Thursday, March 31, 2005

 

T.O. Five-oh . . . eleven

Wondering what all this is about? Before you begin, you might want to read days one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten. The List so Far: Round 1: Hockey: Jane Siberry (Mike) Helpless: Neil Young (Keith) I Go Blind: 54-40 (Peter) Nothing at All: Maestro Fresh Wes (Aaron) Tired of Waking Up Tired: The Diodes (Carol) A Case of You: Joni Mitchell (Carl) Round 2: Have Not Been The Same: Slow (Mike) Hallelujah (Live): Leonard Cohen (Keith) Wheat Kings: The Tragically Hip (Pete) Vetoed By Carol Subdivisions: Rush (Carol) Vetoed By Keith Rags and Bones: Nomeansno (Carl) Round 3: One Great City!: The Weakerthans (Mike) Westray: Weeping Tile (Keith) Vetoed By Pete Deeper Than Beauty: Sloan (Pete) Having an Average Weekend: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (Aaron) I've Been Everywhere: Hank Snow (Carol) Illegal Bodies: Simply Saucer (Carl) Round 4: Help Me Rhonda: The Langley Schools Music Project (Mike) Vetoed By Pete Secret Heart: Ron Sexsmith (Aaron) (FC's note: Actually Aaron's Round 2 Catch Up Pick!) Daylight: The Nils (Keith) Barrett's Privateers: Stan Rogers (Pete) Vetoed By Mike War in Peace: Skip Spence(Aaron) Vetoed By Carol Static: Terrible Canyons of Static; Chart #3; World Police and Friendly: Godspeed You Black Emperor! (Carol) Carl's Pick TK Round 5: Blues For Big Scotia: Oscar Peterson (Mike) Love the OTHER 50? HATE the OTHER 50? Want to propose marriage to Peter Simpson or another member of the committee? (Seriously, it happend today) be sure to leave a comment. Tonight: Oscar Peterson: Criminally underrated or only unjustifiably forgotten? And Inco, Bingo, Stinko, Hunky, Fritzy and Joe the Gypsy. Keith: Is there anyone more criminally underrated in the history of Canadian music than Oscar Peterson? Great track, Mike. Carl: Oh well, the answer is yes. Oscar Peterson's pretty highly rated, don't you think? I think the likely reason the CBC's list skipped him is that they were thinking in terms of singles. Is there anything more than 5 minutes long on the CBC's list? I'm glad we've got him, though. My next pick will likewise be nobody's idea of a single. Pete: There was talk of elevator music earlier: to me, that's what almost all the contemporary jazz that I hear sounds like - high-quality elevator music. There's stuff I do like - the guitar work of Charlie Hunter or John Scofield, for example - but for the most it leaves me entirely flat. Any time I hear it I find myself wondering, "where did the swing go?" I grew up in a house full of Benny Goodman and his age. In my parents' basement I can still find the old vinyl Time-Life set "The Swing Era," which must be a dozen LPs or more. I suspect Oscar Peterson would be too late to be included in that set (though I'm not certain). Regardless, the cool vibe of swing runs blissfully though Blues for Big Scotia. Hey, I'm no jazz expert, but if you ask me, this is what jazz should be. Excellent pick, Michael. Keith: There's stuff I do like - the guitar work of Charlie Hunter or John Scofield Pete, don't you mean TOMMY Hunter? Carol: Hee! Parents' collection featured the Readers Digest "boxed set" along with Cannonball Adderly. How/why they bought Kenny G 20 years later, boggles my frazzled mind. I've since foisted the Verve set on them. Must bring them back to the light :) Keith: OK, then we're agreed, OP stays My fifth pick is definately a single, (Listen to Sudbury Saturday Night) Stompin' Tom Conners is another artist who made the CBC's list with what I'd consider to be the wrong song (at least for me). The main merits of Hockey Song, which the CBC picked, seem to be ubiquity (incontrovertible) and Canadiana (which, strangely, was not a case made for many other choices on their list). SSN on the other hand, has some distinct advantages: 1) It's the song that started his career. Legend has it that, in 1964, the bartender of the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins Ontario offered Tom a beer if he would sing a song. He sang Sudbury Saturday Night and ended up appearing at the hotel for more than a year. 2) Tom actually STOMPS on this track. Somewhere in the third verse of my recording his boot comes down on the stomping board like a miner's pickaxe on coal. It's Canada's Sixteen Tonnes. 3) Sudbury Saturday Night is a great - if somewhat profane - picture of the cultural makeup of rural Canada (with Irish Jim O'Connel and Scotty Jack MacDonald, Hunky - ouch! - Fredrick Hurchell, happy German Fritzy and Frenchy getting tipsy, and even Joe the Gypsy - double ouch! - all knowing it's Saturday tonight). Tom's fierce pride and loud battles for Canadian culture and against what he called "Juno Jumpers" ("Canadian" artists who hop across the border long enough to pick up their awards before flying back to New York, L.A. or Nashville) are at least conversation provoking, if not inspiring. Stompin' Tom brings Canadian music a little bit of Johnny Cash, a little bit of Toby Keith and just a smidge of our ability to laugh with (and at) ourselves. I think he belongs on our list. Carl: Now here's a correction that needed to be made. The Hockey Song is kind of awful. Sudbury Saturday Night is one of the great working-class songs of Canadian history, one that actually refers to *labour* (how rare that is outside of self-righteous folkie circles and/or Bruce Springsteen songs in North American music as a whole) and depicts a lot of lousy circumstances with great humour and warmth. And it's S'Tom's best use of his rhyme-o-mania ever. Thanks, Keith. Peter: Bingo, Inco, stinko. Goddamn I love Stompin' Tom. Carol: I'll let the Springsteen comment go...for now. Nice convincing, Keith. I'm not a fan of the song, but I like it's honesty and vividness. Carl: No criticism of either Bruce Springsteen songs *or* self-righteous folkie songs intended. Keith: I just hope this song does better than my last, mining-related pick. Pete: You can be sure it won't be spiked by me. Stompin' Tom is as authentic as it gets, and though it's not clear to me how those who strenuously object to Barrett's Privateers can get behind Sudbury Saturday Night, so be it. Connors belongs on any list of worthy Canadian music. Keith: OK, Pete, I think that means you're up. Pete: We all agreed at the start of this venture that there should be no 2000 cutoff, so let me bring forth the youngest song on this list so far, Little Girl, by Death from Above 1979. (Listen to Little Girl) I confess to some anxiety over nominating such a recent song - only time can truly reveal whether a song is a classic - but I've been thinking about this one since we started this list and I've decided the song really is, to my mind at least, brilliant and likely to endure. Without doubt the best live rock show I saw last year - not to mention the most visceral, and the third loudest (after Metallica and the Music) - was Death from Above at Babylon in November. I couldn't even really see the two blokes in the band, as the stage was surrounded by 20-year-old guys, who these days all seem to be at least 6'4" (Dang kids! You spilled Red Bull on my favourite cardigan!), but it mattered not a wit. I stood at the corner of the bar and quite literally felt the sound going through me. That two guys with a basic drum set and a seriously fuzzed up bass can make such an invigorating brick wall of sound is a wonder to behold. The show was cathartic, as great hard rock should be: I felt cleansed by the end of it. If I smoked, I would have smoked after that show. Little Girl is track 7 from their remarkable disc You're a Woman, I'm a Machine. It's entirely typical of their sound, four minutes of loose-knit, frenetic propulsion. It howls, it wails, it blasts and bangs. It's just the sort of thing that has been driving the kids, and the critics, crazy all over the world since the disc came out last year: the current issue of Uncut, one of the more level-headed Brit music mags, raves about "more cool Canadians" ushering in the age of "disco hardcore." I'm not sure that disco hardcore, whatever it is, describes DFA's sound, but the point is that many people see in this band something truly fresh and inspiring. And that's why I decided to get behind a song still so young: I expect to see a lot of bands sparked by the sound and energy of DFA. I expect them to have a material influence on Canadian music in coming years. But even if they don't, the song, like the album, just plain kicks ass. Keith: I was convinced Feist or The Arcade Fire would be the first "I'm sorry but I just HAVE to nominate this recent buzzact" nomination. Shopping List: Once again, I've been a little late in providing links to where you can purchase all of these lovely recordings: The Nils' Daylight is available on The Green Feilds in Daylight compilation through Mag Wheel Records. Barrett's Privateers is available on the reissue of Stan Rogers' 1976 release Fogarty's Cove. War in Peace was released on Skip Spence's 1969 album Oar. Static: Terrible Canyons of Static; Chart #3; World Police and Friendly was recorded on Godspeed You Black Emperor!'s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. Blues for Big Scotia is recorded in a bunch of places including The Ultimate Oscar Peterson. Stompin' Tom Records are essential. You can buy some here. Death From Above 1979 may get vetoed tomorrow, but don't let that stop you from buying You're a Woman, I'm a Machine. There's even more Can Rock in The OTHER 50 DAY TWELVE

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

 

The Other 5-Oh: Episode 10

Wondering what all this is about? Before you begin, you might want to read days one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine. The List so Far: Round 1: Hockey: Jane Siberry (Mike) Helpless: Neil Young (Keith) I Go Blind: 54-40 (Peter) Nothing at All: Maestro Fresh Wes (Aaron) Tired of Waking Up Tired: The Diodes (Carol) A Case of You: Joni Mitchell (Carl) Round 2: Have Not Been The Same: Slow (Mike) Hallelujah (Live): Leonard Cohen (Keith) Wheat Kings: The Tragically Hip (Pete) Vetoed By Carol Subdivisions: Rush (Carol) Vetoed By Keith Rags and Bones: Nomeansno (Carl) Round 3: One Great City!: The Weakerthans (Mike) Westray: Weeping Tile (Keith) Vetoed By Pete Deeper Than Beauty: Sloan (Pete) Having an Average Weekend: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (Aaron) I've Been Everywhere: Hank Snow (Carol) Illegal Bodies: Simply Saucer (Carl) Round 4: Help Me Rhonda: The Langley Schools Music Project (Mike) Vetoed By Pete Secret Heart: Ron Sexsmith (Aaron) (FC's note: Actually Aaron's Round 2 Catch Up Pick!) Daylight: The Nils (Keith) Barrett's Privateers: Stan Rogers (Pete) Vetoed By Mike Skip Spence: War in Peace (Aaron) In today's flashmob: Skip Spence gets the V-bomb, we down with the OP and GSBE! "music without barrier or pretense" or "elevator music for the art kids" Mike: So I finally listened to that Skip Spence song and just to cement my reputation as the philistine on the list I have to say I really didn't like it/ get it. As I've been a bit distracted and with limited access to e-mail, forgive me if I missed an exchange or two, but I'm wondering if we've discussed the merits of this song (whatever they may be). In reading the subsequent posts on the page today and even this thread I noticed that Carl was the only one that weighed in on the music and then a debate shifted to genealogy, Michael J. Fox and what to do in Winnipeg. Given my feelings for this song, I'd rather debate those issues too, but I would like to know if people think it deserves to make the cut...and any other thoughts on this Thamesmen-on-acid stuff from Nigel Tufnel's Canadian cousin. Keith: G'head, Mike, drop the v-bomb (I feel like the kid in the playground trying to get the other ones to fight). Mike: I don't know that I could veto a song that I'm so indifferent to...It really sounds like a bad parody to me. At least Barett's Privateers makes me wretch, er...I mean, long for my drunken days in Edmonton where the bad sing-along of choice was Cheeseburger in Paradise (and then we'd all go to Humpty's for a 4 in the morning helping of eggs and perogies or to the Funky Pickle for pizza...mmmm, funky pickle). Keith: This might be blasphemy, but the Skip Spence track kinda reminds me of a hippy Radiohead. (I don't really like Radiohead). Mike: How so? Does it make you picture a stinky Thom Yorke in Birkenstocks and a poncho driving a VW bus around upstate New York following The String Cheese Incident or is it something more gut-feel than that? btw, there's a great read from the Division of Communicable Disease Control of the California Department of Health Services re. hepatitis outbreaks at a certain bands' shows... There is a multi-state outbreak of hepatitis A in young adults associated with attendance at concerts given by the band String Cheese Incident. As of July 17, there were a total of 10 confirmed and 11 suspected hepatitis A cases. Seven of the ten confirmed cases occurred among young adults who attended a concert and camping event in Sedona, Arizona over Memorial Day weekend, May 24 and 25, 2003. The cases range in age from 17 through 43 years; half are male. Illness onset occurred between June 1 and July 4, 2003. Many String Cheese Incident fans ("Cheeseheads") follow the band from concert to concert. Two of the cases attended concerts in Telluride, Colorado on June 19 and in Santa Fe, New Mexico on July 4 and 5. Secondary transmission is an ongoing concern. CDHS requests that local health departments report Hepatitis A cases with a history of attendance at a String Cheese Incident concert to Celia Woodfill in the Immunization Branch (cwoodfil@dhs.ca.gov or 510-849-5066). The String Cheese Incident will be playing in San Francisco on July 24 – 27 and in Hayfork in Trinity County on July 29 and 30. CDC has contacted CDHS, and the San Francisco and Trinity Public Health Departments about the possibility of conducting an outbreak investigation and preventing further transmission. You don't get that at the Dan Hill... Carol: zzzz ...sorry what? I actually saw the Dan Hill at a Grey Cup game 1/2 time show at Skydrone. He was in a hot air balloon. I kid you not. Dreadful. Mike: Sorry, the Dan Hill reference was an homage to South of Wawa. Keith - you mentioned that you weren't a fan, any other thoughts? Keith: Soundtrack featuring Lee Aaron? Saaaaay, now there's an artist no one has picked yet. No, no Birkenstocks, Mike. Spence's voice reminds me somewhat of Tom Yorke and the guitars sound, as you mentioned, a mite like "Listen to the Flower People" (I can almost see Derek Smalls staring at the camera and mouthing "I love you"). Veee . . . . No, I better save it. I think a few of us may be feeling an urge to "veto hoard." (Except for Pete, Pete's spending em' like a drunken Congressman). I intentionally didn't set up too many criteria for the picks for a few reasons: 1) I thought they'd develop organically through discussion and 2) I'm lazy and often in a hurry. The first concept has, to a point, come to pass I think. We seem to have two - equally valid, I'd argue - approaches to the list. Some of the picks seem to be taking a "hidden Canadian gems" approach (Simply Saucer, Skip Spence, Nomeansno) while other tracks seem to be more of the "build a mixtape of great Canadiana the CBC missed approach." (Leonard Cohen, Jane Siberry, 5440, Rush - R.I.P). I see the Spence track as an attempt to fit into the first category. It's definitely hidden. I just have doubts as to whether: A) It's Canadian enough or B) It's a gem. Mike: Pete - you didn't answer your own question, and I am curious - is the Skip Spence Canadian enough? I'd love to know what, to your mind, differentiates it from the Langley materials which have Canadian performers and Canadian arrangements? Pete: Well, there's no empirical answer to this Canadian-ness question, but for me the fact Spence is Canadian, and he actually composed the song, makes it different from the Langley kids, who merely covered a song that was composed by an American and is quintessentially American in every way. (It's an icon of the California surf era.) I should note that was not the basis for my veto of the song, however. Does that make him Canadian enough? Dunno. I know whenever we have something in the paper saying no Canadian has ever won the Nobel for literature and I say "Saul Bellow was born in Montreal," everybody looks at me like I'm nuts. And I realize I still haven't answered the question. But I feel no need to veto Spence. The song doesn't thrill me, but I'm okay with it as a part of this list. Mike: This is like a Cooperstown induction debate - the old "What hat will he wear when he goes in to the hall of fame?" What odds would you give that Saul Bellow considers himself American? He left Canada when he was nine, has American citizenship and is so of Chicago that I can't picture him choosing the maple leaf for his Cooperstown hat. Yeah, he was born here but it ends there. There are three reasons I haven't vetoed the Spence track so far. 1) I haven't heard anything substantive from Carol and Keith and wouldn't mind additional input 2) at this rate we'll be lucky to be done by Canada Day 3) I don't want to be down to one veto so early Peter: I know I'm fighting a losing battle on Bellow, but somebody's gotta do it. Carol: I don't mind trippy psychedelia. It can be pretty fun and creative. However, I didn't hear anything outstanding in "War and Peace"; it could have been made by anyone. Why is it special? Because the artist was born north of the 49th parallel? The back story is interesting, but the actual song? Not for me. Simply Saucer is much better. Peter Somebody's going to veto that one. Once we get all these vetoes out of the way, this enterprise will move more quickly. Mike: Perhaps Carol, Keith and I can put in a 1/3 veto each. Carol: Michael, I think I owe you a veto for my fence sitting with "Barrett's". So consider poor, deluded, stoned Mr. Spence V-toed. That leaves me with one v-bomb in my arsenal. Peter: I have one veto left. I'll sell it to the highest bidder. Keith: And you guys thought I was kidding with that "drunken congressman" comment. Carol, do you have a pick? Carol: (Listen to Static: Terrible Canyons of Static; Chart #3; World Police and Friendly) I’m not sure how obscure this band/project/collective is; depends on the circles you run with. Perhaps the CBC spares them some airtime at 3 AM, but the likelihood of any commercial station doing so…well slim to none is a conservative estimate. I came to them via a friend in San Francisco recommending it. He had been spot on with every other music pick, so I took a chance, popped the $20 disc in my player and opened up the gatefold to read the liner notes. And what before my wandering eyes did appear, but a concert photo of an old Ottawa punk band called The Trapt! I was slightly flabbergasted knew nothing else about this incarnation. So I closed the gatefold and continued listening. And focused. And paid attention. Very important. Godspeed You Black Emperor have seamlessly edited together collected sounds with fine instrumentation. It’s environmental music. I found it very difficult to name just one track; they flow together as a single piece. They feel like a movement in the classical sense, although I’m not fully knowledgeable where compositional structure is concerned. So, from disc 1 of Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven! I’ve selected the second movement, “Static: Terrible Canyons of Static; Chart #3; World Police and Friendly”. Aural landscape? Perhaps, if that landscape is an urban industrial spread during the bleak grey days of November. Godspeed isn’t beautiful. You won’t feel better. You won’t bounce down the street with a smile on your face. You will float over the mind numbing commute realizing that your brain can escape the anesthetic. Conversations blend into the now smeared advertising; it’s all meaningless. The music provides a soundtrack by which you realize your cynicism need not cannibalize your individuality. What I admire, though, is Godspeed’s organic-ness. Band members have side projects without angst-ridden headline-making break-ups. Live shows draw pilgrims to congregate with quiet respect and experience the performance art; no chit chat or hipster posturing. The musicians stay true to themselves offering up space for local political causes and independent artists. They aren’t glamorous. They don’t court major labels. They make music successfully without the trappings we are led to believe are necessary. And it works. Is the artistry of Godspeed You Black Emperor essential? Absolutely. The fruit of the members’ labours draws nourishment from myriad of music without barrier or pretense; 4 chord punk marries classical cellist. Both draw from the experience of life which is itself universal. The fact that they are Canadian is simply a plus. Keith: Ladies and gentlemen, we have broken the 21st century barrier. This is the first nomination recorded after Jan 1, 2000. Carl: Sorry folks, like most Tuesdays I've been up all night on deadline with my column, and now am in the midst of editing a big feature, and searching around for (a) my next pick; and (b) a way to go back in time and undo Carol's Godspeed! pick and convince her to pick something, almost anything else from the Hotel2Tango/ Constellation/Alien8 scene, like a Sam Shalabi project maybe? Maybe a Christof Migone one? Godspeed is a band with good musicians-creators in it but something in the concept of the band is flawed. Is it the string semi-arrangements? The neither-here-nor-thereness of its patterns, repetitive but not minimalist, in most songs getting louder and bigger on a monotony with some psychedelic-ish out-of-phase slop and then fading out? Is it the lackadaisical employment of the found sound? Either way the result is elevator music for the art kids. Funny thing is that all the stuff that bugs some people about Godspeed!/Constellation - the noncooperation with the press, the political manifestos - is fine by me, and I think the Hotel2Tango ---> Constellation ---> Casa collectives' contribution to the turn in the Canadian indie scene, to the way things developed in Montreal in the 1990s, and particularly out of Godspeed's financial success, was pretty key to getting us where we are today. (The best period in made-in-Canada recorded Canadian music ever.) I just don't usually like their music at all. However I'll wait to hear the track again before I veto, as I haven't heard gybe! for a long while. Carol: a way to go back in time and undo Carol's Godspeed! pick and convince her to pick something, almost anything else from the Hotel2Tango/Constellation/Alien8 scene, like a Sam Shalabi project maybe? Maybe a Christof Migone one? Had I heard of any of these artists (or scene) before your post, I may have. As it is, I haven't. So Godspeed it is because I happen to really like their records. Hence my pick. And if GBYE are elevator music, then I'll press all the buttons in the panel and go to every floor. Mike: GYBE! is an interesting pick and a band that really benefits from the shuffle feature. Don't know that I'd ever stick their cd in and listen to it straight through but when one of their songs pops up it's a nice change in the aural landscape. Once again, I'm going to be the schulb that says that's not my favourite song by the band - the last track on the disc is more of a standout for me. The collection of the children's voices that weave in at the 3 minute mark seem to give that track a little more humanity than the songs on the rest of the album. For what it's worth, I also think they may just be the kryptonite to chick rock in my house as it's my wife that dashes to the iPod to press skip whenever they come on. Carol: For what it's worth, I also think they may just be the kryptonite to chick rock in my house as it's my wife that dashes to the iPod to press skip whenever they come on. And if no other reason, GBYE must be deemed essential! Mike: Not a lot to say about this pick. (Listen to Blues for Big Scotia) Of all the artists the CBC missed, I think OP was the biggest oversight. I expected someone to pick something from his Canadiana Suite or Hymn to Freedom (it is the Unesco folk song or some such thing) but to leave him off completely is unexcusable. I chose Blues for Big Scotia because it's an original composition and it swings. For all of Peterson's technical proficiency, the reason I listen to him is the bounce he puts in so many tunes. This number really picks up at the one minute mark (fifty-six seconds) and just rolls...I only wish I could find the big-band version that features Canonball Adderley, but my collection only contains the original and a live version. And while I'd love to think the tune is named after Canada's Ocean Playground, it's actually a reference to Ray Brown's nickname for Peterson's wife Lil who hails from Nova Scotia... Carol: Great pick, Michael. Jazz falls into the "I don't much about it, but I know what I like" category for me. I liked this. Nice change up. The count is now 1-0. Who's on deck? I'd like to put this runner on base. Hey, it's spring! humour me :) Peter: Great track. I can get behind that. There's even more of The OTHER 50 on DAY ELEVEN.

Monday, March 28, 2005

 

The OTHER 50: Day Nine

Wondering what all this is about? Before you begin, you might want to read days one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight. The List so Far: Round 1: Hockey: Jane Siberry (Mike) Helpless: Neil Young (Keith) I Go Blind: 54-40 (Peter) Nothing at All: Maestro Fresh Wes (Aaron) Tired of Waking Up Tired: The Diodes (Carol) A Case of You: Joni Mitchell (Carl) Round 2: Have Not Been The Same: Slow (Mike) Hallelujah (Live): Leonard Cohen (Keith) Wheat Kings: The Tragically Hip (Pete) Vetoed By Carol Subdivisions: Rush (Carol) Vetoed By Keith Rags and Bones: Nomeansno (Carl) Round 3: One Great City!: The Weakerthans (Mike) Westray: Weeping Tile (Keith) Vetoed By Pete Deeper Than Beauty: Sloan (Pete) Having an Average Weekend: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (Aaron) I've Been Everywhere: Hank Snow (Carol) Illegal Bodies: Simply Saucer (Carl) Round 4: Help Me Rhonda: The Langley Schools Music Project (Mike) Vetoed By Pete Secret Heart: Ron Sexsmith (Aaron) (FC's note: This is actually Aaron's Round 2 Catch Up Pick!) In today's musical easter egg hunt: Heroin, sambuka and the committee's reaction to the CBC's list. Carl: By the way, all, the 50 Tracks' countdown on CBC just wrapped up. Didn't hear the whole list, but I know the top 10 included two Joni Mitchell and two Gordon Lightfoot songs, and that numbers 2 and 1 were "If I Had a Million Dollars" (yug!) and "Four Strong Winds" (huh). Keith: Yug, indeed. I wonder how many "Million Dollars" votes were plowed through by suburbanite members of the BNL fanclub in the states. I also caught some of the show this afternoon and was impressed with (among other things) how great a song the Crewcuts' Shaboom is. Aaron: How was the final order sorted again? was it entirely a people's choice? Mike: By vote counts - Four Strong Winds (3850 votes) beat BNL (3814). If the song choices and low vote totals weren't shocking enough, there's also this e-mail from Martha of Martha and the Muffins fame posted at the 50 tracks site: I think it's great that you are doing this show. I am very pleased to see 'Echo Beach' on the list for the 1980's as I sang the song at The Manor studio near Oxford, England 25 years ago. I derive great pleasure from other people's fond memories of this song and the fact that it continues to be popular. However, call me greedy, but I think 'Black Stations/White Stations' by M+M (another name for the Muffins), should also have been considered. I believe it is too late for this song to be entered. I didn't email my suggestion earlier as it felt a little awkward as I co-wrote the song and sang it. The lyrics did mention the 80's after all! "Black Stations/White Stations break down the doors Dance on the ceiling with us THIS IS 1984!" Martha Johnson Aaron: Is anyone willing, critically, to stand behind the Barenaked Ladies as Artists of Great Importance in the history of Canadian music? They were an important band in my ongoing (dear Globe and Mail copy editor: I'm not supposed to use that word am I?) youth. My first concert even (Bass Is/Of? Base opened). So I've always had a wee soft spot for them. They were indie heroes once, no? The cover of Bruce Cockburn's Lovers was kinda beautiful. Then what happened? Keith: I really like the cover of lovers too. I remember my first BNL show (Mike, didn't your sister go to highschool with Steve Page?) Earth Day 1991, they were an excellent, high energy live act. The recorded output just didn't happen for me in the long term, though. On another issue, is anyone else surprised by the low vote count? If all it was going to take was 4000 votes to get a song into first place, I'm surprised Avril's fan club didn't just bum-rush the process and make "Complicated" the most essential song in Canadian music history. Then again, for that to happen, the list would have to matter to anyone under 30. (Listen to Daylight) Part of me feels like I'm nominating this song because - try as I might - I can't find a way to get Paul Westerberg Canadian citizenship. The Nils were not Canada's Replacements, but there are a number of spooky similarities between the two acts. Both bands prominently featured a brother duo, and players who weren't old enough to drink at their earliest gigs, both were ruined by infighting and self destructive career and substance choices and both wrote songs that featured swagger, regret, drunken tomfoolery and hummable melody in equal measure. Sadly, and to further the parallel, both bands also lost a member to heroin related incidents (The Replacements' Bobby Stinson overdosed in 1995 and Nils singer Alex Soria died in a, reportedly, heroin- related train collision in December of last year). Daylight wouldn't necessarily be the consensus Nils pick (many devotés - including Joel Plaskett who used one of his picks on the Corp's 50 tracks to pick the Nils - would go with Scratches and Needles) but I was first introduced to Alex and the boys by Ottawa singer songwriter Jim Bryson who often closes his shows with a blazing version of Daylight that he's been playing since his days with Ottawa hardcore originals Punchbuggy. Daylight is an enigmatic listen. Lyrically it evokes the seemingly fruitless struggles of youth "Let's pretend we were joyful . . . let's pretend we had a mouthful . . . " Musically, however, it moves seamlessly from it's hard driving, cathartic (nearly arena rock) chorus to the optimism of a languid, almost droning coda. Maybe I've been spending too much time looking out the window at the dirty melting snow, but to me, the end of Daylight kinda sounds like the beginning of spring. Carl:

A terrific choice, Keith - and since Plaskett's nomination of Scratches and Needles sadly didn't survive the CBC audience vote, a dose of justice too. I think Daylight is about as popular a Nils song as S+N, and arguably a better one. Just to append to your case, the Nils were also an important influence on eastern Canadian independent music, helping stoke the fire from Ottawa to Halifax, not to mention their centrality to the strong late-1970s-to-mid-1980s Montreal punk-etc. scene, and reportedly were admired by the likes of Husker Du as well. And given the timing of this list - which, like all such exercises, is influenced by its particular moment - it's great to be able to salute the late Alex Soria in this way.

Keith: I'm glad you mentioned the influence part, Carl. I actually at one point had a paragraph in my nomination on the Nils as influences. I can't speak for my second home (Montreal) or the east coast but in Ottawa a great number of the acts that matter owe a debt to the Soria brothers. In fact, it was JJ Hardill of the Fiftymen who informed me of Alex Soria's passing in December. Pete: Anything that's good enough for Keith and Joel Plaskett is good enough for me. I truly have no idea what the response from all of you will be to this song, Barrett's Privateers, by Stan Rogers. (Listen to Barrett's Privateers) It's not obscure - indeed, it's been heard in drunken late-night singalongs so often that it may seem almost banal, simply too familiar and too common to be seen in its true glory. Rogers made it onto the CBC list with Northwest Passage, a later track of his that is also a classic, but perhaps it's my Maritime heart that always leads me back to Fogarty’s Cove, his debut album in 1976, back to Barrett's Privateers, back to the broken man on a Halifax pier. For a glorious piece of work it is. The solo vocal and chorus wrap around each other like the cords of a fisherman's rope. You barely have time to absorb the melancholy resonance of his voice through the opening verse - "The year was 1778 . . ." - when the chorus bursts in in verse two - "I wish I was in Sherbrooke now." The line that sings a sweet sound to the heart of any easterner, and perhaps any Upper Canadian or Left Coaster too, who longs for home. The chorus gives a little whoop at the end of “Sherbrooke now – uh!” a little whistle, a few seemingly impromptu hand-claps, and that’s all there is. But, of course, that’s not all there is. The soul of the song is the old, sad tale of another bluenose who went down the road (so to speak) and ended up alone with his broken dreams and unrequited hope. Not that you need to be a Easterner to feel this: it’s just a damned good story, perfectly told and passionately executed. The question is, does its beauty survive the banality of overexposure? I lived in Saint John for four years, and you’d think there was a city bylaw that required every bar show to end with a rousing singalong of THAT song. I never got tired of joining the chorus – there’s something about yelling “goddamn them all/ I was told we’d cruise the seas for American gold” that never fails to satisfy when you’re liquored up. But as with the copy of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers that hung in our basement washroom when I was a kid (I hope it was a copy), you can’t see or hear something every single day without eventually taking it for granted to some degree. You need something to remind you of the beauty in the thing. For me, it came one night in my mother-in-law’s basement in Fredericton where, after a few rounds of flaming black sambuca (don’t ask), an old j-school buddy who I hadn’t seen in a few years started to sing, in his Cape Breton French accent, the same song I’d heard so many times at last call in the bar. He infused it with such passion that he managed to remind me, and perhaps others around the table, how beautifully melancholy the song really is. Like the Antelope on the Atlantic, Barrett’s Privateers sails on a sea of melancholy, and at the end of it that night I didn’t feel broken, I felt purged, ecstatic, the way you feel when you’ve taken in a truly great piece of music. It was so good, we all had another flaming sambuca and made him sing the goddamn thing again. Keith: If Q107 played in Irish bars, do you think this track would be on heavy rotation? Pete: Ya, to break up all the Pogues tracks. Carol: I'm VERY close to vetoing this song because I've heard SO DAMN MUCH that the sentiment Pete speaks of is lost. It's become a song that you sing ONLY when you're drunk and can't remember any other songs. And you don't have to really know the words because everyone else is drunk (on booze or bravado)that any slur in a fake Irish accent will do. Plus, every acoustic/folk/country/Celtic band in Canada does a cover. It's like the Canuck Folk "Yesterday". However I recognize the merits of the lyrics historically as well as Rogers' contribution. So, I'll hold back...for now. Pete: Hola, the Antelope just took a ball across the bow. Keith: It may not be the only ball the Antelope takes this afternoon. Mike, you were saying? Mike: Sometimes a song can be so abused that it can take years before I can listen to it without feeling like I'm going to puke in my own mouth. Other times, the damage is so substantial that the song is forever ruined. I can think of no better example of the former than Ethan Hawke singing Add it Up and no better example of the latter than Barett's Privateers. Not even the best song this world has ever produced - Stairway to Heaven* - could withstand being sung by drunken idiots every night and retain any of its original beauty. Part of this veto may be the result of being forced to sing that song sober during the Alexander Keith's brewery tour (a harrowing experience). Part of it may be to do with Carol's astute observations in her earlier post. But mostly it is, as Pete would say, a shot across the bow. I fear if I don't veto this song it will only encourage someone to nominiate Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye). And we can't have that. M *not the world's greatest song Carl: All right, I think this veto is completely outrageous. The best songs in the world have always been sung over and over and over again by people when they are drunk at 3 in the morning, perhaps especially those with Celtic roots, but not only those - have you ever sat with a table of Russians around a bottle of vodka? With Spaniards? Iranians? Communists? THIS IS WHAT FOLK SONGS ARE FOR. (Among other things.) THIS IS THE MEANING OF THE WORD "BELOVED." Canada produces, what, maybe two or three songs that achieve this status, over the course of our history, and we're going to shit on them for it? Wow, talk about snob factor. Talk about tall-poppy syndrome. Pete: Excellent point, Carl. I'm getting the vodka right now. Mike: Carl - I don't like the song - spare me the full caps and condescension. Perhaps I'm reading the tone of your e-mail wrong, but if you want to get in a pissing match just let me know... Peter: Cat fight! Carl: Just being melodramatic in a spirit of passionate debate, Michael - no personal offence, at all, is intended. Please read the full-caps as a typographical representation of a cartoon character drawing himself up at a cartoon podium, tuxedo buttons bursting off his jacket. Carol: Being of Celtic extraction, I don't recall singing Stan Rogers' drunk at 3am with my peers. Drunk Canadians, however, are a different story. Then again, it IS all a blur. Second, folk songs are for telling tales. They played a huge part in oral history before literate cultures dominated. As you may recall, Carl, I recognized this song for that reason alone in my initial post. I don't like the song. It's tired. Did I veto it? No. Call me a wimp or whatever, but I recognize it's importance. Perhaps we should put it under glass with special lighting, if it's that precious. Carl: Just for the record, my objection isn't to anybody disliking the song, saying it's weak and vetoing it on that grounds. If the uncanadian hyperbole of my previous post muddled that issue, mea culpa. I just think it's odd to veto a song on the basis that people like it too much and enjoy singing it together, drunk or otherwise. (And people do sing it sober, too.) I am fond of participatory musical culture, and this song stirs some up. I also like the idea of a song about Canadian pirates stealing American gold. It's immature but delightful. Has anyone ever written a really good song about burning down the White House in the war of 1812, aside from the recent Republic of Safety song that mentions it in passing? Mike: Somehow, despite my veto and Carol's near-veto, I think that Stan Rogers' legacy will survive. Carl - given your love of participatory music culture, I look forward to your nomination of "O Canada" and "Land of the Silver Birch" in the upcoming rounds. Pete: Kumbaya, my lord, kumbaya. Carol: I think our behaviour cements his legacy, Michael. Sidebar: I assume you saw (and chuckled at) this morning's National Post front page article "US Pulls Out Cliches". The first thing I thought upon seeing it was, "Hey! They're using the same stereotypes we use to bolster our national ego!" I continued to read the reprint from The Weekly Standard, a magazine I'd never heard of until now. Keith: I'm glad I have no passionate feelings about Stan Rogers. Pete: Umm, didn't you get quite passionate about Northwest Passage a couple of weeks back, or was that just because we were between the second and third bottle o' vino russo? Keith: Northwest Passage? Yeah, I blame it on the wine. Though it is a great song, and one that I hadn't heard until J-Go played it on the corp's 50 a few weeks back. (Besides, Pete, I was just trying to play diplomatic host . . . Geez!) Aaron, can you bail me out? Aaron: (Listen to War in Peace)
When I eventually procreate, I hope I'll remember to play this record for the little ones and their friends. If only on Halloween. Alexander 'Skip' Spence will probably end up, barring a veto, being the 'least Canadian' artist on this list. He was born in Windsor, Ontario on April 18, 1946, apparently to a veteran of the Canadian Air Force. I've never been able to clarify exactly how much of his life he spent in Canada, but it seems he was very soon living in the United States. Still, given how eager we are to celebrate even the most tenuous of connections in this country (see: Naismith, Dr. James), it surprises me he's not mentioned more often. Even if only in passing. A member of both Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape, Spence, when celebrated, is revered by Mojo-reading types as another of those lost souls - a casualty of excess and troubled times. Belly full of drugs. Head full of demons. Heart full of songs reflecting as much. His solo output limited to one, ragged, 'lost' bit of genius. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Such stuff tends to bore after awhile. But Skip Spence's Oar - the record, like the man, resurrected six years ago for some all-too-late glee shortly before his death - is the rare myth that actual holds up under close inspection. The nutshell backstory: Spence, drug addicted and schizophrenic, goes after mate with an axe. This earns him six months in Bellevue. While there he gives all his possessions to fellow inmates and sets to spilling his cranium into songs. Once released he hops on a motorcycle, sets off for Nashville and spends a little more than a week in early December 1969 committing everything of himself to a 3-track. Spence plays all instruments. Handles all arrangements and production. As the original liner notes explained, "Alexander Spence is the only sound you hear." From there, it - and Spence to a degree - disappeared. A year later, in a review for Rolling Stone, Greil Marcus wass already making the case for it as an undiscovered gem of late 60s psychedlia and the San Francisco scene Spence was deep within. Sundazed eventually reissued it in 1999, coinciding with a tribute album that featured Beck, Robert Plant, Alejandro Escovedo, Mudhoney, The Minus 5 and others covering songs from Oar. The remastered record is bizarre and hilarious and scary and ridiculous and beautiful at equal turns. Many of the 'songs' barely qualify as such - fading out or trailing off into all the dark places. Spence, in this ghostly baritone, swoons and wails like I suppose I imagine the late 60s to have sounded. Captivating but fucked as fuck. It is surely the blackest (in the colour sense, not the racial sense) record I own. But I don't know if it's possible to walk away from it with anything but giddiness. The gem - and my nomination - comes at track six - War In Peace (though I was tempted to go with the hysterically hippie Lawrence of Euphoria). It sounds now like a White Album b-side. The R-rated version of Helter Skelter - sexier and bloodier than the Beatles' roller-coaster ride. Spence sounds like smoke. Everything behind him obscured by the murk. But out of the haze he soars and crashes on this monster guitar solo. The whole thing comes apart in the end, lasers or birds audible in the background until it all washes away. Lasts about four minutes in its entirety. Probably wouldn't even meet the scientific requirements of song. But somewhere in there is everything that is awful and perfect about so many things.
Carl: Spence, of course, is bloody brilliant amazing. But his Canadianness seems about as legitimate as if he'd been born in a plane that happened to be passing over the Northwest Territories before landing in California... I'm going to do a little more biographical research, but right now the main thing that's stopping me from vetoing is that I've let poorer music pass. It's a bit of a technicality, but the Canuck thing of claiming everybody who moves away and everybody who ever comes here - for instance, all the U.S. draft dodgers who moved here are full-fledged Canadians now but Skip Spence or, say, Frank Gehry, remain Canadian despite how American the main parts of their lives were... - always seems rather desperate on our parts, doesn't it? Not that I haven't indulged in it too. carl w., still sad about all the haterade against singalongs Aaron: Maybe I'm naive, but I'd like to think there's a difference between "claiming" someone and what I'm trying to do here with Spence... He's by no means worthy of his own Heritage Moment, but he was born a Canadian - to a member of our fighting forces apparently, no less. I don't want to wrap him in the Maple Leaf and declare him ours alone. But isn't it equally unfair to deny him at least some amount of Canadianness? Carol: Does Joni live in the US anymore? How about Neil? Not that we've nominated her, but Alanis how has a green card. I suppose the only differences are the songs were created while these people were resident in Canada? Of course, this brings up the whole argument of whether I should pick William Shatner's singles or not...heehee Carl: No, the difference is that those people actually grew up in Canada, actually played gigs in Canada, etc. I'm trying to get a minute to check into it, but I get the impression Spence only lived here in his infancy, which seems quite a bit more marginal than Joni or Neil's clear Canadian roots. Peter: Hey, William Shatner's cover of Common People rocks! I like it better than the original, which I always find kind of wussy. Aaron, I came to Spence a few years ago via that tribute disc you mentioned. The disc, which I believe is called More Oar, didn't exactly bowl me over. Tribute discs rarely inspire me to anything other than wanting to hear the original, which was the case here, so I sought out Spence's original stuff and enjoyed it. It's odd stuff, in the funny odd way, perhaps best demonstrated in the whistled bird call he does in the later bars of the song, a call, one can only presume by its langorous nature, intended to lure the rare yellowbellied reefersucker. Then there's the fading guitar riff, taken directly from that granddaddy of epic rock tracks, In-a-Gada-Da-Vida, which was released a year earlier. No doubt Spence, like all stoners of the day, fancied that track to be the cat's ass. Is it Canadian enough? That's a tough one. We agreed that Hank Snow's I've Been Everywhere is Canadian enough. One reason I spiked Help Me Rhonda was that I see nothing intrinsicly Canadian in it. And the issue of is-it-Canadian-enough will come up again around one of the songs to come on my list. There should be a litmus test for this sort of thing: you stick the litmus paper in, and if it's Canadian it turns the other cheek. Keith: I think Carl asks an important question (and it's one that's always bugged me about Can Con culture): When's a Canadian actually a Canadian? Neil Young has written Canadian songs (Without patting myself on the back, I think we picked a great one for our list) but I don't think "Keep On Rockin in the Free World" should count as one. In short, I think there comes a time when we lose claim to these folks. I'm not sure I'd be able to provide a definition of when exactly that is (dual citizenship? Renouncing Canadian citizenship? Living abroad for decades?) but I think a good case can be made for Spence being a lost claim. The other thing I don't understand, which Carl also mentioned, is why we as a nation so jealously guard our associations with these folks. True story, I once took a tour of the state house in Montpellier (MAUNT-pell-eee-er) Vermont. At some point in the tour we walked through some office or another and there was a picture of someone (the Governor?) shaking hands with Michael J. Fox. Who our guide pointed out as a "fellow Vermonter." I wouldn't normally remember this, but someone in our tour (a woman with a maple leaf on her backpack, if memory serves) actually took the time out to correct the tour guide. "Actually," she said as cana-politely as possible. "He's Canadian isn't he?" My only thought was: "Who cares?" If he's been in Vermont since the Reagan administration, doesn't that make him at least as much, if not more Vermonter than scion of Burnaby? I don't think it's equivilant to Hank Snow. There will be no Skip Spence museum in Windsor. I'm VERY close to spending a v-bomb, though I'll leave it to Carl seeing as he's already doing the research. (and if neither of us veto, I may nominate Richard Buckner's The Hill, recorded by an American, who at the time was living in Edmonton, married to a Canadian at the time. . . see if that confuses anyone). Peter: I'm inclined to side with Aaron on the Canadian question. If not, we get into an esoteric debate over how long a Canadian must be in Canada to be Canadian. How far do we go? Would we really suggest that any song by Neil or Joni is not Canadian enough? To do so would be very, uhh, Canadian. Aaron: Part of me feel's it's just as juvenile to play the game from the other side. I mean, yeah, the woman who insisted on Fox's Canadianness was being silly. But he is. Canadian, I mean. That doesn't need to be pointed out to every Vermont tour guide. But when assembling a list of great Canadian sitcom character actors, it would seem silly to deny Fox his place...and would this debate be any different had Spence/Fox/Young/ Mitchell decamped to, say, France or Australia? Keith: Good question. It wouldn't to me, for what it's worth. (What this means for poor old Buck 65, is anyone's guess). I suppose that's why the bureaucrats have that whole MAPL thang. Don't stop now! You'll miss out on EPISODE TEN!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

 

The OTHER 50 Tracks: Episode 8

Wondering what all this is about? Before you begin, you might want to read days one, two, three, four, five, six and seven. The List so Far: Round 1: Hockey: Jane Siberry (Mike) Helpless: Neil Young (FC: Keith) I Go Blind: 54-40 (Peter) Nothing at All: Maestro Fresh Wes (Aaron) Tired of Waking Up Tired: The Diodes (Carol) A Case of You: Joni Mitchell (Carl) Round 2: Have Not Been The Same: Slow (Mike) Hallelujah (Live): Leonard Cohen (Keith) Wheat Kings: The Tragically Hip (Pete) Vetoed By Carol Subdivisions: Rush (Carol) Vetoed By Keith Rags and Bones: Nomeansno (Carl) Round 3: One Great City!: The Weakerthans (Mike) Westray: Weeping Tile (Keith) Vetoed By Pete Deeper Than Beauty: Sloan (Pete) Having an Average Weekend: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (Aaron) I've Been Everywhere: Hank Snow (Carol) Today: Psyche rock from Hamilton, outsider music from Langley, mope folk from Toronto and brief visits from Wilde and Duchamp . . . Carl: (Listen to Illegal Bodies) The argument was made for Slow that they were so rock'n'roll that they just made put out one great record and were gone. Hamilton, Ont.'s Simply Saucer can do Slow one better: They were gone before their great record ever came out. The band formed in 1973 and that record was made on the roof of the Jackson Square shopping mall in 1975, in front of three people, under the influence of the Velvet Underground, Can, the Stooges and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd (not to mention, if I know Hamilton, and I do, a few non-musical mood enhancers). You might as well have said you were under the influence of Satan. Everybody hated them. They never could afford to press an album. And so it remained until Hamilton rock historian-enthusiast Bruce Mowat finally rediscovered that live recording - along with some studio recordings made with Bob and Daniel Lanois (I believe one of their first productions, if not *the* first) - and released it in 1989 as Cyborgs Revisited. As the webzine Perfect Sound Forever put it a few years ago, when Sonic Unyon re-reissued Cyborgs on CD: "Canada's Simply Saucer ... may be reckoned to be the single greatest 1970s band to have influenced absolutely no one." I want to honour Simply Saucer not for what might have been, but for what was. They could have made catchy music - listen to a relatively straightford song such as Bullet-Proof Nothing - but they chose to make their mind-bending racket in complete obscurity. In stupid motivational speeches, when they say "dance as if no one is watching"? Early Saucer certainly did. They were doing the same thing, in synchronicity and sometimes in conspiracy, that gangs of kids with similar influences in Cleveland and Akron were doing when they formed Rocket from the Tombs (another band that was long lost), then Pere Ubu and Devo, or that kids in New York City were doing when they formed Television and the New York Dolls. But they were doing the very same thing, in synchronicity. Saucer was similar but even less fashionably so, given that they were from Hamilton. As Julian Cope has written, "You wish [SS lead singer] Edgar Breau woulda hadda made it big. He's the kind of songwriter who woulda got better with success - it woulda bred a confidence and, by now, we'd all be accepting of him as the Cannuck third punk (after Neil Young and Burton Cummings). Dammit" The Canadian music industry at the time wasn't just indifferent - it actively feared and loathed Simply Saucer. There are stories of people hiding in closed rooms when the band's manager came by label offices to play demos. There was one single in 1978 with a different lineup, pandering half-heartedly to the new punk scene with a song called "She's A Dog." Though they began playing some Toronto gigs by this point, but even this watered-down incarnation broke up in 1979, some members struggling with heroin, others just with fatigue. The album's just been issued in Europe for the first time on CD, and three weeks ago the Sunday Times called it "an album nobody could reasonably be expected to have heard of that will soon become a touchstone for out-there musicians..... Fans of Sonic Youth, the Flaming Lips or the Dead C will hear their favourites foreshadowed here." Listen to Illegal Bodies: The string-snapping Planet of the Apes guitar chords and embryonic Moog technology underlying similar B-movie poetry and premature millennial panic. "In the future," Breau tells the crowd, "unless you have a metal body, they're not gonna allow you to walk the streets. No kidding." And then it flies out of control the way Sonic Youth later would, in shuddering sheets of "metalloid" sound. Anyone who grew up near the shores of the Great Lakes, where the filthy factories already looked like relics but the info-age commerce to replace them was yet undreamt, would recognize the miasmic stink of despair and dispossession and, its impulsive opposite, the nervous rush of groundless optimism. ("We're gonna dance the mutation!" Breau proclaims in another song, in his best Lou Reed-as-hoser drawl.) Strangely enough, the story even has kind of a happy ending - with Saucer's gradually building recognition in the international underground, Edgar Breau (father of 5 and former Family Coalition Party candidate for parliament!) has returned to making music, playing acoustic guitar with a heavy John Fahey influence and occasionally in a kind of Saucer tribute band with downtown Hammertowners. So you might get to see him someday. I think I can put it no better in this context than PopMatters' review of the CD reissue did a couple of years ago: "They may have been ignored during their time, but close to 30 years after the fact, their music still sounds as vital as ever, and should be a source of pride for Canadian music fans everywhere. Cyborgs Revisited deserves to be as revered as Rush's 2112, as ubiquitous as Canadian Tire Money and Tim Horton's donuts, and regarded as quintessentially Canadian as Medicare and street hockey." Carol: Good call! I remember playing the LP on graveyard shifts. What an awful yet memorable cover; black and white photo of the band playing. Mike: Carl's pick has left me pretty much speechless. I listened to the track back-to-back three times this morning and I really don't know what to write. It's not something I'd normally listen to, but it certainly has an automatic built-in cool factor that really resonates. Carl: I'd be curious to hear it, Michael. It's of course a fairly common phenomenon in music - as well as in visual art or literature - to see the posthumous or at least delayed embrace of a work that wasn't much appreciated in its time, for there to be a retroactive rediscovery and celebration. One reason I quoted several reviews in my argument for Illegal Bodies was to show that something of the sort is well under way with Simply Saucer - and I think their appearance in a list like T.O.5.T. could be a (quietly) significant part of that process. Peter: The delayed-recognition thing does indeed run through art history. I'm trying to think of examples in rock n roll where something was at first ignored and some time later came to commercial acclaim: though I'm sure there are examples, I can't think of any. Given the transient nature of the pop-music mainstream, it seems unlikely that something old will find a latter-day celebration (ignoring a campus-centered, passing fancy with an old form, a la Tom Jones). The track you've picked remains obscure, but the recent press you've cited hints of a resurrection for Illegal Bodies. Someday, the pop-music mainstream may even hold it as fact that a song released more than an hour ago may still hold appeal. But enough airy dreaming. Carl, a couple of days back you spoke of the thrill you get when this exercise brings up a great track you don't know, or one that's at least unduly obscure. I know the feeling you speak of, and I almost burst with it (forgive that image) while listening to Illegal Bodies. Like Keith, I have no memory of this band, and I've certainly never heard this track. It's a real find, right up my Velvet-Stooges alley. You can almost hear Ron Asheton wailing on that guitar solo. I can't wait to get home tonight and blast this one through the stereo proper. Neighbours be damned! Carl: The delayed-recognition thing does indeed run through art history. I'm trying to think of examples in rock n roll where something was at first ignored and some time later came to commercial acclaim: I wouldn't say "commercial" acclaim, although sales too, yes. But the Velvet Underground itself is one of the best examples, generally ignored or rejected when they were together but the coolest name to drop a decade later, partly thanks to Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side," and partly thanks to the glam and punk bands who would always talk about the Velvets. Similarly the Ramones, who only really became "famous" thanks to the 1980s punk musicians they inspired. But I'm thinking more outside of rock, for example in the case of blues and folk musicians who were known only in a confined circuit in their youth but were popularized in old age through the advocacy of revivalists (esp. in the early-sixties folk boom). In the nineties, all the obscure kraut-rock bands like Neu and Faust were popularized among indie rockers by bands like Stereolab. And so on. You're seeing it again on a small scale right now, for instance, with the rediscovery of people like Vashti Bunyan and Karen Perhacs, obscure names who have become cult heroes to kids who are into the Devendra Banhart "psych-folk" scene. Not to say these people were ever huge, but they get retroactively refitted into their place in the canon. Glad to hear people are digging Illegal Bodies! I was a little worried you were all going to look at me like my head had fallen off. Peter: Ahh, the Ramones. I distinctly remember the summer of '77, and dear old dad rather hopefully suggesting that I play Beat on the Brat at a lower volume, a crusade in which he was again, alas, frustrated. Keith: that record was made on the roof of the Jackson Square shopping mall in 1975, in front of three people, under the influence of the Velvet Underground, Can, the Stooges and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd (not to mention, if I know Hamilton, and I do, a few non-musical mood enhancers). Those must have been some AMAZING drugs. I've finally listened to this track and I've found it very entertaining. Would've liked a little more lyric content as I've never been one for six minute guitar solos, but there's something about how this one works with the (super-tight, hard driving) bass and drums. Great mix of hard rock and psychedelia. Great answer to the - frequently asked - musical question: What if Iggy Pop grew up in Ancaster? Great pick. Mike? Over to you. Mike: I'd like to think one of the themes running through all of our selections, even the vetoed picks, is authenticity. The songs we've been talking about aren't confected nor do they owe their life-spans to Can-Con regulations. To that end, I can't think of any songs that are more authentic than those captured on the Langley Schools Music Project "Innocence and Despair" - my pick for round 4. (Listen to Help Me Rhonda) Recorded straight to two-track in a school gymnasium in 1976-77, rediscovered and re-released in 2001, these songs are powered, and there's no other word for it, by the sheer exuberance of so many youthful voices. Punctuated by cymbals crashing-in just off-beat, kids singing out of tune and bells (all those great jingly bells that scream Christmas concert in the gym) these elements combine to define what music should really be about - joy, wonder, jangling nerves, raw emotions*And you can tell the kids don't just love the music, they also love being part of the music - it's as if these recordings have captured the sound of childhood. They could even make "A Case of You" sound good. In this age of Pro Tools, Auto Tune and a near endless supply of American Idol cyphers, these recordings - with little more than bare bones Orff instrumentation, a one-string bass, guitar and a little piano - offer the perfect respite. It's difficult for me to pick just one track. The mournful version of Desperado, sung by a nine year old girl to a slightly out of tune piano, packs more emotion into its three and a half minutes than the Eagles have generated in the entirety of their careers. Hearing sixty kids oooh-oohing through Neil Diamond's Touching Hands is fantastic. David Bowie said of the cover of Space Oddity, "you have a piece of art that I couldn't have conceived of, even with half of Colombia's finest export products in me." But if I have to pick just one song, it's the Beach Boys cover "Help Me Rhonda" From the sheer volume alone you know that not one of these kids is hiding in the back row mouthing the words. Combine that enthusiasm with the absolutely resplendent "Yeah" at the conclusion of the first round of "Help me Rhonda(s)" and the horribly out of time bass drum - this is a joyful noise. I also love this track because of the way these nine year-olds yell for Rhonda's help - it's the same way they'd yell for a friend to help them catch an escaped pet or to get out of doing their homework - heartbreak for these kids still sounds a very long way away. Keith: Stellar pick! I COMPLETELY forgot about this record when I was putting my list together. (The version of Bowie's Space Oddity gives me CHILLS) I once read that "growing up is learning to deceive." The music on this record is so raw, so unpretentious; it could only have been performed by children. I clap. Carl: I feel like Langley raises the stakes even further from Simply Saucer on the legitimacy of "lost" records - it's a fantastic album, but such a "found" kind of artifact, I feel conflicted about whether it would belong on the list... But I'll wait to read the arguments before deciding. Mike: This may be like putting a target on my ass but...I was going to save this pick for the no-veto round and just couldn't do it. I've been listening to the songs every day on my commute and they make going to the office bearable. To see your quote and raise you, there's a fantastic interview with Kazuo Ishiguro in the Guardian in which he says, "To some extent at least you have to shield children from what you know and drip-feed information to them. Sometimes that is kindly meant, and sometimes not. When you become a parent, or a teacher, you turn into a manager of this whole system. You become the person controlling the bubble of innocence around a child, regulating it. All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma." Keith: This may be like putting a target on my ass but... It might be a little risky, yeah. The recording certainly isn't very musical, and I think we might have an interesting debate as to its "significance" (Canadiana or otherwise) but, as art, there's no doubt in my mind that these covers are something special. Then again, Pete's milage may vary. Mike: I didn't want to proselytize in my post about the Canadian-ness of the "art" of the Langley songs, I just wanted the song(s) to stand on their own. The only analogy I can think of is: if I was trying to talk a friend into going to a club to see a band with me, I wouldn't yak at them about the significance of the music or how it's Canadian or essential or art - I'd tell them what the band sounded like, why I was a fan and why I thought they might like to hear it too. I hope I managed to convey that in my post about this pick... Carl: I'm still wavering. I wish it had been a Canadian rediscovery as well as a Canadian production, but wasn't it discovered and reissued from the U.S.? On a Duchamp-style level, I'd kind of consider it non-Canadian as an artwork in that way. On the other hand it's one of my favourite albums ever, and represents what's to me a very Canadian 70s sound - the one that the Hidden Cameras are drawing upon... Huh. Carol: I can see that. But if the songs were originally recorded in Canada, re-mastering and re-issuing from the US shouldn't matter. I would be like Rhino re-issuing "Four Strong Winds". As for the origin of the songs (mostly foreign), I DID find one fairly DRIPPING with MAPL-syrup: "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact.Day)" written and recorded by Klaatu and later covered by the Carpenters. Hmmm. Now there's an idea... Peter: Oh what a mean guy I am, beating up on kids on such a nice spring day. Trouble is, I can't see any reason not to. I've always been skeptical of the Langley kids project, which I've seen as the Gregorian monks of their moment. I had hoped the version of Help Me Rhonda would be the track to show me otherwise, but I simply can't see the merit of anything on that album. Yes, the songs are nice and happy and it's good to see the kids doing such things, even interesting to see them doing such things. But where's the greatness? Where's the importance? What does it all mean? I see the Langley project as a lark, and a fun lark, but nothing more. I hate to fire my second veto so relatively early, but as William Shatner says on his recent CD, I can't get behind that. Veto. Keith: OK, that leaves Pete with one veto. Peter: And wide open to righteous vengence. Keith: Yeah, bummer of a birthmark . . . Pete. Carl: I completely disagree with Pete's reasons for his veto - that he "simply can't see the merit of anything on that album." I do think there's something stunningly beautiful and funny, even transcendent, about the Langley kids. That "Help!" on Help Me Rhonda is an ideal example. However, I do think half the art of the thing is in the reissuing: Bringing this piece of period ephemera back into the light, rescuing what seems like trash-folk-culture and offering it as vital. That's why I made the Duchamp comparison - half the art of the thing is in affixing a signature to it, the signature of the reissue itself, the raising of what was made only as a school project souvenir into another sort of object of contemplation. And on this conceptual-art level, it seems to stand apart from the instinctive territory of this list, on a brute "which of these things is not like the others" instinctive level of judgment. I think Pete pushed the right button here. Pete: Carl, I've used two vetoes, and both times you've disagreed with my reasoning but agreed with my veto. We seem to get to the same place by different routes. I wonder if that means we'd work well together, or not? I see that I was a bit imprecise in my veto post. When I said "can't see the merit of anything" on the Langley project, I was speaking to the context of this list: I do find the music interesting, neat, even cool. But I see no meaning in it, nothing transcendent beyond the joy of hearing the kids sing. (I confess that can't imagine sitting and listening to more than one track, regardless of what track it may be.) And, while I realize this may be pedantic of me, I can't subscribe to the Duchamp comparison. This music is not a thing that was created with utilitarian intent, only to have its genuine art and beauty later revealed by the signature of one with a keen esthetic eye. This music was itself created to be beautiful, to be art, by revising an earlier thing that also was created to be beautiful. From the listener's perspective it was created for no reason other than esthetic pleasure, unlike Duchamp's urinal, or Warhol's Brillo boxes, and therefore fits Wilde's requirement that art, to be art, be "quite useless." (Can a thing satisfy both Wilde and Duchamp?) Whatever the merits of the Langley project, I don't believe it can be held up as found art, as a thing created to be art can't be "found" as such. To do so would be like smelling a flower and finding revelation in the fact it smells like a flower (though at some point we "found" beauty in the scent, which is a thing created for an entirely utilitarian function). But, again, I suspect I'm committing pedantry by arguing this distinction, and there's nothing artistic or enlightened in being pedantic. So I'll stop. Keith: I have little to say about surrealist artists . . . Aaron, you're up. Aaron: (Listen to Secret Heart) Little Ronny Sexsmith. Always looking glum. Canada's Little Boy Blue. Minus the cows. And sheep. And haystack naps. I think I might love the way Sexsmith is written about nearly as much as the music he writes. He's everybody's favourite cause (see Martin, Chris). Everyone wants him to be a Big Star. But what would the charm be then? He's the archetypal lonely troubadour come to life. Should he ever find fame, should he ever start smiling - the whole myth of the man-cherub would crumble. All of which is a long way of getting to the fact that the song of his I've chosen is one I actually discovered through another's performance. I'd feel weird about that, except I'm willing to bet more people have heard his songs this way than otherwise. Anyway. Blah, blah, blah Wherry... get to the choice, right? With my third pick I choose Ron Sexsmith's Secret Heart, which I discovered through Leslie Feist's Let It Die. (Listen to Secret Heart) Others may have heard it performed by Rod Stewart. Or Jack Johnson. Or Nick Lowe. Or, gulp, Curtis Stigers. As I discovered with the help of some helpful readers last year, there are about a half dozen versions of this song. Feist's is whimsical. Johnson's is kind of sexy. Stewart and Stigers give it varying degrees of schmaltz. (The Lowe cover remains unfound, if seen/heard, please e-mail me.) Sexsmith's original is the saddest - longingest? - of all. But maybe that's just in the delivery - seeing as others seem to translate it more hopefully. It seems to be a prerequisite for the singer/songwriter pantheon that your tunes by covered and adapted, non ironically mind you, by admirers and contemporaries (something you see, I think, with Joni and Cohen). And here, as with many of his songs, Sexsmith gets that all important nod of bestowed credibility (even if it is coming from a Mr. Stigers). While it also feeds into that idea of Sexsmith as everyone's favourite cause - most the artists here are surely taking him on, a) because they like his songs and b) they think they're doing the world a great service by sharing his music. (While I think it's almost too easy a point to be made for it to be all that true, there's also something very "Canadian" about Sexsmith. Humble, under-stated, everyone's favourite quiet, unassuming kid. I generally hate that idea of Canada, but there it is.) One question: Is it always, as a rule, a sign of great craftsmanship than your songs are readily and easily adapted? Carol: Everyone wants him to be a Big Star. But what would the charm be then? Hmmm. I don't say this often, but what a Canadadian statement. Big Star? I think getting his due and success are more akin to what his songsmith peers want for Sexsmith than stints on Letterman. But, if he gets the spotlight for more than 15 mins, that's grand. Good on him. Celebration of his talent won't diminish his charm. Unless he suddenly became a ego-maniacal coke freak. Somehow I don't see that happening. The fact that you discovered him via another artist I think further validates his strength and wonderful testimony to the man's ability! Nick Lowe? Now that's credibility. Who needs friggen Junos!? Apparently Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney count themselves as fans. Peter: I've never quite understood the Sexsmith appeal. I content to listen to him, but that's about it. I suspect it's his voice that leaves me wanting: I find it thin and unsatisfying, a complaint I've heard from others as well. Frankly, I'd rather hear people other than Ron Sexsmith do Ron Sexsmith songs. That said, I recognize the craft in his songs, and I have no grounds to veto. Carl: I've never quite understood the Sexsmith appeal. I'm with Peter here, to a degree - I don't mind the voice as much, though I don't adore it, but I don't love the songs as much as many people do. Does nobody think that they all start to seem a bit too much the same? But I like the way people like Sexsmith - it's an intimate attachment and a real appreciation for old-fashioned craft. (As opposed to, say, the way Tragically Hip fans like the Tragically Hip.) So no veto from this corner either. Mike: When I think of Ron Sexsmith, I think of tofu. I know it's good for me, I know it can be very tasty, lots of my friends rave about it and the media are always filing stories about how great it is, but really - it's just a bland white blob. Don't get me wrong, I eat tofu pretty frequently. Banana Leaf in Roy Square does a really mean tofu and spicy eggplant and their red curried veg always has plenty of tofu in it. Ginger makes killer vegetarian subs that are stuffed with Tofu and other yummy goodness, and I always get the golden curried tofu at Salad King (mmmm, Salad King). But I'd never sit down and eat just tofu. Tofu needs to have the right things around it to make it interesting. Which brings me to Mr. Sexsmith. I saw him open for John Prine a little while ago, he was ok - you know, doughy and kind of bland. But when he came out during the encore and played Paradise with Prine (one of my favourite songs) I suddenly thought - this is pretty good. I like this Sexsmith stuff. But you mix him up with Rod Stewart and it's greasy, indigestible fare. I'm not dropping a v-bomb on this pick, but the song would definitely be better with whatever the musical equivalent of spicy eggplant is... Keith: Awwwwwww, for the love of bean curd, Mike, bring the veto! . . . (is anyone else hungry?) FWIW I like sad Ronny, I think the key issue is one you raised earlier, Aaron. He's obviously a great songwriter, he's got lots of famous fans, but there's GOT to be something lacking somewhere . . . doesn't there? I'm not thinking the lack of fame as much as how a guy could be so influential and still not have a signature tune of his own? Simply Saucer's reissue is available through Sonic Unyon You can get a copy of the Langley Schools Music Project's Innocence and Despair here. Secret Heart is available on Ron Sexsmith's self titled record. EPISODE NINE of The OTHER 50 is just one click away!

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