OOC Recipients 08: Rushing to the top

For the most consecutive gold and platinum albums by a rock band, first place is The Beatles, second is The Rolling Stones, and third place is the Canadian group Rush (24 gold, 14 platinum). The members of Rush have worked hard to reproduce their album sound in their concerts, so Rush concerts have been known for having lots of instruments about each musician. They have also made use of digital sampling to fill out their sound.

All three members of the rock band Rush received membership in the OOC in 1996.

Lost: A middle-aged male drummer named Neil Peart. Swallowed alive by his elaborate drum kit, he was never found again.

Neil Peart – Each member has over the years had made the most of their membership by making themselves into multi-instrumentalists. Apart from drums, Peart has in the past included tubular bells, a glockenspiel, and other obscure percussion instruments, both electronic and not. Peart has been voted the greatest performing drummer by fan-zines like Drummerworld, and many fans attend live Rush concerts to hear Neil Peart do a drum solo. He certainly ranks up there with the likes of Ginger Baker and John Bonham. Peart is also the primary lyricist of the trio.

LAS VEGAS - MAY 10: Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson performs at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on May 10, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The rock trio are touring in support of the album, "Snakes & Arrows." (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Original Filename: 81050582.jpg
Alex Lifeson

Alex Lifeson – Alex is the sole remaining founding member of Rush, and possesses the ability to play several kinds of guitars, and on occasion some keyboards. According to Rolling Stone magazine, he ranks among the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, just below Eddie Van Halen and Queen’s Brian May. As for vocals, I could find no indication of  him doing more than backing vocals for the band.

Geddy Lee

Geddy Lee – Bassist and the voice responsible for the band’s signature high-register vocal. He actually possesses three octaves, ranging from baritone, to tenor, and then to alto, reaching into mezzo-sporano. While his vocal styling may have received some criticism, his instrumentation rarely has. Besides bass, he also plays keyboards including synthesizers. He once did a cameo with Bob and Doug MacKenzie on their album Great White North, and the song Take Off was the largest-selling single of Geddy Lee’s career. While Geddy Lee cannot strictly be called a founding member, he joined when the band was 1 month old, and happens to be a high school chum of Lifeson.

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Sounding off on the end of CanCon and the CRTC

I guess with the recent decision to axe all cancon requirements for daytime programming in Canada, the CRTC is crawling toward its own irrelevance. Let’s not be naive, Canadian culture is that much more weakened without the protection it partially enjoyed from American influence. With much less Canadian culture left to protect, and with Canadian voices now playing a smaller role in Canadian media, the CRTC really has less of a job to do these days.

To be more level here, one needs to be reminded that the CRTC kept the Cancon requirements for prime time. In addition, the CRTC cites the fact that television must now compete alongside streaming video, and the world-wide web for quite possibly the same viewers who listen and view “content” from just about anywhere and everywhere.

If I watch a video on YouTube, I am usually not aware whether or not the video is Canadian content or not. Sometimes there are clues, and sometimes the video is so famous that its country of origin is unmistakeable (Gangam Style, anyone?). There is a certain amount of reality to the CRTC’s concerns. My viewing habits have made much of what the CRTC is doing to make me more part of Canadian culture, irrelevant. But then, I don’t really know for sure, because to be honest, I don’t really check whether the video is CanCon before I see it. Same for websites.

We feared the encroachment of American culture when we set up the CRTC. Back then, radio and TV were the only games in town. Now we have the Internet, and the prospect of entertainment and information being viewed on all household and personal devices. Not all of that is American. I would say most of it is. After all, the USA is the heart of Google, YouTube, Yahoo, NetFlix, and AOL. The other players are not quite so big. Also, the USA accounts for an outsized proportion of the Internet traffic in the world. While 43% of a country’s citizens on average use the Internet, in the US, it is more like 87%.

I would like to think that I get “world” culture when I go online, but I watch British, American and Canadian documentaries, and usually British or American-produced videos on YouTube regarding phenomena in science or math. My online mailing lists consist of Candians and Americans mostly. I wonder now if having a “Canadian voice” can be said to mean anything these days? It used to mean a way to air “my” concerns with “my” voice. Others living in my country would do the same thing. And in sum, it would turn out that our concerns would be distinctively different from concerns across the border. It is healthy to know our common concerns as a culture.

The CRTC needs to be reminded that we must hear ourselves or be lost in the cacophony of other voices that are not our own. That is the only way we can have more confidence sharing our dialogue with the rest of the world, taking pride in our identity.

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All-time top-10

This top 10 music list is inspired by a YouTube video. The problem with the video was that it didn’t seem to be going for what was really all-time status; it seemed to be aimed at people whose memories go back no more than 20 years. That is, so long as we trust The Beatles, The Stones and Elvis as so iconic that no one will ever forget them (since, yes, they were mentioned).

Madonna was “popular”, sold a whole lot of recordings and videos, but no one back in the day ever accused her of being talented. However, she challenged social norms through her videos — at least, that’s what the video tries to tell itself, since most of the “challenges” were aimed at a more prurient level. She did not elevate the discussion on feminism; she debased it. I am sure, however, that Madonna does not give a whit about what I think. I could go on with how reviewers have said that she was a woman “totally in control of her career”, but exposing that fallacy would take us off topic and could fill a whole other article.

The top 10 of all-time is a hard list to make, since that would mean that I have to think for everyone. Rolling Stone Magazine seem to be the most serious about the idea; Watchmojo.com, maybe not so serious.

The bottom 5 were difficult because there were a lot of musicians I could have placed there. I didn’t consider any

  • rap and hip-hop: sometimes great for novelty tunes, and sometimes for actual music; but no staying power musically IMO. Much of it is too negative and self-hating. If the KKK owned the same record labels that churned out the Hip-hop and Rap tunes, I don’t think either the music or concerts would change one bit. Many musicians in this genre are doing to people of color what Madonna did for feminism: debase the discussion. Except that they do it much more efficiently: calling women “Bitches” and “Hoes” for example, are well-known.
  • Punk rock. White man’s hip hop. Also too negative IMO.
  • heavy metal: Mojo mentioned AC-DC and Metallica, for example. Both popular in the 80s, but these bands have faded. Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd are still remembered, and are more than a decade older. I was more selective.

The bottom 5 for me were:

  1. Michael Jackson. Mojo placed him at #3. I think that is over-rating him, although having lived through the 80s, and having found myself to be the owner of a Thriller album (while not being enamoured of his persona or music generally), I think he should be placed somewhere. The Thriller album alone could have made any musician’s career. Of the 9 tracks on the album, 7 were top-10 hits according to Billboard, and the album is the #1 all-time best selling record album.
  2. Pink Floyd. Their 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon  was another all-time bestseller (second only to Thriller), having remained on Billboard for a staggering 741 weeks (14 years, three months, and one week). The Wall did not enjoy such longevity, but it too was a monster seller, and has long since enjoyed an iconic status of its own. But Pink Floyd’s output was small over the 35 years or so of its existence. Dark Side of the Moon finally left the Billboard Hot 100 Album Chart in 1987.
  3. U2. They heavily influenced youth culture in the late 80s to the mid-90s, and had a consistent output. They also elevated discussion about human conflict, religion, and social inequality through their music.
  4. Bruce Springsteen. It’s quite something when my aging English prof (recently deceased) started comparing the lyrics of the songs of Bruce Springsteen to the poetry of William Wordsworth. Both chronicled social change from the point of view of the underdog. Springsteen has influenced many musicians, and comes from a musical pedigree of amazing musicians from the East Coast of United States. He has also had a prolific musical output and a strong following.
  5. Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin took heavy metal to a level beyond what anyone would have thought. Most of Led Zeppelin is an acquired taste, but some of it gets you in the solar plexus right away. If if you check out any “greatest song of all time” list you can find on the Internet, 1971’s  Stairway to Heaven would either be #1 or at least in the top 5 for most of them, even today.

It was difficult to get the order right on the top 5. But I think this comes somewhat close. The top 5 of the top 10 were:

  1. Elton John. Elton Hercules John (aka Reginald Kenneth Dwight) is a hard act to pin down. In some ways, he was overexposed, but he did pen enough monster hits with the aid of Bernie Taupin over the past 40 years to fill three greatest hits albums and three more compilations. For the first few years we saw him diving for his piano at concerts (in the style of Jerry Lee Lewis before him), except he dressed more flamboyantly, to put it mildly. I don’t think he ever needed to be that flamboyant, but I suppose he needed to stand out among all those other great 70s musicans.
  2. Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones dominated for five decades, and by the 1980s finally outsold and out-charted their old rivals, The Beatles in pretty much all categories. But it took them a while. If you add to their 29 studio albums their compilations and live albums, their career output (so far) is 66 albums. And that’s not to even mention bootleg albums.
  3. Jimi Hendrix. You may have your favourite metal guitarist, but without Hendrix, there would be no blues metal, no heavy metal, and none of the metal varieties including punk that came later. He is number 3 mostly due to his sheer influence on the dozens of genres that were made possible due to him. But his popularity mostly spans to those who know something about music, and to those who know that playing lead, rhythm and bass on the same guitar at the same time is a feat that few musicians can accomplish.
  4. Elvis Presley. The much-impersonated Elvis Presley, for the sheer number of hits over two decades spanning genres which include blues, country and gospel (all without ever losing what modern marketers call his “fan base”), has been a huge influence on muscians and performers over the decades. People still idolize him, even young people.
  5. The Beatles. They only lasted less than 10 years, but their legacy will be remembered for decades to come. In 1967 they had to stop performing because the din from screaming fans was so loud that the band members and other audience members had trouble hearing them play. And while their album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band did not have any singles (that was the group’s desire), it still sold nearly 20 million copies worldwide and reached #1 on nearly every rock album chart in the world.

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Kudos to the 1050 CHUM Memorial Blog

Recently, I’ve been hit (my website that is) by someone possibly checking his plethora of links from his/her website, and when I back-traced it, I find this cool blog which acts as a convincing historical shrine to the late great 1050 CHUM Radio in Toronto. I’ve written about it before, and had mourned the reduction of a once-powerful music station to nothing more than an on-air feed for an all-news cable TV station.

There are some bugs to iron out with this blog.  While the content is excellent, and is a great cross-section of its 50-year history, there is little need to cram everything on to one nearly interminable page. I would go for short pages. Many short pages. Dozens. Hundreds of short pages. Yes, we know its history is long and illustrious. It was the home of The Chum Charts, and, was the place where countless celebrities made their appearance. Even spending part of my childhood in rural Saskatchewan was not enough to escape the annual Top 100 countdown piped to a local station in town from that seminal station near Yonge St. and Eglinton and DJ’ed by people like Bob MacAdorey. And we know there is a lot to archive: 50 years of sound checks, CHUM charts, and paraphernalia can do that, to say nothing of links to other sites which have articles possibly written by other CHUM fans, making their own contribution.

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Worst Lyrics: A review of a review

There was an article that appeared on Friday on MSN.COM, which tried to poke fun at some of “the worst lyrics of all time” by artists who presumably should have known better. I had a problem with the article, just like the lyrics, the smart-aleck comments from the author of the MSN article were not well-thought-out and thus almost as poorly written as the song lyrics the author criticizes.

Whether I do a better job with my smart-aleck comments is anyone’s opinion, but then I’m not working for MSN.

“Swingin’ in there
Cause she wanted me to feed her,
So I mixed up the batter
And she licked the beater”
–Warrant, “Cherry Pie”
I agree that this is a food metaphor gone wrong. It works better if you see the video. But I think the lyrics were never meant for adult minds who naturally would be bothered by the overdone food metaphors, but for adolescents with raging hormones who probably don’t care if this is from an overrated 90s metal band as long as the video has lots of jiggle.
“It’s a black fly in your Chardonnay,
It’s a death row pardon two minutes late;

And isn’t it ironic… don’t you think?”
–Alanis Morrisette, “Ironic”
It is obvious that Alanis Morrisette never bothered to look up ‘Ironic’ in a dictionary, and as much has been said since the song came out in 1996. It wasn’t just the quoted lyrics that were bad, the whole song suffered from the same problem. Most abuses of the word seemed to suggest that she really meant  ‘bad luck’ or something similar. Proof that famous musicians never lost a dollar by being inarticulate.
“I drew a line,
I drew a line for you.
Oh, what a thing to do.
And it was all yellow.”
–Coldplay, “Yellow”
This was picked out as being the worst lyric snippet from Coldplay’s first American hit, ‘Yellow’, released in 2000. It’s the kind of thing that means more to the writer than the listener. The song went gold for some other reason than the lyrics. The song seems to end up being about not much at all, but purportedly is about devotion.
“If the light is off
Then it isn’t on.”
–Hilary Duff, “So Yesterday”
I can’t argue with these lyrics. Reminds me of Me and Bobby McGee. Remember? “Nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’, but it’s free”. Nobody can say the obvious better than Kris Kristofferson. But Duff, even with all of her overly-marketed million-selling albums, can’t come close to this. She just comes off like an under-aged bimbo with nothing useful to say. (Yeah, I know she’s not underage anymore).
“These other guys, they wanna take me for a ride,
But when I walk their talk is suicide”
–Paris Hilton, “Stars Are Blind”
Lots of 60s musicians sang the obvious. But it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Kristofferson said it in a way that it became a rallying cry for those who rejected materialism, and embraced simplicity. You were convinced that Kristofferson had “been there”, and knew your pain. You would easily forget that he was a Rhodes Scholar at Merton in Oxford, with a Bachelor’s in English Lit. Being able to achieve that is not the mark of phoniness, it is the mark of a true artist, deserving of our respect and admiration.

Sorry, I can’t find any information on Paris Hilton except for a bunch of videos of what appears to be her performing fellatio on a record company exec in a fleabag hotel with the curtains drawn. Maybe next time.

“You know you love me, I know you care,
Just shout whenever, And I’ll be there.
You are my love, You are my heart,
And we will never ever-ever be apart.”
–Justin Bieber, “Baby”
News flash!!!!! 16 year-old Stratford, Ontario native Justin Bieber has the writing talent of a 16 year-old.

The only reason this kind of drek sells is that there is nothing better for the buying public, that they are aware of. The market is flooded with under-aged, under-talented kids, surrounded by marketers who want to bring back the days of The Jackson 5, and Donny Osmond. The video stations and other media organs are flooded with this stuff, while really good music is out there, waiting to be listened to.

“Lucky that my breasts
Are small and humble
So you don’t confuse
Them with mountains”
–Shakira, ‘Whenever, Wherever’
It’s like saying we’ll get along fine as long as you don’t stare at my boobs. It NEVER works, ladies. It just makes the problem worse.
“I ain’t never seen
An a**like that
The way you move it
You make my pee-pee go
–Eminem, “A** Like That”
News Flash!!!!! 38 year-old Marshall Bruce Mathers III, known by his stage name Eminem, has the writing talents of an 8 year-old. Sometimes his mother helps him.
“I’m as serious as cancer
When I say rhythm is a dancer”
–Snap, “Rhythm is a Dancer”
Besides a German-to-English dictionary, the German dance group Snap! should have also used a rhyming dictionary to see what else might rhyme with “dancer” that might work better than “cancer”.
“You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful
It’s true”
–James Blunt, “You’re Beautiful”
I have always seen this song as “just another love song”. One that is not very inspired with tired lyrics and a new musical sound behind it to make it palatable.
“We built this city on rock and roll.”

–Starship, “We Built This City”

I have to go beyond what the MSN author has said and further state that these are also the most phony lyrics in rock history. The particular lineup of Starship which sang that hit had none of the founding members of Jefferson Airplane in it. Grace Slick doesn’t count, since she was not a founding member. So, no, they don’t earn the bragging rights they seem to claim.
“Against the grain should be a way of life
What’s worth the price is always worth the fight
Every second counts ’cause there’s no second try
So live like you’re never living twice
Don’t take the free ride in your own life”
— Nickelback, “If Today Was Your Last Day”
Another winner for the most cliches per square inch. A close contender could be Harlan Howard’s 1958 song “Pick Me Up On Your Way Down” (played by every imaginible country musician — the one I heard was from Buck Owens). At least Harlan was just trying to be clever, but Nickleback just looks like they’ve been reading too many motivational posters.
“I would do anything for love
But I won’t do that.”
–Meat Loaf, “I’d Do Anything for Love”
Mr. Loaf has been with us for three decades or more, bringing us lyrics ranging from mundane to just plain sucking out loud. I would call this one mundane. At least it’s vague, and that means he left something up to my imagination for once.

There were more in the article, but I have had little more time to explore them. Just thought I would cover the worst cases.

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Crappy Album Covers #177 — Hi, mum!

Album_Cover_Crap_329_Woodruff Little information exists on Mr. Woodruff, so I just have to say that he seems to be too young in the photo to know how he feels. Maybe his English teacher told him for the first time to write about something that made him angry or happy or whatever.Nathan feels like wearing a ruffled shirt with a bowtie today, to go with his 5 O’Clock shadow and mutton chops. Maybe for his next birthday, mum will get Nathan an appointment to get a perscription for contact lenses.
Album_Cover_Crap_340 Wally appears onstage in a packed auditorium, then notices his mother in the audience. She doesn’t expect to see him. She thought she was here to see another guy named Wally Whyton. He finally drops what he’s doing onstage, and waves, looking at her straight in the eye: “It’s Me, Mum!”Wallace Whyton (1929-1997) was not only a musician, but also an announcer for several BBC Radio programs over a 30-year period between 1960 and 1990. He was also active in television, having been a TV host on the Grenada network, as well as appearing on several children’s programs.

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The demise of 1050 CHUM Radio

Here in Toronto, there has been a radio station that has historically been one of the most highly rated stations in Canada. Around the late 80s/early 90s, it changed format and severely lowered the power of the transmitter to the point where the reception remained poor, even in Toronto. Recently, there is no music anymore, not even the obscure oldies that I was accustomed to hearing. CHUM had been an all-music station for the almost all of the past 50 years (they were an all-sports station for less than a year in the early 2000s).

Instead, what I have been hearing in the past couple of weeks has consisted of nothing more than an on-air audio feed of City Pulse, the audio feed of our local cable all-news station.  How far we’ve fallen. From fast-talking DJs to fast-talking news reporters referring to imagery you can’t see without a television.

CTV-GlobeMedia, after purchasing CHUM Limited, probably nuked the old format because of licensing laws. They likely own just enough media (newspapers, radio, TV) in the Toronto market that won’t quite land them in jail, or in a lawsuit. The National Post assures us, however, that the advertising is different from CP24’s. And I think they have a radio-only weekend show.

Nowadays, a google search for CHUM AM or 1050 CHUM results in the website for CP24 occuring at the top. CTV GlobeMedia acquired CHUM and CP24, while the rest of CHUM Limited got sold to Rogers, including CITY-TV. Until the sale, CHUM Limited was the world’s largest privately-owned broadcaster. CHUM Limited used to also own several radio and TV stations across Canada.

Many people, including myself, will wonder what will happen to the weekly CHUM Charts, which were archived at CHUM’s website. It is an historical archive of what Canadians have been listening to since the 50s. In my opinion, an important bit of Canadiana. An attempt to follow a link set by another blogger resulted in a redirection to CP24. Entering “CHUM Chart” as a search string yielded nothing. In removing the archive, they are removing our collective memory of what made the charts over the past 50 years in the Toronto area.

Some sites that obtained chart info from the CHUM Top 30: Craig Smith (only lists #1 singles). The historical property at 1331 Yonge Street, home to 1050 CHUM since 1959, has now been sold to a condo developer, and the station facilities have now been moved to a new site to coexist with CHUM-FM, on 25o Richmond St W.

CHUM has existed as a radio station since 1944, and was the first radio station in Canada to run an all Top-40 format in the mid 1950s.

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