didn’t know how to find management contact info for them.

My husband and I were booked for a holiday in Hawaii in December (2006)- my reward for going through 4 months of chemo earlier in the year. U2 were playing their very last Vertigo tour in Hawaii on December 9th, and we were going! (there was also the Hawaii Marathon, the Surf Competitions, and a Dental convention the same weekend! They were expecting about 200,000 people/tourists that weekend). So… we came up with the idea to ask Rocko – he’s U2’s production manager, and a musician and lead singer of Rocko and the Devils.

Some background on the amazing Rocko. Rocko has worked in the music business for nigh on 30 years. Everyone who’s anyone knows who he is. He’s worked as tour manager, production manager, road manager, and yes, they are all different jobs! He’s worked for Journey, Styx, Def Leppard, and U2 just to name a few, and it was while working with Journey that he put together his band, The Devils. Most of his bandmates are technicians (previously called roadies) for Journey or Styx and are fabulous musicians – they have to be as they’re in charge of all the instruments for the band, and testing them out before each show. While working for Journey, Rocko suggested opening for them with his band – apparently much of the audience was missing part of Journey’s set list due to still being out in the lobby getting beers and tour tshirts etc. With an opening band, they were warmed up to the music and ready to rock with the headliners. Rocko and the Devils were so good that they kept the band together, and practiced when they were home off the road, and began writing some of their own songs.

Fast forward to U2 and their Vertigo tour a few years later, and Bono was given a demo tape of the Devils, and one day he asked if they would close out the tour by being the opening act for U2 in Hawaii! Rocko had met some of the U2 fans in person, and one of them, Hans44, developed a website for Rocko and the Devils, and before you knew it, everyone knew who the opening act was. Rocko is such a down to earth unpretentious sort of character that we all become friendly with him, and so I decided to ask if he’d do a doll photo and he said yes! (although he kept wondering who in the world would ever buy a picture of his mug 🙂  ) The plan was to meet him somewhere in Hawaii before the show and do it on-site. My husband and I were there for a week, U2 was there for 2 or 3 days, so I figured no big deal. right? haha. Yeah.

Things seldom work the way you think they should, or hope they would. And this was no different. Again, I’ve come to learn by experience, that the music business is unpredictable and you have to just go with the flow. Most of our cell phones didn’t work for some reason – our local Canadian carrier shifted our phones to voice mail, and many of my USA friends couldnt get through. Combine that with the fact we had rented a condo instead of staying in a hotel, and we were unable to get any messages from people that might have called (no front desk). The internet was our only method of communication with some people, but some people didn’t have even that. It was a schmozzle. Then the whole thing about trying to get to the show venue – it was about a half hour drive out of the main tourist beach, and there were 60,000 people trying to get there! Needless to say, no matter how much Rocko wanted to help out, it was not meant to be. I was terribly disappointed, but I firmly believe things happen for a reason and everything in its right time so I shook it off and just enjoyed the show and being in Paradise.

rocko and the devils comfort doll photoRocko and the Devils were unbelieveable! They rocked the house down and were the perfect opener for U2. The entire night was amazing – the fans had been wearing white tshirts with ONE on them for most of the tour (to show support for the Make Poverty History and One Campaigns ) but this last show, they decided to turn the stadium (RED) – to show support for Bono’s new venture at that time – Product Red. Even Rocko wore RED!

So, the tour was done, we went home, and within a few weeks I get an email from Rocko asking if he can still do a doll photo, do I still want one?  But of course!  So I mailed him a doll and autograph card, and a few weeks after that, I get a whole series of wonderful photos back from him.rocko and the devils comfort doll photo

rocko and the devils comfort doll photoI chose a few, and put them aside knowing that there were many new Rocko and the Devil fans amongst my U2 friends who would be bidding on them and bidding high 🙂  Rocko promised me he’d help, and although it didn’t work out the way I thought it would, it did work out and he’s a man of his word. And wonderful too 😉 He calls his comfort doll ‘lil devil’ and it sits staring down at him from his studio shelf.

The auction (held May 2007 and combined with A Sheep at the Wheel photo) brought in $140.00 which was sent to Music Rising, a charity in New Orleans started by and supported by U2’s The Edge, to help struggling musicians purchase replacement instruments after Hurricane Katrina, and get back to work by doing so.. many of the musicians lost their livelihoods when their instruments were destroyed.

This Youtube video is Rocko and the Devils performing I Dont Wanna as they opened for U2. Its fabulous!

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The Tragically Hip

tragically hipWith 54-40 done and in storage so to speak until we got another photo to add to it, we started looking for another band. I listened to CFOX Radio quite often. One day on The Fox I heard the DJ announce that The Hip were coming to town in November – in fact, the singer, Gord Downy Jr, was going to be on the show the next day just to chat about their newly released album. Of course, that’s all I needed – another great Canadian and well known band… and we had to ask them! But how?

My first instinct was to try and figure a way to contact Gord Downey after he finished his radio station gig but of course its not good policy to accost someone you dont know in the street and ask for a charity photo op 😉 So.. I tried looking up the band’s contact info and couldn’t find anything! No address other than Los Angeles or New York and not enough time for snail mail (internet was still relatively new at this time!)

So… what to do? I decided to write a letter and send it to the Venue! The band would be there for 4 shows in a row, but actually have to be in town for 6 days the way the dates were split up… I figured if the Tour Manager got our letter on the first day, it would give him 4 days to make a decision and call us – or not. It had to be timed just right too though! If the letter arrived at the Venue too early, the chances of the staff tossing it in the garbage was huge… so with fingers crossed and prayers said, I wrote the letter and put a date on the back to remind myself ‘roughly’ when to mail it off.

Time passed… and I didnt hear anything back. Sometimes I forget too that I’ve written a letter – once its gone, its almost as if its not real until I hear back.. its easier to not get my hopes up and be surprised when it does happen.

November 3rd came. Nothing. November 4th came. Nothing. November 6th came – nothing. On the morning of November 7th – the very last show for the band, I got a phone call from their tour manager. “I’ve had your letter in my pocket for 4 days and almost forgot about it. Can you come down today, in a few hours, and do the photo? Do you still have time to do this?”  (It always astounds me when THEY ask ME if I have the time – like I’m doing them a favor and not the other way around! Its pretty cool when that happens and never ceases to surprise me)

I grabbed my gear, the comfort doll, my nerves – and headed downtown on public transit and got to the venue at the appointed hour. I buzzed the security door and told the disembodied voice why I was buzzing and gave him the contact name. “Hold please” and then silence. He came back and told me “he’s busy, can you come back in half an hour.”… so … I went for a walk and did some window shopping on the strip. Half an hour later I went back. I could hear them doing sound check inside, and was hesitant about interrupting the band in the middle of working, but buzzed again, and again was asked to come back in half an hour. Understandable. Food seemed like a great idea, then I headed back and was asked to come back an hour later please.

This time I didn’t hear any sound check/music this time and figured I’d hit it right… I buzzed the door and was told that the fellow in question was gone. I was crushed of course, but sometimes these things just don’t work out.  I figured he’d gone for dinner – and the band wasn’t on till after 9pm so I had his contact phone number – but no cell phone! (it was 2006 remember – not everyone had a Blackberry or iPhone back then 🙂 )  I went to look for a pay phone and there weren’t any! The City had cleaned every single pay phone off the strip for a 10 block (or more) radius – I quit walking after 10 blocks. I went back to the Venue and the restaurant a few doors down and asked the very friendly guy behind the counter if he had a pay phone (knowing full well he didn’t). He must have seen either the determination or the crushed look in my face because he loaned me his cell phone! I told him it was a long distance call and he said go ahead.. so I called the Tour Manager and talked to him.

Turns out the person I spoke to through the Venue security door intercom didn’t even go look for the Tour Manager -just told me to come back later. The Tour Manager had been wondering where I was and if I was going to show up. A good lesson learned! He was very nice about it – told me the band had taken off for dinner and were not due back until after 9pm for last minute pre-show meeting but if I wanted to try coming back at that time – he’d try to round them up for the photo op.. that he’d leave a pass for me at the ticket window.  I said yes please!

So… off to kill more time and happy that things were going work out. I went back at the right time – and by then the doors were open and they were letting people into the Venue. I was lucky – I just went to the ticket window, gave my name and got my pass and was let in! I got into the Green Room with no difficulty thanks to the Tour Manager who personally came out to meet me .. and I set up the camera (and tried to calm my nerves) while I waited for the band to arrive.

The band arrived – and were the most friendly, down to earth, nice guys… I had literally just enough time to snap 2 photos and have them sign the card, and as they were signing the card – they were being introduced on stage! They all took the time and signed though (cool) – and gave the comfort doll to the Tour Manager, then jumped on stage amid a cheering crowd.  The Tour Manager was very nice – thanked me for my patience and perseverance and told me if I wanted to stay for the show, I was most welcome to. We make it a policy to always decline- but thanked him for the kind offer. I did however, stay long enough to watch the first two songs and hung off to the side. The guys in the band saw me and sent smiles my way, then I headed out and home with the hopes of a good camera shot.

Got the film back from developing and to my utmost disappointment and sadness – neither of the shots turned out. Even with flash, the Green Room was so dark that having my camera on ‘auto’ didnt enable the shutter speed to be fast enough. I moved when I took the shot, and one band member was badly you couldn’t tell who he was. That was the better of the two photos 😉 … I sent an email to the Tour Manager (who had given me his email that night so he could know about the auction results) and told him about the blurry shots and suggested a fix. My friend Tom Tharp who lives in Portland, is a good photographer. The Hip were going to play in Portland a day or two after Vancouver, so if they would let Tom take a photo – in theory, the band still had the comfort doll! The manager agreed and so thats how this shot of the Tragically Hip ended up coming into being – thanks to my friend Tom Tharp and a band and manager willing to bend over backwards to help out.

auction results for Tragically Hip – we added their photo to Collective Soul for our 6th auction and raised $220.00 for World Vision.

54-40

54-40

In September, we heard that local band 54-40 was playing downtown Vancouver at the Commodore Ballroom in October… and we decided to try for them! IF they said yes, this would really be our ‘first’ band – Caedmon’s Call and Third Day had been done through the mail and by email at a distance, this would be our first local band.

The letter was sent off to their management (yes letter – remember this was late 2006 and email wasnt that well used yet by average people 😉 ) Then we waited. And waited. And we got an email back saying ‘yes the band would be delighted to do this’ for us. Whoohoo!

54-40 are a band that have lasted, and are really somewhat of local celebrities – really good, clean, fun tunes from a hard working band that loves what it does. The meeting was set up, and the hardest part was waiting for the day to arrive. I knit the doll, got the autograph card printed up, bought new film for my camera (still using film at this point), and waited some more. The day arrived, and I went down to the venue at the appointed time – did I say the hardest part was waiting? I lied! The hardest part was standing in front of these four great musicians and trying to explain what the doll was, who I was, what our project was all about etc… while not shaking like a leaf from nervousness. AND trying to look somewhat semi professional with my camera!

The guys were amazing… put me at ease right off the bat.  Super nice, calm, soft spoken. And the fellow who looked the scariest when I walked in, turned out to be the one who asked the most questions about our project! (and no I won’t tell you who it is hehe). It was relaxing, unstressful and unhurried, and I was able to give as much info about our project as the guys wanted to know – very cool. The funny thing is the one fellow automatically picked up the doll after they all signed the card, and was about to take it with him, when he ‘realized’ what he was doing and brought it back to me. We had early on decided that all participants would keep the doll as a token of our appreciation so the look of delight on his face when I told him this, was great.

The photo was done, I let myself out – stood in the crowd to listen to two songs – Ocean Pearl, and Casual Viewing – my fav 54-40 song of all time. Then it was time to head home and hope that I got a decent shot amongst the 5 or 6 that they allowed me to snap. (I did). We only had one band photo, so decided to wait and do another band or two and combine them into our next auction – so 54-40 went on the backburner for the time being while we scouted for our next participant.

(we combined 54-40’s photo with a new friend, Frankie Whyte and the Dead Idols, and it became our 8th auction and helped raise $70.00 for World Vision )