Archive for the ‘Moxy Fruvous’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BOB SNIDER-“Old Nova Scotian” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

This song by Bob Snider is another story song.  This one is about a Old Nova Scotian far from the ocean.  He’s a derelict dead on his feet.

This song is a slow ballad–it feels like an old Irish ballad especially with this accordion.  Although a whipping violin solo would perk the song up.

Snider has been playing music since the 1980s.  Moxy Fruvous covered his amusing song “Ash Hash,” which makes sense as it didn’t sound like one of their songs.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Fishing with a Straight Hook”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue. This year’s issue had two short stories, a memoir, three poems and a fifteen year reflection about a novel as special features.

Jackson talks about one summer when she went fishing on Lac Catherine, a small lake in Quebec.  She and her husband rent a chalet fora  a month each summer.

Their son’s friend Roberto, an experienced fisherman, came to visit and she hoped to learn a thing or two from him.  Roberto had many sage things to say about fishing (as fishermen are wont).  Roberto’s secret: “put the worm where the fish wants to eat and if you’re lucky you will catch a fish.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Live at Massey Hall (April 29, 2016).

After their farewell concert at Massey Hall in 2007, who would have guessed that some nine years later they’d be back again.

When I heard this show was announced I immediately bought a ticket, not really thinking about how I would logistically manage such a thing.  I was able to get it to a fan who could go, but at least I’ll have my email confirmation:

Live at Massey HallRheostatics
Fri 04/29/2016 8:00 PM
Main Floor Centre Front  Seat I-44   $29.50

This time Martin’s voice is working again.  But in the intervening years he has had something else go on with him.  I don’t know details, but there’s some kind of anxiety present–and it comes out during this show.

Amazingly, for such a big show, there is hardly any evidence of it online.  There’s a few fan videos but no full sets available.

The only performance available that I can find is the official release from (the terrific) Live at Massey Hall series.  The whole series is wonderful–professionally filmed and beautifully recorded.  The only problem is that it’s so short.  I don’t know how long the show was, but the video is only 40 minutes.

The video opens with Martin talking about his laryngitis, “laryngitis taught me to enjoy singing in a lower range.”  There’s Tim talking about seeing Devo (who were walking on treadmills the whole show) at Massey Hall and overheating from wearing a heavy coat in winter.  Dave saw lot so new wave bands who weren’t great live but were great because they were in Massey hall–it’s a forgiving and inspiring place.

Big red letters in the back of the stage spelled out RHEOSTATISC (sic).

The set opens with “King of the Past” Martin plays a lovely solo and gets some applause and the whole thing sounds great.

“Californian Dreamline” opens with some great sound effects from Martin, Hugh Marsh and Kevin Hearn.  But after the “sensamilla” bit, Martin freaks out.  He steps away from the mic and waves everyone off.

Dave jumps in, “this happened in Montreal once. It’s true.  We were opening for Moxy Fruvous, so it’s a kind of curse we’ve got to exorcise.”

The band jams on and them Martin comes back to sing and the crowd gives him a big cheer–there really is no more forgiving crowd than a Rheostatics crowd.

The opening acoustic guitar of “Claire” begins.  That’s Tim on acoustic, Dave on bass and Martin on his gorgeous double neck guitar.  The letters have been rearranged to say SORTA ITCHES and Martin plays a great solo.  Tim sounds perfect, of course.

They start “P.I.N.”  Martin sings the first line and then has an issue.  He steps away again while the band plays on. He catches himself and returns (again to encouraging applause).  Once it gets going it all sounds great.

Dave finally gets a lead vocal song.  The letters spell out SHITCOASTER as they play a flawless “Mumbletypeg.”

Then apparently the entire rest of the show happens and we get the night-ending encore–a wild and raucous “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds.” (The letters finally spell RHEOSTATICS). The song gets off to a pretty good start.  For the middle, Martin and Hugh face each other (Martin always seems comforted by being with Hugh) and then Don Kerr gets a drum solo (with sound effects from Kevin Hearn).

At the end of the song, for the “moon,” there are howls, probably from Kevin, possibly from the audience.  As they slowly fade away, Dave jumps of the drum rise and the end of the song begins.  But this is an extended jam ending.  Hugh and Kevin make some menacing sounds and then Martin plays a solo with a slide.  It’s a weird, very undramatic ending for such a dramatic band.

I have always been sad that I couldn’t go to this show, but it sounds like it would have been a real roller coaster of a night.

Read this review from Radio Free Canuckistan for the perspective of someone who was there.

Over the closing credits, Kevin Hearn’s father read “The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski.  I assume he read that before the band came out (accompanied by Hugh Marsh).

I don’t know much by Bukowski, but this is great for its simple profundity.

The Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

[READ: March 5, 2018] Head Games

As with some of my favorite books, the story behind the creation is almost as interesting as the book itself.

Craig McDonald is a journalist and he says that he is often frustrated by trying to write the truth: “read five biographies about the same person and you’ll feel like you’ve read about five different people.”  With fiction maybe you can find something bordering truth.

The introduction by McDonald tells us that we will be riding with pulp novelist Hector Lassiter.  Lassiter is the protagonist of a finite arc of ten novels. The last one, Three Chords & The Truth is a sequel to Head Games and appeared in 2016.  Lassiter is a charmer, a rogue, a rake and a crime novelist who lives what he writes and writes what he lives.  Hector was born in Texas in 1/1/1900 and the arc of the novels spans the 20th century.

McDonald says the publishing history of the books is not chronological. Head Games was the first novel published.  The second was set in 1935 and features Hemingway prominently.  Other books hopscotched through the decade. They have recently been reissued and presented in roughly chronological order.

The novels “follow secret histories and underexplored aspects of real events.”  They’re set in real places and use history and real people to drive the plots. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS: Bathurst Street Theatre, Toronto ON (October 7, 1994).

This is the full 36 song version audience recording of the CBC Hot Ticket Show.  The radio version was truncated (and sounds great).  But this version sounds quite good as well.  Notes:

“Song Of Flight” has been duplicated in 2 channels so doesn’t sound particularly good but the rest of the show sounds fine. A bit of chatter from time to time from people near the recorder. The 11 minute “Dope Fiends” in particular is pretty awesome.

This is the show they mentioned they’d be playing after their return from England (no recordings from England).  This show is also nearly 3 hours and 36 songs.

There’s also a video of the show (below) which has a different audio.  It is so interesting to finally see them playing these songs–I had many visual revelations watching this after seeing and imagining these shows for so long).

“Song of Flight” does sound crazy echoey.   The video version’s audio is clean.  I love watching Martin playing the great soaring notes and Dave playing the chords.  The sound cleans up nicely for “California Dreamline.”  I never knew Dave played the high notes during the verse or the wild notes during “disillusioned porpoise.”  It’s also amazing how bouncy and animated Dave is.

“Soul Glue” sounds good.  In the introduction to “Michael Jackson,” after Martin plays the “Sweet Child O’ Mine” riff, Dave says “Thank you Saul.”  On the audio version, you can hear someone in the crowd ask, What did he say?  A guy explains the premise of the song but misses the Slash joke.  The end of the song (just the voices) is really long and sounds great.  I see it’s just Tim and Martin.

Tim apologies for the show starting half an hour late, but they suggest it was a bonus half hour for “conversations and such.”

Then Dave says, “people talk about us having three record out but no we have 4.”  He mentions Greatest Hits and someone shouts Wendell Clark.  He hears it as “Do you miss Wendell?  Sure.”  Then Martin says, “he’s fishtailin.  That’s a segue.”  “Me and Stupid” is fast and rocking.

Dave introduces “Tim Mech our road manager who did the “Legal Age Life” guitar solo.  He says Tim drove 16 hours consecutive from Thunder Bay to Toronto to get us back to our families and our pets and our loved ones.  Then he drove to Washington DC for Danny Gatton’s funeral (a musician I don’t know).

Clark makes a segue that a van is like a car, you scratch your arm and you go like this….  Cough cough.  You go like this….  (supposed to be a segue for Martin to start “Torque Torque.”  He missed it.  For this song Bidini is on bass, Tim is on acoustic guitar, Martin on a big old-fashioned guitar.  After the song, he says, “Say goodbye to that guitar,” and switches back to his Steinberger.

Dave asks, “You remember the knob who played air drums at our last concert…here he is.”  This is an introduction to “Mike” who is not seen.

It’s the same instrument configuration for “Introducing Happiness.”

Then there’s a discussion of Martin getting athlete’s foot in Cork—it was the highlight of our trip to Cork.

Martin has some trouble with his acoustic guitar and his shirt.  He tells about Oprah Winfrey interviewing a guy who gaff taped everything in his house.  His wife was so embarrassed.  Clark, in watching Martin’s shirt get fixed with tape says, “For those of you who want to know the secret of life by a roll of gaff tape–it’ll fix your car, your clothes, your guitar.

I was intrigued to see that the fun parts of “In This Town” were played by Dave, while Martin plays acoustic.

For “Take Me In Your Hand,” Tim goes to the drums and Clark comes up front.  He dances a little jig and sings harmony.  Bidini plays bass.

When you see what the gaff tape has done to his shirt Bidini says, “Martin has affected an exclamation mark on his thing.  “The first time Rheostatics played at The Edge in 1980, I went to Albion Mall and got them to press on an exclamation mark on a red shirt and my dad bought me blue velvety pants.  I looked like a clown, but an excited clown!”  He thanks Martin for recalling that evening.  He says “Everything old is new wave again…except Canadian folk rock.”

Martin makes up a song  “Everything old is new wave again.”  They play around it a few times and then he says, “Okay, it’s not that funny.”

For “King of the Past,” Dave is on acoustic guitar while Tim plays the opening high notes on his bass.  Martin plays the great opening effects.

When they play “Queer,” there’s no ending section because it segues right into “Full Moon Over Russia,” which has Dave and Martin talking to each other with their guitars (vocals and guitar playing the same note) “You seem very confused!”  “What?!”

Tim grabs the accordion, Dave is on bass for “What’s Going On.”  Martin has a little lyric problem, but when Clark asks if he’s starting again, he just presses on.  Towards the end, there’s a cool jam with Dave on bass an Martin on guitar facing each other and challenging each other to play better.  It’s pretty great.

After the song, Martin says, “A nightmare of mine has come true, my shirt’s falling off.”

This is probably my favorite version of “Row.”  As the song heads to the end, there’s a lengthy drum part that builds and builds.  It nearly takes over the song.  Martin starts playing louder and louder and the whole time, Tim maintains his consistent playing.  It hits an amazing climax.  It’s a bit too loud in the recording but must have been very cool live.

I never realized that Tim played acoustic guitar and Dave played bass on “Claire.”  The band jams with Martin making interesting sounds.  They play Monstrous Hummingbirds which segues into “One More Colour” and then, half a dozen songs later, they finish up “Queer.”  So cool.

“Dope Fiends” runs nearly 11 minutes long and is pretty fantastic.  In the middle there’s even a didgeridoo (the video confirms that it is!).  They thank the didgeridoo player but I can’t hear his name.  Martin is making whale sounds on the guitar, there’s a lengthy drum solo and more of Martin’s guitar solo.  And even after a quick return to the song before the ending, Tim starts funking it up and Martin gets a little more wailing in.  It’s one of the most unusual jams the band has done.

When that ends, one of them says “We scheduled 20 songs and figured we’d be done by 12: 30 and we’re now an hour and a half ahead of schedule.  [How?] So we’ll play one more, take a 5 minute break so people can stretch their feet and have a smoke and then we’ll play a second set.   But they waste no time getting to that smoke with a blistering “R.D.A.”

They come back from the break and “Digital Beach” opens slowly (Martin has a new shirt and an acoustic guitar).  It segues into a rocking “Self Serve Gas Station.”

After some banter about the game Risk and people who play it on a board versus people who play it on the computer, they play “Headless One,” a song I haven’t heard them play in a long time.  For “Legal Age Life,” it’s like a fun folk party.  Dave Clark comes up to sing and do a whistle solo.  Bidini is on acoustic guitar.  And near the end Tim gets to rhyme the line “We ain’t got nothing funny to say no more.”  Then he’s back up front with the acoustic guitar for “Palomar.”

They play a lovely “Northern Wish” and then comes the wonderfully weird “Artenings Made of Gold.”  The middle section is sung more and more like a children’s song–almost baby voices.  I think they even sing “Davy is one, Timmy is two.”

The “digging a hole” section once again sounds like Frank Zappa.  And when they get to the Uncle Henry section about the Maple Leafs, they pause and Dave says “could you please rise” and then they sing it like a barbershop quartet.  It is such a shame that the video cuts off during this song.  The very end has the band do another vocal harmony sans microphone?  Bidini says, “A little tribute to Moxy Fruvous.”

Digging  a hole sound like Zappa again.. maple leafs   could you please rise?     Then they “do it again” guitars off for the audience to sing the ned end

They play a boppy “Alomar” which segues somewhat surprisingly into “Onilley’s Strange Dream.”

People start shouting out requests and then someone shouts “play whatever you want!”  A person shouts “Saskatchewan” and Dave says “Carte Blanche? we stopped playing that years ago.”  When another person requests “Saskatchewan,” Dave says “That was Sakstachewan…part 2.”  Dave says they’re going to play two more songs (they actually play 7 more).

Dave talks about the Green Sprouts Music Club and how people have joined from all over the world: Pakistan Australia, Thailand, Africa, Eurasia and Foxtrap, Newfoundland (he says people from Foxtrap are there tonight).

There’s some raging rocking during the middle of “When Winter Comes” but overall the main part is kind of slow.  The “blue Canadian winter” is practically whispered.

There are more and more shouts for “Horses,” but they play a great “Shaved Head” instead.  And then they play a very folkie “Bread Meat Peas and Rice.”  There’s some crazy falsetto singing and they even get the audience to sing in the falsetto.

And then they kind of fly through the end: “A quick no-nonsense” Record Body Count,” then a fast and hectic “Green Sprouts Theme” where Dave shouts “skip the bridge” and then… silence until Bridge and they rock on!

There’s a few notes of “You Are Very Star” and Martin says “This is sort of an anthem, this one,”  but they play a crazy fast “P.R.O.D.”  They play a verse and then segue back to the “Green Sprouts Theme” and then they play it slower and Dave says “I’m sleepy guys” and they start playing slower and slower saying “1 2 3 and 4” and it slowly segues into the lullaby “You Are Very Star.” People are still shouting requests and yes the guy who is still shouting for “Horses” should know better.  For Martin is playing a lovely acoustic guitar outro.

This is another great set and is, as far as I can tell the final show (at least on the website) with Dave Clark on drums.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “The Hardworking Immigrant Who Made Good”

This issue has a section of essays called “On the Job,” written by several different authors.

Sharma was going to Harvard law school, so he did what many of his fellow students did–he applied at banks for jobs. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto Ontario (August 11 1994).

This is a monster show.  Nearly three hours long!  I’ve said before that I’d love to have professional recordings of certain shows and this would absolutely be one of them. Most of the show sounds pretty good although near the end the audience starts talking a little too loud. But man, what a set list.

This is one of the last shows Dave Clark played before leaving the band. This show was on the same day Introducing Happiness was reviewed as a new release in Now Magazine. (See the review below right).  The Setlist was a carefully constructed chronologically arranged 36 song, 2-set night.

They open the showing by thanking everyone for coming out on short notice, whatever that means.  Dave says they had 35 songs on the list  (they play 36 in total).

The first four songs are from Greatest Hits
Higher & Higher, Crescent Moon, Canadian Dream (which hasn’t gotten much play in the available shows) and Ditch Pigs.  They joke about their older songs: because we play some older music sometimes, like now, we forget the words, right Tim?  They also thank “anybody who helped us last night to cut our live track and video of Claire.”

The next song is “Royal Albert (Joey II)” which never appeared on an album, formally, so who knows how old it actually is.

Then there are five from Melville  (+1 later on)

A slow “Saskatchewan” builds very big by the end with Dave taking some of the last verse.  Tim observes that it’s a rough start tonight, although it all sounds quite good.  “Chanson sans Ruelles” has a quiet middle with a brushed section on drums.  When the song is over, because it is sung in French, Clark chimes: Tim Vesely for Governor General.  Bidini agrees saying, “he is Ray Hnatyshyn of rock.”  Upon assigning the rest of the cabinet: Bidini would be minister of sport; Tielli would be Finance Minister (of course) and Clark would be Minister of National Resources he is a national resource unto himself.

They start “When Winter Comes” and then they state:   at this point in When Winter Comes we’d like to express individually what the review in Now Magazine meant to us (if you click on the image it seems to come out a little more clearly).  Each of the four sings something.  Bidini: “nothing sweet nothing.”  Clark recites to the rhythm of his drum beats: “you know, Dave, I really like the things that they say all day but I got to know so I can tell you.”  Giving up he says, I love that Sloan album they gave one N–it’s better than the last one it’s better it’s cooler… why be mean to such a good band?  Bidini chimes in: “So the reason our album sucked is because Dave Clark listened to Sloan too much, obviously.”  Martin kind of mumbles his response but it’s something along the lines of, “I guess it mad me sad but it’s just another thing for a shirt.”  Tim says 1) we have to work really hard to complete that hoser rock opera.  The other thing is that its my weekly paycheck … 120 bucks?”  The rest of the song sounds great.

Clark: the next song [“It”] is one of my favorites and we don’t play it enough.  It’s followed by a fairly slow version of “Record Body Count” that gets the crowd really riled up.

“Woodstuck” is also not on a record.  But it’s a great song which they introduce as an “ode to a friend of ours who was really really into the hippie culture.”  1994 is the 25th anniversary of Woodstock (and the Woodstock ’94 concert).  Dave says to someone “you got that at the original Woodstock at the Pizza Pizza kiosk. Woodstock ’94 is brought to you by Pizza Pizza and their new… herbal pizza.”   In the “intermission” of the song Bidini throws in the lyrics to “Blitzkrieg Bop” with the same melody as the main song.

Referencing something, Bidini says Dan Aykroyd walked by and he was really polite, he said “excuse me,” which is pretty nice.  Clark jokes, “Did you say Ghostbusters?”

Next there’s 8 from whale music (+2 songs later)

“Sickening Song” sounds great and bright.  Afterward Dave sees “Matthew” and says “You got engaged?  Cool, congratulations young lovers. It’s our second Green Sprouts anulmen….no engagement.”

“Who” sounds good but they have a little trouble with those last few thump thump notes.  Soul Glue adds a heavy rocking coda to it.

Dave starts “Queer” by chanting “We’re here, we’re queer, we will not go away.”  At the end, Dave recite sa poem that ends, “Acceptance, forgiveness, and love.” which he says is from Broadway Danny Rose.  They also throw in a verse from “Good Guys and Bad Guys” from Camper Van Beethoven.

During he first verse of “Self Serve Gas Station,” the tape gets a little wonky.  And Martin’s changes the line: “What went wrong with Martin?  Is he stoned?” Someone shouts “yeaahh” and there’s the retort: “how do you know?”

Martin plays the blistering riff to RDA a few times before they take off with the song.  And then it’s time for a short break.

Clark announces, “we’re back.  This song is called “You Shook Me All Night Long with a Shaved Head.”  “Shaved Head” is quite pretty and slow.  They introduce James Gray of Blue Rodeo on keyboards and Tim plays accordion for “What’s Going On?”

They play 2 from the Whale Music Soundtrack.  About “Song of Flight” Dave says, “we played that song in Kingston and a smallish college student did a bird dance in 7/8.”  And then for those who got a free single at the Bathurst Street Theater, they play “Torque, Torque.”

Then there’s 10 from Introducing Happiness (+1 song later).  They introduce “Claire” as “Wet Home Alabama.”  After Fan Letter to Michael Jackson, they say, “The king is dead long live Lisa Marie and Michael.  Congrats to Michael on his wedding… that’s three Green Sprouts weddings.”

After mentioning a convoy, Bidini asks Clark “What was your CB handle?”  “Fuzzy Wuzzy.  I played CB with my best friend–it was strictly platonic.”

As Earth/Monstrous Hummingbird opens, you can hear a lot more crowd noise.  Talk of “I’d like to hear that recording.”

After “Me and Stupid,” Dave says “I’m afraid that when we go to England and play in front of  packed house of 150 British screaming Moxy Fruvous fans and we get up there to play California Dreamline” this is all that’ll come out  (some crazy nonsense noises) and they’ll love us and we’ll be on the cover of all the music magazines and we’ll never be able to face anybody in Canada again.”  Clark disagrees: “bullshit don’t believe your own mythology.”

“The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos” is “about a great Canadian band.”  And “Artenings Full of Gold” is weirder than ever, the “digging a hole” section sounds very much like Zappa (with high-pitched laughing whoooos).

Really fast PROD after which Clark asks, “how’s it feel to be in Ontario after the legal drinking hour?”

In the beginning of “California Dreamline,”Martin messes up and has to start over.  And then they all mess up…hold on false start.  Someone jokes, “Sounded like the Stones alright.”  They resume mid-song.  Martin says, “Stop.  Fuck this song let’s move on.”

So they pick right up with “Horses.”  Its fast and powerful and at the end he chants: “help break the owners of Major League Baseball, boycott professional sports.”  Speaking of sports, “Might as well award the Montreal Expos works series champion right here and now, ok.”  Then Dave says, “to my friend Steve from Hamilton…that didn’t count the CFL in that boycott of professional sports, all teams except the Hamilton Tigers.”

Bidini continues, “You braved the cold and blizzard conditions… oh it’s August, sorry.  So our record came out Tuesday with general release in October when they’ll play the Bathurst Theater.  He gives a plea to “Help Canadians music dominate worldwide in the 1990s.”   Clark, “And don’t forget those condoms when they’re at the Commonwealth Games.”

They come back for an encore with “Row.”  It’s sweet and quiet—not a really exciting encore, honestly.  But it’s followed by a romping “Legal Age Life,” which gets everyone really moving.

Such a great show.  It’s shows like this that make me wish that a) I knew about the band back then and b) I had actually seen them live.

[READ: June 5, 2017] Clean, Cleaner, Cleanest

This short story is a brief description of an older woman’s life.  Not a lot happens in terms of plot, but it is a wonderful story full of detail and character with a satisfying ending.

Marie is a maid at a motel.  She has worked there for nearly 30 years.  She is Catholic and goes to confession often.  But “she was more flexibly Catholic than strictly Catholic, so she did believe in birth control.”  The condoms she found stopped bothering her because safe sex was better than abortion.

Over the years she had seen the drug users go from needles to pipes to meth and now back to needles.

She also learned to be clinical about the messes she cleaned up: feces and urine to made it sound like she was helping people rather than dealing with the worst of them. (more…)

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1982SOUNDTRACK: DAVID BOWIE-“The Laughing Gnome” (1967).

gnomeI have always liked David Bowie.  Never loved him, but always liked his radio hits (and a bit more).  Suffice it to say that I have never heard of “The Laughing Gnome” before reading about it in this book.

What a strange little song.  I can’t tell if it came out before or after his debut solo record (he has the same haircut), but I gather it was released as a novelty record.

It’s a delightful little song.  Very sixties mod with a healthy nod of dance-hall.  The very different thing of course is that in the song, the main singer (Bowie) meets and sings with a sped-up-voiced Cockney “gnome.”

So the song is clearly a novelty song (what else would you call it?).  Except that the production is really great and the music is really good too.  Despite the gnome, the song isn’t really a “funny” song (well, there are jokes and puns, I guess).  It’s certainly weird and certainly silly, but it holds up pretty well to repeated listens (even if the chorus is “ha ha ha hee hee hee I’m a laughing gnome and you can’t catch me”).

Bowie doesn’t really acknowledge the song anymore, although he did joke that he was considering performing it in a new ‘Velvet Underground-influenced’ style.  Before that happens, hear the original

[READ: November 22, 2014] 1982

So yes, I know that Ghomeshi is in the midst of a scandal in which he is pretty undeniably a sexually abusive scumbag.  I’ll say nothing more about that since things are still under investigation {formal charges were brought today].  But it doesn’t look good for Jian.

This is rather upsetting.  For the women involved, obviously, but also for those of us who liked Jian and thought he was one of the good guys.  Which I did.  I loved Moxy Fruvous.  I loved his solo album.  I had a brief email exchange with him before he joined the CBC, and his show, Q was one of the best interview shows out there.  He always seemed so nice and on the right side of so many issues.  Ugh.

But anyhow, this is about the book, not him (although the book is about him as well).  I only heard about the book when I was looking for news about his scandal (I had no idea he had written a book).  The book is called 1982 because it is all about his life in the year 1982, a formative year in his childhood. (more…)

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cbcIn honor of Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize, CBC radio has a playlist of “Literary Music.” Now, I have made many literary playlists over they years myself (including “My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors” by Moxy Fruvous which is not included here), but this one consists of a few bands that I don’t know (and two that I do).

  • Library Voices–“Generation Handclap”
  • The Darcys–“Pretty Girls”
  • Kathryn Calder–“Right Book”
  • AroarA–“#6”
  • Arkells–“Book Club”
  • Dan Mangan–“Road Regrets”
  • John K. Samson–“When I Write My Master’s Thesis”

Samson is the only artist I know well, although I know Dan Mangan a little.  It’s a good listen and I’m sure if you scrutinize the lyrics you’ll find their literary worth.

Listen here.

[READ: January 18, 2014] “Her Big Break”

I’ve been a fan of Alice Munro for a while, and I’m always happy to see her in the New Yorker.  Strangely, I have never read any of her collected short stories.  Maybe some day….

When Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I imagined she’d get a lot more press.  And then I realized that it’s a literature prize.  And she’s Canadian.  So, perhaps a few columns in Canada’s The Walrus is all she’ll get.

But this article, which is really entirely this below letter and a brief introduction, explains that on November 18, 1976, Charles McGrath, a fiction editor at The New Yorker, sent Alice Munro her first acceptance letter from the magazine for her story “Royal Beatings.”  Soon after this, she signed a first-reading agreement with the magazine, which I gather means that they will see any of her short stories before she can send them anywhere else.

I am including this letter in its entirety because I assume that most people, like me, have never actually seen an acceptance letter from a magazine for a piece of fiction (I have several rejections).  But even if you have seen an acceptance letter, I can’t imagine that it will every be as thoughtful and considerate as this one.  i also love that as recent as 1976 The NEw Yorker was kind of prudish about their fiction.  I mean, now, the cursing is rampant, but back then the fiction was a more genteel breed.

I have not read “Royal Beatings,” but you can bet I’ve added it to my short list. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE COCKSURE LADS-The Greatest Hits of The Cocksure Lads 1963-1968 (2010).

At last, The Cocksure Lads have released a greatest hits collection on CD.  These songs have been unavailable to anyone since the late sixties and it’s wonderful to be able to enjoy them again or for the first time.

Dusty Fosterboard, Reg Topping, Derek Millwood and Blake Manning wrote some charming rock back in the late 60s.   Their music was certainly forward looking.  Check out the rocking song (with keyboards–perhaps a Beach Boys influence?) “You’re a Cocksure Lad’ coming out in 1963 (while The Beatles were still doing fairly standard rock n roll songs and covers).  “You Gotta Stay Cocksure” (1964) sounds a bit more Beatlesesque, although perhaps a little more adventurous than Beatles songs at the time.

“A Case of the Dropsies” (1965) was a silly, almost novelty song (with a siren in the background), although it features a cool low-end guitar solo (and great harmonies). “Mushy Peas” seems like it would be a novelty, but it is a really a sadly passionate song of loss when the protagonist stops of for the titular dinner before heading for America.

“Ship’s Ahoy” (1968) comes from their concept album of the same name and while not as musically adventurous as any of The Beatles records, was certainly a fun (and different) song for the band–was that “oregano” joke a sly drug reference?  “Admiral Trafalgar” comes from this album too (and even mentions Hitler!–a political song in 1968?)

The charming and trippy “Umbrella Girl” also has some cutesy asides (I think a lobster bit my ‘and) and a cool autoharp as a major instrument.  “Ticky Boo” is a cute little romp: “Mrs Eng-a-land, a pack of crisps and me.”  They were even forward thinking on “That’s Any Good” in which one of the things that’s good is “when your country wins the arms race.”

There’s definitely some novelties here.  “A Car Boot Light That Never Quite Shuts Off” is an organ and voice song (with a crazily long note held at the end).  “I’ve Already Been Loved” opens with a very randy sounding “Wellllllll” but turns into a delightful, poppy number.  Of course, the final song, “Wellies in the Bath” is the obligatory goofball song (the “Ringo” song if you will).  And it is cute (especially at only 43 seconds).

The songs are charming and nostalgic, and even if you don’t remember them.  It’s a nice trip down memory lane[1]

[READ: February 20, 2011] “April Foolery”

I found this story because after reading The Ask, I looked up Lipsyte and Wikipedia said he has two short stories in collections (and no other short fiction pieces published–although I know The Dungeon master was in The New Yorker). Indeed, this was one of two.  I looked up The Revolution Will Be Accessorized up on Google books, and his entire story was available!  (It’s only two pages).

Looking at the rest of the authors, I do wonder if I’d like to read the whole thing. I’ll have to see if it’s in our library.  (It isn’t, but I’m going to interlibrary loan it).

Anyhow, this absurdly brief story is a sort of history of April Fool’s Day with modern suggestions for making it more fun).  It begins with the generally accepted premise that April Fool’s Day is tied to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar.  People were punished who did not know that this new calendar had updated the new year.  And this spirit of prankishness lives on.

Given that bit of background, Lipsyte offers six pranks for April Fool’s. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK : BLACK MOUNTAIN-Wilderness Heart (2010).

As the Tea Party showed, it’s never too late to pay tribute to Led Zeppelin.  Of course in 2010, it seems really uncool.  So, why not go whole hog?  The opener, “The Hair Song” sounds uncannily like Led Zeppelin, from chord structure to guitar sound.  And then just wait until after a verse or two and you get the guitar solo which comes straight from a Led Zep song.  And, amusingly enough, the duet vocals of Stephen McBean and Amber Webber combine to sound an awful lot like Robert Plant.

It may not be fair to compare them to their forebears, but they seem so intent upon referencing them.  “Old Fangs” sounds a ton like Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” (at least they’re fellow Canadians).  But the wonderfully 70’s-style sound of the keyboards raise the track above any mere copycat.

“Radiant Hearts” is a gorgeous acoustic ballad where you can really appreciate the split vocals of McBean and Webber (and which should make you go back to the first two songs to really listen to how great they sound together.  This is that rare ballad that doesn’t feel like a kind of sell out track.

“Rollercoaster” returns to the 70’s-lovin’ with a monster riff (and a solo) that Tony Iommi would be proud of.  But rather than simply bludgeoning us, the riff stops in its tracks and then slowly builds itself back up.  “Let Spirits Ride” moves out of the 70s and sounds a bit like a Dio riff circa 1983.  But there’s some cool psychedelic vocal processing on the bridge (and a massive organ solo) to really mess with your retro time frame.

“Buried by the Blues” is followed by “The Way to Gone.”  They’re both folkie songs (although “Gone” features a re harder edge).  After the heaviness of the first half of the album , these tracks seem like a bit of surprise but they match the album’s retro feel very nicely.  “The Space of Your Mind” reminds me in many ways of Moxy Fruvous’ “The Drinking Song” (you won’t see that reference too much to this album).  Until the chorus comes in, when it turns into something else entirely.

But it’s not all mellow for the end. The title track has some heavy riffage (and great vocals by Webber–she reminds me of some of the guest vocalists on The Decemberists’ The Hazards of Love, although she really sounds like any number of great 70s rock vocalists).  I love the way the track ends.  The disc ends with “Sadie” another folk song (which makes the album half delicate folk tracks and half heavy rockers). It’s a fine song, but the album is kind of ballad heavy by the end, and the teasing drums and guitars just never bring forth the climax I was looking for.

Despite the obvious homages to classic rock bands, (if you can get past that, the album actually sounds fresh (or maybe preserved is a better word) and strangely original.  Like the preposterous cover, the album is preposterous–over the top and crazy.  Yet unlike the cover, the pieces all work together to form a compelling picture.  Obviously it helps if you like classic rock, but there’s nothing wrong with good classic rock, now is there.

[READ: February 14, 2011] Literary Lapses

Despite the cover picture above, I actually downloaded this book from Google Books (and the cover of that one was boring).

So, obviously, reading the biography of Stephen Leacock made me want to read some of his humorous fiction.  True, I also wanted to read Mordecai Richler, but his books are much longer and I wanted this done by the end of February!

So, according to Margaret MacMillan, it is this book, specifically the first story, “My Financial Career,” that solidified Leacock’s reputation as a humorist.  And I can totally understand what she means (without having read the other books, of course).  “My Financial Career” is indicative of the others stories: not laugh-out-loud funny, but clever, kind of silly and very smile-inducing.  The gist is that the narrator is very nervous about going into a bank with his large amount of cash ($56!).  He asks to speak to the manager who thinks he’s Very Important and then proceeds to embarrass himself further. And further. It’s quite amusing.

“A Christmas Letter” is one of my favorite in the book.  It’s a very snarky look at a friend’s Christmas Party, with a great punchline.  And stories like “How to Make a Million Dollars” or “How to be a Doctor” are wonderfully amusing tales in which the narrator mocks the wealthy and “professionals.”

There are 42 stories in this book, so there’s bound to be a few clunkers.  Some were mildly amusing, some were mere trifles, and some are crazily out of date for a 2011 audience.  This book turned 100 years old last year.  (Neat). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JIAN-The First 6 Songs (2001).

Being American and apolitical in my youth, I had no idea who Pierre Trudeau was until about 2001.  And my first real introduction was through this album by Jian Ghomeshi.  Jian was one of the four guys in Moxy Früvous (and man has his career skyrocketed since then…watch his great interview show Q online–in particular, check out the crazily uncomfortable interview with Billy Bob Thornton or the wonderful hour long interview with Rush).

Moxy Früvous had just broken up and Jian, who was one of my faves in the band, put out the optimistically title The first 6 songs (no other songs have arrived yet).

Jian is a mostly folk rock album which features Jian’s gentle voice.  And gentleness is one of Jian’s trademarks, it would seem.  But more than gentleness, his songs are about accountability and justice.  And yet lyrically, he’s not naive or obvious.  “Quebec City” is about the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001 (“the whole world is watching”).

I’ve always felt connected to the last track, “Lousy Boy”:

“And a man Is a man If he’s got a gun in his hand
Well I never wanted to destroy I always made a lousy boy….  And I know guys who are just like me
They like hockey and poetry
I think in retrospect that we have won
I’m a full-grown man and I don’t own a gun.”

Früvous has similarly thoughtful lyrics but in addition to the lyrics, the music is always interesting.   So the unexpected chord changes in the bridge to “Astronaut” turn the song from a simple folk song into a moving rocker.  And “Baby Don’t Lie” is a 5 minute track that builds on a folk base and is a catchy sing along.

of course, this all leads to the song “Father (For Pierre Trudeau)” the song that first taught me a little bit about the Prime Minister.  The song covers a few moments of his media-saturated leadership.  But mostly it’s a reflection about Trudeau on the day of his death.  The personal touch of course is that Ghomeshi’s father wanted to meet him (as did Jian) but now they w0uld never get to.  It’s a very touching song, and I have a hard time imagining someone writing a similar song about a President.

It was this song that got me to investigate the life and leadership of Trudeau.  (I even wrote an email to Jian, to which he quickly responded…I only wish I still had that email account active).

[READ: January 12, 2011] Pierre Elliot Trudeau

This is one of the more exciting biographies that I’ve read.  Which is pretty great.  Although one of the reasons it is so exciting is because he presumes that the reader knows a lot about Trudeau already.  And to be fair, I assume most Canadians would know the global picture (and most of the details) about him already.  So, basically, you get a summary picture of Trudeau, but instead of a quick outline that glosses over details, we get a lot of details, but no gloss.

What I’m getting at is that there are a number of places where Ricci talks about events and movements as if we know them.  So this makes for incredible fluency even if the novice is left puzzling exactly what all the fuss was about.  In fairness, contextually it’s easy to figure out, it’s just a bit surprising.

Another fascinating thing: Ricci skips over Trudeau’s childhood pretty much completely.  The book opens with Ricci’s memory of seeing Trudeau in 1967 when he (Ricci) was a young boy and seeing the way his teachers an adults seemed mesmerized by him.

Nostalgia aside, Ricci quickly explains what a polarizing figure Trudeau has been.  Warmly loved by many and yet (according to Macleans) ranked 5th of all Canadian Prime Ministers (despite being re-elected several times).  Actually, the way that Ricci words it it sounds like he came much lower than that (he says “third tier” which seems much mower than 5th).  And, judging by comments on YouTube videos, utterly hated by others.

The next chapter continues in 1968 at the beginning of Trudeaumania. Treudeaumania sounds a lot like Obamamania–a young, relatively inexperienced politician makes some noise and is thrust into prominence.  (Of course, in 1968, Trudeau only ran for office for a month and a half before being elected–ah the bliss of a short campaign season).

A video of Trudeaumania shows people swooning over him.

The biography does cover some of Trudeau’s earlier years (taken largely from Young Trudeau by Max and Monique Nemni).  He was a somewhat rebellious youth and his teen behavior was full of the usual (and not so usual) rebellions.  But the thing with Trudeau is that it is never clear whether he seriously held certain beliefs or if he was just trying to get a reaction out of people.

He established a society called les X whose purpose was to create an independent Quebec (organized under fascist principles).  les X faded from Trudeau’s life and existence with very little fanfare, and evidently radical groups like that sprang up all the time in Quebec at that time.  Really, it seems to point to his growing bored at his school and with the provincialism of Quebec.

When he left Quebec for Harvard and later for Europe, his mind was expanded and his beliefs opened up accordingly.  He had written many anti-Semitic things in his Montreal youth but once he actually met some Jews, he quickly changed his tune. Indeed, Harvard seems to have really shaped his later outlook in life.  And his exposure to vastly different attitudes during his studying Paris and then later in London exposed him to so much more in the world.

When he returned home to Quebec he found everything small and narrow (which is exactly how it (and he) was when he left it).  And he quickly finds himself embroiled in politics with the Asbestos Strike of 1949.  He took a position (and offered free legal assistance to anyone striking) which raised his profile and quickly made him persona non grata in his province.

This led him to leave for Ottawa, where he was less known and (since his credentials were great) where he could easily get a low position in politics and establish his career.  The main thing he learned, though, was that Ottawa was not the enemy (as is generally held to be true in Quebec).

Trudeau eventually returned to Quebec for Cité libre.  This is one of the things that Ricci glosses over…I’m still not exactly sure what Cité libre is (okay, an influential political journal), but I’m well aware of Trudeau’s involvement in it.  And how it helped him to state his principles and beliefs.

There’s a lengthy passage where Ricci explains how Trudeau’s federalism came to blossom so powerfully for him.  And this argument is one of the reasons why I am in the camp of Trudeau, because even though his piece is meant to be just about Quebec, I find it holds true for the U.S. as well (substitute out Quebec for any special interest).

The sort of independent Quebec he had dreamed of as a young man, he saw now, would only have given greater rein to the ruling elites to exploit nationalism for their own end, as Duplessis has done. In a Quebec obsessed with the survival of French-Canadian culture it was too easy for leaders to manipulate the electorate by promoting vague ideological goals rather than more practical ones, such as those providing infrastructure and employment (103).

Trudeaumania quickly swept him into office, but he was most reviled by his home province which felt betrayed by his turning his back on separatism.  He was the target of an attack by the FLQ, which captured and killed Trudeau’s friend and cabinet minister Pierre Laport. This was known as the October Crisis.  Trudeau’s reaction was swift and hard, he called for martial law (and the Mounties certainly abused their rights). But when questioned about whether he should or could step so hard on a province his answer was “Just watch me”

Now, it turns out that that quote comes at the end of a lengthy interview and makes for a glib soundbite when in fact Trudeau was anything but glib.

The next big moment of excitement for Trudeaumania was when he married Margaret Sinclair.  For a brief time, they were the it couple.  He was 51, she was just 22, and she was beautiful.  Trudeau seemed to be a confirmed bachelor or at least a consummate playboy, so to have him settled down was quite a story.  But how hard must it have been to be a young woman suddenly thrust into the political spotlight.

Naturally, cracks would surface in their marriage.  In fact, in 1977, Maggie decided to party with The Rolling Stones rather than attend her sixth wedding anniversary party (read the wonderful article in People about it–I love the tsk tsk tone!).

But the penultimate chapter is, mostly, about Trudeau’s disappointments.  He had taken office in a hail of excitement but really had not a lot to show for it.  He was even set for retirement, until he was drawn back in.  And in this final term, he was finally able to achieve his legacy.  And this legacy seems to be summarized by two words: federalism and patriation.  (With the downside being summed up in the word “notwithstanding”).  Now, this is obviously something that Canadians know all about, and it seems foolish to summarize what this meant for readers who lived it.  But for me, who knows precious little about the mechanics of Canadian politics, I was a little lost in the details.

I got the Federalism thing, but the constitution is a bit confusing.  And the whole notwithstanding clause really kind of lost me.  Nevertheless, the chapter that covered this was rather exciting because Ricci writes as if there is one man whose mission is to see him fail.  And this nemesis is Rene Lévesque.  It’s a classic mano a mano battle between two Quebeckers and it’s really rather exciting (especially if you didn’t know the results).

The final chapter talks of Trudeau’s legacy.  And in this chapter Ricci seems to side with Trudeau.  He cites specific examples of being the best man at a same-sex wedding ceremony, something that would not be possible without Trudeau (even though Trudeau never envisioned it).  Indeed, there’s a comment that:

during the 1968 leaders’ debate, Réal Caouette, leader of the Ralliement créditistes, joked that Trudeau’s Criminal Code amendments might lead to a situation where “a man, a mature man, could in the future marry another mature man” Caouette had his joke while Trudeau, awaiting his response time, smiled civilly and held his tongue.

Because I’m not part of the culture, I don’t know to read Ricci’s take on the man.  He is not afraid to show off all of Trudeau’s faults.  In fact, in many instances he rather highlights them.  For instance, the debt under Trudeau expanded exponentially.  When Trudeau took office in 1968 Canada had a debt of $18 billion; when he left office in 1984, that debt stood at $200 billion, an increase of 83% in real terms.  And yet at the end of a nasty passage he will present some evidence which ameliorates Trudeau either in whole or (more typically) in part.

I guess in that sense it is an excellent primer on Trudeau’s political life.  But it’s also personal enough that you can see how one man impacted people.  Not citizens, but people.  And when he describes the people lined up for Trudeau’s funeral it ties right back to Jian’s song.  It really shows the impact that one person can have on the lives of so many.

And, here’s a shameless plug to the folks at Penguin Canada–I will absolutely post about all of the books in this series if you want to send me the rest of them.  I don’t know how much attention these titles will get outside of Canada, but I am quite interested in a number of the subjects, and will happily read all of the books if you want to send them to me.  Just contact me here!

For ease of searching I include: Fruvous, creditistes, Real Caouette, Rene Levesque, Cite libre

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The Mommyheads continue the Dromedary catalog’s streak of consistently poppy indie rock.  Throughout the disc, the The vocals are gentle and falsettoed, setting kind of a trend on the label thus far.

What sets this disc apart from a lot of comparable acts of jangly, light-on-the-bass 90s rock is the subtle complexity of the songs.  Even though most of the songs are fairly simple pop confections, there’s usually an unexpected moment that pops up, making things a little more than what they appear.

The opening chords of “Sandman” are, well, weird, angled and minor, but they somehow lead into a very poppy catchy verse about a sandman.

“Saints Preserve Us” opens with a crazy, no wave guitar lick that, somehow, is matched by a vocal line.  And yet, they can’t resist a smooth an catchy bridge, even if it is only two chords long.  Meanwhile, “Spiders” sounds like a long lost Moxy Fruvous track, kinda funny but kinda serious at the same time.

The only thing odd about “Bottom Out” is how normal it is…a fairly simple, undeniably catchy little pop song that would have fit in very nicely on the Juno soundtrack

“Annabell Ann” plays with the listener’s head by sounding for all the world like an orchestral pop song with a weird arrangement until the chorus pops in with poppy chords and harmonies.  And what of “Worm”?  An opening set of bizarre chords that sounds like it’s coming from next door, followed by a delightfully obscure jazzy bassline.  The song wanders around into interesting corners for a few minutes before ending just as suddenly.

The wonderfully titled “Henry Miller is Dead” shows the heavy side of the band, with noisy guitars and raucous lyrics until the very gentle bridge grounds the song back into familiar Mommyheads sound.  The disc ends with “Valentine’s Day” a gentle sorta jokey sounding song about, well, Valentine’s Day.  It sounds like an even indier version of something off of The Replacemnets’ Hootenanny disc.

The disc is less than half an hour long, making it close to an EP.  But it’s a wonderful half an hour.  You can hear the tracks on Dromedary Radio.

[READ: February 17, 2010] “Gómez Palacio”

This short story comes from Last Evenings and Other Stories, and was translated by Chris Andrews.

Bolaño is from Chile and Mexico City, and he seems to have a rather disparaging view of small Mexican cities.  Gómez Palacio is a small Mexican city where the narrator is assigned to teach a short term writing workshop.  The narrator is a poet himself.  His class is attended by only 5 people, none of who are very good.

The bulk of the story concerns his relationship with the director of the Arts Council where the class was held.  She has bulging eyes and is quite short.  Yet every day she picks him up from his seedy motel and drives him to school.  While driving one day she asks him to take the wheel but he doesn’t drive.  Regardless, he drives down the road until a car pulls over in front of them.  The director says that it’s her husband.  She then regales him with a story about her unhappy marriage. (more…)

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