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Posts Tagged ‘Iggy Pop’

Ignored 80: Fakeapalooza

In Graphic on April 6, 2016 at 3:48 am

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Ignored 75: 100 #Bowie tributes

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2016 at 3:41 am

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Ignored 56: Modern classics

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2015 at 2:14 am

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Ignored 44: Notes from 1980s CanCon

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2014 at 1:05 am

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The first six years of MuchMusic were underrated as outlet for youngsters to experience legit Canadian-produced episodic viewing.

This was years before Much regressed into its “do they even play music videos anymore, man?!?” phase. And yet, many CanCon hits of that original era had videos that basically amounted to bite-sized television shows. Flimsy story archs, piss-poor acting, sets that looked suspiciously like that industrial park in Rexdale where your Uncle Steve worked, etc. What many 1980s CanCon videos lacked in quality, they made up for in…. uh, pinache?

Like pretty much everything else, many of these “television shows” are now available on YouTube. Collectively, they are pretty entertaining when taken at face value.

These are seven of my favourite CanCon video narratives of 1984-1989. Spoiler alert: the text below is full of spoilers!

Doug and the Slugs sing “Day by Day”

 

Summary: Doug learns he gets dropped from his record label by an evil robot boss. All his stuff gets repoed, including a potted plant. Doug is now a vagrant. He decides to start his own record label in an shabby office. His bandmates help Doug with his fledgling SMB, largely by carrying boxes of records into the back of an awaiting van. Things start to happen for Doug’s label (Propaganda Records). Doug ponders options on a rooftop in downtown Vancouver. Doug and the Slugs eventually sell tons of records via Propaganda. Sadly, the label’s office still looks terrible. The End.

The Pursuit of Happiness sing “Hard to Laugh”

 

Summary: Moe Berg sorts old photos of (assumedly) he and an ex-girlfriend. It appears his relationship is over. All her stuff goes in a cardboard box, which he then kicks with authority. Looking a bit like a taller Axl Rose, Moe carries the box full of belonging down the street, past some construction workers laying asphalt. He runs toward a garbage truck and he pitches the box into the rubbish pile with a look that can be best described as, “Good riddance!” Smash cut to the dump. Moe is digging around with a shovel. Seems like he wants the box back for some reason. The End.

The Box sing “Crying Out Loud for Love”

 

Summary: The guy from the Box is driving WAY to fast down a narrow coastal road. He looks blankly at a decrepit barn. The scene now switches to some fine-looking lady riding a ferry, gazing yonder. She is really rockin’ the windblown look! Back to the dude from the Box, he’s still driving except now he’s also smoking a cigarette and chugging from a full bottle of Sunny Delight. Whoa! He’s also now driving on the wrong side of the road. This guy is clearly a bad seed! He decides to take a break by the seaside to smoke another cigarette and remember happier times with the windblown lady. He put his hazards on, at least, when he parked. Now, SHE  is smoking in a dark room with venetian blinds. He pulls into a seedy motel. Uh-oh!! The final shot shows windblown lady looking quite sad, while starring out the window. The End.

Boys Brigade sing “Melody”

 

Summary: A great shot of a rather skimpy looking Toronto skyline. We’re now in a bar called After Midnight with a disproportionate amount of fellas with receding hairlines. It seems like an afterwork place because some people are dressed in suits. Boys Brigade play while the odd person dances. A dark-haired lady (can we assume THIS is Melody?) flashes some bedroom eyes and looks like a young Anjelica Huston in the process. She’s quite the dish and wearing a vinyl jumpsuit. Here’s Melody on the dance floor! She totally working it and yet appear stone sober. #YOLO A badass named Sam enters the bar. He’s wearing a red t-shirt and leather jacket. As he shoved the door man out of the way, Sam clearly is not somebody you’d like to meet in a dark alley. He drinks some other guy’s drink, right out of his hand. Ballsy! Just as Melody is about to start macking on the singer from Boys Brigade (who sounds like Lou Reed BTW), Sam confronts Melody and leads her off the dance floor. It appears her night at the After Midnight may be cut short. Random shots of bar patrons and some slow motion shots of Melody dancing and spinning. The menacing Sam is suddenly M.I.A.. Melody is now writhing and clutching the walls. She wants the singer from Boys Brigade in the worst way. Melody now vanishes into thin air on the dance floor. Total WTF?? The End.

Jane Siberry sings “One More Colour”

 

Summary: Jane Siberry is walking a cow near a cottage. She is in a kitchen with what appears to be a cow puppet. She may be on the verge of some baking. She pours a cup of tea and the cow puppet watches. Jane and the cow puppet look out the window to see Jane walk the actual cow. Just stay with me here… Her outfit has a vaguely Russian look to it. More walking the cow while singing. The cow chews its cud. Jane dances a bit. She looks like she doesn’t have a care in the world. Jane and cow pass two old people who are looking at something in the sky. There’s now a kid in a cabin, watching a reel-to-reel film while a cherry picker is parked outside. It appears to be a science film, maybe. By Gawd… Jane and the cow are now right outside the cabin! Jane gives the signal and the guy driving the cherry picker causes the walls of the cabin to collapse. The inhabitants appear as if they’re having a religious moment. The cow still looks unimpressed. Oh, and the roof? It’s dangling from the lift on the cherry picker. More walking with the cow. A bunch of other randoms look up at the sky, and Jane w/ cow keep walking. The End.

Luba sings “Let It Go”

 

Summary: The weather sucks. Wait a minute! Here comes… Luba: the blimp!! Luba and friends wave from the mighty air vessel. Luba sings her song while flanked by a bunch of avant-garde types. A crowd gathers on ground and jump up-and-down in excitement, at the site of the blimp. This was clearly shot on a green screen. The crowd on the ground is very eclectic and includes punks, dweeb and b-boys, amongst other cultural archetypes. There’s now a big, fiery explosion behind Luba but nobody gets hurt or even notices. One of Luba’s pals is wearing a colander on his head. The blimp floats away. I always liked this song. The video is not unlike the Parachute Club’s “Rise Up” except it’s in the air instead of in the streets of Toronto. The End.

Kim Mitchell sings “Go for Soda”

 

Summary: An 1980s teen (holding a phone) says to another 1980s teen, “These girls don’t want to have anything to do with us, man”. The second teen looks sad. The talker is holding the phone and the wall is covered in writing. In short, it looks like they’re squatters. The Teen #2 says in a really odd voice, “Gimme that!!” RE: the telephone receiver. Teen #1 lumbers off into their disgusting living room. Teen #1 smokes a cigarette while Kim Mitchell is on the TV. Big moment: a pint-sized Kim jumps out of the TV (yes, you read that right) and lands on the coffee table, scaring the (crap) out of Teen #1. Kim dances funny and admonishes Teen #1 for his smoking. Kim’s hair and mannerisms kind of resemble Iggy Pop although his hairline is already really suffering at this point. Anyway, Kim kicks the cigarette towards Teen #1 who juggles it. Kim then proceeds to stomp on the remote TV changer until it lands on a news report that (I think) is about people dying from cigarettes and alcohol. The newscaster throws his notes out of the TV, slammed his toupee on the news desk and walks off screen. Seriously unprofessional; Tom Gibney would never pull a move like that. More channel stomping by Kim and we have a five-second segment that is somewhat similar to the video for Ministry’s “N.W.O.”. Teen #1 tries to grab Kim but he narrowly avoids it and ends up on a windowsill. Basically, this is what it would be like to have a leprechaun or imp running amok in your house. Kim jumps back into the TV and gives us some hot guitar licks. Then, a full-sized Kim appears, dressed like he’s going to do some aerobics. He asks Teen #1 to come with him into the other room. There’s a big flash and all of a sudden, not only is Kim really small again but his equally diminutive band have now joined him, for an impromptu performance in the refrigerator. Considering these teens appear destitute, there’s a decent selection of fresh produce in the refrigerator. One of the tiny musicians kicks a tomato. Splat! More hot guitar licks and then a tiny audience appears just above the egg tray for some good-natured fist pumping. By this point, Teen #1 is digging this whole scenario and head-bobbing to the song. All of the sudden, the four-piece band turn into four cans of soda. Teen #1 enthusiastic grabs an orange soft drink and pours a generous swig into his mouth. Strangely, the can doesn’t touch his lips so the soft drank basically cascades into his mouth. Full-sized Kim is back but he now appears to be a ghost. Teen #1 doesn’t care in the slightest. He is rockin’ out hard! Kim disappears and re-emerges on the TV (where he belongs) for the final time. Looking a bit overwhelmed and slightly stoned, Teen #1 floats back to the kitchen. He hangs up Teen #2’s phone conversation and says, “Might as well go for a soda”. Teen #2 looks confused and slightly pissed. The End.

Ignored 31: Hammer time

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2014 at 12:06 am

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Gods of the Hammer: The Teenage Head Story is a new book coming later this month from Geoff Pevere. You might know Geoff from his movie column in the Globe and Mail or his past contributions to the Toronto Star, CBC and various book shelves. You might know Teenage Head from the radio or from history or maybe you don’t. After all, from what I can tell, Teenage Head are a bit of an anomaly in the annals of Canadian popular music. Too punk to be categorized as classic rock and yet too revivalist to be fully embraced by the punk crowd, the Teenage Head story is rooted in energy, loud guitars, interesting hair, bad management, the streets of Hamilton, a riot, a car accident and a staggeringly consistent discography that holds up (and possibly improves) as the years pass.

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Geoff was kind enough to spend a little time with me on Facebook, answering questions about his book and sharing a few thoughts on why the band left such an impression on him both as a music writer and, more importantly, as a music fan.

Cam: Thanks again for taking the time. I was born in 1977 so I was a kid during the prime Teenage Head years but I’ve always thought they were really under-appreciated in the broader sense. First question: how long did it take you to write the book and when did the idea first come to you?

Geoff: The book took about a year exactly. I was approached by Jason McBride of Coach House books. He asked me to pitch an idea for their new Exploded Views series — short books by authors on subjects they’re obsessed with — and I almost instantly said ‘Teenage Head’, a band I first saw in 1978, saw more times than any other band and a band that created a noise that’s been ringing in my ears for 35 years. I too always thought they were way, way, way under-appreciated, despite the fact their underground legend persists to this day.

Cam: It always seemed like they didn’t squarely “fit” anywhere. Q107 has no issues playing “Let’s Shake” to this day but they’re not a Q107-type band. They did the whole punk Larry’s Hideaway/Last Pogo thing but they weren’t really a punk band in the textbook sense (in my opinion). Is that part of the appeal do you think? Where does your obsession stem from?

Geoff: It’s true. They didn’t really fit anything, unless you call “pure, simple, three-chord, balls-to-the-wall white-guy, blue-collar” rock a category. Which I guess it is, but not in the insanely label-driven music business, which was especially insanely label-driven in the punk and post-punk era. All I know is, when I first heard the song “Picture My Face”, which sounded to me like a bubble-gum song played by the New York Dolls, I was in for good. They came along just in time to get swept up in the whole punk thing, but really they were a glam-rock, almost proto-metal outfit of the Alice, Iggy, Slade, Mott stream. What got me instantly and totally were the hooks in the songs — eargasmic — the precision of the playing the ferocity of the performance. Canada didn’t know what to do with them, radio didn’t know what to do with them, the recording industry didn’t know what to do with them, and you had to go and see them live to fully appreciate just how original, intense and powerful they were. This just wasn’t supposed to happen in this country, and it was so fucking good the fact it happened in this country only seemed incidental: these guys were as good as rock music got. Period.

Cam: Yeah, for somebody who only discovered them in retrospect, much that’s written about the early days paints the picture of a totally different band live. When did you see them for the first time? Based on their albums at least, I always thought they were closer to Cheap Trick than the Sex Pistols.

Geoff: Cheap Trick is a totally valid comparison. But where Cheap Trick kinda tilted more toward the commercial metal side, Teenage Head tilted more toward the tighter sonic structure of punk. But in terms of a highly refined, amped-up pop sensibility, absolutely. When you consider that Alice Cooper’s Love It To Death was one of those albums that Teenage Head wouldn’t exist without, you get the idea. I think I first saw them in Ottawa, where I was going to university. And from the first night, I was committed. The songs were so good and insanely catchy, you actually left the bar with them in your head — not something you could say of a lot of so-called ‘punk’ acts of the time. And in order to hear those songs again — I’m talking before any vinyl or radio play — you had to go back to another live show. Fortunately, those guys gigged like a machine (ed: a small, small sampling).

Geoff: You know, it occurs to me that another apt comparison is The Replacements, but Teenage Head were way more consistently tight, melodic and consistent overall than the Mats.

Cam: I can see that. Kind of that bar band feel. It’s kind of a vague question but do you think as a Canadian band (from Hamilton!), they should have been bigger in a commercial sense? Especially with a track like “Something on my Mind”, that sounds like a totally multi-format hit to me. Every bit as good as the Cars or whatever else was huge power-pop-wise at the time. It seems like for Canadian “new wave” bands of that era, there was a limit. Teenage Head, the Spoons, Blue Peter,… they all seemed to get to a certain level but it’s kinda like there was a brick wall in the industry at that time.

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Geoff: I don’t think there’s any question that if they had been able to get any consistent traction in the studio, working with a label and producer they were comfortable with and who knew them, they might have made a might big commercial impact. But they got bounced between labels, had no consistency in their studio experience, were poorly managed and for all that prevented from concentrating on writing and recording in a manner that would have yielded more great songs like their early ones — “Picture My Face”, “Top own”, “You’re Tearin’ Me Apart”, “Disgusteen”, “Let’s Shake”, etc. All you have to do is listen to the sessions recorded Daniel Rey and Marky Ramone with the band in 2003 to hear what might have been. That being said, it’s an incredibly legacy simply because it transcended all the shit they had heaped on them. Despite it all, we’re still talking, writing and listening to Teenage Head nearly four decades after they first roared out of the Hammer.

Cam: Yeah, I think it speaks both the quality and timeless of their music, and the lack of infrastructure in the industry at that time. It always seems like they could’ve been pushed harder in the 1950s vein and been Canada’s straight-up answer to the Stray Cats (which would’ve been awful from a marketing perspective).

Cam: I’d also like your take on why we’re seeing this flurry of books about Canadian punk with efforts from Don Pyle, Liz Worth and Sam Sutherland in recent years. Why now? There doesn’t appear to be an obvious catalyst with the exception of a general “passage of time”. I remember there was a wave of CD re-issues for the Mods, the Diodes, etc. maybe 10-12 years ago but kinda quiet since then. It’s pretty wild how undocumented a lot of this stuff was, considering there is still clearly an audience for it.

Geoff: Why now? That’s a totally good question. One of things I’ve noticed about cultural history in this country, and especially pop cultural history, is that it always has to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the closet and held up. Traditionally, our official approach to pop cultural history is very conservative, predictable and boring: CBC, the Junos, boomer nostalgia, etc. Or, for fuck’s sake, hockey. Lots of the more raw artistic enterprise this country has excelled in — improv comedy, comic book arts, horror movie making — has gone largely ignored until a certain geek boiling point is reached. I also think that when it comes to punk especially, that younger listeners who weren’t around for the ground zero first wave have an enormous curiosity that might even outstrip those of the original participants. This is partly because rock music as a formidable cultural force — one that could actually presume to be changing the world by changing its fashion — is now gone and because of that more romantic than ever. There is nothing more romantic, idealistic and irresistibly attractive than punk, the last real rebellion rock music can lay claim to. Which brings us right to the doorstep of the twentieth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, the absolute final act of mythical rock romanticism. And, as you know, he was a huge punk worshipper.

Cam: I agree that romanticism about rock music, at least, is gone. If only because everything is so densely documented these days. By sheer volume of content available online (for free!), there is no real effort to being a music fan these days so I think stuff that is devoid of all those trappings is extra appealing. I mean… half of Teenage Head’s catalogue is out of print. Curious. How much time did you spend in Hamilton when you were writing the book? I went to university there and I think that’s partially where my fondness for the band comes from–they do kind of embody a “we’re from Hamilton and we’re OK with that” spirit. I think that’s one of their greatest attributes: there really is very little pretense with their music and there is a real sense of joy and spirit that most bands can’t capture.

Geoff: One of my favourite Hamilton quotes (which I heard more than once), goes like this: ‘Toronto didn’t know shit about punk until Hamilton drove down the highway and showed it how.’ I spent quite a bit of time there doing interviews for the book and I really came to appreciate what a proud, distinct, no-bullshit kind of place it is. And Teenage Head never let anybody forget that’s where they were from. If there’s anything distinctly Hamiltonian about them, it probably has something to do with the blend of work ethic, no-nonsense approach, sense of humour and firm commitment to having a really, really good time. Yeah, their website needs work, their back catalogue needs rescuing and re-release and their legacy needs some kind of formal structure in which to be protected, promoted and developed. How I hope all of that happens, If I had a secret agenda in writing the book, it was getting more Head out there.

Cam: I haven’t seen them since Frankie passed. What are your thoughts on keeping the band going w/o him? It’s obviously a different band w/o him.

Geoff: I think Pete MacAulay, the current singer, does a really great job, and he does so by not trying to be Frank. He’s an old school glam-rocker bantam rooster type with a different voice and approach to showmanship. Plus he came to the band as a lifelong fan. I think bands should stick around as long as they want to, and as long as people want to see and hear them. But what I’d really, really love to see some old unreleased recording released, some old live stuff released, and maybe some new solo recordings from Gord Lewis, perhaps backed up by all those countless younger musicians he got hooked in the first place.

Cam: I remember there was a band called the Vapids during my McMaster campus radio days that had an EP called the Teenage Head EP or something (ed: it wasn’t an EP). And even that was 15-20 years ago. You can see the patterns of generations discovering and keeping the band afloat.

Cam: Final-ish question: what was something surprising about the band you learned while writing the book?

Geoff: I think the most suprising thing is generally how unsuccessful they think they were. Surprising to me at least, considering the fact that with very little radio support, a totally inconsistent recording and management history, and almost no acknowledgement by our official guardians of national culture, they have managed to become legendary, and only moreso as time goes on. I always suspected that my obsessive enthusiasm was shared (I didn’t know just how widely) but was surprised to realize how the band itself felt they’d failed. Like (frig) they did.

Cam: Yeah, I’ve talked to Gordie a couple of times in that past and I always got the feel that he was surprised that anyone would want to talk to him. Again, it’s all kind of endearing to (ahem) “got no sense” of what their legacy actually is. Hopefully the book will help!

Geoff: There’s no justice in rock and roll Cam but there’s always idealism and hope. So even though I should know better after all these years I still cling to them both.

Gods of the Hammer: The Teenage Head Story is available April 30, 2014. Buy some copies here or here. Follow Geoff on Twitter at @GeoffPevere.