By Keith Sharp
It was 14 years in the making but Goddo lead vocalist, bassist Greg Godovitz has finally released his latest book, “Up Close And Uncomfortable” a sequel to his highly successful literary debut, “Travels With My Amp”
But unlike the autobiographically slanted original, “Up Close And Uncomfortable” contains a potpourri of irreverent anecdotes and escapades focusing on Godovitz’s life in and out of his band. Presented in the same flippant, humorous style which marked his initial book, this follow up is virtually all over the place topically, dealing with his Boy Scout escapades back in 1963, his fascination with UFO’s, his mishaps on the set of Schitt’s Creek, his run-ins with his pet cat, Picky. There are even his food recipes for Greg’s Goddozilla Ring of Fire Caesar Salad dressing and Moroccan Olive Pasta Surprise.
Obviously, there’s lots of insight into his musical career, first as a bassist for Fludd and then as the leader of his own band Goddo which enjoyed a modicum of success in the late 1970s with three Polygram albums; `Goddo’ (1977), ‘Who Cares (1978) and `An Act Of Goddo’ (1979) before moving on to a succession of indie releases which sustained the band through the past 40 years.
The book (available in hardcover and on kindle – see links below) highlights his association with Canadian icons like Jeff Healey, Ronnie Hawkins and Teenage Head’s Frankie Venom, a self-confessed Beatlephile, Godovitz talks about finally meeting idols Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr and his association with other noted players like Toto’s Steve Lukather and the Animals’ Eric Burdon.
But there’s an element of sadness about this book’s contents. He discusses the dissolution of original band members; guitarist Gino Scarpelli and drummer Doug Inglis, his struggles with a new Godo lineup, (note the name change), his health issues. Police arrests and his financial problems. But to his credit, Godovitz addresses these issues in a light-hearted fashion (he succeeds in seeing the amusing side of multiple hernia operations!). Despite numerous setbacks, he has maintained a positive attitude, even now with hand problems (a condition known as Dupuytrens Contracture) that make it virtually impossible for Godovitz to play guitar or bass anymore. So his response is, “I guess I hire a bass player”.
Reached on the phone from his Toronto residence, Godovitz explained he started to write “Up Close And Uncomfortable” shortly after “Travels With My Amp” was released in February 2002 but he shelved the original manuscript when he left for an eight-year stint in Calgary.
“I quickly realized I was just treading water, I was just repeating myself,” Godovitz explained. “It was boring; it was more of the same so I shelved it for eight years. But when I returned to Toronto in 2014 I decided I wanted to write a humorous book. My first book (spanning the years 1964-1984) was chronological, I had all my diaries and press clippings to refer to, it was a piece of cake. But as I was writing, I started to remember stories that I felt would be funny and I figured that if I could laugh at myself, then someone else would get the joke as well.”
If the reader knows about Greg Godovitz or is a fan of Goddo, he/she will relate to his escapades and his insight into his musical career which now spans 50 years. But even if you have never heard of Godovitz or his band, you will be able to relate to his anecdotes about taking his parents to the hospital, his holiday escapades in the Dominican Republic (where he gives out guitar strings to the locals and supports a local music school) and the bizarre story about being arrested by the police for hiding his girlfriend’s computer mouse (she claimed he assaulted her!).
Within the book, Godovitz details the none relationship he had with fellow band members Scarpelli and Inglis which resulted in him finally ending the relationship in October 2018. A documentary of the band was filmed called In Goddo We Trust (accompanied by a live album shot at The Sound Academy titled `Return Of The Pretty Bad Boys’) both released in 2010, but he had a problem trying to pretend that everything was copacetic within the band. “The director wanted to present us like we were The Monkees or something but that wasn’t the case at all,” Godovitz informed. “The only time we got along was the two hours we were on stage, the other 22 hours, I didn’t want to know about them. We stayed in separate hotels, we didn’t travel together.”
“I had enough of people falling down drunk,” he continued. “People had paid like $50 to see us and you show up at the gig and you’re puking in the back of the van! Are you kidding me, that was enough!”
As far as the band’s failure to succeed outside of Canada, Godovitz partially blames his own failures in not fully understanding the music business. “I wish I had been more on top of the business back in those days. I am asking where did all the money go but we’d go on tour, stay at the best hotels, dine at fancy restaurants, have limos on call 24 hours a day, and then we wondered what happened to our money?”
But through it all, Godovitz maintains a sense of humour. Each chapter in this book ends with a question and answer section with fans and music associates and his self-confidence serves him well when he meets his heroes; Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. “When I walked into Paul McCartney’s dressing room (at Toronto’s Rogers Centre) it was like meeting a relative. He was so gracious and disarming, we chatted for like 30 minutes. The key thing was that I wasn’t gushing over him or even talking about the Beatles, we talked about baseball!”
“I told him the Toronto Blue Jays played in this stadium and he told me he had never been to a baseball game. So I explained going to a baseball game was a great thing to do. You buy a hotdog and a beer and get to yell at the opposing players. Next thing I know, Paul Is going to games at Yankee Stadium so I’d like to think I turned him on to watching baseball.”
As for meeting Ringo during the drummer’s All-Star band appearances at Casino Rama (near Barrie Ontario), Godovitz used his friendship with All-Star and former Toto guitarist Steve Lukather to meet `The Boss’. “Ringo’s assistant told me Ringo doesn’t allow photos to be taken and he bumps elbows rather than shake hands. When I met him, I said he looks good, he sings like a bird but it was too bad he couldn’t get a decent band to support him.”
Considering Starr’s band was loaded with the crème of support talent including Lukather, Leland Sklar and Billy Joel’s saxophonist Mark Rivera, Ringo got a laugh out of Godovitz’s comment and even agreed to pose for a photo.
Featured in the book are a number of scripts that Godovitz wrote at the time of publishing `Travels With My Amp’, thinking there was a possibility of maybe turning that book’s contents into a movie or a television series. “People have told me that my first book would make one helluva rock n roll movie,” he noted.”I am not disillusional enough to think anyone would want to make a movie about me but if you took my insane stories and gave them to some mystical band from Des Moines Iowa back in 1964 you could have a great movie.”
To this end, Godovitz has been contacted by John Furnish who’s brother David Furnish is Elton John’s partner and through this contact, both books have been passed along to David Furnish who is head of Rocket Films. “Before David was famous for being involved with Elton John, he and John used to see Goddo in concert at the Knob Hill Tavern and John says they used to sit with us and we were very kind to them- so who knows?”
Fifty years into the business, Godovitz is still determined to continue his career. Goddo’s first three Polygram albums were recently released in Europe via Rock Candy Records, Jamie Vernon’s Bullseye Records has been re-releasing his domestic catalogue, Godovitz currently boasts a merchandise line (available at www.shopgreggodovitz.com) and he is continuing his writing career, zeroing in on a third book (which will focus on his eight years in Calgary) which he is titling `The Idiot’s Trilogy Vol 4 and hopes to be published by this Christmas and is even contemplating writing a musical tilted `The Van’ which will focus on a rock band’s activities backstage and in the van travelling from one gig to another.
“I have been told by many people that my book made them laugh during a terrible time,” Godovitz concluded. “My reaction is `Thank you – mission accomplished. I did my job and I made someone laugh.”
Travels Kindle (authorized versions to the left, resellers to the right: https://www.amazon.ca/Travels-My-Amp-Greg-Godovitz-ebook/dp/B08R12HY58/
Greg Godovitz Retail: https://www.shopgreggodovitz.com/