I would be in my teens before cable television was available and, thus, my first experiences and earliest memories of the medium were limited to a handful of channels.
There were the three major networks, PBS, and two independent channels.
Of those two independent channels, our reception for one was so poor that most of the time it was just possible to make out shapes that might have been people.
Or possibly trees.
The station – from across the river in Northern Kentucky – taunted me when I’d leaf through the TV Guide, searching for something to entertain me. There, next to the small box with a nineteen in it, something would be listed that was far more interesting than the offerings on the channels available.
Channel 19’s line-up was heavy on syndicated kid favorites like Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch with late night reserved for horror/sci-fi b-movies.
It was as though I had a ten-year old doppelganger programming an independent television station.
So, I’d optimistically flip to the station, hoping that it was one of those rare nights on which reception was good and I could try to watch The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant through snow flurries.
Usually, I’d find myself staring at a full-blown blizzard.
But the one show that the station aired which I wanted to experience more than any other was Star Trek. The show had ended its network run before I could read and, though it hadn’t had the resurgence it would by the end of the ’70s, I was somehow aware of it.
(I think that a classmate, Kate, with whom I was quite smitten, was a fan)
I had to see it.
And the only station airing Star Trek was the one that I was unable to watch.
I tried, making efforts on a nightly basis, hoping against all hope that the reception might be good enough for me to meet Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise.
It didn’t happen.
It was maddening.
Soon, channel 19 would amp up its signal and Star Trek would be a staple on other channels, but, as kids at such an age are prone to do, I had lost interest.
I’d eventually see the first five movies that the series spawned, but, to this day, I’ve never seen an entire episode of the television show or any of its spin-offs.
During the time that I was not watching Star Trek on channel 19, I witnessed Capt. Kirk perform Rocket Man on some sci-fi film award show (which aired on the other independent station).
It boggled my ten-year old mind.
Here are four random songs by acts that, like Capt. Kirk, are from Canada…
k.d. lang – World Of Love
from All You Can Eat
I had never really listened to k.d. lang when I got dragged to one of her shows following the release of (but before the mainstream success) of 1992’s Ingenue. It was a free ticket and I figured what the hell.
Lang turned out to be one of the most charismatic live performers I’ve ever seen, possessing a genial personality and a wickedly charming sense of humor. Though I own a handful of her albums, I often forget what a stellar body of work she’s produced with songs like the lush, sophisticated pop song World Of Love.
Neil Young – Buffalo Springfield Again
from Silver & Gold
It seemed as though every time I looked up in the late ’80s and first half of the ’90s that Neil Young was releasing a new album to rave reviews. I was partial to the grungier stuff with Crazy Horse like Ragged Glory and Sleeps With Angels.
I still prefer the Neil that rocks.
But the mellow Buffalo Springfield Again, from 2000’s Silver & Good, is wistful and endearing as Neil reflects on his first band.
Jane Siberry – Calling All Angels
from When I Was A Boy
A friend at a record store in college introduced me to the eccentric music of Jane Siberry with 1987’s The Walking. Over the ensuing years, I’ve owned most of her catalog and, much like Neil Young’s, Siberry’s oeuvre takes some zigs and zags.
I first heard the achingly beautiful Calling All Angels when it appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Until The End Of The World, one of my favorite movie soundtracks of all time. A year or so later, the track was on her album When I Was A Boy, a record that, if I compiled a desert island list, would certainly make the cut.
And, as further evidence confirming my suspicion that everyone in Canada knows everyone else, the voice heard duetting with Siberry on Calling All Angels is k.d. lang.
Arcade Fire – Wake Up
I’ve become quite loopless to new music since the turn of the century. I’d heard of Arcade Fire and knew that lots of folks were twitterpated over the band. I’d even checked out a few of their songs, but I was only lukewarm about them.
Then I heard Wake Up in the trailers for Where The Wild Things Are and was blown away. It’s an epic that roars to life and soars like a rocket.
I still haven’t delved any further into Arcade Fire’s music – there’s barely time to listen to all of the music I already love – and perhaps I never will, but we’ll always have Wake Up.