Friday, January 19, 2007

25eme Regiment

Growing up in Boston, hot dogs had one or more of the following toppings: ketchup, mustard, relish, or chopped white raw onions. That’s it. No cheese, no saurerkraut, no chili (the only time I ever had a chili dog growing up was on trips to Canobie Lake Park; an old amusement park located just across the New Hampshire state line). Whether it was at Fenway Park or the snack bar at the public pool, a hot dog was steamed, with the above condiments. I have many fond memories of piling on those chopped raw onions.

Needless to say, I was shocked when I moved to New York City and discovered that relish was an endangered species and “onions” meant some strange, red pickled mess: soggy stewed onions that tasted like a vinegar high colonic. While I appreciate the 24 hour affordable availability of a Gray’s Papaya dog (I fondly recall when they were 50 cents each), I just wish I could get them with relish and some raw onions (nevermind the temptation of a nice New England style roll, toasted with butter).

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Montreal was hot dog central. They have both steamed dogs, called “steamies” (although they steam the bun as well, which I find a little weird) and grilled dogs with butter toasted buns (“hot dog toasted”). And the toppings are essentially identical to what is offered at Fenway Park; chopped onions, mustard, ketchup, and relish are standard; mayonnaise and cole slaw are some of the uniquely Quebecois options. More importantly, due to a ban on street carts, the city is full of small hole in the wall hot dog joints, open to all hours of the night.

If you were to walk into one of these joints and want a hot dog with everything, you would ask for it “all dress." Which brings me to the song of the week: Tout All-Dress by 25e Regiment and their singer Georges Thurston.
Having a hot dog oriented song of the week pleases me to no end. Anyways, Thurston released a couple solo singles in the late 1960's before joining 25e Regiment, a fairly average rock band, who divided their material equally between M.O.R. pop and slightly more interesting psych flavored stuff. However, they were definitely not anything you'd ever label hip or funky. Even after he joined, they released some schlock. But, once they jumped to Tony Roman’s Revolution record label in 1970, everything they released was golden, including a great take on Shocking Blue’s “Venus.”

“Tout All-Dress”, also on Revolution, is amazing; a funky rock song with drive (in a Black Sabbath way) and groove (in a James Brown way). There's even a fuzzed out wah-wah solo and a nice funky end vamp. Somehow, it still sounds like Syd Barrett mixed with Tommy Roe.

Anyways, Thurston sings with funk and conviction, sounding kinda like Arthur Lee. If this song had been mixed properly, it would hit you right between the eyes and knock you out. As it is, it just leaves you dazed. Until I ordered a hot dog in
Montreal, I had no idea as to what the song was referring to. Somehow I feel it’s a metaphor and not a song about a hot dog party.

Thurston, incidentally, was black (as a
Quebec City record store owner told me “He had the first Afro in Quebec!”) and was a native Quebecer. His father was a black American baseball player and his mother was Quebecoise. After the end of 25eme Regiment, he cut a duet single with Madeleine Chartrand in 1972. He eventually abandoned rock and roll in the mid 70’s to form Boule Noire, his disco/funk group consisting of himself and various Muscle Shoals sidemen. Boule Noir released a handful of LP’s (including a reggae record cut in Jamaica) and became huge in Quebec as their first homegrown disco/funk band. They are also celebrated in rare groove/modern funk circles. The last I have heard, Thurston has cancer and it's serious. Let's send out a thought for the funkiest dude in Quebec...

Tout All-Dress- 25eme Regiment


Anonymous Martin Laplante said...

George Thurston died yesterday.He just had launched his autobiography last week...
Sad news.

June 19, 2007 at 5:51:00 PM PDT  

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