Canada, You’ve Really Let Me Down

September 27, 2008

Oh, Canada, from the moment that I first fell in love with music, you’ve been a constant (and usually welcome) presence in my life. During those formative years, there was no shortage of Canadians with hits on the radio, acts like Rush, Loverboy, April Wine, Bryan Adams, and Red Rider.

Soon, I would discover musical neighbors from the north who weren’t as embraced by radio where (and when) I was growing up – Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Band, and, years later, Jane Siberry, K.D. Lang, and Bruce Cockburn.

Like most Americans, I know less about Canada than I should. I did have a drummer friend who lived on our couch for a year (sometimes drummer jokes write themselves) and he was an avowed fan of the country, touting the wondrousness of the Great White North and declaring the considerable merits of John Candy.

So, I was disappointed to learn that Canada is one of the biggest arms exporters on the planet.

Then, several days ago, I come across the following headline on msnbc.com – Man Guilty In Plot To Behead Canada PM. What is that all about? (I didn’t read the article as I felt certain that it couldn’t live up to the slapstick drama of the title)

The headline begged several questions. Is beheading really the route to go if one does want to take out a politician? I mean, it seems to be rather cumbersome and inefficient with slim odds for success.

The most important question that came to mind is what the hell is going on up there?! This, combined with the arms export thing, made me wonder if we Americans and our gratuitously violent television programs, films and political campaigns are having a negative influence on the Canadians.

It seemed best to consult a Canadian on this matter. And I realized as many different people as I’ve known and there have been very few Canadians. I’d always assumed that it was because Canada was such a lovely place filled with polite people (unlikely to behead a leader) that no one ever left to come here.

However, one Canadian I do know is a co-worker, so I queried him on this threatened beheading. I didn’t get an explanation, but I did learn that Canada, like the U.S., is in the midst of an election. Then, he informed me of something that truly floored me.

From start to finish, this election will take a mere 32 days.

So, I say sell munitions to every man, woman, and child on the planet, Canada. Let your citizens plot to behead every member of Parliament. If you folks can elect your officials in less than five weeks you are most certainly doing something right.

Oh yeah, and thanks for all the swell music.

There’s so much music by Canadian acts that are favorites (Gordon Lightfoot anyone?). So, I simply tried to pick a random selection.

Neil Young – Sleeps With Angels
Is Neil Young the greatest Canadian rock artist of all time? He’s got to be close and he’s certainly one of the most compelling. I logged a lot of hours listening to his album Sleeps With Angels in ’94/’95 and the title track was Neil & Crazy Horse in full, glorious fury.

Jane Siberry – Bound By The Beauty
I posted something by Jane recently, but Bound By The Beauty is one of her songs of which I am much more fond. Like Neil’s catalog, Jane’s takes a lot of zigs and zags. The one album that I would wholeheartedly endorse is When I Was A Boy, but it is an album best listened to start to finish. Bound By The Beauty is from an earlier album.

Bran Van 3000 – Drinking In L.A.
I first heard this song when I saw the video on MTV in Ireland. I was immediately smitten. Drinking In L.A. was on their debut Glee and it is an engaging, eclectic mix of strangeness (including a jangly, ’90s-styled alt rock cover of Cum On Feel The Noize).

Red Rider – Lunatic Fringe
Red Rider got a lot of airplay in the Midwest in the ’80s – Young Things, Wild Dreams (Rock Me), Human Race, Boy Inside The Man, and this song. Moody and atmospheric, I have a feeling that most people south of the border wouldn’t be able to name the band, but they’d know the song.

Bruce Cockburn – If A Tree Falls
I quoted part of this song’s lyrics in a speech on the rain forest in college (and I think it was a two or three years before Sting stole my thunder on the issue – oddly enough, we would kind of cross paths a decade later).

Anyhow, I apologize to Bruce for potentially sullying his good name with what was, I imagine, a clumsy effort at activism.

Leonard Cohen – First We Take Manhattan
Personally, I’d declare Leonard Cohen, from a standpoint of attitude, to be more rock and roll than any Emo band could ever dream of being. Acerbic, witty, and with more than a hint of menace in his lyrics and vocals, Cohen spent the early ’90s linked to actress Rebecca DeMornay (while he was in his mid-50s) and the latter part of the same decade living in a Buddhist monastery.

As both Canada and the States are in the midst of elections, I momentarily opted to post his song Democracy with its deadpanned chorus “Democracy is coming to the USA.” However, I’ve loved First We Take Manhattan since I first heard it on his album I’m Your Man in the late ’80s.

I Mother Earth – Not Quite Sonic
Out of college, I worked a couple of internships for record labels, including one in radio promotion. One afternoon, on my way out, my boss gave me a cassette and instructed me to critique it that evening. When I popped it into the player, I was blown away. It was demo recordings of I Mother Earth.

Combining the blistering, tribal rock leanings of Jane’s Addiction, the otherworldly poetry of The Doors, and percussive elements reminiscent of Santana (they actually toured with an ex-member performing percussion), I Mother Earth should have been huge. Our label lost them in a bidding war to Capitol Records who torpedoed their career by marketing them as a metal act. Well done, Capitol. Well done.

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The Spirit Of Gordon Gecko Is Alive And Well

September 25, 2008

This evening, Dubya addressed the nation on the latest calamity to occur on his watch. Of course, these calamities seem to occur with the same dizzying frequency at which Pac-Man Jones used to get into legal scuffles.

The elderly woman who sold me cigarettes the other morning asked how I liked living in a Socialist country (as her cohort shook her head in obvious disapproval). If my head hadn’t been pounding with an intensity that was close to compromising the structural integrity of my skull, I might have actually voiced the reply which came to mind – “I always thought Paloma and I might end up in Italy.”

I did study finance and economics, but for the first fifteen years out of college the closest I came to using my degree was to occasionally balance my checkbook. So, I have only the slightest idea exactly what these clowns have gotten the country into or how they intend to get us – or some of us – out. It does have a vibe that conjures images of rats scrambling to flee a sinking ship.

A bunch of Wall Street characters and banks made a lot of money doing dodgy deals. People took on more financial responsibility than they could handle. Essentially, a good number of folks decided they needed more than they had (and, among those numbers, there are many who could be considered well off).

Now there’s trouble. (and I’m feeling slightly Buddhist)

This need for more seems to be pretty hard-wired into us, doesn’t it? That’s not the kind of thing that’s going to be solved by throwing a bunch of money at it (though that certainly seems to be what is going to happen).

And I couldn’t bring myself to watch Dubya’s address, so I’ve opted for highlights of the Oakland/New England “Tuck Rule” game on ESPN2.

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Burnin’ And Lootin’

Jane’s Addiction – Been Caught Stealing

The Motels – Little Robbers

Tricky – Money Greedy


Is It Possible To Put A Hit On Some Fish?

September 22, 2008

The fish reside in a small tank; no more than five gallons, and the entire set-up was a gift from Paloma several years ago. We’ve gone through several generations of fish, the population fluctuating and currently a trio.

Now, Paloma – ever the trooper – has actually been the one who has taken responsibility for their care. A couple of times, she’s lost one while cleaning the tank. She takes each untimely death quite personally (I on the other hand, while sympathetic to the animals, shake it off more easily as they don’t have names).

The other morning she crumbled some food into their tank and, staring down into their home, declared “I’d almost rather see you dead than see you live like this.” The fact that she delivered this assessment with a sigh added to the ichthyological melodrama.

She looked at me. I looked at her. Then, I burst into laughter and she followed suit.

The fish have no names and, at best, they’re ability to entertain is minimal. But, neither of us has the heart to send them to a watery grave, either.

If only Jean Reno lived next door.

Instead of fish songs or songs about assassins, I was inspired by JB at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ who recently lamented that “1983 was not one of pop’s grander years.” So, I followed the link he had posted to a chart from this week in 1983 to see if it lived up/down to his assessment.

As music was a relatively new obsession to me at the time, I likely view the hits of the time with a bit less discrimination and considerably more nostalgia, though there was some fairly dire stuff. But, I thought that I’d post a quartet of tracks that I’d consider highlights a quarter century later.

Def Leppard – Foolin’
1983 was the year that folks who didn’t read Circus likely discovered Def Leppard – Pyromania was truly a phenomenon. The band was big with the metal kids I knew, but Def Leppard was hardly metal in a dungeons and dragons, we’re so evil way. Oh, they could be silly in their own fashion, but they also were musical toffee.

Elvis Costello- Everyday I Write The Book
I don’t think I’d ever heard Elvis Costello until I came across Everyday I Write The Book on 97X in the early autumn of ’83. I feel horrible to admit it but as much as I respect his work, Elvis isn’t someone I listen to as often as I feel I should. I’m not sure why. But, I did love this song from the outset and it’s still one of my favorites of his.

Talking Heads – Burning Down The House
In high school, my good friend Chris was a major fan of the Heads. Burning Down The House was the first time I ever heard them on the radio and, perhaps because one of our friends was a bit of a pyromaniac, we all loved the song. Of course, the atmospheric video (brought to us via WTBS’ Night Flights as MTV wasn’t available to us, yet) sealed the deal.

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
Q102, the most popular Top 40 station within reception, was playing Sweet Dreams heavily by the time I heard it on American Top 40 (which didn’t seem to happen very often with new artists). Nonetheless, this sounded so different to my ears – none of the female singers I’d heard or was listening to possessed the Arctic cool of Annie Lennox. Eurythmics, visually and musically, were one of the most exotic things I’d ever come across.

They’ve always seemed a bit underrated to me. Dave Stewart was a fantastic architect of sound and the perfect foil for Annie. To me, their catalog is similar to Blondie’s – ambitious, drawing on a lot of diverse musical influences, and, at their best moments, pretty classic stuff.