Tag Archives: Van Morrison
Ignored 105: Kingswood was pretty cool
Ignored 54: Do you like Blue Rodeo?
I talk to my high school pal Adam about Blue Rodeo, Neil Young dying (again), Oasis (a few times), everything and nothing.
Cam: Morbid question: of any active living musician, who will you be the most upset for when they die?
Adam: Funny you ask, as I was commenting to a buddy that Van Morrison feels like the guy to go now that Joe Cocker is gone. That’ll be sad. I love Van and fell in love to Astral Weeks. Paul, without question. Dylan, Simon, Bobby and Phil. Springsteen will outlive us all. It’s hard to imagine the legends of rock passing. It’s interesting for us to have grown up during the baby boomers 40s. We saw their second acts and revered their first. The 1960s, the British Invasion, the Summer of Love and then 1972. All these things were within the same recent memory as August and Everything After (or Nevermind) is to us now. So rock had always been around. George dying devastated me. So did Jerry dying.
C: Astral Weeks is fantastic. Consistently one of my Top 10 faves. Yeah, Van is pretty enigmatic, at least in terms of his public persona. Which he barely has if he’s not touring. Neil Young dying is going to be brutal. That seems like it could be very personal to Canadians in our demo: an artist that we loved, our parents loved, a Canadian, somebody who was equally at home jamming with Booker T and the MGs, the Band or Sonic Youth. A total legend: both “Neil Young: the performer” and “Neil Young: the concept”. It’s crazy Jerry was only 53 when he died. Considering McCartney, Brian Wilson, etc. are now in their 70s.
A: Forgot Neil. Yes. Harvest for our parents. Harvest Moon for us. BTW, that Barrie concert had nobody I wanted to see. On the plus side, the thing at Fort York looks super awesome.
C: Ya, I wouldn’t mind seeing Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown and I guess Modest Mouse but nothing grabs me. it’s a very contemporary line-up so I kinda give them credit for not copping out and having AC/DC headline, a la Coachella. i think we discussed it before… i find these massive outdoor concerts are more akin to “camping” than “music event”…. the bands seem almost secondary to the experience. Do you like Blue Rodeo?
A: “Lost Together” was our wedding song, and I saw them at the big Simon & Garfunkel l show at the SkyDome back in…94? Also saw them once at the Gardens, I think. 5 Days in June was a tremendous album to hit for us at that age. It was everywhere at camp, and “5 Days in May” had a fantastic video that felt a lot like “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”. That is my favorite Toronto 1990s thing ever, my favorite BNL song, one of the greatest covers of all-time, and a video about youthful love. Holding hands and running away from the camera in black and white still makes me feel 18. “Diamond Mine” is also a great song too. They hit such a creative peak back then that they got to coast on being Blue Rodeo after that. Everything sounds the same, but I’ve got no gripe with them, just not any interest for anything past their greatest hits, which I like a lot. Sometimes, I love it.
C: Ya, from 1988-1993, they were in a rare place: massively popular/stadium worthy but making music that was pretty innovative and seemed very contemporary even though in other ways, it was very old. At that time, comparisons to the Band seemed farfetched but maybe not that far off? Again, it’s crazy that a song like “5 Days in May” was something that little kids listened to and enjoyed and watched the video for on MuchMusic. For anybody who loved them in that 1988-1993, they still seem like superstars even if they’ve been on commercial autopilot for the last 20 years (assumedly… I haven’t really been paying attention although I saw them at the Amphitheatre 2-3 times during that stretch). It seems they could’ve been marketed differently and been a positioned in the Wilco/Son Volt/Whiskeytown ilk or gone ina slightly different direction and been in the Widespread Panic/String Cheese conversation? Instead, they were kind of just a notch below the Tragically Hip commercially.
A: Heard some stuff off their last album that was good. Or was that Cuddy? Have been rewatching The Last Waltz on the topic of the Band. Wondered about best or biggest bands with multiple singers. Ricky, Richard, Levon. How cool it is when the song goes to the guy who sings it best?
C: I guess the Beatles introduced the “multiple singers” model? Hate to say… I automatically think of the Eagles and afro-era Don Henley behind the kit. In more recent times, I think Sloan really nailed this model. Maybe part of the reason they’re now a quarter century in. Another band where I haven’t paid attention to the last 4-5 albums but I have little doubt of their continued quality.
A: I thought about it with the Eagles too as I was reading the Simmons eagles history recap in the Grantland quarterly. Obviously the Beatles. I met the bass player from Sloan, the one I recognize, and asked him about the baseline on “Money City Maniacs” being the same chord trough the entire verse until the chorus. Like “Tomorrow Never Knows”! He was appreciative. We were with our kids at Centreville on the island.
C: Good call. I still get a bit starstruck when I see musicians in public. It’s very humanizing. Some recent sightings: Damian from Fucked Up with his kids at the ROM, Ron Sexsmith walking down College, Stephen from Lowest on the Low on the subway a bunch of times. The thing that I find funny about the Eagles in retrospect: they were essentially devoid of any humour or fun. That was a VERY serious band.
A: Very serious band. I liked the Eagles. At least their greatest hits. Just learned “Hotel California” on the ukulele. So much fun to play and sing/scat the dueling guitar solo.
C: I like the Eagles too. I think the “seriousness” was a 1970s thing. It’s when whoever decided that rock music wasn’t just for kids anymore. It was OK for 45 year-olds to listen to the Eagles, James Taylor et all. These were seriously artists who (apparently) had something to say. I like the Carly Simon song “Anticipation”. Here’s a good question: who are the most tense bands of all-times? Artists where the acrimony on-stage was really obvious. I’d say (at times) the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the Pixies all belonged in the top three. I feel like I’ve seen some Van Morrison performance where he seems like he’d rather be anywhere else than on-stage.
A: Carly was great. And the cover of that album? Man. That is a good question. Knee jerk answers. In no particular order: the Beatles in that picture with Yoko there. The Beatles in that scene filming Let It Be when George says (do your best George), “Tell me what you want me to play and I’ll play it”. Oasis. The Eagles. The Wonders, from that Tom Hanks movie.
C: Oasis. Yes, good one! I think the Kinks used to brawl on-stage too. So there’s that…. I could be imagining it but I feel like the last 3-4 years, there’s been a certain demo that is yearning for Oasis and they truly are cementing themselves as one of the most beloved bands of the last 25 years. I think people took them for granted a bit. I was in Scotland last summer and this really hit home when I saw a rowdy bunch of 20-somethings collectively slurring their way through a karaoke version of “Wonderwall”. I don’t think it’s even that great a song but it somehow has infiltrated multiple generations. People LOVE it. Although maybe just in that setting, since it does lend itself well to karaoke (not many lyrics, fairly short, everybody has heard it 10,000 times).
A: I think “Wonderwall” is one of the greatest pop songs of all-time. Certainly of the decade. I had this experience last summer when I was five weeks into working seven days a week and I was burning out. I was walking, exhausted through a Loblaws in the west end. “Wonderwall” comes on. I start singing to myself. It gets to the chorus and after singing, “You gonna be the one that saves me”. I burst into tears and say aloud, “That’s not a good sign”. The point I turn to as a mild breakdown last summer. I love that song. “1979” came out at the same time. Great song, too. The sound on the Morning Glory album is bollocks. What would Liam say? I also love watching Noel sing “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. Perfect song for his voice. At the time, I thought some of their stuff was totally and completely derivative of the Beatles (see “All Around the World”, “… Anger” opening chords, every Beatles reference etc). Noel just gave an interview that Alan Cross linked to. I still do Oasis binges through seven songs. I was way too into the Dead’s Mars Hotel (and DMB) at the time to be into Oasis.
C: “1979” is indeed great and a really strange, unique single. Nothing really like it and certainly very dissimilar to anything in the Pumpkins discography. It’s probably hard to quantify but why do you like “Wonderwall” so much? What is the broad appeal? I think it’s totally fine but a bit boring and the vocals are slightly nasally, even by Oasis standards. I do like “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. Just the huge production values and drama of it. Very out of step with 1995 or whenever that came out. I always admired Oasis’ ambition, even when the quality of songs didn’t really match up. Plus Noel is probably Top 3 best musician interviews ever. I could listen to that guy talk for hours. Zero filter when he’s in the right mood.
A: I like the chords. I like the guitar intro. I kinda like it nasally on that one. I love the way the drums come in after “back beat the word is on the street”. I love the baseline. I love the stings beefing up the baseline in the chorus. love the chorus. Maybe the right time of my life at 18. Probably feels like a Beatles song. A piece of magic. It’s also one of those songs perfect to sing alone to. Words you’ll just know by heart. Oh, also I love “Live Forever”. Learned how to play it on the uke. Great fun.
C: Yup, fucking love that song too! Never acknowledged your BNL “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” comment but seriously, that might be my favourite cover version of all-time. As a 14-year old kid growing up on the Toronto city limits, that video perfectly captured the banality, boredom and humour of suburban Toronto perfectly. Such a tasteful, pitch-perfect performance for a band that was really young and unestablished at the time. I think too many people write them off as a joke band but at their finest, there was a lot to like with BNL. I really like the song “Jane” as well from their “difficult” second album.
A: I remember hearing million dollars in the big A&A on Yonge Street with Marc and us laughing about the real green dress that’s cruel. The era of that tape. Good call on why the video is so pitch perfect. The apartment looks just like my late grandmothers at York Mills and Leslie, but wasn’t. And the power lines reminded me of the ones down by Finch. Which they were just in Scarborough. It definitely captured suburban Toronto. Though their neighborhood was postwar bungalows. I saw Paige in withrow once.
C: His coke bust is still likely in my Top 5 pieces of most shocking pieces of “music news” that I’ve ever heard. I don’t really know anything about those guys personally but that ordeal no doubt blindsided a lot of casual fans. In summary, drugs are horrible. It is telling that while Nirvana and Pearl Jam were blowing up stateside, Canada’s hottest new “modern rock” bands were the Barenaked Ladies and the Crash Test Dummies. The Odds were really solid as well. Supposedly there was a piece on CNN around that time that suggested that Canadian was in the midst of a “silly rock” revolution during that era, throwing names like Corky and the Juice Pigs and (for some reason) the Rheostatics into the mix.I could totally be imagining that last part but I think I read that somewhere.
A: Interesting. And that (Steven Page’s) life blew up and the band broke up. That still doesn’t register for me.
C: I love the song “Try” by Blue Rodeo so much. Such an incredibly self-assured song from a debut album. Not an easy feat to pull off.
A: Oh man. Yes.
Ignored 21: 1990s CanCon SEO bait
In recent discussions with my close personal friend @GaryEdgar, we both agreed that an entire generation of Canadian bands just missed out on the Internet ubiquity of the 2000s onwards. This made us sad as many of these outfits entertained us for good portions of our 10s and 20s.
It’s not as if having a strong web presence is some sign of righteousness for our local recording artists. However, there is a risk of (partially) losing these acts to history if fresh online content is not created pronto to preserve their legacies/”legacies”.
We’re doing our part via this carefully-constructed PDF document. It contains a transcript of a Gmail chat between Gary and myself on our individual CanCon memories from Burlington, Thornhill and beyond.
Click here to read our full “1990s CanCon SEO bait” PDF
Bonus: a few key videos from the era…
The Inbreds sing “You Will Know”
Hayden sings “Bad As They Seem”
Limblifter sings “Tinfoil”
jale sings “Not Happy”
The Pursuit of Happiness sings “Young and In Love”
Ignored 18: Lou Reed is dead
Lou Reed has been dead for five days.
This is the first thing I’ve written about it/him aside from a pair of text messages and a pair of message board comments. In short, I’ll try not to make this about me. However, I feel the need to repent since I took a bit of a dig at him mere hours before the news came down.
Sorry Lou. I still mean it but that’s not to say I wasn’t a fan.
Back story: I was chatting music with a friend over coffee last Saturday, playing the “overrated/underrated/properly rated” game. After doing a customary 10 minutes on Kraftwerk (for more details, click here), I turned my attention to Lou Reed. I don’t recall the exact context but I suggested that I didn’t think Reed belonged in the same category of songwriters as Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison. It’s a bit of a sloppy grouping that could be best defined as “talented and prolific songwriters who have had long careers, written tons of awesome songs and tons of other songs that are probably more ‘interesting’ than ‘good’ in the traditional sense”.
I like Lou Reed. Sincerely. Maybe even really like. However, I always got the sense that Lou Reed spent parts of his career conflicted between playing a version of “Lou Reed” as demanded by fans and critics (I think “David Bowie”, “Iggy Pop” and “Tom Waits” were, at times, similarly vexed) and just going out, playing the music and not focusing on the judgements or reactions.
In my estimation, Young, Cohen and Morrison were arguably better keeping things linear for what it’s worth… which isn’t much.
Reed’s 1989 full-length New York seemed like an album, in retrospect, crafted specifically to reintroduce listeners to the critics’ “Lou Reed” after a decade of curiosities and WTF moments (case in point: “The Original Wrapper”). Even without listening to the album, the aesthetics alone beared this out. It was called simply New York. The album cover showed 2x Reeds (one smoking a cigarette and one about to kick your ass) against a wall covered with graffiti(!!!) while being flanked by street toughs(!!!) This “surly street poet” version of the REAL Lou Reed was the favourite of most listeners and New York may well have recalibrated his career and his image into eternity. I don’t think tough “Lou Reed” was REAL Lou Reed but it was the preferred version for many if nothing else.
As a result, in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, Reed seemed more at ease with everything. Some of his work was well received. Some of it wasn’t. The Velvet Underground briefly reunited. He played at David Bowie’s 50th birthday party. He did an album with Metallica that I’m still convinced 95 per cent of people slammed without actually listening to it.
And in general, critics gave him every benefit of the doubt. And rightfully so.
Reed would never admit it but I do think he had some heavy populist leanings and struggled with this partial desire to be a traditional rock star and celebrity. The best examples of this want may be his 1973 single “Sally Can’t Dance” (essentially the “Shiny Happy People” of Reed’s discography) and perhaps 1984’s New Sensations, an album that leading music magazine Wikipedia describes as “upbeat and fun”. Also, the effort features some weak album art.
This art-versus-art? conflict helped define Reed’s career and part of his strength was that he could normally play both sides while being beloved by most or all. Reed could swing in and out of being completely accessible and entirely dense. He was conflicted. His listeners were conflicted. But on the whole, it was always unpredictable and at times, really amazing.
So yeah, not a dig, ghost Lou.
Here are five video memories I have of Lou Reed, all of which helped shape my impression of the fella.
1. Cowboy Junkies sing “Sweet Jane”
I’m sensing I wasn’t the only suburban GTA kid who was first exposed to Reed’s music via this stellar cover. The Cowboy Junkies came crawling out of the gate and kinda owned 1988 and parts of 1989 with this stillborn take on the Velvet Underground classic. Reed himself paid homage and the Junkies ruled MuchMusic, which is incredible given un-kid-friendly this effort is. A different time, clearly. The next few years saw added Reed exposure for mainstream youth via reworkings of “Walk on the Wild Side” by A Tribe Called Quest and (uh) Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.
2. Lou Reed sings “Dirty Blvd.”
OK, THIS was my first real exposure to tough “Lou Reed” proper as I recall “Dirty Blvd.” being in semi-heavy rotation on MuchMusic when I was 11. Initially, I thought this was Bruce Cockburn (the video was dark, it was hard to tell) and then later, I thought it was Robbie Robertson. It was very confusing. Also, this video is notable as it was shot at the peak of Reed’s worst hair phase.
3. Lou Reed sings “Vicious” (live)
It was either the solid PBS American Masters documentary or some other time capsule that showed footage of Reed during his brief early 1970s “blonde bombshell” period. Clearly influenced by the antics of his dear, dear friends Iggy Pop and David Bowie, Reed tried his hand at dancing and taking an edge of his best-known solo and group material. I dunno. I saw footage of this years ago when I was still getting a grip on his career arch and remember being really confused (and a bit uncomfortable). There was little resemblance to the stoic force who led the Velvets and to my earlier point, this is footage of a man trying something. I’m not sure what… but it’s something.
4. Chicken suit
This track from 2000’s Ecstasty is great and the video shows some rare moments of Lou levity caught on film. He ends up getting plucked a few time, perhaps symbolizing how the record industry effectively plucked his artestry? Yeah, probably not.
5. Gorillaz headline Glastonbury 2010
Reed joining the Gorillaz on-stage at Glastonbury 2010 is probably more notable for the fact it happened at all rather than for the fact it was amazing (which it wasn’t really). Reed looks tired and the song (“Some Kind of Nature”) is pretty forgettable. That being said, it’s Reed playing alongside members of Blur and the Clash for thousands of people so it’s significant purely as an “whoa” moment. Also, it is notable for the noisy distortion that opens the track and the chance to see Reed as a gorilla, which is fairly cool.