Since MSN.ca has removed all of the blogs I wrote for it three times a week from August 2009 to August 2011, I've decided to repost some that I feel may still have some relevance on Steve Says. I'll be adding them on a semi-regular basis, so please drop by if you're interested.
Here we go:
From Aug. 21, 2009
"Shakin' All Over" was The Guess Who's first hit and was also the title of a CBC documentary on Canadian music in the '60s. Two new productions named after Canadian songs — This Beat Goes On and Rise Up — now do the same thing for the two decades that followed.
"This Beat Goes On, which covers the '70s, is really about the birth of the Canadian music industry and the battle for Cancon," said writer, researcher, interviewer and associate producer Nicholas Jennings at the recent Toronto launch party for the shows.
"Radio resisted and it wasn't pretty for a few years. But by the mid-'70s, an industry had started to take root with studios, labels, managers and agents. And suddenly a whole wave of great music started sprouting up from coast to coast."
A lot of the people who made that music were at the launch party, including Nash The Slash, The Spoons' Rob Preuss and Derrick Ross, Triumph's Mike Levine, The Kings' David Diamond and Mr. Zero, Blue Rodeo's Bazil Donovan, Dan Hill, Kim Mitchell, The Parachute Club's Lorraine Segato and Billy Bryans, The Good Brothers, Bob Segarini, Martha And The Muffins, Downchild Blues Band's Donnie Walsh, Murray McLauchlan and Teenage Head's Gord Lewis.
"The '80s production, Rise Up, tells the story of how music video revolutionized the music business once again," continued Jennings between well wishes from the friends and associates in attendance at the soiree. "Cancon laid the foundation for the music industry and fostered it, and music television really helped Canadian artists to tour nationwide through the instant exposure they got through video play."
This Beat Goes On and Rise Up each feature about 50 songs, including rare live performance clips and music videos you might have forgotten about, and Jennings interviewed 150 people for the programs. Sound bites from music industry representatives and current artists who talk about the influence of '70s and '80s performers are included along with most of the aforementioned singers and musicians and their contemporaries.
This Beat Goes On, named after The Kings' Bob Ezrin-produced two-part single "This Beat Goes On/Switchin' To Glide," opened with a focus on songs that were major international hits, including Terry Jacks' "Seasons In The Sun," Bachman Turner Overdrive's "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown" and Nick Gilder's "Hot Child In The City." (I do killer karaoke versions of those last two, by the way.) More interesting was seeing McKenna Mendelson Mainline perform in a burlesque theatre with strippers, and David Wilcox looking like a bug-eyed Salvador Dali.
This Beat Goes On's second hour is my favourite, as much of it focuses on the punk and new wave scenes that I most identify with. The Demics' "New York City" still gives me chills, Nash The Slash performs with both a fez and a motorcycle helmet over his mummy-like bandaged face, and there are clips of The Viletones, The Diodes, Teenage Head, Pointed Sticks, Martha And The Muffins and Rough Trade.
Bruce Cockburn's reggae-based "Wondering Where The Lions Are" was his biggest hit, but it's good to see that Jamaican immigrant artists like Leroy Sibbles, Stranger Cole, Jackie Mittoo and Willie Williams also get props. On the other hand, I didn't need to hear Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch" or Gino Vannelli's "I Just Wanna Stop" — and don't ever again. The second show ends with the arena rock sounds of Rush, Max Webster, April Wine and Loverboy.
That genre also opens the first hour of Rise Up with more Rush and the introduction of Triumph, but my new wave, alternative rock and reggae yearnings are also satisfied via Doug And The Slugs, The Payolas, The Spoons, The Pursuit Of Happiness, Men Without Hats, The Box, 54-40, Parachute Club (whose signature song is also the title of the show) and, surprisingly, Slow, 20th Century Rebels and Truths And Rights. Bryan Adams, Glass Tiger and Gowan end things with much more mainstream fare.
The last hour opens with the rootsy sounds of k.d. lang from her sorely missed early years, Handsome Ned, Blue Rodeo, Cowboy Junkies and the incomparable Mary Margaret O'Hara (who once told me she'd like to sing backing vocals as I shouted out an Elvis Presley song, and I plan to hold her to it someday). It's also good to see The Grapes Of Wrath, The Northern Pikes and Powder Blues Band, and early Canadian hip-hop is represented by Michie Mee and Maestro Fresh-Wes.
Three giants of Canadian music — Neil Young (with his memorable 1989 Saturday Night Live performance of "Rockin' In The Free World"), Leonard Cohen and The Tragically Hip — end Rise Up and set the stage for a show looking at the '90s.
"What comes across in these shows is that music in Canada serves as the tie that binds this country," said Jennings. "That was very exciting to discover and I hope that's reflected in what people see on the screen.
"There was a lot to shoehorn in, but I hope what people see is a fast, eclectic, fun, genre-hopping, generation-hopping rock and roll circus."
This Beat Goes On and Rise Up are available on DVD.